Maple Glazed Spiced Nuts

It wasn’t too long ago where a lot of our family members gathered for yet another wonderful wedding. Don’t you just love weddings, and wedding weekends? I can’t say that it was all fun and dance for me in particular due to my recent circumstances, but what it was, was almost like a really great reunion of cousins, uncles, and grandparents that just brought joy and smiles to everyone’s faces. Love that stuff. During this time, our Canadian cousins decided to come bearing gifts, of which was this awesome Canadian maple syrup. My kids love syrup, as does my wife, and to be honest I don’t really use it all that often with the exception of when I may make some chicken and waffles. After some time, I decided to come up with a snack for one of the parties and see how it would go over. I like doing that, you know?

That’s when I decided I would make maple glazed spiced nuts, along with some fresh turmeric that my friends in Hawaii recently harvested from their yard and sent our way. I mean who doesn’t love turmeric and maple syrup, right? I was about to find out.

Maple Glazed Mixed Nuts Recipe
Maple Glazed Mixed Nuts Recipe

I came up with this recipe after thinking about some nuts my parents used to make during the holidays. They were sweet, and lightly salted, and that was the direction I was trying to head, but in a slightly more savory application.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups walnuts halves and pieces
  • 1 cup roasted peanuts
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.

During this time, get a large mixing bowl together and dump everything into the mixing bowl. Mix well to incorporate all of the nuts, sugars, and syrup together.

Get a large baking sheet out, and line it with parchment paper for easier cleanup.

Maple Glazed Nuts Ingredients
Maple Glazed Nuts Ingredients

Bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes being careful not to burn. About half way through this time, stir them, carefully. The goal is to get that sugars to melt into the nuts, making small clusters of deliciousness.

After you have achieved this, remove them from the oven, slide them into a bowl from the parchment paper, and let them cool before digging in.

I brought a majority of these to the party, yet reserved some only to make an ice cream with them with my daughter a few days later. Was that good as well? You betcha!

 

Crispy Pig Ears

Crispy pig ears, I know. Who the heck makes crispy pig ears? This dude does, that’s who. I forgot when and where I had these but were they ever awesome. They actually reminded me of a really good slimmed down chicharron. Crunchy, funky, and delicious. I tend to always look at this type of stuff when I shop at my local Mexican grocery store. They have everything, and granted there are some items that are not pleasing to the eye and I shun away from them rather quickly, there are others that really grab my attention. In particular these pig ears, and hopefully in the future, a cow or pig’s head. Who knows what I might make of those. Maybe some Filipino sisig, or maybe just braised and roasted to start digging into the cheek meat, etc. But these pig ears…. Those little suckers caught my attention and I knew I wanted to try to recreate those crispy, crackling things of beauty for my kids. Yes, my kids.

Crispy Pig Ears Recipe
Crispy Pig Ears Recipe

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of pig ears (mine came 4 ears to a package)
  • 2 cups of soy sauce
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • cooking oil

Start by rinsing off the ears with cold water. Once thoroughly rinsed, add them to a stock pot.

Add enough water to cover, and bring them to a boil, reducing the heat once boiling. Remove any and all of the scum that floats to the top and discard. This is much like cooking down bones for Vietnamese pho or any good stock.

After about 20-30 minutes, pour out the water, and give the ears another rinse, leaving them in the pot. Once rinsed, add the soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorn, and vinegar. Add enough water to cover the ears, then continue to cook over medium heat for about 2 hours.

How to make crispy pig ears
How to make crispy pig ears

After a couple of hours, pour out the liquid, and remove the pig ears, placing them in a bowl or plate to let cool.

Once cooled, slice them into strips, or chunks if you want. Whatever your desired bite is going to be.  Rub the teaspoon of salt all over them. Once sliced, and cooled, cover them and place them into refrigerator overnight.

The following day, heat enough canola oil on medium heat in a pan. NOTE: These will splatter a bit due to the fat content, so be prepared.

Once the oil is hot, about 350 degrees, pat the pig ears a bit before dropping them in, add the sliced pig ears in batches, and cook each batch until they are crispy.

A bit messy from the splattering, just a heads up.

Once they are crisp, remove them with a slotted spoon and onto a paper lined plate to remove any excess oil. Add the sliced ears to a small bowl and season lightly with salt. Repeat.

These pig ears are sticky from the gelatin the ears contain, crispy, and an overall unique experience that my kids (with the exception of one) actually enjoyed. Would I make them again? Probably. But in the future, I will have to hunt down where we had them and go from there. Have you ever cooked crispy pig ears, and if so what were your thoughts?

 

Vietnamese Caramel Chicken Po Boy

As you probably are already aware, I have a few different ethnic cuisines that are my all-time favorites. Mexican, Thai, Indian, and well pretty much anything Asian. That includes Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, and Filipino. With hope, I pray that my kids who I cook for everyday grown up to realize that when they grow older. I’m not that guy who is serving up the same jive every week, rather I’m the dude who is serving them dishes, family style, from all over the world. I typically always do a take on this particular recipe as my entire family totally loves it, however it goes so fast that you wish you would have quadrupled the recipe or simply told the kids to slow down a bit. It’s that good. It’s Vietnamese caramel chicken, but instead of serving with a side of rice and some thinly sliced cucumbers, I made this into a po boy. I mean it’s the best of both worlds, right?

Vietnamese Caramel Chicken Po Boy Recipe
Vietnamese Caramel Chicken Po Boy Recipe

Let’s get started.

