Archive for the ‘Southwestern’ Category

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A bit of pulled pork every day helps keep the recession at bay…

February 12, 2009

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Last week I ate pulled pork every day for lunch (toasted potato roll, Mt. Olive bread and butter pickles, mayo, pork). Yes, every day. Yes, all week.

But before you start pointing fingers and calling me an uncreative glutton (jealous much?), know this… there is a recession on, and I was just eating the most awesome, economical leftovers that we had in our fridge. That, and I’m eight-plus months pregnant.

“Pulled pork every day? Really?” you gasp in wonder. “Can it be true? Can it be healthy? Can it really be that good? And can I please, please have some?”

Yes, you can have some. If you make this recipe, there will be plenty to go around — and trust me, you won’t get tired of eating delicious, fork-tender and succulent pulled pork until it is all finger-lickin’ gone.

My husband has made pulled pork before, but it’s never turned out so damn tasty. (Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always devoured it — it’s just the speed and duration of my consumption of it that changes.) This pork, lovingly coated with sugar, salt and spices, and sunning itself in a warm oven for nine hours… it just comes out happy. And it spreads its happy joyfulness when you fork in each delicious bite. I knew it was the real deal when I saw my husband brandishing two forks, and I saw the long, pink strands of wonderful porkiness just falling off the bone into a fragrant heap of steaming awesomeness. Yes, it’s that good.

The first night I had it, it was scrumptious in warm flour tortillas, dolloped with fresh salsa and sour cream and sprinkled with cheese. But that’s a bit complex to replicate for lunch. So for its remaining time in our fridge, it got tossed down sandwich style… and sometimes just forked right into the maw.

In any case, I’m eager for you to make it, friends, so you can tell me what other wonderful leftover concoctions can be had from delicious pulled pork. (In fact, I saw a recipe recently for pulled pork served on pitas with tsatsiki sauce…. any takers?)

So now I’ve thrown down the gauntlet. Pulled pork is delicious. This pulled pork is fabulous. Won’t you eat it every day too?

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And now, the husband’s take…

I’m not sure there is anything better than meat cooked for a long time. Two of my favorite recent recipes are a previous pork shoulder braised in Belgian ale and beef short ribs braised in red wine and beef stock. The flavors created by those intense periods spent at low temperatures makes me think my foot probably good after about 5 hours at between 250F-275F. But, I like my foot so that is just silly… right?

Anyway I digress. This recipe is another Sunday stay-at-home special. In my mind, this is the perfect recipe for just a lazy day. The kind where you don’t get out of your pajamas until mid-afternoon, and that’s only to take a shower and put on another set of pajamas — not that I would ever have a day like that.

The best part is that it isn’t a lot of work. Yes, it is a huge time commitment, but not work. Each step takes about ten to fifteen minutes if you work slowly. As a result, you can spend most of your time doing anything else. Even if you don’t baste the shoulder like I suggest in the recipe, it’s not that big of an issue — so you could even do cook this overnight while you sleep. That way it’s great for a noon tip-off or party. In addition, this makes the ultimate leftovers. While we show it with salsa on a tortilla, you pretty much can do anything with it — for example, great, great sandwiches.

This is also a relatively inexpensive cut of meat. If you buy a typical supermarket shoulder, you can get this for about $15 dollars here in DC. You can easily serve a party of eight or more with it. Or have a tremendous amount of leftovers if you make it for your family. This means awesome packed lunches the rest of the week. So this is your very own recession special.

So with time and a little bit of money, you get a truly awesome result… if I don’t say so myself. Now, what about that foot thing?

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Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder
Ingredients:
7 lbs. pork shoulder (bone in)
1 cup dark brown sugar
¾ cup salt
2 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. cayenne

Directions:
1. To make the rub, thoroughly mix together the brown sugar, salt, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes and cayenne.

2. Pat dry the pork shoulder and then liberally apply the rub to all sides. Place in a leak-proof container. Cover and refrigerate for as long as 24 hours, or as little as overnight. It will give up a cup or more of liquid so make sure your container is big enough to prevent spillage.

3. Remove the shoulder from refrigerator, brush off any excess or caked on rub. Move to a clean roasting pan with the fat side up.

