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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Leftover lunch rehab: Old Pork loin gets a new lease on life

The best brown bag sandwiches are made with leftovers of a meal you have been bragging about to your cubicle brethren for say the past two days(I keep leftovers a week plus, but I was reared by parents of the third world who never threw food out and finished every grain of rice on the plate).

The left over protein above is a roasted loin of pork, rubbed with salt, fennel seed, rosemary and black pepper, and finished with a balsamic mustard vinaigrette spiked with a little brown sugar. It was a fine roast but, not surprisingly, the flavors diminished considerably after a day in the fridge.

Spicy, salty and sweet are great ways to wake up the flavors of leftover pork. Whenever I think of a great Cuban sandwich, I am reminded of the harmony that exists between brine and swine. Pickles also give the added benefit of texture as long as you buy the good stuff that packs a crunch.

Splurge worthy: Bubbies makes the best bread and butter pickles I have had and the big jar is worth the $7 price tag.

A little heat goes a long way when trying to balance out the sweetness presented by these pickles and the general mildness that pork has. I went for a dusting of the pickles here:

After a few more pensive bites I realize that I could have gone a biter heavier on the crushed red chile flakes, but the salting was near perfect. Finishing salts have puzzled me as I try to season my food before it hits the plate but in leftover lunch rehab, a finishing salt is your ace in the hole in bringing this roasted pork loin back to life.

Multi grain, spinach and a little mayo wrap things up. The sandwich held together nicely, the flavors were bold but well behaved. A few bites in and you would almost forget that you were eating leftovers.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Rack of Pork

I have been wanting to post this pic as a blog subject for some time. Mostly because I love the pic but also because this is such a great cut of meat to serve for a Sunday dinner or any special occasion and the cut is a steal for how good it tastes and how impressive it looks.

Pork is awesome and cheap. Cut at the bone, each chop is a single serving though I'm sure a hearty eater could go for a double cut. No shortage of marbling in a rib chop and because of it's size, the sear and oven finish method ensures a juicy and rich piece of pork on the plate.

A good sear off a cast iron on both sides and into the oven you go. Given the amount fat in the meat and the fact that I want a nice medium temp(145 degree total after rest) I played with my oven's settings and let it roll at 325 degrees with a convection fan circulating the heat.

Finishing sauce. Right before go time I mopped up the rack with some "Alabama style" white BBQ sauce. Funny thing is I dont care for the stuff right out of the bottle but it makes for a fine meat glaze.

Rack of Pork. A simple cook if you are versed enough with a sear/oven finish and at $15 or less for the cut, it's a "invite your friends over on the cheap", Sunday worthy dinner.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Juicy Burger: Bang for your Burger Buck ~ Hollywood & Los Feliz

Juicy Burger is the working man's version of the Counter. While I find "build your own burgers" a recipe for disaster in terms of composition (do you really need ranch on a burger?), and price (premium toppings are the satellite navigation upgrades of the burger world), at Juicy, if you stick to the basic, you will win.
Stick with the "Juicy Burger Classic"; 1/3 pound patty, lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion and 1000 island dressing. The patty has a good coarse grind to it, though ordered medium rare, you can see there is still plenty juice despite a lack of red in the beef patty. The lettuce is shredded iceberg, the tomato not horribly mealy, the pickles, onions and 1000 are serviceable but the sum is greater that its individual parts. This burger has great texture and good ratio of beef to bun to toppings.
The Bottom Line: $5.44. Resist the cheese, resist the 1/2 lb option, resist any bacon that isn't nueske (or at the very least, applewood smoked), and you will get some serious bang for your burger buck at Juicy Burger. Two locations: Hollywood 6340 Hollywood Blvd, LA CA 90028, 11am-3am Los Feliz: 1820 N. Vermont Ave, LA CA 90027 11am-12:30am

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dish of the year and a big burger let down

If it turns out Hinduism is the one "right and true religion" than after Vegas I'll be in a lot of trouble. I consumed my fare share of bovine, and some it so divine that it may be worth eternal damnation by the many hands of Ganesh. Without further adieu; behold the best dish of 2011:

I know it's early, Hell, it ain't even Summer, but make no mistake, this is the best braised cheek I have come across in a very, very long. Not surprisingly it comes from the deft hand of Jose Andres; or really one of his trained minions since I had this at his latest Las Vegas outpost: Jaleo.

I love Spanish Tapas but sadly have never been to Spain. Las Vegas is a lot closer and for now it will have to do as my "tapas go to spot". There were other highlights like a fisherman's stew featuring a silky smooth squid braised, to the point where the texture resembled a raw, fresh off the boat Kumamoto oyster and the obligatory yet classic, Pan con tomate: Toasted slices of rustic bread brushed with fresh tomatoes and Spanish anchovies. But they were all just forgettable runner's up next to this Prom Queen.

Yes, Her Majesty is ridiculously fork tender. The potato puree served as the safety net to catch all the cheek's jus. And then there were the morel mushrooms. Just in case you didn't feel like royalty eating this perfectly cooked veal cheek, these fungus treasures were to me the equivalent of a ticket to the Prince William-Kate Middleton wedding, wait no better than that. Got it. They were like getting a Golden ticket to the Willy Wonka factory. I told you this was the dish of the year.

Todd English sucks. Well, maybe that's harsh. Carl's Jr sucks. Parking tickets suck. Todd English is an overpriced let down. Well, I guess he does suck.

Burger Busters, a burger blog, touted Olives as the best burger in America. This could not be further from the truth. This thing was your average, overpriced restaurant burger. Now to be fair, restaurants do change their staff but from this burger, by design, was totally underwhelming.

The patty was preformed, and arrived overcooked. The cheese was a boring cheddar. The onions were drowned in balsamic, so much so, that half way through I had to remove them all together. Were there any good points? Yes. The butter lettuce was good, the tomato was fresh and ripe, and the bun was decent. Yeah, that's right folks - the highlights were lettuce, tomato and bread, and when considering the quality level touted by burger joints today - Olives is merely passable.

And the worst part? The french fries. Look at those nasty potato wedges dusted with parsley and parmesan . . . straight out of the Olive Garden; these were the worst fries I have eaten since the 80s when I frequented Hardee's.

My real rage comes from the fact that the Burger Buster blog rips on, among many notable burgers, Father's Office. The FO burger, while not for everyone, does deliver a Chef's "concept burger". The gruyere and maytag blue cheese, the caramelized onion compote, the dry aged sirloin and the pleasantly bitter arugula; each ingredient is chosen methodically, all the while with a clear final vision in mind. Olives bares no resemblance to this. Its just a big, bland letdown.

A whole lotta nuthin.

On a positive note we had warm and friendly service at the restaurant; among the most personable we have had in Las Vegas. And sitting in the patio overlooking the fountains at the Bellagio was a huge plus. I'd like to think the burger was "off" that day, but considering how pedestrian it was from an ingredient stand point, I'd skip it all together and try somewhere else. Like every Vegas trip, you and win some and lose some, but this time Jaleo has me coming out on top . . . Vegas, I can't wait to go back.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Strips: really.

I love Buffalo Chicken Wings. Love them. Ye Rustic in Los Feliz serves some of the best around if you can find a table and don't mind side stepping an occasional knife fight in the parking lot. Making them at home is another story. I, like many, do not have a fryer and don't really want to deal with cleaning up a vat of dirty cooking oil. And while I may receive the occasional mass email, I'm not the guy who will be supporting your "converted bio diesel Benz investment". You should've gone with the Prius . . . Hippie.

But the idea of bar food at home is appealing. After hearing tales of the relative ease of making Buffalo Chicken strips at home, I decided to fire up the stove. I credit a man named Czornobil(really) for the recipe and inspiration to fry where I have not fried before: the indoors.

Step up your game:

Panko bread crumbs.
If you ever have had Tonkatsu, you know that the Japanese have a knack for breading and frying. Short of setting up an egg wash and dredging chicken in mashed up corn flakes, this is a great, significantly crunchier, breadcrumb alternative.

Frank's Red Hot.
I have no fear of "off brand products" but for my first go around, I decided not to skimp, and went for what appeared to be the most authentic cayenne vinegar sauce in the supermarket. Frank's Red Hot(also recommended by Senor Czornobil) comes in varying heat levels and in hindsight I wished I had picked up the hotter one. But again for the first time around I figured go with the standard sauce and develop a good base line for experimentation.

All Clad skillet.

The 12 inch All Clad skillet may rival my 10 year old Cast Iron. Some may, and rightfully so, argue that spending $150 on a skillet is not necessary but when your skillet can produce this . . .

. . . cleans up with ease and weighs nearly half what the Cast Iron weighs, it is worth considering in your line up.

The chicken tenders were seasoned with a little salt and pepper, and a dried herb mix of oregano, marjoram, thyme, basil, rosemary and sage. I tossed them in some olive oil and then dredged them in Panko. I coated the All Clad with a healthy amount of olive oil and when it started to smoke, I placed the tenders in the pan for about 3 minutes a side. I finished them off in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Now they were ready for their bath.

No bubbles in this bath. Just a 1/4 cup of Red Hot, 4 Tablespoons of melted butter and a little honey.

VoilĂ : a homemade gut bomb, with half the calories and 1/3rd the guilt. And more importantly you didn't even have to step into a Hooter's. If only March Madness were a month longer.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pork braised in tomatillos aka Chile Verde or How I learned to stop missing my Weber Kettle and love my Le Creuset Dutch Oven

Remember in "2001: A Space Odyssey" when the monkeys quit fighting and started staring at the monolith and the music plays that iconic "BAAAAM BAAAAM BAAAAM BA BAAAAAAAM!!!? Cue that. Cuz thats how important this thing below is:

I love my Weber kettle. The fact that its no longer at my quick disposal is a source of melancholy and tribulation. However through adversity we find skills, or in this case, tools, we did not realize we had. Tools that ultimately drive us to a Hector like triumph on the battlefield known as my kitchen. The Le Creuset dutch oven is the spear that slayed Achilles. Tamer of tough proteins, generator of delicious fonds, one heavy bitch that I love resting in my cabinet. Sometimes I just open the cabinet door and look at her . . . maybe it's because she is shiny red. Maybe it's because she cost over $200 and if it wasn't for my generous brother and sister in laws, I may not have her, either way she is grand.

