Travelgiving: Pork Belly Brussels Sprouts with Shichimi Togarashi

 Travel Inspired Side Dish for Thanksgiving

Last year I wrote a series of recipes I called "Thanksgiving Basics" in case you're far from home or hosting Thanksgiving for the first time and just want to keep it classic and simple. You can find them all here. This year I'll be doing things a little more travel inspired for our second annual big expat Thanksgiving (we'll be hosting around 25) but definitely keeping some of the classics in the mix.

Our 4th Stop: Japan, the home of Shichimi Togarashi or what you might recognize as that little bottle of spice mix they have on the table at ramen places.

Our T-Day Inspiration: Brussels Sprouts

Growing up, my grandmother loved brussels sprouts and would occasionally buy this much maligned mini cabbage but could never convince my grandfather, my brother or I to eat the ones she boiled. Flash forward to adulthood and me meeting her for lunch one day where she said "Oh, we have to get the fried brussels sprouts with aioli, they're so good, I promise you'll like them". Sure enough, I became a brussels sprouts convert. Soon roasted, fried and crispy brussels sprouts were on every menu and us (much maligned) millennials were chowing down on a vegetable that we wouldn't have even given a second glance a year earlier. (You still absolutely cannot convince me they're good boiled though.)

Roasting brussels makes them salty and crispy on the outside while keeping them sweet and tender in the middle. If you can't find pork belly, you can of course replace it with bacon, though the flavor will be a little different. (You can also take out the pork belly all together if you want to keep your vegetables vegetarian or vegan friendly, just generously toss with sesame oil before roasting) For Shichimi Togarashi, you can find the small bottles at most Asian markets or this mix from The Spice House looks very similar to the fresher hand mixed version I got most recently and used in this recipe. You can definitely use the little ramen shop bottles but my initial version of this recipe required using A TON and didn't end up quite as vibrant as with the more expensive hand mix. This is a throw it all together, taste and adjust sort of recipe so view the below more as guidelines than strict rules.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds Brussels Sprouts, cleaned, trimmed and halved
  • 1 pound Pork Belly
  • 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
  • 3-4 tablespoons Shichimi Togarashi
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit
  2. Spread brussels out, flat side down on a lightly greased or silicon mat lined sheet pan
  3. Generously salt and pepper your pork belly and then cut into bite sized pieces. (Pork belly in Seoul almost always comes pre-sliced, but if you buy it in a large block, you might want to cut first and then salt and pepper for even coverage)
  4. Spread the pork belly over the brussels sprouts. Give it all some more salt and pepper.
  5. Roast for 15 minutes and then check to see if it's cooking evenly. My tiny Korean oven cooks unevenly and I'll give everything a bit of a stir at this point. It's ok if your brussels look a little dry, I promise the pork belly will release a ton of fat for those little guys to roast in soon. Return to oven.
  6. Roast for another 15 minutes and then sprinkle with sesame seeds and give a more thorough stir. Return to oven.
  7. Roast for a last ten minutes or until your pork belly is crispy and your brussels are starting to look nice and browned. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with the Shichimi Togarashi. Mix well and taste. Add salt, pepper, sesame seeds or togarashi to taste.
  8. Serve immediately.

Travelgiving: Oyster Mushroom Green Bean Casserole with Beer Battered Onion Rings

 thanksgiving green bean casserole with beer battered onion rings

Last year I wrote a series of recipes I called "Thanksgiving Basics" in case you're far from home or hosting Thanksgiving for the first time and just want to keep it classic and simple. You can find them all here. This year I'll be doing things a little more travel inspired for our second annual big expat Thanksgiving (we'll be hosting around 25) but definitely keeping some of the classics in the mix.

Our 2nd stop: Seoul! One of my favorite things about living in South Korea is that oyster mushrooms are the cheap mushroom. Seriously, at my local grocery store they're $1-$2 a pound depending on whether it's a sale week or not, so yeah, let's fancy-up this casserole.

Our T-Day Inspiration: Green Bean Casserole

Confession: I'm not responsible for the green bean casserole at my own Thanksgiving, this one is just for me to eat all on my own while my husband is in California eating tacos and buying six packs of craft beer for the price of a single bottle in Seoul. Like candied yams with marshmallows, traditional green bean casserole wasn't really part of my Thanksgiving growing up (though we did often have variations or green bean salads) but I made it from scratch for the first time a couple of years ago and realized that just blanched green beans covered in mushroom cream and fried onions is preeeetty much my jam. I like to add lemon zest to brighten it up but you can leave it out if the oyster mushrooms are already breaking with tradition enough for you. Also, I beer battered my onion strings, because why not?

Ingredients:

Onion Strings:

  • 1 cup AP Flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Bottle of Beer (I used Cass Beats to keep with the Korea theme)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 medium yellow onions

Casserole:

  • 1.5 pounds Green Beans (trimmed and halved)
  • 12 ounces Oyster Mushrooms (chopped)
  • 4 tablespoons Butter
  • 4 tablespoons AP Flour
  • 1 cup Chicken Broth
  • 2/3 cups Heavy Cream
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • optional: Zest of 1/2 a Lemon

For the Strings:

  1. Halve onions and slice as thinly as possible, I recommend using a mandolin. Set aside.
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl, set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg and beer. Pour one third the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk together thoroughly. Repeat with the remaining two thirds wet ingredients.
  3. In a heavy bottom pot or skillet (I like using my dutch oven), heat an inch of oil to 370 F.
  4. Dip onion strings in the batter and then carefully put into the hot oil. Fry until light golden brown and then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. (The onions will get darker when baked so err on the side of underdone)
  5. Repeat until out of onions. Realize you have a ton of crispy onion strings, eat a few (or a lot).

For the Casserole:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and blanch green beans for 3-4 minutes and drain.
  3. Put your mushroom and butter in a medium skillet over low to medium heat, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until the mushrooms begin to release their liquids. Stir in the flour and cook for one minute. Add in one third the broth and stir just until it begins to thicken. Repeat two more times. Cook until it's thick enough to coat a spoon. Give it a taste and add more salt and pepper as necessary. Stir in the cream and lemon zest and cook until it thickens back up, stirring constantly. Taste again and adjust seasoning.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the green beans until they're evenly coated. Pour the green beans into a 2 quart casserole dish and cover generously with the onion strings.
  5. Bake for fifteen minutes until the sauce begins to bubble and the onion strings are medium golden brown. Enjoy as soon as it's cool to eat.

Pro tip: Instead of using a medium skillet, you could do the whole thing in a dutch oven... I only have one and it was still full of hot fry oil so I ended up dirtying more pans.

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Pickled Beets

I have yet to meet a beet that I like. Beets just aren't my thing. My husband on the other hand, loves them. Recently when we were visiting New York, we got a lox platter with pickled beets and Dan was so into them he took the dish from the waiter's hand when he tried to clear it with one beet left. When my CSA arrived with a GIGANTIC beet in the box two weeks in a row, I was initially annoyed because there was no way in I was turning on the oven long enough to roast beets the size of my head but then realized I could make my husband pickled beets to last a lifetime (or a few weeks given how many he'll eat in one sitting) plus, I'm not super into the beets but I won't say no to having pretty pink pickled onions with which to garnish a salad.

Like most of my recipes, I read a bunch of pickled beet recipes and took the parts I liked from each. Dan thinks these turned out a touch sweet so you could reduce the sugar some, especially if you know your beets are on the sweeter side.


Ingredients

  • 2 pounds (900 g) Beets (in my case, this was just two VERY LARGE beets)
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 2 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 cups Water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 3 tablespoons Pickling Spice*
  • 1 large or 2 small Onions

Directions

  1. Our first step is to get those beets tender! Because mine were so giant, I cut off the tops and then halved them before fulling submerging them and boiling until they could easily be pierced with a fork. For my beets, this took about an hour but if you're using smaller ones I'd check after 30-40 minutes.
  2. While the beets are boiling away, combine sugar, water, cider vinegar, salt, cinnamon stick and pickling spices in a pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer for ten minutes. Remove from heat. During this time you can also prep your onions. I just halved and sliced mine. Nothing crazy.
  3. Once the beets are fork tender, drain them and let them cool until they can be easily handled. If you've cooked them enough, you can now rub off the skins pretty easily (I recommend wearing a glove unless you want to look like a murdered for the next few days). How you cut the beets is up to you. I did slices about a quarter inch thick, but you could also do cubes if that's more your style.
  4. Place alternating layers of onions and beets in a 2 liter/half gallon jar and then carefully pour the pickling liquid over the onions and beets.
  5. Let cool to room temperature and then cover and place in the fridge. Let sit at least four days before trying. Enjoy in a salad or just as a simple side on their own.