4. Heat the oven to 275F. Place in the oven and let roast for 9 to 10 hours. Yes, I’m serious about it taking that long. After about 3 hours, there will be enough fat rendered to allow you to baste the shoulder every 1 to 2 hours. With a large spoon simply pour the rendered fat over the shoulder.

5. You will know it’s ready because the outside of the shoulder is extremely dark, nearly burned looking. The pork should pull easily from the bone and the fat/skin on the top should be nearly crispy.

6. Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 30 min. Using a pair of forks or very clean hands pull the pork away from the bone. This should be very easy to do.

7. Serve one of several ways. Here we served it on a tortilla and topped with fresh salsa (recipe below). Another favorite for us is on a toasted potato roll and with a couple sweet pickles. This serves great leftovers.

Simple Fresh Salsa
Ingredients:
1 pint grape tomatoes (diced)
1 cup cilantro (diced)
1 jalapeno (diced very fine)
1 lime (juice)
½ large onion (diced)
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt

Directions:
1. Combine the  tomatoes, cilantro, onion, and jalapeno in a bowl and mix thoroughly. You can de-seed the jalapeno if you are heat adverse, or substitute a serrano pepper if you like a little more kick.

2. Add the lime juice and olive oil and mix. Salt to taste.

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Fresh chorizo and stuffed dates, or as we think about it: rethinking folklore about watching sausage being made.

November 14, 2008

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I’ve seen how sausage is made… And it’s not that bad.

OK, I didn’t go to the “sausage factory,” where, I’ve no doubt, the process is much, much more stomach churning. But watching my husband make chorizo sausage from scratch was in no way traumatic. And the smell of him cooking up little “tester patties” was actually kind of appetizing.

There, I said it. Sausage making can be appetizing.

Indeed, I’ll go further. You should try to make sausage, too. Why? Well, I’ll give you three good reasons: Delicious southwestern-style fritatas, hearty corn bread and chorizo stuffing, and to-die-for chorizo stuffed dates. All of these tasty, tasty items are drastically improved when you bring your own homemade chorizo sausage to the party.

Consider: Rather than ripping open the shrink-wrapped styrofoam package of pallid, speckled links, you could make — in your own kitchen — fragrant, delicious, crispy, and spicy pork sausage. The smell of fresh cinnamon and the bite of potent spices could cause your nose to twitch. The sound of pork fat hitting pan could cause your stomach to growl. And the smell of the chorizo sausage browning in the pan could cause your mouth to water.

The best part? Not only is making chorizo sausage not gruesome, it’s also not hard. Grind and combine, baby. Plus, none of these recipes call for linked sausage, meaning you can forgo wrestling with slimy intestinal lining or other equally slippery casing alternatives.

Sound good? Don’t forgot to cook me up a tester patty. I’m willing to be your guinea pig!

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And now, the husband’s take…

The first time I had fresh sausage was as a kid. My father’s family were farm folk in eastern North Carolina and grew the regions staples—pigs and tobacco. This meant, at least once a year, my father got fresh sausage from the farm. And, no offense to Jimmy Dean and Bob Evans,but to be honest, there really was nothing better. There was something about the quality or perhaps the novelty that made such a positive impression.

So fast forward a few decades, the first thing you learn when you get serious about cooking is controlling quality. The reason the great restaurants produce the greatest food is that every ingredient is high quality. And every step thereafter, from making stock to plating, is about enhancing the underlying quality. If you take this to the level of Thomas Keller at the French Laundry or Patrick O’Connell at The Inn at Little Washington, then it becomes obsessions that leads to legendary greatest. Or if you are me, it’s why you make chicken stock a couple times a month, go to various farmers markets around town or make my own sausage then write a post about it.

The chorizo is great. You could eat sausage alone, but it isn’t a hot dog or bratwurst. To me, it’s a component and taking control to build a better result. As my wife pointed out, there are at least two other posts on the blog where chorizo is used. Today, I add another recipe here, a cocktail party classic—chorizo stuffed dates. So while, “making sausage” has it’s negative connotations, if you have the inkling, do it yourself. It’s actually fun.

