Singapore Noodles

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My daughters recently met in Austin, Texas for a fun-filled extended weekend. They stayed an an adorable motel, and worked their way to bars and eateries in Austin for serious sister bonding.

For what was “probably one of the best meals ever,” was lunch at Elizabeth Street Cafe, which opened in South Austin in 2011. It’s a “little restaurant boasts sunny dining rooms and a shady garden patio and serves fresh breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as takeout.”

What’s interesting is that it’s a Vietnamese cafe and French bakery/boulangerie, so while you enjoy your ba´hn mi, you can order baguettes and macarons.

In anticipation of their mama’s upcoming birthday, my girls purchased the Elizabeth Street Cafe cookbook, and boy did I have trouble picking the first dish I’d make out of it. Except the macarons; I always leave those to the experts.

Finally I chose Singapore Noodles with shrimp and roasted pork, and it turns out that it was the first dish on the Elizabeth Street Cafe menu. It remains a best seller. The same noodles show up on their breakfast menu without the shrimp, but with sunny-side-up eggs on top.

I happened to have rice vermicelli noodles in my pantry. And they’re from Singapore!

Singapore Noodles with Gulf Shrimp and Roasted Pork

For the pork:
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons annatto seeds
1 pound pork shoulder or butt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

For the curry slurry:
1 tablespoon Madras curry powder
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon sriracha
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

For the noodles:
1/2 pound rice vermicelli
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 large white onion
1 jalapeño, stemmed, thinly sliced
1 Fresno or other red chile, stemmed, thinly sliced
12 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined
2 eggs
2 large handfuls cilantro
6 scallions, ends trimmed, thinly sliced
1 large handful watercress
1 lime, cut into wedges
Sriracha, for serving

In a small pot set over low heat, warm the oil, add the annatto seeds, and cook, stirring twice, until the seeds are fragrant and sizzling and the oil is brick red, about 5 minutes. Strain the oil through a sieve into a small bowl and discard the seeds. Cool the oil to room temperature.


Season the pork all over with the sugar and salt. Put the pork in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in the annatto oil. Squeeze all the air out of the bag so the oil completely covers the pork. Refrigerate and let marinate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Set a roasting rack over a sheet pan. Put the pork on the rack and drizzle whatever oil remains in the bag over the pork.

Roast until the pork is browned and tender, about 2 1/2 hours, turning it halfway through roasting. Remove the pork from the oven and let cool to room temperature; then cut into large bite-size pieces – discarding any large pieces of fat – and reserve. Reserve the bright red fat in the sheet pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together the curry powder, turmeric, fish sauce, sriracha, and ginger with 1/4 cup water. Let sit for 1 hour at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Line a plate with a clean cotton dish towel. Put the noodles in a large bowl of hot tap water and soak until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain the noodles and transfer to the lined plate. Place a second clean cotton dish towel on top of the noodles, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

In a large wok set over high heat warm the oil until smoking. Then add the reserved pork and cook until the meat is crisp on one side, about 3 minutes.

Add the onion, jalapeño, and Fresno chile and cook, stirring until the vegetables pick up some color, about 5 minutes.

Add the shrimp and cook until browned on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Add the reserved pork fat from the roasting pan and the noodles and stir rapidly to combine the ingredients in the pan. (If your pan is small, cook the noodles in 2 batches.)

Move the stir-fry to one side of the pan and crack the eggs into the pan, stirring with a wooden stpoon or chopsticks scramble the eggs and to incorporate them into the noodles.

Then stir the curry slurry and pour it over the noodles. Continue to stir and toss the noodles to evenly distribute the slurry. Stir in most of the cilantro and scallions and taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed.

Transfer the stir-fry to a serving platter, and place some of the shrimp on top of the noodles.

Top with the remaining cilantro and scallions and the watercress.

Serve immediately with the lime wedges and sriracha.

Oh my goodness, I could eat this dish every day. Probably for all three meals. I can’t really describe how good it is, but you can tell from the ingredient list.

The one thing I did differently was to roast the pork at a higher temperature for about 30 minutes. I think this was preferable to pork “baked” at only 350 degrees. Otherwise I wouldn’t change a thing!!!

