Being a Top Chef contestant can be grueling and exhausting and crazy fun. When we're all wiped out from nonstop competition, we do what we do best: eat good food. Some of my most memorable meals with those talented chefs involved banh mi, traditional Vietnamese sandwiches that layer cured meats, sausages, and pickled vegetables in small, soft versions of French baguettes. I love anything with pickles and fresh cilantro! I've put those flavors in a burger patty here and sandwiched them in my favorite French roll: buttery brioche. The rich bread makes all the difference, as does high-quality pork.
These keep in their marinade for about two weeks in the refrigerator, but are best within a couple of hours of pickling.
These fresh roll-ups have an impudent edge. Where most Vietnamese rolls depend on a dipping sauce for spark, here the sparks are flying inside the roll -- with garlic shrimp, hoisin noodles, mint, basil and lime and crisp marinated vegetables.
I first tasted potted shrimp years ago at a cocktail party in New Orleans, where it was served on saltine crackers with a big belt of bourbon on the rocks. What could be wrong? Southerners know how to start a party.
Everyone in the South seems to love cheese straws - the thin, crisp pastry sticks with the tang of cayenne and sharp cheddar - and they are always served at cocktail parties and church socials alike. They are almost mandatory at weddings: I remember receptions where the only fare was a silver compote of cheese straws, another of mints, and the wedding cake. Usually cheese-straw dough is piped from a cookie press and snipped into short lengths. Miss Lewis uses the simple technique of rolling out the dough and slicing off the “straws.” Cheese straws improve as the flavors mellow, so make them a day before serving, if possible. A tin of cheese straws makes an excellent hostess gift.
Who would imagine browning deviled eggs to caramelize their edges and crisp their fillings? What a sensual turn with a hard-cooked egg. We owe the idea to Jacques Pépin and his memoir, The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen. The inspiration comes from war-torn France and a recipe born of scarcity that Jacques' mother created during World War II, though you'd never know it when you pick up your fork. This is the kind of double-edged story that we love to find in the things we eat.
Okay, here we go. Either we have you hooked at "Ultimate Cheater Pulled Pork" or this book is headed straight for the library's used book sale. We know that. You know that. So, let's drop the chitchat and make some cheater barbecue.
Roasting blanched almonds very slowly insures that they remain crisp for several weeks. In addition to bundling them with bottles of bone-dry Manzanilla sherry as gifts, I often serve the combination when friends drop by for cocktails.
For casual entertaining, the tapas experience translates well to the small home kitchen. One delicious hot tapas classic easily made at home is called pinchos Moruños, or Moorish skewers, essentially small kebabs of pork marinated in Arabic (Moorish) spices and grilled, usually on a hot steel plancha. Because most Muslim Arabs wouldn’t eat pork, one presumes the original dish was lamb. It’s anyone’s guess how it evolved into this ubiquitous tapa selection in Christian Spain. Nevertheless, now it means pork seasoned with garlic, cumin, coriander, pimentón and sometimes oregano. Once skewered, they need only about 5 minutes on a hot griddle.