Optional: I'm keeping mine in the fridge but of course you could properly can these. Sterilize mason jars of your preferred size, stack the onions and beets in each jar and then cover with pickling liquid. Seal and then boil for ten minutes to process. If you're a newbie to canning or just want more information about canning safely, I really recommend the USDA home canning guide.

* If you're looking for pickling spice in Korea, I've seen it at High Street Market and Foreign Food Mart (both in Itaewon) as well as at Emart.

Spring Splurge

"Honey, I just remembered asparagus is a thing," he said to me, eyes wide and full of longing.

Our CSA has included an excessive amount of different varieties of cabbage and "salad greens" lately making using exclusively our CSA veggies and meat a bit less a fun game of Chopped and a bit more of a not so fun chore. Actually, Korea right now is feeling less like a fun adventure and more of a not so fun chore, so I went a little crazy last time I went to Costco.

Mostly when I go to Costco and I'm not shopping for a party, I stay away from the produce other than the citrus. For the most part it's not actually cheaper than other stores, there's just more of it and the more "western" vegetables aren't the greatest quality. But I check it out every time just in case - maybe the brussels sprouts won't be the size of my fist. This time I was rewarded with asparagus that looked "fine" instead of it's usual "the actual worst" and I thought about what Dan had said a few days earlier and I thought about how much I missed being able to make good, simple, not meat heavy dinners and then I blacked out and I guess I turned into chef Hulk because I came to and my cart also had a big box of basil, crimini mushrooms, avocados and a bag of limes. <insert money with wings emoji here>

That night I didn't have a plan for dinner other than to use as many of my fancy new ingredients in a meal as possible. So I peeled the bottom of my asparagus, chopped it in thirds, tossed it in olive oil, salt and pepper and threw it in the oven. I hadn't had pesto in months and handful after handful of basil was subjected to my immersion blender, a hearty dose of olive oil and some of the garlic chives from my CSA because why not? Some lemon zest, grana padano, red pepper flakes and salt later, I had a delicious sauce and a plan. The mushrooms were sliced and went into a pan with bacon lardons, garlic and (dried) herbs. I started one pot for rigatoni and another for poaching eggs. The asparagus came out of the oven and was treated to a generous sprinkling of lemon zest.

My pasta, asparagus, bacon, mushrooms and pest all went in a BIG bowl to get tossed together. Next, it went into our smaller bowls and got topped with a poached egg and fair amount of grana. I was so happy as I stuffed bite after bite of what would be a lazy, low key meal in America but in Korea felt like crazy indulgence.

Dan ate a bowl cold for breakfast the next day and I had the rest for lunch. Even cold, it was fantastic.

We managed to stretch out the rest of our asparagus into two more meals and had pesto for one more. Only about a third of each of our avocados was edible but we put them on as many things as we could, covered in fresh squeezed lime juice. The remaining precious limes are waiting to get used in cocktails, probably with some of the liquors we've been infusing with Thai spices.

This week, thankfully, tomatoes made an appearance in our CSA (already! I know!) and last night's dinner was a giant bowl of poached egg salad.

On the other hand, I just froze enough butter braised cabbage to keep us in pierogis until we leave Korea, I got another half of a giant cabbage and I still had another in my fridge. Any ideas*?

*Other than kimchi

Perfect Pogacsa

 bacon cheese pogasca (Hungarian butter biscuits)

My number one regret about Budapest is not eating more Pogacsa*. Pogacsa are what American biscuits dream of becoming when they grow up. Flaky layers, the subtle tang of sour cream and yeast, the permission to customize to your hearts desire. They're delicious fresh out of the oven but not so delicate that you can't take them on an adventure for fear they'll be too dry the next day. Pogacsa are perfection.