Ingredients for the chicken and marinade:

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp canola oil

Ingredients for the sauce:

  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • pinch of salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup of water

Ingredients for the sandwich:

  • Your favorite baguette
  • mayonnaise, optional
  • cherry or roma tomatoes, optional
  • head lettuce, thinly chopped
  • fresh cilantro, chopped, optional
  • 1 jalapeno, thinly sliced, optional

Sounds like a lot, but it’s really not as the ingredients for the marinade and sauce are essentially the same.

Start by combining all of your chicken and marinade ingredients into a mixing bowl or sealable plastic bag, and let this marinade for a at least a couple of hours in the refrigerator. Take the chicken out and have it come close to room temperature before you are ready to cook.

During this time, mix the sauce ingredients, and if you want, go ahead and prepare your sandwich ingredients. NOTE: The chicken cooks quickly, very quickly.

Vietnamese Caramel Chicken Po Boy Recipe
Vietnamese Caramel Chicken Po Boy Recipe

Get a large skillet out and heat it to medium-high heat. Let it heat up for a minute or two then add in the chicken. Don’t mess with the chicken. Let it do its thing for a couple of minutes, then start stirring it around. Cook the chicken for about 7 minutes, then turn on your kitchen vent and add in the sauce. Stir, coating the chicken and cook quickly. The sauce will thicken and get nice and sticky. Once that happens, remove the skillet from the heat.

Whatever you do, don’t start eating the chicken yet. It’s so darn addictive that you may end up not having enough to make a sandwich!

Now it’s time to make the sandwich. Lather both sides of your sandwich with mayonnaise. to the bottom, add the shredded lettuce and tomatoes. Top with a bunch of the caramelized chicken, then top with cilantro and jalapenos. Almost a banh mi style without the pickled elements. Fold, push down on the sandwich, and open wide.

This sandwich is awesome. Sticky chicken packed with great Asian flavors really knocks this one out of the park. Hope you enjoy!

Lechon Kawali

Snack, Crackle, Pop. Repeat. I’ve said this before but Filipino food is on the rise, and much like many top chefs have predicted, Filipino food will begin to surprise you. If you have never had Filipino food, just give it a try. Granted, I have yet to find a sweet Filipino dessert that I like (but then again I do not like many desserts as I am not a sweet tooth), but the savory dishes are to die for. This one might be the one to top it off. There are many common, top, Filipino dishes that you might already be aware of such as Pancit, lumpia, or even Kare Kare, but there is one that is top notch, and that is lechon kawali.

Your cardiologist may not like you after this, nor probably your primary physician, but in moderation, this Filipino crispy pork is so simple to make, and makes a perfect party food. Traditionally made with pork belly, you can also try it with pork ribs just make sure you have plenty of fat to render on the second cooking cycle. Yep, there are two cooking steps going on here.

Filipino Lechon Kawali Recipe
Filipino Lechon Kawali Recipe

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs boneless pork belly, cut into 2 inch long strips
  • 1 head of garlic, skins removed, bulbs smashed
  • 4 whole bay leaves
  • 3 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • water
  • salt
  • canola oil
  • dipping sauce
    • White Vinegar, to your liking
    • Soy sauce, to your liking
    • Chopped garlic, to your liking
    • cracked black pepper, to your liking
    • 1 Thai birds eye chili, smashed, optional or Thai chili flakes

I recently made this for my son’s birthday party, as well as another Filipino gathering and both times they rocked the socks off of the party guests. You know you’ve done right when the Filipinos are giving you a thumbs up, a hug, or a high five after eating your food. This is a winner.

Start by adding the pork belly, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, soy sauce, and enough water to cover the pork belly into a large pot or dutch oven. Cover, and bring to a simmer, cooking for about 1 hour. This is to tenderize the pork, and infuse all of the great flavor from those aromatics.

Filipino Lechon Kawali Recipe Ingredients
Filipino Lechon Kawali Recipe Ingredients

After 1 hour or so, get a baking sheet out and line it with a wire rack.

Take the strips of pork belly and lay them on the rack, making sure any of the excess liquid goes back into the pot. Once the strips are laid out, lightly salt them with kosher salt. This will assist with the dehydration process and get them ready for the next step the following day, if not hours later in the day.

Place the baking sheet, uncovered in the refrigerator. I do this over night.

Filipino Lechon Kawali Recipe
Filipino Lechon Kawali Recipe

When you are ready to go with the next step, take the pork out of the refrigerator and cut them into bite sized cubes, about 1-2 inches in size. Go larger if you prefer.

Heat a pot of oil, about 2-3 cups of canola oil, in a medium sized pot, and bring this to about 350-375 degrees.

In batches, fry the pork. This should take about 5-7 minutes per batch. Once golden and the fat is rendered and crispy, remove with a slotted spoon or kitchen spyder and place onto a paper lined plate to remove any excess oil. Let the oil in the pot come back to temp, then repeat until the lechon kawali is cooked.

NOTE: If you are frying these bad boys, make sure you reserve some for yourself because if you turn your back, trust me, these babies will be gone. This happened to me when I brought them to a party for our friend Miguel to chop up and fry. I didn’t even get a single piece! No worries on that part however, as I know that when I am snacking with the family, that I am sure to get a few pieces.

And that dipping sauce? Go for it. The combination of garlic, vinegar, soy, and chili. That’s a whole other level when it comes to dipping sauce.

If you are looking for a great party appetizer, and don’t mind frying with a bit of oil, this one is sure to please and is a real crowd pleaser not only for those wanting to try some Filipino flavors, but for those who love great, easy food. Hope you enjoy!