Monday, September 14, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Char Siu Barcelona

Copyright 2015, Constantine William Spyrou. All rights reserved.

As a kid, one of the proteins I remember growing up with and eating almost all the time was Chinese BBQ pork. Usually made from the tenderloin or belly cut, this roasted meat is regarded for it's sweet, savory flavory as well as a trademark bright red color. This meat could be used in almost everything - egg scrambles, dim sum buns, fried rice, chow fun, noodle stir-fries... The list could stretch on for miles. 

I've always wanted to try and make my own version of this meat, known in Chinese as "Char Siu" ( 叉燒), which is Cantonese for "Fork Roast". The tricky part for me has always been the red coloring. I've done research and found that most of the time, an artifical red food coloring is used to get that color here in the US. Yuck. In China, traditionally a powder made from a red yeast rice is used, but it was very hard to find that. 

The best natural red food colorings I could come up with were paprika and annato, both of which are not spices typically seen in Chinese cuisine. However, I got an idea to bring paprika in because of its importance in Spanish cuisine, where balsamic does make an appearance (the Spanish make their own too!) I already have a huge appreciation for soy-balsamic combinations, so I figured I could tie paprika into the mix by using the balsamic as one of the sweeter sauce components traditionally used in Char Siu - Oyster sauce (helpful, since my mom has fish allergies). 

This resulted in a Spanish-Asian fusion of this popular Cantonese roast. Served alongisde some Asian sauteed peppers to counter the richness of the pork (and rice as a starchy accompaniment), this is a great meal to serve to a crowd of friends or for any special occasion! 

Recipe serves 5 people.

For the Pork:

1 1/2 lb pork tenderloin
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1 orange
1 1/2 tablespoons Smoked Paprika
1/2 tablespoon Szechuan Peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon minced ginger, with juice
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice
1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil 
White pepper to season

For the Peppers:

3 large bell peppers, julienned
1 mild chili, deseeded and finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon Chinese 5 Spice
2 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons lemon pepper
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil


1) Combine all of the ingredients for the pork marinade with the pork tenderloin in a plastic bag. Seal, place in another plastic bag, then marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours. 

2) Let the pork slack out on a roasting tray lined with tin foil. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F, and bake for 30-35 minutes. 

3) Let the pork rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing. In that time, add the garlic, ginger,  and sesame oil to a frying pan on medium heat. Let the garlic and ginger cook out for around 30 seconds before adding the chopped chili and bell peppers. Saute for 3 minutes before adding in the soy sauce, 5 spice, and lemon pepper. Cook for another 2 minutes until the bell peppers start to stew. 

There is definitely a lot going on in this dish, but it balances out to a sweet, mellow, and aromatic flavor that perfectly accentuates the flavor of pork tenderloin. The bell peppers retain enough crunch to provide texture, but take on the flavors of the pork and their own spices very well. Together, the pork and peppers makes the perfect fusion centerpiece to impress! 

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

NEW RECIPE: Duck Fried Rice (Gluten-Free!)

Copyright 2015, Constantine William Spyrou. All rights reserved.

I am a huge lover of meat, especially slow-cooked or shredded and used in various ways. My three top favorite meats cooked in this way are lamb shanks, pulled pork, and duck confit. Duck naturally has an incredibly gamey flavor that makes it a very rich meat. You don't need much of it to deliver huge amounts of flavor in natural ways. 

That gets amplified even more by duck confit, which is duck cooked in its own fat to the point where you can shred it fork tender. It is one of the most amazing meats humanity has ever conceived, but doesn't get much use because of the time and care needed. However, if you have a lazy weekend with time to spend over the duck, you can make a load of confit and then use it in quick, easy dishes during the week.

That's where the idea for this duck rice comes in. It's simple, very fast to make after the duck confit is done, and delivers on huge amounts of flavor! This version of duck fried rice contains aromatic, sweeter flavors to counterbalance the richness of the duck such as Chinese 5 spice, balsamic vinegar, and green onion. It makes for a great dinner that is done in minutes. 

Recipe serves 3 people.

For the Duck Confit:

10 oz duck legs and thighs, bone-in
1 tbsp salt
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp cracked black peppercorns
1 liter water
2 cups ice
6 oz duck fat

For the Fried Rice: 

8-9 oz duck confit meat (basically the amount you get from making the above duck confit)
1 oz duck skin, cut into small pieces (from the above confit)
3 cups steamed white rice, cooled
1/4 cup finely chopped green onion
1 clove minced garlic
2 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tbsp Chinese Five Spice
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp white pepper


1) Add your water, salt, bay leaves, black peppercorns, and thyme to a microwave safe container or a pot. Heat through to a warm temperature (2 minutes on a stove on high heat or 40 seconds in a microwave), then cool down immediately with the ice.

2) Add in your duck legs, and place in a fridge for 24-36 hours to brine.

3) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the duck legs and thyme sprigs from the brine and transfer to a deep roasting pan. Coat the duck legs with the duck fat, then cover the dish with a double layer of tinfoil. Bake for 90 minutes.

4) Let the duck cool, then remove the duck legs. Shred all of the meat off the bones, and separate the skin from the meat. You can use this meat and skin right away or let it sit in the fridge until ready to use, it'll keep for at least a week in the fridge. Save the used duck fat to make more duck confit in the future, it'll keep for months in the fridge.

5) When ready to make your fried rice, broil the chopped duck skin in a toaster oven or under the broil setting in your oven for 5 minutes to crisp up.

5) Add 2 teaspoons of your saved duck fat to a frying pan on medium heat. When the duck melts, add in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the duck and half of the five spice, and warm through for a minute.

6) Add in the cooked rice, white pepper, sesame oil, balsamic, soy sauce, and remaining five spice. Stir to combine well (the rice should be completely brown from the soy and balsamic), and cook until the rice is hot, which should take roughly 3-5 minutes.

7) Stir in half of your green onion, and cook out for 30 seconds. Transfer the rice to a serving plate, and garnish with the remaining green onion and duck skin.

This duck dish has an amazing blend of textures and flavors! The duck skin and green onion add varying levels of crunch, while the duck gives richness to the dish that is balanced out by the acidity and sweetness of the balsamic vinegar along with the aromas coming from the 5 spice. The rice acts as a great canvas to take on all of these amazing flavor combinations!

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =)