Friday, October 15, 2010

Mouthwatering Pulled Pork

Wait, you mean you got tired of staring at my bacon post? I thought everyone could stare at bacon for months on end and not get bored. Hmmm...

Alas, for those of you who have been ever so patiently waiting (or not so patiently - Hi Mom!) for this post, I suppose I can't hold out any longer. Enjoy!

I have dreams about this pulled pork. It's that good.

It's more of a cross between carnitas and pulled pork really - savory morsels of tender, carmelized pork that release a salty, savory burst of flavor that's pretty hard to beat. Even a sprinkling of this carmelized pork added to a taco or strewn across a plate of nachos takes the dish to a whole new level of savory and satisfying. Of course a heaping pile wouldn't hurt either.

It's one of those recipes that's far too simple, affordable, and forgiving to be this good. The one trade-off is time as this dish requires several hours in the oven to become meltingly soft. And while you don't have to actively do much while the dish is in the oven, it may prevent you from doing much else as you swoon over the mouthwatering fragrance coming from the kitchen. It smells heavenly. Mmmmm....

Of course to make up for the cooking time, I always make a large batch. It's great covered in barbecue sauce and ever so delicious piled onto any type of Mexican food (enchiladas, nachos, tacos, get the idea). freezes beautifully to later defrost for a quick weekday taco night - if you can refrain from eating it all within a few days, that is.

All this talk is making me wish I hadn't already finished the batch I photographed. Truly a tragedy. So onto the recipe while I mourn the current lack of pulled pork in my fridge...

Seeing as this is a pulled pork recipe, you'll need some pork. Pork shoulder (or pork butt) to be specific. I usually use a 3-5 lb roast (estimate 1/2 pound per serving).

Oh, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees!

Slice the pork into large (~ 3 inch) pieces. Salt generously (I use about 1/2 tbsp coarse salt + for a 4 pound roast). I like the meat to be salty so that even a little adds a big flavor punch. If you're using normal table salt, use a little bit less.

If you're going to be covering it in barbecue sauce or the like, you can be less generous with the salt. Or if you're using taco seasoning that's really salty you can use less salt on the meat itself.

I like salt.

Now that we're done with our salt discussion for the day, heat up a few tablespoons of oil in a cast iron skillet. Once it's very hot, add the pork to the pan (but don't crowd them, otherwise they'll boil instead of brown). You can always do this in two batches if need be.

Turn occasionally to let them brown on all sides.

Yum! Now they're seared and delicious.

If you did this in two batches, add back all the pieces to the pan.

Now add water to the pan so that the pork is 1/2 submerged in water. Add the water slowly and be careful because this pan is pretty hot.

If it makes you more comfortable, you can let the pan cool a little bit before you add the water. Whatever floats your boat.

Now it's time to add the spices! There are two routes you can go (taco seasoning or not) and I can personally attest that both are delicious.

Taco Seasoning Route: Add 3 tbsp taco seasoning, 2 bay leaves, 1 cinnamon stick (or 1/2 tsp cinnamon), and 3 cloves garlic thinly sliced.

Spice Route: Add 2 bay leaves, 3 cloves garlic thinly sliced, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp oregano, 1 cinnamon stick (or 1/2 tsp ground).

For this batch I went the taco seasoning route. Mmmm!

Now, take this beautiful mixture and carefully place it in the oven (the pan is filled with water in case you forgot!) at 350 degrees. It will cook until the water is evaporated (about 2.5-3 hours). Flip the pieces over a couple of times during that process (maybe once an hour?).

Your kitchen should be smelling delicious at this point.

Now once the water is almost gone (there can still be a little water left) take two forks and coarsely shred the pork.

Don't forget to steal a little taste. If it's not salty enough you can add more salt. Sometimes I'll even add more taco seasoning at this point if I feel like it needs it.

This is the point at which it's pulled pork in the true sense - delicious covered in barbecue sauce.

However, if you want to go just a little further and turn it into a carnitas style pulled pork (with chewy, crispy, caramelized ends) add 1 tbsp sugar and return to the oven.

