Fish Sauce Spare Ribs

This is a go-to dish for me. I absolutely love Fish Sauce Spare Ribs. I’ll make a wild guess and say you might have never tried fish sauce spare ribs? Am I right? If so, read on!

Put down the BBQ sauce and give this incredibly easy recipe a try for a super flavorful take on spare ribs you won’t forget.

*Some of the recipes I share on Salt & Starch outline exact measurements for cooking certain things. I share what works for me and what doesnt. For this entry I am mostly leaving it up to you to figure out. There are many variations I have found when preparing this dish so what better way to figure out what works for you! When I first cooked FSSR’s I used the now defunct Lucky Peach 101 Easy Asian Recipe cookbook.

After a few attempts I of course changed up the recipe slightly to suit what I felt made a better result. But that’s the beauty of cooking – experimentation with flavors, spices, amounts, and preparation until you get it just right for your tastebuds. So that said, below is a general outline of what you need. Feel free to add, take away and tweak the recipe to make it yours.

*Note: If you are not familiar with Fish Sauce I suggest you read this quick little article first.

It’s packs a sweet, powerful and funky flavor to dishes and it can easily be overused on your first few attempts cooking with it – I mention that based on experience!

So, my general rule of thumb with Fish Sauce is ‘less is more’. The powerful flavors of the sauce will still come thru in the dish you prepare and as mentioned above – you can always tweak your amounts to your flavor profiles as you get accustomed to using Fish Sauce as a main ingredient.

General Ingredients suggested:

  • 2 Racks of Spare Ribs (St.Louis cut if possible)
  • 3/4 Cup of Fish Sauce (Found at most Asian supermarkets)
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • Lime Juice
  • Fresh Ginger, minced
  • Kosher Salt

How To:

Mix together in a large bowl 1/4 cup of your fish sauce and 1/4 cup of sugar. Rub each rack of ribs liberally with the mixture. Arrange each rack separately on its own baking sheet, wrapping each rack in foil – crimping the foil at the top.

Now the recipe I followed originally indicated to bake at 350 Degrees until tender but not falling apart, around 90 minutes. For my kitchen and stove I found this to be too long and the ribs were falling apart by then. I cook mine for roughly 70 minutes at 350 degrees, checking them every so often to make sure they are not overcooking.

Remove from the oven and let the ribs rest in their foil pouches for at least 20 minutes.

While your ribs are cooling, finish preparing the remaining ingredients using the general outline below:

Combine the remaining sugar, water and salt into a sauce pan over medium heat.  Add some of the lime juice and stir. I like to add just a little bit extra lime juice because I like the ‘tartiness’ it brings forth in the mix. Continue stirring for roughly 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add your ginger. Gently swirl the pan to incorporate the ginger. (You can also add garlic as an extra kick as well)

Add a bit more lime juice and another 1/2 cup of the fish sauce. Lucky Peach’s recipe calls for adding sambal at this stage if you are so inclined to. Add a dash of pepper and allow to bubble over low heat, stirring gently to incorporate.  You are making a ‘Fish Sauce Caramel’.

Repackage your rack of ribs into new foil wraps, arranging them meat side up on the baking sheet. Take a brush and liberally brush some of the fish sauce onto the ribs. Roast for 5-10 minutes, remove and baste with more of your sauce. Continue this process until you have exhausted all your sauce giving your ribs a shiny glaze with a nice char.

Let cool for 15 minutes, cut into slices and enjoy!

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How to make Challah Bread

I am no baker, that’s for sure. However, I have made my fair share of bread in the past and I continue to bake bread occasionally all while trying to understand the magical chemistry that occurs between yeast, water, flour, etc.