Before I quit writing, some technical information about the recipe. First, this is fresh chorizo. Aficionados of chorizo can do dissertations on the subject. In some regions, it’s a dried sausage like salami or pepperoni. In others, it’s a loose sausage. It can or can’t be smoked. In general, I’m not remotely claiming this as a definitive or authentic recipe. This is simply my recipe which tends to be a bit on the spicy side.

Second, I got into sausage making right about the time I started culinary school. It began with Brian Polclyn and Michael Ruhlman’s great book, Charcuterie. While this recipe is significantly different then the one that can be found in their book, it would be a lie if I didn’t acknowledge their influence. If you enjoy this sort of thing, I would highly recommend their book. My copy is getting beat up from going on and off the shelf so much.

Third, this makes quite a bit of chorizo. It keeps easily for up to 1 week in the refrigerator. It also freezes well. I don’t put mine in cases to make links, but Ruhlman and Polcyn recommend hog casings if you want to follow their lead.

Finally, you need to work clean and cold when you grind meat. This means I clean my grinding equipment before and after every use. It also means that everything gets placed in either the freezer or refrigerator between steps including the meat, the grinder, and the bowl that catches the meat. If you don’t keep things cold, you risk the fat rendering out and loosing flavor.

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Fresh Chorizo
Ingredients:
3 lbs pork shoulder (diced to fit grinder)
4 cloves garlic (minced)
2 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. tequila

Spice Mix:
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. paprika (hot)
1/2 tsp. chipotle powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. fresh black pepper
1/2 tsp. red pepper flake

Directions:

1. Toss together diced pork, spice mix, salt and minced garlic making sure that everything is evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 min.

2. Clean grinding equipment and bowl. Place equipment in the freezer (or keep cold) until ready to grind.

3. Grind the meat being sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to catch any straggling spice mix or garlic. When using the Kitchen-Aid grinder attachment, I use the small die (the screen in front of the grinding blade) on low speed for best results. If the meat is no longer cold, cover and refrigerate before proceeding.

4. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add the ground meat and tequila to the bowl. Mix on medium speed until the meat is a pâté consistency. This should take about 1 minute.

5. In a small sauté pan over medium heat, place a small, quarter-sized patty of the sausage. Brown on both sides. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

6. Once done, move to a clean container, cover tightly and refrigerate. Should keep for up to 1 week in the refrigerator, or can be divided up and part placed in the freezer for later use.

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Chorizo Stuffed Dates w/Goat Cheese
Ingredients:
24 pitted dates
1/4 lbs fresh chorizo
6-8 slices bacon
4 oz. goat cheese (optional)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Slice each date along one side using a paring knife.

3. Taking a pinch of chorizo, press into the pocket formed by opening the date.

4. Stretch each slice of bacon out on a cutting board. This is the key as it avoids the need for toothpicks. The bacon should be about 1/3 larger then when pulled from the rest of the slices.

5. Roll the date until date is covered and the bacon comes around about 1 1/2 times. Cut from the slice. You should get 3 to 4 dates per slice of bacon.

6. Place on baking sheet with a rack. Bake for 30 min or until the bacon is golden and fat rendered. Rotate halfway through cooking. It’s important your baking sheet has a lip on all sides as there will be a good pool of fat on the bottom of the sheet.

7. Plate, sprinkle over with goat cheese. Serve warm.

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They’re dynamite, Napoleon: Gosh-darned chicken quesadillas

May 14, 2007

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It’s that time of year, and he’s been at the grill again. As far as I can tell, there has been only one instance when the husband inadvertantly left that gas-powered fire hazard on — and he beat me to the chore of turning it off, glaring at me menacingly as he did so. (Is it wrong to be a nag about an item that can burn your house down? I think not.)

You might think, then, that I would discourage firing up the barbie for an item like chicken quesadillas, which can be safely made indoors and without the risk of sirens. Well, think again.

These quesadillas rock because of the sooty flames licking their crisp skins. They rock because of the sear marks on the juicy chicken inside. They rock because they are crunchy and fresh and… well, grilled.

