Tiger Cry Steak with Nam Jim Sauce

Recently, I went to a great new restaurant here in Portland (Maine) called Crispy Gai. They started as a pop up and have moved to a full brick and mortar. Their focus is on Thai-inspired fried chicken and other foods.

One of the highlights of Crispy Gai are the sauces and, in particular, I found their Nam Jim seafood sauce to be amazing. It’s a spicy cilantro-based sauce and I left wanting to make it myself… so I did! I stumbled on a recipe from Claire Handleman, a chef who focuses on Thai food. For my version, I swapped out the 6 green Thai chilis for a single jalapeño. I loved the heat of Crispy Gai’s version, but the jalapeño version is milder and still great! I was also lucky enough to find cilantro with the roots still attached (something the recipe requires). I also ran out of fresh limes, but bottled lime worked great!

I paired this with an Asian salad (honestly, it was just a pre-made kit), a randomly-found recipe, Tiger Cry Steak, and rice. While this recipe normally calls for a different sauce (Nam Jim Jaew), the seafood sauce worked great and I’m excited to pair it with other meals!

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

1 Degree of Gordon Ramsay

If you watched the recent Gordon Ramsay Uncharted episode, you would have seen chef Melissa Kelly of Primo in Rockland. Back in 2008 I photographed a few Maine restaurants for a personal photo project, including Chef Kelly. She was super welcoming and accommodating (and the food was phenomenal!). Check out a few of the photos on my website.

Pad Thai

This was not my first time making pad Thai, but was my first time working with tamarind, palm sugar, dried shrimp, and zha cai (I maybe didn’t even buy actual zha cai?). I also had to pick up a few different kinds of soy sauce (sweet and black). My first attempt was fine, so I want to give this a try again to see if I can improve. I’m fairly certain I know where I went wrong, too.

This is the first video I’ve watched by Joshua Weissman and his delivery is… interesting.

Full recipe here: https://www.joshuaweissman.com/post/homemade-pad-thai

Chipotle Weekend

Over the weekend I decided I wanted to cook something a little different from the usual. The answer was obvious… a bunch of copycat Chipotle recipes! This looks like a lot of work, but it was totally worth it. There’s a bunch of downtime while making some parts… the carnitas takes a little time and the broiling step can wait. The corn salsa is better with some time to sit as is the guacamole. Lastly, I covered the rice to keep it warm while I finished other pieces.

  • Corn Salsa:
    • I dialed back the jalapeño a bit, but the rest if the same.
  • Beans:
    • I used kidney beans instead and still great!
  • Carnitas (for Ninja Foodi):
    • I may reduce the agave next time, it was rather sweet, but really great overall!
  • Guacamole:
    • I watched the video mentioned in the post (see below). Chef chad says keep the stems in the cilantro. I removed the thickest parts, but kept the rest. The video differs from the written recipe, so I followed what was written and just grabbed some tips from the video.
  • Cilantro Lime Rice
    • The only difference is that I used the Ninja Foodi to cook the rice.
  • The assembly:
    • The end result was basically a rice bowl with (in order from the bottom) rice, beans, carnitas, corn salsa, guac, (vegan) sour cream from Forager.
    • There was enough for more than one meal, so there was also a round of quesadillas with carnitas, beans, and Violife vegan cheddar.

Chef Chad of Chipotle demonstrates how to make guacamole:

Faith Middleton’s Monday Night Flank Steak

At some point during the quarantine, I came to the realization that I wanted a steak night once a week. With that, I’ve been trying different cuts and experimenting with what works. Marinating flank steak was one that just didn’t work (maybe it does for you, but it didn’t for me). I found this recipe randomly and, as I often do, I made a couple of quick substitutions, noted below. The original recipe suggests some side options, including a horseradish sauce or tomato and arugula.

Recipe

  • Servings 4-5 people
  • Prep Time 15 minutes
  • Cook Time 8-10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (calls for sweet paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, ground into a paste (calls for garlic powder)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 flank steak: 1-3/4 to 2 pounds and about 3/4 inch thick, trimmed of excess fat

Instructions

  • In a small bowl mix together all the spice-paste ingredients.
  • Brush the paste evenly over both sides of the flank steak. Let stand at room temperature while you prepare the sauce.
  • Pan fry the flank steak over medium-high heat, until cooked to your desired doneness, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium rare.
  • Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Cut the steak across the grain into ¼-inch-thick slices. Taste the meat and season with more salt and pepper if needed.

Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares

I don’t really do reality TV. I watched The Real World when it started in the ‘90s because it was a new thing, something different from the norm. That said, I have a bit of an obsession with the original Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares that was broadcast in the UK starting in 2004.

If you’re unfamiliar, the show is hosted by chef Gordon Ramsay as he visits struggling restaurants in Britain and Europe. I find the UK version far superior to the US version (in the sense that the US version is unwatchable). Each episode of the original series is shot like a documentary and, while things get heated between presenter and restauranteur(s), the final product is much more reasonable than its American counterpart. The music is better, the filming is better, the editing is better. It feels like a thing that really happened, as opposed to an exploitative TV show.

Haven’t seen it? Almost every episode is on YouTube for free!

A playlist of all free episodes

I’ve only cooked one recipe from chef Ramsay from another show of his, F Word, and it was years ago… sea bass with pepper sauce (see video below). I paired it with baked rice with star anise (I can’t find the recipe now). It stands as not on one of the best thing I’ve ever cooked, but maybe eaten, too!

