Steamed Chinese Dumplings

Chinese dumplings

Steamed Chinese dumplings are my downfall. There are few things I eat that give me as much pleasure as these wonderful creations that disappear as quickly as I can make them. Doesn’t matter whether I’m hungry or not, doesn’t matter when the dumplings appear, nothing really matters. If I’m there and the dumplings are there, they disappear and I’m happier for it.

I don’t much remember the first time I had dumplings, but I can tell you two of my most memorable dumpling fests. The first was an occasion in China, when a friend invited my wife and I over to their house to make dumplings. Now going to an apartment in China was a big step for us. That stuff didn’t happen very often, and to go for dumplings, that was a special deal — at least for me. What I didn’t know, is that I’d have to help make them, and that, was, at the very least, funny. I eventually learned how to make a passable pleating to hold the dumplings together and the rest — including the recipe for the filling — was very wonderful.

The second, was also in China, and a friend and I had gone to the Great Wall, and an old friend who was our guide, was bringing us back from there and pulled into a restaurant, ordered something in Chinese, and in a short while, out came the most gigantic plate of dumplings I’d ever seen. I thanked the chef, as I recall, and with three of us working on them, they didn’t last very long. As we were leaving, the chef brought another box of dumplings for us to have later. Amazing.

The steamed dumplings are about as close to the original as I could make them. I have to confess I did use frozen dumpling skins, but the truth is, their as good as any I’ve ever had and they are so much more convenient. If you want to make your own, there are plenty of online articles for that.

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Sous Vide Pork Chop with Brine

Sous Vide Pork Chop with Brine

I’ve no doubt mentioned this on more than a few posts, but you really have to try out a sous vide machine to understand what a great pork chop can mean. Seriously, I’ll never have a non-sous vide pork chop again, ever. But that said, there are a few things that can take even a good pork chop to a new level, and that’s with a simple, really good brine. With just a little bit of time, you can make a pork chop that has great taste, great temp control and with a broiler or one of those great little searing machines, you end up with something very special.

I’ve had brine explained to me a few times and while I understand how it works, to me it seems that some of the salt ought to be going into the pork, but the truth is, it really doesn’t. What the brine does do — and you can soak the pork for as little as a half-hour or as long as four hours — is add a lot more liquid to the chops and even a little flavor, if you like. Add the brined chops to a sous vide machine and the only thing you’re missing is a bit of color (which is where the broiler comes in). At about 140 degrees for about two hours, the chops are pretty much ready to go. And I promise, they are better than you’ve ever had. Period.

FYI: This brine came from @kitchn, but you can use any brine you like.

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Center Loin Pork with Buttermilk Sauce

Pork with Buttermilk Sauce

The trick to making a good pork loin is really pretty simple. First, keep the preparations as easy as you can. Second, just don’t overcook the pork. And that’s what this pork with buttermilk sauce does exceedingly well. 

No kidding guys, this turns out extraordinarily beautiful, with just a little bit of chicken stock and buttermilk at the end. It doesn’t require much in the way of spices or other things going on. The pork is just coated with some flour with garlic and onion salt and baked until just done (start checking it around 15 minutes or so). Then make the sauce, coat the pork and add a little parsley at the end.

It’s fairly quick and so easy just about anyone can do it, but the taste is perfect.

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Effortless Pork Chop Braise

effortless pork chop braise

I’ve never been a big fan of pork chops, as a general rule. In fact, there really is only one other pork chop recipe on Discovery Cooking in the two-plus years I’ve been writing here. Part of that is that it’s really a difficult task to get a chop that’s  not too dry or just unfit to eat, really. But I came across a really simple pork chop recipe that, for some reason, I just had to try, in part because it was a simple evening meal that for some reason just seemed like I had to give it a shot. The results were very good. Even excellent, in fact.

This recipe uses  chops that are very thick. If all you can find at the grocery are thin, under an inch thick, stop by the meat counter and ask for something at least an inch and a half or maybe two inches or more. You’ll be glad you did. The rest of the recipe is fairly simple, with mainly tomatoes and a bit of anchovies, and some polenta, rice or noodles to soak up the juices. 

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Smoked Pork and Pineapple (“Swineapple”)

smoked pork and pineapple

There are occasions when someone or something brings something that’s so new (at least to you) that you just simply have to try it out. And that’s where this smoked pork and pineapple dish came from. My understanding of this dish is that it was “born” by a guy named Josh Bush, who isn’t a chef, but an apparently very good griller and smoker. Since then, of course, it’s now been posted and improvised and made into a dozen similar and different variations, so why  not? I think I’ll give it a try.

To start with, this recipe involves just three main components: Some pork (generally pork butt or something similar to that), a pineapple, and a bunch of bacon. What you do with the pork (and maybe the bacon) is what brings this thing to life and there is a long list of things that could work. In my case, I decided to use a bit of the barbecue sauce that my wife often uses for our pulled pork dish, smeared inside and out. After that, it’s mainly finding a great way to smoke the meat. I used an old fashioned barbecue bowl with smoke on one side and the meat on the other. Use what works for you and go as slowly as you can. I’ve actually seen these things smoked for up to five hours. Mine didn’t take quite so  long.

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Awesome Pork Chops in Lime/Garlic Marinade

pork chops

As I said last week, there are quite a few ways to grill without involving beef or chicken, and here is yet another: a lime and garlic marinated rib-on pork chops. These are amazing, thick sliced pork chops and somehow, keeping the ribs on them really adds some special flavor to them. The one’s I get come from Niman’s, but I’m relatively sure you can find them or ask for them at a butcher shop.

And like a lot of great grilling recipes, these pork chops come with just a little bit of lime and garlic dressing that gives them some zing but without over-powering them. A little garlic, cumin, some smoked paprika and a little lime is all that’s really needed for this, and it goes very well with some beans baked with bacon, brown sugar and a little honey. It could also go well with a Mexican flair, by adding some rice and avocados or maybe a great salad. The key here, however, is to keep things relatively mild so the pork chops stand out.

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Pad See Ew (Pork, Seafood, BBQ)

Pad See Ew

It took me a good long time to come up with my own Pad See Ew. Not that the recipe was too easy, but I tried for a year or more to get the recipe perfectly, and that really drove me about half nuts. And that, my friends, is where the trouble was. Too understand how that happened, here’s the story:

The story begins with a small little restaurant nearby that sold the best Pad See Ew I’d ever had. I loved the stuff. It was juicy, had these big broad noodles, and had an amazing smoky taste I have never had anywhere. So, of course, the lovely restaurant wasn’t about to let  this little secret out, so for better than a year I went looking for that smoky flavor, only to find myself right back to where I started (and don’t start on the those amazing broad noodles, which can be found but not easily). 

In the end, it was apparent: I wasn’t going to figure out the amazing flavorings from the restaurant, so the next step was to figure out my own little taste and give that a try. This one is a little different in the taste, of course, but it’s easy and very straight forward to make. And as soon as I can find those damn broad noodles, I’ll include those as well, but for now the thinner noodles will have to do.

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