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TND – Messy, but Tasty

May 9, 2013

groaning board

I drove myself a little bit crazy last week in a quest for authenticity. I did research, crowd sourced my father and uncles, dithered, and fussed in search of an ‘authentic’ elegant Dutch meal to celebrate the Abdication/Enthronement of Queen Beatrix/King Willem-Alexander*. Then I went ahead and did things like roasting my Brussels sprouts with balsamic, and adding garlic and rosemary and orange zest to my Hazenpeper. I also threw in a splash of buttermilk to my Hete Bliksem for a touch of creaminess. I did this mostly because I couldn’t help myself, and because I thought they would enhance the dishes, even if the additions were inauthentic. This, however, begs the question of what we mean when we say ‘authentic’.

Authentic to what? To a medieval or renaissance dish? Possibly, but also probably not, because I’ve seen medieval cookbooks and been emphatically disinterested in making or eating anything they contained. While I believe that braising rabbit in some kind of alcohol is a cooking solution that’s been around for a while, the seasonings will have changed over time as tastes change. The Middle Ages were into highly spiced dishes, in part to cover the taste of vaguely (or very) rancid meat, but also because that’s the kind of flavor profile they liked.

Or, was I trying to be authentic to my father’s 1950’s childhood? That would have probably eliminated balsamic vinegar from consideration – and my mother would argue it definitely would have eliminated such niceties as roasting Brussels sprouts (although to be fair, my mother is from Virginia not the Netherlands and is possibly being somewhat hyperbolic). It wouldn’t necessarily have made the Hetebliksem made with buttermilk inauthentic since the Dutch both cook with, and drink buttermilk**, although I believe that traditionally it is made without the addition of dairy.

Or perhaps when we say ‘authentic’ what we mean is a mythical dish that never really existed, but that is a composite of what we think something should taste like, or remember it tasting like from our childhoods. Is it essentially something we have a sense memory of, even if that sense memory is itself inauthentic. This is basically where America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s County lives. They take the dishes that we remember – cherry pie, chicken casserole, pot roast – and figure out what it is about them that we are craving, and then figure out how to achieve that even when that means that the eventual recipe looking nothing like any recipe found in a vintage cookbook. They’re striving for the sensory experience of authenticity rather than a strict adherence to the letter of the recipe, which is why they sometimes do things like add gelatin to beef stew, and shredded apples to blueberry pie filling***.

The quest for authenticity gets even fuzzier when you’re making recipes where you have no sense/taste memory of the dish in question. I’ve never had Hete Bliksem, or Hazenpeper. My renditions of these recipes are my guess at a tradition to which I’ve never actually borne witness; because, as noted last week when we’re in the Netherlands and go out to dinner we go for pancakes or rijstafel like any other self-respecting Dutch family).

It was a question which remained relevant this week when I braised a pork loin, and roasted shrimp, and julienned approximately 1000 vegetables in the service of a meal of ‘Vietnamese’ Summer Rolls that look nothing like any summer roll I’ve ever been served in any restaurant of an Asian persuasion (admittedly US Asian restaurants catering to a US palate, but still). Ditto on next week’s Dinner, which (per a birthday request) is my highly in-authentic take on bahn-mi. I think the only thing that links my bahn-mi to a ‘traditional’ or ‘authentic’ bahn-mi is the Asian flavors and the fact that I’m choosing to call it a bahn-mi – I think you could also plausibly choose to describe it as an Asian twist on a meatball sub without having anyone raise an eyebrow.

I’m not sure that inauthenticity is a bad thing. The orange and rosemary in my Hazenpeper lent it a nice herbal note, and more garlic is never a bad thing in my book. The summer rolls I made for Dinner this week were messy and fun to eat, even if they basically bore no resemblance to their name sake. Cooking is all about improvisation and adding a dash of this and a pinch of that – that’s how half the world’s most beloved recipes came about in the first place. Or maybe I’m just justifying my use of balsamic in a traditional Dutch meal. Could go either way.

* Apparently he’s expressed a preference for Koning Willem-Alexander instead of Koning Alexander IV, and while the hereditary duties and privileges of the monarch may have been reduced I think you should still get to choose what people call you
** My father was offered buttermilk as a beverage choice at board meetings when he worked for a Dutch bank in the early 2000s; I believe he attempted to keep an expression of horror from his face as he declined
*** While I’m not on board with the gelatin in beef stew, I have to say the shredded apples in blueberry pie filling was inspired – it thickens the filling without making it gluey like a cornstarch thickener would.

