Food, Recipes

Presenting: An ABC’s Totally Not-Traditional Lazy Double-Cooked Pork

Presenting: An ABC’s Totally Not-Traditional Lazy Double-Cooked Pork

An ABC, if you’re not familiar with the term in this context, is an American-Born Chinese. I’m what you might call a Lapsed and Guiltily Trying to Atone ABC, something many of my peers will immediately understand. One of the areas I’m trying to improve is my cooking – I grew up eating mostly frozen food (hence the love for Pizza Rolls) and cream cheese sandwiches with my dad, so though he did cook a few dishes, I didn’t really learn how to cook much of anything until I was in grad school.

This particular dish, a spin on the famous Sichuan double-cooked pork (回锅肉), was taught to me by my mother last year. She is not an ABC, but between being a simplified recipe, using relatively easily-sourced ingredients, and us being Shamghainese and not Sichuanese, I think it’s fair to call this an ABC take on double-cooked pork. Lao Gan Ma is a famous and pretty common brand of sauces – I’ve seen this fried chili in oil in regular old American supermarkets and on Amazon, although of course it’s cheapest at Asian supermarkets. I’m not sure what substitutes would be beyond making your own fried chili oil, but I assume there are some. I also use Taiwanese cabbage because it still has a little bit of crunch after being cooked down, but you can use regular cabbage, it will just lack some of that all-important textural contrast. It’s more traditional to use leeks or garlic greens along with some fermented sauces, so you can sub those in or also add them if you want – the cabbage and LGM fried chili oil is far easier to source and prep, though. I’m fortunate to live in a city with two Chinese supermarkets (Asian Food Market and 99 Ranch), but I still prefer to cook simply where I can. You may want to halve the recipe by prepping the pork belly up to the point of slicing it thinly and store half of it to cook later with the other half of the head of cabbage – the full recipe is unlikely to fit in most household pots.


  • 1.5-2 pounds pork belly with skin attached, cut into strips about 1.5 inches wide
  • 1 medium-sized head Taiwanese cabbage, roughly cut into 2- to 3-inch chunks and then leaves separated
  • 4 tablespoons Lao Gan Ma fried chili in oil (adjust to taste)
  • A generous handful of scallions cut into 2-inch chunks, both green and white parts (optional)


  1. Place pork belly strips in a pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Keep boiling until just cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove pork and place on a plate or sheet pan until cool. Cover and refrigerate until firm, preferably overnight.
  2. Slice cold pork belly into thin slices. Heat some oil over high heat until smoking and stir fry the pork belly slices until starting to crisp (think: bacon). If, like me, you’re down with a little straight MSG, add it with the pork slices. Remove pork belly with a slotted spoon to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Return pot and remaining oil/rendered fat to heat. Add cabbage and stir fry until translucent and a little soft – you may need to add the cabbage in batches to fit. Once cooked, the cabbage will lose more than half its volume. Turn the heat down to medium.
  4. Add chili oil (with sediment and peanuts!) and return the pork slices to the pan. Add a splash of soy sauce and the scallions and stir fry until the cabbage is mostly soft with just a little bite and the chili oil permeates everything. Add salt to taste.
  5. Serve as a part of a many-dished family dinner or by itself over rice for a quick lunch. Leftovers can be reheated on the stovetop or in the microwave, but be careful not to overheat the pork. Freezing is not advised, as it will likely change the texture substantially.
Food, Recipes

One-pot pressure cooker shredded beef (“barbacoa”)

A great thing about understanding the science behind cooking is that I can adapt recipes for the Instant Pot (or whichever pressure cooker, instructions below assume an electric pressure cooker) with great results. One important thing to remember is that because it's a sealed environment, you don't get much evaporation like you would with a slow cooker or traditional long braise, so you'll want to concentrate flavors and use less liquid than you might be used to. My favorite trick for this is to use Better than Bouillon paste and half or less of the usual amount of water – since the paste is reduced stock in the first place, it works out perfectly.