First, pretend you can actually see what's going on in the picture above (daylight was waning and my photography skills just aren't really equipped to deal with that).

What you should be seeing is delicious carmelized morsels of shredded pork. It usually takes about 30 minutes to achieve this (stirring once every 10 minutes). More time = more carmelized (less = get it).

This caramelized pork is delicious served in a simple burrito, made into enchiladas, sprinkled over nachos (heavenly!), or added to the world's best quesadilla.

Mouthwatering Pulled Pork
serves 4-8 (depending on size of pork roast and appetites)

3-5 lb pork shoulder (or pork butt)
1/2 tbsp coarse salt (a little less for normal salt)
2 tbsp oil
3 tbsp taco seasoning*
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick (or scant 1/2 tsp ground)
Optional: 1 tbsp sugar

Slice the pork into 3 inch pieces and rub with the salt. Preheat oven to 350 F.

Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium (or medium high) heat until quite hot. Add the pork pieces (this may require two batches to prevent overcrowding) and let brown on all sides - turning only occasionally.

Take off the heat and add water to halfway submerge the pork pieces. Do this slowly and carefully (the pan is hot).

Add the taco seasoning, cinnamon, bay leaves, and garlic.

Place in the oven for 2.5-3 hours (turning the pieces once per hour - if you remember) until the water is mostly evaporated. Use forks to shred the pork.

If desired, add 1 tbsp sugar and return to the oven for another 30 minutes, stirring once every 10 minutes, until the pork has reached the desired state of caramelization.


*alternatively use 1/2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp chili powder, and 1 tsp oregano

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Broccoli (and BACON) Salad

I added in the bacon emphasis for those of you that crave something meatier than just plain vegetable salads. Of course, lets be honest, I really just added it in because who doesn't love bacon?

Don't get me wrong, I love plain cooked veggies. Like, really, really love them.

Have I mentioned before that my mom and I would fight over the cold leftover steamed Brussels sprouts in the fridge? And plain steamed broccoli comes in a close second in my book.


It's just that not everyone (ahem *my significant other*) shares my affinity for plain steamed veggies. And really, who can blame him when you realize all the exciting flavor combinations and preparations you can use veggies in. Plus this broccoli (and BACON) salad is just plain more substantial than steamed broccoli...and did I mention, delicious?

The brightly tinted green broccoli mingles with bits of meaty bacon and little raisin jewels hinting at the marriage of wonderful flavors to come. Sweet, salty, tangy and yet undeniably refreshing.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! Now onto the recipe...

As with any good recipe, start by frying up some chopped bacon over medium heat.

I used 3 thick slices, but I certainly won't tell anyone if you use more.

Allow it to cook until just shy of crispy. We're going for a meaty texture here, not bacon bits. Though if you like your bacon crispy, that's fine too.

Set aside to cool.

Sorry. It's just that bacon is so deliciously photogenic.

Chop up some scallions (aka green onions). I used 1/4 cup.

You're going to need an equal amount of raisins. I prefer golden raisins. They're just so much prettier.

Of course you could use regular raisins or dried cranberries instead. Mmm...dried cranberries.

Finally, grate 1/3 cup of cheese. Or so, doesn't need to be exact. I used (white) cheddar.

If you're going for a dairy free version, you could replace the cheese with sliced almonds and/or sunflower seeds.

For the dressing, whisk together 1/2 cup mayo, 1/8 cup white vinegar, 1/8 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt. Add freshly ground pepper to taste.

Don't mind the fact that I originally made twice that amount of dressing. I then realized that I was supposed to be going for broccoli salad, not broccoli - mayonnaise soup. My mistake.

By the way, 1/8 cup is equal to two tablespoons.

Now for the broccoli.

Use 6-8 cups of florets, or about 1 large or two smallish heads of broccoli, or just over a pound if you like using weight measurements. Did I give you enough options?

You can leave the broccoli raw, but if you're like me you like the taste, and lets be honest - the digestibility - of blanched broccoli better.

