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Every Tuesday, executive chef at INVESCO Field at Mile High Chris DeJohn will feature a new recipe that you and the family can try out on game day. If you’re throwing a huge tailgate party for this week’s game, try the recipe below and enjoy.

Almond Shortbreads
18 Wedges

Ingredients Needed:

  • 1/2 cup raw almonds with skins, plus about 18 whole almonds for decorating
  • 2/3 cup sugar, plus more for top
  • 14 tablespoons unsalted butter (7 ounces, 1 3/4 sticks), softened, cut into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg white, beaten
  • Special equipment: 9-inch tart fluted pan with a removable bottom

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Blend and pulse the 1/2 cup nuts in a food processor with the sugar until mixture resembles coarse sand. (If there are a couple small chunks of nuts that is fine.) Add the butter, vanilla and almond extracts, and the salt, and pulse until creamy. Add the flour and continue to pulse to make a soft dough.

Turn the dough out into a 9-inch tart pan and spread it out evenly with an off-set spatula. Dip the spatula in a little warm water to help smooth and even the surface of the shortbread. Cover and freeze until firm, about 20 minutes.

Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and dock (prick) the dough all over with a fork. Generously sprinkle the top of the shortbread with sugar. Toss the remaining whole almonds in the egg white; evenly arrange and press the nuts into the dough around the edge of the pan. Bake until golden brown and set, about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Cool the short bread in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the tart ring and cut the shortbread with a sharp knife into wedges, each with a nut. Cool shortbreads on a rack completely. (Alternatively present the shortbread as 1 large cookie. Cool the shortbread in the pan completely and remove the tart ring. Cut the shortbread into wedges as desired.)

Serve. Store in a tightly sealed container for up to 5 days.

Steamed buns with roast pork filling (Steamed pork buns)

Being a world wanderer of sorts (I've lived in 4 countries and 20+ different homes since I was born), a lot of my eating and cooking is tinged with nostalgia and longing for things that I miss from places I've lived before. I've posted several such recipes here, such as for New York style bagels, homemade pizza, and chocolate peanut butter cups.

This is another such recipe, for Chinese-style steamed buns. I say Chinese-style, because the kind I yearn for is probably not very authentically Chinese It's the Japanese version of the Chinese steamed bun, called chuuka manjuu. In Japan the chuuka manjuu usually has a smooth top because the dough is gathered and pressed together around the filling on the bottom. The fillings are usually an, sweet azuki bean paste (this is called anman, or roast pork (char siu) mixed with vegetables (this is called nikuman). There are also bastardized versions such as curry and Italian style meat sauce. They are usually sold from special glass cases which keep the buns hot and steamy, at combini (convenience stores) and such.

The sweet bean paste filled ones usually have a little red dot on top. Now, red bean paste (an) is not one of my favorite things to eat, even though my sister Meg was a chef at the New York Toraya for many years. (Toraya is arguably the leading purveyor of traditional Japanese sweet pastries.) Therefore, my favorite, nostalgia-inducing bun is the one with a roast pork or char siu filling.

Bao or chuuka manjuu do freeze well if you make a large batch. You can steam or nuke them one at a time (steaming is much better, but nuking is more convenient.) This recipe makes 24 buns, and I freeze most of them when I make a batch. A bun makes a great little snack.

Making char siu from scratch is sort of a bother, but I have given a recipe for a simplified version. It does take time to cook, but a ready-made lump of char siu (or yakibuta in Japanese) is very useful, and can also be cooked in quantity and frozen for later use.

Chuuka Manjuu, Japanese-style Chinese steamed buns

The dough:

  • 6 cups of all-purpose flour (if you can find bleached flour, which we can't here in Switzerland, the buns will be whiter than white like they are at that store on Pacific Avenue)
  • 2 packages dry yeast (1 packet contains 7g of dry yeast)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup warm whole milk
  • 2 Tbs vegetable shortening or lard
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • Parchment paper

Cut up the parchment paper into 24 squares about 10 cm / 3 inches square.

Proof the yeast in a bowl or cup in the 1/4 cup of warm water with a pinch of sugar added, until foamy.

In a large bowl, put in 5 cups of the flour. Make a well in the center, and add the hot water and mix rapidly. (Hot water seems to bring out the sweetness in flour.) Add the sugar and yeast/water mixture, baking powder, warm milk, and the shortening or lard. Mix well. Add the rest of the flour little by little until you have a workable dough. Knead for a few minutes on a floured board until it's soft and pliable. (This dough is one of the easiest you'll ever encounter.)

