Mac & cheese is honestly one of my top 5 favorite things of all time. My favorite version involves pancetta and lots of extra sharp cheddar cheese. But come summer, that version is a bit heavy for my tastes. So to brighten it up in the spirit of the tremendous heat wave we’re having up here in Ithaca, I’ve made a few changes. It’s still creamy and rich, but my summer version has fresh picked peas to add color and sweetness, a squeeze of lemon for extra zing, and goat cheese for its exceptionally smooth tanginess. These flavors are all complemented by pork that has been spiced with toasted fennel, cumin, and coriander. As an added bonus, this summery mac & cheese is a “one-pot” meal!
Char siu is quite possibly the most famous Cantonese dish of all. Literally meaning “fork roasted,” char siu is pork (usually shoulder) that is marinated in a sweet and thick blend of sauces and then roasted until it becomes crisp and almost candy-liek on the outside. Traditionally, char siu is made over a charcoal fire with large cuts from the shoulder (usually a 1/4 shoulder). For my recipe, I cut much smaller strips of pork and did the entire thing in the oven (although I may try the grill in the future). The smaller pieces actually worked out well, as they led to more of the crispy end pieces that are the most delicious. To be honest, I was pretty impressed with myself for making char siu – it was my first try and it came out delicious (and good to look at too)! For those that have only had char siu prepared at a Chinese deli, I think you’ll be impressed by how tasty and relatively simple it is when made at home.
For Thanksgiving at Siddharth’s house, I decided to skip the typical dinner rolls and make authentic Chinese steamed rolls called mantou. These are steamed wheat buns that are shaped like little pebbles, a staple in northern China. I had these at my grandma’s house a lot in lieu of a bowl of rice. They could be purchased at any Asian food markets in the frozen aisle. The texture of the mantou is similar to the buns you would order at Chinese restaurants for dim sum also called bao, but these buns don’t have anything inside. Our family would eat it as a side with our meals. Some people eat them as snacks by dipping them in condensed milk or even deep frying them! I’ve never tried, but I’m sure these would be delightful too.
The recipe is quite simple but it takes some time because the dough has to rise. If you do decide to deep fry them, we suggest you steam first, let cool, and then deep fry.