Pork · Vietnamese

Cơm Sườn Nướng {Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops with Rice}

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops
I’ve been craving a lot of Vietnamese foods lately. It’s comforting, nostalgic and just damn tasty.

I’ve said it many times before but I didn’t realize how good we had it growing up with all of that deliciousness around us all of the time. I definitely took it for granted.

And now when I want good quality Vietnamese food, I have to make the haul up to Orange County where I beg my family to feed me or resort to swinging by one of the gazillion Việt spots in Little Saigon.

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops

But then there are times where I’m home in San Diego and have to fend for myself.

Don’t get me wrong–I do like cooking Vietnamese foods, I’m just not the best at it. For sure, Mom reigned supreme and the aunties too. And nowadays, I’d say big seester N and our cousies A and T are right up there. That alone makes the idea of ever moving back to OC palatable because they’ve got skills!

There are a few Việt dishes I’m happy to make and feel pretty good about.

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops
Seestrah T posted a pic the other week of her grilling up some Vietnamese style pork chops which made me think of two things. First — hey! She never makes that for me! And second –sheesh, now I’m really hankering for some pork chops!

It was time to take matters into my own hands and luckily, I had all the ingredients already! My version of the marinade has staples like fish sauce, soy, sugar, shallots, lemongrass, garlic, ginger and chilies. Our cousin T that lives in Đà Nẵng makes the most EPIC sườn nướng (grilled pork chops). Years ago she told us what she marinated them with but I think the woman is holding out on us because mine never taste the same! And maybe it has to do with the fact that she grills them over this teeny-tiny charcoal grill on her patio floor and perhaps that’s where the essence of Việt Nam somehow creeps in and flavors it.

Who knows….

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops
For these chops, I generally prefer to use a thinner cut—about 3/4 inch thickness. They remind me more of how we have them in Việt Nam or at the restaurants here. But if you prefer a thicker cut, go for it! Just be sure to marinate them overnight or at least for 6-8 hours.

Next, I throw them on a screaming hot grill and they cook up for 1-2 minutes on each side. Easy peasy! Keep in mind that the grilling time will increase if you choose thicker cuts.

Once finished, you’ll get all of these lovely charred bits from the sugar in the marinade. It’s at that point that you’ll want to quickly brush them with hành mơ — scallion oil.

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops
I serve these pork chops pretty traditionally with a heaping scoop of steamed rice, sliced cucumbers & tomatoes, lots of spicy nước chấm (dipping sauce) and of course – a sunny side up fried egg with crispy edges. Now I know these days, some frown upon crispy edges on eggs. Quite frankly, I don’t know when that became out of fashion—but dang it! It’s darn tasty that way and adds texture.

If you order this dish out, you may also find that instead of a fried egg it will be served with Chả Trứng which is like a steamed egg meatloaf. It may sound strange to you but trust me, it’s awesome. Honestly, I was too lazy to make it (though it’s not difficult) but I promise I will someday soon and will share it with y’all.

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops

On this particular day, I plated them with a few Chả Giò . It’s not something I always do but seeing how I had a stash in my freezer, it seemed like the proper occasion to bust them out.

And with that dear peeps, Ăn Ngon!

_____________________________________________________________________________
Cơm Sườn Nướng {Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops with Rice}
Serves 4

Ingredients:

Sườn Nướng – Grilled Pork Chops:
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh lemongrass
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
½ tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
2 Thai chili peppers, minced
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 bone-in pork chops

Nước Chấm –Spicy Dipping Sauce:
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons hot water
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 Thai chili peppers, minced
½ tablespoon Sambal chili paste, more or less to taste

Hành Mơ – Scallion Oil:
½ cup light olive oil
1 cup chopped scallions

Serve With:
steamed rice
4 crispy fried eggs
sliced cucumber
sliced tomatoes
lettuce or mixed greens

In a bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, oil, soy sauce and sugar together until the latter has dissolved. Stir in the shallots, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, chili peppers and black pepper. Place the pork chops in a shallow dish or large resealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the pork, ensuring that the meat is well coated. Cover the dish (or seal the bag) and allow the pork to marinate in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours. (If using thick chops, marinade overnight.)

Prepare the nước chấm (spicy dipping sauce). In a small bowl or jar, mix ¼ cup sugar with the hot water until the sugar starts to dissolve. Stir in ¼ cup fish sauce, lime juice, chili peppers and Sambal chili paste. Set aside.

