The Search for Padan Leaves and Other Tales

Let’s go back a few weeks to a lovely night David and I spent at Susan Feniger’s new-ish restaurant Street. When I lived in Los Angeles I loved visiting Susan and her partner Mary Sue Miliken’s fantastic restaurants Ciudad and Border Grill. Knowing the fantastic food Susan can put out, plus I think she is such a gentle lamb, I was stoked to eat at Street.

As you may recall, Susan left Top Chef Masters because the judges disliked that she made a “sandwich” at such a crucial point in the game. After eating her exact Kaya Toast creation from the show at Street all I have to say is the judges were waaaaaaaaaaay wrong. We ate a lot that night but this was my favorite. So much so, we kept talking about how awesome it was and we bet we could make it too. A little searching later and voila here was the recipe! The only difference in this recipe than the restaurant version is that Feniger served it with a fried egg instead of soft-boiled.Yesterday I had the day off and was determined to make this for us to try. The only hitch? Padan leaves. What are those you ask? I turn to the Thai Food section on to let you do a little light reading. I searched for specialty Asian markets here in Austin and the first one I called said they had them…YAY! I drove to MT Supermarket and walked straight down to aisle five and there they were, frozen Pandan leaves. After dethawing, as I opened the package I let out a big “Oh! That’s it!” What was it? This dear readers was the smell i.e. the flavor that made Susan’s jam just so delicious.

I followed the instructions listed in the recipe and though it’s tedious, dude it is like a custard, it came together pretty quickly. We let the jam sit overnight and then for lunch assembled the dish. People, I SNORTED this, not kidding. It was almost as good as the restaurant and the butter on the jam on the toasted bread was absolutely fantastic. I also served with some fresh arugula, low-sodium soy sauce (hey you’ve got to cut back somewhere right?) and a fried egg. David was quite impressed as well – for the win! I’m quite concerned because I have a vat of the jam in my fridge and it’s calling my name as I type this. Maybe just one more to make sure it’s really that delicious? Please give this a try if you (a) can find Pandan leaves (b) want to commit yourself to devouring a vat of coconut jam for the next week. Here is our completed dish!

Twice-Glazed Asian Barbecued Chicken

I’m still on the Food and Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2010 train and last night didn’t disappoint. I’m trying to eat a little healthier these days so when I came across this Twice-Glazed Asian Barbecue recipe from Chef Mike Sheerin of Chicago’s very own Blackbird (I will go there someday as my cat is my witness!), I thought it looked like a perfect, simple and healthy weeknight meal.

The barbecue sauce is quite different with its Asian spices of oyster and soy sauces but you know what, it still came out spicy and barbecue-ish all the same. I went rogue on y’all last night however. I couldn’t find skin-on boneless chicken breasts so instead chose bone-in, skin-on. Also, a mother of a storm rolled through Austin last night so instead

of the suggested grilling, I salt and peppered the three chicken breasts on a pan and roasted at 400 degree for 20 minutes. I then glazed the first side of the chicken with the sauce and cooked for five minutes. I then flipped the chickens over and glazed the other side and cooked for five more minutes. I repeated two more times until I was out of sauce and then let the chicken rest for 10 minutes. These were huge honking chicken breasts so if you plan to follow my method just make sure you check the chicken until the juices run clear and let it rest accordingly.

David and I had The Lex over last night for dinner and the three of us loved this! The chicken was very moist and the sauce was excellent. I could see this sauce working even on an Asian-inspired turkey burger…yeah I’m so going to try that. We also made the suggested accompanying salad of a Cucumber-Cherry Salad but instead I made with cherry tomatoes and it was still delicious. The Lex also made some bombtastic bok choy that was wok-seared with garlic, red pepper, soy sauce, sriracha and sweet chili sauce. Perfect little plate of food if I do say so myself.Up next poodles I made a coconut jam with padan leaves…intrigued? So was I. More to come. :)

“Shut-Your-Piehole Puppies”

While I was thumbing through Food and Wine’s July 2010 issue featuring their Best New Chefs of 2010, I was intrigued by more than half of the chef’s recipes. One, because I love trying restaurant recipes and two, these are super simple, even for a novice like me. I’ve got a few on my radar this week but one that I had to try first was this Hush Puppies with Green Zebra Tomato Jam from Trummer’s on Main in Clifton, VA by Chef Clayton Miller. Let’s see what Food and Wine has to say:

Clayton Miller makes a highly seasoned, Indian-inflected tomato jam with ginger, cinnamon, cumin and cayenne. It’s a terrific accompaniment to his hush puppies—cheekily nicknamed “shut-your-piehole puppies” by the cooks in his kitchen.
Love it.

