Unbelievably, it’s First on the First time yet again! This month I was super-dee-duper excited about our cooking task because it allowed me to indulge in a little chefcentric excitement. There are a few people’s cuisine that I get really excited about. If you know me personally you might say this is an overwhelming understatement. There are a few people’s cuisine that I get totally jazzed about and can carry on about for hours. Literally hours.
At least it’s a short list. And a respectable one at that:
- Rick Bayless- Given his theory on food and sustainability, this one should come as no surprise. Full disclosure- I have a foodie crush on him. Further important detail, I once stayed up super late making custom “Bayless Babies” onesies for Baby Bird and her infant friends complete with labels like “sustainable eater” and “locally grown” so we could dress our nuggets full on baby groupie style to watch his demo at the Green Market. And RICK BAYLESS TWEETED A PICTURE OF THEM! That’s right, Rick Bayless tweeted a photo a Baby Bird. (Okay, when I read that it seems like a weird thing to be excited about. That’s that strangest one, I promise!)
- Gordon Ramsey- The American television persona has no effect on me. I don’t watch TV anyway. Ramsey is responsible for the single best dining experience of my life at Maze in Prague. We were fortunate enough to do the tasting menu. I was unfortunate enough to do the wine pairings. I cannot recall the very minutia of this meal, which irks me because I can normally remember every nuance of the meals I consider the best I’ve ever had. Even with that, it was still undeniably the best meal I’ve ever eaten. There was some sort of corn bisque… and a tiny muffin… and savory jam… and then it fades into foie gras course… Ommmmmm. Nirvana. I’m satisfied with this one remaining a blissfully euphoric haze and great wine and stellar food.
- Eric Ripert- Ripert uses a holistic approach to food and cooking and truly believes it is a spiritual experience. Like Bayless, he shares anecdotes and and expiences that prove food connects us. How can you not be drawn to that. Especially with that accent… and those eyes… (Okay, this one is getting weird too). Plus, he provides the perfect counter balance to all the things I love about the dredge that is Anthony Bourdain.
- David Chang- And we’ve reached the enigma. Chang majored in religion, taught English in Japan, and made a major career shift based on his love for the humble ramen noodle. He is fully invested in food cultures and puts out a pretty sweet publication- Lucky Peach- with is my go-to in-flight reading (which is basically the only time I manage periodical reading). And he does irreverent things with food sometimes. And it’s awesome.
With that said, this post could have simply started with me highlighting my my interest in David Chang’s food but then I would have had no reason to share a pic of Baby Bird with Rick Bayless or The Hubs dressed like Heisenberg.
Back to those steamed buns…
When The Hubs and I were in NYC on a little business trip several months ago, we of course spent our first meal at the temple of Chang. For steamed buns! And after our meal we of course ran back to the apartment we were renting because The Hubs was on a streak… and our flight had gotten in late… and if we didn’t run back- with me in a dress- he wouldn’t have gotten his run in for the day and the streak would be over (Runners…shesh!). While I do not recommend going for a run afterwards, I do wholeheartedly recommend experiencing David Chang’s steamed bun with pork belly.
So this, of course, is what I knew I just had to attempt to make for this challenge.
Luckily for me, Chang did a video tutorial with Martha Stewart on his humble, iconic pork bun! Ummm, hello!? Martha and Chang in the same frame? Someone come revive me, please!
Normally when we do these challenges, I get creative and push things. I strike out with my own recipe. I did not do that here. I’m not going to make David Chang’s signature dish better in some way, so I’m not even going to pretend. I basically used the recipe Chang provided for Martha Stewart.
I did make a few changes to adjust for portion, ease of preparation in a house governed by a toddler schedule (not really… but sort of), and because I made a measuring error.
I didn’t want enough pork belly for 30 servings because in a house of 2.5 full sized humans I knew 30 servings of pork belly would mean pork belly for lunch everyday for the week (which would have scale shattering, artery clogging consequences by week end). I didn’t want to make the pork early to have the rendered fat on hand to make the buns only to have to bother with reheating the pork to serve for dinner… so I rendered bacon fat for my buns. Oh, and I added a quarter cup too much flour because… Ooops!… so I had to counter the mistake with a tad more liquid.
But guess what y’all? These are flipping delicious!
But remember, DO NOT go running right after you eat them.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Steamed Buns with Pork Belly
Steamed Bun Ingredients:
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups + 2 tbs warm water (100-110 degrees F)
- 4 slices of thick cut bacon
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for working
- 4 cups bread flour
- 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
Pork Belly Ingredients:
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 sup coarse kosher salt
- 2 lbs skinless, boneless pork belly
- hoisin sauce (if you want to keep it soy-free, find a soy free sauce)
- thinly sliced cucumbers
- green onions
Directions: To dry brine the pork, mix together the salt and sugar and rub into the pork in a shallow dish. Cover and refrigerate for about 5 hours.
Cook the bacon slices in a pan to render the fat. Once cook, remove bacon and reserve for other uses and pour fat through a mesh sieve into a small glass container to use in buns.
In a glass measuring cup, mix together yeast, water, and bacon fat until yeast is dissolved. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, mix together both flours, salt, and sugar until well combined. Add yeast mixture and mix until dough comes together. Once it comes together, knead for 8 minutes.
Coat a large bowl with olive oil; add dough and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
To begin cooking the pork, preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Rinse brined pork to remove salt mixture and pat dry; transfer to a roasting pan on a sheet or parchment. Roast pork until very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.
Meanwhile, cut out 30 square pieces of parchment paper (about 4×4).
Return to the dough and punch down. Roll dough into a log about 30 inches long. Cut dough into 30 golf ball-sized pieces. Transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap; let rise 40 minutes.
Working with one piece of dough at a time, press dough flat and, using a rolling pin, roll dough toward you into a 6-by-3-inch oval. Repeat process with remaining dough. Brush each piece of dough lightly with olive oil and fold in half. Place each piece of dough on an individual piece of parchment paper. Cover loosely with a towel and let rise slightly.
Once the pork has cooked for 2 1/2 hours at 300, increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Continue roasting pork until fat is golden, about 10 minutes more. Slice pork across the grain and return to baking dish with its juices.
Set a large bamboo steamer in a large skillet with water about 1/2 inch up the sides of the steamer basket; bring to a boil. Working with 5 buns at a time, place buns on their parchment paper in the steamer basket; cover and steam over high heat until puffed and cooked though, about 10 minutes.
Brush hoisin sauce on the bottom half of each bun. Top with pork, cucumbers, and green onions. Serve immediately.
Looking for another steamed buns recipe? Check these out: