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!

Chicago Style Hot Dog Tater Tots

Do you know that time when you are really craving something but you just don’t want to get up, go, and go get it? Yeah, it seems like I have been having those types of days lately. This past week I had a craving for this one, actually it was the craving for a Chicago style hot dog, but with french fries, and I was not about to get back in my car and head across town to go get them. That’s when I took things into my own hands, rummaged through my freezer and refrigerator, and just like that I came up with the great idea of Chicago style hot dog tater tots.

Sure, I’ve made pizza tots, bacon wrapped tots, and homemade tater tots to boot, but I’m not sure if anything compared to these Chicago style hot dog tater tots. It’s everything you love about a Chicago style hot dog, and fries, all in one delicious bite.

Chicago Style Hot Dog Tater Tots Recipe
Chicago Style Hot Dog Tater Tots Recipe

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 2 whole hot dogs, cooked and sliced in bites
  • 1 bag of your favorite tater tots
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 roma tomato, pulp removed, sliced
  • sport peppers, to your liking
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • your favorite pickles, to your liking
  • 1 tsp cajun seasoning, optional
  • 1 tsp black poppy seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

If you want to use the funky neon green relish, by all means go for. That goes the same for yellow mustard, and as much as I love both of them, I omitted them from this particular recipe.

Feel free to adjust these ingredients based on how many people you are going to feed. This one in particular could probably feed two, but I was really, really hungry at the time and decided to go all in.

Start by lining a baking sheet with parchment paper, and preheat your oven to 425 degrees, or according to your instructions on your frozen tater tot bag.

Line the baking sheet with as much, or as little tater tots to your desire.

Cook the tater tots in the oven just until they begin to crisp up, about 15 minutes or so.

Chicago Style Hot Dog Tater Tots Recipe
Chicago Style Hot Dog Tater Tots Recipe

During this time, either boil, steam, or microwave the hot dogs, just until cooked.

After 15 minutes, remove the tater tots from the oven and add the onions to the top of the tots. Place back into the oven and cook an additional 5 minutes or so, just to lightly cook the onions.

Remove the tots from the oven, coat them sprinkle on the celery salt and cajun seasoning (I use Old Bay for the additional celery salt factor), top with the cheese, and the hot dogs, and place them back into the oven until the cheese is fully melted.

Once melted, remove, and top with the tomatoes, pickles, sport peppers, and shower everything with the poppy seeds. If you are wanting to use relish and mustard, by all means go for it.

Chicago Style Hot Dog Tater Tots Recipe
Chicago Style Hot Dog Tater Tots Recipe

These things are way too good, and are sure to be a real crowd pleaser. Not only did I save myself from a trip across town, but I also won in satisfying my hunger and craving for a Chicago style hot dog, with tater tots! Hope you enjoy.

Ham, Cheese, and Potato Casserole

I believe, and I only say ‘believe’ because I am somewhat uncertain, that casserole is or has neared the end in our beautiful state of Wisconsin. Just like the seasons, it is one of the things I think we all love. You know when you start new recipes based entirely on the weather. As it was cold and rainy a few weeks back, I decided to once again review the contents of the freezer, cupboards, and pantry, and come up with something for dinner. I’m so glad I did, and as surprised as I was (and probably should not have been) this entire casserole was devoured by just three of us. Please don’t judge us on a rainy, cold day. 

This casserole is definitely not pretty, but my oh my is it ever comforting and delicious.

Ham, Cheese, and Potato Casserole Recipe
Ham, Cheese, and Potato Casserole Recipe

Told you it’s not pretty.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 4 cups of Ore-Ida frozen hash browns
  • 3 cups of cooked, diced ham
  • 2 cups of Gouda cheese, shredded
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups of milk
  • 1 tsp salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup of fine bread crumbs, optional

Start by heating a large skillet on medium heat. Add in the canola oil, and once heated through, add in the hashbrowns, and gently push down, as well as push in the edges a bit to form a nice potato patty.

Let these cook somewhat low and slow. The goal is to get them nice and crispy on the outside while keeping them nice and tender on the inside. Granted these will be mixed and baked but the texture is nice at the end.

During this time, let’s make the cheese sauce, or mornay sauce if you will. It’s your standard bechamel in a way but with cheese added.

To a sauce pan, melt the butter. Once melted, stir in the flour, and cook out the flour on medium heat for a couple of minutes. Stir until it forms a bit of a paste, yet doesn’t turn color on you.

