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Chefs’ Corner: Joel Herrera’s Pork Belly and Watermelon with Kimchi Mole

Chefs’ Corner: Joel Herrera’s Pork Belly and Watermelon with Kimchi Mole

Chefs have long enjoyed using watermelon in inventive, fun dishes that showcase its sweetness and it juicy texture.

Pork Belly and Watermelon with Kimchi Mole

Pork Belly and Watermelon with Kimchi Mole

In this dish, Joel Herrera, a founder of the local chefs group, Los Cocineros, matches the summer favorite with pork belly.

But he doesn't stop there.

He infuses the watermelon with jalapeño and whiskey. Then he adds sweet spices, including fennel, cinnamon, star anise and cardamom to the pork belly, creating an engaging counterpart to the watermelon.

If it all seems too much for a hot summer day, then let Herrera cook it for you. It's on the menu of Los Cocineros' upcoming pop-up dinner, which is set for 6 p.m. July 10-11 at Amaya's Tacos & Bakery, 1502 E. Commerce St. The price is $35 a person and you can bring your own bottle. To make a reservation, go to Los Cocineros Facebook page and select the date of your choice.

Pork Belly and Watermelon with Kimchi Mole

Dry Rub: 1 tablespoon kosher salt 1 tablespoon ground fennel seed 1 tablespoon ground allspice 1 tablespoon ground black pepper

Pork: 1 1/2 pounds pork belly in one rectangular piece, at least 60 percent lean

Braising Liquid: 1 medium yellow onion, chopped 1 large carrot, chopped 3 ribs celery, chopped 1 tablespoon olive oil 3 cloves garlic 3 whole tomatoes 2 cups dry white wine 1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick 1 whole star anise 2 whole juniper berries 1 cardamom pod 1 whole clove 1 quart chicken stock

For the Dry Rub: Combine salt, fennel, allspice and black pepper thoroughly. Rub onto all sides of the pork belly, place in a nonreactive pan and top with any remaining dry rub marinade over the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove pork belly from refrigerator and place in a roasting pan.

Pork Belly and Watermelon with Kimchi Mole

Pork Belly and Watermelon with Kimchi Mole

To make the braising liquid: In a large saucepan, saute onion, carrot and celery in olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and tomatoes and cook another 5 minutes. Add wine and cook until evaporated. Add cinnamon stick, star anise, juniper berries, cardamom, clove and chicken stock. Bring to a boil.

Pour hot braising liquid over pork belly. Cover and place in oven. Cook 3 1/2 hours or until completely tender when pierced with a fork. Note: The pork belly can be prepared up to this point and refrigerated in the braising liquid until ready to proceed.

Remove the belly from the braise and cool. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut belly into 4 portions. Saute in a hot skillet with a little oil for two minutes, fat side down. Finish warming in oven for 5 minutes.

Compressed Watermelon: 1 watermelon 1 jalapeño ¼ cup whiskey

Remove the watermelon rind and cut the watermelon flesh into slabs that are 8 inches square and about 1 inch thick. It is fine to have smaller slabs.

Place the slabs into several vacuum seal bags. Do not overlap. Spread the jalapeño slices over the watermelon and pour in the whiskey and vacuum seal the watermelon.

Place the bags into the fridge for an hour and drain when ready to plate.

Pickled Watermelon Rind: Clean the rind and leave only the green of the skin, make a mixture of a cup of rice vinegar, 1 garlic clove, ½ tablespoon of peppercorns, ¼ cup of sugar and bring to a boil. Pour liquid over watermelon rinds and put the bowl in the fridge. These can hold for a couple of days and the longer they set the better.

Kimchi Mole: 1/3 cup Korean red pepper powder 1/4 cup fish sauce 1/4 cup peeled and minced fresh ginger (from about a 2-ounce piece) 1 tablespoon minced garlic cloves (from 6 to 8 medium cloves) 1 cup peanut butter 2 cups coconut milk 1 ancho chile ¼ cup lime juice

Bring red pepper powder, fish sauce, ginger, garlic, peanut butter, coconut milk, ancho chile and lime juice to a boil. Season to taste, blend and pass through a chinois or mill.

