Friday, October 30, 2009

Pickled Red Cabbage

Sometimes I wonder why pickled (braised?) red cabbage isn't more popular here in the States. I'll see it occasionally, like when I visit Ikea, but otherwise it's not something I run across very often. Sauerkraut, on the other hand, is more commonplace. Strange. I prefer pickled red cabbage over sauerkraut any day.

Around this time of year we eat a lot of this zingy stuff. It goes perfectly with hearty, cold weather foods, like pork roast or schnitzel. There's no shame in buying it, and I will do that occasionally (like when I visit Ikea ☺). However it's so much better when you make it yourself. For the most basic version, you only need red cabbage, sugar and vinegar, but there are so many ways to spruce it up (see the tips below).

Method: Cut out and discard the core from 1 small (or 1/2 to 2/3 of a large head) red cabbage and thinly slice the remainder. Do it as finely as you like; it's a matter of personal preference. In a large non-reactive pot over medium heat, add roughly an equal volume of granulated sugar and vinegar. For a small head of cabbage, that's about a 1/2 to 1 cup of each. Once the sugar dissolves, add the cabbage and bring to a boil. Then turn down the heat to low, cover and simmer until it reaches the desired texture, about 45 minutes to an hour. About 20 minutes through the cooking process, taste it. Then you'll know whether you need to add more vinegar or sugar or maybe even a little water if it's too acidic. Store refrigerated in a glass or plastic container, being sure to keep the cabbage submerged in the liquid. I've kept it for up to 2 weeks (we usually finish it off in that time).

Tips: It's okay to start out with less sugar. You can always add more as it's cooking if it doesn't taste balanced. I use white vinegar and a little apple juice (or lingonberry concentrate, also available at Ikea ☺). You can use a mixture of white and apple cider vinegar if you like. A little balsamic would probably work. I also throw in a cinnamon stick or two, a few cloves and a dash of salt. I've seen an old Danish recipe that recommends cumin seed. Fennel seed and allspice berries are an option. Some people add red wine. Some add shredded apple. Clearly this can be taken in a lot of different directions.

Wondering what to eat with pickled red cabbage? As you can see in the photo above, it goes great with
Danish-style pate and Danish rye bread (guess where it's available ☺). It also goes well with Swedish or Danish meatballs, pork roast, bratwurst, roasted duck or confit, just to name a few. You could even serve it instead of cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving (blasphemy, I know!)

I'm submitting this post to
Weekend Wokking, which is being hosted by Erbe in Cucina. The theme ingredient is cabbage. If you've got a cabbage recipe you're dying to share, send your submissions to scrivi(at)ilmeglioincucina(dot)it by 11:59 Nov 1st.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Friendly Reminder

The highly anticipated Regional Recipes: Scandinavia round-up is now available for public consumption! Go check it out! Thanks so much to Joanne of Eats Well with Others for hosting and to the participants for their submissions!

For the next region, Joanne has chosen Cuba! I'm not very familiar with Cuban food, so this is going to fun and challenging for me. I'm hosting this time, so send submissions to me at blazinghotwok(at)gmail(dot)com by November 15th. Hope you will participate!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oh pork belly, how I will miss thee!

The thing about pork belly is that it's highly addictive. Look at bacon. Who doesn't want to eat bacon at every meal everyday of the week? But even plain old roasted pork belly will do it for me. The meat is so succulent and the fat cap becomes so pleasantly crisp. Oh sure, I'm fully aware of how unhealthy it is, but it's not like we eat it every day. Just once a week. Just kidding! Okay, not really. We have eaten it once a week for the last 3 weeks (gasp!), but it's not likely we'll be eating it again for a while. Mostly because my local farmers' market, and thus my pork hookup, is packing up for the season. *Sigh*

To close out the pork belly eating season (at least at Chez Pedersen), I made a roasted pork belly short rib drizzled with a teriyaki sauce spiked with gochujang (Korean pepper paste). This dish was inspired by an evening out with my BFF (and our husbands, but we didn't really talk to them much ☺). We went to a sake bar that served a nice selection of Japanese and Korean specialities (kimchi bloody mary with kimchi shaved ice and goat curry udon, anyone?) to accompany the sake. Combining Korean and Japanese flavors is not something I admit to doing very often because I know it's bound to piss some people off, but I think the flavors can go very well together. They did in this case, anyhow.

Again, no real recipe, but so easy anyone can do it! The perfect cut of meat for this is pork belly with the bones still attached, sometimes called pork belly short rib. If you can't find pork belly or the short rib, butt or any other fatty cut will work (1.5 to 2 lb roast). Even better if it has the fat cap (one reason I love my pork guy; all the cuts come with fat cap!). Don't use tenderloin or a regular loin roast for this preparation because you'll be roasting this well over the 150 to 160F that's normal for pork.

To get this roast perfect, salt the meat with a generous amount of salt, score the fat cap, put it in a shallow roasting pan with a rack, then stick it into a 450F preheated oven for 15 minutes. Then lower the heat to 300F (or 275F with convection). The mantra is low and slow. In fact, you could go as low as 225F, but that would significantly increase the cooking time. Roast till the internal temperature reaches 200F (yes, 200F!). Depending on which cut you use and how big it is, roasting time could be about 1 hour per pound, so plan accordingly. Remember to let it rest for about 20 minutes before cutting into it!

