Monday, February 8, 2016

New Orleans-Style Beignets

Did everyone enjoy the big game yesterday? I really couldn't have given the smallest F about the teams this year so I did what I usually do - I watched everything other program on television except the Super Bowl and just tuned in for the halftime show and then rewatched it again on youtube later in the evening before going to bed. Yes, I am a proud American.

I do always participate in the main Super Bowl Sunday tradition of gorging on junk food though and it was glorious. I had a bunch of Americanized Mexican food (re: nachos and inauthentic tacos and dips), sipped on a beer (or three), and topped it all off with a clementine because hello, it's still the first quarter of the year and I'm trying to watch my weight. For dessert, I partook in a few hot beignets, which I am outlining below. I had smartly frozen the leftovers in anticipation of future donut-related hunger pangs and it paid off.

Back in October, I went to New Orleans for the first time. We felt like a trip to Café du Monde was obligatory so H and I went to share a plate of beignets with a cup of coffee each. Even though I felt as though the experience of chowing down on hot beignet in one of the most humid cities ever was rather hyped up, it turns out that the praise is totally valid. The beignets were super light and airy with a crisp exterior and even though the pile of sugar was excessive, it was compulsory.

As I am prone to do, I wanted to make beignets at home because I can't be popping down to Café du Monde every time I have a beignet craving. I basically came up with this by combining a donut recipe with a brioche recipe to get that buttery but light texture that I so enjoyed in NOLA. And you know what? It's pretty good.
Ingredients [yields 2 to 3 dozen mini beignets]:
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon dry active yeast
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
2½ to 3 cups flour
2 tablespoons shortening
+ oil for frying
+ powdered sugar

Friday, February 5, 2016

Piña Coladas

We were actually pretty spoiled this season in terms of weather. There were a few days in December where it was over 70F and unlike the year before, we didn't see any snow until just a few weeks ago. And though we've had just a little snow this morning, I think it's supposed to be warm enough that it'll all melt this afternoon. However, I'm super sick of winter already. The short days are depressing and I hate the way I shiver in my car all the way to work.

When I'm feeling blue, I tend to turn to food for comfort. I don't mean that I sit in my pajamas, shoveling chips in my face, weeping over a bowl of marshmallows and cartons of ice cream. I like to use food to cheer myself up. On this particular occasion, I turned to a favorite tropical drink that reminds me of beach holidays: the piña colada!
Ingredients [for 2]:
1 cup ice
2 cups diced pineapple
3 oz. Malibu
3 oz. Rumchata
3 tablespoons cream of coconut
1 cup coconut water
4 pineapple wedges
2 marachino cherries
2 tablespoons toasted coconut flakes

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Bun Bo Hue

Last spring, I was sent to the Boston metro area for work for a few weeks. While I was there, I had a major craving for Vietnamese food and ended up finding a little banh mi shop called N&H Saigon Subs. I got a banh mi sandwich and at the suggestion of the shop owner, I got a bowl of the bun bo hue.

Bun bo hue is a noodle soup that originated in the city of Hue. It's my new favorite Vietnamese soup (sorry, pho) because it's deep, rich, and as made obvious by its red color, it's spicy.

After I got back from my work assignment up north, I headed to my favorite local Vietnamese shop and realized they also had bun bo hue on the menu. I immediately had pangs of depression that I'd been coming here for years without knowing about this awesome soup.

To pay tribute to my new love, I decided to try making my own version at home. I read a few articles, watched the episode of Parts Unknown where Tony goes to Hue and basically describes it as his favorite place, and researched where I might locally buy the ingredients I needed. I based the flavors of my recipe on the one I've been enjoying at my nearby Vietnamese restaurant and a version I tried whilst visiting Philly, where one of the ingredients listed in the menu description was pineapple. I found the proteins, seasonings, and produce I needed at an Asian market nearby and this post demonstrates the fruits of my labor.

It's definitely a long process (you'll have to dedicate about 4 hours one day and 1 to 2 on the second day) but it's worth it.
Ingredients [serves 4]:
2 lbs. pork neck bones
2 lbs. sliced pork legs
1 lb. beef oxtails
1 lb. beef shank
10 to 12 cups water
6 lemongrass stalks, bruised
8 cloves garlic, smashed
knob ginger, smashed
½ pineapple, quartered
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
salt to taste

½ cup canola oil
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons shrimp paste
2 lemongrass stalks, bruised
6 cloves garlic
8 Thai chili peppers

4 to 6 servings bun rice noodles
1 lb. Vietnamese pork roll, sliced
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
2 cups mung bean sprouts
2 cups shredded lettuce
2 limes, cut into wedges
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