Challah bread is a beautiful way to start making bread, and it’s fun to make! It’s rich texture along with a very slight hint of sweetness can be noticed when trying it for the first time. It’s recipe is straightforward and the end result is almost always impressive to look at. I particularly like making challah bread on occasion because I can never seem to get it just right. My braids always open up on top but the end result still looks fantastic and most importantly the taste is great.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Ingredients: 1 loaf
  • 1 cup water – best if lukewarm or room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons of dry yeast – you can use active dry but I tend to use the instant yeast
  • 4 to 4 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons of salt (regular salt, not sea salt)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-2 large egg yolks separated – (Save the egg white in a small bowl, set to the side)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil such as Canola oil – (Do not use olive oil here!)

How to:

The first step you need to do is to dissolve your yeast. Place your yeast in a small bowl with the water, adding a little pinch of sugar. Mix well until all is incorporated. At this point you want to let your bowl stand for 5-10 minutes. The yeast should be doing its magic and you should see a cloudy or frothy layer form across the top of the water. If you do not see this your yeast has most likely expired and you will need to start over.

Mix your dry ingredients: Place your 4 cups of flour, your sugar and salt into your stand mixer bowl. Make a well in the middle of your flour and add the oil, eggs and egg yolk. Pour the yeast mixture into the mix and stir together with a wooden spoon until you get a messy dough.

*You can add sprinkles of dry flour as you go – that will help with the wetness of the mix and will assist in it all coming together. (Don’t go overboard however with adding more dry flour at this step – use it sparingly to assist with the dough coming together).

With a stand mixer, fix the dough hook and knead the dough on low speed for roughly 6-8 minutes.  If you do not have a stand mixer you can knead by hand for 10 minutes.  If the dough feels sticky or wet you can sprinkle dry flour into the mix as you continue to knead. The goal is to get a silky smooth texture that easily forms a ball.

Once the dough is kneaded and form nicely, place the ball of dough into an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for roughly 1-2 hours. The dough needs to double in size – use this visual measure of the indication it is risen enough.

Divide the dough into 3 equal parts. Stretch each part to roughly 14-16 inches in length creating ‘ropes’. Many times while doing this you will notice the ropes tend to shrink up. If this happens let them rest for 5 minutes or so giving the gluten more time to relax.

For a 3-stranded challah you want to gather the ropes at the top, pinching together. Braid the 3 ropes together (as if braiding hair) making sure your braid is relatively tight.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place your braided challah on top and sprinkle with a little dry flour. Place a kitchen towel over top and let rest for roughly 1 hour in a warm and dry place.

While your braided challah is still resting (roughly 20 minutes before you put it in the oven), add a little water to your egg whites that you set aside from earlier. Whisk the mixture gently. Brush and coat the challah bread with the egg wash making sure you get into all the crevices and especially on top.

Pre-Heat your oven to 350 F.

Bake for roughly 30-35 minutes, checking every so often to ensure the top is evenly being baked.  The challah should be browned thoroughly on top.

Let the Challah cool on a baking rack until just warm.  Serve & enjoy!

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*You can add caraway seeds to the top before baking to add a little spicier flavor if desired.

 

 

 

 

Verdure Gratinate

Baked vegetables with bread crumbs is one of the easiest side dishes you can prepare. I love this dish because it sets up perfectly for new cooks. It allows for a newbie in the kitchen to practice their knife skills and prepare an incredibly easy and flavorful dish almost every time within minutes.

The other beautiful aspect of this dish is you can use virtually any vegetables you like. You’re not bound by only a few certain vegetables. So, that said – pick your favorites and get started! I’ll show you how …

Common veggies I like to use:

  • Eggplant
  • Peppers (Green, Red & Yellow)
  • Zuchinni
  • Onions
  • Tomato
  • Fresh herbs of your choice. Parsley, Oregano & Marjoram work wonderfully.
  • Salt & Pepper (Try to use high quality salt, not iodized store bought salt. Good salt such as Maldon Sea Salt or other sea salts make a huge difference in cooking. Freshly ground black pepper should also be a staple in your kitchen)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil. (Don’t skimp on quality here either. Get the good stuff)
  • Bread Crumbs – roughly about 1-1/2 cups

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How to:

Take your fresh herbs and put your knife skills to the test, getting them fully chopped finely.  Once you have a lovely mix of herbs (finely chopped) add them to your bread crumbs in a large mixing bowl – stirring well to make sure the herbs are fully incorporated with the the bread crumbs.