As you know, I am a huge fan of eating and of my husband’s cooking. Plus, I love any items that are chock-full of fresh ingredients — here, it’s salsa and avocado. (Yes, please!) Therefore, I yield to the siren song of these delicious chicken quesadillas and throw caution to the wind. When the husband volunteers to make these chicken quesadillas, I turn on the grill.

(And, of course, make sure it’s turned off again, too.)

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Click here to download the recipe for Chicken Quesadillas.

Backgrounder…
So, OK, not the most original recipe. But this is one that I’ve used a number of times in recent weeks with excellent success. You can serve these quesadillas as a meal or an appetizer. And let’s be honest: It’s starting to get hot out and it’s grilling season… So “Knock it off Napoleon, and make yourself a dang Ques-a-dilla!” (For those who have used their lives more efficiently than I have, that quote is from Napoleon Dynamite, a movie that I’ve grown to appreciate.)

Now that I’ve convinced you to make yourself a quesadilla, here are the keys to it. First, keep everything fresh. I know the temptation in life is to take that jar of salsa from New York City and mix it in, but it’s not worth it. Everything is coming into season now and you’ll be able to taste it in every bite.

Second, the wet rub is king in this recipe. In the last post I talked about a dry rub on the ribs. (I love dry rubs, too.) But this is a dish you want to turn out on the fly, like when you are exhausted by a 2-month-old and don’t want to order out for the third night in a row. So the wet rub — here very spicy — gives you a lot of kick, without taking hours to create flavors.

Finally, the grill is magic. Even my gas-powered grill can make all the difference in flavors. You can toast the quesadillas or broil them for likely the same level of doneness, but the grill marks and flavors brought on by sitting on those grates will make you crave this dish. If you can, grill. You will be rewarded.

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Chicken Quesadilla
Yield: 24 servings if hors doerves, 6 for main course
Time: 40 min

Ingredients:
1 dozen 4-inch flour tortillas
2 large chicken breasts (about 1 lb.)
2 cups cheddar, Monterey jack or similar cheese
1 avocado (diced)

Wet Rub:
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro (chopped)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. red pepper flake
1/4 tsp. chipotle chili powder
juice of 1 lime

Salsa:
1 medium onion (diced)
1 pint cherry tomatoes (diced)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro (chopped)
2 jalapeños (finely diced)
4 cloves garlic (minced)
1 lime (juice)
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
1. This recipe uses direct heat while cooking over a grill. If using a gas grill, set to medium high heat. If using charcoal, over the coals will work.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the wet rub. Pat dry the chicken breasts and dredge them through the rub. Both sides should be well coated.

3. Place the chicken on the grill and cook for 4 to 5 min per side with the grill lid on or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165-170F. Remove from the heat and let rest for at least 5 min, preferably longer. Once cooled, cut the breasts into half-inch or smaller cubes. Do not turn off the grill or snuff the flames once cooking is complete. You will be returning to the grill later.

4. While the chicken is grilling, mix together the salsa in a large bowl. Be careful with the jalapenos — if you are not inclined to spicy food, modify. Take a third of the salsa and set aside to serve along with the finished product. Add the diced avocado and cubed chicken to the remaining two-thirds of the salsa. At this point, if you are preparing for a party, you can stop. Simply cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. It’s important that you press the plastic wrap down against the mix, to prevent the avocado from oxidizing and turning brown, as apples do.

6. If your tortillas are refrigerated, remove from fridge and allow to warm to room temperature or until easily pliable. Once ready, take about two tablespoons of your chicken mix, and place it on one side of the tortilla. Add a healthy pinch of cheese and then fold the tortilla over in half. If necessary, press along the seam to keep the tortilla closed.

7. Time for the finishing touches. Place the filled tortillas on the grill. Toast them on both sides for about 2 min per side or until the tortilla becomes crisp and the edges begin to darken. Once cooked, remove from heat and let rest for at 2 minutes to allow the cheese to solidify slightly. Slice in half and serve with the remaining salsa, plus other condiments of choice such as guacamole and sour cream.

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Taco night redux: Duck tacos with corn and blood orange salsa.

February 15, 2007

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Ah, taco night. I’ve lavished praise on that sacred evening in the past, but it’s worth repeating. I love taco night: My husband makes some tasty, spicy beef filling, whips up some salsa fresca, dissects some avocados, piles on sour cream and cheese, and even makes his own homemade taco shells.

As you can imagine, then, I was a bit disturbed when he threatened to mess with this winning formula. And by adding duck, of all things. (Some of you may recall my general lack of enthusiasm for that particular type of poultry. Ill-prepared duck, people, is not a happy thing to behold — or, er, eat.)

Now, mouth full of delicious duck taco, I can safely ask: “Why do I bother to doubt my husband?” (Here he clasps his hands over his head and shakes them like a champion. Another marital score settled by outstanding cooking.)

I knew things were on the right track when, as he was carving up delicate and thin pieces of duck breast, I — ahem — sampled one, and found the meat to be tender, juicy, spicy and delightful. It had all the things to like about duck, and none of its distasteful qualities (a fishy, fatty, chewy texture). Then I spied the special salsa my husband had prepared: a sweet and spicy corn and blood orange salsa fresca that served as a perfect partner to the spicy duck. And finally, I saw that he’d prepared all my special toppings — cheese, avocado, sour cream — and of course, homemade taco shells.

Fear not, folks. Taco night has been preserved… and, dare I say it, improved?

Click here to download the recipe for Duck Tacos.

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Sombreros, the Super Bowl, and Sugar and Lard: the Road to Chicken Flautas!

January 30, 2007

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There are so many reasons to love Mexican/Southwestern food. The generous portions. The fact that refried beans come standard. The toppings: fresh salsa, sour cream, cheese. Guacamole (a reason unto itself). Pulled and stewed meats, cheese sauces, hot spices and fried things. The list goes on…

So when my husband declared that he was going to make flautas — my go-to order at all Mexican/Southwestern restaurants, I pulled on my sombrero, tucked in my napkin and readied my utensils.

Flautas are delicious. They combine the best of so many cooking methods: Slow cooked, pulled meat nestled inside a crispy, crunchy deep fried tortilla. You get that satisfying crunch and then a moist mouthful of well-cooked, juicy, shredded meat. Heaven. I like my flautas mounded with fresh ingredients like homemade salsa and guacamole, sour cream and cheese. All those fresh veggies have to make the fried object they’re obscuring healthy, right? Of course I’m right.

But could my husband pull this off? Were his culinary skills up to the task? My sombrero and I waited in breathless anticipation.

Not to worry… the flautas were more than edible; they were delicious. The technique is a bit tricky, only because the hot oil can easily dry the meat that you’ve worked so hard to season and stew. (I should know, being a flauta connisseur.) But after a few flauta soldiers perished (being merciful, I helped to finish them off), golden and delicious flautas began exiting the cook top.

Yes, you can have good Mexican food at home… now all that’s missing is the refried beans.

Click here to download the recipe for Chicken Flautas.

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Mmm…. stuffing. Mmm… pie.

November 23, 2006

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Happy Thanksgiving!!! Well, it’s one of those super busy days for us cooking fools. Luckily, this year I avoided the duty of cooking Thanksgiving dinner. We are enjoying it with my family in North Carolina. This means my step-mother has the job of cooking for 10 or more. I suspect I will be in the kitchen offering to help, but have a feeling I’ll be turned away. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Are you ready for some chili?

September 26, 2006

Spicy Texas Chili

Spicy Texas Chili

Chili inspires passion in many people. From chili cooks who haul their campers to Texas to compete in cookoffs to humble consumers of the meaty stew, everyone has their favorite. I am no different. I love me some chili.

Fortunately, my husband makes two varieties — and they’re both so different that they needn’t war in my heart for supremacy. One, Cincinnati Chili, is a hometown favorite, but would be unrecognizable as chili to many a chili-lover. (It’s served over noodles, for starters.) The other is the subject of this post: Spicy, meaty, hearty, Texas chili.

This kind of chili is delicious. Beans, big chunks of vegetables, and let’s not forget morsels of meat that have stewed in that spicy tomato concoction. What’s not to love? If there’s a twinge of cold in the air — anytime of year, even it’s from overactive air conditioning — I’m ready for a steaming bowl of Texas-style chili. With cornbread.

Read on for the recipe, fellow chili lovers…

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