“Golumpki,” or Cabbage Rolls (gf, v option)

Friends! It has been too long! I passed the exam I was studying for and slumped into an exhausted, thumb-sucking ball for a month post-test. Lots of celebration, lots of yoga, and one trip to San Fran to see great friends later- I’m back! Back and cooking again. It’s fall in Saint Louis and the change-of-season cooking bug has bitten me again. My favorite bite. I’m so happy to be back in a bit of a routine and I’ll tell you- being back to writing and sharing on a!g feels fantastic. Let’s get cooking.

cabbage1

Sometime in the whirlwind that was the first 3 quarters of 2014, my husband was diagnosed with a severe gluten intolerance (possibly celiac disease… this caused major malnutrition- what the heck! poor guy just wanted some sandwiches!). Most of what I cooked on a daily basis before the diagnosis was gluten free, save for a cake or bread project here or there, but this news has majorly changed what’s coming into and being prepared in our kitchen.

cabbage11

Considering his dietary needs and my hankering as of late for cooked cabbage (all my life, I’ve been waiting to become that small, ethnic grandmother I know I’m supposed to be), I freestyled a pot of the humble golumpki, or, cabbage roll for dinner last night. My version has beef but it can easily be omitted to make a vegan version; you also have a stovetop or crockpot choice to make.

GOLUMPKI (CABBAGE ROLLS)

Ingredients:

  • I large head cabbage, core removed
  • 1/2 lb portobello mushroom caps (increase to 1lb for vegan rolls), chopped fine
  • 1 lb high-quality lean ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 parsnip, shredded
  • 1 large carrot or 1 cup baby carrots, shredded
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup brown rice, uncooked
  • 1-2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • tomato sauce or juice, to taste (2-14.5 oz cans tomato sauce/1 -28 oz can crushed tomatoes OR 1-14.5 oz can tomato sauce and large can tomato juice, see super-serious Note On Tomato Sauce below)

Directions:

This is a homey meal that comes with a homey preparation: it’s simmered on the stove for 2 hours or can be made in a slow cooker. So, not a top pick for nights when you need a quick meal, but a great pick for easy, warm nights with a glass of red wine to help you cook and some jazz on the radio. Now that you know this and have cleared your calendar, boil a large pot of water and core the cabbage with a large knife. When the water is boiling, remove the pot to a trivet, place the cabbage in the hot water core side-up, and cover. Let this sit for 10-15 minutes while you prep your veggies.

cabbage2

Heat the oil over medium in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot. Make sure it has a lid if you’re not going the slow-cooker route. Veggie prep!! Save yourself some time and shred the carrot and parsnip in a food processor. This is also how I chopped the portobellos. Just pulse, pulse, pulse until you have a small chop. I diced my onion because I love dicing onions, but the onion could absolutely go the food processor route. Mince the garlic and set aside. Add the onion to the oil and sauté, stirring occasionally. Put the thyme, parsnip, carrot, celery, and mushrooms in a large bowl as the onion cooks (keep the garlic set aside).
cabbage4

When the onion is translucent, add the bowl o’ veg. Stir it all up and salt and pepper the mix generously. This mixture will release quite a bit of liquid, so allow the liquid to cook off. It helps to create a well in the middle as the veggies cook- the liquid will gather there and simmer away.

cabbage5

When the liquid is almost all the way gone, splash a bit more olive oil in the well you’ve created and add your garlic, stirring until fragrant.

cabbage6

Remove from heat and stir well. Pour back into the large bowl and let cool for a few minutes… and let’s get back to the cabbage. The cabbage will be soft and pliable now. With tongs, peel off about 15 leaves, one by one.

cabbage3

I cut out the large, tough vein in the leaves, but you don’t have to. Set the leaves aside and mix the ground beef, rice, and tomato paste in with the veggie mixture. Salt and pepper again, and mix a second time. This is your filling! You’re almost ready to leave the kitchen!

cabbage7

this looks kind of gross, eh?

