Continuing, I suppose, with something of a Pork-aissance here at The Kitchen Chronicles: here's another dish I tried recently that I LOVED. (Again from the Sunday Globe Magazine...I must be highly suggestible early on Sunday mornings. And again from Adam Ried...who I SWEAR I am not stalking, related to or otherwise shilling for...)
The name, Vietnamese-style Caramel Braised Pork Patties, is a bit of a mouthful and, well, there's something that doesn't scream 'romantic dinner' or the like when you're serving up "pork patties" (unless you are romancing an ancient, plastic-capped elementary school cafeteria lady) - but these are really...REALLY...tasty and interesting to make. What's more, they're even better a second time. I vacuum-sealed and froze a couple servings to see how they'd fare for clients. (It's true: I'm selfless. I made these for THEM...not me! Oh, no!!) The defrosted and re-heated test subject last night was just as good, if not better than I remembered it. So, yay for pork patty craving clients everywhere.
The patties consist of ground pork seasoned with shallots, chilies, garlic and fish sauce (a common ingredient in Vietnamese and Thai cooking). They reminded me a little bit of the filling for Peking Ravioli (a.k.a. Potstickers in some parts of the country) and...well...I am a sucker for a good dumpling. After the patties are shaped and browned, they are braised in a very interesting, savory caramel sauce which contains tamarind pulp. You may be more familiar with tamarind in Indian cuisine. Tamarind chutney is that sweet, dark condiment ubiquitous on the table of many Indian restaurants.
This is more of a weekend dish to make. It involves more steps than you'd care to take on after work during the week. (BUT, as I said earlier, you can make a big batch and freeze some for the future.) You get the hands-on fun of shaping the patties, if you've got kids who like to help in the kitchen. Plus, if you've never made caramel from scratch, now's your chance to play mad kitchen scientist.
Sugar is dissolved in water, then heated until caramelization occurs.
Simmering or braising savory foods (pork, chicken, shrimp, eggs, tofu, etc.) in a caramel sauce (nuoc mau) is a staple method in Vietnamese cuisine. Andrea Nguyen, author of Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, on her blog calls the method "one of the cornerstones of Vietnamese cooking." Don't think of this at all as the caramel sauce you may have had on your ice cream sundae at Brigham's. This one is salty (courtesy of the fish sauce), dark and adds real complexity of flavor to your dish.
The browned patties are placed in the braising sauce.
After twenty minutes or so of braising.
Looking forward to trying the other recipe in the Globe piece, Vietnamese-style Caramel Braised Fish, and finding other dishes to incorporate this technique into the B. Home repertoire. You should add it to your own, so have at it!!