To plate the dish, arrange the Kimchi Mole on four plates. Cut the pork belly and slabs of watermelon into smaller pieces and arrange on each plate. Add a cube or two of pickled watermelon rind. Garnish as you see fit, with cucumber matchsticks, mint leaves, microgreens or whatever you like. Use either of the photographs accompanying this article as a starting point.

Makes 4 servings.

From Joel Herrera/Los Cocineros

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Discover for Yourself How Good Bienmesabe Tastes

Discover for Yourself How Good Bienmesabe Tastes

Bienmesabe

Bienmesabe

  Bienmesabe is a Spanish phrase that essentially means "tastes good to me." You'll discover this for yourself if you have the dessert at Nao Restaurant, 312 Pearl Parkway, which is celebrating the cuisine of Venezuela through July 7. Or you can make it for yourself at home. Essentially, the dish is a simple cake soaked in marsala or madeira, layered with coconut pastry and then topped with meringue, which you can finish with a blowtorch or under the broiler. Watch it closely, so it doesn't burn. Bienmesabe Bizcocho: 3 eggs 75 grams sugar (about 1/3 cup) 75 grams flour (about 2/3 cup) Blanch the eggs and the sugar (whisk until pale yellow) until risen and soft (about 5 minutes). Fold in the flour slowly and pour in a sheet pan lined with a Silpat. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool and reserve. Coconut pastry cream: 1 cup milk ½ cup sugar 1 cup coconut milk 3 tablespoons coconut flakes 2 tablespoons butter Pinch of salt ¼ cup cornstarch In a sauce pan heat the milk, the sugar, the coconut milk, the coconut flakes and the butter, season with a pinch of salt. When it comes to a boil, add the cornstarch (diluted in a bit of water). Reduce the heat to low and stir vigorously until the texture thickens. Transfer to a plastic container and continue stirring until the mixture has cooled down. Reserve. To set up Bienmesabe: Cut out a piece of bizcocho using a PVC mold or fill in a ramekin. Pour sweet marsala or madeira wine over the bizcocho until it is moist. Fill with coconut pastry cream and top with another piece of wine-soaked bizcocho. Place in the freezer. Meringue: 100 grams sugar (about 1/2 cup) 2 egg whites, whipped Cook the sugar into a caramel and bring the temperature up to 250 degrees. Pour over the whipped egg whites and continue to whip until the meringue is ready and cool down. To plate the dessert: Unmold the bienmesabe. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Before serving, use a piping bag and form a crest of meringue (like spikes) all over the “cake.” Use a blowtorch to “brûlée” the meringue and decorate with dehydrated coconut shavings. Serve with a scoop of mango sorbet, if desired. From Nao Restaurant  

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Chefs’ Corner: Boiler House’s Kraken Rum Glazed Kurobuta Pork Belly

Chefs’ Corner: Boiler House’s Kraken Rum Glazed Kurobuta Pork Belly

Are you in need of an appetizer recipe that will impress your guests and that you can make largely ahead of time?
Kraken Rum Glazed Kurobuta Pork Belly

