All Articles by Tony

126 Articles

“Messy” Grilled Chipotle Shrimp Salad

As I get older, I get lazier, or maybe I get just better at doing more, simply. However you call it, the things I tend to make at home these days are rustic and easy and taste good and that’s all that matters to me. Take my grill formula of choice this summer: skewered salads. They are “messy” compared to your standard composed summer salad, but the impromptu, tossing element to this approach connects the disparate flavors and textures, making these “messy salads” almost like an inverse marinade.

The method is easy and you can adapt it to your preferences: grill small pieces or meat, fish, and vegeatbles on skewers and then toss with herbs or baby greens, summer vegetables – raw or grilled as you like – and some sort of quick but intense vinaigrette. The heat of the food just off the grill pulls together the disparate flavors, creating a semi-wilted, intensely flavorful salad.

  1. Heat the grill and get prepped: Heat a gas grill to medium-high or prepare a medium charcoal fire. Peel and devein 1 lb. shrimp (preferably 16-20 ct). Sprinkle generously with S+P (about 1 tsp. and 1/2 tsp.). Thread onto metal skewers (or on wooden skewers that have been soaked in cold water for 20 min) and brush with 1 Tbs. olive oil. Grab a large salad bowl and set it out on the countertop. Husk 2 ears corn, taking care to remove all of the silk, then slice all of the kernels off into the bowl. Halve 1 pint grape tomatoes, lengthwise and add them to the corn kernels. Cut the stems off of 2 bunches cilantro and, using your fingers, tear into smaller sprigs and drop into the bowl.
  2. Grill the shrimp: Grill the shrimp, undisturbed for a couple of minutes, until they easily release when you pick up an edge, 2-3 min. Flip and cook the other sides until the shrimp are just cooked through, about 4 to 5 min total.
  3. Toss and serve: Using kitchen mitts and tongs, slide the shrimp into the bowl with the herbs and corn. Add 4 Tbs. olive oil, 1 lime (juiced),  1  canned chipotle chili (minced) and 1 Tbs. adobo sauce (from the can) . Toss well, scatter 2 avocados (diced) on top, and serve alone or atop quinoa, brown rice, or a tortilla (as I do).

Grilled Green Beans with Sweet Corn and Peppers

tonyr_cook_k Tony writes:  There are three kinds of vegetables in this world: those that grill well, those that don’t (think caulilfower or radishes), and a 3rd group that doesn’t grill well but could if you could only figure out the logistics. Green beans are the figurehead of this last group: they grill up beautifully once you get a system down (to avoid losing any though the grill grates and cook them all the way through- see below). And grilled green beans are wonderfully versatile, the perfect lead in a July 4 salad that at once screams, “I love vegetables!” and “I love America!”  Here’s how:

– Grilling non-grilling stuff: The trick to grilling green beans is to employ some kind of cross-hatched rack to ensure that the beans stay comfortably above the grill. On a whim, I recently picked up one of these new-fangled grill baskets at the hardware store and did a side-by-side efficacy test with one of my old baking racks. The latter (just flipped over and set flat on the grill grates) won in a landslide – I didn’t lose one green bean. The $15 grill basket was only so-so; a handful of green beans slipped out the sides and bottom of the basket.

The Recipe: Serves 8 as a side dish. beans.1 1. Prep the vegetables: Prepare a medium charcoal fire or light up the gas grill to medium-high. Snap off the stems of 1 1/2 lb green beans. Core 2 red bell peppers (about 1 lb) and cut in 2-inch strips. Husk 3 ears corn (taking care to remove all of the silk). beans.2 2. Grill the vegetables:  Flip a cooling rack over and set flat on the grill grates. In three separate bowls. toss the beans, peppers, and corn with 3 Tbs. olive oil, 1 tsp. kosher salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper. Set the beans and peppers on the rack and the corn directly on the grates. Grill the beans, flipping/stirring with tongs, until they blister and brown and turn bright green (but not all-out burn), about 5 min total; transfer to a large bowl. Grill the peppers, flipping every couple of min, until they are tender and browned, about 8 min; transfer to a large plate. Grill the corn, rolling over every min or two, until it’s browned, about 8 min; transfer to a large plate to cool.beans.33. Marinate the peppers and prep the corn: Drizzle the peppers with 4 Tbs. olive oil and 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar and sprinkle with 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme and let sit for 10 min. Meanwhile, using a paring knife, slice the corn kernels off the cob and transfer to the bowl with the beans.beans.4 4. Toss and serve: A dd the red pepper (and the oil-vinegar mixture) to the green beans and toss with 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint. Add more oil, vinegar, mint, salt and pepper to taste and serve sprinkled with crumbled feta if you like. beans.5

Spicy Fried Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon

Alison writes: I have always wanted to know how to make fried chicken for the occasional craving, but the only time I’ve tried, the thighs and drumsticks  were greasy and undercooked. I’m thinking I should try boneless breasts instead. Suggestions?

Tony’s take: Fried chicken is the Everest of home-cooking… or, at least, that really long family camping trip you’ve debated taking for years: if it’s successful, it’s monumentally triumphant. But if it goes bad, it’s a real mess and leaves the whole house smelling fried. You’re right to distinguish between chicken parts and breasts. Frying bone-in pieces is closer to the Everest end of the equation. You need to keep the oil at a consistently high temperature (above 350F) for a long period of time  so the chicken cooks through, but doesn’t get greasy (which is what happens when the temp drops well below 350F) – and in this scenario, avoiding the whole fried-house smell is a near impossibility. Breasts are quicker to cook through. And if you cut them into manageable chunks (about 1 inch), the whole process isn’t much more demanding than a saute.

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The tricks: The first trick in this method is to eschew bone-in chicken and think smaller. Shrinking fried chicken down to small chunks has a bunch of advantages. The cook time is quick (about 3 minutes) and the process easy (you can use a small pot and just work in a couple of batches); this also means less oil used and dumped… and less fried house smell! Perhaps best of all, these fried chunks are the perfect vehicle for big, bright flavors. And this is the second trick to this technique: after frying, you can toss the chicken pieces with intense, pantry ingredients – citrus, aromatics like garlic or ginger, fresh herbs, chiles, etc… The battered coating will soak up the flavors and become nuanced and dressy, but still wonderfully fried. Here’s how:

Serves 4. Prep time: 15 min. Cook time: 10 min.

1. Season: You can season fried chicken before and/or after cooking. For the boneless chunks approach, I prefer to do much of the flavoring after cooking (step 5). Before cooking, I keep it simple – just salt and pepper – so the chicken tastes like chicken.  Cut up 1 1/4 lb. chicken breasts into 1-inch pieces. Toss with 1 tsp. kosher salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper and 1/4 tsp garlic powder if you like – I know, it sounds hacky, but the garlic powder will add a little nuance.

2. Heat the oil: I like to fry with flavor-neutral oils that have a high smoke point – like canola oil or peanut oil – though you can certainly go with olive oil or grapeseed oil if you’re feeling flush. Fill a large saucepan or medium pot with canola or peanut oil so it’s somewhere between 1 and 2 inches deep (about 3 cups). Heat the oil over medium heat until it hits 350F (use a candy thermometer to check; if you don’t have a thermometer, test the oil’s heat with a piece of chicken – when you drop it in, it should start aggressively bubbling). Adjust the heat so it maintains this 350F and doesn’t keep climbing; on my stovetop, this means holding at around medium heat.

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3. Batter: The advantage of battering (or dipping the chicken in a sticky paste) instead of breadcrumbs is that the chicken picks up a light uniform coating with a lot less work than the flour-egg-breadcrumb practice. Battering also produces a coating perfect for meshing with other flavorings (it kind of sponges them up). To make the batter, mix 1 cup corn starch with 1 egg and 1/4 cup water using a heavy whisk until the mixture becomes uniform but thick – almost as thick as pancake batter. Add a splash of water as needed to loosen the mixture – and plan on whisking before dunking each batch of chicken.

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4. Shallow-Fry: There is not much to this. The chicken pieces are small enough that by the time they brown lightly, they should be cooked through. You don’t want to crowd the pot (which would cause the oil temp to drop precipitously or the oil, itself, to boil over); work in batches, so there’s a single layer. Add 1/3 to 1/2 of the chicken to the oil one piece at a time using tongs; if you add them in clumps, they’ll form little rafts of chicken that are tough to break up. Cook, flipping the pieces, until they’re lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Cut into a thicker piece to check. Drain on a plate lined with paper towel, then toss with the flavorings below. Repeat with the remaining chicken.

5. Toss with Flavorings: There is a moment, just after you’ve fried food where it’s steaming hot and open to take on other flavors. This is the time to season it with salt and a handful of intense pantry flavorings: the crisp chicken steams/heats the flavorings, soaking up their essence. Here are two of my favorite combinations.

Lemon, Rosemary, and Hot Chiles: Add to a large bowl 1 garlic clove (thinly sliced), 1 sprig rosemary (peel off the leaves), 1 dried chile (like a chile de Arbol, coarsely chopped) and the zest of 1 lemon (shave it into 1-inch strips using a peeler). Toss well with the fried chicken and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing.

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Chinese Black Beans, Ginger, and Scallions: Add to a large bowl 1 Tbs fermented black beans (coarsely chopped; saute them with a little peanut oil for 1 minute to smooth out their flavor if you like), 1 Tbs. chopped fresh ginger, 1 jalapeno (thinly sliced) and 3 scallions (thinly sliced). Toss well with the fried chicken.

Stir-Fried Chicken with Black Beans and Thai Basil

Amanda asked: I’ve exhausted my repertoire of weeknight chicken recipes. Any suggestions? As a point of information, I swoon for stir-fries.

Tony’s take: Thanks for the question, Amanda! I’m with you on the stir-fry love.  I’m also always tinkering with some sort of chicken  method. My latest fixation  involves using a food processor to dice up boneless thighs for stir-fries and sautes. This coarse grind, when cooked quickly (with high heat), has a wonderful texture that’s very different from the insipid ground chicken you find at the market. Pair it with an intense mix of black beans, sauteed shiitakes, and Thai basil and you get an easy dinner that is definitely swoon-worthy. Here’s how:

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– The chicken: Cutting chicken thighs by hand is a slippery, squirmy endeavor. Also, I generally avoid chicken thighs in stir-fries because the fatty patches don’t cook through in time. But a food processor changes both scenarios. It makes easy work of the thighs, pulsing the meat into a coarse dice that cooks quickly in stir-fries; the fatty patches melt away.  To “grind” the chicken in a food processor, cut boneless thighs into 1-inch pieces and freeze for 15 minutes, so the chicken firms up (so it “grinds” easier). Using the pulse button and working in batches, pulse the chicken 8 times or so, or until it’s coarsely chopped.

– The method: The rest of this stir-fry is relatively straight-forward. The sauce is a light mix of shaoxing wine (use dry sherry as a substitute), black bean sauce, and sesame oil. A sprinkling of Thai basil gives the stir-fry an exotic edge (regular basil is fine). And shiitakes and shallots offer depth. While you have it out, use the food processor to prep the latter (after washing the work bowl well). Following a similar technique (minus the freezing), finely pullse the shallots and shiitakes and a jalapeno by pulsing in the food processor.

The Recipe: Serves 4.

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1. “Grind” the chicken. Trim 1 1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs of any excess fat. Cut into 1-inch pieces, set on a large plate and transfer to the freezer to firm up (ie: semi-freeze) for 10 min.  Add half of the chicken to a food processor and pulse until the chicken is finely diced, about 8 pulses. Transfer to a large bowl and dice the remaining chicken. Toss the chopped chicken with 1 Tbs. soy sauce, 1 Tbs. shaoxing wine (or dry sherry), 1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil, and 1 tsp. kosher salt.

