Monday, November 20, 2017

Whole30 Pork and Mushroom Omelet

Over the past couple of months, I've become addicted to the Milk Street Radio podcast. Milk Street is Christopher Kickball's new gig, after America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Country. Recently I subscribed to the new magazine and was excited by several of the recipes, particularly those I thought could easily be converted to Whole30. Like this pork and mushroom "omelet," based on a Cambodian dish called pong mouan snol. The authentic recipe folds a traditional flat omelet over a meaty filling, but Milk Street combines it all into one dish to make something more like a frittata.

The recipe only had two forbidden ingredients: soy sauce and sugar. Both are easily substituted with legal items like coconut aminos and dates. I made a few other adjustments as well, because I do like my food to be flavorful and I didn't think 1 tablespoon of fish sauce was enough. Nor did I think that 3 tablespoons of oil were at all necessary. Pork is plenty oily.

The result was delicious--spicy, savory, lightly sweet, and packed with protein. And leftovers made for fabulous breakfasts, eaten at room temperature or warmed up.

Cambodian Pork and Mushroom Omelet (adapted from Milk Street)

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
6 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps finely chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
8 ounces ground pork
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon coconut aminos, divided
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sambal oelek
3 dates, pitted and chopped
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
Ground white pepper
4 scallions, finely chopped
8 large eggs
Lime wedges, to serve

Heat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the upper-middle position.

Add the oil to a 12" non-stick, oven-safe skillet or cast iron pan and cook mushrooms and onion with a pinch of salt over medium high heat until the mushrooms give up all of their moisture and the onion is translucent. Add the pork and cook, stirring frequently and breaking up the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Add 1 tablespoon of the coconut aminos, 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce, the sambal, dates, ginger, and white pepper, and stir to combine. Continue cooking until the pork is cooked through. Taste for seasoning and add some or all of the other tablespoon of fish sauce. You can also add more sambal to taste, if desired. Sprinkle the scallions over the meat.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, beating well with a fork. Season with the teaspoon of coconut aminos. Pour the eggs over the meat in the pan and cook, stirring from the edges to the center, until the eggs begin to set, 2-3 minutes. Place the skillet in the oven and bake until the top is set, 5-7 minutes.

Put the skillet on a wire rack and allow to cool for a few minutes. Run a rubber spatula around the edge and under the frittata to loosen. Slide onto a cutting board and cut into 8 wedges.

Serve with lime wedges.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Flashback Friday - Cherpumple Pudding

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This post originally appeared on on November 16, 2012.

Cherpumple. It's a funny word, isn't it? Kinda like "turducken." Exactly like turducken, as a matter of fact. That particular funny word is a portmanteau combining letters from the words turkey, duck, and chicken; the dish it refers to comprises a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck which in turn is stuffed into a deboned turkey. Poultry on poultry (on poultry) action, and an interesting dish to serve for Thanksgiving dinner.

Like the turducken, the cherpumple combines multiple elements into one over-the-top dessert. This combination of cherry, pumpkin, and apple pies bound by cake was created by humorist Charles Phoenix after noticing that his family tended to take small servings of each of several desserts served during a typical holiday meal.

While I'd happily eat turducken, I think three pies, each baked into a layer of cake, and covered with cream cheese frosting, is like a nightmare starring Paula Deen. Or maybe Sandra Lee, considering that the original recipe calls for frozen pies, cake mix, and canned frosting. BUT...I think the combination of flavors, at least of the pie components, would make for a pleasant holiday sweet.

Rather than dealing with pies and such, I opted for a much simpler solution: pudding. A nice tapioca pudding, flavored with pumpkin and spices, and topped with a compote-like mixture of sauteed apples and dried cherries.

Cherpumple Pudding

1 large egg
2 3/4 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons Minute tapioca
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 apple, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons dried cherries

Beat the eggs and milk together in a saucepan, then stir in sugar and tapioca. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 30 minutes.

Mix together pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. When tapioca has cooled somewhat, stir in the pumpkin mixture. Pour into a bowl that has a cover, or cover with a piece of plastic wrap pressed down onto the surface of the pudding. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Cook apple with butter and brown sugar until the fruit is tender and the sugar is syrupy. Stir in the cherries and cook an additional few minutes, until they plump up. Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature.

When ready to serve, spoon some of the tapioca into a bowl. Top with some of the apple and cherry mixture. Garnish with a dollop of freshly-whipped cream, if desired.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

B&O Brasserie Springs into Fall with New Menu

Along with all the other holidays that populate this time of year, one of the biggest causes for celebration in the Minx household is when B&O Brasserie puts out its new Fall menu. We always look forward to seeing what Chef Scott Hines and his sous chef Tyler Johnson have created with all the robust Fall ingredients and comforting flavors that we associate with Autumn. Since we were also finishing our Whole 30 diet, the chance to finally indulge our cravings for bread, sugar, and alcohol was pretty tempting.

We started with the first cocktails we've had in a month. The Minx chose a full-bodied blended red wine while I picked something from their special Fall cocktail list. The "Monkey Business" matches Monkey Shoulder scotch with one of my great-grandfather's favorites Drambuie, along with Ramazzotti amaro, Fernet Branca, and black walnut bitters. A bruleed banana slice is cheekily perched on top to round out the monkey theme. The scotch and scotch-based Drambuie add a smoky quality while the amaros and black walnut bitters bring a touch of bitterness to balance the almost maple-like sweetness.

