Tag Archives: meat

Pan-Fried Pork and Chive Dumplings (Jiao Zi)

The pork and chive dumplings you get in Chinatown here in NYC usually involve the thin skinned wrappers and garlic chives, a flat, milder flavored variety.  Because these can be hard to come by, I’ve modified this recipe to use a small amount of regular chives, some cilantro and a couple bunches of scallions. I use a traditional jiao zi wrapper made out of a cold water dough, making these heartier and more robust that the usual pork and chive dumplings.

Jiao Zi © Spice or Die

For something a little lighter, use thinner pre-made dumpling wrappers (found in Asian Supermarkets) and cook like traditional potstickers. Basically, you steam the dumplings in a covered skillet with 1/4 to a 1/2 c. of water and a few drops of oil until the water evaporates and the bottoms crisp up.  Hence the name “potstickers” – I know, sometimes the world just makes a whole lot of sense, doesn’t it?  For a great potsticker recipe from start to finish, check out my good friend Chef Tim Ma’s Pan Fried Pork and Chive Potstickers.

The best part of this recipe, and all homemade dumplings, is that the quality is much higher than what you’ll find at restaurants and dumpling joints.  You control exactly what is added to the little delicacies, and you still end up keeping the price down.  Fresh ingredients at a low price is a hard thing to come by these days, so definitely celebrate a little when you tuck into a plate of these bad boys.

Pan-Fried Pork and Chive Jiao Zi

4 c. of flour
1 1/4 c. of ice water
1/2 tsp. of salt

3/4 lbs. of ground pork
2-3 raw shrimp, minced (optional)
1/4 c. of water
1/2 in. of ginger, minced
1 tsp. of cornstarch
2 tbs. of soy sauce
2 tsp. of sherry
2 tsp. of sesame oil
1/2 tsp. of salt
4 tsp. of sugar
3 bunches of scallions, finely chopped
1 small bunch of cilantro (10-15 stems with leaves), minced
1 small bunch of chives (the plastic pack from the store is fine)

Start by making the dough for the wrappers.  Add the four cups of flour to a bowl along with the salt.  Slowly stream in water, stirring as you go and making sure not to put any actual ice cubes in the mixture.  Add only enough water to get the dough to hold together – if it gets too sticky, add a bit more flour.  Knead dough until silky and elastic (about 5-8 minutes) and then wrap with plastic and let chill in the fridge.

Mix all ingredients (except for scallions, cilantro, chives and water) until smooth and a little stringy, making sure to stir all in the same direction.  Next, stream your water into the mixture in small amounts, stirring in between each addition.  Lastly, add the scallions, cilantro and chives and stir again.  Set aside.

Break out your dough and pinch a chunk off the size of a clementine.  Run the dough through a pasta roller or roll out by hand to about 1/4 in. thick.  Cut out 3-4 in. circles using a cookie cutter or the mouth of a large cup (I use one of my hubby’s beer steins).  Place a heaping teaspoon of filling onto the wrapper and pleat the edges to close.  Set aside on a floured cookie sheet.  Continue to fill the dumplings until you run out of filling or dough – whichever comes first.

Fill a large pot with water and set to boil.  When the water is ready, plunk in about 8-12 dumplings and watch the water go from a boil to a simmer.  Let the water come back to a boil and then pour in a rough cup and a half of cold water.  Let the water come to a boil again and then add cold water a second time.  Let the pot come to a boil one last time and then remove dumplings from the water with a slotted spoon.  Repeat until you’ve cooked all of the dumplings that you could possibly eat in one sitting.

Serve with Sweet Soy Dipping Sauce.


For a different taste, pick up the thin, round pre-made dumpling wrappers from your local asian market.  You can even use the wonton wrappers found in the deli aisle of the regular grocery store, and cut the squares into rounds with a ring mold.  Fill your dumplings and set aside on a floured cookie sheet.  Add 3-4 tbs. of cooking oil to a skillet and turn on high.  As the pan warms up, place the dumplings, seam side up, in the pan one next to another.  When the pan is super hot and the oil starts to sizzle (a few minutes), add about 1/2 c. of water to your pan.  Immediately cover to trap the whaft of steam that arises when you add the water to the hot pan.  Cook until the water has evaporated and the bottoms of the dumplings crisp up.


