Tag Archives: Cook

Bacon + Chicken + Cream = Goodness

Tarragon ChickenMy early childhood was spent in Grenoble, France, where dinner at my parents’ friends house happened weekly. Our friend Marie-France’s specialty was Poulet a l’Estragon (Tarragon Chicken): a whole cut up chicken, braised in a mixture of bacon, crème fraiche, white wine and tarragon. It was a childhood favorite of mine. Who can resist creamy, bacon-ey chicken?

Last week, my cousin, Michelle, asked me for a new way to cook chicken thighs. I modified the original tarragon chicken recipe to be less fatty and yet retain the strong chicken flavor that you get from braising a whole bird.

If you’d like to cook a whole cut-up chicken the way Marie-France used to make it, modify the recipe below by adding 3 slices of bacon, adjusting the wine to 1 1/2 cup, changing the crème fraiche/cream to 2 cups and no chicken broth. Since there’s so much cream in the whole chicken version of the recipe, making a roux to thicken the sauce is unnecessary.

I reduce my chicken broth to about 2/3. I like my tarragon chicken with a little rice one the side and french bread. Bon appétit!

Poulet a l’Estragon/Tarragon Chicken with Bacon

3 slices thick smoked bacon (I use applewood), cut into 1/2″ pieces
6 chicken thighs
2 tsp. fresh chopped tarragon or 1 tsp. dried
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups reduced chicken broth
1/4 cup crème fraiche or heavy cream
salt and pepper
Champagne vinegar

1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. flour

  1. In Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy. Transfer bacon to paper towel lined plate to absorb fat.
  2. Brown chicken (no salt and pepper, bacon will add salt to dish) in bacon fat over medium-high heat.
  3. Remove chicken from pot and discard all fat.
  4. Deglaze pan with white wine.
  5. Add cream, tarragon, chicken broth, chicken and bacon to pot, braise covered at a low simmer for 25-30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through, turning chicken halfway through cooking.
  6. Remove thighs from pot and pour sauce into a heat safe dish.
  7. Melt butter in pan over medium-high heat. Add flour and stir to combine.
  8. Cook roux, stirring the entire time until it is lightly colored, 2-5 minutes.
  9. Add reserved sauce and cook for 2-3 minutes over medium heat until sauce is thickened.
  10. Re-season with salt and pepper and a dash or two of Champagne vinegar as needed.
  11. Add chicken back to pot to reheat.

A Comforting Bowl of Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)

stewWinter inspires stews. This dish is one that I grew up with. An Asian beef stew with lemongrass, star anise, cinnamon and even a little curry for seasoning. Every Vietnamese family I know has their own version of it. Some like the sauce almost broth-like and served over rice noodles, garnished with cilantro, Thai basil and jalapeño slices. Others like it plain, with a side of baguette. Try the combination that suits your palate best.

I prefer my sauce thicker and a little more intense. After it’s cooked, I let my stew sit overnight in the refrigerator. This allows the flavors to meld into the tender beef and veggies and for the fat to separate and harden. I discard the latter before I reheat it. I find that it the fat doesn’t really add anything and dilutes the flavor. I serve mine in a shallow bowl, with a few Thai basil leaves and french bread for dipping.

Half a dozen years ago, a craving for Bo Kho struck me and I called my mom long distance to Vietnam for instructions. It was dictated to me in our traditional family way, with ingredients being approximated—a little of this, a dash of that— and, of course, I was told to taste and re-taste. Over the years, I dialed in the ingredients and proportions and kept notes of my changes and the result is the recipe below.

Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)
Serves 4-6

2 whole star anise
2 1.5” pieces of whole cinnamon
2 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
3 medium shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks lemongrass, 2″ pieces, bruised
2 to 2 ½ lbs. beef chuck roast or pot roast cut into 2” cubes
2 tsp. curry powder (Vietnamese style preferable)
4 bay leaves
1-6 oz. can tomato paste
3-5 Tbsp. hoisin Sauce (according to taste)
4 medium carrots, cut into 1” pieces
2 medium turnips, cut into 1.5” pieces
Beef broth
Salt, pepper, white wine vinegar and honey to taste
Thai Basil to garnish

