French Guy Cooking is a YouTube sensation. A Frenchman living in Paris, Alexis loves to demystify cooking by experimenting with food and cooking methods to take the fear factor out of cooking, make it fun and accessible, and charm everyone with his geeky approach to food.
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I think almost every child likes charsiu (also spelled “char siew”), aka Chinese barbecued pork. There’s something wonderfully delicious about the combination of juicy, tender pork and the salty-sweet and very umami charsiu sauce. It’s something that my own kids, especially my son, absolutely loves. It’s highly addictive when done right. And I add that caveat because there are just as many horrendous, dry versions of charsiu sold in hawker centres all over the island as there are wonderfully plump, tasty and moist versions. The absolutely worst ones feel like cardboard, have artificially colored pink exteriors and unappetising grey flesh. I feel sorry for any person whose first taste of charsiu was one of these substandard and frankly embarrassing versions.
A well-made piece of charsiu is a thing of beauty. The pork should have flavour. It should be moist and have a little bite (meaning, it shouldn’t be too tender). I’ve played with a wide variety of charsiu preparation and cooking methods over the years. For a significant period, my preference was to use sous-vide techniques in the process. But more recently, and mostly because I was never 100% satisfied with the texture of the sous-vide charsiu, I’ve gone back to more basic styles of cooking.
Several foodies (online) have advocated a braising method in which you cook your pork in a wok, allowing the liquid it is cooking in to reduce until it finally becomes a sticky caramelised coating for the meat. I tried out a few online recipes but didn’t like the results. Not only did the meat come out overly sticky (which made it a mess to handle) but cleaning pots and woks in which you’ve reduced caramelised sauces is a real bitch.
But I liked the idea of braising the meat. Especially when you can add aromatics to make the liquid and the meat that much yummier. So, I tried braising the pork, letting it cool in the braising liquid, and then basting it in charsiu sauce, followed by a short but super hot turn in the oven. After a few iterations, I think I’ve come up with something that works well. Based on the family’s reactions, it appears to be a winner with kids and grandparents alike. I’ve found that the braising time greatly effects the texture of the meat. The best charsiu should have some bite. So if you braise the meat too long, while the pork can come out nice and tender, it will also fall apart… which isn’t particularly what you want. An hour seems to be sufficient to cook the pork nicely and still provide some nice resistence when you cut it as well as when you bite into it.
I’ve also taken to making my own charsiu sauce. I tend to avoid both commercial charsiu and Hoisin sauces these days and instead prefer to whip up my own concoction (which is admittedly very adjusted to my specific palate). Of course, it helps that I have a very well stocked pantry, courtesy of the superwife. That means if I want to use fermented soy beans I have multiple options to choose from. I make my sauce and use it as marinade and in the cooking process, and then use it again, with honey added, for the final roast.
The recipe is below. While this takes considerably less time than other charsiu recipes I’ve posted previously, it is by no means a quick dish to make. You’ll want to block off a few hours for this the first time you make it. And, since we all have different tastes, as always you should adjust the seasoning and ratio of the various ingredients for your own tastes.
2kg of fatty pork neck, cut into strips, approximately 4cm wide, 4-5cm tall, and 20cm long.
2 leeks, trimmed and cut into rough chunks
2 onions, quartered
1 carrot, peeled and cut into rough chunks
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 2cm knob of ginger peeled
1 bunch fresh coriander (a few sprigs)
1 bunch fresh spring onions (a few sprigs)
2 tablespoons cooking oil
For the marinade
1/2 cup of Chinese red yeast rice wine lees (paste)
4 tablespoons creamy/smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons fermented soybeans, mashed up
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark thick soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons scallion oil (if you have it)
1 tablespoon five spice powder
1 to 1.5 litres chicken stock or dashi
1/3 cup of honey
In a big jar, mix all of the marinade ingredients together. Taste. It should be very punchy and sweet and salty. If you think it needs more sugar, add some; more salt, add soy sauce or salt.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the pork pieces and half of the marinade together. Let sit for around 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
Heat up a large pot over medium-high heat. Add in 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. Once hot, add in the onions, leek and carrot. Stir for 5 minutes or so, just until the onion is beginning to soften. Then stir in the garlic and ginger. Transfer the pork with the marinade into the pot, add in the coriander and spring onion, and stir all the ingredients around for a few minutes. Then pour the stock/dashi over the meat. You just want to cover all of the meat under liquid. Taste the braising liquid and adjust the seasoning again if need be. Bring the liquid to a boil and cover with a cartouche made from baking paper. Place the lid over the pot and put it inside the oven for 1 hour.