In this case, we had a 4 pound sirloin tip roast hanging out that needed to be used and only the morning to prep lunch, so with some taco fixings and basic, easily sourced ingredients we had amazing shredded beef "barbacoa" tacos done in about 1.5 hours with just one dirty pot (and the blender). You can also use the meat for burritos, huaraches, etc. or even just eat it in a bowl with some rice and beans.


  • 4 pounds of beef roast (sirloin tip roast, chuck roast, or you can go with brisket or short ribs if you're feeling fancy)
  • 4 chipotle chilis in adobo sauce (can adjust up or down for spice level, a small can usually has about 6)
  • 1½ tsp beef bouillon paste
  • ½ cup water
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1½ Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 2 tsp soy sauce or fish sauce (optional, deepens flavor)


  1. Combine all ingredients except the meat in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. Preheat the pressure cooker on the sauté setting with some oil. While it heats up, cut beef into large chunks (1½–2 inch cubes) and season with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown all of the meat.
  3. Combine meat and sauce in the pressure cooker, seal it, and set to cook on high pressure (meat/stew setting) for 60 minutes.
  4. Allow pressure to come down naturally for about 15 minutes before releasing and opening the pot. Remove the meat to a bowl and shred with two forks; add some of the liquid with more salt if necessary to taste.

Recipe adapted from The Recipe Critic, likely originally sourced from elsewhere. I put "barbacoa" in quotes because I'm pretty sure this is not exactly traditional/authentic, but since many English speakers are familiar with the term thanks to places like Chipotle, it helps with expectations.


Recipe: Pressure Cooker Short Rib Ragù

I've wanted to try The Food Lab's pressure cooker ragù bolognese for a long time, but also wanted to have pasta with the short ribs that have been hanging out in our freezer. I made a couple of adjustments and it worked really well, so here's the modified recipe! Some notes from my own process:

  • We use an Instant Pot, which is really just an English-labeled North American version of a Chinese electric pressure cooker we'd had since 2009 (the button layout and colors are exactly the same). The Chinese one required the usage of a large and heavy transformer because of the lower household voltage here and my spouse couldn't read the buttons, so now we happily use everybody's favorite Instant Pot. If you haven't used the sauté function before, you'll get good use out of it now.
  • If you boil your pasta in the same pot you use to sauce it (a non-stick chef's pan works great for this), this whole endeavor only needs two pots.
  • I mostly guestimated amounts as I was cooking, which works out fine. This isn't really precision work, though you can't go wrong with trusting J. Kenji López-Alt all the way.
  • I use Better Than Bouillon for most chicken stock applications, so instead of mixing that into water and sprinkling the gelatin over that, I just sprinkled gelatin over a cup of water and added the bouillon paste in with the crushed tomatoes, etc.
  • I was extremely lazy slash running late yesterday so I used pre-diced pancetta and mirepoix (onion/carrots/celery). It was great.
  • We believe in the wisdom of cooking with wine you'd drink, so we used a well-rated $15 bottle of Chianti. Don't get the $7 stuff.
  • I let said wine reduce separately before adding the rest of the liquid ingredients. It's not strictly necessary, but I thought the concentrated flavor came out nicely and there was more than plenty of liquid for the pressure cooking part.
  • I apparently need a new bottle of fish sauce so I used soy sauce instead. Worcestershire would also work fine – it's that glutamate life you're after. I may also have thrown in a little bit of straight up MSG.
  • Buying fresh pasta from a local maker: always worth it.