We were then treated to a collection of new appetizers starting with the housemade seasonal sausage, (which on this particular evening was a cheddar andouille) served with a red cabbage"sauerkraut" that was more sweet than sour, and an earthy mustard made with black mustard seeds and black garlic. All this dish needs is a bit of crusty bread and it could be a meal unto itself.

Restaurants aren't always successful in selling offal and other unusual animal parts to their customers, like the sweetbreads Chef Hines put on the menu earlier in the year. They were amazing, but diners aren't always receptive to trying new things. The Buffalo pigtails are doing well so far, and we could see why. They're the B&O's take on all of the various "Nashville" and "Buffalo"-style spicy meats that are popular right now, but with bits of succulent pig tail taking the place of the usual chicken. The tails are brined before frying, which makes them crispy on the outside and unctuous on the inside. They are coated with a spicy sauce that was just right for our palates. One has to be careful of the many small bones, but it's always fun the dig into this kind of dish. Housemade bread and butter pickles and celery hearts add touches of crunch and acidity.

Given sous chef Tyler Johnson's Italian cooking background, there's bound to be some pasta on the menu and the pumpkin raviolo is a terrific Fall entry. The al dente pasta is stuffed with calabaza pumpkin, goat cheese, and a perfectly runny duck egg yolk. Each bite is rich and creamy with the comforting flavor of pumpkin. The raviolo is topped with a hazelnut picada (a Spanish pesto-like sauce) and crispy Brussels sprouts and herbs are sprinkled on top. I could go for three or four of these as an entree.

Speaking of entrees, the Minx ordered the coffee-crusted pork chop. Chef Hines told us he was channeling his Jewish heritage with this dish--at least part of it--through the large potato latke at the bottom of the plate. Traditional accompaniments for latkes are applesauce and sour cream, and he chose to riff on those with a smoked apple butter glaze and a charred leek cream. Of course adding a fat pork chop to the dish, one with a fine grilled flavor, throws the whole homage out the window. No matter, it is a delicious sacrilege.

In Maryland where there is an over-abundance of deer, venison is about as Fall as you can get, so I ordered the rack of venison with juniper spaetzel, braised red cabbage, and bing cherry bordelaise. Venison can be a little tricky to cook because it's rather lean, but my venison was tender and juicy. The spaetzel was redolent of juniper berries and a hint of orange while the red cabbage brought acidity and the bordelaise added the right amount of sweetness. I tried to restrain myself, but I picked up the bone and chewed off every last bit of meat.

Although it wasn't officially a new Fall menu item, we were also treated to a plate of their carbonara. While it doesn't contain bacon like traditional carbonara, this dish does have garlic cream, delicata squash, Swiss chard, and grana padano cheese. The pasta itself is made in house with a chitarra, a device that creates ribbon-like strips of pasta somewhere between linguini and fettuccini. This was about as perfect a bowl of pasta as I've ever had, and I don't say such things lightly.

The Minx and I were concerned that, after not having any sugar or dairy for one month, the desserts might cause us some upset, but in the interest of food blogging, we soldiered on. I ordered the dark chocolate mocha cake and the Minx had the sticky date pudding. Choosing dark chocolate over milk was an inspired choice since it brings a deeper, less sweet flavor to this fluffy cake. The accompanying chocolate cremeux adds a richness, and the mascarpone ice cream offers another creamy texture. I particularly liked the bit of crunch provided by the generous scattering of cocoa nibs. I would've eaten it all if the Minx hadn't given me the evil eye.

Her sticky date pudding looked like a mini bundt cake and was quite sticky as advertised. It also came with whipped cream and toffee sauce, but the real surprise was the tuile made with bacon fat. The bacon flavor really came through and added an almost savory quality to break up the sweetness of the dish.

Fall brings a great many delights that we look forward to every year, not the least of which are the hearty meals associated with the Autumn harvest and the colder weather. Once again, B&O Brasserie has a Fall menu that will give you the warm, comforting feels that are so much a part of the season.

B&O Brasserie
2 North Charles Street
Baltimore, Maryland, 21201

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Flashback Friday - Kofte with Pistachio Sauce

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This post originally appeared on on November 19, 2012.

You may recall from my recap of Time Machine Chefs back in August that I expressed admiration for chef Silvena Rowe, of the restaurant Quince in London's May Fair Hotel. Her ballsy attitude on the show made me check if she had any cookbooks available in the U.S. - and yes, she does! A couple, actually, and I chose to buy Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume: Cuisine of the Eastern Mediterranean, mostly because I liked the idea of purple citrus. :) While no actual purple citrus were harmed during the reading of that book, by the time I was done with it, I wanted to cook every recipe. I even bought a jar of grape leaves, which I have never used before.

The recipe that stood out most for me was for lamb kofte with pistachio sauce. Kofte are meatballs or small patties made from ground meat, and I just happened to have some ground lamb in the freezer. There were also pistachios and tahini kicking around for the sauce, as well as the last vestiges of our garden's fresh mint and all of the recipe's required spices. (Find the recipe here.)

Toasting and grinding the pistachios was the most difficult and time consuming part of the process. Well, not that either the toasting or the grinding part of the equation was difficult, but cleaning out the coffee grinder that I used for the purpose was not fun. (We have two - one for coffee, one for other stuff.) The sauce ended up tasting more of the tahini than the pistachios, which was a little disappointing, but the kofte were wonderful. I had swapped out the currants in the recipe for dried cherries, and they lent a lovely sweetness to the savory spice- and mint-flavored patties. I also chose to serve some home-made preserved lemons as a garnish, and their juicy salty tang was a perfect accent.

I hope to try other recipes from this book over the coming months and will post my adventures here. In the meantime, do try the recipe for yourself.

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