Tag Archive | "pork belly"

Low-Carb Tacos Are a Real Easy Treat

Low-carb Tacos in a cabbage shell.

I had some roasted pork belly left over from my recent trip to Tim’s Oriental & Seafood Market and wondered what to do with it. Bonnie Walker came up with a great suggestion: tacos. A few strands of cabbage, some radishes and you’re all set.

Except for the corn shell.

I don’t do flour or corn all that often because of my diabetes, so tortillas were out.

That’s when I remembered the low-carb tacos at Urban Taco in the Quarry Village, which are like chicken wraps in that they come in a large lettuce leaf.

Instead of shredding the cabbage, I could use a cabbage leaf as the sturdy shell.

I warmed up the meat, and the rest of it fell into place, down to the fresh cilantro I picked from the backyard. Great flavor and part of my diet. They were so good, I had the rest the following evening.

Low-Carb Tacos

3 or 4 cabbage leaves or large lettuce leaves (see note)
8 ounces meat of your choice, such as carnitas, carne asada, roasted pork belly, ground beef or picadillo, lengua or tripas

Radishes, sliced
Pico de gallo
Jalapeños, sliced
Queso fresco or other cheese
Salt, to taste

Note: Cabbage heads can be tight. To peel whole leaves more easily, carve out the core at the bottom and separate the leaves slowly from the bottom up.

Lay out the cabbage leaves on one or two plates. Divide the meat among the leaves. Top with your choice of toppings, such as radishes, pico de gallo, jalapeños, cilantro, queso fresco, salsa and cilantro.  Salt to taste.

Serve immediately.

Makes 1 to 2 servings.

From John Griffin

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Griffin to Go: A Journey from Duck Fat to Pork Belly

Saturday’s joyous weather called for a food trek through San Antonio, and the result was a trip of savory indulgences.

Scott Cohen demonstrates how to cook foie gras.

It started at Gaucho Gourmet, the exceptional food warehouse the Ciorciari family operates at 935 Isom Road. The space is only open to the public on Saturdays, and word has certainly gotten out about the place as several dozen people showed up to browse through rows of truffles, fine salami, rare cheeses and a few Asian items that have been added to the mix of European and Argentine favorites.

But the real draw this Saturday was a foie gras cooking demonstration given by Scott Cohen, who used to work with Gaucho Gourmet’s Luciano Ciorciari at Pesca on the River Walk, now Ostra, and the late Brasserie Pavil.

Foie gras

That winning combination was made even more winning when seared samples of the fatty duck liver were served up at the end of session.

Cohen, who is now an instructor at Le Cordon Bleu culinary academy in Austin, brought along his son, Daniel, who is now attending the school as well as two local chefs, Isaac Cantu of the Westin La Cantera and Stephen Paprocki of Eurest Compass Group. Both had worked with Cohen at Las Canarias.

When getting ready to prepare foie gras, make sure it is firm, Cohen said. If you press a finger into it, it should keep the indentation, not spread out.

Heat your skillet, but don’t let it get too hot. That could cause the expensive treat to burn. Instead, it should have a pleasant sizzle when you set the slices into the heat. Cohen used a touch of grapeseed oil in the pan beforehand, which has a high smoking point and doesn’t impart a flavor to mask the delicate nature of the foie gras.

Steve White enjoys a sample of foie gras.

The meat is ready when the exterior is seared but the center is warm and will practically melt on the tongue, Cohen said.

To finish of the treat, you could use a sauce made from flavors you enjoy. It could be a balsamic reduction straight from a can, a sauce of brandy-soaked cherries or a more complex creation with a demi-glace base, perhaps with a touch of Saba, a quince glaze.

Gaucho Gourmet sells Hudson Valley Foie Gras in packages of various sizes. It isn’t cheap, but for a special occasion — such as a Saturday morning, Cohen said with a laugh — it’s worth it.

Bonnie and I left Gaucho Gourmet with plans to meet up with several friends at YaYa’s Thai at 8085 Callaghan Road at I-10 for lunch. It was a chance to sample more duck, since the crispy version with red curry was the special. And it was a winner, with a crunchy exterior and moist bits of meat at the center.

YaYa's Fish Cakes

Neither Bonnie nor I wanted much sugar with our food, but we weren’t so lucky with our orders. A shrimp and avocado salad sounded more than good, but the sticky sweet dressing on top did the fresh ingredients in the salad no favors. A beef salad was not quite as bad, but the sugar was there. An order of fish cakes was best with tender egg and fish working together beautifully.

From there, it was on to Rainbow Gardens at 8516 Bandera Road. I had started the day in the garden clearing a spot for cucumbers, but I wanted to plant more. For her garden, Bonnie was looking for a heirloom tomatoes, a couple of okra plants, herbs, African daisies and so forth. Plenty of other gardeners in town had the same ideas, apparently, for the place was bustling.

The herb area at Rainbow Gardens.

Soon our cart was so filled with the likes of purslane, Greek oregano,and Cuban oregano in addition to soil and fertilizer that we had to get a second cart. That prompted even more buying, with zucchini plants, plumbago and more added to the mix. After stopping to pet the nursery’s silky black cat, we headed out and stuffed the trunk and back seat of a small Mazda 3 with purchases.

For me, a trip to that area of Bandera Road is not complete with a stop at Tim’s Oriental & Seafood Market, 7015 Bandera Road. Though most every sweet and starchy snack in the store seemed to call our names, from pastel-colored Piroline-style cookies that would be perfect for Easter to garlicky crackers, we managed to be good and avoid the call of the carbohydrates.

That pork hanging next to the ducks -- that's mine!

But Bonnie saw a thing of beauty at the butcher counter that was beyond resisting. It was roasted pork, actually pork belly, for $6.95 a pound. Hanging next to the marinated roast ducks, which are also a happy bet but perhaps a little too much after all the duck we had had, it sent out Circe’s seductive call. I couldn’t resist. I bought the entire piece, which was chopped up and boxed to go.

The car didn’t make it out of the parking lot before the first pieces of that fat find made it out of the box. The crackling on the outside could not have had more crunch, while the meat and fat, boasting a heady mix of garlic and salt, was practically intoxicating. It was the perfect bookend to the foie gras, and a great way to end the trip before resuming the gardening.

(Photos by Bonnie Walker and John Griffin)


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Griffin to Go: Recipes for a Successful Family Film

It’s not every day you discover a DVD with recipes in the case. Yet that’s what happened when I checked out 步いても步いても (“Still Walking”) from the San Antonio Public Library.

This 2008 film from Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda was recently released by the Criterion Collection, known for its meticulous discs with plenty of extras and often lavish booklets filled with essays on the film. This one is no different, except that several pages of recipes have replaced one of the essays.

That’s great news, because after watching the film, I was ready to eat.

Kore-eda’s film is taken partially from his memories of his parents. Apparently, his mother was an excellent cook, known for her sautéed daikon radish and her corn fritters among other delicacies. At the beginning of the story, we see the mother figure working hard in the kitchen as she prepares an elaborate feast.

It is the anniversary of the death of one son and another son is visiting for the first time in a year. He’s bringing with him his new wife and stepson. Over the course of a 24-hour period, we learn a lot about these people, including some secrets that they would probably prefer remain hidden.

A great cook isn’t necessarily a great person, just human. The same is true of a great doctor and the rest of the family, anyone’s family. I won’t spoil the rest of this touching drama, except to advise any interested viewers to check out the extras after watching the film.

In the making-of documentary, we see the actors learn how to make one of the dishes in the film, Corn Tempura, which was Kore-eda’s favorite dish when he was a child. We also see the director bite into one of the large fritters on the set and comment that the dish is even better with soy sauce, which is not mentioned in the recipe but sounds like a great addition.

Whether you make the dishes before or after “Still Walking,” be prepared: You will be hungry after watching all that cooking.

Kinpira Daikon

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium daikon, cut into thin strips with a knife or peeler
Leaves from 1 or 2 daikons, cut into bite-sized pieces or arugula leaves
2 to 3 medium carrots, cut into thin strips with a knife or peeler
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
Red pepper flakes

Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan and cook the daikon, daikon leaves and carrots until soft. Add the sugar and soy sauce, and continue cooking until the liquid has been absorbed. Finish by pouring the sesame oil on top. Serve in a bowl and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.

Makes 4 servings.

From Hirokazu Kore-eda/”Still Walking”

Corn Tempura

Frying oil
1/2 cup flour, plus more for dredging
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup water
Kernels from 2 ears of corn
Sesame oil

Heat frying oil to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the 1/2 cup of flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. In a larger bowl, combine the egg yolk and water. Add the flour mixture to the yolk mixture and combine to form a batter. Dredge the corn kernels in flour and then stir them into the batter with a slotted spoon and form into small patties, incorporating some sesame oil with your hands. Fry until golden brown.

Makes 4 servings.

From Hirokazu Kore-eda/”Still Walking”

Pork Belly Kakuni

6 cups water
1 1/2 pounds pork belly
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
2 scallions, green portion only, thinly sliced
1 (3-inch) piece ginger, sliced
6 to 7 tablespoons sugar, divided use
5 tablespoons soy sauce1/4 cup sake
3 tablespoons mirin
1 bunch komatsuna or spinach
4 hard-cooked eggs, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water

Bring the 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Season the pork belly with salt and pepper. Add to boiling water with the scallions and ginger. Simmer about 90 minutes, then let cool. Remove the pork belly from the liquid and cut into 1-inch pieces; return to liquid. Add 2 tablespoons of the sugar, the soy sauce, the sake and the mirin, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently for 90 minutes, occasionally skimming excess fat from the surface.

Meanwhile, in a separate pot, blanch the komatsuna, drain and cut into strips. (Boil, if using spinach to remove the oxalic acid.)

Remove the pork belly from the liquid; set aside. Add the egg halves to the broth and continue to simmer until broth thickens, adding sugar to taste.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and cold water until the cornstarch dissolves.

Remove the eggs from the broth; set aside. Add the cornstarch mixture to the broth, one spoonful at a time, cooking over low heat, until broth is desired thickness. Remove from heat. Put the komatsuna, pork belly and eggs in a serving bowl. Ladle the broth over the top and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

From Hirokazu Kore-eda/”Still Walking”

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