Charred Carrots with Brie

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So, Facebook did it to me again! There it was, a post from Tasting Table, and a photo. An intriguing photo of what looked like charred carrot sticks. Then I read further.

It’s a photo of charred carrots, tossed with Brie, cayenne flakes, honey, and lemon juice. WOW! A sweet, spicy, smoky, cheesy, and tangy vegetable dish, by Tim Love.

Tim Love is a Texas chef best known for his “urban Western” cuisine, and more typically – meat and game. Not being familiar with him, I googled. He’s definitely not Tim Love, the plastic surgeon.

From chef Tim Love, “This is a dish that is actually the result of a little too much pink wine. I was cooking for a party and I drank a lot of rosé all day,” Love says with a laugh. “I forgot about the carrots under the broiler and had to figure out what to do with them — and it ended up being the most popular dish of the night.”

The most important part of this dish is charring the carrots, so don’t be afraid to get them dark. Since you aren’t tossing them while they roast, only one side will char, preventing them from tasting burnt. After you toss them with the Brie, honey and lemon juice, make sure to transfer the carrots to the platter without any of the accumulated liquid. That way the vegetables stay crisp.”

Charred Carrots with Brie

4 medium carrots
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 ounces triple-cream Brie (rind removed), roughly chopped
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat the broiler to 500°. (Don’t forget to have a rack on the top shelf in the oven like I did!)

Cut the carrots into cut into 4-by-½-inch sticks.

In a medium bowl, (I used a large Pyrex bowl) toss the carrots with the oil and cayenne pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper.


Transfer to a baking sheet and spread the carrots out into a single layer.

Cook until the tops of the carrots are well charred, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Immediately, add the Brie, honey and lemon juice to the bowl with the carrots, and toss to combine. (I used the same Pyrex bowl to toss the hot carrots with the other ingredients.)

Let sit for 2 minutes to allow the Brie to melt, then toss to incorporate.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the carrots to a platter, leaving any liquid behind.

Serve immediately.

To say these carrots are fantastic is an understatement. The flavor profile is incredible.

I will be making this recipe again, and experimenting with sweet potatoes and Cambazola, especially as it gets closer to the holidays! Thanks Chef Love!

Chili

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I didn’t have chili, or even hear about it, until I was in my early twenties, after moving to Texas. In “Big D,” it wasn’t long before I was initiated. There still exists a well-known restaurant that specializes in chili, too, called Tolbert’s, that co-workers took me to for my chili introduction. (I thought their chili only adequate…)

The first time I made chili, I followed the recipe in The Great West. It was one of the many books of the Foods of the World series put out by Time-Life a million years ago.
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If I hadn’t made it myself, I might have hated chili. Not to sound horribly critical, but have you ever been to a chili cook-off?!! Oh my. Such terrible chilis. Really inferior meat, chili too often watery, and horribly under-seasoned to top everything off.

But no, I followed a recipe, and fell in love with chili.
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There are a few things about chili about which I feel strongly. The meat, the liquid, and the tomatoeyness.
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First of all, the meat has to be good quality. I’m not saying use beef tenderloin. On the contrary, a good chuck works well. You need some fat, and you need a meat that can hold up to a couple hours of cooking. What I personally don’t like is ground beef. It pretty much dissolves, and you’re left more with a beef sauce than a chili. I like chunks!

Secondly, chili, in my book, should be meaty and thick. That means very little liquid. You need some beef broth in which to cook the beef, but you don’t want to serve the beef drowning in broth. Otherwise, it’s beef soup.

Thirdly, many people think that chili requires lots of tomatoes. Much to the contrary, chili doesn’t have a tomato base to it because it’s not a beef stew – it’s a chili. It’s different.

I might mention a fourth aspect of chili that many people can’t agree on – and that’s the addition of beans. There is the no-bean camp and the bean camp. There is only one reason that I add beans to chili, and that’s the health factor. It’s a no-brainer to me, but good chili is good either way!

Chili

5 pounds beef chuck, trimmed
Oil or bacon fat
Salt and pepper
2 onions, chopped
10 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground chipotle
2 tablespoons ground New Mexico chile powder
2 tablespoons ground ancho chile powder or 2 tablespoons home-made ancho chile paste
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, optional
16 ounces beef broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cans kidney beans, drained well, optional

Cut up the beef into small pieces. They don’t have to be perfectly uniform in size.
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Place a large Dutch oven on the stove. Add some oil, and turn up the heat to high. When the oil is hot, begin browning the beef in batches. Add a generous amount of salt, and some pepper. Brown, moving the beef around occasionally, until very little pink remains.