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2.. Chop the vegetables: Stem 7 oz. shiitakes and add to a food processor. Pulse until the mushrooms are finely chopped, about 8 pulses.  Add 2 shallots (peeled and quartered) and 1 jalapeno (cored and quartered) to food processor and pulse until chopped.

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3. Stir-fry the chicken: Set a large heavy-based skillet over medium-high heat for 1 1/2 min. Add 1 1/2 Tbs. peanut oil (or canola oil) and, once it’s shimmering hot, add the chicken in a flat, uniform layer. Cook, undisturbed, until the chicken starts to brown and easily releases when you flip pieces with a spatula, about 2 min. Cook, now chopping and breaking up the chicken with the spatula, until it loses all of its raw color and is mostly cooked through, 2 to 3 more min. Transfer the chicken to a large plate.

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4. Stir-fry the vegetables: Add another 1 Tbs. peanut oil to the pan (still set over medium-high heat) and the diced shallot-jalapeno mixture. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. kosher salt and cook, stirring, until the shallot softens and browns lightly, 1 to 2 min. Add the chopped shiitakes, sprinkle with another 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms soften completely, about 2 min.

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5. Toss and sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together 2 Tbs. soy sauce, 1 Tbs. shaoxing wine (or dry sherry), 1 Tbs. sesame oil, 1 Tbs. black bean sauce, and 2 tsp. granulated sugar. Return the chicken to the pan along with this soy mixture and 10 Thai basil leaves (or conventional basil leaves; coarsely chopped). Cook, tossing, until the sauce coats the chicken and the chicken cooks through completely, 2 to 3 min. Serve immediately.

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Cast-Iron Skillet Pizza with Italian Sausage and Hot Cherry Peppers

tonyr_cook_k  Tony writes: I’ve become slightly obsessed with cooking pizza in cast-ironWhy cast-iron? It retains heat well (think Chili’s fajitas), so the dough gets a crisp crust and a nice, puffy texture. Over the last while, I’ve been tinkering with the method for both a regular pie and deep-dish and each is relatively easy, This cast-iron technique entails two more steps than your basic pizza method: pre-heating the pan and blind-baking the crust (see below). After that, just top the pizza amply and bake until the cheese bubbles and browns: home pizza that looks and feels like a pizzerias’.

– “Blind-bake”Blind-baking, or pre-cooking a crust without its toppings, is standard procedure with pies (pie pies like blueberry pie or apple pie). I like to follow this technique with cast-iron pizza. I don’t full-on cook the dough through, just lightly brown it (about 8 minutes) to ensure the bottom crust doesn’t have a soft, doughy texture once the toppings get added. After this initial browning, I add the toppings to the browned shell and finish baking.

Photo Note: The recipe below is for my favorite deep-dish pizza pairing (sausage and cherry peppers), but the pictures are for my favorite photogenic pairing (broccoli, pepperoni, and mushrooms). Use the base recipe and then you do you with the toppings.

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The recipe (Serves 4) 

1. Make the dough: Measure out 3/4 cup lukewarm water (technically, it should be 100F to 110F; if the water is warm-ish, you’re good) and mix in 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar and 1 tsp. active dry yeast (about half a packet). Let sit for 10 min to check that the yeast is alive and well (the top of the liquid will foam and thicken). Add 2 cups all-purpose flour (10 oz.) and 3/4 tsp. kosher salt to a food processor (or standmixer) and pulse (or whisk gently) to mix. Still pulsing (or whisking), pour in 2 Tbs. olive oil and the yeast mixture. Pulse (or whisk) until the mixture comes together into a uniform dough. Adjust with a splash of water or flour if the mixture is wet or crumbly and dry). On a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough for 2 or 3 min so it becomes uniform and elsasticky; it should spring back when pressed. Transfer to a large, lightly oiled bowl, top with a dish towel, and hold somewhere warm until it doubles in size, about 1 hour; or hold in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.

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2. Organize the toppings: This is really up to you; far be it from me to tell you how to top your own pizza. I like 1/2 lb. roasted Italian sausage (cut in 1/2-inch pieces) 3/4 lb blend of cheeses (Parmigiano, mozzarella, and fontina), 2 cups tomato sauce (2 cups whole, peeled tomatoes, pureed in a food processor and seasoned with salt, pepper, and fresh basil, and 2 jarred hot cherry peppers.

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3. Roll out and blind bake the dough: Heat the oven to 425F; give the oven at least 30 min to properly preheat. Set a 12-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven for 10 min to heat. Meanwhile, on a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out into an 18-inch round. Brush the top side with 2 Tbs. olive oil. Using an oven mitt, remove the skillet from the oven and set on a trivet or dish towel.  Using both hands (without the mitt now), transfer the dough (oiled sound down) into the skillet; use a small heatproof spatula (or carefully with your fingers) press the dough to fit the contours of the pan; against and up the sides. Use the tines of a fork to lightly mark the dough (this will prevent it from puffing), brush with some more olive oil (especially the edges) and transfer to the oven. Bake until the dough browns lightly, 8  to 10 min.

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4. Top and bake: Sprinkle half of the cheese on the dough, top with half of the meat or vegetables, and half the sauce. Repeat, reserving the remaining sauce for after baking. Bake until the cheese bubbles and browns and the pie cooks through, about 20 min. Top with the remaining sauce and let cool for a couple of minutes; then cut into wedges and serve.

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Broiled Ancho Flank Steak Tacos with Charred Chiles and Onions

Bill writes: I’ve grilled steaks and I’ve pan-seared steaks, but I’ve never broiled them. Any tricks to the process? I already have flank steak and peppers and was kind of hoping to make them into tacos. Thoughts?

Tony’s take: Thanks for writing, Bill! Broiling’s quick searing heat is kinda like indoor grilling, especially when you’re house-bound and desperate in the dead of winter (It’s -1F in Boston today). There are a couple of tricks to broiling meat – like making sure the steak is completely dry so it properly browns and positioning the broil pan relatively close to the broiler – about 4 inches – so it sears quickly), but these steps are easy enough. And your plan is perfect: hit the steak with a spice rub before broiling and then thinly slice the seared beef and roll it up with browned peppers and onion in tortillas with some guacamole or salsa (or both). Here’s how:

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The Recipe: Serves 4; Prep time: 15 minutes  Cook time: 15 minutes

What you need: Ingredients: Steak (either flank or skirt works; about 1 1/2 lb for 4 people), spices (ancho chile powder, cumin, garlic powder, chipotle powder or pimenton de la Vera), granulated sugar, olive oil, bell peppers (2 or 3; whatever colors you got or like), onion (preferably a large Spanish or red onion); corn tortillas, salsa, cheese, etc… for serving.

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1. Get prepped:  Heat the broiler to high and position an oven rack about 4 inches away from the heating element. Make a spice rub and prep the vegetables: In a small bowl, mix 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt with about 1 tsp. each granulated sugar, ancho chili powder (or regular), black pepper, and cumin, and 1/4 tsp. each garlic powder and chipotle powder. Pat the steak dry with paper towels and then rub the spice mix all over the steak along with a drizzle of olive oil, about 1 Tbs. Transfer to a broiler pan or a large rimmed baking sheet topped with a rack and let sit at room temperature while the broiler heats. Quarter, core, and seed the peppers and set on another baking sheet along with a Spanish or red onion, cored and cut in 1/2-inch wedges. Toss the vegetables with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, about 3/4 tsp. and 1/2 tsp. each.

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2. Broil the steak and then vegetables: Set the broil pan with the steak under the broiler and cook without touching until the top of the steak browns, about 2 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook the other side of the steak until it, too, browns and the steak starts to firm up to your desired level of doneness (make a nick into a thicker piece to check its level of pinkness – pull out the rack a bit while you’re doing so, so you don’t singe your arm hairs ), 2 to 4 more minutes. If the steak is browned on both sides but still not cooked through, transfer it to a lower rack and continue broiling and flipping until done. Once cooked, transfer the steak to a carving board to cool for 5 minutes before slicing. Meanwhile, broil the vegetables, flipping every couple of minutes until they brown on both sides and start to become tender (the tips of the onions may char a bit – this is fine), about 5 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a cutting board.

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3. Slice and serve: Thinly slice the steak (once it’s cooled – the cooling allows the juices a chance to recirculate) and coarsely chop the vegetables. Serve in warm corn tortillas with guacamole, salsa, and a squirt of fresh lime juice.

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Asian “Carnitas” with Sesame-Shiitake Slaw

 Tony writes: What would “carnitas” be like if reimagined with an Asian pantry? Kogi has kinda already  answered this question, but  the technique is relatively intuitive, so you can trail-blaze your way through the method even without a trip to the West Cost (though  do, if it’s an option; I included a visit to Kogi on a recent L.A. tour and it was well worth the wait!!). Slow-cook a tough cut (pork shoulder is the thing for carnitas, but any hardy cut will do – even boneless chicken thighs) until falling-apart tender. Then shred, pair with an intense sauce and other interesting textures and flavors, and tuck into some sort of wrap. The whole thing, though slow cooking, is easy and hands-free and the best part is you get plenty of leftovers which keep in the fridge for 4 or 5 days and go well in rice, pastas, salads, or even vegetable-heavy re-braises. Here’s the basic set-up:

-Pork butt actually has nothing to do with the animal’s posterior; rather, it’s the front shoulder, a marbled, tough cut that’s traditional to braising (and shredding) in Southern pulled pork or Mexican carnitas. A full boneless butt weighs about 9 lb. (and feeds 12 to 14); for this method, a half butt suffices.

Balanced flavors: As tender as pork butt becomes with slow cooking, it’s got a slightly gamey flavor which you’ll want to match through a two-pronged effort. The first is a spice rub, a relatively simple one at that: a sprinling of salt, pepper, sugar, and 5-spice powder. The longer you let this mixture marinate the meat, the better (it will almost cure the pork the way you would with bacon). The second step is to create an aromatic – ie: really intense – braising broth: here, garlic, ginger, Sichuan peppercorns (if you have), fermented black beans, and a good splash of vinegar become the Asian heavies, mimicking what chiles and spices do with Mexican carnitas.

Season, sear, simmer, shred: Alliteration makes me happy; that and pun-y names for hairdressing salon’s.  Though the actual cooking in this recipe takes about 3 hours, each step in this process is relatively simple and hands-free. The further ahead you can season the meat, the better (shoot for 1 day). Sear the meat in a heavy pot (I use my Le Crueset) to get good color which, in turn, creates a rich, caramelized base for the broth. After adding some liquid (water, sherry, soy, and vinegar), cover and simmer gently until the meat becomes completely – and I mean COMPLETELY – tender. Let the meat rest for a bit and then shred using forks or tongs or whatever.

Recipe (Serves 8)

1. Season: Unfurl a boneless half pork butt (about 4 lb; Boston butt). In a small bowl, mix 5 tsp. kosher salt, 2 tsp. granulated sugar, 1 tsp. black pepper, and 1 tsp. 5-spice powder. Sprinkle all over the pork and let sit at room temp for 15 minutes or up to 2 days in the refrigerator; the longer it “marinates”, the more uniform its spiced flavor.

 