Kraken Rum Glazed Kurobuta Pork Belly

That's the beauty behind chef Jeff Wayne White's Kraken Rum Glazed Kurobuta Pork Belly, which takes three days to get together. Most of the work, however, is done in advance. All you have to do is heat and assemble, before sending the hot plates out of your kitchen. Haven't got three days? White has just added this exciting dish to his menu at the Boiler House Texas Grill and Wine Garden in the Pearl Brewery, 312 Pearl Parkway, so you can let him prepare it for you.  Either way, you're sure to love this version of pork belly. You can also shorten the recipe by using a store-bought whole grain mustard, but don't skimp on the glaze, the pickled radishes or, least of all, the pork belly itself. You can find Kurobuta pork belly through Williams-Sonoma, but you might also want to ask your butcher or contact the folks at South Texas Heritage Pork about getting some from them. Kraken Braised Pork Belly 1 teaspoon pink curing salt 1 cup dark brown sugar 2 tablespoons salt 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper 1 sheet pork belly, preferably Kurobuta Oil 2 yellow onions, sliced 1 large carrot, sliced 3 ribs celery, sliced 6 cloves garlic, smashed 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns 3 bay leaves 4 sprigs thyme 2 quarts smoked ham hock stock 1 quart pineapple juice 2 cups Kraken rum For plating: Kracken Rum Sauce (recipe follows) Pickled Radishes (recipe follows) Micro arugula Grain Mustard (recipe follows) Mix pink salt, brown sugar, salt and pepper together in a bowl. Rub pork belly with seasoning mix and let cure for 24 hours. The next day, heat your oven to 275 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large, oven-proof braising pan. Sear belly on both sides. Remove from pan and set aside. In same pan, caramelize onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Add peppercorns, thyme and bay leaves, then deglaze pan with ham hock stock, pineapple juice and rum. Bring contents of braising pan to a boil, remove from heat and cover pan with foil. Place in oven and braise for 3 hours. When done, remove belly from pan and place on sheet pan. Place another sheet pan on top of belly and weigh down with canned food or something of weight and refrigerate overnight. Strain braising liquid and reserve for sauce. Remove belly from refrigerator and cut into even 2-inch squares. For each serving, sear 3 squares in hot sauté pan skin side down. Flip over and roast in 275-degree oven for 4 minutes. Place squares on plate. Heat Kracken Rum Sauce in pan then mount with butter. Pour sauce over pork belly. Garnish with plenty of Pickled Radish and micro arugula. Serve with Grain Mustard on the side. Kraken Rum Sauce 2 yellow onions, sliced 2 cups cider vinegar 1 cup sugar 1 cup Kraken rum Braising liquid from the pork belly pan Salt, to taste In 2 tablespoons oil, caramelize onions. Add cider vinegar and sugar, and reduce by 75 percent. Add rum and reduce by half. Add braising liquid and reduce by 75 percent. Season to taste. Pickled Radish Bouquet Garni: 1 sprig tarragon 1 sprig mint 1/4 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds 1/4 teaspoon toasted fennel seeds 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns Brine: 2 cups white balsamic vinegar 1 cup water 2 tablespoons sugar 1 pound red radishes, sliced For bouquet garni, wrap tarragon, mint, cumin, fennel and peppercorns in cheese cloth and tie closed with twine. Add to a saucepan containing brine ingredients: white balsamic vinegar, water and sugar. Bring brine to a boil then turn down heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Place sliced radishes into a glass jar. Pour hot brine over radish and let cool to room temp. Once cool, seal jar tightly and refrigerate for 1 week. Grain Mustard ½ cup ground brown mustard seeds 1/2 cup ground yellow mustard seeds ½ cup whole brown mustard seeds 1/2 cup whole yellow mustard seeds ¼ cup mustard powder 2 tablespoons salt 2 tablespoons sugar ½ cup champagne vinegar 1 ½ cup water Combine mustard seeds, mustard powder, salt, sugar, vinegar and water. Mix well, and leave covered at room temperature for 2 days before refrigerating. Makes about 3 cups. From Jeff Wayne White/Boiler House Texas Grill and Wine Garden    

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Chefs’ Corner: Aaron Gonzalez’s Cinnamon-Basil-Black Pepper Ice Cream

