Monday, May 22, 2017

Vietnamese Braised Lemongrass Chicken


























When I was a kid, my mom braised lemongrass chicken pretty frequently.  She used to buy whole chickens from the store, cut it up into bite-sized pieces, and braised in fish sauce and coconut juice until most of the juices evaporate and tons of flavors get absorbed inside each chicken piece.  I remember enjoying the flavor explosion in every bite.

These days, instead of cutting up a whole chicken, I use boneless chicken thighs and not have to deal with chicken bones while eating.  This is also much easier for the kids to eat as well.  In our house, we love eating lemongrass chicken with steamed white rice and a side of freshly cut crunchy cucumbers.

Ingredients:
1.5 pounds boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup coconut juice
1/2 cup lemongrass, finely minced
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
3 green onions, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon coconut syrup
1 teaspoon crushed black pepper
2 thai chilies (optional)
1 cucumber, sliced

Steps:
Marinate Chicken - In a medium bowl, combine lemongrass, fish sauce, garlic cloves, sugar, coconut syrup, and crushed black pepper.  Add chicken and mix well.  Cover and marinate in fridge for at least 2 hours.

Braise Chicken - Heat a large skillet high heat.  When skillet is smoking hot, add oil and chicken. Sear and cook chicken for about 10 minutes.  Add coconut juice and bring contents in skillet to a hard boil.  Reduce heat to medium low heat, cover with a lid, and cook covered for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, increase the heat to medium heat and continue cooking uncovered for about 15 minutes or until about 3/4 of the liquid evaporates.  With about 5 minutes left in the cooking process, add green onions onions and mix well.

Tips: 

  • For a spicy kick, add minced Thai chilies or throw in whole chilies during the last 5 minutes of the cooking process.
  • Bone-in chicken works very well for this recipe.  Cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Substitute water or chicken broth for coconut juice.  
  • Substitute molasses for coconut syrup.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs























Hot dogs are the perfect BBQ food.  It is easy to cook, scrumptious, and people love it! I always keep at least a pack of hot dogs in my fridge when I host BBQs just in case I run low on food or underestimate the amount of people coming over.

Recently, there are a few Mexican hot dog stands popping up around San Jose and the vendors are wrapping their hot dogs with bacon and loading it with delicious toppings. This inspired me to turn my hot dogs up a notch by wrapping it with some bacon and loading it up with my favorite toppings.

Over the past year, I’ve loaded bacon wrapped hot dogs with Vietnamese sandwich toppings, chili cheese, mustard and relish, but my favorite way to top bacon wrapped hot dogs is with Mexican food condiments like pico de gallo, crema, and jalapenos. I love the way the freshness of the pico de gallo balances out the saltiness of the hot dog and makes it taste so good!

This recipe is just to show you how I make bacon wrapped hot dogs and I encourage you to be creative and top it the way you like!


Ingredients:
8 all beef hot dogs
8 slices of thin bacon
8 hot dog buns

Optional Ingredients:
jalapenos
Cotija cheese
sour cream
shredded cheese
ketchup
mustard
Sriracha 
relish

Steps:
Prepare hot dogs - Wrap each hot dog with a slice of bacon.



BBQ hot dogs - Setup up grill for indirect cooking.  Bring the grill to 350-375 degrees. Place bacon wrapped hot dogs on indirect side of the grill and cook covered for about 25 minutes or until bacon is crispy.  Flip hot dogs about half way through cooking. Remove lid and sear hot dogs, one minute a side, to crisp bacon even more.



Assemble hot dogs - Place bacon wrapped hot dogs on a bun.  Load the bacon wrapped hot dogs with your favorite hot dog toppings.




Tips:
  • I personally love topping bacon wrapped hot dogs with pico de gallo, jalapenos, sour cream, and Cotjia cheese, but the options are endless!
  • To prevent bacon from falling off during cooking, you can secure bacon with a toothpick on each side of the hot dog.
  • Be very careful of flareups when cooking hot dog over direct heat.
  • If BBQing is not an option, roast bacon wrapped hot dogs in the oven on 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

BBQ Beef Tri-Tip


When my cousins from Texas visited us last year, I was surprised to find out they never tasted Tri-tip before. They have plenty of briskets, ribs, blue crabs, and crawfish in Texas, but no Tri-tip. Before their flight back to Texas, I barbecued a few USDA Prime Tri-tips and introduced them to the beautiful, juicy, and beefy cut of meat we know as Tri-tip here in California.

There are endless possibilities when it comes to seasoning and/or marinating Tri-tip, but this is a quick way to season it for ridiculously good flavor.  What's most important is to cook the Tri-tip to the desired internal cooking temperature you like and to slice the Tri-tip against the grain.  If you don't pay attention to how you slice it, it can be really tough and chewy.  I like to cook my Tri-tips to 145 degrees...the perfect medium for the family.

Ingredients:
3 pound Tri-tip roast, trimmed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1-2 tablespoons BBQ Rub

Steps:
Season Tri-tip - Coat Tri-tip with a single layer of vegetable oil.  Mix kosher salt and BBQ rub and liberally season Tri-tip.  Refrigerate for at least four hours.

BBQ Tri-tip - Setup up grill for indirect cooking.  Bring the grill to 350-375 degrees. Place Tri-tip on indirect side of the grill and cook covered until internal temperature of Tri-tip reaches 130 degrees. Remove lid and sear Tri-tip, two minutes a side, over direct heat or until internal temperature of Tri-tip reaches 140-145 degrees.  Remove Tri-tip from the grill, tint with aluminum foil, and allow Tri-tip to rest for 15 minutes.



Carve Tri-tip - Cut Tri-tip, against the grain, in 1/4-1/3 inch slices. Serve with your favorite sides.



Tips:
  • If possible, purchase only trimmed USDA Choice or USDA Prime Tri-tip.  
  • You must cut Tri-tip against the grain or it will be tough to chew.
  • If you have time, dry brine with kosher salt the night before to allow salt to penetrate through the meat
  • Cook tri-tip on indirect heat until internal temperature is 15 degrees less than desired temperature.  Finish Tri-tip off by searing over direct heat.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Vanilla Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting




















Last week, we celebrated my nephew Liam's first birthday.  His parents turned their house into a big aquarium and displayed fishy decorations everywhere! They asked me to bake some pretty colorful fishy cupcakes they found on Pinterest to go with the O-FISH-AL birthday theme and without any hesitation, I agreed.  I was excited to contribute to the birthday party, but I was even more excited to have a reason to use my stand mixer, Daenerys. I may have mentioned this before, but the stand mixer is an incredible kitchen tool and I think everyone should own one.



I never baked straight vanilla cupcakes before so I  was a little nervous.  The week before the party, I researched a few vanilla cupcake recipes online and baked a few test batches to determine the best vanilla cupcakes to bake for the party. It's super important for cupcakes to stay moist throughout the day and not dry out.  From my testing, the recipe that used butter dried out pretty quickly, but the ones with oil remained moist throughout the day.  After recipe testing, the recipe that called for canola oil and cake flour ended up tasting the best so that's what I used for the birthday party.  On the day of the party, the vanilla cupcakes turned out how I envisioned and expected.  Wifey even helped decorate and turned the cupcakes into colorful fishies to go with the birthday theme. I saw plenty of smiles that day and the kids partied hard at the Liam's birthday party.  Everyone had a fantastic time.






Ingredients:
Vanilla Cupcakes (Makes 24):
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup canola oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

Buttercream Frosting:
3 sticks of unsalted butter
4 cups confectioner's sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons whole milk
food coloring, optional

Steps:
Prepare dry ingredients - Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, sift cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt through a sifter and whisk well.

Make cupcake batter - In a stand mixer bowl or large bowl, beat eggs on medium for about 15 seconds.  Add sugar and beat until combined for another 30 seconds.  Add oil and vanilla extract. Turn mixer down to low seed. Add cake flour alternating with buttermilk and finishing with cake flour. Mix batter until smooth, but do not over beat.

Bake cupcakes - Line cupcake pan with cupcake paper.  Fill each cupcake paper to about 1/2 way full or 1.4 ounces of batter. Bake cupcakes for 13-15 minutes.  Take cupcakes out of the oven and rest for 10 minutes in the pan.  Remove cupcakes from the pan and cool on wire rack until ready to frost.



Make Buttercream Frosting - Add butter to stand mixer and mix for about 1 minute.  Add confectioner's sugar.  Beat on low and gradually increase speed to medium high for about 2-3 minutes.  Add vanilla and half the milk. Beat for another minute. If frosting looks too thick, add remaining milk and continue beating until frosting is smooth and fluffy.

Frost cupcakes - Use a small rubber spatula and spread a single layer of frosting evenly on top of the cupcake. Decorate cupcakes as necessary.

Tips:

  • I learned in this baking experience that you should avoid using reduced fat products like reduced fat milk or buttermilk.  It impacts the overall quality.
  • AP flour should work for this recipe, but Cake flour makes the cupcakes less dense and gives it a more cakey consistency.
  • If frosting is too thick, add 1 tablespoon of whole milk at a time until the consistency is perfect.
  • To ensure the cupcake is cooked, stick a toothpick in the center of the cupcake and make sure batter does not stick to the toothpick.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Smoked Pulled Pork





















Last year, the girls bought me a Weber Smokey Mountain smoker for Father's Day.  Selena, the name I gave the smoker, is one of the best presents I ever received.  After I unboxed the smoker, I went through a six hour dry run to monitor the internal temperature and recorded the temperature every 15 minutes.  Yes, it was a very nerdy thing to do, but I enjoyed every minute of it.  The dry run helped me get comfortable before for my first and longest cook...Smoked Pork Shoulder for Pulled Pork.

Before smoking the pork shoulder, I watched countless YouTube videos to get the technique and seasonings down.  After smoking the pork shoulder, I realized that seasoning and preparing the pork shoulder was very easy.  Smoking the pork wasn't the difficult part, it's the cooking time waiting for it to finish cooking was the most difficult.  For the first cook, it took over 11 hours for the internal temperature of the pork to reach 198 degrees.  BBQ enthusiasts recommend smoking the pork until the internal temperature is between 190-200 degrees. During the smoking process, the fat slowly rendered and dripped down into the water pan and formed a beautiful dark and crusty bark. The wood smoke also penetrated through the pork and helped develop a beautiful smoke ring in the meat, the sight that would make BBQ lovers proud.  Since my first pulled pork attempt, I smoked pork shoulders on two other occasions and it turned out great every time.

There are so many creative dishes you can make with pulled pork..my favorites are sandwiches and nachos.

Ingredients:
1 8-pound Pork Shoulder, bone-in
4 teaspoons Kosher salt
No Limit Rub, or your favorite rub
No Limit BBQ Sauce
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
4 ounces apple juice
2 ounces apple cider vinegar

Coleslaw Ingredients:
1 pound coleslaw mix
1/2 cup Best Food mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sugar
1 small lemon, zest and juice
1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar
Salt and Pepper, to taste


4-8 ounces Oak and Apple wood chunks


Steps:

Dry Brine Pork Shoulder - Salt pork shoulder. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Prepare Pork Shoulder - Slather and coat pork shoulder with yellow mustard.  Liberally season pork shoulder with BBQ rub.

Prepare Coleslaw - In a large bowl, add mayonnaise, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper and mix until coleslaw dressing is combined.  Add coleslaw mix until coleslaw is evenly coated. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Smoke Pork Shoulder - Setup up Smoker for indirect cooking.  Bring the smoker to 225-250 degrees. Add wood chunks to charcoal.  Place pork shoulder on smoker.  Smoke pork shoulder until internal temperature reaches 198 degrees.

Pull Pork Shoulder - Rest pork under tinted foil for at least half hour.  Remove the shoulder blade from he pork shoulder.  With hands or fork, pull/shred pork. Add an additional tablespoon or two of seasoning and mix well.



Pulled Pork Sandwich
Pulled Pork Nachos



Tips:
  • It's going to take a long time.  Be patient.
  • Use boneless pork shoulder if you prefer.
  • Once pork shoulder reaches 165-170 degrees, you can wrap in foil or butcher paper to expedite the cooking process.  However, this shortcut might impact the quality of the bark.  
  • If time is not on your side, you can increase cooking temperature to 275-300 degrees.  Pork responds when cooked at different temperatures, but monitor exterior closely to avoid burning.
  • I never experience the pork shoulder drying out, but if it looks dry you can spray with a mixture of apple juice and apple cider vinegar to keep the outside moist.

Vietnamese Braised Lemongrass Beef


























When I was a kid, Mom used to make Bò Kho Sả Ớt for me all the time.  She braised the tender and flavorful beef over low heat for a long time and the mouth-watering smell of the fragrant lemongrass and fish sauce spread throughout our house.  When it was time to eat, the succulent beef tasted as good as it smelled and went perfectly with fresh hot steamed rice and cold and crunchy sliced cucumbers.

Mom hasn't made this dish for many years and I just started craving it recently.  I found a good deal on Beef chuck at the market and I thought it was be a great opportunity to recreate a childhood favorite.  Instead of asking my mom for the recipe, I wanted to recreate this dish how I remembered it tasting.  I don't recall mom ever using coconut juice, but I used it because that's what I use in all my Vietnamese braised dishes. Fish Sauce and Coconut Juice are a magic pairing in the kitchen.  All my childhood memories came rushing back after taking the first bite and I was very pleased with how it turned out.

