Monday, April 28, 2008

Beef Shin with Cilantro, aka The Unbearable Lightness of Being Beef, aka "Dancing Cilantro Beef"

I mean, it doesn't get any simpler than this. But the taste, "subtle yet profound." In other words, super-delicious.

This is a dish that we resurrected from the past.

As mentioned before in our meat and potatoes post, there was a long stretch 10 to 15 years ago when we did not have beef at home.

We used to frequent a small eatery in Manila called Mr. Poon. One of our favourite dishes from that place was a steamed beef dish they brought out to the table with a burner underneath. The beef pieces were so very tender, melt-in-your-mouth tender, garnished with a lot of cilantro on top. They also doused the dish with a little bit of soy sauce tableside.

We managed to recreate this dish at home a couple of years ago for a Chinese New Year party.

Besides the beef and cilantro, there are only three -- count 'em, three! -- other ingredients in this dish.

Chinese cooking wine
soy sauce

Our mother used michiu this time (pictured above), but we also use shiaoxing wine as well.

In our roster of beef applications, this dish stands as one of my all-time favourites. When done this way, beef retains its essential beefiness but does not seem to want to overpower and overwhelm with its brute strength. Unlike most North American applications of beef that seem to prize "big, bold, beef flavour," in this dish, beef is more subdued, subtle.

The aesthetic at play here is more "Asian" or "Eastern," and "the unbearable lightness of being beef" is the goal. Beef dances lightly on the tongue -- hey, maybe that's what we should call this dish!

"Dancing Beef with Cilantro"?
A name somewhat reminiscent of the famous Vietnamese beef dish, "Shaking Beef."

Choosing the right cut of beef took some time and we have tried this dish with different cuts to see which one would work best.

When TS and I first tried making this dish ourselves, we bought what is labelled "beef short plate" at the Chinese supermarket. That, it seemed to me, was closest to "beef brisket."

If I recall correctly, the dish at Mr. Poon was called Steamed Beef Brisket. But, we can never find "brisket" in a Chinese supermarket.

(Chinese cuts of beef are different from Western cuts of beef. Different culinary cultures have different ways of carving up animals -- a subject that is quite fascinating to me.)

To begin this dish, we do what Chinese people do: we "clean" the meat by dumping it in boiling water.

The water must be boiling first before the meat is put in. Then, we usually just wait until the water comes back up to a boil. When that happens, we take out the meat.

Our first attempt at "Dancing Cilantro Beef" using beef short plate yielded a still delicious dish, but it did tilt over to the "heavier" side of the spectrum. It seemed that steaming beef short plate yielded darker, more beefy beef. We noted this thusly in this conversation.

JS: "Hey, this seems beefier."
TS: "Yeah. It seems beefier than what we had before."
(Everybody chews and nods.)

JS: "Yeah. I wonder why."
(Everybody eats some more.)

TS: "Maybe it's just the difference between steaming the meat and poaching it."
(Our mother usually poaches her meat.)

JS: "Maybe."
(Everybody eats some more.)

JS: "Mother, which cut of beef do you buy [when you make this dish]?"
TS: "It doesn't look the same as what we have before."

MOM: "I don't know."
JS: "You mean you don't know the English name?"
MOM: "Yes."

I made a mental note, and when we shopped a couple of days later, I asked my mother again which cut of meat she buys when she makes dancing cilantro beef.

My mother pointed to the pieces of meat labelled "VEAL BREAST."

That explains a lot of things.

Namely, how she got the beef to "dance lightly" on the tongue. Veal, I suppose, is also caught in the unbearable lightness of being beef.


We wanted to do the dish with mature dead cow. In any case, beef short plate was not the right cut of meat.

And look at that! This is the water used to "clean" the meat. Look at all that scum!

Fast forward a couple of years, another confusing turn. Another conversation, this time on bulalo (Filipino beef soup).

JS: "Which cut of beef do you buy for bulalo?"
LSC: "Beef brisket."
JS, very confused: "Beef brisket? Where do you find beef brisket?"
LSC: "At the supermarket."
JS: "Which supermarket?"
LSC: "Different supermarkets. Richmond public market."
JS: "I have never seen beef brisket in a Chinese supermarket before."
LSC: "Well, that's where I buy my beef brisket."

LSC insists that she has bought beef brisket in Chinese supermarkets. I am confused. Where are they hiding all the beef brisket?

While the beef was being "cleaned", we prepared the poaching liquid. Again, a dump-into-a-pot process.... umm, with the heat on, of course.

That's water, soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine and ginger. Don't forget the water! We want the resulting liquid to be "light", subtle yet profound.

Researching recipes for Taiwan beef noodle, I came across this site:

Hey, look at the picture he has! (Image used with permission.)

That looks like what we have come to know as "beef brisket" in Chinese restaurants!

Armed with new information, I confronted LSC.

JS: "Do you mean you buy beef shin at the supermarket for your bulalo?"
LSC: "No, I buy beef brisket!"

JS: "Is that what you say? When you tell the meat person that you want to buy the beef?"
LSC: "Yes! I say, 'Please give me the beef brisket.'"
JS: "What does the beef brisket look like?"
LSC: "I don't know!"
JS: "Is it kind of shin-like? Like your calf muscle?"
LSC: "Um, I don't know. Kind of, I guess."

JS: "Then it's beef shin! Beef shin!"

LSC: "I don't know. I tell the guy beef brisket and he understands and gives me cut of meat that I like for my bulalo."
JS: "Okay. It's just different. It's a totally different part of the animal."
LSC: "I bought beef stew meat at Costco and they're not the same. They're very tough."

JS: "Okay. But it's like commenting somebody has nice legs but meaning breast, or vice-versa." (That was a bit of an exaggeration, but I have a point.)

LSC: "I just know I tell the guy beef brisket and he gives me beef brisket."

JS: "But it's totally different!"
LSC: "Okay!


So we have a discovery: "beef shin" has been masquerading as "beef brisket" in Chinese restaurants and supermarkets for a long time.

This is beef shin!

Beef shin is the cut of meat that Bill Buford (writer of Heat) says to use in peposo.

Beef shin, aka "Chinese beef brisket", is delicious. When cooked for a long time, like in those Cantonese braises, it becomes buttery and tender, with a luxurious mouthfeel, and most importantly, it's not overwhelmingly beefy. It seems like we've found our winner.

For this dish, we just cut the beef shin in large pieces. They'll all become buttery soft in the end.

And here they are in the poaching liquid.

I forgot to take a picture, but I added a bunch of cilantro stems into the liquid as well.

Foolishly, we started poaching the shin too late. Well, not our fault as we couldn't get home until 4pm or so. I thought, optimistically, that they would only need about 2 hours to cook.



Dinner, for me and JS at least, was at 9pm. I even had to wait until the next day to take a picture so there'll be natural light, my best friend.


Served on top of plain rice, of course, with lots of the poaching liquid (aka sauce).

Delicious. Although the meat looks stringy, it's not dry-stringy at all. The long simmering time just makes the beef so very melty and there is a little bit of the gelatinous coating on the beef that makes it feel luxurious.

You won't even know that the cow had been standing all day on these shin muscles.

Mama Dishes
Mama's Silkie Chicken ("Dyong Kwe")
Mama's Philippine-style Fruit Salad
Mama's Cilantro Beef Shin
Mama's Black Peppercorn Shortribs
Mama's Fish Head Soup
Mama's Giniling
Mama's Giniling, v4 and v5
Mama's Ampalaya (Bitter Melon)
Ma-Kut (Pork Bone) Soup

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Vogue Chinese Cuisine (April 19, 2008)

3779 Sexsmith Road
Richmond, BC V6X 3Z9
(604) 244-8885‎

Two reviewers: ts and js (but 9 diners)

I must say, wow, the pictures that I took here turned out pretty nicely. All bright and clear and such. Such a rare thing. =D

We ordered 11 (eleven) items.

We used to go to Vogue quite often when they first opened. The restaurant filled a void in our world. Prior to Vogue opening, the Taiwanese food that we used to go were primarily "small-eats" (xiao chr) restaurants, serving primarily noodle bowls and what we call "rice with topping" dishes (e.g. fried chicken leg with rice, minced pork sauce with rice, and so on).

Vogue was the only restaurant somewhat near to us that served Taiwanese fare other than the small-eats. Not to say that Vogue food is Taiwanese fine dining, because it is not. The food they serve is more home-cooking rather than fine.

Vogue fell out of our restaurant rotation a couple of years ago, after a couple of mediocre dinners. When we had relatives visiting from out-of-town, we alighted here and I personally was disappointed by the food. By chance, many of the dishes that fateful night we also ordered this time, after our hiatus of more than a year.

Saturday rolled along and feeling too lazy to cook dinner that night, we decided to head on out.

You must realize that going out to dinner for us is no small feat. First, there are 9 of us invading the restaurant, 3 of those are small children. Our group composition eliminates a LOT of restaurants. Two of our beloved small children have trouble sitting still for a couple of hours.

Then, of course, there is the problem of all of us agreeing on the type of food we want to have that particular moment. Of our LIMITED choices in restaurants, those that can accommodate us are Chinese, Japanese, and a few other ethnic Asian restaurants. Western restaurants -- those that are not CHAINS (aka those that do not serve crappy food)-- are out of the question.

Because we like to make it harder on ourselves, we NEVER PLAN IN ADVANCE that we are going to eat out on a particular day. This Saturday, around 5 in the afternoon, we were STILL deciding where to eat.

And lest you think that our decision-making process is some kind of concerted effort, kind of like Parliament or a board meeting where everybody sits together and discusses the problem at hand -- it is not. Our concensus-building process meanders and meanders and meanders, with people drifting in, usually, unhelpfully, to disagree, then drifting out again of the conversation.

I guess it is only by pure luck that, when we called Vogue at around 6 in the evening, they said they will take our reservation for 9 people, for 7:30 that night.

Ordering was left to yours truly. Since our beloved small children were getting hungry (or were already very hungry), I had to whiz through the menu and just picked dishes randomly, trying to order "kid-friendly" dishes.

3-Cup Chicken (san bei ji) is one of Vogue's signature dishes.

Whenever we go to a Taiwanese restaurant, we always order 3-cup chicken as this is one of Taiwan's best-known dishes. I remembered Vogue's 3-cup chicken to be very, very good, perhaps one of the best that I've ever had, when I tried theirs long, long time ago.

This time, I didn't quite like it as much. The sauce was too sticky for my taste and it was over to the sweet side. I remembered the previous 3-cup chicken to be very balanced, with the sweetness of the soy sauce balanced with the slight "smokiness" from the sesame oil, with the right acidic touches, and fragrant, fragrant notes of the sauteed ginger -- and the kicker, the Asian basil. This dish today pales in comparison to the 3-cup chicken of yore.

One thing we didn't order was another signature dish, the Spicy Pork Organ Stew. Well, the dish isn't exactly "kid-friendly." Not only that, but in our family, it wasn't very adult-friendly either. The only people who were going to eat the pork organ stew, had I ordered it, would be me and my father. I regretted not ordering the pork organ stew though: not only do I remember it as quite delicious, but I fear losing my "street cred" by sticking to safer dishes.

I told JS to order it anyway! It's not that big; finishing it between the two of them would've been fine. And besides, you know, for the blog! ;D

I love green onion pancakes. I ordered this version, with the beef rolled up inside with some hoisin sauce, because I thought the children would like it better. I thought this was a passable version (a tad too dry but too little lubricating hoisin sauce inside), but I wished I had ordered the green onion pancakes plain.

I didn't try this because I knew it would have hoisin inside. I usually like hoisin only sparingly, and from my experience, these beef roll-ups are too hoisin-y for me. I would've eaten plain green onion pancakes.

The above was Sweet and Sour Pork. Not bad. (Since I'm Chinese, "not bad" means "OK/edging towards good", haha.) It wasn't horrible like in other places where the pork would be all mushy and the sauce a terrifying red. So yeah, not bad at all.

This was shrimp with pineapples. I forget the exact name as it appears on the menu, but it's supposed to be a "Taiwanese kid favorite". I like these mayo-based dishes well enough. I finished off those pineapple pieces, I think.

Okay. Could be better. Not really a fan of this dish.

"Small Dragon Bun", of course, more famously known as "xiao long bao". I'm not much of a dumpling person, so I didn't actually eat this. According to our dumpling expert (haha), these were "OK", but not that good. He prefers the xiao long bao at Shanghai River.

This dish is called Sizzling Fish Fillets in Black Pepper Sauce. Or something close to that. (I don't remember if they identified the fish as "basa," a very thick, meaty, white-fleshed fish, as you can see from the picture). This was one of the dishes we ordered the last time we went to Vogue and I remembered it as a spectacular failure. I was hesitant to try this because of the memory of soggy, goopy batter and muddy-tasting fish.

This time, the batter held up quite nicely: the fish fillets were crisp and clean. The black pepper sauce could have been a touch more peppery for my taste.

I like black pepper sauce on anything. As I mentioned, growing up under a black pepper regime can do that to you. ;)

The strange looking thing on the left is actually a fish dish.


Cod with Roasted Bean Topping. I remember liking this better before. Or perhaps the bean topping was blander compared to the dishes I was eating. Not too sure. It was OK.

The "Hakka Mix" above was the pleasant surprise in this array of dishes. I don't recall having ordered this dish before, but TS insisted that we order this, and I'm glad we did!

This is similar to what I think of "chop suey" as, a-throw-things-in-wok-and-stirfy type of dish. The "mix" was firm tofu strips, pork slivers, Chinese celery, green onions, basil, squid (that might have been dried already), a tiny bit of chili peppers, garlic, and Asian basil. The final product was a very interesting, multi-faceted dish, delicious in the layers of flavours and the differences in texture.

I highly recommend this "Hakka Mix" and will be ordering this dish from here on end.

Sichuan Green Beans. This dish or any of its variations is a regular for us when eating at Chinese restaurants. How can one not like it?! This Vogue version was good.

Sliced Pork with Garlic Sauce. Mmmm! This is a FAVORITE dish of mine. This was good, although the sauce was a touch sweet. I would've preferred it to be more garlicky. Like, über-garlicky. But that's just me. Like black pepper, garlic is a "neutral" taste for me.

(Sliced pork with garlic sauce is my usual order at Cabin 5555, the #61 meal. In general and from the last time I've eaten there, I like the Cabin 5555 garlic sauce better. I tried making this at home, and my sauce turned out more like the Vogue version. The Cabin 5555 version is still an elusive beast.)

Another winner of a dish. This dish would be under vegetable dishes and it's just called "seasonal greens." You can pick and choose what type of greens you like. Usually, it's a choice between pea shoots, water spinach, and this vegetable, which is called "A-tsay" (translated "A-vegetable").

I really don't know how Chinese restaurants succeed in doing vegetables so well. As far as I can tell, these veggies are just stirfied in oil and garlic, but it just tastes so darn delicious. We can never imitate this at home. This dish was gobbled up, even by family members who are not very "vegetable-inclined." Just goes to show that vegetables are delicious, if they are prepared correctly.

I saved the best for last.

Yes, my favorite dish out of this whole meal was this vegetable dish! Who would've thunk it.

It was just so simple, so good, and as JS mentioned, something we can never do at home. I think this A-tsay may be called Taiwanese romaine?

So good.

With the amount of food we got, I was surprised that we got out of there at $15 per person. I guess Vogue is back into our restaurant rotation now? Next time, we will plan in advance and we'll call them for reservations at least a couple of hours in advance.

Yes, Vogue is definitely back in our limited restaurant-that-can-accomodate-all-of-us repertoire.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Carrot Cake

CSC, our resident "mommy", has recently taken up baking. We cajoled her into becoming a guest baking blogger. So, ladies and gentlemen, heeeeeeeeeeeerrrrree's CSC!!!

I really LOVE this America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (ATK).

I'm a newbie in the kitchen, so I don't really have much confidence in making anything edible. So KNOWING that America's Test Kitchen has already figured out the best and easiest way to do things gives me reassurance that as long as I follow their recipes, then I have a fairly good chance of success.

Plus, some of their baked goods recipes, you don't need a mixer! Just bowls, whisk and spatula. Easier when there's kids involved.

Also, the recipe book is in a binder. So it's easy take out and photocopy the recipe that we keep using. (I hate trying to fit a thick book in the photocopier and not "crack" the binding, don't you?) Buy it! =D

So, the carrot cake.

Dry ingredients:
2-1/2 cups flour
1-1/4 tspn baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/4 tspn cinnamon
1/2 tspn nutmeg
1/8 tspn cloves
1/2 tspn salt

The dry ingredients here were all measured using the "smallest common measure", meaning I was using 1/4 tsp to measure out the various spices and the 1/2 measuring cup to measure out the flours (and later, sugar and vegetable oil).

To whisk together:
4 large eggs, room temperature
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

I didn't like the brown sugar lumping together like this, so I had to fish them out and crumble them up. I wish I had crumbled them up first before incorporating with the eggs.

