A simple, little bone broth

I started life in mainland China back in the late 70s.  Luckily, I was born after the major hard times of famine and strife.  Food was still rationed, though.  Meat was especially scarce.  Therefore, every bit of meat was precious, down to the bones.  So my family, and everyone else like us, learned to cook to ensure nothing was wasted, and every thing tasted good. 

Bone broth was a staple in our diet.  Who knew we were ahead of the food trend by, like, decades.  

I still cook using a lot of those old customs. For example, I prefer meats with bones.  It doesn’t matter if I’m preparing chicken, beef, pork or venison.  Bones impart natural flavor to any roast or stew.  After hours of slow roasting, those bones slides right off the meat to be tossed into a pot of cold water for a nice broth.  

Add anise, garlic, slices of onion (green and/or white), and a few slices of ginger to the pot of water and bring the whole thing to a boil.  Then immediately lower the heat and let it simmer for a few hours until it turns a golden brown.  The longer it cooks, the richer the broth.  I’ve cooked broth for a whole day using this method, so the time really depends on how intense you like your broth.  But the stovetop method should yield broth after 2-3 hours.

Once that golden color is achieved, pour the finished product through a strainer into a clean bowl before serving.  

I don’t mind the oil at the top of the broth, but it can be easily skimmed off the top once the broth boils.  Or you can wait till the broth is done, strain it into a container, and let the whole thing chill in the fridge. Remove the layer of white solids from on the top before using the broth however you’d like.

Yes, you can use a slow cooker to make broth.  It may take a day or two, but should yield similar results.  

What happened if you just have a piece of raw bone with very little meat?  First of all, don’t worry about any bits of meat and gristle.  I bake the entire bone on a foiled cookie sheet, with a light drizzle of oil, at 350 F for about 30 minutes.  Then, toss it into the pot of cold water with seasoning as recommended above.  

I just think the flavor is deeper and more robust when the bone is roasted a bit first. 

Bone broth can be enjoyed as is. Or it can be stored, frozen, to be used in soups.

This is how I store frozen soups and broths, to be used later. I’m obviously not the most organized.

It happens to be my favorite braising liquid. 

It takes a few steps to get a great broth, but I love the flavor more than store bought.  I think you will too.

Enjoy!

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What to do with pesky leftovers?

I know plenty of people who avoid cooking at home because they hate being stuck with all sort of leftover ingredients they won’t use again, or leftover from that carefully crafted meal they won’t eat. What a waste of money!

Now you probably guessed I’m here to tell you none of those fears need to be true.  There are plenty of ways to repurpose a leftover meal into a brand new dish, besides casserole.  That leftover meat and vegetable dish can be turned into a keto-friendly stir-fry, or salad.

I happened to have some leftover cooked chicken breasts, a few avocados and some cilantro, half a lemon, salt pepper and oil. The result was this salad for lunch:

3 avocados
1 bunch cilantro
1 tsp olive oil
1 pinch salt and pepper
1 tsp lemon juice

Add any type of leftover protein you have on hand. Slice into bite -size portions.

Mix together and enjoy!
Don’t worry if cilantro isn’t your thing.  You can substitute your version of this salad with plain salad greens or slices of cucumber.  The possibilities are endless and it’ll still be in keeping with your high fat (avocados) low-carb, ketogenic diet. 

Hurray!

Grandma’s Kou Rou

My late grandmother often made this recipe whenever people gathered in her home.  I regret there are no pictures of those dinner parties, with a table covered with dishes full of differently prepared food and people squeezed in shoulder to shoulder.  What strikes me as an adult, is that she made all her feasts on a little coal burning cast iron stove, similar to this one:

Just like grandma's stove

Primitive, yes, but this was 1980s China.  My grandmother thought her two-burner propane stove was much too technologically advanced.

I remember, out of every dish she made, everyone always raved about my grandmother’s version of the triple cooked pork belly.  (It’s actually called Kou Rou, or upside down meat in Chinese, but I think triple cooked pork belly is more descriptive.)  There’re several versions of this dish out there, but nothing beats Grandma’s, amiright?

Later, my aunt made this dish for my husband Dave.  The juicy chunks or pork and distinct flavors left a lasting impression on him.  When he started the ketogenic diet, Dave requested that I recreate the triple cooked pork belly, back here in America.   Sadly, there are no written copies of any of my grandmother’s recipes.   My grandmother was illiterate and the custom was to pass down family recipes via kitchen-apprenticeships which, until recently, preserved them for generations.  So I crowd-sourced various family members for their memories of the ingredients and preparation.  What I got from various relatives was a pinch of this and a dash of that.  I did my best to approximate how much a unit of “dash” or “pinch” and convert it into a more coherent recipe.

Keep in mind, this is a labor intensive recipe that takes some planning.  Give yourself one day at least to soak the mustard greens.  Follow the first two steps.  The last step can be done an 1 hour and 15 minutes before serving.

Tools:

soup pan
frying pan
Stainless Steel Steamer

large microwave safe bowl

Ingredients

2 lbs pork belly
2 green onions
2 slices ginger
3-4 garlic cloves
2 Star Anise

2 tablespoons oil (I use olive believe it or not)
1 tablespoon soy sauce (doesn’t really matter if it’s light or dark)
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar (or rock candy)
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine
salt and pepper to taste

5-6 oz. dried preserved mustard greens from any Asian grocery store.(About 3 cups after soaked overnight and thoroughly washed)

Now I call this dish triple-cooked pork belly for a very good reason.  Here we go:

Step #1:

Flavor a pot of cold water with 1 star anise, 1 green onion and a few slices of ginger root. Put the pork belly into the cold water mixture.  Bring to a boil on medium high heat, then immediately reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

Fish out the pork chunks and set aside to let it cool off a bit.

Step #2

Heat a pan (or wok, if you have one) with some cooking oil over low heat.  To make sure the oil is hot, throw in some more of the sliced ginger and wait for it to start sizzling.  Then pour in red wine, soy sauce and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add sugar to thicken the sauce.  You want it to turn into a thick caramel texture.  If it gets too dry, add a bit more wine.  If its not thick enough, turn up the heat a notch and keep a close eye on it till it thickens.  Then place the pieces of pork into the pan and let it fry in the sauce.  Turn over a few times to glaze the pork belly.  Once there’s a nice golden brown coat on every side of the pork, wrap it in a container or plate and refrigerate for 2 or more hours.  DO NOT WASH OUT YOUR  PAN!

Step #3

Prepare a large steamer 3/4 of the way with water.  Heat the unwashed pan you used to glaze the pork and add the last bit of oil.  Heat for a minute or two then toss in the last green onion, the last bits of ginger slices, along with the drained mustard greens.  Fry it up until it’s fragrant and turn off the heat.

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Preserved mustard greens

Now take the cold pork belly out of the fridge and slice it nice and thin with a sharp knife.  Line the slices of pork along your large round bowl.  Fill the bowl, leaving a half inch at the top and pour in the mustard greens.

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Kou Rou

Set the bowl in your steamer and steam on high heat for 75 minutes.  Once it’s steamed, let it rest for 5 minutes then pour off some of the liquid in the bowl into your pan again and let it simmer and reduce to a nice slightly thick sauce.  I refuse to use cornstarch in my sauce, so a little bit of patience is key.  Your liquid WILL reduce.

Now, your pork has cooled slightly. Place a large serving plate over the top of the bowl.  The plate should overlap the bowl rim.  It’s very important that it does as you will hold the plate firmly over the bowl and flip the bowl over.  You’ll have a nice mound of pork belly on your plate.   Pour the sauce over it and serve to your guests.

Enjoy!