Cut your veggies roughly 1/4″ in thickness, or a bit thinner depending on your preference. This is another good exercise for your knife skills because you will have a few different vegetables to cut. Make your cuts even focusing on even lengths for all your veggies. This will make your dish look even better when its plated. (see photos)

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Place your cut vegetables on a baking sheet that has been drizzled with a little EVOO, spreading them out evenly. Don’t overcrowd them on the baking sheet. Sprinkle your breadcrumb mix on top of the veggies but don’t go crazy here putting more than is needed. This is a common mistake, one I committed the first time I made this side dish. If you put too many bread crumbs on top you’ll be left with burnt vegetables and a mushy breadcrumb pile on top. Less is more in this situation.

Drizzle some EVOO over top of the vegetables to finish.  Bake for roughly 45 minutes at 375 F until breadcrumbs are browned on top.

Sprinkle a little high quality sea salt on top and serve!

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Smoked Duck with Fresh Herbs

Last week I finally managed to get my garden all taken care of. I planted a plethora of fresh herbs, tomatoes, beans, peppers, and even threw in a couple sunflower plants for good measure. With the weather on the east coast lately I came out to my garden yesterday and had fresh rosemary, basil and cilantro already ready for the picking!

I’ve had a frozen duck in my freezer for a while now, just waiting for the right time to cook it. I figured it was time to de-thaw it and give it a whirl. I decided to smoke it on my bbq using indirect heat (setting the duck on the opposite side of where the coals are) and let it cook on low for a few hours outside.

This recipe is open to interpretation because essentially you can prepare this duck any way you prefer. A lot of frozen ducks come with a traditional orange glaze you can use for flavor. I used the orange glaze along with some extra soy sauce and a bit of honey to combine for a homemade glaze.  I utilized my herbs from the garden and put fresh cilantro, basil and rosemary atop the duck.

I got the charcoals going pretty well, until they were glowing while I set two small foil tins next to them on the lower level of my grill. I filled the tins with apple juice.

I set the duck on the opposite side of the charcoals, on top of the foil tins as shown in the photos. I checked the duck approximately every 45 minutes or so, making sure the temperature stayed below 200 degrees. The total cooking time on this duck was around 3 hours with a couple glazings in between. I removed the now glowing duck from the grill after a nice char formed and I wrapped it in tin foil for roughly another hour to continue cooking.

And there you have it – a nice and easy Sunday dinner prepared and ready to go!

*If you’re adventurous you can smoke the neck, liver and any innards left in a small tin foil pouch alongside the duck. *pictured

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Spanish Rice with Shrimp

There comes a time in your cooking life when you realize that you’re attempting to prepare something significantly important. Something besides just the next recipe or adventure in the kitchen. Something that goes beyond just the food, the next blog post, or one self.

For me that realization came when I attempted to make Spanish Rice for the first time.

I’ll preface this right now: I still know entirely too little about traditional Spanish food. But I am learning. I am studying. I am in awe of the food history and flavors of these foods I am reading about. My journey continues of course, hopefully with a trip to Spain one day to experience these heavenly dishes I have dancing around in my mind.

Here I recount my 3rd time attempting to make Spanish Rice. When I began researching traditional Spanish Rice my mind was spinning. Every recipe I read was different. Some with garlic, some without. Some with water, some with chicken broth. Some with only red peppers, some with yellow and green. The confusion continued …

I continued reading and watching some recipes on YouTube about how some chefs were preparing Spanish Rice. While I cannot speak with any level of truth about what exactly is the correct way of preparing Spanish Rice – I concluded that there were many ways to prepare this dish. This is something that still doesn’t sit right with me totally – mostly because I want to get it right. I wanted to prepare the dish the correct way, not a modernized or modified way. Alas, my questions still remain and I hope to eventually learn (without any doubt) the correct way of preparing traditional Spanish rice.