Slowly pour in the milk, continuing to stir and breaking up the flour to create your sauce. Once all of the milk is added, season with a bit of salt and pepper.

Ham, Cheese, and Potato Casserole Recipe
Ham, Cheese, and Potato Casserole Recipe

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

You’ve been keeping an eye on those hash browns, right? Good. Now give them a flip, reform them into a patty, and continue to lightly crisp on the other side.

Once the sauce begins to thicken a bit, reduce the heat, and slowly add in about 3/4 of the cheese, reserving a bit to finish during baking.

Get a large bowl out to mix everything.

Add in the crisp hash browns, top with the ham, then pour over the cheese sauce. Give this a good mix, breaking up the hash browns to your desire, then pour into a casserole dish.

Top with remaining shredded cheese, and lightly shower on the bread crumbs. Place into the preheated oven and cook for about 25 minutes or until the top is nice and golden brown.

Remove from the heat, let cool for about 5-10 minutes, then scoop into a bowl and dig in.

Talk about comfort food. Two of my kids were out for the evening so I thought it would be just my wife and I in front of the television watching LaLa Land (sigh), but then one of my picky eaters (doesn’t like melted cheese on most if not all foods) comes in with a bowl (and then helped himself to thirds) and we all could not stop eating this stuff. We finished the casserole. Yep, this one is that good.

If you are looking for an easy casserole to make, and have a few things lying around in your freezer and pantry, give this one a shot. Until the fall season starts, this one will have to wait. Sorry, ham, cheese, and potato casserole, but you will be missed!

 

Char Siu Pork Ribs

I am a huge fan of Chinese char siu pork. If you have never had it, it is basically a reddish colored pork (primarily from red food coloring which is optional), and perfectly seasoned from things like Chinese five spice and other wonderful ingredients. So this past week, pork ribs were on sale and I knew my kids would love for me to go out into the cold, and smoke some ribs, but that was not about to happen, especially with a lot of people kidding bad colds around these parts. So instead I came up with two batches of ribs, one Chinese char siu style and the other using a rub from Dizzy Pig.

Char Siu Pork Ribs Recipe
Char Siu Pork Ribs Recipe

These almost fall apart Chinese char siu pork ribs will have you smacking your lips and licking those fingers.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1 rack of pork ribs, membrane removed from the backside
  • 1/2 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup of Chinese Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 1/2 tsp Chinese Five Spice (a little goes a long way)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp dark Sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 1/4 cup of ketchup
  • 1/4 water
  • 1 tbsp red food coloring, optional
  • Cooked Jasmine rice, optional

I know this sounds like a bunch of stuff, but most should be stocked in your household for standard Asian style cooking.

I like to cut my ribs into 4 rib segments so that they fit nicely into a sealable bag.

Start by making the marinade. To a mixing bowl add everything but the honey, ketchup, water, and food coloring.

Give a good mix, then add your ribs to a sealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade into the bag, seal, and gently toss the marinade around so it penetrates all of the ribs. Place into your refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.

Char Siu Pork Ribs Ingredients
Char Siu Pork Ribs Ingredients

Preheat your oven to 275 degrees. We are going to cook these ribs low and slow, then increase the heat over time.

During this time, take the ribs out and set the bag onto the counter for about 20 minutes or so to take off the chill.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and using tongs, remove the ribs from the bag and let any excess marinade fall into the bag. Reserve the marinade as this is going to cook down with the sauce.

Place the ribs in the oven and cook for about 2 hours. About 1 1/2 hours in, crank the heat to 350 degrees.

Take the reserved marinade and add it to a pot on the stove. Add the water, ketchup, red food coloring, and honey and give a good stir. Cook this on medium-low heat until it has reduced by half, and adjust the heat to low if necessary. This is going to be our glazing mixture to finish the ribs.

Take a look at the ribs. Once they begin to slightly caramelize (you know how you like your ribs), slide the oven rack out so you have access to the baking sheet, and begin brushing on the glaze, all over the ribs. Return back into the oven, cook for a few more minutes, then repeat with the glaze. Keep an eye on them as you do not want the glaze to burn. Repeat this a few times, then once you are satisfied, remove them from the oven, finish with another brushing of the cooked glaze mixture, and plate and serve.

Serve alongside cooked rice, and you have yourself one heck of a meal. If you are looking to jazz up some ribs, and want to go to a great Chinese route, give these a try, I’m almost certain you are going to love them. Hope you enjoy!