After an hour, take the pot out, remove the lid and let the pork cool in the liquid. Once cool, you can remove the pork and place it on a wire rack, that you’ve set up on a large tray.
Mix the remaining marinade with 1/3 cup of honey. That should give you just enough for the basting process. If you feel like you need more, make another batch of marinade and mix it with 2/3 cup of honey.
Reset your oven so that it is at the highest possible temperature. You may also want to consider a grill or broil option. The oven I use has a grill + fan option, which is what I use. Baste the meat completely. You want to try and cover every single bit of the pork. Then pop it in the oven for 10 minutes. If you are using a unidirectional heat setting (like I do), after 5 minutes, take the pork out, flip the meat over, baste again if necessary, and pop it back in for the last 5 minutes. You want the pork to take on that signature charred glossiness that the best charsiu have.
Once done, cut, eat, enjoy.
The post A braised version of Charsiu (the one I make for the kids most often right now) appeared first on Chubby Hubby.
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Adding salt to water makes the water boil quicker and at a lower temperature.
Marzipan is typically made with almonds.
To poach something means to cook it over dry heat.
The main ingredient in polenta is corn.
Kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut are all fermented.
Branzini is a type of pasta.
“Kitchen Bouquet” refers to a bundle of herbs tied together used to season soups and stocks.
Bright yellow turmeric powder comes from the root of a plant.
To sauté means to cook something quickly in a large amount of fat.
Croque Monsieur is a type of sandwich.
The three main components of Caprese salad are tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and parsley.
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French macarons are NOT made with wheat flour.
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There are all kinds of cakes out there, from single-serving cupcakes to towering layer cakes. One of my favorite types of cake is a snack cake, an admittedly less official category than some of the others. Snack cakes should be easy to make and are usually single-layer affairs, with straightforward ingredients that you can throw together on short notice. They’re not the showstoppers you might bring out for an event, but they’re delicious and satisfying any day of the week. This Cinnamon Sugar-Topped Banana Snack Cake is the perfect everyday cake, loaded with banana flavor and topped with a crisp sugary topping.
The best thing about this recipe is that it is very easy to make and requires only a few ingredients. You only need a single banana, making this a good choice for days when you want a banana dessert but don’t have enough ripe bananas for a full sized banana bread loaf. I added a handful of chocolate chips simply because I was in the mood, and chopped nuts could be used just as easily. The batter bakes into a light, tender cake with a good banana flavor. It has just the right amount of sweetness to highlight the banana without being overly sweet.
It’s just as well that the cake itself isn’t overly sweet, since the sugary topping is what sets this apart from other cakes by creating a crisp and sweet crust that contrasts well with the tender cake underneath. I used a mixture of cinnamon and sugar for most of the topping, but added an additional sprinkling of coarse sugar to add even more texture. The coarse sugar I used is called Swedish pearl sugar and you can find it online or at specialty baking stores, though turbinado sugar is a great alternative if you already have that on hand.
The cake is at its best when it is freshly baked and has just cooled, since that is when you get the best contrast between the sugar topping and the fluffy cake. The smaller sugar crystals will soften when the cake is stored, but the larger crystals will retain their texture, so even leftover slices of cake will have a bit of crunch on top.
Cinnamon Sugar-Topped Banana Snack Cake
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large banana, mashed (approx 1/3-cup)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp coarse sugar
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9-inch square baking pan.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Bear in egg, mashed banana and vanilla extract. Stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the milk. Stir in the remaining flour mixture until no streaks of dry ingredients remain. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan.
In a small bowl, make the topping. Whisk together all topping ingredients and sprinkle evenly over the top of the cake.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clear or with only a few moist crumbs attached.
Allow cake to cool completely before slicing.
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