Ingredients:
2 pounds beef chuck, cubed
2 cups coconut juice
1 cup lemongrass, finely minced
6 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 onion, sliced
1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper
2 Thai chilies, finely minced (optional)

Steps:
Marinate Beef - In a large bowl, combine fish sauce, lemongrass, garlic sugar, turmeric powder crushed black pepper.  Whisk until sugars dissolve.  Add beef to large bowl and mix well.

Braise Beef - Heat a large pot, preferably dutch oven, over high heat.  When pot is smoking hot, add oil and beef.  Sear and stir fry beef for about 10 minutes.  Add coconut juice and bring contents in pot to a hard boil.  Reduce heat to medium low heat, cover with a lid, and cook covered for 45 minutes.  After 45 minutes, increase the heat to medium heat and continue cooking uncovered for about 15-30 minutes or until about 3/4 of the liquid evaporates.  With about 5 minutes left in the cooking process, add sliced onions and mix well.

Tips:

  • Add minced Thai chilies to spice up the dish.  
  • Turmeric adds a yellow color and subtle flavors to the dish, but you can exclude if you don't have it available.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Grilled Cheeseburger


























The first recipe I ever posted for No Limit Cooking was my Weber Grill Salmon and Burger recipe. I've grown immensely as a home cook since the initial blog post and think that I'm much better today at taming and controlling the fire and managing the heat on the Weber grill.  I started going through some of the older recipes on No Limit Cooking and have been updating a few things here and there, but for the Weber burger recipe, I wanted to dedicate a brand new post for a few techniques and tweaks I've picked up over the past few years to share with all of you.

When I started grilling burgers at home, I always thought that more was better.  I used to make 1/2 pound to 1 pound burgers for everyone and overloaded each burger with tons of toppings.  Everyone in my family found themselves so stuffed and feeling gross after eating the juicy burgers...they always wished that the burgers were smaller.

I experimented cooking burgers at different weights and finally found the perfect size for the family... 1/3 pound for adults and 1/4 pound for the kids. I weigh the ground chuck on a food scale to get the precise weight on each burger patty so all the burgers can be consistent. These days, less is more for the family and I am able to focus more on adding quality ingredients and delicious toppings to go with the burgers..like better quality ground chuck beef, fancy brioche buns, and fresh produce.

This is my take on the classic cheeseburger.  The flavors and toppings are similar and tasty like my favorite cheeseburger from In-n-Out Burgers, but slightly bigger.

Ingredients:
1 pound 80/20 ground chuck, separated into 3-1/3 pound burgers
3 hamburger buns, lightly toasted
Kosher Salt
crushed black pepper
butter lettuce, 3 pieces
American cheese, 3 slices
1 medium tomato, cut into 6 slices
pickles, 9 slices

Grilled Onions Ingredients:
2 large sweet onions, diced
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt

Burger Sauce Ingredients:
1/4 cup Best Food mayonnaise
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon sweet relish
1 teaspoon lemon juice 
salt, pinch
pepper, pinch

Steps:
Make Grilled Onions - Heat a large skillet on medium low heat.  Add vegetable oil and diced onions. Stir occasionally for about 45 minutes or until onions are caramelized and golden brown.


Make Burger Sauce - Combine all the burger sauce ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Form Burger Patties - Dump and loosen ground chuck onto a baking sheet.  Weigh each patty to 5.3 ounces. Loosely form round burger patties without overworking the meat. Make an indentation in the center of each burger patty. Refrigerate burger patties for at least 30 minutes.



Grill Burgers - Setup grill to medium high heat for direct cooking.  Season both sides of burger patties liberally with salt and pepper. Grill burger patties indentation side up for 4 minutes.  Flip and cook the second side for an additional 3-4 minutes. Top burger patties with American cheese during the last two minutes of cooking. Cover grill lid to melt cheese.



Assemble Burgers - Spread burger sauce and a layer of grilled onions on top of the bottom bun. Top bottom bun with cheeseburger patty, butter lettuce, 2 tomato slices, and 3 pickles.  Spread burger sauce on the top bun and top off the assembled cheeseburger with the top bun.



Tips:
  • Feel free to substitute whatever bun or burger toppings you like.
  • 80/20 means 80% lean and 20% fat.  This is the best ratio for burgers.
  • Do not overwork the ground patties
  • Only flip burger patties once during grilling to allow the crust to form