Next to whisk in:
1-1/2 cups vegetable oil

We needed 2 people here because the recipe said: "While whisking, slowly add the oil ..." So TS was whisking and I was pouring. Of course, I was really SLOW in pouring in the oil that TS had to say, "Just dump it all in!" Hahaha. When my kids and I did this the 2nd time, my son just poured "steadily" while I whisked. Turned out great!

Next was whisking in the dry ingredients into the wet.

I think the "hardest" most time consuming part of this recipe would be the grating of the carrots, but having a food processor with the grater attachment solved this problem.

1 pound carrots, peeled & grated

This batter is from the first cake. This first time we made the carrot cake, we had to stop just before we mixed the dry and wet ingredients together (dinner had to be made). So I placed the wet ingredients (eggs with sugar) in the refrigerator. When it was time to mix the wet & dry ingredients together, the resulting batter was quite thick and had to be manually spread out onto the pan.

The 2nd time we made the cake, the eggs were at room temperature when they were mixed to the dry ingredients. The recipe called for "eggs, at room temperature". The 2nd batter was still thick but had more fluidity to it that it "settled" to the corners of the pan by itself after a few seconds. So I didn't have to worry about "unevenness" with the 2nd cake (didn't have that at the 1st cake anyway, but I still worried).

I baked this in a 9 x 13" cake pan at 350 F. It was done in about 30 to 40 minutes.

The first cake was good, but a little tough. I did everything correctly for the 2nd cake. It was delicious!

CSC and CSC-collaborated blog posts:
Carrot Cake
Lemon Bars
Cheesecake-Marbled Brownies
Mario's Pine Nut and Ricotta Tart
Shanghai Potstickers, Faux Siu Mai and "Huo Tyeh" (aka CSC's Chinese Dumplings)
Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Quick and Rice Chocolate Frosting

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Today's mini-review day. Here are two short reviews.

BBT Cafe

Excellent Tofu

Excellent Tofu (Hao Hao)

4231 Hazelbridge Way (near Browngate Rd)
Richmond, BC V6X 3L7

Sometimes, after a particularly Chinese meal (what does that even mean?!), I get a hankering for "tofu/soy pudding" (dou hua).

I only ever go to Excellent Tofu. "Hao Hao" is their Chinese name; it translates as "good good". It's a good place with good soy products, run by good people (a family-run operation). They make their soy milk and soy pudding on-site.

Even though we don't go there that often, the "father" still remembers our orders, hehe. For JS, that would be just straight-up "plain soy pudding, cold".

Mine is the "soy pudding with evaporated milk, cold". Sometimes I ask for DOUBLE evaporated milk.

Mmmmm, evaporated milk!

I prefer mine with just regular sugar syrup. They have simple syrup, ginger syrup and brown sugar. I haven't tried the brown sugar before. Maybe I should. But, sometimes I don't want to mess with a good thing.

This particular night (after eating at Vogue), my mother came with us. She had "soy pudding with taro, hot", and she likes her pudding with ginger syrup. And here it is.

Besides soy milk and soy pudding, they have some "small eats" menu items. But of course, the soy products are the star. Their soy milk and soy pudding are also sold in to-go containers.

Good, good.

BBT Café (April 18, 2008)

5979 West Boulevard
Vancouver, BC V6M 3X1
(604) 568-2195‎

Two reviewers: ts and js

For our Vancouver Taiwanese small eats fix, we usually go to Cabin 5555 along West Boulevard (Vancouver).

Lately, though, something has been amiss. The last couple of meals I've had at Cabin 5555 seemed very lackluster, not quite up to standards.

The last time we ordered from Cabin 5555, I got their #61 meal (my usual). It's the sliced pork with garlic sauce. It was still OK/good. Not turn-off-y by any means, but not as spectacular as before.

update July 5, 2008:
I've had their #61 for a few times now after this writing, and their garlic sauce is back to its spectacular self.

Driving home from work the other day, and not having had lunch yet, we decided to drop in at the BBT Café, just further south on West Boulevard.

The demographics of the restaurant seemed a little different from Cabin 5555. I don't know: seemed like there were a lot of mothers and daughters walking in, or mothers and sons. Cabin 5555 had more of a teen group vibe.

I had the beef noodles, which I thought was forgettable. Not too special at all, and I've certainly had better beef noodle soups before.

I tasted this, and I must agree that it wasn't great at all. The broth didn't seem to have much flavor. Although, JS did point out that their beef pieces were better-tasting than others'. But, beef noodle soup is all about the beef soup for me. (I love beef broth!) So, this didn't cut it at all.

I ordered the black pepper chicken with rice. I thought it was one of those meals that comes in them bento-box like configurations, but no. (Although, why would some meals come like that (bento-ized), and the others, like this one, where it's just a plate with a mound of rice and the "topping", plus a few vegetables?)

Anyway, I don't know if the Taiwanese version of black pepper sauce is different from the Hong Kong-style cafe version, or if this is only BBT Café's version, but I didn't like it as much. Yeah, it was underwhelming.

But, I'm wondering if we picked the wrong dishes to order. I mean, the place is very busy and it's not that cheap (which sometimes is the explanation for such buzz).

So, maybe this place warrants another visit. Maybe.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Prawns with Tarragon and Orange

Simple French Meal, Dish #3

This was the last dish we had to prep. We were still debating what to do the prawns until about 2 minutes before we started. We determined that it was going to be a sautéed dish. In keeping with the "French" theme, I decided to use tarragon in this dish.

That there is JS peeling and deveining the prawns.

What happened to my hands? It seems like I don't have fingers!

Then, besides, the tarragon, what? What?!

I kept suggesting oranges, but for some reason JS kept shooting that down. "I hate oranges!", she said. But I persisted.

That's a lesson for the kiddies: If at first you don't succeed, try and try again.

The prep: zested an orange, chopped some tarragon, sliced some shallots.

This dish was so simple and fast. I heated up olive oil, then added the prawns. The shallots went in next. I waited until the prawns were almost cooked through, then added the tarragon and squeezed some orange juice into the pan.

And that was that.

My apprehension stems from the fact that oranges are too sweet for me! I don't like my food tasting like it's been doused in orange juice. I suppose TS worked her magic and pushed the dish towards the savoury side of the spectrum.


Perhaps my apprehension is unfounded. Save for a too-sweet orange-ginger beef a couple of years back, everything I've had with oranges have turned out all right. Hmmm.

In any case, this dish is a keeper.

I don't want to say it, but "I told you so!"

Oh, to round out our Simple French Meal, we just had salad of romaine with a simple "French" vinaigrette (Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, shallots, salt & pepper... and of course, olive oil).

Simple French Meal

Dish #1: Provençal Onion Tart
Dish #2: Pork Chops with Grainy Dijon and Capers
Dish #3: Prawns with Tarragon and Orange

[eatingclub] vancouver French food:
Trout Grenobloise
Provençal Onion Tart
Pork Chops with Grainy Dijon and Capers
Prawns with Tarragon and Orange
Herbes de Provence Sablé
Roast Pork Belly with Puy Lentils
Duck and Orange Crêpes with Orange-White Wine Sauce

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pork Chops with Grainy Dijon and Capers

Simple French Meal, Dish #2

When I think of pork chops, I think of it as "fast" food, something to cook when one is out of ideas. Provided, of course, that there are pork chops in the fridge.

In our house, pork chops are usually just pan-fried in a little olive oil and/or butter and they are good to go. My mother would sometimes rub thyme on the pork chops and pan-fry them in butter.

Given their convenience as fast food, I am surprised we don't have pork chops that often. We probably just have them once a month and there have been stretches of up to three months when we won't see them chops. I think we are still haunted by ghosts of pork chops past and these chops now just don't measure up.

I can still remember the pork chops I had in the Philippines growing up. Those pork chops were so good, so flavourful. Pork chops here seem to be lacking something: they are more of gray meat than anything else. When we had pork chops before, a little salt, a little calamansi, are all the chops need -- and, with a heap of white rice, we would have a heck of a great meal.

Oh, those halcyon days of youth and better-tasting pork! Where have you gone?

When we do have pork chops now, we have to find ways of boosting up their flavour, because they don't have much flavour on their own.

Well, I think this dish certainly falls under the "boosted-up flavor" category of food. Once again, so simple yet so good.

I patted the pork chops dry and seasoned each side. Onto the fry pan they went.

Next, I added come grainy dijon and capers to the pan and heated that a bit. They went onto the resting pork chops. That and the juices from the resting pork chops formed the sauce.

Two steps! I mean, really. I'm too good. ;D

This was sooo good.