Trying to find Green Zebras late on a Sunday evening was just not going to happen. But hey, you all know me lambs, nothing gets in my way when I want to try a recipe even if it means tweaking it a bit. Having tasted a mountain of these beauts in my office (since I help out with the public relations side a bit) I grabbed a container of Sunbursts tomatoes, which are sweeter and have a heirloom flavor to them, and a container of sweet cherry tomatoes to pack a one-two tomato punch.The jam was really easy to put together and you simply let is simmer for 40 minutes until it’s well, jammy. The hush puppy batter I made in the morning and let sit in the fridge until it was time to fry these little bad boys up. We really, really, liked this recipe. The hush puppies were pretty standard in their taste and texture, maybe I’ll try it with the bacon fat next time (?), but the jam was excellent. Something about the honey, ginger, cumin and cinnamon with the tomatoes made me wish I had made two more batches so I could spread it on everything for the next few days. Key learnings for next time. Make these and shut-your-piehole!

Gobbling Up Portland Food Trucks

I visited Portland in April, yes April, and yes I’m aware it’s mid-June so this is a smidge late but who cares it’s delicious food! I have been dying to post my food adventures in one of the coolest cities I’ve visited in a while. If you know anything about Portland, you know it’s a funky, small city with a thriving food truck scene that reminded me very much of Austin. Living in Austin, I know we have a great food truck scene here but I was blown away by the amount and variety that Portland has to offer…they are literally everywhere like little food truck hives.

I visited a few trucks and like true fat kid managed to stuff myself with Creole Pie from Swamp Shack, an awesomely fresh Caprese Sandwich from Built to Grill, and peanut butter/chocolate and tangerine/marshmallow flavored doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnuts. While all of these were excellent, the one thing that literally almost made me fall over with sheer glee was the YouCanHas Burger from Brunchbox. Get this, it’s two Texas toast grilled cheese sandwich “buns” with a burger and bacon between them. A burger and bacon between two grilled cheese sandwich buns. Burger. Bacon. Two grilled cheese sandwich buns. Yep…think about that one for a minute while you stare at the photo.

Hands down BrunchBox was my favorite but I know I missed out on some fantastic ones due to my short trip. I will be back poodles so send me suggestions of where I should go next!

Recipe Retry

Let’s go back almost a year when I made this Chile-Dusted Pork Chops with Strawberries and Grits recipe and to date, has still been one of my favorites since I started this blog. With the multitude of cooking magazines, web sites and blogs I read almost every day it’s so tempting to keep trying new recipes without ever looking back. However when talking about successes and complete and utter recipe failures with David, I kept coming back to this dish, then, it became an obsession. Would it be as good as I had remembered? Could I recreate it again for two?

Well…it did lambs! Making this for two was twice as nice and we both really enjoyed it. I’m going to be doing these a little more often now so stay tuned for further updates on some of my favorite recipes of last year. Up next is the Cod with Mussels, Chorizo, Fried Croutons and Saffron Mayonnaise dish…

Dulce de Leche. That’s All I Have to Say!

The new Bon Appetit created a schuper mix-and-match section called The Ultimate Summer Menu Grilling Guide for all of the delicious grilling that’s bound to happen this summer. For a gentle get together of a few friends this past Memorial Day, I selected a few recipes from the sides and desserts sections including the Roasted Fingerling Potato Salad, Roasted Mix Peppers with Capers and Marjoram and Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars. For the protein choice we decided to do one of our friend Adam’s agave-glazed pork tenderloin recipe that is to die for. Keep reading poodles.

First, the Bon Appetit recipes…rockstars, all of them. Both the salads were easy to assemble and the flavors were amazing. If I had to choose one over the other to make again I would go with the roasted pepper salad. Something about the blend of roasted peppers, capers and marjoram, which has such a delicate floral note, really hit the spot. For leftovers you could easily use this on top of a pork chop or grilled fish for a super quick weeknight meal.

The Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars have to be one of my favorite new dessert recipes. I’m usually not the world’s biggest caramel fan but when mixed with salt, especially fleur de sel, I’m hooked. I really enjoyed making these bars and they were quite simple to make, especially since I don’t bake/make desserts too, too often. These were an instant hit with my friends and random new friends we made by the pool who were snarfing them up too. They were also still great a few days later, late at night on the couch. Yes, total fat kids.

For David’s birthday one of our friends made an amazing pork tenderloin recipe that we decided to recreate for our get together. We simply brined four (about a pound each) tenderloins in kosher salt for a few hours, then created a rub of chili powder, garlic, cumin and cinnamon and then poured agave syrup on each loin. We then grilled until it was slightly pink, let it rest and then did a final glaze of agave syrup to finish. Simple. Awesome. Delicious. Since we had leftover pork, the next night we placed them in a dutch oven with two cans of mild Ro-Tel tomatoes and chiles to give it a little different flavor. We let it sit for about 45 minutes and then shredded to make soft tacos. Combined with my favorite salsa and some avocado we had a great little weeknight meal.I’m on cooking fire eh?