Friday, April 27, 2012

chocolate salty balls - 3 ways!

I am participating in the Blogger Bake Sale tomorrow. In deciding what to make, I knew I at least had to make some balls.
I'm a long-time South Park fan (can you believe it's been on for 15 years?! I feel old), so when I start to think of baked goods and balls, I immediately get Chef's Chocolate Salty Balls in my head. Classic.

One of my favorite chocolate salty desserts is my friend Kelly's Dark Chocolate Tart with Pretzel Crust. I decided to make basic truffles and coat them in pretzels. Done? Nah. too simple... I needed to make this more interesting! So I came up with 2 other ways to make these dark chocolate truffles salty. 

One uses a recipe from one of my favorite St. Louis Chefs, Josh Galliano. He makes a praline bacon that is addicting. Luckily, it is easy to make, and Josh shared his recipe with local food magazine Sauce. Find the recipe here, or check out my buddy Stacey's post about this glorious pork candy. So I made praline bacon and chopped it up and rolled truffles in it. Whoa.

For a spicier take, I put some salted roasted pepitas in the food processor with some cayenne pepper and pulsed it a few times until everything was chopped up and combined. Then I rolled my balls in it! This is so so delicious. Salt, rich chocolate, and a subtle but present burn. 

I also did crushed up pretzels... simple but classic.

Dark Chocolate Truffles

-2/3 cup heavy cream
-12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
-3 1/4 cups 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer. Add the butter and stir until melted. Add the chocolate chips. Stir until completely melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and pour into a shallow bowl. 

Cool, cover, and refrigerate the mixture until firm, at least 2 hours. 

Using a melon baller or small spoon, roll the mixture into 1-inch balls. Roll each ball in the coating of your choice (see above). 

Year of the Balls posts:

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

fish balls with sweet pork filling

Chinese Hot Pot is a meal that consists of a burner at your table, over which a hot pot (hence the name) of broth sits. A bunch of various meats and vegetables are brought out for you to cook in this broth as you wish. One item that is always present at the place I've experienced Hot Pot at is fish balls.
There are several fish paste shapes, flavors and forms, but my favorite are fish balls that are filled with a flavorful pork. When it was suggested these be my next Year of The Balls attempt, I hesitated. Fish paste? Can I make that? After some research, I found this recipe, which calmed me down. Very simple. Although I must admit, the act of putting raw fish into a food processor brought to mind the Bassomatic...

These were easy balls to make, even though they look complicated. I made the pork in a slow-cooker a day ahead, and also made the fish paste a day ahead. Forming the balls is quick because the fish paste is not sticky. And they cook in mere minutes! These were really good. My Chinese "consultant" commented that they were not as chewy as ones he is used to (you can by frozen fish balls at Asian grocery stores). This is true, and I believe it's because I used easily accessible cornstarch in place of the recommended arrowroot starch. The texture is not bad at all, though... in fact, the cornstarch fish balls might have a more Western-palate-friendly (fluffier) texture than traditional (gummier) fish balls.

Fish Paste
Adapted from Red Cook recipe

-1 lb. white fish (pollock, cod, or similar)
-1/2 cup corn starch (the original recipe recommends arrowroot starch for a chewier consistency)
-2 egg whites
-3 ice cubes
-2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Cut the fish into small cubes. Place all the ingredients except the ice cubes into your food processor. Pulse to get started, then puree until smooth. Add ice cubes and continue to process until the ice is completely Incorporated. Paste will be thick and elastic. Refrigerate for about 1 hour before forming into balls.

Sweet Asian pork

-1 lb. country pork ribs with bone
-thumb-sized knob of ginger, roughly sliced (no need to peel)
-4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
-1 shallot, roughly chopped
-1 lime cut into wedges
-1/2 cup soy sauce
-2 teaspoons fish sauce
-1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
-1 Tablespoon Chinese Five spice (or sub 1 teaspoon each ginger, coriander, white pepper, black pepper, cinnamon, cayenne pepper)
-1 cup water

Place everything in a slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. Remove meat from bone and chop finely. There will be extra once you make the balls, but it's pretty hard to make a slow-cooked pork recipe with less than a pound of meat. Use leftover meat in fresh springrolls or on salads.

To make pork-filled fish balls:

Grab about 2 teaspoons worth of fish paste (paste is not very sticky, but if you ned to, wet your hands to make it easier to work with), and form into a disc. Make a slight indention in the middle and add a slight pinch (like a 1/2 teaspoon) of pork. Pinch the sides of the paste up over the pork and gently roll into a ball. Repeat until you are out of fish paste (as stated in pork recipe above, there will be leftover pork. you can substitute chinese sausage if you want). Cook balls in boiling salted water for 3-5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve in soup with chicken stock, noodles, shredded cabbage, green onions, etc. You can also serve over rice with fresh vegetables.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

build a better taco salad

I have a thing for taco salad. And by taco salad, I mean the familiar amalgamation of iceberg lettuce, ground beef, cheddar cheese, sad tomatoes and a deep-fried shell and/or tortilla chips (or in the case of my childhood... Fritos). While eating one for lunch one day, I had a Linda Richman moment: a taco salad is neither a taco nor a salad. Talk amoungst yourselves.