Prepare the hành mơ (scallion oil). In a small sauté pan, slowly heat the canola oil. Add the chopped scallions. Cook the scallions on very low heat until they are wilted but still bright green. Approximately 2-3 minutes. Pull from heat and set aside.

Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to take the chill off. Bring your grill to medium-high heat and lightly grease the grates with oil or cooking spray. Grill the pork chops for 1-2 minutes on each side until browned and slightly charred. If using thick chops, add an additional 2-3 minutes per side—depending on thickness. Remove the pork chops from the grill and generously brush them with the hành mơ. Cover and set aside while 4 plates are prepared.

On each plate, place a generous mound of rice and brush it with the hành mơ. Place one fried egg over the rice and add a few slices of cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce/greens on the plate. Add one pork chop along with a small bowl of nước chấm.

Serve immediately.

 

Advertisements
Vietnamese

Chả Giò – Vietnamese Imperial Rolls (Egg Rolls)

Chả Giò
The truth is, if you don’t like egg rolls (or fried spring rolls), I will judge you. I mean, C’MON! What is there not to love??? Crispy, crunchy exterior wrapper that envelopes an incredibly savory filling? It’s perfection!

When done right, that is.

And what makes a bad egg roll in my opinion?

Soggy wrapper. Ugh.

Unbalanced filling. Depressing.

And yes–I’m talking about those that have like 90% cabbage in them. That’s just not right!

Chả Giò
So many Asian cultures have their own spin on them…chun juan, lumpia, popiah tod and of course, my personal favorite, the Vietnamese version — Chả Giò!

Chả Giò –or Nem Rán as it’s called in Northern Việt Nam–doesn’t have cabbage in the filling (thank Buddha!) and often uses a combination of pork and seafood. You’ll also often find taro and jicama included with the usual combination of wood ear mushrooms, cellophane noodles, carrots and other aromatics.

Traditional Chả Giò (also called Imperial Rolls) are rolled up in rice paper versus the Chinese style wrappers made of flour and eggs. The rice paper gives a wonderful balance of textures between crispiness and chewiness. When fried, the paper becomes quite bubbly as shown here with the pics of the Chả Giò served with vermicelli.

Texture is hella important to me peeps.

Chả Giò
Growing up, Mom primarily made Chả Giò with the Chinese style wrappers like the ones shown above so it’s normally how I make them too. They come frozen in all sizes but I prefer using the ones that are about 7 x 7 inches. I find that it makes for a nice size roll–not too big, not too small. Chả Giò rolled in these wrappers also tend to freeze better than the ones rolled in rice paper.

Chả Giò
But even though I tend to lean towards the other wrappers, I will roll a few in rice paper to be enjoyed that day. It really adds a different touch and I totally recommend it. One tip though when using rice paper, avoid over wetting it! Either barely dunk it in warm water or take a very damp kitchen towel and press it on the sheet until it becomes just pliable. Too much moisture makes them susceptible to tearing.

Chả Giò
Another thing Mom always taught us to do is try out the filling before you start rolling the Chả Giò. It would be a total bummer if you didn’t and found that after an hour of rolling and frying the Chả Giò, you discover that the filling is bland or some seasoning is off.

Save yourself the heartache and before you roll, take about spoonful of the filling and pan fry it up. It shouldn’t take more than a minute or so. Taste and adjust for seasonings as needed.

Trust me, you’ll thank me. Or actually, Mom.

Chả Giò
Here are a few other tips…..

Don’t get greedy. And by this, I mean do not over stuff the rolls. About 2 tablespoons for an 7 x 7 inch wrapper is sufficient–anything more and you risk the rolls exploding.

And that’s just no bueno.

Chả Giò
Roll the Chả Giò tightly, avoiding any air bubbles and seal the edges well with an egg wash. It will help the rolls keep its shape during the frying process and avoid them bursting.

Again, because that would be super no bueno.

Chả Giò
Keep your oil at a moderate and even heat. Too hot and your wrappers will burn and the filling won’t cook. Too cool and too much oil will seep into the roll and it won’t get super crunchy.

Chả Giò
And finally, ALWAYS make a double batch.

Seriously.

If you’re going to go and put in the effort to make these labor of love (and they do take some time but are SOOO worth it), you might as well stock up your freezer!

Again, you’ll thank me for it when you get a hankering one day for some bomb Chả Giò and remember that you’ve got a stash waiting for you in the freezer.

Chả Giò
As for how to serve them–so many options!

On Its Own: Take a Chả Giò and wrap it in a large lettuce leaf filled with fresh herbs and dunk it into some spicy and stanky nước chấm. It’s damn good.