For the sauce, simply combine equal volumes of tamari (or regular old soy sauce) and mirin. Add sugar (or honey) and gochujang (Korean pepper paste) to taste. You can add a splash of sake if you've got it too. Heat the sauce over medium heat until it reduces and thickens a bit. Use it to drizzle over the sliced pork, or as a dipping sauce. If you go the dipping sauce route, spruce it up with toasted sesame seeds or a splash of sesame oil and grated fresh ginger. Serve with Japanese sticky rice and an assortment of Japanese pickles or kimchi.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fried Pork Belly and Potatoes with Parsley Sauce

I think people are surprised when they learn that I am (semi) fluent in the Danish language and I am pretty familiar with traditional Danish cuisine. It's my Thainess that throws them off and I completely understand. I would probably be pretty surprised if I met a 6'3" Dane who could speak fairly fluent Thai and cook a mean green curry from scratch.

Anyhow, I purposely chose Scandinavia as the spotlight region for Regional Recipes because whenever cold weather sets in, I get an itching for Danish food. It's stick-to-your-ribs-warm-you-to-the-bone-comfort food. Besides, I'm a sweet and loving wife who likes to give Hubby a little taste of home every once in a while.

Originally I planned to make a traditional Danish-style pork roast with pork belly served with pickled red cabbage and potatoes but MIL assured me that fried pork belly with potatoes and parsley sauce was as Danish as it gets. And not only did she suggest this dish, she cooked it! All I had to do was snap a couple of pictures and dig in. So a big, fat TAK FOR MAD! goes out to my awesome MIL!

Apparently all Danes can make this with their eyes closed, it's that easy. In other words, if Hubby can do this without a recipe, anyone can! Simply cut the pork belly (remove the skin if you wish) into 1/4 to 1/3 inch slices, season generously with salt, and fry until wonderfully crisp. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels. In the mean time, boil some small, cute potatoes (skins removed) until tender. Just before you're about to serve, make the sauce by melting a couple tablespoons of butter and adding about 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour to make a roux. Don't let it cook get dark. Add warm milk (about a cup to start with) while whisking vigorously to eliminate clumps. Turn up the heat a little bit. The sauce will be thin at first but will start to thicken up once it begins to simmer. If it gets too thick, add more milk. If it's too thin after it has been simmering for a few minutes, sprinkle in a little more flour while whisking vigorously. Once it reaches the desired consistency (see photo above), add salt and a healthy handful of finely chopped Italian parsley. Drizzle over the boiled potatoes and serve immediately.

Craving more Danish food? Try these:
karry sild (curried pickled herring)
leverpostej (Danish-style liver pate)
frikadeller (Danish meatballs)
lakridsis (licorice ice cream)
napoleanshatte (marzipan cookies dipped in chocolate)

This is my submission to Regional Recipes, where the spotlight region is Scandinavia. The host this month is Joanne of Eats Well with Others. Be sure to check her site on the 20th (or there abouts) for the round-up and she'll be announcing the next spotlight region.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Weekend Wokking Vinegar!

It's time for the Weekend Wokking round-up and we're showcasing vinegar! It was awesome to receive such a variety of submissions using the theme ingredient. Thanks to all for participating and let's get started!

Pork Adobo submitted by Javaholic. Pork fans, rejoice! Pork simmered in a sauce of coconut vinegar, soy and fish sauces and a healthy amount of garlic. Drooooool!

Balsamic Roasted Potato Wedges submitted by TastyCurryLeaf. Need zing? A splash or two of balsamic added at the end roasting is a nice way to dress up humble potato wedges.

Goi Mit Non tom Thit Heo (Vietnamese Green Jackfruit Salad with Shrimp and Pork) submitted by Wandering Chopsticks. Never tried green jackfruit? Well here's your chance! It's tossed with shrimp, pork and a Vietnamese dipping sauce or fermented anchovy sauce.

Fagiolini aglio e aceto (French beans with garlic and vinegar) submitted by Urban Bites. A simple and delicious way to enjoy your green beans.

Mini Pavlovas submitted by MomGateway. What's better than this light and airy meringue dessert? How about the cute and elegant mini version!

Pig's trotters with ginger and vinegar submitted by Kits Chow. There are very few things better than slow cooked pork, especially trotters and hocks. These trotters are simmered in a slow cooker with black rice vinegar and brown sugar. I can only imagine how divine this tastes ladled over steamed rice.

Pickled green purslane submitted by Erbe in Cucina. Okay, I admit I'm ignorant when it comes to purslane but I do love all things pickled. Now I've got my eye out for it.

Tomato Jam submitted by me. Okay, nine tomato plants may have been overkill, but at least I found a delicious way to use up all those pounds of tomatoes I harvested this summer.

Thanks again to all who submitted! For the next theme ingredient, let's do cabbage. Oh, I know you're as excited as I am! If you're itching to join in, read over the rules then send your submissions to Graziana of Erbe in Cucina at scrivi(at)ilmeglioincucina(dot)it by 11:59 PM, Sunday, November 1st.