When I was young, my mom was a waitress. Heck, when I grew up, my mom was still a waitress. She was the typical divorced woman of her generation. She was undereducated yet street smart from years of living on the south side of Chicago. That in itself was rather a feat considering she was a child of the depression who grew up in very rural Alabama. She never had a “good” job but always managed to keep us fed. It may have been mayo sandwiches or ketchup sandwiches at times, but we ate. The restaurant she worked at for over 20 years was fairly popular and well known in the Chicago area. It was named the Tropical Hut and was known for it’s Polynesian food, which was a big thing back in the 60′s as people were expanding their foodie taste buds beyond burgers and baked potatoes. Thing is, other than a duck dish they had that I loved (we of course went there for every family event. Why do people do that anyway? Work someplace and then go back then when NOT working? ) the main food I recall from there was their club sandwich. Mom would bring it home cold at night to eat but half the time it ended up going to one or the other of us kids. I loved them.
Point being, when I was young, my main experience with food from other cultures was a club sandwich from a Polynesian restaurant in the Midwest. Go figure. While my taste buds have grown a bit more sophisticated as I’ve aged, I have to confess that I still love all the Americanized versions of Asian foods, from which some of the Polynesian foods can branch off. One that I love that you will never find on the menu of any authentic Chinese restaurant is Sweet & Sour Pork. Deep fried pork thrown together with an overly sweet yet tangy sauce with pineapple in it, then put on rice. Sounds rather gross, ehh? But in reality, it’s soooooo darn yummy. I mean, the words deep fried should tip you off right away. I’ve said before; you could probably deep fry a shoe and it would taste good.
This is the version I’ve been making for years. Authentic? Nope. Just mine. Though like I said, what is authentic with this dish ANYWAY? Back when I first started making it, I honestly didn’t even know there WAS such a thing as sweet and sour pork lol. I just took the sauce recipe from some meatballs I loved, chopped up some pork, battered it, fried it and thought it seemed Asian enough to deserve rice as the base. Isn’t it amazing what we come up with, thinking we are so original only to find out later (or sooner now that you can google a recipe in 3 seconds) that many others have been making it for years?
This is a good version, mine though it may be. Nothing weird, nothing unusual, fairly standard as it goes. But I wanted to post it for those who may be thinking that this is a hard dish to make. It’s not. If you can fry food and combine sauce ingredients, you can make Sweet And Sour Pork.
Sweet And Sour Pork
- 2 eggs 1 egg yolk
- 3/4 cup cornstarch
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 3 pounds boneless pork loin, cubed into about 1 inch pieces
- about 4 cups canola or vegetable oil, heated to 355 degrees
- 1 20 ounce can pineapple chunks in juice, undrained
- 1 8 ounce can pineapple chunks in juice, undrained
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2/3 cup vinegar
- 2/3 cup chopped green pepper
- 2/3 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 3 cups cooked rice (I like this served with Jasmine or Basmati but use your favorite)
- Start your sauce first- In a large pot, combine the pineapple with it’s juice, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce and cornstarch mixture. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the green pepper and onions and simmer covered for another five minutes. Set aside and keep warm
- Start your oil heating while you prepare the batter, which is easy peasy.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk in the eggs, egg yolk, milk and soy sauce.
- While your oil heats (large pot), take about half the pork cubes and put them into the batter. Stir around to get them well coated.
- When the oil has reached 355 degrees, carefully toss in (make sure your hands are fairly close to the oil… tossing from far up because it seems safer actually isn’t. It will just make the oil splatter all over you.) pieces of the pork. Do about 12 pieces at a time. You don’t want to overcrowd or the oil temp drops and you end up with greasy pork.
- Cook for about 4 minutes or until a nice dark golden brown. You’ll probably have to stir them around to get both sides browned.
- Using a wide slotted spoon or even better, a metal skimmer, lift out your pork and lay in a paper towel lined bowl.
- Keep cooking until it’s all done then you can either toss it with the sauce or, as I prefer to do, serve all the components separately so everyone can fix it the way they like it. Like here, my daughter loves a lot of sauce, I prefer less.
- Garnish with sliced green onions and serve with soy sauce
Caramelized Onion, Bacon & Mascarpone Risotto
Rice is one of my best friends. If this were 150 years ago, I would have been the wife of a rice planter in say, South Carolina. We would of course, be stone broke because I would eat all of our profits. Ok, so maybe not, but I remember reading once that it was common back in the day on the plantations for rice to be served with every meal, including breakfast. It was just a difference in HOW it was served.
I am pretty sure risotto was not on the menu back then though. It is, for Americans at least, a fairly recent dish. But I am willing to bet that if you could go back in time (wouldn’t that be a blast btw? I vacillate constantly over what time period I would go to first. Yes, that is how my mind works and these are the things that keep me awake at night.) and offer risotto to rice planters, they would love you. They would also realize what could be done with their crop, increase prices substantially and rice would now be right up there price wise with foie gras, caviar and Dom Perignon champagne… all things that do NOT fit into my budget, meaning that I would never be able to afford rice, would go through life depressed and probably would have been committed at a young age.
On that note, in case it wasn’t obvious, I made risotto tonight. But not plain old boring risotto. Me?? Make something normally??? Surely you jest? Nope. I put bacon, caramelized onions, mascarpone cheese and a butt ton of other assorted Italian cheeses in there. Creamy? definitely. Meaty? Check. Needing anything else with it to make it a meal. Oh heck no. This WAS the meal… and the dessert… and dinner for tomorrow. It makes a lot. I’d say that I’ll make less next time, but I’d be lying. I’m looking forward to leftovers.
Caramelized Onion, Bacon & Mascarpone Risotto
- 1/2 pound bacon (preferably low sodium), cooked crisp and crumbled, then set aside (make extra because you KNOW you’ll pick at it)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 onions, cut in half lengthwise then thinly sliced into half moons
- 5 to 6 cups of good quality chicken broth, heated to close to boiling (keep warm by either reheating in the microwave or keeping it simmering in a pot on the stove)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese (plus more to smother the finished rice in)
- 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
- 4 to 8 ounces shredded Italian cheeses (Kraft makes it, plus most groceries have a store brand)
- In a large saucepot, over low heat, saute the onions in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, stirring constantly for the first three or 4 minutes. Cover the pan, keep the heat at low and cook the onions, stirring frequently, until the onions are golden brown and tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Put the onions in a bowl and clean the pot.
- In the same pot, put the rest of the olive oil. Add in the garlic and over medium heat, cook for about 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly for about 3 to 4 minutes. You want the rice to have a nice coating of garlicky oil on it.
- Pour about 1 1/2 cups of the hot broth into the rice. You want it to just barely cover the rice. Make sure you have a drink and something to do next to you, because you’re not leaving the stove for a while now .
- Stirring constantly, continue to cook the rice until practically all of the broth is absorbed. Add in another 1/ 1/2 cups and do it all over again. Then do it one last time. The rice is done when it is tender and creamy.
- Take the pan off the heat and add in all the cheeses. Stir well to melt them, then add in the bacon and the caramelized onions.
- Place the rice in a large serving bowl to serve family style or individual bowls to make sure that no one eats your portion. Sprinkle each serving with a healthy portion of grated Parmesan.
I have heard a lot of people decry pudding as a boring dessert alternative. I completely disagree. Pudding is awesome darn it! Smeared all over… ok, wait, let’s change the tangent I was about to go off on there. My bad. Where was I? Pudding is awesome. When I was a kid back in the 60′s and 70′s (yes, I’m older than most other bloggers. I like to think that makes me wiser and smarter and more experienced and a better cook… and far cuter. Or something like that.) when most women were entering the work force for the first time, pudding meant the dry powder in a box mixed with milk because none of our mothers had the time to actually MAKE pudding home made. I have to admit to still having a certain fondness for the Butterscotch flavor. I still buy it as well as the newer types of pudding that have come out. The Jello Temptations are pretty darn good and are low calorie and Jello brands sugar free Creme Brulee Rice Pudding is…wait for it… “to die for” *grins cause you all know what I think of that phrase .
But rice pudding for me has always been a sort of comfort food and nothing beats home made. But… *sighs deeply*… being me, I am never content to leave well enough alone. Nooooooo… I have to mess with things I like to try and make more things I like. Like I did last night with rice pudding. Mind you, it worked. Quite nicely. But now I have a craving for regular warm rice pudding covered in a few pounds of Cinnamon (sorry Ann … I know you can’t do Cinnamon. But that’s why you should keep reading ). But until I decide to make that, this is a wonderful Summery alternative. If you like coconut (no coconut pieces in it cause I just don’t care for the texture as much as I love the flavor) and Pineapple, you should love this. Plus, if you want to lighten it, it can be done by using low fat coconut milk, lighter milk and light or fat free whipped topping instead of the heavy cream. The Greek yogurt in this adds a nice tang as well as some extra nutrition. All in all, while this isn’t exactly great for you (this IS me after all ), it’s certainly not BAD for you either if you use lighter ingredients. I hope you like it! There was no way to really photograph rice pudding to make it look exciting lol, but it sure does taste good This makes a lot so it could be cut in half if needed.
Pina Colada Rice Pudding With A Greek Yogurt Twist
- 4 cups cooked rice (I used leftover Basmati Coconut rice but any cooked rice would do. I actually think this would be better with plain white rice. )
- 2 cans coconut milk (I used full fat cause the low fat tastes watery to me in all the brands I have tried but you could sub low fat)
- 1 cup milk
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 20 ounce can pineapple chunks, well drained
- 1 cup heavy cream, whipped or 1 1/2 cups whipped topping
- 1 cup Greek yogurt (I used honey flavored because it was what I had on hand)
- In a medium heavy bottomed (preferably non stick) sauce pot, combine the cooked rice and the coconut milk. Stir well to mix. Over medium heat, bring the mix to a gentle boil stirring very often.
- Turn heat down to low (I had it on two) and cover. Cook the rice until all the liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Mine took about 30 minutes.
- Pour mixture into a large bowl and cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours.
- When rice is cold, mix the whipped cream (or whipped topping) with the Greek yogurt.
- Break up the rice pudding (it will be stiff) and fold the cream/yogurt mixture into it.
- Add the drained pineapple and mix well. Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.