  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 4 packets (1 ounce) powdered gelatin
  • 1/2 pound finely diced pancetta
  • 1 large onion, finely minced
  • 2 large carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 large stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced, divided
  • 3 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds pappardelle or tagliatelle


  1. Place stock in a 1-cup liquid measure and sprinkle with gelatin. Set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a pressure cooker over medium-high heat until shimmering. Brown short ribs on all sides, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Add pancetta to pot and cook, stirring frequently, until pancetta is browned and crisp, about 12 minutes. Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, sage, and half of parsley and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 8 minutes.
  4. Increase heat to high. Add wine and let reduce by half, about 10 minutes. Add stock and gelatin mixture, tomatoes, 1 cup heavy cream, and bay leaves. Nestle short ribs in the liquid. Seal and cook at high pressure (12 to 15 psi) for 30-45 minutes. Let pressure come down naturally before releasing pressure and removing lid. Remove short ribs to a cutting board.
  5. Simmer sauce over moderate heat until thick and emulsified, about 30 minutes longer. While sauce is simmering, cut the meat from the bones and any connective tissue and shred it. Add the meat back to the pot and let it finish simmering.
  6. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup heavy cream, Parmesan, fish sauce, basil, and remaining parsley. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly to emulsify. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. To Serve: If sauce isn't hot, heat to a simmer and set aside. Cook pasta in a large pot of well-salted water until just barely al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking liquid. Transfer to a large skillet or sauteuse and add 3/4 of sauce, along with cooking water. Cook over high heat, tossing and stirring gently, until sauce is thick and pasta is coated, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with remaining sauce. Serve immediately, passing extra Parmesan at the table.

Food, Moblog

Upping my sous vide game

Upping my sous vide game

We've had an Anova circulator for about a year and a half and love it. After an incident involving loud beeping at 4AM due to too much water evaporation, it was time to put together a dedicated setup. It is actually pretty inexpensive – about $30 all together.

  1. 12 Quart Rubbermaid Commercial Space Saving Food Storage Container - can use a bigger or smaller one depending on what you tend to cook – I think this is a good size for most.
  2. Rubbermaid Commercial Plastic Food Storage Container Lid with a corner cut out – don't buy one of those bespoke lids they make unless you like burning twenties.
  3. IKEA VARIERA expanding pot lid organizer – can turn this whichever way best holds what you're cooking. In this picture I have salmon fillets slotted in with the rack on what I guess you'd call its front, which keeps everything submerged and separated for optimal circulation.

For this meal, I took salmon straight out of the freezer in their individually packed bags and tossed them in 120°F water directly for 45 minutes (or more precisely, I put them in before filling with water and then started the timer when the water came to temp). Then I patted them dry, seasoned them, and seared them on the stove. A+, will do again.


Chinese-style beef short ribs from the CSA with braised oyster mushrooms

This meat from Herondale Farm is really incredible stuff. Worth it. I also had a package of oyster mushrooms, so I thought I’d add them in as well. I make most Chinese food by feel/taste and not recipe, but here’s approximately what this was. It should serve 4 people, though I could see two very hungry people eating the whole thing.


  • 3 pounds beef short ribs (should be about 8 3-inch pieces)
  • Half a small onion
  • Two cloves of garlic, smashed and peeled
  • One inch knob of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 2T Soy sauce
  • 2T Black/dark soy sauce
  • 1T Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 2T rock sugar (can substitute turbinado or white sugar with some brown sugar, we just tend to use rock sugar in Chinese food so I always have it on hand)
  • One star anise
  • 1 tsp five spice powder
  • Dash of white pepper (optional)
  • Dash of chili powder (omit if you don’t like spicy food)
  • Dash of ground Szechuan peppercorns (omit if you don’t like this particular flavor, though it adds a nice bright flavor on top of the numbing kick)
  • Oyster mushrooms, sliced (I used about 3/4 lb.)