Put into a large plastic zip bag and seal. Leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in bulk, or has filled up the bag until it looks ready to burst. (About 45 minutes).

Take out the dough and roll into one long sausage. Cut the dough into 24 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, and let rest for a bit.

To fill the buns, flatten each ball so that the middle is slightly thicker than the edges. Put about a tablespoon or so of filling in the middle. Gather up the edges and pinch them firmly together to seal, then turn the bun over and place on a square of parchment paper. Let the buns rise for 15-20 minutes before steaming.

Steam in a steamer for 20 minutes. Eat while piping hot. I like to dip mine just slightly in soy sauce mixed with mustard sauce (the kind made straight from dry mustard powder, like the little packets you get at a Chinese take away).

The pork filling:

  • 400g / a bit less than 1 lb of char siu (Chinese-style roast pork, recipe follows)
  • 1 cup finely chopped green onions
  • 6 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup of canned bamboo shoots (optional)
  • 2 tsp. dark roasted sesame oil
  • 1 piece of fresh ginger, chopped finely
  • 3 Tbs soy sauce, or the defatted roasting liquid from the char siu
  • 1 Tbs flour
  • 2 Tbs cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup water

Soak the shiitake mushrooms in warm water until soft. Cut off the hard stems and slice thinly.

Cube the pork, or chop it up finely.

Mix the flour and cornstarch with the water.

In a pan heat the sesame oil and toss in all the ingredients except the flour/cornstarch water. Sauté briefly, then add the flour/cornstarch water. Cook until it's a bit syrupy.

Let cool and use to fill the buns.

Yakibuta, or Japanese-style Chinese Roast Pork (char siu)

  • 1 kg/ 2 lbs or more pork roast. It should not be too fatty, but should not be totally lean or it may be rather dry.
  • Soy sauce
  • 1 fat piece of ginger
  • 1 star anise
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • Sugar 
  • Water

If you have a big piece of pork, cut it into about 500g (1 pound) pieces. Roughly chop the ginger - you can leave the skin on - and bash the garlic to crush a bit.

Put the pork pieces in a sturdy plastic bag. You may want to double-bag it. Put in the pork, ginger, star anise and garlic, and fill with enough soy sauce to cover the pork. Seal the bag well and marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Turn the meat several times if you can so that the marinade penetrates evenly.

Preheat the oven to 140° C / 280° F. Empty out the contents of the bag into a baking dish. Add a bit of water so that the meat is sitting in about 1cm of liquid. Sprinkle the meat with sugar, and bake for about 2 1/2 - 3 hours, turning the meat every 20-30 minutes. If you want it even sweeter, sprinkle more sugar on the meat periodically. At the end, the liquid will be almost gone and syrupy, and you will have dark amber colored pieces of pork. Let cool and slice thin, cube, etc. You can use cubes in fried rice, or in the steamed buns of course, and any number of things. Sliced thin it makes a great salad. It's also a rather unusual tasting sandwich meat.

It is quite worthwhile to make this in some quantity, since the cooking takes so long, and to freeze in portions for later use.

Centerplate’s Signature Puerco Pibil
Yield: 5 pounds Puerco Pibil

For the marinade:
5 Tbsp. Whole annatto seed
2 Tbsp. Kosher salt
1 Tbsp. Whole peppercorns
8 each Whole Allspice
3 tsp. Whole Cumin seeds
½ tsp. Whole cloves
(Grind the above ingredients to a fine powder using an electric spice grinder or coffee grinder)
8 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of 5 lemons
½ cup orange juice
½ cup white vinegar
2 each Habeñero pepper (seeded and de-veined)
1 cup Taquila
5 pounds pork butt (cut into 2” squares)
3 banana leaves (if available)

Method: For the marinade
After the spices have been ground to a fine powder, place all of the marinade ingredients in a blender and blend until garlic and habeñero peppers are pureed smooth.

Method: For the Pork butt
Add the marinade to the cubed pork butt and mix thoroughly making sure to cover all pork pieces.
Place pork in refrigerator and let marinate for 24 hours.
Pre-heat oven to 325ºF.
Line roasting pan with banana leaves (if available) or foil.
Place pork and marinade into pan and cover tightly with foil to seal in the steam.
Place pan in oven and cook for 3-4 hours or until pork is very tender and falls apart easily.
Serve with cilantro corn rice, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, avocado, and flour tortillas.