Sure you could go to the store and buy your Halloween candy, but what's the fun in that? How about making your own? Here, three local chefs (including one Top Chef alum) share their original recipes for make-it-at-home candy. The Yard's Chris "CJ" Jacobson shows us a recipe for smoked pulled pork belly brittle that could surely win a Halloween quickfire challenge, while chef, author, and recent Kogi collaborator Robert Danhi gives a Southeast twist to candied nuts, and Craft's Shannon Swindle reveals an elegant approach to fleur de sel caramels. Enjoy!
• Top Chef contestant and The Yard chef Chris "CJ" Jacobson
CJ’s Smoked Pulled Pork Brittle
1 lb. Pork Belly
1qt Root Beer
1T Pickled Ginger
3 Cloves Garlic
¼ cup Cider Vinegar
1t Dried Chili Flake
1 lb. Sugar
Ex Virgin Olive Oil
Set the oven to 250 degrees F. Season the Pork Belly on both sides with Salt & Pepper. In a hot sauté pan brown the pork on both sides with a little olive oil. Place the pork in roasting pan with sides taller than the width of the pork. Add the next four ingredients and cover the pan with plastic wrap then foil. Braise the pork for six hours. Remove the pork from the braising liquid to cool (reserve the glorious liquid for your own devices). While still a little warm, shred the pork into thin strands and reserve. Disregard the extra fat or spread it on toast. MMMM!
In a heavy bottomed pan, add the sugar and enough water to form what appears to be “wet sand.” Set on a high flame. As the sugar caramelizes turn off the heat; it should appear light brown. Pour the caramel onto a sheet tray covered in a silpat (wax paper will work). Working quickly, spinkle the shredded pork over the brittle and then the chili flake. Using another silpat, gently press the pork onto the brittle. Allow to cool and eat vigorously. Stay hungry my friends.
*Using applewood and a grill or smoker. Smoke the pork belly for ten minutes a side. Remove and cool.
• Chef Robert Danhi, author of James Beard-nominated Southeast Asian Flavors
"These candied nuts I developed years ago as a snack for friends and family when they come to our home. They take a little finesse, but can be prepared by any amateur cook that is willing to pay attention to the details of the recipe."
Curried Candied Nuts
Yield: 1 ½ lb.
Minced garlic ½ oz.
Minced ginger ½ oz.
Curry powder ¼ oz.
Ground cumin ½ tsp.
Ground coriander ½ tsp.
Cayenne pepper ¼ tsp.
Kosher Salt 1 tsp.
Butter, unsalted 4 oz..
Sugar 12 oz..
Walnuts, halves - roasted 8 oz..
Almonds, whole - roasted 6 oz.. Keep warm!
Peanuts, whole - roasted 2 oz..
1. In small bowl, combine ginger, garlic, spices and salt - mix well.
2. In large sauté pan or wok heat butter over medium heat until melted.
3. Add all the sugar, stir to form paste that should have the consistency of wet sand.
4. Without stirring cook over medium heat until the edges of butter/sugar mixture begin to melt and brown.
5. Then stir constantly with wooden spoon over the heat until all the sugar has melted and a brown caramel is formed. It is important to stir rapidly, otherwise butter will not be incorporated into caramel.
6. Add spice mixture, mix quickly - immediately add the warm nuts, toss quickly to coat nuts with caramel, transfer to sheet pan, spread nuts out quickly.
7. Let cool to room temperature until hard. Break into pieces and store in airtight container.
-Keeping the nuts warm (or re-warming them) before adding to the caramel is a safeguard so the sugar/butter mixture does not seize on you!
-Feel free to adjust the seasonings - keep it sweet and use only cinnamon and ginger and skip the salt.
• Craft Los Angeles - Pastry Chef Shannon Swindle
Fleur de sel Caramels
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
4 ounces room temperature butter
½ cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped, pod reserved for another use
1 orange zested with a microplane
1 tablespoon fleur de sel
Line a cookie sheet with ½ -inch sides with a silicone baking sheet, and brush with melted butter or spray with vegetable cooking spray. Set aside.
In a heavy bottomed sauce pot, cook the sugar and water over medium heat, covered with a lid until the bubbles are very thick. Remove the lid and continue to cook until the sugar caramelized to a deep amber color. Carefully add the butter, and whisk until incorporated. Add the cream, vanilla seeds, orange zest and fleur de sel, and whisk until smooth. Pour the caramel onto the sheet pan, and set aside for 4-5 hours or overnight to set at room temperature. Caramels may be cut with a knife into bite size pieces and wrapped in clear candy wrappers, or stored in an air-tight container between parchment paper at room temperature.