  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
  2. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat some oil in a Dutch oven (or similar) over medium-high heat. Brown short ribs on all sides (can skip the bone ends), a couple minutes per side. Finish with the long side closest to the bone so that’s on the bottom during braising.
  3. Add 2 cups of water and all of the rest of the ingredients except the white pepper, chili powder, and Szechuan pepper to the pan and bring to a simmer, which should be very quickly. I also left out some of the sugar so I could add it to taste later. You can taste the liquid now, but note that it will take on the flavor of the meat and reduce significantly, so don’t worry about salt levels.
  4. Cover and transfer to the oven. Let cook for 3-4 hours, or until the meat is very tender. It might come off the bone, which is fine.
  5. Remove the meat from the liquid and tent with foil. Strain and de-fat the liquid (I use a separator, but you can skim or whatever).
  6. Heat the pan (don’t clean it) over medium heat and saute the mushrooms in a little more oil until soft, scraping down the sides and adding a little water as needed. Add the cooking liquid back in along with the white pepper, chili powder, and Szechuan pepper, and simmer until thickened and mushrooms take on that braised feel, about 5-10 minutes. Taste as the liquid is reducing and add seasoning as needed, whether that’s sugar for a little more sweetness, soy sauce for savory, or water if it’s too aggressive.
  7. Pour the mushrooms and sauce over the short ribs and serve with rice. A green veggie is a good accompaniment, but not something heavy like Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce – more like bok choy or pea shoots (even better) sauteed with just a little salt and this seasoning stuff we use (it’s almost like bouillon in a crystallized pellet form; I’ll try to find out what it is exactly).
Moblog, Recipes

Chinese-style beef short ribs from the CSA with braised oyster mushrooms


CSA week 2 start: whole kohlrabi and garlic scape purée.

This week’s CSA haul included whole kohlrabi and garlic scapes, neither of which I’ve ever dealt with. Another member mentioned that she’s only ever enjoyed kohlrabi in a purée, which sounded like a good way to work out the Vitamix. I found this recipe from Farmgirl Fare, which looked great – can never go wrong with mushrooms – and thought I’d just substitute in some garlic scapes for the garlic itself. I think it ended up being a great idea – there was a little added grassy flavor that balanced really well, and they gave the purée a lovely green color where otherwise it would probably have been more meh-brown. We enjoyed this as our meal, with some garlic croutons added for texture. The Vitamix whipped it to this incredible creamy mousse texture, cementing its place as a worthy purchase. Would definitely make this dish again, though perhaps as a starter or side most of the time.

I’m also apparently now a core team member of said CSA, doing “web stuff” because web developers never learn their lessons.

Moblog, Recipes

CSA week 2 start: whole kohlrabi and garlic scape purée.


Recipe: Dumpling/Wonton Filling

Wontons and dumplings are two different things. Wonton wrappers are square and thin, whereas dumpling wrappers are round and thicker. Wontons are usually boiled, while dumplings are boiled, pan-fried, or even steamed. But before all of that, I usually make the same filling for both. Everybody has their own filling recipe, but in case you’re interested in mine, here it is. Scale it up or down as you’d like – I usually wrap hundreds and freeze them individually on wax paper-lined racks before bagging them up for storage in the freezer.

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Cooking project: ATK’s Cooking for Two 2011

After a rough move and transition, I’m easing back into cooking. We recently got the special issue of America’s Test Kitchen’s Cooking for Two 2011 and were intrigued enough by the whole thing to set a goal of trying to make everything within, including the sides and desserts. There seems to also be a full book, which I may or may not eventually get. In any case, I’m also going to set a goal of taking a picture of each completed recipe or some part of it with my snazzy new phone and blog it, along with any thoughts on the recipe.

Thoughts so far (after two meals):

  • It’s really nice to be making one-off meals, so if we hate it we don’t have piles of leftovers to deal with. We also really enjoy the variety and keeping the grocery bill low.
  • The recipes seem to make a pretty hefty amount for two. We don’t eat very much at once most of the time, so the meals feel large.
  • This is not meant to be simple, quick, or even necessarily healthy cooking. Nothing looks particularly unhealthy and being experienced and organized in the kitchen helps a lot.
  • The usual ATK/Cook’s Illustrated precision and science apply, so some procedures will sound overwrought but make a huge difference. Read the editorial AND recipe ahead of time, always always always.