Thursday, September 30, 2010

Finally Back to Blogging

When I just logged in, blogspot kindly reminded me it has been since March 28 that I last created an entry.  I felt the need to explain to blogspot with the end of law school, the bar exam, work, and of course Ben...I've been a little busy.  But now that life has settled back down, Ben is already one, I should get back to sharing my love of food and cooking for my family.  Not to say that I haven't been cooking all this time...I just couldn't quite bring myself to sit in front of the computer to write anymore than I did studying that whole time.

Banh Mi

So Jordan and I got hooked on the very end of the Great Food Truck Race on the Food Network.  The idea behind it is that operators of food trucks compete against each other for sales.  They are given the same amount of money in each city to buy ingredients and given a set amount of time to get as many sales as possible.  The winner is the one who makes the most money.  Surprisingly to me, one of the biggest successes was a truck called NomNom serving Vietnamese sandwiches called Banh Mi.  I had always been interested in having one because I think Vietnamese food is one of the most underrated Asian foods around.  Pho - beef noodle soup - is my favorite in the winter.

Now, my husband does not share my love of Vietnamese foods.  In fact - he and fish sauce (a common Vietnamese ingredient) don't get along at all.  Even a little bit of this savory sauce added to a dish he can taste.  So when throughout the Great Food Truck Race season he increasingly expressed an interest in trying the Banh Mi, I was rightfully skeptical.  I repeatedly explained that fish sauce was an ingredient in the sandwich, along with pate (another of my favorites and his not so favorite) but he persisted.  So this week, while reading Gourmet, I saw a recipe for Banh Mi.  (NOTE:  while Gourmet has sadly gone out of business, they are apparently publishing montages of previously published recipes in new forms) I had my doubts about this particular recipe - it used chicken instead of pork and included liverwurst.  Now I have never had liverwurst but more importantly - I didn't even know where to buy it.  So I doubled checked the recipe with and read the reviews...not so good.  By the way, the user reviews on Epicurious recipes are invaluable.  So I searched the website and found a new one...and it was far and away a success.  This sandwich has the beautiful balance of tastes: savory, sweet, sour, spicy - that all good Vietnamese food has.  Needless to say, despite the fish sauce, Jordan loved everything about the Banh Mi!

Hot Chili Mayo:
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)*

Stir all ingredients in small bowl. Season with salt. do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)*
  • 1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Line rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Gently mix all ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Arrange on baking sheet.
Preheat oven to 300°F. Heat sesame oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of meatballs. Sauté until brown and cooked through, turning meatballs often and lowering heat if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes. Transfer meatballs to another rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven. Repeat with remaining meatballs.
  • 2 cups coarsely grated carrots
  • 2 cups coarsely grated peeled daikon (Japanese white radish)**
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Toss first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, tossing occasionally.

  • 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
  • 4 10-inch-long individual baguettes or four 10-inch-long pieces French-bread baguette (cut from 2 baguettes)
  • Thinly sliced jalapeño chiles
  • 16 large fresh cilantro sprigs

Cut each baguette or baguette piece horizontally in half. Pull out enough bread from each bread half to leave 1/2-inch-thick shell. Spread hot chili mayo over each bread shell. Arrange jalapeños, then cilantro, in bottom halves. 
Fill each with 1/4 of meatballs. Drain pickled vegetables; place atop meatballs. 
Press on baguette tops.