Danny Ocean might not have been very impressed by “the little Chinese guy” Rusty brought him to check out at the circus, but he soon realizes the potential in “The Amazing Yen” (played by Shaobo Qin).
Like all of the crew members in Ocean’s Eleven, Yen brings a unique skill set to the group–one which proves invaluable to the success of the heist. He’s hardly the flashiest or the loudest. In fact, Yen speaks almost exclusively in Mandarin–his only line of dialogue in English being “Where the fuck you been?”–which seems to be a running joke throughout the movie. Since great things come in small packages, I’ve created The Amazing (Yen’s) Pork Belly Buns. Again, this is a case of coming up with a dish based on ingredients I had on hand. In this instance, I had frig full of Chinese condiments (no surprise), a package of cooked pork belly from Trader Joe’s (a life saver), some scallions, apples and Persian cucumbers from the Farmer’s Market and a bag of roasted salted peanuts.
All I needed were some steamed buns and I was in business! The recipe for the steamed buns is pretty straightforward and the dough is one of those “go to” items I occasionally stock in my freezer. As with a lot of my dough recipes, this one is a breeze to make in the food processor.
Steamed Bun Dough
Yield: *about 2 dozen or so buns, more depending on shape and/or usage
1-1/2 cup Warm Water
2-1/2 tsp. Dry Active Yeast
3 Tbsp. Sugar
1/2 tsp. Rice Wine Vinegar
6 Tbsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/8 tsp. Baking Soda
2-1/4 cup Cake Flour
2-1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp. Sea or Kosher Salt
4-1/2 Tbsp. Shortening (e.g. Spectrum)
Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water, then whisk in the 3 Tbsp. sugar and rice wine vinegar; set aside. In a food processor fitted with a dough blade, combine the remaining ingredients and pulse at intervals until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. With the machine running, pour the dissolved yeast mixture into the feeding tube. Continue pulsing until the dough is smooth and elastic. Turn the dough out into a large greased bowl, spritz the surface with non-stick cooking spray, cover with plastic wrap, then let the dough proof in a warm, draft-free space for about an hour or until the dough is doubled in volume. Punch down the dough. At this point you can either portion and shape the dough into whatever form you would like (plain folded buns or filled buns), or you can put it in a greased heavy duty Ziploc bag and freeze it for later use.
For the pork belly buns, I scaled part of the dough into 1.5 oz. balls, then roll them out into an oblong shape and folded them into half-moons. Steam the buns on high heat for about 8-10 mins.
For the pork belly sauce , I simply combined 2 Tbsp. Chinese bean paste with 2 Tbsp. hoisin sauce, the juice of 1 Tbsp. grated ginger, 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil, and 1 finely minced garlic clove. After I browned the sliced pork belly, I added the sauce and brought the mixture to a simmer to create a kind of glaze on the pork belly.
To assemble, I opened up the bun and layered in thinly sliced apple and cucumber, then a slice of glazed pork belly. I sprinkled a little chopped scallion and crushed peanut over the top…and voila!
Our tribute to Ocean’s Eleven finishes with a bang…literally…with a showstopper dessert that is as flashy as the man who inspired it, Basher Tarr (played by the multi-talented Don Cheadle) a cheeky Brit whose liberal use of Cockney slang at once amuses and baffles his cohorts (Barney=Barney Rubble=Trouble). Like Rusty, Basher is a professional who appreciates working with “proper villains,” as opposed to the “tossers” who get him “nicked” by the cops during a failed bank heist.
While they may not always understand his colorful take on the English language, no one can deny that if you are looking for “broke, blind or bedlam” Basher is the one who’ll deliver all three. To capture the spirit of this pyrotechnic virtuoso, I came up with a dessert that plays on the key elements of his personality–Basher’s Pyro Chocolate Caramel Tart. The crust consists of crushed English digestive biscuits mixed with a little melted butter and brown sugar, pressed into a tart mold, then baked for 8-10 mins. to set. The tart shell is then filled first with a luscious layer of thick salted caramel (Basher is full of “salty” barbs), which is chilled to set, then topped with a decadent layer of rich bittersweet chocolate ganache which has been spiked with cinnamon and fiery cayenne pepper and once again chilled to set. The entire surface of the tart is then covered with spikes of French meringue piped with a star-tip, which are then “torched” to resemble fireworks. As with all things Vegas, this dessert is splashy, decadent, and irresistible!
Basher’s Pyro Chocolate Caramel Tart
8-10 Individual 4″ Tarts
1 14oz. Package Digestive Biscuits, finely crushed
4 oz. Unsalted Butter, melted
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
To form the crust, mix together the crushed digestives, butter and brown sugar, then press the mixture evenly into the bottom and up the sides of 4″ straight sided tart rings on sheet pan lined with parchment. Bake the crust at 350°F for about 8-10 mins. to set.
1 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Water
1 Tbsp. Light Corn Syrup
2/3 cup Heavy Cream
3 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 tsp. Sea or Kosher Salt
For the caramel, combine the sugar with water and corn syrup in a pot and bring to a boil. Cook the sugar syrup until it is a medium dark amber, then remove from the heat and very carefully whisk in the heavy cream, butter, vanilla and salt. Return to medium heat and whisk until the caramel is smooth. Cool caramel to room temperature before pouring into the baked shells. Chill in the refrigerator until set.
1 cup Heavy Cream
2 Tbsp. Light Corn Syrup
1 tsp. Espresso Powder
1/4 tsp. Sea or Kosher Salt
10 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp. Sour Cream
1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
Combine the cream, corn syrup, espresso powder and salt in a pot and bring to a boil. Place the remaining ingredients into a mixing bowl, then pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let the chocolate sit undisturbed for a couple of minutes, then gently whisk until smooth. Pour or spoon the ganache over the chilled caramel layer, then return tarts to the refrigerator to set. When tarts are completely set, remove the tart rings and slide the tarts onto a serving platter.
6 Egg Whites, room temperature
1/4 tsp. Cream of Tartar
pinch of salt
1 -1/2 cup Sugar
Whip the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt in a mixer on high speed until soft peaks begin to form, then lower the speed to medium and gradually sprinkle in the sugar a little at a time. Once all the sugar has been added, increase the speed to high and whip until the meringue is stiff and glossy. Place the meringue in a piping bag fitted with a large star and pipe spiky “fronds” all along the perimeter and out from the center of each tart. Carefully torch the meringue with a kitchen or blow torch.
It seems fitting that we conclude our Ocean’s Eleven series with a dessert that’s also reminiscent of the iconic scene at the end of the heist, when the crew gathers in front of the Bellagio Fountain and share a moment of reflection and contentment over a job well done.
The journey, however, has not ended for this crew. Check out what we have planned next week!