Chego-Style Pork Belly

Chego is a brick-and-mortar restaurant created by the same dude who founded Kogi. My first time at Chego‘s new location in Los Angeles’s Chinatown introduced me to the chubby pork belly bowl, of which I’m a huge fan.

Gochujang is a savory Korean fermented red pepper paste that you can buy on Amazon or at an Asian market. A 2.2-pound tub has lasted me a year.

TuroK’s Kogi- and Chego-inspired recipes:

Side note: I like music almost as much as food. If you do spotify, you can see what I’m jamming to while occupying the kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds pork belly, skin on, in one or two pieces
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1/4 cup gochujang (see note above)

For serving (optional, but recommended)

Directions

A day before you want to indulge on Chego-style pork belly, you’ll need to do some preparation. First, score the skin with 1-inch-apart criss cross cuts with a sharp knife, not cutting through to the meat. Rub the meat with the salt. You want to put at least half the salt on the skin. Refrigerate on a platter (or baking pan if you have refrigerator real estate) overnight, uncovered. Salting and then refrigerating will draw water out of the flesh, which will mix with the salt on the surface. The newly-formed brine will soak back into the meat, adding flavor and moisture. For a more detailed explanation, see my recipe for flat iron steak.

The day you cook, preheat the oven to its broil setting. Place the pork belly on a baking pan, skin side up. Broil for 20 minutes. This will crisp the top of the pork belly substantially. The skin will take on a deep brown color. If the skin appears only golden brown after those 20 minutes, return to the oven for 10 more broiling minutes.

After 30 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for two more hours. Remove the pan and turn off the oven.

Allow the meat to cool for 10-15 minutes until handleable (odd word, right?). With your hands and a small knife if necessary, remove the super crispy skin, now known as crackling, which will easily detach from the soft flesh. You have two choices of how to use the crackling. Option one: eat the crackling on its own. It’s plenty delicious as a snack. Option two: mince a small portion of the crackling and sprinkle it over the rice bowl at the end. Eat the rest. Don’t use too much or the crunch will overwhelm the dish.

At this point, you’ve cooked the pork belly and detached the skin. Next step: refrigerate or freeze the meat until cold throughout, about 3o minutes in the freezer or 2 hours in the refrigerator. You’re eventually going to cut the pork belly into chunks; your task will be much easier if the meat is cold and fat solidified.

30 minutes before you want to eat, set the oven to broil, start some rice (and add a tablespoon of rice vinegar to the water for extra freshness), and cut the meat into about 1-inch x 1/2-inch x 1/2-inch pieces. Explanation: cut the pork belly into rectangular prism (intelligent term for 3-D rectangle), with two dimensions the same as the thickness of the pork belly. If this geometry talk is too much for you, look at the picture below.

Rub the pork belly pieces with gochujang. I used a basting brush to accomplish the rubbing. This step is much easier with chilled pork belly. Place the gochujang-rubbed pieces back on the baking pan, and into the broiling oven for 15 minutes.

Allow the pork to cool, and then serve on vinegar rice, topped with cilantro. Optionally, top with pumped-up sweet chili sauce.

Serves 6 average people, or 4 of me.

Chego-Style Pork Belly
Categories: Asian, Meats | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Cheesy Italian Sausage

A while back, I dined at Sabatino’s Lido Shipyard Sausage Company in Newport Beach, CA. Serving probably the best Italian sausage in Orange County, the sizzling sausage platter, their most popular item, presented a large sausage and a mound of onions and peppers. That meal stuck in my memory for a long time.

After a few weeks of salsa dancing, a few sessions of devilish hot yoga, one day of reading Dan Brown’s Inferno, and one hour of comedic Arnold Schwarzenegger interview, I made cheesy Italian sausage happen.

Note regarding time: if you don’t grind your own meat, you’ll spend a bulk of the time stuffing the sausage. If you want to save even more time, don’t stuff the sausage into casings. Sure, you’ll miss out on presentation awesomeness. If you’re using the sausage for pasta sauce, you might as well not stuff it to begin with.

Note regarding garlic powder: I have no problem substituting garlic powder for minced garlic in sausages. Minced garlic doesn’t distribute garlic flavor uniformly throughout the sausage. I find it slightly unpleasant to unexpectedly munch your way through a hunk of garlic when you’re expecting sausage.

Preemptive counterarguments to the garlic note: fennel seeds are not unpleasant when chomped. You probably won’t notice them anyway.

Counterargument number two: stinky provolone chunks are at least 50% of the deliciousness of this sausage. I speak from experience of failed sausagemaking attempts when I urge you dice, not grate the cheese. When cooked, cheese chunks will ooze and melt halfway. If you grate the cheese, it will uniformly melt and its flavor will flow out of the sausage and into the pan. Not good. Contain the flavor as much as possible in the casing by cutting the cheese into chunks. I found that about 1/4-inch (60 mm) cubes are best.

From experience I can tell you to grind the meat coarsely. If you buy it from the grocery store, you likely won’t be able to choose the level of pulverization, but you will save yourself 30 minutes of meat grinding. I grind the meat myself because I buy it sustainably-raised meat, in this case from Da-Le Ranch. Medium or find grinds make unpleasantly mushy or mealy sausage. Not cool.

My homemade cheesy Italian sausage costs $11.96 per pound. How do I know? I analyzed the total cost per pound. Check out my fancy math.

Inspired by Sabatino’s Lido Shipyard Sausage Company and facilitated by a recipe adapted from Simply Recipes.

Sausage Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs pork shoulder, ground, or 5 lbs storebought ground pork
  • 1 lb diced aged provolone cheese, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 35 g salt
  • 10 g toasted fennel seeds
  • 6 grams cracked black pepper
  • 4 grams ground nutmeg
  • 3 g red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup parsley, minced
  • 1 head garlic, minced or an equivalent amount of garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup drinkable red wine
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 20 feet hog casings, 32-36 mm diameter, which can be found online

Sausage Links

Directions

This won’t be the world’s most in-depth explanation of sausagemaking. Simple version: mix ingredients together in a large bowl. Refrigerate for a few days. Stuff the sausage mixture into soaked casings.

For more in-depth sausage stuffing lessons, look to Simply Recipes. If you don’t want to go so fancy, refer to The Kitchn’s article on how to stuff sausage with a Chinese soup spoon.

I won’t tell you how to cook a sausage either (although grilling seems to work best for me). This recipe is primarily for the ingredient mixture.

Makes 7 pounds of sausage.

Cooked Sausage

Categories: Cheese, Meats, Mediterranean | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Caramelized Fennel with Goat Cheese

I’m a fan of Ottolenghi. You can see which recipes I adapt from him by using the search function in the sidebar. I like this one because I love fennel and cheese. Fennel reminds me of Italian sausage (which is deliciousness, and I hope to be posting a recipe for homemade cheesy Italian sausage in the near future).

I enjoy how Ottolenghi combines simplicity and continuity for this dish. We’re talking fennel bulb, fennel fronds, and fennel seeds. All ooze fennel flavor, are not difficult to find in stores, and make for a classy appetizer (slash side dish). You should make it and let me know how it goes.

Caramelized fennel with goat cheese adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty.

Ingredients

  •  2 large fennel bulbs, fronds reserved for garnish
  • 4 tablespoons butter,  preferably from milk from grass-fed cows
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Coarse salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dill, leaves and stems, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 6 ounces fresh goat cheese (none of that pasty aged stuff)
  • Zest of 1 lemon

Directions

To prepare the fennel bulbs, cut off the stalks where they leave the bulb. Chop off enough fronds from the stalks to garnish each future caramelized fennel slice. Cut the thick, browned end and outer layers off each bulb, retaining enough root to hold the bulb together. Slice each bulb into 1/2-inch-thick lengthwise slices.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a very large skillet over high heat. Place the fennel in a single layer, as spread out as possible, in the pan and sear for 2 minutes each side. The fennel slices will caramelize especially well if you do not crowd the pan. Use the same logic you would for searing steaks.

Once you’ve done work in the fennel caramelization arena, add the sugar, fennel seeds, and lots of salt and pepper. Stir to coat the slices and then cook for 1 more minute. Remove to a bowl. Toss with the garlic and dill, and adjust seasonings according to your taste.

Arrange the fennel slices on a serving platter and top each with a splotch of goat cheese, a sprinkling of lemon zest, and a piece of reserved fennel frond. Appetizer success.

Caramelized Fennel with Goat Cheese

Categories: Vegetables | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Cheese Reviews: Schiltalpkäse and Sefinenalpkäse

I recently returned from Switzerland, a land of cheese and skiing. You can see two of my heat-of-the-moment posts here:

Or you can explore posts from my 2013 trip. [Yes, I took a similar trip last year. I dig déjà vu.]  The reviews all posted on my reviews page, but I’ll spell them out for you here.

