Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Make-ahead Meat Dishes

From what the names suggest, pork rillettes and gyuniku shigureni sound like two dishes from entirely different worlds, but in reality they were surprisingly similar. Both were meat based and made use of only a small set of ingredients; both involved slow cooking to bring about the intense flavor, and both can be made ahead and served at room temperature (no reheating required!), which made them great candidates as part of a simple home-cooked meal.

You probably found pork rillettes appearing on the menu of every delicatessens, traditionally served with toast and cornichons. Serious Eats called pork rillettes "an entertainer’s godsend", and I understand what that meant after realizing how easy this is to make at home, and make it as good as the one you ordered from outside. The recipe here is a slight twist to the recipe posted with additional herbs and two different cuts of pork to bring about a more complex flavor and the right balance of texture. And I served mine (as our contribution to a potluck dinner recently) with homemade focaccia and rolls, plus a few kinds of pickled vegetables, more of an Asian style, just for a change and a mix of local flavor.

Pork Rillette

Ingredients (serves 15-20 as canapes)
  • 500g of pork shoulder
  • 500g of pork belly – skin removed (I bought the pork from local butcher – in Chinese they were called Mui Tau 梅頭 and Ng Fa Naam 五花腩, for shoulder and belly respectively)
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup of white wine
  • 1 teaspoon of dried thymes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black peppers
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cloves of garlic

1. Preheat oven to 135C. Cut the pork shoulder and belly into small chunks.
2. Season the pork with salt and make sure they were well combined. Pack the meat chunks into a cast iron Dutch oven (or as Le Creuset would call the French oven), starting with the pork shoulder in the bottom, then pork belly (fat side up) on top. Spread thymes, black peppers, cinnamon, and cloves in between layers, and pour wine and oil over the pork and put garlic and bay leaves on top.
3. Transfer the Dutch oven into the lower portion of oven and cook for about 3 hours (or slightly longer – the dish is very forgiving in terms of cooking time).
4. Remove from oven and discard the bay leaves and garlic cloves. Pour the tender meat chunks through a large strainer to remove any extra liquid (but keep those liquid aside – we will use some in the next steps) Transfer the meat into the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment.
5. Turn mixer on at low speed then gradually increase to medium (from setting 2 to 4), and gradually spoon in the cooking liquid – a few tablespoons at a time – until the mixture turned into a slightly creamy texture, similar to pate but not as smooth. Season liberally with salt to taste.
6. Pack the mixture into airtight jars. Refrigerate for a few hours before serving – best if it’s done at least overnight. This can keep well for one week in refrigerator and longer in the freezer. Took it out from refrigerator for 2 hours before serving, at slightly lower than room temperature. Serve with bread, crackers and condiments of your choice.

There's nothing particular fancy about gyuniku shigureni (牛肉しぐれ煮) - it's a home-style dish that can be made ahead to go with a bowl of steamed rice as a simple meal, using basic ingredients of any Japanese kitchen - soy sauce, cooking sake, mirin and sugar, along with ginger - simmered until all liquid was evaporated and flavor infused into the meat. It keeps well for up to a week or even longer and can be served cold or warm.

Gyuniku Shigureni (牛肉しぐれ煮)

Ingredients (serves 4) 

  • 200g of beef (grounded or sliced) - any cut will do, though i found leaner part yielded better results
  • 2 thin slices of ginger, peeled
  • 1/3 cup of cooking sake
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon of mirin
  • 2 tablespoon of (sweet) soy sauce
  • 1.5 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

1. In a small saucepan, heat vegetable oil in medium heat and put in the ginger. Let the ginger fried in the pan for about 2 minutes to release the flavor, and then discard the ginger slices. 
2. With oil still in the saucepan and in medium heat, add in the beef and do a quick stir. Then add in order sake, mirin, soy sauce, water and sugar and stir to mix completely. Wait until the liquid is boiling, then turn down the heat to the lowest setting possible, and let it simmer until the liquid was evaporated (usually 10-15 minutes). Stir occasionally so the meat won't stick to the pan, especially towards the end of the cooking process.
3. Turn off the heat, leave the meat inside the saucepan to cool down slightly. Then spoon the meat into a jar and keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve. 
4. Personally I like to serve it slightly warmed with my bowl of rice, so I gently re-heat in microwave, but perfectly okay if you serve cold and let the steam from the rice heat it up before you eat. 

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