Sunday, May 3, 2009

Foodie Fight? More Like a Flavor Love Fest!

The thing I love about food blogging is the food blogging community. So many talented and generous people are out there sharing their wisdom and their love of all things food. When I started my blog, it was a chance to keep track of some of the food we were creating and eating, and share some recipes with friends. As time went on, the blog became a way to interact with many others around the world who are equally (and then some!) passionate about food. I have gained an immeasurable amount of inspiration from the impressive work of these bloggers. And because I have chosen to share my work in a public forum, I have felt challenged to up my own game.

It started when I joined the Daring Bakers. Each month hundreds of bloggers around the world were challenged to make the same dish, and share their results with each other. With a deadline looming and knowing that I would have to share my results, the adrenaline began pumping and I was hooked. I was compelled to tackle exacting recipes that had previously scared me off with their complex techniques and pages of details. After several successes on the baking end, I joined the newly-formed Daring Cooks, and I look forward to the challenges ahead in that end of the kitchen.

So when I saw that Nick and Dan had created and would be taking their Iron Chef style food blog challenges mainstream, I was very excited. Being a part of the second ever Foodie Fight has been an honor and a challenge both. Seriously, rhubarb and coriander?

The biggest challenge was actually narrowing down the list of options I came up with. After spending an afternoon discussing it with R, I had about a half dozen sweet recipes, and an equal number of savory recipes in mind. After talking it out, we finally settled on the one that sounded the most delicious:

Pulled Pork in a Rhubarb Coriander BBQ Sauce with a Pickled Rhubarb Relish and Freshly Cut Mixed Greens from the Garden on Homemade Coriander Buns.

Now, that's a heck of a name, but really, almost every aspect of the meal had that rhubarb/coriander combination in it because they are quite a team - even the pickled rhubarb is spiced with coriander. Turns out, this unexpected marriage of flavors really works.

Before we get too far into this thing, let me remind you that this is a competition. So after checking out the rest of the post, please check out all the other wonderful entries over at, and then vote for your favorite, wink wink, your favorite Pulled Pork Sandwich that is.

It made the most sense to prep the pickles and sauce before tackling the pork, and then prepare the coriander buns last so they would be fresh when served.

Chopping Rhubarb and Onions to be Pickled

I knew with the sweet and savory aspect of the BBQ pork I wanted an acidic element to balance the flavor composition. The pickled rhubarb was just the thing.

Pickling spices, clockwise from top center: coriander, peppercorns, dry mustard, clove, cumin

It is spicy from the coriander, peppercorns, and mustard, and sweet and sour from the sugar and vinegar brine.

Pickled Rhubarb Relish in all of its sweet and sour glory

The result is a fabulously complex, crispy relish that complimented the sandwiches' richness perfectly. Even its colder temperature added another element of interest in the otherwise warm sandwich.

Rhubarb chopped and ready for the BBQ sauce

This BBQ sauce is very unique. It hints of a traditional BBQ sauce, but has much more depth. The rhubarb is the key player, adding an unexpected, yet delightfully satisfying note. With rhubarb as the main ingredient, I made a tomato sauce based BBQ with brown sugar, molasses, cider vinegar, spices (featuring coriander, of course), and finished with a touch of spicy mustard and some Sriracha. At the end of the day, this is a BBQ sauce I will be going back to. It was a great companion to the meat, and not cloyingly sweet like so many pulled pork recipes are.

Pork loin with coriander and peppercorn rub

Both the pork itself and the bun highlighted the aromatic essence of the coriander. The meat was rubbed with crushed coriander and black peppercorns before being seared and then slow cooked in the rhubarb BBQ sauce overnight. The buns were spiced with ground coriander seeds and were the perfect base for the sandwich. Aromatic and tasty, even light, they had just the right amount of texture and density to stand up to the saucy sandwiches.

Coriander Sandwich buns during their second rise

The complete sandwiches were complex, rich, tangy, just sweet enough and very satisfying. We served the sandwiches with a very simple salad of fresh mixed greens and herbs (harvested from our garden minutes before dinner ) with a citrus honey vinaigrette, as well as a tangy carrot and shallot salad with a salty, white wine vinegar kick - a more exciting interpretation of the classic coleslaw side dish.

Fresh greens in the garden waiting to be harvested

Prepping the tangy carrot salad

Working on those knife skills

Win or lose, we loved this meal! I hope everything looks and sounds good to you. Good enough for your vote, and good enough for you to head into the kitchen and give the recipes a try.

And a big thank you to and all of the competitors in the Foodie Fight #2!

Pickled Rhubarb Relish

3 stalks fresh rhubarb
½ medium onion (any color - I used white)
2 Tbs. kosher salt
1 ½ C. cider vinegar
2/3 C. sugar
1 Tbs. coriander seed
1 ½ tsp. dry mustard
2 tsp. black peppercorns
1 ½ tsp. whole cloves
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. turmeric
1 bay leaf

1. Wash and peel the rhubarb and slice into very thin slices. Using a mandolin is easiest, but since I don’t have one, it’s a good chance to hone those knife skills. Peel and half the onion and slice into equally thin half moons. Combine the rhubarb and onion in a non-reactive bowl and toss with salt. Cover in cold water and a few ice cubes and stir to dissolve salt.

2. After at least 30 minutes, feel and taste a piece of the rhubarb. It should feel slightly softened. Drain the veggies and pat dry.

3. Combine the vinegar, sugar, and all remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Set the brine aside to cool, or put the sauce pan into an ice bath to cool more quickly.

4. Return the rhubarb and onions to the dry bowl and add the cooled brine. Stir to distribute the spices and then transfer to a jar that will hold the veggies and brine. Seal well and refrigerate for at least a day before serving to allow the flavors to marry.

Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce

2 Tbs. olive oil
½ C. diced onion
2 Tbs. crushed coriander seeds
1 ½ tsp. dry mustard
3 C. thinly chopped cleaned and peeled rhubarb.
½ - 2/3 C. brown sugar (use up to 2/3 C. if you like a sweeter sauce)
2 Tbs. water
1 Tbs. spicy/brown/Dijon etc. mustard
3 Tbs. cider vinegar
¾ C. tomato sauce
2 Tbs. molasses
1/3 C. ketchup
1-2 Tbs. Sriracha, depending on taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring for 5-6 minutes until translucent and soft. Add the coriander seed and dry mustard and cook for another minute to toast the spices. Add the rhubarb, sugar and water and increase heat to medium high. Bring the sauce to a low boil. The rhubarb will give off a considerable amount of liquid to allow the sauce to properly boil. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the rhubarb has softened and can be mashed with a spoon.

Lower the heat and add the remaining ingredients through the Sriracha. Stir well to combine and cook on low for several minutes. Taste the sauce, and season with salt and pepper appropriately.

Serve the sauce warm over the sandwiches. If the sauce is too thick, you can thin with anything from water to apple juice or even a splash of beer.

Seconds. A little rhubarb BBQ sauce slathered on some pulled pork with a lettuce leaf, and a thin slice of bread.

Pulled Pork

Large pork loin/butt/shoulder etc. any decent cut of meat with some fat in it that you can get a good deal on
Olive oil
A few Tbs. crushed black peppercorns
A few Tbs. crushed coriander seeds
Kosher salt
½ - 1 C. diced onion
1 C. deglazing liquid (I used homemade veggie broth, but you could easily use water, juice, beer, wine etc.)
2 C. rhubarb BBQ sauce

Clean and dry the pork. Heat some olive oil in a large heavy pan over fairly high heat. Rub the meat with the pepper, coriander, and salt on all sides. Sear the meat in the hot pan until all sides are browned. (Contrary to popular belief, we are not “locking in the juices” at this point, we are just adding flavor).

Transfer the meat to the cooking vessel. I used a slow cooker but you could easily use a dutch oven cooked low and slow in the oven.

Add the onion to the pan and saute for several minutes. Add the liquid and deglaze the pan scraping up all the delicious crusty pork fond on the bottom of the pan. Pour the pan liquids and the rhubarb BBQ sauce over the pork and cook until fork shreddable. I did this in the slow cooker overnight - 8 hours on low.

Coriander Sandwich Buns

¾ - 1 C. warm water
2 Tbs. butter, softened
1 large egg
3 ½ C. AP flour
¼ C. sugar
1 ¼ tsp. salt
1 Tbs. ground coriander seeds
1 Tbs. instant yeast

Mix and knead all ingredients to make a soft, smooth dough. You can do this by hand or in a stand mixer.

Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise for 1 -1 ½ hours.

Gently deflate and divide into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a round ball and flatten to 1” think and about 3” round. Place buns on a lightly greased baking sheet (or use silpat or parchment) cover, and let rise for about an hour.

Brush buns with melted butter and sprinkle with poppy and/or sesame seeds.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes until golden.

Cool on a rack.



Anonymous said...


This looks amazing. I'm getting hungry just looking at it. and it's too late to eat!

Good luck!

Katia Clark said...

Wow Ethan, you've done it again. Everything looks great. Good luck tomorrow. You'll have my vote.

Anonymous said...

Looks great! Pulled pork is always a winner and I tend to have an affection for anyone who makes their own bread. :) Good luck.

Ruthie said...

Ethan, This meal was so delicious-- even seasonal. It's perfect for the great Spring weather, an outdoor dinner with friends. Fresh, exciting flavors. Thanks!

Jocelyn said...

Looks amazing! You got my vote for sure!

Grandma said...

proud mom here - however, this was by far the best pulled pork bbq i have ever had, and you know how much i love bbq (even chasing some down in kansas).
the presentation was beautiful, but the explosion of flavors - one after another - was the payoff.
bravo my son!

Natalie said...

Ethan, the relish is calling me! Now that I'm actually on rhubarb, I'm going to give this one a shot.

TheGourmetGirl said...

Wonderful creation BBQ fans are sure to love!
Good luck in today's event.

Craving Ellie in My Belly said...

Nicely done. I'm a sucker for a pulled pork sandwich.

Barbara said...

Hi Ethan,
Wow! this recipe sounds delicious. Wish I could taste it. Doubt if I'll try it - too tedious for me. Did Arleen tell you that we're working on a baking series right now? So I finally know what cooks go through and how difficult it is to get a recipe just right. Sounds like you're really into it. Are you going to audition for Top Chef?
I'll vote for you tomorrow.
Nancy (Megan's mom)

Mary Katie said...

Only wish I could be there to try it! It looks beautiful!

CooCoo said...

You've got my vote! My mouth is watering just looking at the pictures! You are incredible- even the way you write about everything you are doing. You should have some kind of food column in a newspaper or something!

Amanda said...

this meat looked like it came out cooked perfect! the bbq sauce and relish and buns... you found so many intersting ways to use the two ingredients! i would love to eat this. also love the fresh greens and carrot salad... great job all around!!!

Dhanasakthi said...

It looks amazing; we in southern India use coriander seeds and powder in almost every part of the gravies and side items ranging from a pinch to spoons of it. So I wondered how you would use it in your culture, but its great you make use of coriander in every part of this meal. Voted for you and wishes to be the winner.

Anonymous said...


My friends and I have all agreed we're using this recipe at the next gathering. Great work, Ethan.

Anonymous said...


Congrats! I will definitely put this on my "to try" list. This was fun!