Sunday, April 29, 2012

Crack (Pie) is not Whack

Earlier this month, I decided to be ambitious and continue making non-cupcake desserts. I know, weird right? I just got a recipe book for Momofuku Milk Bar, which is based in New York City. It's owned by famed chef David Chang but run by Christina Tosi. In March, Christina taught a two-hour lesson at the Biltmore on the making of chocolate chip layer cake. But I opted for my first solo foray to make their signature Crack Pie. Supposedly it's so yummy and addictive that that is the name Milk went with. The recipe calls for something like 8 egg yolks. Fortunately, my co-worker gave me 24 eggs recently from his urban chicken coop. Score! It also calls for this brand of European butter called Plugra because it contains 82 percent butter fat, as opposed to 80 percent in grocery store brand butter. Not to sound "political," but it's all about that 1 percent! I have to confess, I misread the amount of butter and added twice as much. Gulp...guess you could call it the "Paula Deen" technique.
Crack Pie crust is basically an oatmeal cookie recipe _ butter, brown sugar, sugar, oats, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, flour. This separate crust is what makes this pie kind of labor intensive. Once your giant cookie is done, you have to crumble it and run it through a food processor. Then you knead melter butter and you have enough to line 2 pie tins.
The filling was pretty easy, thankfully. Egg yolks, sugar, light brown sugar, milk powder, corn powder, kosher salt, butter, heavy cream, vanilla extract. The hardest part was getting the corn powder. I forgot that it's basically getting freeze-dried corn and running it through a processor. I stupidly went to AJ's Fine Foods and asked if they had corn powder and the clerk was like "Never heard of it." Once I went home and re-read the recipe and went "Aaaaah," I went to Sprouts market. The clerk there led me to the freezer section where she said "Nope, don't carry it." I wanted to say "Obviously as 'freeze-dried' doesn't mean keep frozen." Anyway, I found myself driving at 9:30 at night to Whole Foods for the elusive kernels in the name of now a true mission.
After all this work, you divide the filling in between the two pie crusts. The filling is pretty custardy/toffee-like.
Then you bake them for 15 minutes at 350 degrees, then another 5 minutes at 325. It took a lot longer for mine; I'm pretty sure it was from my butter error. After the pies cool, you put them in the freezer for a minimum 3 hours. Luckily, freezing is the must-do step. According to the book, freezing is the "signature technique." When you're ready to serve it, you have to let it sit in the fridge for an hour. Then you can break into what is supposed to be a dense and gooey plate of addictive pie. In some ways, this was quite a bit of work. But with a name like Crack Pie, I couldn't pass it up.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

!@#$% non-Asians say to me Episode 2

So, this past Sunday, I had to go to Tucson and spend the night to cover a breaking story on a 6-year-old girl who was possibly abducted. When I was finally allowed to sign off the first day and go look for lodging, I went to the nearest decent hotel, Embassy Suites.
As luck would have it, they have a complimentary breakfast buffet. So Monday morning, I wait outside the dining room for them to open at 6 a.m. (I had a 6:30 a.m. news conference to get to) They open the doors and I'm like the second customer. I of course say hello to the staff.
There was this old man with glasses, a hotel employee. English wasn't his first language. Not sure if he was Eastern European or something else. Anyway, he's standing by the door like a greeter. So of course I say "Good morning" pretty clearly. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I notice some movement. I'm like "What's he doing?" The guy is BOWING to me. I didn't get it at first until he said "O-hi-O." Oh boy....then he says "Aren't you visiting from Japan? Or are you from China?" I almost yell through gritted teeth "PHOENIX!"
Seriously, don't people get that it's a bad idea to assume that kind of stuff? I don't know if my press badge around my neck somehow made me look more "foreign." Must be my 'slanted' eyes.

Monday, April 09, 2012

!@#$% non-Asians say to me

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I am used to seeing a lot of diversity and being one of a throng of Asians. Not until moving to Phoenix have I encountered so many misfires/faux pas from people when it comes to ethnicity. Some of it is people honestly trying to be nice but just being clods. Some is because people are just ignorant jerks. I've decided from now on, I'm going to document these occurrences and call it the title you see above.