Although browning each batch of meat takes a while and is a tedious process, it has to be done this way. If too much meat is added to the pot at one time, it lowers the internal temperature of the pot, and instead of browning, liquid is produced and the meat poaches instead. We don’t want that.

When meat is nicely browned, remove it to the bowl, and continue with the remaining meat, adding oil as necessary with each batch.

After browning all of the meat, turn down the heat to medium and add a little oil to the pot. Add the onion and sauté for about 4 minutes.


Then add the minced garlic, the seasoning, and stir well. The mixture will be dark and rich. Cook it for about one minute.

Then add the beef broth and stir to combine, scraping all the caramelized bits of browned meat that have stuck to the bottom of the pot. Carefully return all of the meat to the pot, including any juices that have accumulated. Stir well.
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Bring the chili to a boil, cover the pot, lower the heat, and simmer for at least 2 hours. At that time, remove the lid and look at the chili. The beef will have shrunk in volume. If you think there is too much liquid in the chili, raise the heat a bit and let the liquid reduce for maybe 15 minutes or so, uncovered.

Then stir in the tomato paste and the drained beans and heat through. Taste for seasoning. You might need more salt, but taste first!
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There are probably many different opinions regarding what to put on chili. I personally love the addition cheese, and chopped purple onions.
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But sour cream is a lovely addition as well.
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However you serve it, enjoy the richness of the chile peppers and other seasoning that flavor the beef.
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Cajeta Crêpes

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I’ve only had cajeta crêpes at one restaurant, and that restaurant is Javier’s, in Dallas, Texas. They’re so good we keep ordering them when we’re lucky enough to go there, even when we’ve overeaten after appetizers and dinner. And we’re not even dessert people!

They’re very simply prepared and served – crêpes folded in quarters, topped with cajeta*, which is essentially caramel made from goat’s milk.

I’ve been going to Javier’s since shortly after I moved to Dallas, which was in 1978, for my first job. It was the first time I learned about cajeta. But it was in the book, New Southwestern Cooking, by Carolyn Dille and Susan Belsinger, where I saw the first recipe for cajeta. The book was published in 1985, and I still reference it.
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However, their recipe is involved, and I’m not sure why. Cajeta is simply the reduction of goat’s milk with sugar. But in their recipe, some of the sugar is caramelized first, and then added to the milk, which is a combination of goat and cow milk. Plus, their recipe includes cornstarch and baking soda. Maybe I’ll try it one day.

But for now, here’s my version of cajeta. Just like many of the best recipes, this dessert is so simple, yet so perfect.

Cajeta Crêpes

1 dozen prepared crêpes
24 ounces (2 – 12 ounce cans) goat’s milk
3/4 cup sugar

Combine the goat’s milk and sugar in a medium-sized enamel pot. Stir well, then turn on the heat and simmer over the lowest possible heat. It will take about 1 1/2 hours to complete.
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Continue stirring with a rubber spatula throughout this process, scraping down the sides of the pot occasionally. A whisk isn’t necessary, because any cajeta that is scraped off of the pot sides gets remelted into the bulk of the hot cajeta.
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You can see the goat’s milk and sugar mixture get darker and thicker as it reduces, until it’s ready to use. The cajeta should be still a little thin when it’s hot, but it will thicken as it cools slightly.
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Have the prepared crêpes on the serving plate, and drizzle the warm cajeta over them.

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Serve these crêpes warm or at room temperature.
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They would also be good with some whipped cream, but it’s totally unnecessary to me.

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*It’s really hard to decipher the difference between cajeta and dulce de leche. The very similar product is made in Spain, Mexico, and in many South American countries. Sometimes it’s only from cow’s milk, sometimes only goat’s milk, and sometimes a blend of both. I’m sure they’re all good, but I like my cajeta from pure goat’s milk!

note: This recipe can be doubled or tripled. I just didn’t want to make a huge batch. This recipe made almost 1 1/2 cups.
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