Grab the pot you cooked the veggies in OR your crockpot, whichever you’ll be using. Take a cabbage leaf and scoop 1/4-1/3 cup of the filling into the leaf depending on the leaf’s size, rolling the bottom, then sides, and then top down around it. I didn’t photograph this process, but here’s a helpful 20 second video made by someone who did. It’s very easy. Arrange the little bundles snugly in the pot or crockpot. You’ll have 2-3 layers of bundles, depending on the size of your pot.

cabbage8

Now for my Note On Tomato Sauce: allow my trial and error to guide you, grasshopper. I throw myself on the cooking pyre for YOU, for youuuu. Okay, so I poured two cans of tomato sauce and a large can of crushed tomatoes over my cabbage rolls. The combo was too thick and too seasoned, and overpowered the more delicate flavors of the rolls. If you’re a big tomato fan, by all means- go this route. Otherwise, I strongly suggest using one can of tomato sauce (or 2 cups of your favorite jarred or homemade sauce) and pouring in tomato juice or V8 until the mixture reaches the top of the rolls. Up to you. Comme ci, comme ça.

cabbage9

bye bye, golumps

If you’re using a crockpot, cover and set to low for 8 hours. You could refrigerate the crock at this point and start it in the morning, if you’d like. If you’re cooking on a stove top, bring the tomato mixture to a boil and then cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 2 hours. What will you do in those 2 hours? I read about *nothing* in Allure and we watched some DVR’ed triathlon, because we are that cool.  So! Kick up your heels…

…and, as on a cooking show, I’m sorry, but your long cooking time has magically elapsed and it’s time to head back into the kitchen. Everything’s easy from here,  though: serve. With sour cream, if you’d like, or mashed potatoes on the side. There’s a picture of a pretty roll up top, but you will lay waste to your cabbage rolls and they will look like this:

cabbage12HAPPY GOLUMPING!


Moment: Lunchtime

IMG_5227Salmon! Veggies! Avocado! And get a load of that fabulous office dishware. Rawr. My creativity in the kitchen has been stifled of late by intense studying to earn a professional license (brain. is. fried). I’m looking forward to the days when I’ll have time to devote to making a meal more complicated than grilled salmon.  Until then, a mix of ready-made salads from Schnucks will do just fine. I heart bright, simple, summer meals.

-Lauren


This week in my kitchen: Beauty That Moves Blog Hop

This week, I’m joining in on the fun of Heather’s blog hop over at Beauty That Moves, where bloggers share snaps of the weekly hustle and bustle in their kitchens. What was shakin’ in my kitchen this week? Spicy turkey taco bowls, a childhood favorite for breakfast, fresh fruit and melons, and a Whole 30– friendly meal for friends who are about 17 days into their Whole 30 journey. Regrettably, no photos were taken of the Whole 30 meal- we were too busy cooking and cleaning in anticipation of our company and my camera was on the back burner, so to speak. And then we ate all of the leftovers… I will tell you what we made, though; menu and links to recipes below. It was all very simple, fresh, and tasty. Yum, yum.

Bowls seem to be a theme this week in my kitchen…

Clockwise, from top:

Grandma’s marble grapes

Desk fiesta

Cheerio!

Morning kitchen: melons, books, and do we need more bottles?

Whole 30 Dinner Menu

Lots of roasting going on that night. What was cooking in your kitchen this week?


Culinary Bucket List, West of Maine Shrimp Rolls (pes), and Watermelon Crush Smoothie (v, gf)

Hey there! In last week’s post, I mentioned my “dying wish” meal: Dominican beans and rice. “What would your last meal be?” has got to be my favorite food-related question out there- it can reveal so much! Last week’s post got me thinking about the rest of my culinary bucket list- the foods and restaurants I want to try before I kick the you-know-what. I put pen to paper on these and here’s what I came up with:

bl5

  • Chili from Ben’s Chili Bowl in D.C.
  • A lobster roll in Maine
  • Pho in Ho Chi Min City
  • Pizza in Italy (or NYC! had as a child but don’t remember too well)
  • Tapas and jamón Ibérico in Madrid
  • A Jucy Lucy from Matt’s Bar in Minneapolis
  • Spam musubi and poke from Da Poke Shack in Kailua-Kona, HI
  • Feijoada and a caipirinha in Brazil
  • Spicy, spicy street food and dou hua in Chendgu, Sichian province
  • Moules frites in Brussels
  • Korean food with a table full of garnishes, anywhere
  • Dim sum in San Fran’s Chinatown
  • Ice cream at the Ben and Jerry’s factory in Vermont
  • Brewery stops in Seattle and Bend, OR
  • Wine tasting in Napa Valley

