Tuesday, January 26, 2010

crispy pork and tequila uncorked

Lately, my work week diet has consisted of:

granola bars
energy drinks

(I'm exaggerating, Mom)

to make up for my weekend binges of crispy pork, micheladas, breakfast tacos, pan-fried dumplings, mojitos and more! My jet-setting ambitions have been replaced with restaurant hopping and recipe jotting to find the most delicious things to fill my belly!

Cowtown Diner, a new eatery in Fort Worth, strives to jazz up traditional diner fare with dignified pairings such as duck breast with a blood orange hollandaise and jalapeno cornbread waffles. During the opening week, my boyfriend and I arrived for an early Sunday dinner complete with a charming, yet quirky server and cucumber tequila martinis.

We began with puff pastry-wrapped venison sausage (spicy!) then settled on "DQ style" steak fingers and the "Thanksgiving 365" platter for dinner. My Thanksgiving-inspired smorgasbord was complete with moist turkey, succulent gravy, tart, cranberry compote, haricot verts and chipotle cornbread stuffing. The food was delicious and we left delighted.

A cold Saturday later, Ms. Fort Worth Foodie and I were also able to venture to Tu Hai for their acclaimed traditional Vietnamese cooking. We started with cool spring rolls stuffed with crispy vegetables, tender shrimp and pork. Arriving shortly after were steaming bowls of Pho and crispy pork with vermicelli. Both dishes boasted sumptuous, fish sauce-laced broths with plenty of cilantro, julienned carrots and bean sprouts in between.

A few evenings later, I had a hankering for plantains and planned a braised chicken dinner to complement the starchy, yet satisfying delights.

Braised Chicken Thighs

I love braising because it really transforms a modest protein. The dark meat of these braised chicken thighs are simply succulent with beer-braised mirepoix and aromatics.

Serves 2.

1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
2 T olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 sprig rosemary
1 t red pepper flakes
1 c beer (I used Rahr)
2 c chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a Dutch oven and season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Sear chicken thighs on all sides in olive oil to develop a brown crust. Set aside. Add vegetables to Dutch oven with a dash of olive oil and saute until caramelized (approximately 5-7 minutes). Deglaze vegetable mixture with beer then vegetable stock and add rosemary sprig and bay leaf.

Return chicken to pot and nestle in braising liquid. Cover and place pot in a 350 oven for approximately 45 minutes until chicken is fork-tender. Remove from heat and let mixture "rest" on the stovetop for 10 minutes to redistribute braising juices. Serve chicken with braising vegetables atop pistachio pilaf.

Zucchini Mint Pico

1 medium zucchini, diced
2 T mint, chopped
1 jalapeno, ribbed, seeded and minced
1/4 c cherry tomatoes, halved
juice and zest of 1/2 lime
2 T red onion, minced

Mix ingredients and cool in refrigerator until ready to use. Serve aside braised chicken and rice.

Caramelized Plantains
2 ripe plantains, sliced on the bias
1/2 c brown sugar
6 T butter
1 t red pepper flakes
salt to taste

While chicken is braising, melt butter with brown sugar over medium heat. Add plantains, red pepper flakes and salt. Slowly caramelize plantains until starches break down and plantains are tender.

Pistachio Ginger Brown Rice Pilaf

3 c prepared brown rice, warm
1/2 c pistachios, chopped
zest of 1 lime
1 T ginger, grated on the microplane
salt to taste

Add ingredients to brown rice, stir and serve beneath braised chicken.

Raspberry Crumbles with Toasted Sesame Seeds

I love cobbler but feel so guilty eating it!

Growing up, my Uncle Bob and I would fight over the thickened, fruit juice-drenched pastry and completely ignore the fruit. This cobbler rendition showcases fruit as the star with just the right amount of "crust." Sesame seeds add an unusual nuttiness and complexity.

Serves 2.

2 c raspberries
1 T AP flour
2 T sugar
zest of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1/2 lime

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine berry mixture in a bowl. Set aside to macerate while preparing crumble.

Crumble mixture:

1/4 c sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c AP flour
1/2 t salt
4 T cold butter, cut into small cubes

1 T toasted sesame seeds to garnish

Combine sugars, flour and salt. Add butter and crumble with fingers until butter is pea-shaped. To assemble crumbles, add berry mixture to ramekins (about 3/4 full). Top berry mixture with crumble and bake immediately for about 20 minutes until crumbles are browned and bubbling. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

Serve with vanilla bean ice cream, take a bite and close your eyes with

tart, buttery



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