TL;DR We look to scraps for inspiration, creating our own “Chopped” challenge between East and West Coast.

Recipe: Taking wasted food we created a take on the Vietnamese Banh Mi. Our version is Banh Mi Bites: an appetizer or main course of vietnamese pate, pickled green chili, and a sweet carrot butter served with grilled bread.

Inspiration

American’s waste about 40% of our food. As responsible cooks, we dedicated this inspiration to cooking with wasted food: random meats, leftover greens, condiment packets, herb stems, and stale bread. We did this chopped style between West Coast and East Coast and your likes on our social media pages will help us decide the winner!

The baskets

  1. Offal – Chicken Liver
  2. Leftover Greens – Carrot Tops
  3. Herb Stems – Parsley or Cilantro Stems
  4. Condiment Packets
  5. Stale Bread

Research

Offal is very underrated, especially in amateur kitchens. I was introduced to offal first through marrow in Indian Goat Curry and then my horizons got broader through Japanese Yakitori and French Foie Gras. All of which is delicious and few of my favorite things. You can check out our supplementary post on an overview of offal over here.

There wasn’t a major research component on my end for the other ingredients as I had a fairly good idea of a few things: stems of the herb and carrot would be tough so using it raw wouldn’t work well. Leaves and stems can be used in different ways. The stems actually retain a lot of flavor and is usually wasted due to not enough knowledge of the ingredient. Stems can be great bases for stocks.

Stale bread needs to be either toasted/grilled or reconstituted to be palatable. And condiment packets are really just another ingredient.

Development

I was recently introduced to a brainstorming technique called flavor bouncing (video overview) on Reddit. This has been a technique we have been using indirectly but I decided to formalize the approach. Below is my outcome:

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Simply, I built my dish up from the central ingredient of chicken liver. I knew of 3 different approaches to liver (pate, grill, and fry) so starting on the cooking approach I started to link together how I could connect all these ingredients. I decided to go with a pate, especially since I have been wanting to try creating my own pate out for quite some time.

Concept Draft

My idea is to create a take on Banh Mi, one of my favorite dishes.

  • The cilantro stems could be cooked with the liver for flavor
  • Carrot greens would be using as a garnishing
  • Liver made into pate
  • The grilled bread would serve as the base
  • Soy sauce packets could also be incorporated into the pate.

Flavor Profile

  • Taste: umami/meatiness of the pate, freshness from the flavorings
  • Aroma: the smell of the pate
  • Mouthfeel: creamy pate, crunch of bread
  • X-factor: an alternative take on a sandwhich, a more finger food friendly version

Revised Profile – the dish evolved quite a bit through the testing process resulting in a new flavor profile and plating as you will see below. 

  • Taste: umami/meatiness of the pate, contrast/clarity/acidity from the pickles, sweetness from the carrot butter, a bit of heat from the chili pepper, freshness from the garnish
  • Aroma: smell of the pate, carrot from the butter
  • Mouthfeel: creamy pate, pickle crunch, buttery/creamy-ness, warm bread contrast with pate and butter, bread crunch
  • X-factor: an elegant appetizer or finger food take on the classic banh mi

My initial plating was just a simple finger food layout. As I jumped into the kitchen my plating became more sophisticated and the carotene butter added a bit of flair to the final version.

Testing/Execution

There were a few changes and additions from the initial draft.

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Pickled Peppers

While pursuing through the grocery store I saw green chili peppers, which is also usually in a Banh Mi Sandwich, and thought this would be a great addition. I decided to pickle it so that a bit of the heat would disappear as well as add acidity to cut through the heaviness of the other components.

Simple to prepare, I just thinly sliced the pepper and let it sit in vinegar for a couple hours.

Sweet Carotene Butter

You can’t really buy just carrot stems, so I ended up having carrots as well, which I didn’t want to waste and decided to incorporate into the dish. My first reaction was to pickled these as well (as you would see in sandwiches) but when I sliced and taste them, the sweetness really shined and the color made me think of a great plating contrast.

I decided to great a sweet carotene butter. I didn’t have a juicer on hand so I first boiled sliced carrots for about 10-15 minutes. I then put the pieces into an emulsion blender. Passed it through a sieve and them blended in the equivalent amount of butter and a touch of palm sugar.

I passed the carrot into the sieve to get a finer texture and this step is definitely optional depending on how you want to use it. Using a juicer would get the finest butter texture.

Chill in fridge.

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Bread

I used a shot glass to create round impressions in the bread then cut the remainder off before adding the bread to an oiled pan to grill until it got a nice crunch.

Grill right before plating.

Pate

Sticking to the theme, I went with a Vietnamese styled pate rather than a traditional French pate. To start, I cleaned (thoroughly) the livers and soaked them in milk for an hour. I saw a couple recipes say that soaking in milk helps to reduced the gaminess but this is something I still need to fully confirm.

I started to cook the flavorings (shallot, herb stems, carrot stems) in a bit of butter.

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Added the pate. Cooked for about 4-5 minutes on medium heat. I added soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar, salt, and pepper and then cooked for another 2 minutes. Removed when still a bit of pink in the middle.

Immersion blended the result and then added about 2 tablespoons of butter (do this to personal taste and texture). Chill in fridge.

Special Equipment/Ingredients

Plating

I experimented for a bit before deciding on the final version.

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Post-game Analysis

West Coast

  • The evolution of this dish impressed me from its very simple beginning to a great looking and AMAZING tasting dish. Really, I think this is one of the best things I’ve made.
  • Love that most the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time which great for parties or restaurants
  • I want more