This year, I brought back (legally? illegally?) only two types of cheese: Schiltalpkäse and Sefinenalpkäse. My uncle purchased both for me from the grumpy farmer women at the “farmers’ market” in Mürren.  They’re strikingly similar in all aspects, not only in naming convention.

Prepare yourself for gloomy pictures.

Schiltalpkase

Sefinenalpkase

My detective skills told me that in German, “käse” means cheese. Mystery number one: solved. “Alp” is easy; I skied in the Alps. “Schilt” and “Sefinen” refer to areas in the mountains above Mürren. In fact, I skied the unpleasant icy run from the top of Schilthorn, the highest mountain in the range Sefinenfurgge Pass (see “Sefinen” in that name?). Another lesson in German: “horn” when attached to a name means “peak”. Think Matterhorn. That Disneyland-popularized mountain is a really tall piece of rock in southern Switzerland.

Today’s etymology and geography lesson: complete. Good work, kids.

Background

Schiltalpkäse and Sefinenalpkäse are both considered Berner Alpkäse, meaning alpine cheese from the Bern region,  is usually only sold locally. They’re both made from local milk from cows that graze the meadows of the mountains when the weather allows. The cheese curds are cut into very small pieces, pressed into molds, soaked in a salt brine for a day, then allowed to age in a cellar for at least a few months.

Essentially the only differences between Schiltalpkäse and Sefinenalpkäse is the source of milk and a slightly different bacterial culture.

Description

Both cheeses have a firm texture that’s less salty than most cheeses. Both have a yellow-colored rind that leads to a slightly lighter flesh. These cheeses are not crumbly. They came in 2 1/2-inch-tall slices from a wheel about a foot in diameter. If you’re in anywhere else in the world and you don’t understand the imperial system, TOO BAD. I’ll switch to metric when forced, even though I know it’s better. Shameful.

Both have a non-waxy hard rind that’s edible but has an unpleasant texture. Beware.

Schiltalpkäse:

  • Texture resembles that of a 6-month Cheddar.
  • Nutty, grassy aroma that resembles aged provolone.
  • Funky and noticeably-grassy aftertaste.
  • Small chunks of calcification distributed throughout.

Sefinenalpkäse:

  • Slightly softer and more pleasant texture than Schiltalpkäse when eaten on its own.
  • Similar, yet weaker aroma than Schiltalpkäse.
  • More funky aftertaste
  • Larger nobs of calcification

Schiltalpkäse and Sefinenalpkäse objectify the best qualities of alpine meadows. IN CHEESE FORM.

Price

Both Schiltalpkäse and Sefinenalpkäse (from year 2013) cost 20 Swiss Francs (CHF) per kilogram. That’s about $10.40 per pound. For local, quality, grass-fed cheese, it seems like a steal at less than $15 per pound. 

The women at the farmers’ market were also selling 2012 Schiltalpkäse and Sefinenalpkäse for an extra 4 CHF per kilo ($2 per pound). More aged = more better. I didn’t pick up any of this cheese because my suitcase weighed near the 50-pound maximum due to the excess chocolate that I scored.

Verdict: I scored. If you’re in the area, you should score too. (Mmmmmhmmmm.)

How to Enjoy

  • Sliced and eaten.
  • Grated, I suppose.

More Information

Categories: Cheese | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Pumped-Up Sweet Chili Sauce

Secret ingredient: Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce. 

Secret supporting ingredient: gochujang. (That’s a horrible Academy Awards reference, for those of you uncultured as I am.)

Thanks to Chow.com, you and I can make a Kogi-style sauce to flavor our food. This post is not my first homage to Roy Choi (but this one is). I’m a big fan of the bold flavors of the Kogi truck, which we mimic in this recipe. 

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce (available at your Asian market)
  • 1/2 cup lemon or lime juice, or a combination
  • 1 cup basil, washed and roughly chopped
  • 2 cups cilantro, leaves and stems, washed and roughly chopped
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2-inch piece ginger, peeled
  • 1/4 cup gochujang (Korean fermented red pepper paste, also available at an Asian market)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Creating this sauce is not difficult. It’s a matter of adding all the ingredients to the bowl of the food processor and blending until magical aroma and near-uniform consistency are reached. At first glance, the sauce may look like a salsa. BUT IT’S NOT. Aromas of basil, sesame, ginger, and sweetness confuse the senses and result in discombobulation of the eye-tongue connection.

Makes about 4 cups. Slather generously on meats, vegetables, and rice and receive lunch envy from coworkers.

Sweet Chili Sauce

Categories: Asian | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment