Sunday, December 4, 2016

Easy Viet-Inspired Coffee & Brown Sugar Braised Pork

Printable Version (Recipe Only)

This easy and delicious sweet-savory pork recipe was inspired by the traditional Vietnamese dish Thit Kho. The coffee and brown sugar lend a similar flavor to the dish as Vietnamese caramel sauce, which is often used in the dish for its roasted, caramelized, coffee type flavor and glaze, but which I rarely make or have on hand.

We like to eat it with steamed Jasmine rice and some simple Vietnamese style pickled cabbage and carrots on the side. (Or kimchi. I am half-Korean, after all.)

The leftover sauce is so delicious over steamed rice, you won't want to throw it away.

Oh, and the pork also makes an awesome filling for my Vietnamese Street Tacos, but that's a recipe for another day. ;)

Easy Viet-Inspired Coffee & Brown Sugar Braised Pork
Serves 4 to 6
Time: 60 minutes
Printable Version

- 2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1/2 a medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch strips
- 1 large shallot, chopped (if you don't have shallots, just double the onion)
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons fish sauce
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 3/4 cup black coffee (or 3/4 cup water + 1 Tablespoon espresso grind coffee or 1.5 Tablespoons instant coffee)
- 1 Tablespoon vinegar (Balsamic, distilled white, apple cider all work fine)
- chopped green onion for garnish

1) Put all the ingredients in a medium sized pot and bring to a boil over medium high heat. This should take 15 minutes or so.

2) Once everything comes to a boil, give everything a couple of gentle stirs, lower the heat to medium low, and simmer, lid askew, for another 30 minutes.

3) Enjoy garnished with a sprinkling of chopped green onions and a bowl of Jasmine rice (or whatever kind you prefer).

Friday, December 2, 2016

California Roll Dip

Printable Version (Recipe Only)

Family and friends can't get enough of this deconstructed sushi favorite adapted for dipping. You can also serve it over sushi rice or regular steamed rice and make a rice bowl meal of it. It's good for 2 or 3 servings that way.

So easy to make and perfect for those holiday parties and potlucks coming up!

If you don't have surimi (artificial crab), you can substitute with peeled and precooked shrimp (the smallest size you can find), thawed and thoroughly drained. Of course real lump crab, thoroughly drained, is worth the splurge if you can swing it. ;)

California Roll Dip
Serves 4 to 6 as appetizer or 2 to 3 as a rice bowl topping
Time: 20 minutes
Printable Version

- 1/2 pound surimi (artificial crab), completely thawed, water squeezed out, and chopped
- 1 Persian cucumber (aka Baby Cucumber) diced, excess water squeezed out. (You can use one small pickling cucumber or half of an English/Hothouse cucumber, seeded as well.)
- 1 large ripe avocado, diced
- 3 Tablespoons very finely chopped onions
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise (I like Best Foods/Hellman's.)
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Gently fold all ingredients together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. (In these kinds of preparations, I like to sprinkle dry/powder ingredients like salt and sugar over the entire surface area because it's much easier to make sure they get evenly incorporated into the recipe that way.)

Serve with crackers, pita, tortilla chips, or as a vegetable dip.

Enjoy! :)

Monday, September 26, 2016

Bulgogi Marinade for Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs

When you're grilling on a budget or for many people, boneless, skinless chicken thighs are a wonderfully juicy, flavorful, and frugal alternative that takes well to all kinds of marinades.

A few of you have asked me how to scale my regular beef bulgogi marinade recipe for boneless, skinless chicken thighs. You can double or triple the marinade ingredients depending on the quantity of chicken thighs, but the thicker chicken thighs do behave differently from thinly sliced beef, so I figured I'd just write out the measurements for you.

This marinade also works well for thinner cut dark meat pork chops.

Bulgogi Marinade for Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs
Serves 4 to 6

- 4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

- 1/2 a small apple, finely grated using a microplane or fine cheese grater (or you can use 1/4 cup apple sauce)
- 1.5 to 2 Tablespoons minced garlic (about 3 or 4 large cloves)
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup mirin
- 1/3 cup + 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 green onions chopped (green and white parts)
- optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or 1.5 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root

I usually just throw everything into a large mixing bowl and get in there with my hands, gently tossing and massaging until all the seasonings are evenly distributed.

If you prefer, you can mix all the marinade ingredients in a separate bowl, stir or whisk until all the sugar is dissolved, and then pour it over the chicken thighs and mix.

I like to marinate it for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours. Right around 6 to 8 hours is the sweet spot for me, where all the chicken takes on great flavor, but the texture of the meat hasn't taken on cured qualities and is tender, juicy, and still chicken-y. :)

Because it is dark and somewhat fatty meat, you'll want to grill over a medium low heat for 5 to 7 minutes per side, depending on the size of the thigh piece. Watch for flareups as the caramelized marinade mixed with the melting chicken fat hits the coals.

Enjoy! :)


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

BBQ Sauce Braised Pork Shoulder

Last week Dean was feeling something simple and BBQ-ish so I threw together this fridge cleanout BBQ Sauce Braised Pork Shoulder using the last of last week's pork shoulder, the last of the accumulated BBQ sauce leftovers from Dean's rib smoking adventures (Dean's Bourbon Cola BBQ Sauce recipe HERE), the last onion of last week, and some other odds and ends.

Sometimes when I make things with a fatty cut of meat, people will ask if they can substitute it with something leaner. Well, you can, and it'll still be ok, but there is something so truly delicious about BBQ sauce that gets caramelized with pork fat. And the texture is so much more tender, too.