Vietnamese Summer Rolls
– Orange Ginger Braised Pork Loin
– Garlic/Ginger Roasted Shrimp
– Fixin’s (cucumber, sweet peppers, mango, basil, mint, napa cabbage)
– Rice Paper Wrappers and/or Romaine Lettuce Wrappers

Dipping Sauces
– Orange Ginger Glaze
– Peanut Sauce
– Plum – Sweet Chili Sauce

Spicy Lemon Ginger Soba Noodle Salad

Butter Lettuce Salad w/ Carrot Ginger Dressing

Vietnamese Summer Rolls
(complete menu serves 6-8 – individual components will serve more or less people depending on how you’re pairing any given item)

vegetables

Orange Ginger Braised Pork
Garlic Ginger Roasted Shrimp
Rice Paper Wrappers
Romaine Lettuce Leaves
Julienned – cucumbers, sweet peppers, mango
Shredded – napa cabbage (or a tangle of rice noodles)
Mint & Basil leaves
Dipping Sauces

You can either assemble summer rolls a few hours in advance – a slice of pork or a few shrimp, some vegetables/fruit, basil & mint. Or you can let people assemble the summer rolls themselves at the table – using either rice paper or romaine lettuce leaves as wrappers. I did it as a make your own at the table which was a little messy, but fun, and more practical time-wise.

Orange Ginger Braised Pork Loin

pork

2+ lb boneless pork loin
1 orange, quartered & thinly sliced (leave peel on)
1 large onion, quartered & thinly sliced
1 cup orange juice
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp lime juice
2 tsp soy sauce
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1” piece fresh ginger, roughly chopped (you’re looking for a 1:1 ratio on ginger & garlic)
1 tsp ground coriander
Salt/pepper
Vegetable oil
2 Tbsp marmalade
Splash of a mild vinegar (i.e. rice wine/white wine/raspberry)

Combine the first 10 ingredients in a ziplock bag and marinate overnight (pork through coriander).

Remove the pork from the marinade (reserving the marinade). Pat dry and season generously with salt/pepper. Heat some vegetable oil in a large heavy pot and sear the meat on all sides (about 4-5 minutes/side). Add the reserved marinade to the pot, tucking some of the orange/onion pieces under the pork, bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the pork loin is cooked through (about 155-160/40-60 minutes). Allow the pork to cool in the braising liquid.

Remove the pork from the braising liquid and refrigerate overnight.

Strain the braising liquid – feel free to grab a fork and eat the onion/orange mixture from the strainer. Return the braising liquid to the pot and bring back up to a boil. Reduce the liquid by half and then stir in 2 Tbsp of marmalade and a splash of a mild vinegar. Continue to cook until the liquid is glaze like. Adjust seasonings to taste.

To serve, thinly slice the pork and drizzle with some of the glaze.

Garlic/Ginger Roasted Shrimp

shrimp

1 ½ lb raw shrimp, peeled & deveined (I use frozen)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp basil
1/8 cup parsley
1 Tbsp minced garlic (about 2-4 cloves)
1 Tbsp minced ginger (about ½” knob, peeled)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients (except the shrimp) in a food processor and pulse until everything is finely chopped (or you can do this by hand – I had my food processor out anyway and decided to make my life easy). Pour the mixture over the shrimp and stir to coat thoroughly. Allow to marinate in the fridge for 2-4 hours.

Preheat your oven to 375/400. Arrange the shrimp on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast for 6-8 minutes, turning them over once.

Serve hot from the oven, or chill and serve cold like a shrimp cocktail.

Dipping Sauces

sauces

Orange Ginger Glaze
The original recipe I’m basing the pork on had you just discard the braising liquid. I smelled the fragrant broth, and decided even the notion of throwing it out was heretical and turned it into a quick glaze.

See above – you’re making this from the pork braising liquid

Peanut Sauce
½ cup creamy peanut butter
6-8 Tbsp hot water
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1-2 Tbsp soy sauce (depending on taste)
1-2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar (depending on taste)
1-2 tsp sriracha (optional – but it gives the sauce a little zing)
Pinch red pepper flakes
Zest & juice of 1 lime

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Plum – Sweet Chili Sauce
¼ cup Plum Sauce
1/8 cup Thai Sweet Chili Sauce
(optional – 1 tsp of a hot chili garlic sauce)
1” piece ginger, peeled & grated
½ – 1 tsp ground ginger
1-2 tsp soy sauce (start with less, and add more as needed)
Juice of 1 lime

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Spicy Lemon Ginger Soba Noodle Salad
(serves 6-8)

noodle salad

Dressing
Zest & juice of 1 lemon
1” piece fresh ginger, peeled, and grated
1 Tbsp honey
¾ tsp cayenne
¾ tsp salt
1/4 cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar
2-4 Tbsp soy sauce (start with less, and add more as you think you need it)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil

Blend all together in a food processor. Adjust seasonings to taste (I think I ended up adding more lemon juice because I like things lemony, but this is a matter of preference).

Salad
12 oz soba noodles
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup shelled edamame, cooked
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Cook the soba noodles according to package instructions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Tosss with dressing, scallions, edamame, and carrots. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds

Butter Lettuce Salad with Carrot/Ginger Dressing
I used diced radishes and apples as a garnish this time.

Recipe previously given: On a Mission

salad w carrot ginger dressing

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