Dreaming is wonderful but being grateful for what you have seen and done is where it’s at.  Here are some of the standout culinary moments I’ve been fortunate enough to experience:

  • Dinner at the Signature Room of the John Hancock Tower in Chicago
  • Brunch at the Army Navy Club in D.C.
  • Crab cakes oceanside in Maryland
  • Burgers made the same way as they were when my grandparents were newlyweds at Whisler’s Drive-Up in Carthage, MO
  • Cuban food in Little Havana
  • A hot Krispy Kreme donut right off of the conveyor belt
  • Fried chicken and fireworks by the Potomac on the Fourth of July
  • Hot, fresh apple cider feet from where it was made at an orchard
  • Oysters and Yuengling at the Old Ebbitt Grill in D.C.
  • Hot dogs at various MLB ballparks and Chicago dogs in Chicago
  • Sushi at Station Sushi in Solana Beach, CA and fish tacos in San Diego
  • Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ in Kansas City
  • Street tacos in Acapulco
  • Fette Sau BBQ and momofuku milk bar cookies in Brooklyn
  • Jerk chicken and Red Stripe from shack kitchens in Jamaica and home-cooked creole lobster with coconut rice and peas on the beach in Negril
  • Café au lait and a croissant in Paris
  • St. Louis roll call: Ted Drewes frozen custard, toasted ravioli, dinner at the chef’s counter at niche with Gerard Craft at the helm, cocktails made by Ted Kilgore, pho at Mai Lee, Sunday dim sum at Lulu Seafood
  • NOLA roll call: Beignets and chicory coffee at Café du Monde, hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s, boozy Friday lunch (complete with sing along) at Galatoire’s, oysters at the Acme Oyster House, a Pimm’s Cup at The Napoleon House, pecan-crusted fish and champagne and bread pudding at Commander’s Palace, a Sazerac at the Roosevelt Hotel, Abita and Zapps on Frenchmen Street, cocktails [everywhere]
  • Dominican Republic roll call: sancocho, fresh fish and boiled crabs, limoncillos, sweet-sauced and oregano-sprinkled cheese pizza from Pizzarelli, road stand ice-cold Presidente, juicy mangoes I climbed for and plucked myself, mofongo from Adrian Tropical, red snapper from the ice chest at Capitan Cook’s, and many, many more…

Sounds like I’ve got my priorities straight, right? My memories have always been punctuated by food- what I ordered when we went here or there, what we ate the day that this-or-that happened, what so-and so cooks so well. Today’s recipe is an approximation of one of the dishes on my list- the lobster roll! My OCD prevents me from trying this recipe with lobster- I’m holding out for the real thing in the right place- so I used shrimp. Didn’t heat up the kitchen too much and loved every bite. Bonus recipe below for a cooling summer smoothie!

shrimp4

WEST OF MAINE SHRIMP ROLLS

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup light mayo or Greek yogurt
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • 3-4 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • celery seed
  • butter or olive oil
  • hot dog buns

Directions:

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the Old Bay seasoning, the lemon, and the peppercorns. When the water is boiling, add the shrimp and boil 2-3 minutes, until opaque and cooked through. Strain and set aside, tossing the lemon and peppercorns. I recommend chilling the shrimp for a while to bring to room temp or cooler.

shrimp1

Meanwhile, dice the onion, celery, and tarragon. When the shrimp are cool (or warm, your call), toss the veggies and tarragon with the mayo, a sprinkle of celery seed, and some cracked black pepper. Fold in the shrimp and taste for seasoning.

Toast hot dog buns and drizzle with a bit of melted butter or some olive oil. Pile high with the shrimp salad and enjoy! Serve with a refreshing:

WATERMELON CRUSH SMOOTHIE

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 cups watermelon
  • a handful cilantro
  • 2-inch knob of ginger
  • juice of a lime
  • a handful of strawberries
  • 24 oz coconut water

Directions:

Toss all ingredients in a blender a whir away. Serve over ice. Crazy straw optional, but recommended.

Would be quite tasty with a bit of coconut rum… Hmm. Rum is good for pondering. Sip your smoothie, ponder, and tell me….

 What have YOU checked off of your culinary bucket list? What’s left to be tasted?


Secret Ingredient Black Bean & Quinoa Chili (v, gf), Quickie Caulifower “Rice” (v, gf), and BeckyAmyLew

happy feet, happy place

After a lovely, relaxing 4th of July weekend spent fishing, reading, and sleeping at the cabin of some dear family friends, Dave and I came home happy and calm… and in dire need of a s’mores and hot dog detox. It was a vegemergency. While running through the grocery store on a typical post-holiday “we have no food in the house” weekday evening, I racked my brain for a vegan meal that would take little prep work and would allow me to get a few things done while it cooked.  An enticing Fit Foodie Finds recipe I’d Pinned recently popped in my mind and thought I’d give it a whirl.

I’M SO GLAD I DID.

chili split

ignore my ominous, hulking shadow… Lauren hungry, Lauren want food

This chili hit the spot, despite the 95-degree St. Louis summer upon us. Use any veggies you have lying around for your version; edit and add to use what’s in your pantry. Whatever you toss in will add bright, veggie goodness. We had a beautiful home-grown zucchini my in-laws gave us over the weekend (thank you!) and decided to add it to the mix; carrots, broccoli, potatoes, different beans, different peppers, or more or less of the ingredients listed below would all work well. I do recommend keeping the secret ingredient, though…

SECRET INGREDIENT BLACK BEAN & QUINOA CHILI

Adapted from Fit Foodie Finds

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced
  • 1 large zucchini, chopped into large dice
  • 3+ cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 cups water + 3 tsp vegetable base, or 3 cups vegetable stock + 2 cups water
  • 3 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can yellow hominy, drained and rinsed
  • juice of one lime
  • 3 tbsp good-quality chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • avocado, green onion, sour cream (obviously not vegan), hot sauce for serving
  • And…… 

The secret ingredient is…. a cinnamon stick!! BOOM! Vegan chili mic drop.

Directions:

OMIGOSHYOUGUYS. The chili was so very easy to throw together. There are just three little steps: chop veggies, sauté veggies, simmer chili. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy stock pot or dutch oven. Add the onion, green pepper, zucchini, and poblano pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent- if you want to. You could very easily dump all ingredients into the pot and crank up the heat. If you’re sautéing, add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add all other ingredients (gah! so easy!). Bring to a boil, reduce heat to med-low and cover, simmering for 50 minutes. Put chili in face. 

chili simmering

The genius addition of a cinnamon stick gives this chili a smoky, sweet quality that’s hard to pinpoint and plays well with the other spices and veggies. The cinnamon flavor isn’t overwhelming and having a secret ingredient to add makes this dish even more special.

hearty veggie goodness

hearty veggie goodness

Now- for the cauliflower rice, which you can whip up while the chili is simmering. I adapted this recipe from BeckyAmyLew, my old friend Becky Lewis’ paleo-friendly recipe and running blog. Cute site name, huh? Becky is a talented and creative home cook with international influences and lots to share. She describes herself as an:

“amateur Foodie and social media enthusiast living in the middle of America, USA. An expert in nothing. Simply aspires to inspire people through the gift of sharing.”

Check her out, especially if you’re looking for clever paleo recipes. In her cauliflower “rice” post, Taiwan-born Becky describes the globally important grain as a favorite and as what she misses most in her no-grain paleo diet; I completely relate and was drawn to this recipe instantly, as my Dominican bones also pine for white rice with each meal (damn healthy choices, depriving me of diabetes and the joy in life…). Rice is such a love of mine, my “dying wish” meal is my aunt’s habichuelas con arroz blanco, Dominican beans and rice. Becky’s cauliflower substitute was so satisfying, I just may update that wish.

CAULIFLOWER “RICE”

Adapted from BeckyAmyLew

Ingredients: 

  • 1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • Seasonings to your taste, optional (I used Goya Adobo)

Directions:

In a blender or food processor, pulse the cauliflower in batches. You’re looking for a rice-like shape and size, small but not ground into meal. This is a surprisingly easy consistency to achieve. Just pulse, pulse, pulse and keep an eye on it as you go.

cauliflower in blender

Set the cauliflower aside and sauté the diced onion in the olive oil in a deep saucepan over medium until the onion is translucent. Add the cauliflower and salt and pepper to taste, stirring well to combine. Cover the mix and let steam for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently and checking often.

"rice, rice," baby

rice, rice, baby

 There you have it! Cauliflower “rice!” Pairs perfectly with chili, stir-fries, and other saucy foods. What other grain alternatives have you tried?


Quickie: Max & Fanny’s Open-Faced Tuna and Fennel Sandwiches (pes)

As if belonging to the YMCA doesn’t make me happy enough, my local Y has started a book exchange program (a well-intentioned, pile, rather) in its lobby. Members donate books they’re done with to the pile and the donated books become fair game for anyone who’s interested. On my way in and out, I stop to scan the boxes and bags and bins of books for new finds. The selection is delightfully varied and makes me love my fellow members even more, quirky smarty pantses that they are. Recently, I made quite the haul when I lifted a few tattered textbooks to find six (SIX!) Peter Mayle books peeking out from underneath the castoffs like rays of Mediterranean sun. “Bring us home!,” they said, “love us and read us and dream of meals in Provence with us!” Um, OKAY GUYS!

It’s cliché to be an escapist American or Brit who loves to read Peter Mayle, but I’m an American who loves to read Peter Mayle. I really, really do. His books fill the mind with Provençal scents and smells and breezes and dreams of sunny, lazy lunches soaked in wine and olive oil that are much cheaper to read about than to create (faster, too). A Year In Provence and Encore Provence are favorites of mine, as is A Good Year, which Ridley Scott made into a Russell Crowe-starring movie in 2006. Also cliché: women who love Russell Crowe movies. I don’t want to, I try not to, there’s nothing interesting or noble in doing so… but my heart can’t be swayed. He was wonderful in A Good Year, as was lovely Marion Cotillard. Such pretty people in such a pretty setting. Who wouldn’t want to watch that? Speaking of the pretty setting, let’s take a look at the grounds of Château la Canorgue, where the movie was filmed. Le sigh.

So very lovely. A Good Year, both book and movie, are near and dear to me. If you want to make a fast, faux getaway to the south of France, check out A Good Year or A Year In Provence. Here’s my warm-weather recipe inspired by the currently very warm St. Louis weather, the good luck of finding a stack of favorite books, and the hazy, sepia-toned romance of A Good Year. I imagine Max and Fanny serving this in the leafy shade of their terrace on a sunny Provençal day…

tuna 5

OPEN-FACED TUNA AND FENNEL SANDWICHES

Adapted from Real Simple

Ingredients:

    • 3 6-oz cans of good quality albacore tuna, drained
    • 3 tablespoons capers, chopped
    • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
    • 4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
    • 1 medium fennel bulb, sliced into bite-sized pieces
    • 3/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
    • kosher salt and cracked black pepper
    • wheat toast or sliced baguettes

 

Directions:

Grab two bowls. In one, mix the drained tuna, the chopped capers, 3 tablespoons olive oil, the vinegar, and about 1/4 tsp black pepper.

In the other bowl, toss the sliced fennel, the chopped parsley, 2 tablespoons olive oil, a large pinch kosher salt and another 1/4 tsp pepper.

Spread a bit of the tuna salad on toast, then top with fennel salad. Grab your loved one and whisper a sweet nothing into his or her ear. Bonus points if you whisper it en français.

fanny and max

“I would like a lifetime spent with an irrational and suspicious goddess, some short-tempered jealousy on the side, and a bottle of wine that tastes like you, a glass that’s never empty.”

I may be getting carried away by Max & Fanny’s love story, but this post is dedicated to my husband and how he makes every day feel like a day in Provence.


Strawberry, Kiwi, and Mint Chop-Chop with Jicama and Roasted Shrimp (gf, pes)

The season is turning, things are heating up outside… This is the time of open windows, attic fans, and late spring breezes. And easy dinners that free up more time to be spent with our loved ones. And salads.

* sweet * tart * mint *

* sweet * tart * mint *

I’m not generally a salad fan but if I can get my hands on one with a high interesting toppings-to-greens ratio (I’m no rabbit), I’m all in and this salad more than fits that profile. Like fruit? Like shrimp? You’re gonna love this…..

STRAWBERRY, KIWI, AND MINT CHOP-CHOP WITH ROASTED SHRIMP

Adapted from Triathlete Magazine

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lb raw jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
  • 1/2 cup jicama
  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 4 kiwi, peeled
  • 1 English cucumber, chopped into small dice
  • handful mint, chopped
  • juice of 1 orange
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp honey or agave
  • 1 inch-piece of ginger, grated
  • 1 large container spring mix

Directions:

Peel, devein, and rinse the shrimp. Pat them mostly dry and toss them in a bowl with 1 tbsp olive oil, a pinch of kosher salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Heat your broiler on high and arrange the shrimp, side by side on a broiler pan, like this:

salad 1

Every time I see tail-on shrimp, I think of Beetlejuice. Every. Time.

Roast the shrimp 2 1/2 minutes, flip, and roast an additional 2 1/2 minutes. They’re going to be perfectly cooked and really tasty. Set aside.

salad 3

Meanwhile (though I suppose not really so meanwhile, as you only have five minutes while the shrimp cook- I apparently have lot of faith in your time management skills), chop all of your fruit and your tuber! That’s right, a tuber. Let’s talk jicama. Jicama is, well, a tuber in the pea family. It’s crispy and refreshing and pairs well with citrus and seafood and salad. So the fruit  and herbs should be chopped as such:

  • strawberries- hulled and sliced
  • kiwi- cut in half, scooped out with a spoon, and sliced into coins
  • jicama- peeled with a vegetable peeler and cut into thick, 1-inch matchsticks
  • English cucumber- cut into small dice
  • Mint- chopped

Chop those and toss. The dressing is easy to make: juice an orange, juice a lemon, add 1 tbsp olive oil, the honey, a pinch of kosher salt, the grated ginger, and a few grinds of black pepper, and stir. Toss the fruit mixture with 1 tbsp of the dressing, then toss your desired amount of greens with another bit of dressing. Layer the greens with the fruit mixture and top with the shrimp. Serve! This would be really good with the addition of feta cheese. Enjoy!

My appetite requires me to eat salad from a mixing bowl... the shame, the SHAME!

My appetite requires me to eat salad from a mixing bowl, don’t judge me


Momofuku’s Pork Buns

Buns. Bao. Pillowy, chewy, savory steamed buns stuffed with decadent pork belly, spicy sriracha, and bright, contrasting cucumber. Chef David Chang, the Korean-American, French-trained creator of legendary New York noodle bar and ramen heaven, Momofuku, rocketed pork buns into their sweet-salty limelight when he added his often imitated version to the Momofuku menu in 2004. Chang’s Momofuku is largely credited for the ramen craze and his signature pork buns have been equally influential.

momo

say this ten times fast in front of your mother

I like David Chang. He’s smart and talented and somehow an “everyman” but incredibly special at the same time. His Instagram makes my mouth water and he designed the Momofuku logo in part as a tribute to Eat a Peach. Which makes him fine by me. There are homages to Chang’s tasty buns (heh, heh, heh) everywhere, even in anti-coastal St. Louis, so the pork bun trend is established and legit. Let’s make some, mmkay?!

If you have time to marinate, roast, and chill the pork and to make the buns, which rise three times, they’re simple. You just need time. Eh, maybe quite a bit of time. Allow for a few hours of rising and prep time for the buns and a possible overnight marinating and chilling of the pork. These are more of an appetizer when made with pork belly since it’s so rich, so you can either be hardcore like the Cruses and eat these as a straight-up meal (I ain’t never scared), substitute a leaner cut of pork, or serve as an app. Glaze and grill tofu or stuff with kimchi and cucumbers for a vegan version.

