Friday, February 17, 2012

I got in a little hometown jam; and so they put a rifle in my hands

Is there any more perfect food than the sandwich? Seriously, it offers everything you need in a handheld device.  When you think about it, the sandwich really is the iPhone of the culinary world. Sadly, we rarely venture beyond roasted turkey or PB and J in this country, which is sad because there are so many great sandwiches from other lands just waiting for us to find and devour. One such sandwich is the Vietnamese Banh Mi, which has been all the rage in food circles of late. I was intrigued at first glance, but never got around to making one up.  After all, there are some unusual components. For those who do not know, a Banh Mi consists of:
1) French Baguette brought to Vietnam by French settlers - I made my own only because I wanted it to be whole grain, you can just get a french baguette from a bakery
2) Grilled Meat, any kind will do - I chose pork tenderloin, because it's delicious and only contains 3g of fat per serving.
3) Pickled Vegetables, usually carrots and daikon - I could not find daikon so I used carrots and jicama. Daikon, being of the radish family, is a little spicier than the jicama, but the textures are similar, and I think the jicama was a good replacement. You could also try a red radish which is much more spicy than a daikon.
4) Mayo - I used light mayo of course and jazzed it up with some Asian ingredients.
5) Fresh Vegetables, usually cucumber- I am not a huge fan of cucumber so I decided to go with cabbage and made a slaw out of the cabbage and mayo mixture.  That will be going into rotation this summer as the world's most awesome coleslaw!

Finally,  I decided to give it a shot and make it healthy at the same time.  We were so not disappointed!  Even though I had to start prepping ingredients 3 days ahead of time, the sandwich ended up being a delight in taste and texture.  First, you bite down through the super crusty french bread, then you get the spicy juiciness of the meat and the ever so pleasant sour-crispness from the pickled veg, and oooohhhh baby!! I am salivating as I type this it was so damn good, so good in fact that Erin requested I make it again the next night. Maybe it's the incredible combination of flavors or maybe it's the awesome name, Banh Mi, but there is just something about this sandwich.  Give it a try.  I would love to know what you think.  Enjoy!

Banh Mi (4 servings)

Pickled Vegetation - Make 3-5 days ahead of time
  1 Lg Carrot, Julienned
  1/2 Sm Jicama, Julienned
  1 Cup Water
  1 TBSP Distilled white vinegar
  1 TBSP Sugar
  2 tsp Salt
  pinch Red Pepper Flake

Place julienned vegetables into a jar with a tight fitting lid. Mix brine ingredients together and pour over vegetables to cover. Let pickle for 3-5 days, the longer you go the more sour the pickle will become.


  1/4 Cup Mayo
  1 tsp Sriracha
  1/4 tsp Onion Powder
  1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
  1/2 tsp Mirin
  1/2 tsp Soy Sauce
  1/2 tsp Fish Sauce
  1/4-1/2 tsp Granulated Sugar
  2 Cups Shredded Coleslaw Mix

Mix together the first 8 ingredients, until well combined. Add shredded cabbage and stir until well coated. This is a little heavier on the dressing than a standard coleslaw but it is meant to go with the sandwich, if making as a side, use only about half of the dressing mix.

 Meat: (3 hours to 24 hours prior to cooking)
  1 Pork Tenderloin
  1 tsp Sesame Oil
  4 TBSP Mirin
  2 TBSP White Whine Vinegar
  2 TBSP Fish Sauce
  3 tsp Sriracha (more if you like it really hot)
  1 2inch Piece of Lemongrass, chopped fine
  2 Cloves Garlic, Crushed
  2 TBSP Sugar
  2 TBSP Soy Sauce
  1/4 tsp Ground Ginger
  1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  2 French Baguettes

Whisk together the Marinade ingredients until the sugar is dissolved. Place pork and marinade into a zip-top bag and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or even better, overnight.

Start a chimney full of natural lump charcoal and preheat your grill for at least 15 minutes. You'll know it is ready when you can only hold your hand over the grill great for about 5 seconds. Clean the grill with a grill brush and oil the greats with a folded paper towel dipped in vegetable oil.

Remove meat from marinade and place directly onto the grate, grill for about 3-4 minutes per side, until the pork tenderloin is medium. (140-145 degrees). After the pork tenderloin reaches 145 degrees, remove it from the grill and cover with foil, let rest for 10 minutes. While the pork is resting cut the bread in half horizontally and tunnel out the inside of the bread, heat the bread on the grill or under the broiler until toasty and crunchy 5-10 minutes, keep an eye on it so it does not burn.

Slice the pork in 1/4 inch slices and layer on the bottom of the bread, top the pork with the pickled vegetables and coleslaw and top with the top half of the bread. Slice into individual portions and devour.

Friday, February 3, 2012

I'm hot, sticky sweet...from my head to my feet, yeah!

For the last two weeks, I have been revamping the way I eat in an effort to get more nutritious fresh foods into my system and less rich and processed foods. Unfortunately for Erin, that means she is taking this journey with me, and to her credit, she has been absolutely amazing and supportive, but I know she misses a few things. One of her most missed dishes are the Honey Chipotle Chicken Crispers from Chili's.  Upon looking them up, I found that a single serving of these delectable pieces of chicken goodness comes in at 1,960 calories! Holy Crap! That is nearly my entire daily allotment of calories in a single meal!

So I set out to find out what makes these things so damn bad for you.  I mean seriously, it's chicken! That's when I found that these strips of chicken are battered and then breaded, that's right 2x the breading, which means 2x the surface area available to soak up grease. So the question became, how do I get the flavor without the ridiculous amount of calories?  After some internet searching and recipe tweaking, I came up with a honey chipotle sauce and a low fat ranch dressing and turned that into a chipotle chicken wrap or oven baked chicken strips breaded with panko bread crumbs.  Pair either of those with roasted root vegetables dusted with chipotle powder or some oven roasted sweet potato fries and you have a pretty good meal. When all is said and done, the Honey Chipotle Chicken Wrap came in at 382 calories per serving and the Oven Fried Honey Chipotle Crispy Chicken Strips came in at 449 calories.  Now that I can get on board with!  I hope you all enjoy.

Oven Fried Honey Chipotle Crispy Chicken Strips

1 1/4  lb        Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast, Cut into 1/2 inch strips
1/2     Cup    Lowfat Buttermilk
4        Cups   Panko Bread Crumbs
1/2     tsp      Salt
          pinch   Black Pepper
1/2     tsp      Paprika
                     Cooking Spray
1/4     Cup     Honey Chipotle Glaze (Recipe Follows)
1/4     Cup     Low Fat Ranch (Recipe Follows)

Preheat oven to 400.
Combine Chicken and buttermilk in a dish, cover and refrigerate for at least 15minutes to 2 hours.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place Panko in a shallow dish. Drain the chicken and season with salt, pepper and paprika. Coat each piece of chicken with the panko bread crumbs and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until cooked through, about 8 minutes, or until instant read thermometer reads 165. Leave the chicken on a baking sheet to cool slightly, it will become crispier. Toss the Chicken in the Honey Chipotle Glaze and Serve immediately with Low Fat Ranch for dipping. Serve with Sweet potato oven fries.

Honey Chipotle Chicken Wrap (4 servings)

1    lb         Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast, cut into strips
1    TBSP  Olive Oil
1/4 Cup     Honey Chipotle Glaze (recipe follows)

4               Whole Wheat Tortillas
1/3 Cup     Shredded Carrots
1    Cup     Baby Spinach, washed
1/2 Cup     Monterrey Jack, Shredded
1/4 Cup     Low Fat Ranch (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350
Brush chicken with olive oil and place on parchment lined baking sheet, bake for 10-15 minutes or better still when an instant read thermometer reads 165. Remove from oven and toss in the Honey Chipotle Glaze.

Lay out a tortilla and spread on 1 TBSP of Ranch, top with 1/4 each of the carrots, spinach, cheese and finally the chicken. Wrap into a burrito shape and secure with a toothpick. Continue with the final 3 tortillas and enjoy. Serve with oven roasted carrots and sweet potatoes dusted with chipotle powder and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Low-Fat Ranch Dressing

1/2 Cup     Greek Yogurt, Plain
1/3 Cup     Low fat Buttermilk
3    TBSP  Light Mayonnaise
1     tsp      Dijon Mustard
1/2  tsp      Onion Powder
1/2  tsp      Garlic Powder
1    TBSP   Finely Chopped fresh Chives (or 1-2 tsp of dried, to taste)
                  Salt (to taste)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, season with salt to taste and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Honey Chipotle Glaze

1/2 Cup     Honey
3    TBSP  Water
3    TBSP  Ketchup
2    TBSP  Apple Cider Vinegar
3/4  tsp      Chipotle Powder
1/2  tsp      Garlic, Crushed
1/2  tsp      Salt

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, over med-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Can be stored in the fridge for 2 weeks.