Faux Pho Empanadas


I’d been toying with the idea of pho and empanadas for a while before finally getting around to finding the star anise and testing them out. I’d predicted correctly that they’d be delicious!

For the dough:

Mix together 2 1/4 cups flour, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 stick cold unsalted butter cut into cubes, 1 egg, 1/3 cup ice water and 1 tablespoon white vinegar. It should form a shaggy dough. Knead a couple of times with your hands, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.

For the filling:

Brown 1 pound ground beef, then add 1/2 diced white onion, 4 cloves of minced garlic, 3 thinly sliced green onions, 1 teaspoon crushed anise seeds, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, the zest of two limes, 1 teaspoon fresh ground ginger, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon fish sauce. Bring to a light simmer and continue simmering approximately 20 minutes. Let cool completely.

For the sauce:

Blend together 1 bunch lemon basil leaves (approximately 1 cup), about 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, 4 jalapenos, seeds and tops removed,  green onions, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil.

When everything is thoroughly chilled and cooled, break off 1/4 cup sized pieces of dough, shape into a ball, and roll out into a flat circle. Fill with a couple tablespoons of filling. Roll over the edges and crimp using a fork or your fingers. You can get pretty fancy with how you secure your empanada edges. I have not gotten that fancy. Brush with egg wash (1 egg whisked together with 1 tablespoon of water) and cook at 400 degrees until golden brown, approximately 15 minutes. You can use an air fryer at this step if you have one. Serve hot with generous helpings of the dipping sauce.

Controversial California Clam Chowder


Listen, here’s the thing. I know there are some ingredients you wouldn’t find in clam chowder very often. Like goldfish crackers and Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning. I also know you usually would cook this with fresh clams, but I like the smoked flavor you can get from tinned clams and that you don’t have to fight anyone to rinse off sand. So if I acknowledge that this could be controversial and label it as Californian, perhaps I won’t offend diehard New England chowder aficionados.

First, we make a roux. Melt two tablespoon butter in a small pan then add in two tablespoons of flour. Allow to cook for about five minutes over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add 1 large diced onion, 3 finely sliced stalks of celery, one finely diced leek, greens removed, 1/4 cup minced garlic, 3 bay leaves, one large carrot, peeled and shredded, 1 russet potato, washed, peeled, and diced, 4 strips of cooked and diced bacon, and 1 teaspoon dried thyme. Stir frequently and allow vegetables to soften, about five minutes. Add 1 3/4 cup half and half and 2 tins smoked baby clams. Cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add 2 cups clam juice (two 8 oz. bottles). Cook 15-20 minutes, then stir in roux. Cook at a gentle simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Finally, remove bay leaves and stir in 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 2 teaspoons Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning.

Pour into bowls and top with Goldfish crackers in lieu of oyster crackers. Trust me.


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Gooey Greens and Two Kinds of Cheese


Very lightly butter or brush olive oil on two slices of sourdough. I used seeded sourdough, but this tastes great on plain sourdough, too. This will be the outside of your sandwich. If you use butter, you should try lightly dusting finely grated parmesan on the butter.

Spread a thin layer of basil pesto on the inside of each slice of sourdough. If you’ve got a tree nut allergy, blend together two tablespoons of olive oil, a packed handful of fresh basil, 1-2 cloves of garlic and two pinches of salt to use instead. Pile a slice with crumbled goat cheese, spinach, arugula, avocado and sliced swiss cheese. I like to add a secret sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes. Cook both sides over medium heat. I like to use a cast iron pan to get a nice crisp on the bread. You don’t want it too hot or you’ll scorch the bread before the cheeses have an opportunity to melt. Serve hot.


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