MOMOFUKU’S PORK BUNS

Adpated from David Chang’s Momofuku Cookbook and Food 52

Makes 25 buns

Vanity Fair on the yin and yang of David Chang: His achievements notwithstanding, he is constantly haunted by feelings that he is out of his depth, even in the kitchen. He ascribes this to han, a uniquely Korean form of angst that manifests itself as both a resigned acceptance that life is difficult and a grim determination to struggle through this difficulty.

Ingredients:

For the pork and quick-pickled cucumbers:

  • 4lbs pork belly
  • 6 tbsp + 1 tbsp sugar
  • 6 tbsp kosher + 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cucumbers, cut into 1/8 inch slices

For the buns:

  • 2 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder, rounded
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/6 cup rendered pork fat, from the pork belly, at room temp
  • canola oil, for brushing
  • hoisin sauce
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • sriracha, for serving
  • prepared kimchi, for serving

Directions:

For the pork belly: mix the 6 tbsp salt and 6 tbsp sugar and rub all over the pork. Place the pork in a 9 x 13 dish or a roasting pan and cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. When the pork is cured, pour off any liquid from the baking dish and heat your oven to a blazing 450. Roast the pork for one hour, uncovered, basting halfway through. Lower the oven temp to 250 and roast the pork for an additional 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the pork to a plate to cool and pour off some rendered fat to reserve for the bun dough (mmm. pork fat). Wrap with foil or plastic wrap and chill the pork until it’s cool enough to cut- we cooked the pork the day before we made the buns to allow for ample roasting and chilling time, which I highly recommend. Once chilled, the pork will slice and dice nicely. When you’re ready to eat, slice the pork into 2″ x 1/2″ slices and warm in a pan on the stove or microwave.

ch-ch-changes

ch-ch-changes

For the cucumbers: slice the cucumbers into 1/8″ thick rounds. I decoratively peeled mine with a zester because I’m fancy. Toss with 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp kosher salt. Let sit for 10 minutes, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use. So easy! Look at you, you’ve pickled something! So capable, you are.

For the buns: Add the yeast and 3/4 cup warm water to a the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the flour, sugar, dry milk powder, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and rendered fat. Turn the mixer on its lowest setting (I used “stir”) and let dough mix for 8 minutes, until it climbs the hook and forms a ball. Lightly oil a large mixing bowl and plop the dough ball in it; cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm area to rise until doubled in size. What with it finally feeling like summer, feel free to place the bowl on a windowsill for extra cozy home points.

When the dough has doubled, punch it down with the back of your hand to expel most of the air. On a clean surface- I always use a large cutting board to work with dough, makes cleanup easier- form the dough into a ball or log. Divide into 5 equal pieces and roll those into logs. Cut each logs into 5 pieces the size of ping-pong balls. Use your knife to mark off the cutting areas before you slice. I made a double batch of dough, so these are double-batch photos:

Roll the ping pongs of dough into balls and place onto a baking sheet. Cover the sheet loosely with plastic wrap and allow the balls to rise 30 minutes. While these are rising, cut out 25 4″ squares of parchment paper to steam the buns on and slice the scallions. Refrigerate sliced scallions until ready to use.

When 30 minutes has passed and the balls of dough have puffed up a bit, use a rolling pin to roll each ball into a 4″ oval. Brush each oval lightly with oil, place on a square of parchment paper, and fold in half by folding a bun over itself onto a chopstick and sliding the chopstick out. Guess what? They have to rise again. PLace the squares of parchment back on the baking sheet or maybe across a counter, making sure not to let the buns touch. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise 30-45 more minutes. You’re almost there! We’re almost steaming!

And now…. we steam! Which means we eat soon! Set up a bamboo steamer (or other flat steamer) on a wok or over a large saucepan filled with about an inch of water, and bring the water to a boil. Place a few buns, parchment paper included, on the steamer, making sure not to overcrowd or allow the dough to touch. Cover and steam for 10 minutes per batch, removing buns to a platter as you go.

If you haven’t done so already, slice and heat the pork belly. Stuff 2-3 pieces of pork belly into each bun, topping with cucumbers, scallions, and 1 tsp hoisin sauce. Pass kimchi and sriracha and revel in your trendy culinary accomplishment!