Always trying to pack more fresh vegetables and "super-foods" into my diet (to balance out the booze and cheese and chocolate, you see), I saw potential in the humble taco salad. I could elevate this into an actual healthy salad and still retain the things I love from the taco influence: spice and crunch. Here's how I did it:

1. Kick out the iceberg and pick greens that are more... well, green. I used Mache, a small, tender green (also called "Lamb's Lettuce.") You can also use baby spinach, arugula, romaine, baby leaf greens, etc.

2. Instead of sour cream or some kind of dressing (when I was a kid my mom always served Catalina dressing with taco salad. Anyone?), add a dollop of plain Greek yogurt for creaminess and tang!

3. Tofu. Yeah, I said it. I love tofu. I think it gets a bad rep because people try to use to REPLACE meat. You can't replace meat. Embrace tofu for being what it is... a protein-packed food that lends well to any flavor you want to add to it. In this case I cubed up firm tofu and sauteed it with garlic, shallot, ancho chile powder, cumin, salt and pepper.

4. Add even more protein to your salad, along with buttery richness with chickpeas. My favorite legume!

5. Forget the shredded cheddar jack and make your taco salad more lively (and less fatty) with a young, fresh, crumbly cheese such as Queso Fresco, feta or chevré. In fact, if you want to skip the cheese altogether, you probably won't miss it thanks to that Greek yogurt.

6. I couldn't leave out tomatoes. Just don't settle for the sad, mealy out-of-season ones. If it's not home-grown tomato season, use grape or cherry tomatoes.

7. Jicama gives the salad that vegetable crunch that you might normally get from iceberg lettuce. But jicama also adds a sweet flavor and more nutrition.

8. Salsa! It's a taco salad, after-all. Salsa is a natural choice to dress it. Duh.

9. More beans? Yes. Black beans add great color. I like to spice mine up with cumin, hot sauce, Mexican oregano, garlic and lime juice.

10. Make your own tortilla chips! It's easy to do. It's also healthier and cheaper than buying chips. Just cut corn (or flour, or wheat or spinach... whatever tickles your pickle) into strips with a pizza cutter and bake them on an oil-sprayed cookie sheet at 375ºF until crunchy (7 minutes-ish, just keep an eye on 'em). I think chips made this way have a more satisfying crunch... they will be a great addition to your salad.

11. Cilantro. mmmmmmmmm.

12. Freshen up and dress your salad with a squirt (heh heh "squirt") of fresh lime. Done!

Other suggestions for taco salad toppings: fresh corn, avocado, ground turkey, shredded chicken, bell peppers, finely-chopped jalapeno peppers, red onions, sweet potato cubes roasted with chipotle, mango. What do you like on your taco salad?

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Thursday, April 05, 2012

crawfish boil balls

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a crawfish boil at one of St. Louis' best restaurants, Farmhaus. I love crawfish boils... it's a fun, communal, messy eating experience. Since I am constantly thinking about what I can make into balls, I was inspired to recreate these flavors in spherical form.
But how? I looked to the crawfish boil staple, potatoes, to be my base. Having made stuffed gnocchi before, I figured a potato dumpling dough would be perfect! And it was! All crawfish boil essentials are included... potatoes, corn, andouille and, of course, crawfish. And for seasoning I stuck with good ol' Old Bay. All that's missing is the mess when you eat them... but don't worry, you'll get the messy part when you make them.

Crawfish Boil Balls
1.5 pounds red potatoes
1 cup flour
1 Tablespoon corn starch
1 egg
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning

1/4 lb. cooked crawfish tail meat, roughly chopped
1 cup corn
1 smoked andouille sausage link (about 1/4 lb.), chopped
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the filling ingredients and set aside.

Boil potatoes in salted water until soft, about 25 minutes. Let cool about 15 minutes until you can handle them. Carefully peel the potatoes. Rice the potatoes or mash them with a potato masher. Mix in the flour, corn starch and seasoning. Add the egg and mix. Use your hand to knead into a soft, sticky dough.

With plenty of flour on hands, grab about 1.5 Tablespoons of the dough and gently press it into a disk. Place about 2 teaspoons of the filling in the center of the disk and gently fold the sides up around the filling and form a ball. Repeat until dough is all gone. Do not skimp on the flour... the dough is very soft and sticky. Makes about 3 dozen 1.5-inch balls.

Place balls (in batches of 12 or so) in boiling water. When they float, let them cook another 2 or 3 minutes then remove with a slotted spoon. Repeat until all the balls are cooked. Serve as is with lemon and parsley OR saute in a skillet with butter (recommended)

Year of the Balls posts:

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