Pastitsio is often referred to as the Greek answer to lasagna, but I think that it’s selling it quite short.  The rich lamb sauce is more than a simple bolognese, and gains character from cinnamon and cloves.  Mozzarella and ricotta aren’t to be found here, as the entire mixture is cradled by a luxe bechamel enriched with egg yolks and feta cheese.  I think that the lasagna reference must have come from folks who didn’t have a culinary context for the dish, but I say why categorize?  Can’t pastitsio just be pastitsio?

Back when I was little, summertime meant a trip to the Greek festivals held by the Orthodox churches in the DC Metro area.  I believe that our favorite was in Maryland, where a church hall was taken over by dozens of old ladies doling out massive portions of what must have been secret family recipes.  I can be sure that there must have been arguments over who had the best recipes and which versions would be made for the festivals.  No matter – I never had a bad meal.  The rundown was that you hopped in line and pointed to whatever you wanted to eat copious amounts of – moussaka, tender roasted lamb, lemony potatoes and oven braised green beans.  I’m sure there was salad.  I’m sure there were even other cooked treats.  I barely made it past the pastitsio – a heaping of blubbery noodles in a delicately spiced sauce, almost too heavy to carry.  We would tote the styrofoam containers outside to the picnic tables and attempt to conquer the Joey Chestnut-sized portions.  You almost wanted to scream “Release the kraken!”  (Haha, Mom, that was for you…) Continue reading Pastitsio

Braised Short Rib and Crimini Ragu with Pappardelle

Good things come to those who wait, and baby, these marbled short ribs in a meltingly rich ragu are worth it.  This recipe came about as an alternative to my dream lunch (yep, you read correctly when I said lunch) back when I was studying photography in Italy.  Our class lived in a sleepy town called Orvieto, nestled about 2 hours between Rome and Florence.  In the heart of Tuscany, Orvieto’s culinary acclaim was rooted in black truffles, a crisp white wine called Orvieto Classico, and wild boar.  The latter was an absolute mind-blower for me – in this country, pork has been raised to be so very lean, it’s been genetically altered into flavorlessness.  People then swoon over Berkshire pork anything because they are harkening this atavistic longing for a time when pork tasted flavorful and rich.  Not the dry, chewy garbage that we see all the time.


My first taste of wild boar was a forkful off my friend Michelle’s plate – she had a hankering for pappardelle, whilst I had never even heard of it until then.  The wide, eggy noodles, like halved lasagna sheets without the crinkles, weren’t as widely available in the states yet.  To me, at the time, they were a revelation, and when I eat them now (either made from scratch or picked up at Trader Joe’s), I look back to that first taste with fondness.  Topping the tangle of noodles was a luscious ragu of wild boar (called “cinghiale” in Italian) – savory, sweet and robust, this was like no pork that we had back home.  I was in love.

Braised Short Rib and Crimini Ragu with Pappardelle © Spice or Die

Although, as I mentioned before, pappardelle is an easy score, the wild boar is none to be found.  Though the ragu can easily me made with thick cut loin chops or even pork shoulder, I change the protein to beef and lovingly braise short ribs in stock, veggies and spices.  It takes time, but is really no work at all – one of those “set it and forget it moments”…sorry Ron Popeil.  This is better than anything made in your rotisserie grill.

Braised Short Rib and Crimini Ragu with Pappardelle

3 tbs. of olive oil
2 lbs of short ribs
1 tsp. of black pepper
2 tsp. of kosher salt
1 lb. of cremini mushrooms
2 bay leaves
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small onion, diced
1 c. of red wine
2 tbs. of thyme, chopped
28 oz. of tomatoes
4 c. of beef stock
6 c. of water
1 can of tomato paste
2 tbs. of butter
2 tbs. of flour

1 lbs. of dried pappardelle (or your favorite long pasta)
3 tbs. of butter
3 cl. of garlic, chopped
2 tbs. of fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 tsp. of crushed red pepper

In a large dutch oven, heat the oil.  Cut your short ribs into meaty, one-inch cubes and liberally salt and pepper.  Fry in batches in the dutch oven until very well browned on all sides.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the 1 tbs. of oil to the pan and add the mushrooms, making sure not to crowd the pan too much.  Stir infrequently, allowing mushrooms to brown and show lovely color.  Remove with the slotted spoon and add to the beef cubes.

Add your carrots, celery and onion to the dutch oven.  Cook until translucent and then add the garlic.  Continue cooking until fragrant – about a minute.  Pour in the cup of wine to deglaze the pan,  scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the dutch oven.  Add your tomatoes and stock to the pot and stir.

Simmer for 2 1/2 hours, adding water in 2 cup increments every 45 minutes.  When the short ribs are fall-apart tender and the sauce has reduced for the last time, use a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the pot.  In a separate sauce pot, melt your butter and then whisk in your flour.  Cook for a minute and then whisk in the tomato paste.  Pour all of the stew liquid into the pot with the tomato-butter-flour roux, whisking the entire time to prevent lumps.  Your sauce should be shimmering and creamy at this point.  Return the meat to the sauce, mashing it a bit to allow it to fall apart in the sauce.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and drop in your pappardelle.  Cook until al dente and then drain, making sure to reserve a cup of the cooking liquid.

While the pasta is cooking, in another small saucepan, melt the three tablespoons of butter.  Add the garlic, thyme and red pepper at the very last minute, allowing it to barely cook in the hot butter.

When the pasta is done, take out a skillet (lots of pans, I know) and turn it on high.  Plunk in 1 tablespoon of the butter-garlic mixture, the pappardelle and two ladlefuls of the sauce from the ragu.  Add the cooking water as necessary to loosen up the sauce until the pasta is glossy and the sauce adheres to the noodles.

To serve, place a tangle of pappardelle in a bowl and top with a few large spoonfuls of ragu, making sure to get good amounts of short ribs and crimini on the plate.  Drizzle a little of the garlic butter on the top and mangia bene!

Baked Ham with Rosemary Hurricane Glaze

I’m Pretty Sure the Holiday Ham is Drunk Again

Easter is all about the celebration of Spring (new birth, resurrection, lilies and the like), which is why lamb is such a popular dish.  If you want to go old school, my money is on a classic smoked ham with a sweet, crackling crust.  In fact, I am going to play Neil Diamond’s “Cracklin’ Rosie” as I type this post.  *singing* Bakin’ it sloooooow.

This is straight out of my memories of childhood – Dad would get the Smithfield smoked hams from the grocery for Easter or Christmas and bake them to perfection.  Occasionally, my mom would chuck a few oranges in the baking pan and stud the thing with cloves to keep it spicy and ever so juicy.  Then, after cooking and a good rest on the counter, my Dad would carve with an electric knife (that’s now been upgraded to a super sharp butcher’s knife that he sharpens right before slicing) and give my sister (then a meat eater) and I a slice before serving.  Now, the only ones around clamoring for an early slice of ham are their pug and puggle, Bentley and Chloe.

This ham is straight-forward, but the glaze is a little different.  It gets the name “hurricane” from the Creole-inspired ingredients – it’s the juice and booze that make up the traditional New Orleans drink of the same name.  I add brown mustard, bay leaves, cloves and rosemary and boil the concoction down to a thick syrup that bathes the ham in the last hour of cooking.  I gave you the ingredients for making the glaze as a standalone, but when I do it at home, I double the glaze ingredients and brine the ham in them overnight.  This sweetens the ham and desalts in a bit.  Then, I take the brining liquid and cook it down to make the glaze.  It’s very good this way, but if you don’t feel like wasting that much rum on glaze (as opposed to drinking) just follow the steps as I’ve listed them below.

I serve this ham with the accompaniments of my childhood as well (and this is via our neighbor who usually makes these sides) – scalloped potatoes and spinach salad with red onion and hard-boiled eggs.  Because I need a little more greenery on my plate, I like to roast some asparagus spears as well.  It doesn’t get any more spring-y than that.

Baked Ham with Rosemary Hurricane Glaze

1 smoked ham (around 8 lbs.)
1 c. of orange juice (blood orange or clementine work well)
1 c. of pineapple juice
1/2 c. of grenadine or hibiscus syrup
1/2 c. of brown sugar
1 c. of rum
2 bay leaves
1 tsp of ground cloves
2 tbs. of brown mustard
3 sprigs of rosemary
1 small bunch of sage
pinch of cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 325°.  Fit a v-shaped roasting rack over a roasting pan and line with sage and one sprig of rosemary.  Sit ham on top of herbs and put into the oven.  Plan to bake the ham for about 20-25 minutes per pound (my oven runs hot, so I cook mine closer to 20 minutes per lb. to keep it from drying out)

While the ham is cooking, make your glaze.  Pour the orange juice, pineapple juice, grenadine, sugar, rum, bay leaves, cloves, mustard, and the rest of the rosemary into a large saucepan (or if you are cooking down the brine that you used on the ham, use a large pot) and bring to a boil.  Continue to cook until the liquid reduces to a cup and a half.  Strain and set aside.

When the ham only has about 45 minutes left to cook, take it out of the oven.  Pour the glaze over the top.  Return the ham to the oven and continue to bake.  When the ham is done, let rest at least 10 minutes before carving so that the juices have time to redistribute.  Slice and serve.

Grilled Lemongrass Beef

A Sweet and Salty Affair

From chocolate covered pretzels to a salt-rimmed margarita, our palettes all crave the goodness that is sweet and salty.  This recipe tackles all the taste points, with a fair share of sweet, salty and tart.  I slather this simple marinade on beef and grill until charred on the outside and juicy pink on the inside, but you can certainly use it on pork or chicken as well.  It’s comprised of a simple kalbi sauce (a delicious combo of brown sugar, soy and mirin used in Korean BBQ), a splash of toasted sesame oil, and an aromatic bit of ground lemongrass (which can be found at Asian markets or online).  I’ve given you the lazy version below that uses a pack of Noh Korean Barbecue mix – I score the packets on Amazon along with orders of char su, the lovely crimson Chinese marinade used on roasted pork.  If you want to go homemade, though, you can certainly make it from scratch using some soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, sugar and salt and pepper.  Garnish with white and black sesame seeds for an added bit of lovely. Continue reading Grilled Lemongrass Beef

Irish Lamb Stew with Rosemary and Sage

Non-Stop Comfort with No Regrets

My good friend Adella, a fellow foodie and recipe crafter, is exacting with her perfection of a dish.  She believes in absolute measurements in the kitchen (“What’s a dash? What’s a pinch”) and as such, she turns out flawless dishes time in and time out.  How could I not love her to pieces?  When I first started Adesina’s Cook-a-long, I immediately knew that I had to hit her up for a recipe.  Adella and I worked next to each other for 2 years, and in those fleeting moments of free time amidst our crazy schedules, she and I would hash about our successes (and occasional flops) in the kitchen.  She, like I, had a collection of “tried and true” go-to recipes that we kept for friends and family – we don’t have cookbook aspirations so much as a need to document the goodness found behind a particular set of ingredients and methods.  When the stars align in the kitchen, the recipe becomes a mini celebration of the success.  Needless to say, Adella has had her fair share of successes, and her collection continues to grow and grow.  Maybe it is time for her to launch a cookbook 🙂 Continue reading Irish Lamb Stew with Rosemary and Sage

Simple Hanger Steak

Hanger? I Hardly Knew Her!

Face it, kids.  Filet mignon is overrated.  Yes, it’s tender.  Yes, it costs more than most other steaks.  But really, if you ask me for the cut that I turn to time and time again for an in-home, steakhouse experience, it’s all about the hanger steak.  Centered between the other popular cuts of brisket and flank.  It’s sometimes referred to as skirt, even though it’s actually a completely separate cut of meat (though close by).  If you see “onglet” on a French bistro menu, they are referring to hanger steak.  The steak itself is comprised of two long strips of meat, with an inedible white membrane running down the middle.  I’m usually too lazy to cut this out when I cook the steak at home, but if you want to be a fancy pants, trim this out before you cut portions of steak.

Prized for it’s beefy flavor and chewy goodness (read: chewy but not at all tough), it’s referred to as “the butcher’s cut” because it was the steak that the butcher kept for his fam.  I’m not so sure that this is the case these days, but because of its caché, it’s been marked up in price from time to time.  Funny how the cheaper cuts (short ribs, skirt steak) have suddenly gone up in price once people collectively “discover” how good they are. Continue reading Simple Hanger Steak

Cabbage Borscht with Beef Short Ribs

Stick To Your Ribs…Short Ribs, That Is

I have so many happy memories of this cabbage borscht with beef short ribs – it’s one that my Dad has been making for years, probably back when the parents had a subscription to Bon Apetit and Gourmet mag.  Every edition had sweet 70s fashions and folks curled up on shag rugs dipping wisps of beef tenderloin into the smoking oil fondue pots.  You can’t really find this soup recipe by its original name (which I use here), but recently my Dad did a search and found out that it now goes under the guise of Czech Flanken and Cabbage Soup.  Both titles are accurate, but the recipe below is truly the best I’ve come across.  The soup is hearty and rich, but cut with a zip of lemon and sweet red wine. Continue reading Cabbage Borscht with Beef Short Ribs

Whole Roast Chicken with Mushrooms and Herbes de Provence

A Roast You Can Boast About

I remember this stupid commercial – Perdue, I think – where this woman is freaking out about the prospect of roasting a chicken.  Jim Perdue came to the rescue (“My lucky stars!”) with a pre-seasoned chicken in a bag.  My real issue with the commercial was that it furthered the misconception that roasting a chicken is a daunting task.  Making a savory and deliciously moist chicken takes a few key steps, but the process itself is forgiving, adaptable and completely reasonable.   If you take the time to learn how to do it, roasting a whole chicken will quickly become a part of your recipe repertoire.

For me, all of the special techniques involve flavoring the meat and keeping it moist during cooking.  One of the easiest ways to inject flavor into a chicken is to brine it before roasting.  Think back to your days in Chemistry and lessons on osmosis – a porous object placed in a saltwater bath takes in the salt water and expells the unsalted water that is contained inside of it.  Same with the chicken – if you let it hang out in your fridge in some salty water, the seasoning will literally go all the way into the chicken.  Better than just salting the skin and ending up with tasteless chicken.  If you want to make the chicken without planning ahead, skip the brining and just make sure to follow the other two tricks below. Continue reading Whole Roast Chicken with Mushrooms and Herbes de Provence

Cincinnati Style Chili Mac

aka The Championship Chili

The zesty cousin of red-hot Texas chili, this Cincinnati style chili mac has a whole lot of soul in the form of a long line of herbs and spices.  Originally perfected by Greek immigrants, this slow-cooked, saucy treat is known for its long list of seemingly unusual ingredients.  In addition, the chili is traditionally served without beans and over spaghetti – you’ll see when you make this chili that it actually cooks up like a bolognese.

I first became familiar with it via the DC restaurant, Hard Times Cafe, where the chili is served in “ways”.  Starting with your basic chili, each additional topping is considered a way – so two-way is spaghetti and chili, three-way is spaghetti, chili and cheese, four-way is spaghetti, chili, cheese and onions, and five-way is all of the above plus pink beans. Continue reading Cincinnati Style Chili Mac