Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Vietnamese Caramelized Pork

Crispy, salty, subtly sweet, delicious pork.  I like to mix it with rice and serve it in a lettuce wrap with fish sauce as an appetizer, or just over rice also with a side of fish sauce as a decadent main.  This recipe is an adaptation of the one found in Andrea Nguyen's excellent cookbook Into the Vietnamese Kitchen.

1/4 C oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground pork
3 T fish sauce
1 T Vietnamese Caramel Sauce
1 t sugar
3 green onions, thinly sliced

Add the oil to a skillet and saute the onion and garlic on medium for a few minutes until soft.  Add in the pork, and break up the pieces as much as possible until the meat has cooked through.  Add everything else except the green onions and cook on medium high for 10-12 minutes or until the meat develops brown caramelized spots.  Add in the green onions, toss for a minute or so, and remove from the heat.


Who doesn't love lasagna?  A nice big brick-like portion of noodles, cheese, and tomato meat sauce, plus the recipe makes enough for even a family to eat to get a couple of meals out of it.  It's also something that you can make largely ahead of time; you can make the sauce the day before (and it's better if you do), and you can assemble the whole thing and stick it in the fridge until 30-45 minutes before you want dinner.


1 lb sweet Italian sausage out of casings and shredded.  (You could also use 80/20 ground beef, but if you're doing that add an extra 1/2 t toasted fennel seeds)
1 lb hot Italian sausage, out of casings and shredded
NOTE: If your sausage is particularly lean sweat a couple of slices of salt pork (diced) before adding the sausage
two small yellow onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 ounce) can san marzano tomatoes, crushed
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
1 15oz can tomato sauce
1 C water
1 1/2 t dried basil leaves
1/2 t fennel seeds, toasted
1 t Italian seasoning (a mix of marjoram, rosemary, thyme, and oregano works well)
Salt to taste
3/4 t ground black pepper
4 T flat leaf parsley, de-stemmed and chopped
Dash crushed red pepper

The filling:
2 lbs ricotta cheese
1 C flat leaf parsley, de-stemmed and chopped.
1 1/2 C of grated romano
2 eggs
salt to taste
3-4 T heavy cream

The rest:
Roughly 1 lb dried lasagna noodles (though I try to have extra on hand)
Mozzarella or provolone for the top, preferably smoked

In a large pot, lightly brown the sausage, then add the onion and garlic and saute for a few minutes. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients, and simmer for a couple of hours, covered and stirring occasionally. Adjust taste towards the end if necessary.  If the sauce tastes a little flat add another couple of minces cloves of garlic at the end of cooking.  At the end of cooking fish out the bay leave and use an immersion blender to break up the larger chunks of sausage to get a smoother sauce.

Mix all of the filling ingredients together while the sauce is cooking; it's easier to work with when you go to assemble if the filling is warm.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and put in the noodles, working in batches if necessary; cook to al dente. Ladle out enough sauce to put a thin layer  on the bottom of an oven-proof pan (I use a 9"x13" pyrex), put down the first layer of noodles, then spread a layer of filling, then a layer of sauce. Put a layer of noodles down, and repeat filling and sauce. For most pans you'll be able to put down one more layer of noodles on top of that sauce, then put sauce on top of that and top with mozzarella. You may have enough sauce left to make another pan, depending on pan size. Bake at 375 until the cheese is golden brown, 35-45 minutes.


I keep the filling and noodles a little vague intentionally, because a lot depends on just how much you put down, and it's just easier to make the sauce the limiting ingredient as it's the most complicated part. A variation on this is to add in a thin layer of spinach with each layer of cheese, just be sure to use either baby spinach or thawed frozen spinach, stemmed, squeezed dry, and keep the layer thin.

You could also put down a layer of bechamel on the top before adding the layer of cheese to add moisture and richness.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Thai Vinegar with Chiles

Simple pickled chiles in vinegar; it can be searingly hot when you first make it, but it will mellow out some with age.  It's the perfect side to Pad See-ew (I won't make Pad See-ew anymore if I don't have some of this in the fridge).  Don't try to substitute other vinegars for the while vinegar; it just wouldn't taste right.

2/3 C Thai chiles, finely chopped (this is VERY hot, you can use just a couple of peppers if you want)
1 1/3 C white vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt or fish sauce to taste

Combine the ingredients in a jar and leave at room temperature for a day before moving to the fridge.  Keep in mind when you're adding the salt or fish sauce that you don't want the vinegar to be salty, you just don't want it to dilute out whatever you're adding it to.