For now, my recipe below is my best attempt at studying the dish, the different variations of ingredients and preparation – all in hopes I present the dish with the utmost respect is surely deserves. For those that may be reading that have experience with this dish – please feel free to comment if I’ve made any glaring and horrible mistakes!

Spanish Rice (My best attempt)

Ingredients:

2 cups long grain white rice

1 lb Fresh Jumbo Shrimp (Head on)

4 cups chicken brothe

Salt/Pepper

2 cans tomato sauce (no seasoning)

1 Green Pepper / 1 Red Pepper

Fresh Parsley

4 Cloves Garlic

White Pepper

1/2 Spanish Onion

Cumin

Adobo seasoning

Oregano

EVOO & Veg Oil

Preparation:

Heat a large sauce pan with 1/3 cup of EVOO.  Roughly chop 1/2 a green pepper and 1/2 red pepper. Roughly chop 1/2 your Spanish Onion. Finely chop your cloves of garlic.

Bring a medium pot of water to a rolling boil. Carefully place your shrimp (head on) in the water.

While your shrimp boils add your fresh ingredients in the large sauce pan, allowing your peppers and onion to sweat down. Add a pinch of salt/pepper.

Remove your shrimp from the boiling water. Once your shrimp turn a bright orange color they should be finished. Remove the shrimp from the water and set aside.

In your large sauce pan, add your tomato sauce and chicken brothe. Bring to a rolling boil then add your rice. (General rule is for every 1 cup of rice, use 2 cups of water or liquid). For this recipe I used chicken broth instead of water.

Note: It is incredibly easy to burn the bottom of your pan with the rice. This creates a sticky messy disaster and your dish will taste of burnt rice. Not good. To avoid this keep close watch on the temperature and add 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil to your pan. This helps prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Gradually add in the remaining seasonings. Add a pinch of white pepper, cumin, oregano and Adobo seasoning. Add your roughly chopped parsley.

Cover your pan half way, reduce the heat and keep careful watch. The rice should be absorbing the liquid visibly more and more as it continues to cook.

The rice should be fully cooked within 10-15 minutes typically. Once your rice is nice and has taken a somewhat thick consistency – add in your shrimp after you’ve removed their shells.

Continue to cook on low heat for another 5 minutes.

Taste your dish at this point – adjusting seasoning as you like. Add Salt/Pepper if necessary.

Finally, remove from the heat and let sit for 15 minutes to allow flavors to continue to evolve.  I’ve noticed the longer the dish sits the flavors become bolder and incorporate more overall.

And there you have it – my best take on Spanish Rice.

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Thai Hot Pepper Wings

Do you like hot or spicy food? Do you long for that seemingly never ending dull ache that lasts hours after you’ve finished your last bite of a spice infused meal? If so, we probably should be friends.

Spicy foods and flavors in my opinion should have its own food group. Its own section at the farmers market. It should be an exclusive club only set aside for those that have proven their prowess amongst the culinary gods – those that have survived a spicy dish so savory and painful the juxtaposition of flavors is both confusing and dizzying.

Well, maybe I’ve gone too far. But alas, the heat is going to keep you coming back for more. Today’s recipe is no less than a plethora of combined flavors that leave your mouth tingling long after your last bite. Let the madness begin:

Ingredients:

1-2 lbs fresh chicken wings – never frozen

Thai Hot peppers

Green chili peppers

Ginger

Garlic

Salt/Pepper

Adobo seasoning (optional)

Cayenne Pepper

Recipe:

Start off cleaning your chicken wings. It goes without saying that when working with raw chicken one should be highly attentive to avoiding cross-contamination. I cook a lot of chicken and I always am super careful of cleaning up properly afterwards from all surfaces, knives, etc – again in order to eliminate cross contamination with raw chicken.

For this recipe I boil the chicken wings for 15-20 minutes in a large pot of rolling/boiling water.

While your chicken wings are boiling begin prepping your other ingredients.

Thinly slice a generous handful of your Thai Hot Peppers. These are usually available at any decent farmers market.

Thinly slice a few green chili’s.

Finely chop 4-5 cloves of garlic along with 1/4 or so of a stalk of fresh ginger. Bring these two ingredients together to a fine mince.

Add your ingredients to a large sauce pan with 1/3 cup vegetable oil.

Set your sauce pan on high on the stove, brining all the ingredients to a boiling simmer.

By now your boiled wings should be finished. Remove from the water and carefully incorporate them into your saucepan, liberally spreading the ingredients allowing to coat the wings. Add a pinch of salt, black pepper and if you would like some Adobo seasoning for extra flavor. You can also add a touch of sugar to cut the heat if you want. Continue to stir until your wings have a nice coating and brown to them.

Plate with fresh parsley and enjoy.

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Linguine with Baby Octopus

Spring is finally here, officially anyways. I think it is? It’s been raining for the past four days straight here on the east coast so you wouldn’t know it to look outside. Nonetheless it hasn’t stopped me from making some favorite dishes that come back into season once the winter departs.

One of my favorite dishes is Linguine with Baby Octopus. Personally I think octopus gets a bad wrap. It can be heard in various dark culinary corners that it’s “too rubbery” or “it has no taste”. For those I direct people to the mastermind of Jiro and how his disciples carefully massage an octopus for hours to bring out the flavor and soften the tentacled beast.

Ok, so I don’t got that far. But I do believe octopus can be an awesome ingredient, especially to a pasta dish. Linguine with Baby octopus is an incredibly easy recipe to make and variations of it can be found in almost any pasta cookbook old and new.

I’ve taken my favorite aspects of preparing this dish from a few different recipes, combining the ingredients I feel work well and discarding others that don’t quite make the grade.

So, here we go:

First, and most importantly. You need to find fresh baby octopus that is preferably already cleaned and ‘de-beaked!’ (Yes octopus have little beaks inside and you do not want to chomp down on one in the middle of your dinner!).  The below recipe is for an average dinner that should easily feed 3-4 hungry people.

Ingredients:

1 lb fresh baby octopus (cleaned and de-beaked) (Usually can be found in any decent farmers market).

EVOO

6 scallions chopped into 1 inch pieces

About 3/4 cup of fresh mint roughly chopped

Course Black Pepper and Kosher Salt

3 Lemons

1 lb dry Linguine (Or any long pasta you prefer)

1 tablespoon of chili flakes

1 sprig fresh basil

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In a large metal bowl put in 1/3 cup EVOO, your scallions, mint, and the juice of 2 lemons (be sure to remove any pits that you might accidentally drop in). Season with salt and pepper. Incorporate well and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Once boiling add a dash of salt to the water and drop your pasta in cooking it until al dente.

While your pasta is cooking heat up a large pan with 1/3 cup EVOO on the stove. Drop in your baby octopus cooking them until they curl up and reduce down in size. Throw in a dash of salt and pepper for seasoning. Once your octopus are almost complete, put in your herbs from the metal bowl. Reduce heat to low, stirring every so often as to prevent anything that might stick to the bottom of the pan.

Your pasta should be finishing up around this point. Drain the pasta from the water, saving roughly a cup of pasta water in case you need to add later. Once drained pour your pasta into your sauce pan with the octopus and herbs. Incorporate thoroughly while adding your chili flakes. Your pasta should be coated nicely with the sauce but not drowning in it. Add more salt and pepper to for a bit more additional seasoning. Dress with a few fresh sprigs of basil for presentation.

The end result should be an array of tastes that combine the hint of lemon juice, mint, and subtle kick of the chili flakes. The octopus should be tender enough to have these ingredients latch on to all the flavors while the greens create a nice balance of texture.

The dish can be served hot or cold. Personally, I like to let the dish sit and incorporate its flavors for at least 15 minutes before serving.

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