Recipe Review: Hoisin-Glazed Meatloaf Sandwich

The March 2012 issue of Bon Appetit had a section of recipes of modern takes on comfort food.  Meatloaf is one of the classic American comfort foods, and this recipe updates it with a Vietnamese bahn mi-like flavor profile.  There is a hoisin glaze made with hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, and garlic.  The meatloaf is made from ground beef, ground pork, bread, eggs, ginger, garlic, scallions, celery, bacon, five-spice powder, and some of the hoisin glaze.  The meatloaf is baked for one and a half hours, then slices are crisped in a frying pan, served on toast, and topped with a carrot and daikon pickle salad with cilantro.  There is a substantial amount of prep work, and the whole recipe takes about three hours.  The results are very tasty and definitely earn the title of comfort food. Makes for great leftovers as well.

Link to recipe here.

Chinese Food, American-Chinese Food, and Mission Chinese Food

Chinese food, American-Chinese food, and Mission Chinese Food are three very, very different entities.  Chinese food as prepared in China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan is in my opinion superior to any Chinese food you will find in the U.S.  Each region has its own specialties and traditions developed over thousands of years: fishcake wrapped meatballs from Fuzhou, crispy duck from Beijing, stinky tofu from Taiwan.  At a Chinese banquet there is an endless procession of sophisticated flavors.

American-Chinese food is it’s own separate thing, Chinese food co-opted for an American palate.  But I like this kind of food also, especially from a take-out joint like Hon’s Wok in St. Louis, which serves breaded and deep-fried Sesame Chicken in a sticky, sweet red sauce with sesame seeds sprinkled on top, the combination of which will induce a carb- and MSG-laced coma.  However, ask for “Sesame Chicken” in a traditional Chinese restaurant and you will be met with blank stares.  These dishes are wholly made up in the U.S., and they are satisfying in their own way.

Mission Chinese Food has received a ton of local and national press, because of chef Danny Bowien’s creative re-interpretation of Chinese food, and because of its pedigree as an offshoot of the successful Mission Street Food project that was documented in the inspiring book by Anthony Myint and Karen Liebowitz.  I wanted to share my experience having had several meals at MCF over the past one and a half years, especially now with the news that Chef Danny Bowien is leaving for New York City.

The dishes at MCF are very forward-thinking and have a ton of bold flavors.  Different takes on a roasted and fried pork belly have been served, including one dish with rice noodles and ginger scallion, and another with pineapple and cucumber, perhaps the SF response to David Chang’s Momofuku Pork Belly Buns. MCF makes use of unusual ingredients for Chinese food, like pastrami and potatoes in their Kung Pao Pastrami dish.   There is a great rendition of a rice porridge with bits of beef, Dungeness crab, and slow-cooked egg.  The tea-smoked eel is a standout, with crunchy eel wrapped in rice noodles.  Another favorite is Thrice Cooked Bacon, with Rice Cakes, sweet chewy Tofu Skin, and Bitter Melon.  So much flavor!  They got a smoker and started veering way over into American BBQ, serving a white bread BBQ platter with Coca-cola BBQ sauce.   Since there are always new additions and subtractions to the menu, there are many other dishes I have unfortunately missed.  Some flavor profiles are not for everyone – for example, the cold savory egg custard with uni and trout roe.  Many of the dishes have heat from chili peppers and Szechuan peppercorns, which are really pungent.

There seems to be many hipsters and foodies who come to MCF, and thus MCF has introduced some Chinese ingredients, like Chinese sausage, rice noodles, and rice porridge, to a new audience.  Customers expecting more traditional Chinese food or American-Chinese Food will be challenged.  Still, I would much rather come here and try Chef Bowien’s latest creation than go to almost any other restaurant serving “rustic” Northern California cuisine for another iteration of beef short rib, pork chop, chicken breast, salmon, or vegetarian risotto.  Chinese food continues to evolve in the hands of creative chefs like Danny Bowien who are willing to experiment, and I am glad to be part of the audience.  Highly recommended.