Chefs’ Corner: Aaron Gonzalez’s Cinnamon-Basil-Black Pepper Ice Cream

Cinnamon-Basil-Black Pepper Ice Cream

We came to know Aaron Gonzalez when he was the chef at Pike's Place in Pipe Creek. He has now taken over the space, just off Highway 16, and rechristened it Backyard Bistro. He has teamed with Blanca Cruz, a fixture on the local dining scene for the last few years, for the venture, which combines Hill Country cuisine with Mexican favorites. One item on the menu that he has carried over from one restaurant to the other is his Cinnamon-Basil-Black Pepper Ice Cream, an irresistible combination of flavors that is quite easy to make if you have an ice cream maker. Backyard Bistro is at 167 Panther Ridge, Pipe Creek, and is open 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Saturday. Sunday brunch is 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Closed Wednesday. The restaurant is offering a three-course prix fixe meal for $20, or $17.95 for early bird dinners. Call (830) 535-4094. Cinnamon-Basil-Black Pepper Ice Cream 6 basil leaves (minced) 3 cups heavy cream 2/3 cup sugar 1/4 teaspoon vanilla 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper In a saucepan, heat the basil and cream to a simmer. Remove from heat. Add sugar and whisk in the vanilla, cinnamon and black pepper. Cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until cold. Finish in ice cream maker, using manufacturer's instructions. From Aaron Gonzalez, Backyard Bistro  

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Chefs’ Corner: Two Approaches to Sweet Potatoes, One Great Taste

Chefs’ Corner: Two Approaches to Sweet Potatoes, One Great Taste

Lemon Sweet Potatoes

At the recent San Antonio Cellar Classic, those who got past the vast array of wines found themselves faced with two similar sweet potato dishes that were simple yet sublime. Yet the road each chef took to get that dish to the table was different, even if the end results mirrored each other. Jesse Perez of the upcoming Arcade at the Pearl Brewery served his lemon sweet potatoes as a foundation for flank steak with a chimichurri sauce. To make the sweet potatoes, he roasted them in a convection oven at 400 degrees for 90 minutes until they were tender. Then he puréed them with lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and a little cream. A handful of tables away, Stefan Bowers of Feast, 1024 S. Alamo St., had a similar recipe but a different approach. He roasted his sweet potatoes for 10 hours at 200 degrees. "Sweet potatoes loved to be cook slow and low," he said. Then he added lemon juice, salt and a touch of cream. The choice of cooking the sweet potatoes is yours — you could use a crock pot, if you wanted — as long as they're tender. The beauty of this recipe goes beyond its simplicity. It has no added sugar, and it doesn't need any. You'll taste for yourself how naturally sweet these bright and colorful tubers really are, perfect for fall dinners including that great sweet potato day, Thanksgiving.

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Herb-Roasted Chicken from Zach Lutton of Zedric’s Healthy Gourmet to Go

Herb-Roasted Chicken from Zach Lutton of Zedric’s Healthy Gourmet to Go

Zedric's Herb-Roasted Chicken

Do you love roast chicken with crispy skin? This recipe from Zach Lutton of Zedric's Healthy Gourmet to Go is an easy way to get just that. You can vary the herbs to suit your tastes. I tossed in a tiny bit of tarragon, dill and sorrel to taste. The real secret is to use the best chicken you can find. Lutton uses Vital Farms, which is from the southeastern side of Austin. Any naturally raised chicken should have the flavor you're looking for. Zedric's Herb-Roasted Vital Farm's Chicken 1 whole Vital Farms chicken 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more, divided use 1/2 cup of a blend of Italian parsley, chives and thyme, chopped 1 teaspoon chopped garlic Salt, to taste Freshly ground black pepper, to taste 2 carrots, peeled 2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped 1 rib celery, chopped 1 pint of chicken stock or broth 1/2 cup flour

Stuff the herbs under the skin before roasting.

Preheat oven to 400. Take the chicken and run your hand in between the skin and breast to make space for seasonings. Take the olive oil and blend with the herbs and garlic to form a paste, then season the chicken's cavity and breast with salt and pepper. Once seasoned add the paste inside the cavity and outside in between the skin and breast and also on the skin. Take the celery, carrots and onion and toss them in a mixing bowl with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Take a small sheet pan and spread all the mirepoix across the pan. Lay the chicken on its back. Place it in the oven for 1 hour. Check the temperature with a meat thermometer to make sure it is cooked to 165 in the deepest part of the breast. Let the chicken rest on a cutting board, and take a strainer over a small sauce pot and strain the cooking juices into the sauce pot. Bring the liquid to a simmer, and slowly sprinkle the flour across the liquid (this is called the singer method) and stir to incorporate until it becomes the consistency of sand. Take the stock or broth and slowly add while stirring the roux. The final product will be a sauce that will be really nice with the chicken. Make sure that the sauce simmers for 15 minutes to allow the flour to cook out. Makes 1 chicken. From Zach Lutton/Zedric's Healthy Gourmet to Go

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A Dessert So Easy You Can Make It Without Turning on the Oven

A Dessert So Easy You Can Make It Without Turning on the Oven

Tapa Tapa's Watermelon Poprocks

Are you looking for a fun, fresh and blessedly easy dessert this summer? Take a tip from Rudolfo Martinez, who operates the Tapa Tapa food truck at Alamo Street Eat Bar, 609 S. Alamo St. Martinez, one of the crew in the truck wearing a "Not Rudolfo" T-shirt, has made a great many fans in the past year with his Watermelon Poprocks dessert, a simple creation that would take no time for you to make at home. All it takes is some cubes of watermelon, which you can even buy already cut up, plus a few fresh mint leaves. Then top the mix with Poprocks, that childhood favorite that explodes on the tongue with an effervescence that is whimsical  and welcome. That's it.You've got a simple treat that's actually quite complex on the tongue. You won't want to add the candy until each individual serving is ready to be eaten. In other words, don't sprinkle the Poprocks over the whole bowl of fruit and let it sit. The candy will get get soggy and lose its sparkle. I hadn't see Poprocks in stores for years — that is, until recently, when I found them at Spec's, which is now at 5219 DeZavala Road as well as 14623 I-35 N. That means you can make this carbonated candy-crowned confection any time you'd like — and without having to turn the oven on. Or you can just head to South Alamo Street and order up Martinez's terrific fish tacos or 9-cheese macaroni and follow it with a taste of summer that's light and perfectly refreshing.

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Make Your Own Scotch Eggs

Make Your Own Scotch Eggs

Two Step's Seafood Scotch Egg

Chef Steve Warner of Two Step Restaurant and Cantina, 9840 W. Loop 1604 W., has given Scotch eggs a makeover. Instead of rolling the eggs in sausage, he has created a seafood coating that mixes salmon and shrimp together. Two Step's Seafood Scotch Egg ¼ pound fresh salmon fillet 1 ounce smoked salmon ¼ pound black peeled tiger prawns 1 teaspoon finely chopped chives 1 teaspoon salt 4 medium eggs, soft-boiled for 6 minutes ¾ cup flour seasoned 2 medium eggs beaten ¾ cup bread crumbs 1 quart vegetable oil Dice salmon fillet, smoked salmon and tiger prawns, then chop finely. Mix together with chives and salt. When mixed, place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. Peel soft-boiled eggs, being careful not to break. Take seafood mix out of the fridge and divide into four equal parts. With wet hands, mold seafood mix around soft-boiled egg, making sure that the mix is equal thickness around the egg. When all eggs are covered with the seafood mix, place in the fridge on grease-proof paper for 30 minutes. In three separate containers, you should have;
  • Seasoned flour
  • Beaten eggs
  • Bread crumbs
Pass the seafood scotch eggs from flour to eggs then to bread crumbs. Heat the oil in a fryer to 160 degrees. Put scotch eggs into the flyer and cook until golden brown. Take out and put into an oven tray and finish in an oven preheated to 200 degrees for 3 minutes. Take out of the oven, cut in half and serve with green salad and caper relish. Makes 4 eggs. From Steve Warner/Two Step Restaurant and Cantina