  1. Toast cinnamon and star anise. I do it directly on my flat top electric on high heat, very carefully, until darkened. It takes less than 2 minutes. You can also use a hot pan over high heat. Set aside when done.
  2. In large pot (I use a Dutch oven) over medium-high heat, add oil, shallots, garlic and lemongrass, cook for 1-2 minutes until shallots are transparent.
  3. Reserve one piece of lemongrass, you’ll use at the very end to freshen up the lemony flavor of the stew.
  4. Add beef to pot, season with salt, pepper and half of curry powder. Cook, stirring intermittently, until beef is browned.
  5. Add just enough broth to cover beef. Stir in ¾ of tomato paste and 3 Tbsp. of hoisin sauce. Add bay leaves, 1 star anise and 1 cinnamon stick (you’ll add the remaining anise and cinnamon at the end to give the flavor a pop).
  6. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and let simmer for 1 ½ hours.
  7. You can check flavor and re-season according to taste after the first 30 minutes. Sparingly add salt, pepper, hoisin sauce, honey (1 tsp at a time), vinegar (a dash at a time for acidity) tomato paste and curry powder as needed. If you’re re-seasoning throughout the simmering process, let flavors develop for 15 minutes before re-tasting.
  8. Check beef for tenderness. Beef should be close to desired tenderness before vegetables are added. If beef is not as tender as wanted, cover and simmer for an additional 15-30 minutes.
  9. Add carrots, turnips and additional broth if liquid does not cover veggies. Cover and cook for an additional 30 minutes or until vegetables tender.
  10. Let stew cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight.
  11. About half an hour before serving, remove as much coagulate fat from the top of the stew as you can (or leave it – up to you).
  12. Add reserve cinnamon, star anise and lemongrass and bring to a low simmer over medium heat. Let simmer for at between 15-30 minutes to warm through and to steep the newly added spices. Remove the cinnamon and anise after a few minutes if you feel the flavors are getting too intense for your taste.
  13. Serve topped with basil and with fresh baguette slices.

Slow-Poached Eggs

DSC_0090This is a pretty straightforward process that I learned from the Momofuku cookbook. The result is an egg that is evenly soft poached all the way through. From whites to yolk. The texture is creamy, almost gelatinous.

They are great in a bowl of ramen, but, also wonderful for breakfast on top of grits, ham and sautéed kale. Or eat them soft boiled style.

The idea is to cook the eggs in their shell for 45 minutes in water that is at a consistent 140-145 degrees. So, keep a bowl of ice nearby in case you need to cool the water. And the eggs should never touch the bottom of the pot, where the temperature is high, so, I use a steamer basket. For more details or just for fun check out the Momofuku cookbook.

Tools and ingredients

6 eggs
steamer basket
4 quart pot
cooking thermometer

  1. Place open steamer basket in pot.
  2. Bring water to 140-145 degrees.
  3. Add eggs.
  4. Cook for 45 minutes. Checking the temperature frequently, lowering with ice as needed.
  5. Serve immediately or store up to 24 hours
  6. To serve, just crack egg into a small saucer and tip over to discard the loosest parts of the whites.

A Bowl of Tonkotsu Miso Ramen


David Chang is out to torture us! We were glued to the screen as Chef Chang heartily slurped away through bowl after bowl of ramen on Mind of a Chef (season 1). His unabashed enthusiasm and his bliss inspired envy in our bellies and watered our mouths. With each episode featuring this hot, delicious Japanese noodle soup, our craving grew stronger. Having no ramen joint in Tucson, I was left with no choice but to concoct my own bowl. I drove myself to the local Asian market to buy ingredients to make a pot of my own.

My intention was to make the Momofuku broth, but, on this particular grocery run, they had run out of chicken backs. So, I improvised the recipe below based on what was available: pig feet and pork necks. Miso was added for umami and bacon at the very end for a distinct smokiness. I used kombu and dried shiitake to layer the flavors and a combination vegetables to deepen the broth. I waited until the end to taste, season, add to and refine the broth with what I had on hand. Goodness ensued. This is our favorite homemade broth thus far.

Fresh ramen noodles are non-existent at Asian grocers in Tucson, so made my own (see link for recipe). I’ve tried substituting Chinese wonton style noodles before. They’re too thin and soft and don’t quite have that bite. If you can find it, a suitable substitute for homemade are the noodles from refrigerated ramen packages. They usually come with their own broth seasoning. Just toss the seasoning and boil the noodles according to package directions and use with your broth.

Making ramen is a time consuming process, but, a satisfying one. So, if you haven’t watched Mind of a Chef, I recommend watching it on Netflix while your broth is stewing away. It’s inspiring, funny and entertaining.

Tonkotsu Miso Ramen
Makes 4 large bowls

1 recipe of Serious Eats’ Chashu Pork, reserve all liquid
1 recipe Ramen Noodles from norecipes.com
Slow-poached eggs

Suggestions for Ramen garnishes
Thinly sliced greens of green onions
Julienned ginger, very thin
Thin slices of fresh shitake
Enokitake mushrooms
Thin slices of Japanese fish cake
Sweet corn, cooked
Slices of bok choy or other Asian greens
Thinly sized Charshu Pork
Slow cooked eggs

Tonkatsu Miso Broth
2.5 lb pork feet
2.5 lbs. pork neck bones
1-4”x5” sheet of kombu seaweed
1 ½ cup of dried shiitake mushrooms
2 carrots, peeled, trimmed and halved
2 small onion, halved
1 leek, trimmed of greens split length-wise and washed
1 dozen whites of green onions (save greens for garnish)
2 slices of bacon (I use Nueske’s Applewood smoked)
2-5 Tbsp. white miso
¼ to 1 cup of braising liquid from Chashu

Before starting broth, do steps 1 in ramen noodle recipe, so your dough has time to rest. Let it rest at least 4 hours, preferably overnight before rolling out and cutting. I also start cooking the Charshu pork while the broth is simmering (step 10 below).