Bún Chả Giò: Chả Giò with cold vermicelli noodles and veggies are the perfect interplay of different textures (told ya it’s important), varying temperatures and freshness from all the veggies. A generous pour of nước chấm all over the bowl is mandatory. Check out my post on Bún Tôm Nướng Sả (Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp over Vermicelli Noodles) for instructions on how to construct the fixins’ for a big ol’ bowl of bún.

Chả Giò
Cơm “Whatever Protein You Like” Chả Giò: If you’ve eaten at a phở restaurant, then you’d likely have tried or at least seen the numerous rice plates we love to enjoy. Usually grilled chicken, shrimp, beef or pork chops are served up with a mound of rice (sometimes cơm tấm–or broken rice), a crispy fried egg, veggies—and if you order like I do– some Chả Giò.

Chả Giò
However you serve it up, I hope you love these Chả Giò as much as I do. ❤
_______________________________________________________
Chả Giò – Vietnamese Imperial Rolls (Egg Rolls)
Makes approximately 50-60 rolls

Ingredients:

2 pounds lean ground pork
10 ounces crab meat
½ pound shrimp, chopped
1 cup rehydrated cellophane (bean thread) noodles, minced
1 cup rehydrated wood ear mushrooms, minced
1 cup shredded carrots, minced
½ cup finely diced white onion
¼ cup finely diced scallions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 large eggs, separated
3 tablespoons fish sauce, more if needed
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon water
50-60 wrappers (either the Chinese style wrappers or rice paper sheets)
vegetable oil

Place the first 9 ingredients in a large bowl. Beat 2 eggs and pour it into the large bowl. Add the fish sauce, pepper and mix all the items until everything has been well incorporated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for one hour. To test for seasoning, take a small spoonful of the mixture and pan fry in a nonstick skillet for about 1 minute on each side. Taste and adjust for seasoning as needed.

In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg with the water.

Begin assembly. If using the Chinese egg roll wrappers, place one sheet on a flat surface with one corner facing towards you. Moisten the edge of the top left and right side of the wrapper with the egg wash. Place about 2 tablespoons of the filling in a line approximately 1/3 up from the bottom corner. Tightly roll the bottom of the wrapper over the filling. Fold the right side of the roll in and fold the left side in. Continue to tightly roll up until you’ve created a secured roll. Place the roll on a tray and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. If using rice paper, use a very damp and clean kitchen towel to just barely moisten the sheet so that it becomes pliable—you will not need the egg wash. Follow the same steps above to fill and wrap the roll.

Heat a large pan or high walled skillet with about 2 inches of oil until it reaches 350 degrees F. In batches, carefully place the chả giò into the hot oil. Fry, turning occasionally, for about 5 minutes until the filling has cooked through and they turn golden brown. If using rice paper, cut down the frying time by about 1 minute–and the color will be golden but not browned. Remove the rolls from the fryer and drain on a rack that sits on a baking tray.

Serve hot with lots of nước chấm

 

Drinks

Fresh Mango Mojitos

August 2017 Family Dinner
Since I posted the last Fam Din wrap up, I’ve received a few requests to share the recipe for our Fresh Mango Mojitos—and I’m happy to oblige!

Mojitos are one of my favorite cocktails because it mixes the combinations of lots of tart citrus from the limes and freshness from the mint. But I rarely order it out because 9 out 10 times, I’m completely disappointed. Mojitos aren’t difficult to make–but it does take a bit of time to muddle everything together. Plus, I find that places skimp out on the limes and mint (BOO!!) and either use flat club soda or shake the carbonation out of it (DOUBLE BOO!) And that’s just a bad combination!

Fuggetaboutit! Just make your own!

August 2017 Family Dinner
Fresh Mango Mojitos are truly a fantastic spin of the original. I use a combination of ripe mangoes (I prefer ataulfo mangoes) and mango nectar (LOVE the one from Trader Joe’s) to really punch up the floral mango flavor. Plus, since the fruit and nectar bring their own sweetness, there’s no need to add additional sugar or simple syrups in.

They’re perfect, refreshing and just downright delicious. Cheers!! ❤

_______________________________________

Fresh Mango Mojitos
Serves 1

Ingredients:

15-20 fresh mint leaves, more for garnish
½ lime, cut into small wedges
2 ounces light rum
3 ounces mango nectar
3 tablespoons diced ripe and fresh mango
2 ounces club soda
1-2 cups crushed ice

In a cocktail shaker, thoroughly muddle the mint leaves and lime wedges. Add the light rum, mango nectar and fill the shaker with ice. Vigorously shake for 20 seconds and strain the liquids into a tall glass. Add the fresh mangoes and mash them in. Add ice to the glass and top with club soda. Gently stir the liquids together and garnish with additional mint leaves.

Sunday Family Dinner

Eldest Munchkin’s Family Dinner

August 2017 Family Dinner
I was in the room when she came into this world.

I waited for her for a gazillion of hours (yeah–likely felt longer for seester that actually birthed her)…..and then she popped out.

Our chubby little bebe girl….our first munchkin.

August 2017 Family Dinner
And now she’s 19 and in college….and I’m still only 20 years old.

Kind of magical how that can happen right?

August 2017 Family Dinner

But that’s our Nina girl…..

Bright, compassionate, silly and a ‘SC fan (of course I had nothing to do with that!…not!)

And our other munchkins just adore her.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Our latest Family Dinner was all about Nina — all her favorites — in honor of her birthday. We’ve held some memorable Fam Din themes in years past for her like our full blown lu’au or when V took on Alton Brown’s chimney method to cook dry aged steaks.

But this time, she opted for some low key options.

August 2017 Family Dinner
And as you all know, first up is always cocktails!!

This month we went for a family fav — fresh Mango Mojitos!

These beauts are made with lots of muddled mint, limes, fresh mangoes, mango nectar, lots of light rum and a splash of club soda. Soooooo lovely!

August 2017 Family Dinner

Did I mention that it happened to be the season opener for ‘SC?

Goooooo Trojans!!

August 2017 Family Dinner

So what was the first thing Nina asked to be on her menu that night?

Chicken wings.

Yup, chicken wings.

Hey–how could I say no to that? I love me some wings and it was game day and all.

And since I’m obsessed with my Anova Precision Cooker, I sous vide the wings first.

August 2017 Family Dinner
I made two types per birthday girl’s request — buffalo and parmesan. So after seasoning them, I threw the chicken into bags and sous vide them at 147.2 degrees F for 2 hours.

Once they were done, I patted them dry with lots of paper towels and tossed them in a blend of AP flour, cornstarch and seasonings. The wings then went into a deep fryer for 2-3 minutes until they were golden brown.

The Garlicky Parmesan batch were tossed into a butter-garlic sauce.

The Hot Buffalo Wings were tossed into a butter-hot sauce mixture.

Chicken loves butter.

And so do I.

August 2017 Family Dinner
I served the wings with ranch dressing (Nina’s fav) and whipped up an easy blue cheese dressing.

August 2017 Family Dinner
If you love blue cheese dressing but haven’t made it before—DO IT!

Just throw some blue cheese, mayo, sour cream, buttermilk, white wine vinegar, garlic and some seasoning into a food processor. Let it whirl for it a bit and voila!

Easy peasy!

August 2017 Family Dinner
And if you’ve ever wondered what the behind-the-scenes of our dinners look like–here you go!

Yup, kind of a mess.

August 2017 Family Dinner

But hey! Foodventures are messy sometimes.

Delicious but messy.

August 2017 Family Dinner
The second appetizer that we made for Nina was deep fried cheese.

Mmmmmm……

V made these ooey-gooey Mozzarella Sticks with Homemade Marinara. Mozz sticks are actually pretty simple to make (especially since we already had the deep fryer out) but are such a fun hit–particularly around football season.

All you need to do is freeze mozzarella string cheese for about 30 minutes. You then dredge them into seasoned breadcrumbs before deep-frying until golden brown. V made an awesome marina sauce that is a favorite with his youngins’.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Oh our wrinkly fur-babies….we love them so. ❤

And they love Family Dinner too! It’s where the action is…but mostly because they get extra goodies.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Now it couldn’t be a meal for Nina without beef involved. Seestrah T seasoned these big ol’ bone-in ribeye steaks with lots of salt, pepper and fresh rosemary springs.

August 2017 Family Dinner
And you guessed it! We threw them in to be sous vide at 130 degrees F for two and a half hours.

I freaking love this thing.

August 2017 Family Dinner
After the steaks were done with their bath, the boys threw them on the grill for a quick char.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Helllooooo…….

August 2017 Family Dinner
They came out a beautiful medium-rare and tender.

As in tenderoni.

August 2017 Family Dinner
The boys were taking a break from all that grilling and frying.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Growing up the only dude smack dab in the middle of 4 seesters, I have to imagine that V’s pumped to finally have brothers. Although let’s face it, he was pretty darn lucky having us!

August 2017 Family Dinner
Here’s N posing in her newly remodeled kitchen. Everything is so new and shiny now.