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2. Sear and simmer:  Set a heavy-based Dutch oven over medium-high heat until a droplet of water instantly evaporates on its surface, about 1 1/2 minutes. Pat the pork dry (to remove any excess moisture that the salt rub might have pulled out), add 2 Tbs. canola oil to the pot, carefully set the pork in the pot, and cook without touching until an edge easily releases when lifted with tongs and the underside is nicely browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip, reduce the heat to medium, and brown the other side in the same manner. Transfer the pork to a large plate. Add 1 Tbs. canola oil, 3 dried chiles (broken up), 3 garlic cloves (smashed), a 1-inch knob ginger (thinly sliced), 1 Tbs. fermented black beans (chopped), and 1/2 tsp. Szechuan peppercorns (if you have, or are interested in making a trip to the Asian market). Cook, stirring, until the garlic browns lightly and all the aromatics become fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 3/4 cup  dry sherry (or Shaoxing wine) and cook, stirring to incorporate any browned bits on the bottom of the pot, until it almost completely cooks off, 1 minute. Add 1 cup water (or chicken broth if you have), 2 Tbs. white vinegar, 1 Tbs. light brown sugar, and 1 Tbs. sesame oil. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer (about medium low). Add the pork, cover, and cook, flipping the meat every 30 minutes or so, until it’s completely tender (you should be able to easily break apart and shred off pieces of the meat), about 2 1/2 hours.

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3. Shred and slaw: Transfer the braised pork to a large platter and let cool for 10 minutes. Spoon off and discard the top layer of fat from the braising liquid. Then strain the braising liquid (through a fine-mesh sieve) and return to the pot; season to taste with salt, pepper, soy, vinegar, etc…. Using tongs or a fork, shred the meat and transfer to its braising liquid in the pot to keep warm. Meanwhile, make the slaw: Heat 1 Tbs. canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add  1/2 green cabbage (cored and thinly sliced, about 5 cups), 1 pack shiitakes (3 1/2 oz, stemmed and thinly sliced) and 1 tsp. each kosher salt, granulated sugarsesame oil, and toasted sesame seeds. Cook, tossing, until the mixture wilts and browns in places, 2 to 3 minutes.

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4. Serve: Heat 8-inch flour tortillas in foil in the oven. Serve by topping the tortillas with a drizzle of hoisin sauce and sriracha and then the shredded meat and slaw. Have plenty of napkins on hand at the dinner table.

 

Chopped Salad with Sesame-Miso Dressing

Kim writes:  I’m in love with that orange color dressing they put on salads in Japanese restaurants. I have no idea what goes into it, but I find myself wanting the dressing *EVERY* day, which is becoming a challenge logistically and economically. I’ve looked online for the recipe, but I don’t know if what I’m finding is the right thingf! How do I make this at home so I can start saving some money to send my kids to college?!?!?

Tony writes: Kim, every child should have a chance at college, so if a homemade vinaigrette helps get your kids there, I am going to do my part. What I believe you are referring to is a light sesame-miso vinaigrette, one that’s kinda sweet, kinda salty, mild and toasted. It’s pretty simple to make; a light emulsion of miso,  ginger, sesame and rice vinegar. Personalizing the sauce, tweaking it so each of the flavorings is just right, will be your own little journey (and an important one; rice vinegars and miso pastes can vary a bit). But here is my take along with a quick recipe for a chopped salad of cabbage, carrots and cukes. Nice spring eating. Enjoy!

My method: This is one of those times where you want to avoid olive oil; its sharpness would overpower. Instead, opt for mildly flavored grapeseed oil or canola or peanut oil. There are different options for miso paste (light or dark most notably). I am fond of South River Miso, though whatever you find should to do the trick (look for it in the produce area next to the tofu and fresh noodles).

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Yields 1 1/4 cups dressing.

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1. Make the vinaigrette: In a large blender using an immersi,on blender or in an upright blender, blend 2 Tbs. miso with 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, 2 Tbs. rice vinegar and 1 Tbs. lime juice (about 1/2 lime). While still blending add 1/2 cup peanut oil (or canola oil) in a thin steady stream so the mixture becomes thick and smooth. Thin with 2 to 3 Tbs. cold water. Blend in 1 Tbs. minced ginger and 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil and then stir in 2 Tbs. thinly sliced scallions and 1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds. Add 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar if the mixture is missing a little sweetness.

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2. Make the salad: Thinly slice red cabbage, shave English cucumber into thick ribbons, and use a julienne peeler to slice long strips of carrot. Toss with 3 or 4 Tbs. of the dressing, sprinkle with more sesame seeds and sliced scallion and serve with grilled fish and brown rice.

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