Cooking the broth

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a rimmed cookie sheet, place pork bones in one layer. Roast for 30 minutes.
  3. While bones are roasting, fill 10 quart pot ¾ of the way full with water. Add kombu and bring to a boil.
  4. Turn off heat and let flavor steep for 10 minutes. Remove and discard kombu.
  5. Add dried shiitake mushrooms to pot, bring back to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
  6. Strain and discard mushrooms.
  7. Add bones and fond from cookie sheet to pot and bring to a simmer. I deglaze fond with a couple ladles of the hot cooking liquid.
  8. Add carrots and cover.
  9. Roast onions, leek and scallion in pan or over stove until lightly charred and add to broth.
  10. Cover and simmer for 2 hours.
  11. Remove vegetables and strain liquids into a bowl by pressing pieces through a strainer. Pour liquid back into pot. Discard vegetables.
  12. Cover and simmer for additional 4-6 hours.
  13. Add bacon, boil for 30 minutes, uncovered.
  14. Season with ¼ to 1 cup of liquid from Chashu Pork and 2-5 Tbsp. of miso according to taste. Add a little of each at a time, let the flavors blend for a minute or 2, then taste.

Assembling a bowl of ramen

  1. Boil ramen noodles for 1-2 minutes until al-dente, strain and add to bowl.
  2. Layer your choice of garnishes.
  3. Pour boiling broth over and serve.

Banh Mi Tacos

Banh Mi in Vietnamese translates to bread. Just bread. But, we’ve all come to associate it with Vietnamese sandwiches. A concoction of your choice of meat with pickled daikon and carrots, crispy cucumber and fresh cilantro. So, Banh Mi Tacos (Bread Taco) should really be called Banh Tacos. Potato, po-ta-toh. Whatever you choose to call it, it’s delicious!

This recipe came out of a happy accident. We were making regular Banh Mis and ran out of baguette, but, had a bag of small tortillas. I’m sure someone, somewhere must’ve of thought of this before, however, this was a revelation to us. And it turns out we prefer the taco versions to the standard Banh Mis. There’s a higher filling to starch ratio which makes for a more satisfying, chock-full-of flavor bite.

The Char siu (Chinese BBQ pork) in this recipe will not be red as you would expect from your Chinese restaurant. That hot pink color comes from red dye which I’ve chosen to omit.  It taste yummy just the same! The pork does need to marinate overnight, so plan ahead. And the pickling of the vegetables should be done the night before as well. Though I’ve done it 3 hours before serving with success.

Use a sharp blade when it comes to julienning the veggies, it makes a difference in the texture. If daikon is not available, substitute with five thinly sliced radishes.

Chinese BBQ Pork
1 pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons honey

Pork Marinade
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine/sake
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice
1 teaspoon minced garlic

Pickled Vietnamese Vegetables
2 medium carrots, thinly julienned
1 small daikon, thinly julienne
Pickling juice
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup sugar
½ tsp salt

Tortillas, toppings and condiments
1 dozen small good quality flour tortillas (I used Alejandro’s)
1 peeled, seeded and thinly sliced cucumber
cilantro, washed, leaves only
Siracha or thinly sliced jalapeno peppers (optional)
Maggi seasoning sauce
Fresh cracked pepper

Pork and pickled vegetables

  1. Mix pork marinade ingredients.
  2. Trim tenderloin of any silverskin. Add to marinade and refrigerate overnight.
  3. In a bowl, mix carrots and daikon with 1-2 Tbsp. salt. Let sit for 10 minutes, this will draw out their liquid.
  4. In a container with an airtight lid mix pickling juice ingredients until all is dissolved.
  5. Rinse carrots and daikon to remove salt. Dry with paper towels.
  6. Add vegetables to pickling juice and refrigerate. Pickles should keep for at least a month.
  7. When you are ready to cook pork, remove tenderloin from marinade and set aside, reserving marinade.
  8. Mix honey with 2 Tbsp of pork marinade and brush tenderloin with mixture.
  9. Pork can be grill or roasted. To grill, turn grill to high. Grill tenderloin, turning every 3 minutes (covering in between turns) until internal temperature reaches 155 degrees. To roast. Turn oven to high broil (500 degrees), broil in oven proof dish for 15-20 minutes, turning every 5-10 minutes until internal temperature reaches 155 degrees.
  10. Let tenderloin rest for 20 minutes before slicing for sandwiches.

Assembling Banh Mi Tacos

  1. Warm tortillas on stove, in a pan. 30 seconds each side over high heat. Wrap warmed shells aside in a clean towel until ready to use.
  2. On each tortilla, run a bead of mayo and Siracha (optional) down the center.
  3. Top with slices of pork.
  4. Sprinkle pork with Maggi seasoning.
  5. Add a layer of sliced cucumber.
  6. Top with a little pickled vegetable.
  7. Layer with cilantro leaves.
  8. Pepper and top with jalapeno (optional).