Pogacsa are so prevalent and quintessentially Hungarian that when Dan and I did a tasting menu at Onyx the bread cart was primarily different flavors of Pogacsa with a couple of other nice breads thrown in. Dan is usually much better than me about not filling up on the bread cart when we do tasting menus but even he couldn't resist.

The most popular flavors are the classic plain Pogacsa, plain sprinkled with poppyseed (of course), cheese and bacon. I took the liberty of combining the last two in this batch and threw in some black pepper but feel free to add or omit whichever flavorings you like.

*J/K my number one regret about Budapest is ever leaving Budapest. Budapest 4EVA.

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
  • 4 tablespoons Whole Milk
  • pinch of Sugar
  • 1/3 cup Sour Cream
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • 2 1/4 cup All Purpose Flour (plus more for flouring your work surface)
  • 2 tablespoons Powdered Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon Coarsely Ground Black Pepper (plus more for the top)
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) Cold Butter (cubed)
  • 3 strips of Bacon (Cooked to crispy but not burned and then chopped)
  • 3/4 cup Grated Hard Cheese such as Pecorino, Parmesan or Grana Padano (I used Grana)

Making the Dough

  1. Heat milk to slightly warm to touch (around 108 degrees) and then mix in dry yeast and a pinch of sugar. Let stand for five minutes or until foamy. (If your mixture never gets foamy there are three possible problems: the milk was too hot and you killed the yeast, the milk was too cold to activate the yeast or you have sad, old yeast. In all cases the solution is to start over)
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and use your hands to cut in the butter until it resembles coarse meal with some larger pea size pieces just like you would for pie dough or scones. (You can also do this with a fork or pastry blender if that's your regular method, but I highly recommend getting your hands in the dough, it's both fun and comforting and I think learning the feel of the dough is the only real secret of getting consistently flaky pastries.)
  3. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the yeast mixture, yolks and sour cream.
  4. Create a well in the center of your dry ingredients and pour in the yeast mixture. Use a wooden spoon to combine until you have a shaggy, sticky mess and then dump out onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough until it forms a smooth ball. It doesn't need to pass the windowpane test but don't be afraid to work it much more than you might work classic American biscuits. When you think it's just about ready, sprinkle half the bacon in the middle of the dough, work for a few turns and then sprinkle in the other half and finish kneading.
 Pogacsa, hungarian butter biscuits

Making All Those Layers

  1. Give your work surface a fresh dusting of flour and then roll out your dough to a 12 inch by 6 inch rectangle. Try to get your corners as sharp as possible. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of your grated cheese. Fold the top third down and then the bottom third up like you're folding up a letter (in fact, this is called a letter fold). Turn the dough 1/4 turn and roll out again to 12 inches by 6 inches. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Fold both ends of the dough to the center and then fold in half (this is called a book fold). Lightly flatten with your rolling pin, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for thirty minutes.
  2. Once your dough is chilled, repeat step one (minus the cheese). Wrap again and chill for at least two hours (I did mine overnight).

Shaping and Baking

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a sheetpan with either parchment or a silicon baking mat.
  2. Remove the dough from the fridge. If you've let it chill for more than two hours, let it sit at room temperature for about twenty minutes.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 3/8 inch thick. Yes, really. If all has gone well, starting with raw dough 3/8 inch thick will get you a finished biscuit of about 2 1/2 inches. I'm not even joking a little bit. Use a sharp knife to lightly score the dough in a cross hatch pattern (I went a little too deep on mine but they were still delicious).
  4. You can either cut your Pogacsa into squares or use a ring cutter to cut into circles. I used a 3 inch ring cutter and got eight Pogacsa total. If you use a ring cutter, make sure you don't twist it because twisting can seal the outside layers together and you won't get the same rise. You can re-roll the scraps once, but I wouldn't recommend more than that.
  5. Space evenly on your sheetpan and brush with a beaten egg. Crack more black pepper on top. Bake about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to a cooling rack and serve while still warm or at room temperature.

Optional: Make a decadent breakfast sandwich with cheddar and avocado that would be totally normal in America but in Korea is a luxury and makes you feel like a Queen.

 avocado, egg and cheese on pogacsa