Many Danny Bowien recipes have been published in Bon Appetit like Sizzling Cumin LambKung Pao Pastrami, and Mouthwatering Chicken.

The New York Times also published several recipes like Rice Porridge with Dungeness Crab, Chicken and Soft-Cooked Egg.

Link to coolcookstyle’s visit to Mission Chinese NYC here.

Mission Chinese Food on Urbanspoon

Recipe Review: Italian Wedding Soup with Chicken Meatballs and Sage Crostone

This easy, delicious soup from Andrew Carmellini’s American Flavor cookbook “marries” meat and vegetables and is often traditionally served at Italian-American weddings.  There is a lot of flavor here: spicy chicken meatballs, crunchy escarole, tiny star-shaped pasta all in a chicken broth chock full of vegetables and served with toasted sage-parmesan crostone.  The light soup contrasts with the meatballs that have a little bit of heat from crushed red pepper.  The entire recipe prep takes about an hour: sliced ciabatta bread with olive oil, parmesan and sage are toasted in the oven for the crostone, meatballs are rolled, vegetables are chopped and cooked in chicken broth for a few minutes, then the meatballs are poached for five minutes, and finally cooked pasta and escarole are added at the very end.  Another good dish from this cookbook – see also Black Eyed Pea and Kale Chili, Bacon-Chipotle Cornbread.

Link to recipe here.

Recipe Review: Momofuku Blondie Pie, Pumpkin Ganache

Christina Tosi writes in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook that her favorite, favorite, favorite pie that they make at Momofuku Milk Bar is the Blondie Pie finished with Pumpkin Ganache.  With an endorsement like that, this pie was high on my to-do list, but the degree of difficulty was much higher than with previous recipes.  Graham Crust was easy – I had made it before with Brownie Pie, Carrot Layer Cake, Compost Cookies, and Graham Ice Cream.  The challenge was two of the Mother Recipes in the book: Nut Brittle and Ganache.

Cashew Nut Brittle requires only two ingredients: sugar and cashews.  The sugar is made into a dry caramel, the nuts are folded in, then the brittle hardens, and finally the brittle is broken into chunks with a rolling pin.  Sounds pretty easy, but caramels are often tricky to make and a lot can go wrong.  Initially, I made the caramel in a “non-stick” pot.  However, the heat of the caramel melted away the non-stick coating from the bottom of the pot, which got incorporated as little black streaks in the brittle that I had to throw out.  I tried again with a stainless steel pot, which worked much better.  The brittle hardens right away on a Silpat but lifts away easily after hardening, because nothing can stick to a Silpat!  Cleaning up the pot with stuck-on caramel required boiling some water in the pot to dissolve the caramel and using a knife to chip away the hardened caramel from the edges of the pot.

Half of the brittle is folded into the Blondie Pie Filling, which is white chocolate, butter, flour, salt, sugar, and egg yolks.  The filling is put into a Graham Crust-lined pie plate and baked for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, the other half of the cashew brittle is mixed with a little grapeseed oil and blended to make a powdery, crunchy praline that tops the pie.

The Pumpkin Ganache is a mix of butter, white chocolate, glucose, and heavy cream.  Then pumpkin puree, cinammon, and salt are mixed in.  The recipe calls for using a hand blender to mix the different components at each step, but I did not have one.  I tried to use a stand mixer and ended up with a mess of different liquids and solids that had not fully bonded together.  I saved it by pulsing the final mixture in a regular blender that yielded the smooth, glossy ganache described in the book.  Whew!

The final pie is really good.  The crunchy bits of Cashew Brittle in the Blondie Pie filling and the Cashew Praline on top make the pie decadently sweet, and the cinnamon-spiced Pumpkin Ganache elevates the pie even further.  One can definitely taste and see why this is Chef Tosi’s favorite.

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