Chile Verde

Chile Verde, aka Pork braised in tomatillos is also awesome. Much credit goes to Food and Wine's Best of the Best(in this case vol. 9, also a gift from my amazing in laws) for publishing this lip smacking recipe from Rick Bayless, a Mexican food junkie, chef and author. Perfect for a Super Bowl party, a cold Winter's night or any time you feel hungry and want to please any swine lover, this dish is a slam dunk. Bayless takes some of the labor out of what can be an all day recipe and compresses into about three and a half hours. But most of the work is done within the walls of the LC.

The recipe is simple enough. Just put stuff in the pot then throw it in a 325 degree oven. Start with a base to braise your meats. In this case we have tomatillos, cilantro, potatoes and some pickled jalapenos.

It's important to know what we are up against in order really appreciate what a heavy dutch oven in a low and slow, steady oven can do. This is strips of pork shoulder, also known as Boston Butt. You can see the fat, well it's not just fat, it is connective tissue that say if seared on high heat, like on a pan or grill, would produce something tougher than leather, and much like the RUN DMC movie . . . that would be a bad thing.

But when placed in the LC, the moisture from the tomatillos and the condensation that is produced from the heavy lid create a braising liquid, that over time, or in this case, 3 and half hours, melt all the "collagen" or connective tissue. The result:

You don't even need teeth. In fact when I lose all mine, rather than dentures, I'll just eat this 24/7.

In this version, I tossed in Cannelini Beans right when the pork had finished cooking in the oven, just to heat them through. Bayless mentions that chicken thighs, lamb shoulder as well beef can be substituted but after maybe 5 goes at this recipe, I have been hard pressed to change a thing. And yes, it's as good if not better the next day.

Do I still miss my Weber? Yes. But the LC proves that there is more to cooking than charcoal and BBQ sauce. Too bad AliBraizez doesn't have the same ring.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Meatball Wars Part 1: Daves Chillin and Grillin vs Bay Cities Deli

Daves Chillin and Grillin.

The stoner vibe feels right at home in this funky Eagle Rock neighborhood. A withered Red Sox cap sported by head honcho assures some sort of East Coast authority, tevas suggest Bachelor of Arts from Boulder(Colorado University) or the University of Vermont

On to the meatballs.

My first test is the "is it as big as my forearm method?"

Result: Pass

This sandwich is a true torpedo. Incredibly long. As a result the sandwich holds its composure as you bite down. One does not run out of bread towards the end but its not for a lack of meatballs. Dave's loads his subs up with plenty of small round meatballs but they are available in limited supply. After ordering a 10 inch they declared they were "out for the day" - at 1pm on a Saturday no less.

In addition to the meatballs, Daves' lays on a nice sweet red sauce and pairs it with a subtle but potent spicy pepper spread along with some mozzarella. The baguette isn't winning any awards here but is more than competent at delivering a solid meatball experience. The meatballs are nice moist due to a breadcrumb mixture but are not tempting enough to say order on their own. This sandwich does strike a very good balance of savory, sweet and heat and I seriously doubt you will be able to put this one down till the very last bite.

Bottom Line:
I can't call Dave's Chillin and Grillin the best meatball sub in the city but I would easily go back for another. And more importantly I would go back and try their other sandwiches, most notably the hot roast beef which may be Los Angeles' answer to Chicago's Italian beef.

Bay Cities Deli

Easily the most talked about deli in town, and rightfully so. They have the best bread, a huge and varied cased meats selection and plenty of loyal fans . . . which is probably why the last time you craved a mortadella sub it took you 45 minutes to get one to go.

They have great meatballs. On a prior visit I was moved by the prepared foods section so much, I had to get something to munch on. I opted for these dangerous little balls of coarse ground meat, seasoned up to the nines yet stone cold. And I could not get enough of them. To me a perfect meatball is a combination of meats, textures and herbs. Now keep in mind these meatballs are NOT the ones used in their sub but the recipe is still the same.

Forearm test:

Result: Pass. Though not as long as Daves' it was a bit wider.

The secret of the ooze. I like opening up a sandwich and seeing the sauce bleed through the wrapper. A meatball sub can be many things but restraint should not be one of them.

The sauce is sweet and tangy, more tangy than Daves'. The meatballs are big moist and savory. The bread is incredible here, chewy like a croissant, fresh like sourdough in San Francisco. What is lacking here is anything else on the sandwich, I give credit to Daves' for adding the spicy pepper salad in his sandwich and gooey mozzarella, all I got at Bay Cities was meat, sauce and bread.

There are hints of shaved Parmesan on the sandwich though hard to really see here. I guess a good Meatball sub doesn't need a lot more than meatballs, sauce and bread but it doesn't hurt it either.

Fennel buried in a massive meatball. That's what gives Bay Cities their edge.

The Bottom Line:

Bay Cities wins with their bread alone, even better for a hot saucy sub than the cold cut sandwich. Also I'm feeling full after half . . . yet I still muster the strength to finish the whole thing.