August 2017 Family Dinner
She made decadent Crab Cakes with a Homemade Tartar Sauce.

August 2017 Family Dinner
So pretty!! I wish I had one now….

Or more like 3.

August 2017 Family Dinner
So nice I had to show you twice!

August 2017 Family Dinner

Brother is showing off his knife skills on some pears.
August 2017 Family Dinner
R wanted in on that action too.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Kids – don’t try this at home.

Brothers will always be brothers….

August 2017 Family Dinner
But he did fix up this nice Gorgonzola-Pear Salad.

Mmmmm…cheese.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Remember those gorgeous ribeye steaks from before?

August 2017 Family Dinner
T sliced them up to make Ciabatta Ribeye Paninis.

August 2017 Family Dinner
And of course someone pilfered some to feed his nephew.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Inside the panini, she spread a layer of horseradish and filled them with caramelized onions, arugula and cheese.

August 2017 Family Dinner
They were crunchy, gooey, and beefy.

August 2017 Family Dinner
I love saying “beefy”. It makes me giggle.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Someone’s ready for dinner!

August 2017 Family Dinner
I don’t even know what to say about this picture other than we’re a bunch of sillies.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Cousie love!

And college football.

Some of my favorite things in the world.

August 2017 Family Dinner
And more cheeses while N put the finishing touches on dessert.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Birthday gal with her auntie. They’re cute. I think I’ll keep them.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Nina requested this Chocolate Raspberry Tart. It’s a fantastic tart with a shortbread like crust and a filling that tastes like rich chocolate truffles. I used to make them often but now N makes it all the time so I don’t have to. Perks of having a seestrah that likes to bake.

August 2017 Family Dinner
She really is adorable.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Happy Birthday Nina Bebe! We love you to the moon and back–and back around again! ❤

August 2017 Family Dinner

_________________________________________________

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Mango Mojitos, Various Wine
Appetizers: Parmesan-Garlic Chicken Wings, Spicy Buffalo Wings, Fried Mozzarella Sticks with Marinara
Entrees: Ciabatta Ribeye Paninis, Crab Cakes with Tartar Sauce
Sides: Gorgonzola-Pear Salad
Dessert: Chocolate Raspberry Tart

Sunday Family Dinner

And the Family Dinner Antics Continue….

July 2017 Family Dinner
How is it possibly Fall already with October just knocking on the door? Although, if you’re like SoCal these past few days, we’re still in a heat wave with the temps in mid-80s. The weather has been so strange lately that we actually got down to the low 60s last week (chilly for San Diego standards) and now we’re back in the thick of summer-like weather.

Speaking of summer, we had some brilliant Fam Dins over the past few months. The food is always great—even when it’s not dee best (flashbacks to my less than successful beef wellington or tarte tatin ). And there’s always more shenanigans than I can recount.

July 2017 Family Dinner
For this particular dinner, we were celebrating seester N and B.I.L. R’s birthmonth. But the day actually started early as we trekked down to Long Beach to cheer on Maya at her Hula/Tahitian performance at the Dragon Boat Races.

I mean, how freaking adorable is she?

After the festival and a quick bite of lunch, we headed back to Fullerton to get prepping on dinner. While we got to work in the kitchen, we sent the kiddos to the store to pick up a few extra items for us–just one of the perks of having munchkins that are of the driving age now.

July 2017 Family Dinner

For dinner, R wanted simply prepared dungeness crabs. But while at the store, seester ended up picking up some lobsters too.

I totally supported that decision.

July 2017 Family Dinner
The munchkins came back shortly after supplied with boba, slurpees (kids after my own heart) and a surprise they found at 7-11. More on that soon.

Nini saw the lobstahs and quickly picked them up and posed for a pic. I  have at least a dozen pictures of her mom doing the same thing over the past few years–same genes and all.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Oh our boys…..

July 2017 Family Dinner
While the sibs were bustling away with prep, I turned my efforts to something extremely important.

Cocktails.

Since it was so hot out and because the kiddos had picked up their own slurpees, I whipped up a batch of Tropical Fruit Wine Slushies. Adult slurpees in my opinion.

July 2017 Family Dinner
In a heavy duty blender, I filled the pitcher with frozen tropical fruits (mango, pineapple, papaya), a whole bottle of sauvignon blanc, lime juice, simple syrup, fresh mint leaves and a few splashes of vodka. Everything was quickly blended and that’s it!

Deliciously cold and refreshing. Another one of those summer-in-a-glass types of cocktails.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Remember that surprise I mentioned that the kiddos found at 7-11?

