Friday, September 21, 2007

Family Dinner, Thanks To Food Bloggers

These days, I have to admit that 99% of anything I read (that isn't work-related) focuses on food. Whether it's any one of the cooking magazines I have a subscription to (Food & Wine, Bon Appetite, Cooking Light, Gourmet), the Food Section in any given newspaper (conveniently available online), my numerous cookbooks which have long-ago filled to capacity the giant bookshelf that my dad made for me, or the seemingly endless supply of food blogs floating through cyberspace. I guess it's embarrassing to say that nary a novel has found its way into my hands in ages; after all, with the vast and never-ending world of unexplored (by me, anyway) food blogs out there, who has time to read anything else?!

My name is A, and I am a Food Blog Addict.

The one great benefit of reading so many food blogs is that my recipe collection has expanded to the point where I couldn't possibly live long enough to try all of them. That's a good thing, right? I mean, thanks to all of the wonderfully creative cooks out there (since you're reading this blog, I'll assume that you are one of them) my taste buds have been tickled by flavors and textures that may have never been brought to my attention had it not been for the detailed descriptions and wonderful photography of these budding (and often professional-level) chefs. Even if I can't read the language its written in, I get inspired just by looking at what cooks around the world have been creating in their kitchens thousands of miles away.

One such blog caught my attention early on due to its adorable title and tagline: Chubby Hubby: Musings on food, wine and marriage. It's now been updated to Chubby Hubby: Dining, Whining and Marriage but the wonderful insights on food, the gorgeous photography and witty writing have remained the same. Based out of Singapore, CH and his wife S travel often and always share new and unique experiences with the reader. They have such an eye for quality and beauty but always keep their tone down-to-earth and honest, so that anyone (whether you're a world traveler or not) can gain something from reading about their adventures. One particular recipe that caught my eye awhile back was Pork Riblets Braised in Vietnamese Caramel Sauce from Molly Stevens' book, All About Braising. The photo of the deep, brown riblets stuck in my memory and I vowed to make them one day.

I finally got my chance last weekend since my parents, sister and friend were coming to dinner. I don't recall EVER making ribs, but I do have some experience braising so I decided to give it a go. I bought some beautiful pork baby back ribs at How's market and opted to not chop them into smaller riblets. The recipe is very easy to follow and has such few ingredients that at one point I wondered how it was possible to get such beautiful ribs (as seen on CH's site) out of just shallots, sugar, fish sauce, water and black pepper?! After caramelizing the sugar (the key is to get it nice and brown) I added everything else in and let it braise for 90 minutes. I have to admit that the smell of the fish sauce (which I LOVE) was a bit overwhelming at first but mellowed out after cooking for awhile. I followed CH's recommendation to make it two days in advance, so after it cooled to room temperature, I stuck it in the fridge. The day of the dinner party, I simply scraped of the now-hardened fat off with a spoon, discarded it and reheated in the oven.

The ribs were tender, sweet, salty, savory and downright succulent. The cracked black pepper really stood up against the sweetness of the dish, and the braising liquid was the perfect thing to drizzle over the lightly fried brown rice (cold brown rice stir fried with a touch of oil, 1 chopped red onion, 2 eggs, scallions and cilantro) I made as well. I also made a big bowl of Asian coleslaw which was just sliced red cabbage, green cabbage, red bell peppers, carrots, red onions and green onions dressed with a mixture of rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, lots of fresh ginger, a touch of sugar, a bit of creamy peanut butter and a dash of soy sauce. Steamed sugar snap peas drizzled with sesame oil, sea salt and sesame seeds capped off the meal.

For dessert........another big "thank you" goes out to the food blogging world for introducing my eyes to the wonder that is David Lebovitz' contribution to the web, The noted cookbook author, chocolate maestro, teacher and all-around dessert extraordinaire is a favorite of the food blogging community, and his latest book, The Perfect Scoop, has been praised by cooks everywhere. One particular ice cream recipe that has garnered manic, Beatle mania-like buzz is his Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream, another dish that I'd filed in my "MUST MAKE/EAT!" file after I'd read about it. I did make it, and well.........I'm going to say with utter confidence that it was, quite simply, the best ice cream I've ever made in addition to the best ice cream I've ever tasted. WOW. AMAZING. LIFE-ALTERING. I knew even before I froze the base that it would be divine.....I sipped so many teaspoons of it that it almost didn't make it to my ice cream maker (yo- quality control, ok??). It's too bad my one photograph of the delectable dessert is so horrible that it's almost an insult to the wonder that is this ice cream. The best thing about this recipe? You probably have everything you need to make this in your kitchen right now. So don't delay, and don't be timid- it is easy to make, and just remember that the darker your caramel, the deeper the flavor.

This soooooooo doesn't do it justice....*sigh*

Have a wonderful weekend!

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