The most recent encounter was earlier this month. I just started covering the Arizona Legislature. So, I had go get a badge to walk around freely in both chambers. I went to the House of Representatives security desk to fill out the paper work. As I was doing this, the white security guard said something to me that mind as well have been gibberish. Think the unseen teacher in Charlie Brown's class. I just looked at him completely puzzled. He said "You don't speak Korean?" WTF. Do these people not realize how rude they sound? I'd tell him to stick to English but he doesn't seem to be doing too well in that department.

Paper Clip Pork/Char Sieu

Char Sieu or bbq pork is something you can find in just about every Chinatown deli or your big box Chinese supermarket. I am not sure how they cook them. But in my family, just about everyone has been taught to cook the marinated pork in an oven, not an actual barbecue pit or oven. My uncle's method of using paper clips seems to work best. Yes, paper clips. They're not just for paper anymore. ;) To my family, there was nothing weird about that. Anything that is a vehicle to well-cooked food is fine with us. I didn't realize how foreign this sounded until I came to Phoenix and explained it to people. Then I thought, "OK, yeah, that sounds kind of weird." So, here among my Phoenix friends, it's referred to as "paper clip pork." Or in the gossip circle as "clothespin chicken." Talk about lost in translation. Anyway, it's a very easy recipe that I'm more than willing to share.

You will need:
1 jar of hoisin sauce (go to any Chinese market)
1/3 cup of sugar
2 tsps. of curing salt
A little bit of white wine i.e. Chablis
pork shoulder butt roast (somewhere between 3-4 pounds)

What you do:
Rinse off the pork butt roast and let it drain for a bit. Cut into sizeable length-wise slabs, maybe about 1/2-1 inch thick. Depends on what you prefer. Empty the hoisin sauce jar into a large bowl. Pour in the sugar and salt. Pour a little bit of white wine into the bottom of the empty jar and shake the jar around to rinse out the hoisin remnants. Pour that into the bowl. Stir the marinade until it seems like the sugar has been distributed. Put all the pieces of pork in and mix well. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for approximately 48 hours. It doesn't have to be exactly 48 but definitely more than 24.

Fast forward two days later...time for the paper clips. First, make sure one oven rack is at the top-most level. Then preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Take out one clip for each piece and bend both ends so that you get a hook on each end. Once the oven is ready, take some oven mitts and slide both racks out. Put a tray lined with tin foil on the bottom rack. This will help catch the drippings. Pierce one end of a paper clip into a piece of meat. Try to do it in a thick part to ensure the pork won't fall off. Use the other end to hang the meat from the top rack. You may have to bend the clip end to make it more rounded. The paper clips basically are a great way to make sure the meat cooks on all sides in a consistent fashion. The next step is very important. PUSH BOTH OVEN RACKS BACK IN AT THE SAME TIME. Otherwise, you will have a very messy oven flecked with marinade drippings. Cook in the oven for 45 minutes.

Once it's time, they should look nice and red.

If the ends aren't crispy and tinged with black already, you can try setting the oven on broil for 2 minutes. When the char sieu is ready, slide the oven racks out at the same time. Use a pair of tongs to take down the pork slabs. You can cut one open just to make sure it's cooked through. Let them cool down before you take the paper clips out. And then you're done!

This cut of meat is more fattening. So, each piece is not meant to be consumed by one person like a pork chop or steak. Rather, you should cut up on slab into little slices. You can serve slices with rice and vegetables. You can throw them in with a slew of vegetables to make a one-dish meal. You can dice them to add some flavor to a batch of fried rice.

If someone like myself who prefers baking can make this, then there's hope for anyone. Also, I'm happy to show anyone in person how to do it. The only thing I want in return is that you have to teach me something _ a recipe, taking pictures, learning how to tie the Windsor knot, etc Basically, teach me something new. Impart knowledge on me. There's always an appetite for that.