It was henna paste!

And the coincidence was that earlier that day, we were trying to get T’s friend over that night to do henna for us but things didn’t work out because she was out of the paste.

Why did we want her to come over and do henna for us?

Why not?

July 2017 Family Dinner
Henna is a temporary body art that is imprinted on the skin through a paste made from ground henna tree. The paste the munchkins found were premixed and sold in little conical tubes for ease of application. Kind of a random thing to find at a 7-11 in Orange County–but sometimes you just got to go with fate.

July 2017 Family Dinner
And with that–we went into full henna mode! The gals had a wonderful knack for it and did all of these beautiful designs by free hand.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Seestrah and I are thinking of hiring them out for parties.

Kidding–not kidding.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Check out this dragon Nini did for me–isn’t she so talented?

Apparently having an actual dragon tattoo wasn’t enough for me so I needed a henna one too.

Mother of Dragons and all….

Okay, I’m more like Mother of Puggle but Bella has the heart of a dragon.

Or more like an appetite of one.

July 2017 Family Dinner
And then we all started getting a rumbly in our tummy. Apps time!

I made one of my go-to bites that I love having all summer long — Burrata Bruschetta with a Balsamic Reduction. Nina lent a hand by pan frying (yup PAN FRYING) the sourdough in olive oil and rubbed it down with garlic cloves. It was topped with chopped heirloom tomatoes, more fresh garlic, EVOO, red chili flakes, basil, ooey-gooey burrata and a drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar.

These are great as apps but there are so many times that I whip this up for a quick light lunch when it’s warm out. Perfect.

July 2017 Family Dinner
And then it was time to steam those crustaceans!

We love crabs, lobstahs, ‘shramps, crawdads….actually, we’re pretty much into all seafoods.

And riverfoods?

Lakefoods?

Are those even things?

July 2017 Family Dinner
T also picked up some ginormous giant clams (yes, I know that was redundant but they were HUGE!) so we threw those on the grill along with some romaine for a salad.

July 2017 Family Dinner
And after the wine slushies were gone, there was just wine. Well, lots of wine.

The chardonnay from Starmont is the fuel T and I guzzle down every Black Friday to muster the energy to keep up with our other sibs’ shopping marathons. Without it, we would be passed out by 9am.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Speaking of passing out…

She had a VERY action packed day and was down for the count. But she still wanted to be in the midst of the action and decided to take her naps underneath us.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Here are those giant clams again. Once out of the grill, T spooned a butter-soy-garlic sauce into them and topped it with fresh cilantro. Those buggers were super meaty!

July 2017 Family Dinner
N made this rad salad with grilled romaine lettuce, cukes, tomatoes, and avocados which was topped with pickled red onions and a grilled flank steak that had an Asian inspired marinade. The salad had a light soy-sesame dressing and was delectable!

July 2017 Family Dinner
Since we went for a simple steamed prep for the crabs and lobsters, N upped the gluttony ante and made a big ol’ bowl of Garlic-Butter Noodles. YES PLEASE!

July 2017 Family Dinner
The terrible pic does not do the food its justice.

I had some dang impatience to eat so I couldn’t be bothered to fiddle with adjusting the camera.

Nope…I don’t regret it.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Happy Fam! (Yes, I used flash…cringe.)

I spy a glowing-eye Bella.

July 2017 Family Dinner
After gorging ourselves on savory, we turned to sweet.

Yin to yang, right?

July 2017 Family Dinner
For the birthday buddies, Maya helped me to make this Peanut Butter-Oreo Chocolate Icebox Cake.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Looking at it again, it kind of looks like an ice cream cake—doesn’t it?

Hmmm…there’s always next time.

July 2017 Family Dinner
And after dinner, the antics continued because random henna sessions weren’t enough.  T busted out some new clay mask she got so we had to give it a spin, right?

What you don’t see is that we actually coerced R into letting us schmear that stuff on him too. He was less than thrilled so since it was his birthday dinner, I let him off the hook and decided not to post the pic I took of him. Plus he looked like we were rather torturing him so who wants that kind of stuff on-the-line?

Hehehe…

July 2017 Family Dinner
And that was it! Dragon Boat races, Polynesian dance performances, henna, clay masks, cooking, eating, drinking and a passed out a puggle.

Just another average Fam Din down in the books. ❤

Happy Birthday N and R!

July 2017 Family Dinner

_______________________________________________

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Tropical Fruits Wine Slushies, Various Wine
Appetizers: Burrata Bruschetta with Balsamic Reduction
Entrees: Steamed Dungeness Crabs & Lobsters, Grilled Giant Clams with Soy-Garlic Sauce
Sides: Garlic Butter Noodles, Asian Flank Steak over Grilled Romaine Salad
Dessert: Peanut Butter-Oreo Chocolate Icebox Cake

Pork

Pan Seared Pork Chops with Tomatoes & White Wine-Garlic Sauce

Pan Seared Pork Chops in White Wine-Garlic Sauce
I’m not sure if I’ve told you but I have had a crazy bout of insomnia….of some serious epic proportions. And before you ask — YES, I’ve tried everything. (But THANK YOU!)

And my poor co-workers and loved ones have been subjected to my deliriousness. Trust me, I’ve been the hottest mess in all of the land. It’s not pretty.

In conversations I vacillate between speed talking (think of Six from Blossom), slow-motion speech and then just blank stares when I forget my train of thought mid-sentence.

I repeat, it’s not pretty. Ugh.

Pan Seared Pork Chops in White Wine-Garlic Sauce

How have I been filling my time?

Through a questionable amount of binge watching shows (how have I never watched Into the Badlands before?!?!), Podcasts (I’m crushin’ on Pod Save America) and reading everything I can get my hands on (any recommendations?).

There’s also been a good amount of QT in the kitchen. If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know that I’m obsessed with using my Anova Precision Cooker. Yup, I pretty much want to sous vide everything I can get my hands on.

But I still love my quick meals….ones like this little number.

Pan Seared Pork Chops in White Wine-Garlic Sauce
One of my go-to proteins for weeknights are pork chops–particularly these really thin cuts sometimes sold as “breakfast pork chops”. They generally are about ½ – ¾ inch thick and are bone-in. Not only do they have great flavor but they’re super quick to cook up in a skillet.

These Pan Seared Pork Chops with Tomatoes & White Wine-Garlic Sauce can be whipped up in under 20 minutes. After a light seasoning, they’re browned up in a skillet before white wine and stock are added to deglaze the pan. Finally, lots of garlic, herbs, tomatoes and butter join the party to make a light sauce that the chops are simmered in for an additional few minutes. The chops are wonderfully savory and there’s great acidity from the wine and tomatoes along with brightness from the fresh herbs.

Total winner.

And I’m not just saying that because I’m half asleep as I type this. 😴

_____________________________________________________________________
Pan Seared Pork Chops with Tomatoes & White Wine-Garlic Sauce
Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 thin bone-in pork chops, ½ – ¾ inch thick
black pepper
kosher salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 cup dry white wine
½ cup chicken stock
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1½ cups grape tomatoes, halved
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, more for garnish

Make 4-5 notches around the edges of each chop with a sharp pairing knife about ⅓ inch deep. This will help prevent the edges of the pork chops from curling up. Season each side of the chops with pepper, salt, garlic powder and onion powder.

Bring a large, heavy bottom skillet up to medium-high heat. Melt 1 tablespoon butter into the olive oil and swirl it around the skillet. Sear the chops for about 2 minutes on each side and remove them from the skillet—this can be done in batches if they do not fit all it once in the skillet.

Lower the heat to medium and add the minced garlic to the skillet. Stir around for 45 seconds to a minute –be careful not to burn the garlic or let it get too dark. Pour in the white wine, chicken stock and use a wooden spoon to scrape off the browned bits off the bottom of the skillet. Once the liquids come to a boil, add the red pepper flakes, fresh thyme, tomatoes and allow the liquids to reduce by about a third. Stir in and melt the remaining butter and add all the pork chops back into the skillet. Allow the pork to cook in the sauce for an additional 3-5 minutes, spooning the sauce over the chops every so often so that they are well coated.

Fold in the chopped parsley. Taste the sauce and add additional salt and pepper as needed. Plate the pork chops and spoon the sauce with tomatoes generously over each serving. Garnish with additional parsley and serve with your choice of salad, roasted veggies, rice, potatoes, etc.

Pizzas

Summer Squash Blossom Skillet Pizza

Summer Squash Blossom Pizza
I was at the Hillcrest Farmers Market last weekend and beautiful squash blossoms were in almost every produce stall.

I was PUMPED!!!

I love squash blossoms. They remind me of growing up in Minnesota when my grandparents had a big garden in the backyard and my grandpa tended to his gorgeous dahlias in the front of the house.

Summer Squash Blossom Pizza

Oddly enough, out of all the edible things they grew, I remember the elephant ear stalks and squashes the most.

Elephant ear stalks, or bạc hà in Vietnamese, are often used in our stir-fry dishes and sour-tamarind soups (canh chua). And if you’re wondering how the heck they managed to grow plants in Minnesota that are indigenous to tropical climates—-I can’t help you there.

Seriously. I have no clue how my grandparents and parents coaxed them out of the frigid ground. But they did.

OG hustlers.

Squash Blossom
As for the squashes, I remember them most because….I hated them.

Yup. Hated them.

As in, when they showed up at the dinner table, I was guaranteed to be the last one there because I would just stare at my bowl piled high with pureed squash. UGH!  I would sit there for what seemed like centuries, refusing to eat it. That is, until my grandparents had pity on me and coerced my parents to letting me off the hook.

Did I mention I was the baby of the family?

Oh…and it was probably more like 10 minutes than a hundred years but when you’re eight, 5 minutes could feel like FOH-EVAH!!

Summer Squash Blossom Pizza

But as much as squash was my mortal enemy, I used to love looking at their bright and colorful blossoms. I may have also been caught plucking a few off the vine from time to time. Hey–a kid had to keep herself entertained while her older sibbies ditched her for their friends.

Yes, that’s me unabashedly trying to elicit sympathy. Did it work?

Summer Squash Blossom Pizza
Fast forward to 2017 and I’m still not a fan of most squashes. I do like zucchinis but will most definitely pass on butternut squash, pumpkins, acorn squash, kabochas…..

Hey–just consider it more for you all to enjoy.

But I still love squash blossoms. They have a mild zucchini flavor and are just so darn pretty. I usually have them as fritto misto or stuffed. But my favorite way to have them is on top of a pizza.

Summer Squash Blossom Pizza
The first time I had squash blossom pizza was at Pizzeria Mozza and I was hooked! It’s a simple preparation of their awesome pizza crust with a light red sauce, tons of blossoms and then topped with fresh burrata when out of the oven. And I’m a sucker for burrata!

Armed with a bundle of fresh summer zucchini blossoms from the market, I went home and whipped up a quick batch of dough (1 yeast envelope. 1/4 tsp. sugar, 1 1/4 cups warm water, 1 Tbs. olive oil, 3 cups AP flour & 1 tsp salt) and turned to my favorite cast iron skillet method to make some pizza.

Summer Squash Blossom Pizza

These days, I lean towards pizzas without red sauce and prefer to use fresh tomato slices (or halves) instead. I brushed the dough with a garlic-herb oil, topped it with lots of fresh mozzarella, blossoms and grape tomatoes before quickly cooking it off. Once out of the oven, the pie was sprinkled with parmesan cheese and chopped chives.

Verdict?

Summerifically delish! But if you’re feeling into it, top it with some fresh burrata like Mozza does or a quenelle or three of ricotta.

Allora!   <<< Just threw that in for my Master of None peeps. ❤

_____________________________________
Summer Squash Blossom Skillet Pizza
Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1-teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
5 ounces fresh pizza dough, rested and at room temperature
all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground corn meal
kosher salt
¼ pound thinly sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
6 large zucchini squash blossoms, stamens removed
10 grape tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese

In a small pan, add the olive oil, garlic, pepper flakes and thyme. Heat over medium-low for 5 minutes to allow the oil to infuse. Set aside.

Turn on the oven broiler and adjust one of the racks to the top of the oven to rest directly under the broiler. Place a seasoned cast iron skillet (10-12 inches in diameter) directly under the broiler for 8-10 minutes. It may begin to smoke but you need the skillet to be screaming hot.

While the skillet is heating, roll out the pizza dough onto a floured surface–you’ll want it a tad smaller than the width of your skillet. If you have a pizza peal, sprinkle it with cornmeal and transfer the pizza dough onto it. If not, you can also use a cutting board.

Brush the infused olive oil over the dough and sprinkle salt all over the dough. Top with mozzarella cheese and place the blossoms, fanned out in a circle. Place the halved tomatoes on top.

Once the skillet has heated for the appropriate length of time, quickly and CAREFULLY slide the pizza into the skillet. Place the skillet on a burner over medium heat and allow it to begin cooking for 2 minutes. Move the skillet back to the oven so it sits directly underneath the broiler.

Close the oven door and allow the pizza to cook for about 60-90 seconds. Open the oven door and rotate the skillet 180 degrees. Close the door and allow another 60-90 seconds underneath the broiler. Once the crust is slightly charred and cheese has melted, CAREFULLY remove the skillet from the oven and place it on a rack for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the top with chives and parmesan cheese. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board, slice up and enjoy!