You know, I wish we could post more "difficult" and "more complicated" recipes. Perhaps that would make for more interesting reading. =)

Well, we save those more involved recipes for the weekends, when we have more time and more energy to do them.

But then, I wouldn't trade the easy deliciousness of these dishes. I mean, everyday food should not be complicated at all. Something like pork chops with jus flavoured with mustard and capers takes 10 minutes to make, definitely quicker than ordering takeout or pizza.

These chops got the chops! (Especially the portions of fat-meat near or on the bone; the blandness of the pork itself notwithstanding.)

We'll keep searcing for more flavourful pork around these parts, but this dish, again, is a keeper. It's good as is.

As part of a meal with the prawns, I really don't have cause to complain much.

Simple French Meal

Dish #1: Provençal Onion Tart
Dish #2: Pork Chops with Grainy Dijon and Capers
Dish #3: Prawns with Tarragon and Orange

[eatingclub] vancouver French food:
Trout Grenobloise
Provençal Onion Tart
Pork Chops with Grainy Dijon and Capers
Prawns with Tarragon and Orange
Herbes de Provence Sablé
Roast Pork Belly with Puy Lentils
Duck and Orange Crêpes with Orange-White Wine Sauce

Monday, April 21, 2008

Provençal Onion Tart

Simple French Meal, Dish #1

Who knows if this is actually Provençal.

People on TV keep saying that puff pastry is so easy to find now, etc. etc. etc. However, that has never been the case for us. We go to supermarkets and all we see is that Tenderflake pastry, not made with butter! But finally, at Superstore, we saw a President's Choice brand puff pastry, and it was indeed made with butter. (I think there was also non-butter stuff in there, but at least it had real butter!) So, we snapped up 2 boxes of those.

Puff pastry: the possibilities are endless.

While perusing Gourmet, I saw they had an onion tart in their Provençal menu. I decided to make a Provençal Onion Tart!

I didn't really read the recipe, all I saw was that the topping had caramelized onions and Parmiggiano-Reggiano. (Hey! Parmiggiano-Reggiano?! Provençal, you say?)

The onions take long to caramelize, so I started that first. Three big onions were sliced and into a pan they went. Of course, I sneaked in a couple of garlic cloves in there, teehee. They just needed some occasional stirring.

After about an hour, they went from this to this.


It could've gone darker and more caramelized, but I had been waiting for it for so long already!

Upon opening the box of puff pastry, I discovered there were 2 packets in there. I decided to thaw just one. Then, we kind of forgot about it until the onions were almost done. I opened the packet and there was a "tiny" piece of puff pastry. Of course, it would've been better if I actually took a look at it before starting this whole tart, but that may be asking too much.

Since it seemed so small, I decided to roll it out (although, it was already fairly thin). Halfheartedly, maybe, as this uneven "rectangle" was the result.

I scored an edge and docked the middle. A thin layer of grainy mustard was spread. Back in the fridge it went to wait for the onions to finish.

In the meantime, I grated some Parmiggiano-Reggiano and made some basil chiffonade. I actually planned to just tear the basil, but they were grown-up basil, big and tough.


Post-oven. It went into a 400F oven. More cheese and basil went on top, et voilà!

This one is a keeper. When the tart came out from the oven, I looked at it and said, "Hey, it's just like the picture!"

left: Gourmet's tart; right: TS's tart

I love the caramelized onion topping. I was concerned that the onions would be too sweet, but I suppose TS worked her magic and pushed it over to the savoury side. The caramelized onions were great!

If there is anything, I would enjoy the onion topping more on a more substantial yeast-y, more dough-y, crust. The puff pastry ended up too thin and light for the onions.

True. But hey, this was supposed to be all about the puff pastry! Since the pastry was thin, this could've actually had a lot less filling/topping. Or, as JS mentioned, it could use a thicker crust.

All in all, this Simple French Meal is off to a great start.

Simple French Meal

Dish #1: Provençal Onion Tart
Dish #2: Pork Chops with Grainy Dijon and Capers
Dish #3: Prawns with Tarragon and Orange

[eatingclub] vancouver French food:
Trout Grenobloise
Provençal Onion Tart
Pork Chops with Grainy Dijon and Capers
Prawns with Tarragon and Orange
Herbes de Provence Sablé
Roast Pork Belly with Puy Lentils
Duck and Orange Crêpes with Orange-White Wine Sauce

LinkWithin Related Stories Widget for Blogs