Easy Shrimp Tacos 🌮 🦐

I made this one with very few changes and highly recommend it!

Shrimp Tacos (Video)

  • I subbed regular sour cream for Forage’s vegan version
  • I used a veggie slaw mix instead of straight Cole slaw mix
  • I used frozen pre-cooked shrimp which produced a less char, but was just as flavorful
  • The leftover sour cream/mayo/taco seasoning sauce went well with corn on the cob the next day 🌽

General Tso’s Chicken (sort of)

We tried to order Chinese food the other night and failed. A friend mentioned that deliveries to area Chinese restaurants from their suppliers have stopped. That made me want Chinese food even more than usual. I made a version of this tonight, though I didn’t quite get the color/crisp in the picture on the recipe and it’s not the battered and fried version. I made my own dark soy sauce and cooked fresh green beans instead of doing the cabbage listed. While it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, it was still delicious! For sure more akin to chicken and green beans than any version of General Tso’s I’ve had in a restaurant. I blame Saoirse Ronan!

The Recipe

https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/chicken-thighs-recipes/saoirse-ronans-general-tsos-chicken/

Alterations

  • I used chili paste to get a little of the chili flavor where I didn’t have the correct chilis.
  • I cooked green beans in water in a separate pan and tossed them in after everything else was cooked.
  • I used corn starch instead of potato starch.
  • I didn’t have green onions, so I used white and caramelized them after the chicken was cooked, then tossed in grated garlic and ginger.
  • Now I know golden caster sugar is the same / similar to brown sugar!
  • To make the dark soy sauce, I found a recipe that was 1 cup soy sauce, 3/4 cup brown sugar, and corn starch dissolved in water. Stir over low heat in a pan until thickened. It probably would have been better a little thicker, so keep an eye out for a better recipe or, you know, buy dark soy sauce!
  • I served this with basmati rice cooked in a Ninja Foodi following the recipe in the Ninja cookbook.
  • Had I followed the directions in the recipe I could have maybe achieved the correct doneness, but I agree I couldn’t get the wok hot enough to do it with one pan.

Videos

This video helps fill in why it’s called Soirse Ronan’s General Tso’s chicken and also includes the video on how to make the dish. Having eaten Chinese food in the UK and Ireland, I agree it’s not the same!

Did you know there’s a documentary about General Tso’s?

Quick Chili in the Ninja Foodi

I adapted this recipe from The Salted Pepper using some items I had around the kitchen. For example, rather than sirloin, as the original called for, I used leftover brisket I had in the freezer from Noble Barbeque in Portland (Maine). I omitted peppers and jalapeño, since I didn’t have any on hand and was serving to people who aren’t fans of either spice or peppers. The important part is that you use some sort of meat that will work like ground beef, ground turkey, sirloin, pulled pork, or brisket. I’ve included directions for thawing brisket quickly in the pressure cooker.

This is also probably a good time to mention that I love my Ninja Foodi and use it about 75% of the time I cook at this point. My one regret was not getting a larger model with a dehydrator.

Original recipe: thesaltedpepper.com/quick-chili/

Ingredients

  • 2–3lbs meat (beef, brisket, etc.)
  • 1 onion
  • 3-4 cloves garlic minced, about 2-3 tsp.
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 29 ounces tomatoes (two 14.5 oz cans)
  • 1 Tbsp Cholula or other mild hot sauce
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 32 ounces pink beans, canned
  • 1 cup frozen corn

Seasoning Blend

  • 2 Tbsp Chili Powder
  • 2 Tbsp Cumin
  • 1 Tbsp Sea Salt
  • 1 Tbsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp Black Pepper

Instructions

Thawing brisket by pressure cooking

  • Place leftover frozen meat in the pressure cooker along with one cup of beef broth.
  • Put on the pressure cooker lid and make sure the valve is to seal.
  • Set on high for 3 minutes* and press Start.
  • Once time has elapsed, quick release pressure valve.
  • Retain the liquid.

*I believe this was the time I used. Please be sure the meat reaches correct temperature (without overcooking). If you think you rushed it, you can always sauté longer in the steps below.

Making the chili

  • Dice onion and mince garlic.
  • Combine seasonings in a medium bowl. 
  • Trim and cube the brisket into 1/2″ pieces. Add to the inner pot with onions and seasonings. Sauté for 3 minutes. 
  • Add in the minced garlic and sauté for 2 minutes
  • Add in the Cholula, and cooking liquid from the brisket. Use a plastic scraper to scrape along the bottom of the pot to make sure nothing has stuck to it. 
  • Add in the tomatoes and do not stir.
  • Place the tomato paste on top and do not stir.
  • Put on the pressure cooker lid and make sure the valve is to seal. Set the pressure to high for 10 minutes. 
  • Allow to natural release for 3 minutes and then manually release the remaining pressure. Remove the lid and add in the kidney beans and corn. Stir to incorporate. Now is a good time to give it a little taste to see if you want to add any more spice or seasoning. Close the TenderCrisp lid and allow to sit for 5 minutes to thicken. If you are not serving it right away, you can turn on the keep warm button with the pressure lid on vent. 

Notes

  • Serve with cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips, or other favorite toppings.
  • I used Daiya dairy-free cheddar and Forager vegan sour cream (which is more tasty than you’d think was possible!).
  • Because I wanted heat, I added Hot Ones The Last Dab XXX hot sauce to my portion, but went a little overboard. I was happy to have the vegan sour cream on hand!