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Chefs’ Corner: Two Step El Rey Chocolate Silk Custard

Chefs’ Corner: Two Step El Rey Chocolate Silk Custard

El Rey Chocolate Silk Custard

Two Step Restaurant and Cantina, 9840 W. Loop 1604 N. (at Braun Road), is celebrating Valentine's Day with a dessert that's guaranteed to melt any chocolate lover's heart. Chef Steve Warner's El Rey Chocolate Silk Custard is a type of flan with the mysterious density of chocolate added. Warner uses El Rey Chocolate, the Fredericksburg chocolate company that produces world class chocolates. They help make this a treat that would be welcome any time of year. For more information on Two Step, call 210-688-2686 or visit twosteprestaurant.com. El Rey Chocolate Silk Custard 1/4 chocolate liqueur, divided use 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided use 3 cups heavy cream 2 cups El Rey 58.5 percent dark chocolate 1 tablespoon vanilla 2 eggs 3 egg yolks Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Set out 6 soufflé cups. Pour 1 tablespoon chocolate liqueur into each cup. Over a low flame, melt 1/2 cup sugar to the hard crack stage. Pour 2 tablespoons of the melted sugar into each of the cups. Over a low flame, bring the heavy cream to a steam. Add the chocolate and the vanilla. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted. In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, yolks, remaining sugar and remaining chocolate liqueur. Then temper the eggs with the chocolate and egg mixture. Put the chocolate custard into the soufflé cups. Place the cups into a water bath and bake until the internal temperature of the custards reaches 185. Remove from the water bath, let cool, and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, heat a thin knife in boiling water. Run around the edge of each custard. Upend each custard on a plate and serve. Makes 6 custards. From Steve Warner, Two Step Restaurant  

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Chefs’ Corner: A Pair of Margaritas from Two Step

Chefs’ Corner: A Pair of Margaritas from Two Step

Two Step Restaurant has a whole menu of margaritas.

At Two Step Restaurant and Cantina, 9840 W. Loop 1604 N., chef Steve Warner offers up some hearty Texas fare, including fork-tender chicken-fried steak, as it's called on the menu, fried catfish, bacon-wrapped pork loin and barbecue, all in a building that was fashioned around two 19th century landmarks. To wash down that food, he has a full menu of margaritas to suit every taste. And he has shared a couple of recipes. "The key to all our margaritas is the fresh squeezed juice," says Adrienne Muñoz, who is Warner's wife and manager of the restaurant. "We tried several options of store bought, non-pastuerized juice and the flavor just isn't the same." If the limes are too bitter for you, add a touch of agave nectar to provide balance, she says. For more information on Two Step Restaurant, click here. El Jefe This is the cantina's best-selling margarita, Muñoz says. 1 1/4 ounces Gran Centenario Reposado Tequila 3/4 ounce Cointreau 3/4 ounce Grand Marnier 1 1/4 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice Add tequila, Cointrea, Grand Marnier and lime juice to an ice-filled shaker. Shake until cold. Pour into a chilled margarita glass rimmed with lime and salt. Garnish with a slice of lime. Makes 1 cocktail. From Steve Warner/Two Step Restaurant and Cantina

Two Step Restaurant is on West Loop 1604 North.

The Silver Spur This is the staff favorite. 1 1/4 ounces Espolon Silver Tequila 1 1/4 ounces Cointreau 1 1/4 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice Add tequila, Cointrea and lime juice to an ice-filled shaker. Shake until cold. Pour into a chilled margarita glass rimmed with lime and salt. Garnish with a slice of lime. "The key to all our margaritas is the fresh squeezed juice. We tried several options of store bought, non-pastuerized juice and the flavor just isn't the same." Makes 1 cocktail. From Steve Warner/Two Step Restaurant and Cantina  

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