With this kind of preparation, I'd rather eat a little less of the fatty pork shoulder than double the serving of a leaner cut, but that's my preference.

If you don't care for pork, you can also make this with boneless, skinless chicken thigh meat cut into slightly larger pieces. 

BBQ Sauce Braised Pork Shoulder
Serves 4 to 6
Time: About 1 hour total, 15 to 20 minutes active.

- 3.5 pounds boneless pork shoulder cut into 1.5-inch cubes
- 1.25 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (not garlic salt)
- 2 teaspoons neutral flavored oil
- 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch strips
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
- 1 cup BBQ sauce
- 1/2 cup water

- optional: up to 2 Tablespoons brown sugar if you like your BBQ sauce on the sweeter side, or if you have a fairly tart sauce that could use some mellowing with sugar. (Though you may not need it if you start out with an already sweet storebought sauce like Sweet Baby Ray's or Bull's-Eye . I used Dean's BBQ sauce, which is somewhat sweet, but also quite tangy.)

- optional: 1 to 2 Tablespoons apple cider or distilled white vinegar if you have a sweet sauce to start with and like your BBQ sauce flavor tangy

1) Season the pork shoulder cubes with the salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. I like to sprinkle the seasonings over the entire area of the meat so it starts out already well distributed before I give it a few tosses to make sure it's even more evenly distributed. (I also like to just do this right on the cutting board after cutting and save myself a dirty dish.)

2) In a large pot, bring your oil up to medium high heat and sear the pork on two opposite sides for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown.

3) Add in the onion, garlic, BBQ sauce and water (and/or brown sugar and/or vinegar if you choose), give the mixture a couple of stirs, and cover completely until you hear the mixture boiling (should be 5 to 7 minutes).

5) At that point, turn the heat down to medium low, give the braise a couple of stirs, and simmer, completely covered, for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.

If you can scrape any burnt solids from the bottom of the pot during this process, your heat's a little too high, and you should adjust it down slightly.

6) Remove the lid and continue to simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes to allow the liquids to reduce and concentrate in flavor, stirring occasionally. About halfway into this last simmer period is when you should taste the stew and adjust the seasoning for more salt and/or spices if you like. This will give the added seasoning time to meld. Always increase salt and spices in small amounts - you can always add, but you can't subtract.

We enjoyed ours with potato salad and the very last of the Cotton Candy grapes in the fridge.

That was yummy. Sometimes fridge cleanout comfort food is best.

Enjoy. :)


Tuesday, March 15, 2016


UPDATE 08.03.16: The music continues to progress, even if slowly. If you'd like to give our slow progress a listen, our rendition of Fragile by Sting and the jazz standard My Funny Valentine are up on SoundCloud. (Please follow if you'd like to be updated on our latest tracks!)

A few people have asked me how I've been doing and what I've been up to since I stopped working on food (that I still post about because it will always be a big part of our lives - just no teaching or recipe development for now), so I'd like to take a moment to thank you for asking and to let you know that I have been having an amazing time being wonderfully humbled, challenged, and fulfilled by the process of returning to music. It's been a long time, and I have so much to learn again and anew.

The writing (of words), which is what the break was originally intended for, has been backburnered for the unexpected progress that's been made in forming a duo with Dean, which is a dream we've been dreaming together for years. I am going with the momentum that the Universe is sending my way, and at this time, the momentum is definitely musical. (Still write in my journal, though! ;) )

I've known for years that the nagging creative void in my life was my need to return to performing music, but I also knew in my soul that other things needed to be in order before I could do that. Our family is healthy and happy with plenty of opportunity for QT, our livelihood is stable, we have time and resources to live a full and well-rounded life, and I am now able to pursue my first love and passion in a way that I can feel really good about with regard to my first priority, which has always been family.

So that's how what/I've been doing, and it feels fucking fantastic.

Thanks always to all my family and friends who've given me nothing but love and support in anything and everything I've wanted to create of my life. <3


Wednesday, February 10, 2016


We said we weren't going to do it. That we were married from the day we met and we needed nothing and no one else to legitimize this commitment between the two of us. And that was true.

But we had these two children then with one on the way and everything about this made perfect sense for them, and to them, and this symbol of our commitment made them happy and more secure. I guess it was contagious because somehow it made me even happier and more secure, too.

Sometimes people ask me how long we've been married and I struggle to answer because, frankly, were it not for facebook or google calendar to tell me, I probably wouldn't know. These are just not the kinds of things I keep in my mind. Sometimes they look at me in shock like I must not love you because I don't remember, but then I look to you with a shrug, you look back at me with that crinkled smile, and then you answer them unflinchingly.

Because you know you, you understand me, and you complete me. In the most complementary, cooperative, supportive, and empowering kind of way.

So even though we were married from day one, I am so deeply grateful and elated that our children gave us a reason to give ourselves a day - even if it's one I am oft apt to forget - to mark the passage of our beautiful life together.

Unsentimental as I can be, it makes me so happy and downright giddy inside to think I am your wife.

Happy Anniversary, Babe. I love you and thank you always for all you are and all that I am with you.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Patience & Relish

I often get impatient with myself for not reclaiming the drive I once had for creating things and bringing ideas to fruition with much greater intensity, but then I remember I only have 20 months left of free and easy mornings of snuggles on demand and Nutella sandwich breakfasts that take an hour to finish between giggles and other shenanigans with this one...