Blanching is pretty easy. It involves two steps: cooking and cooling. Plan ahead by setting out a big bowl filled with some water and a lot of ice.

Now just bring a pot of water to boiling, drop in the broccoli florets and let them cook for 1 minute. Then, quickly drain the broccoli and submerge it in the ice bowl.

Not too hard, eh?

Once the broccoli has cooled, drain and pat dry. A paper towel works well.

Too much water will make our dressing soupy. Once again, not really what we're going for.

Add all the other topping ingredients to the bowl.

Marvel at the deliciousness before you.

Pour on the dressing and mix.

Now, I recommend letting this sit for at least an hour or two in the fridge to let the dressing marry with the vegetables and thicken up a little as well. I took the picture immediately, but if you let it refrigerate, the dressing will definitely coat the florets with even more deliciousness.

Then again it's difficult to wait before digging in. I won't judge.

Broccoli (and BACON) Salad

6-8 cups broccoli florets
3 slices bacon, chopped and cooked
1/4 cup scallions (green onions), chopped
1/4 cup raisins
1/3 cup grated cheese (such as cheddar)

1/2 cup mayo
1/8 cup white vinegar
1/8 cup sugar
pinch salt
freshly ground pepper

Blanch the broccoli if desired. Drain and pat dry. Mix with other dry ingredients (bacon through cheese). For dressing, whisk together mayo, vinegar, sugar, and salt. Add pepper to taste. Pour over dry ingredients, refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

This salad is also great as a make-ahead dish.


What's your favorite broccoli preparation?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A late summer Hazelnut Cake (gluten free)

While I love inventing my own recipes, I usually try and stay away from creating baked goods completely from scratch. When you're cooking away on the stovetop, you can just keep adding to the dish until it's just right. It doesn't work that way with baked goods. You can't exactly decide to add more baking soda after you pull it out of the oven, right?

So I didn't exactly have high hopes for this cake for a number of reasons:

  1. I completely made up the recipe for the batter and then just threw it in the oven while crossing my fingers.

  2. It's gluten free, which usually means the chances of it turning out are slimmer.

  3. For that matter, it doesn't contain any grain-based flour whatsoever.

  4. Did I mention I didn't know what I was doing with proportions when I threw together the batter?

Rest assured, I was shocked when it turned out delicious. Like, really really delicious.

Anyway, this cake is made entirely with hazelnut flour, Well, there's other stuff in there, but that's the only type of flour.

You could replace it entirely with almond flour which is becoming much more mainstream and thus easier to find (Bob's Red Mill, Trader Joe's, etc.) or you can grind up hazelnuts to the texture of flour (using a food processor or good blender). If you do this, grind it in small increments so that it's easier to control and prevent it from being overground into hazelnut butter. (Mmm...hazelnut butter!)

Okay, enough already, what's the cake taste like?

Well, it has a perfectly cake-like texture. Which, once again, might not be so amazing under normal circumstances, but considering it's made entirely from nut flour is quite an accomplishment (at least in my book). It's got a strong taste of hazelnuts and is somewhat reminiscent of a spice cake. Of course you could add cocoa powder to the mix and turn it into a chocolate hazelnut affair. Yum!

Onto the recipe already!

In a mixing bowl, place 1.5 cups hazlenut flour. (Did I mention Bob's Red Mill sells hazelnut flour?)

Oh yeah, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. I always forget to do that ahead of time!

Add 1.5 tsp of baking soda.

Plus 1/4 tsp salt.

Feel free to up this to 1/2 tsp if you're using a coarser salt, or if you really like the sweet-salty combo.

Add any spices you desire (or feel free to leave them out completely).

I added 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon allspice.

(I was intrigued when I first found out allspice is not a combination of spices.)

If you're going to go the chocolate hazelnut route, add 1/2 cup of cocoa powder here.

In another bowl place 4 eggs.

Add 1/4 cup of a mild flavored oil (such as canola, walnut, sunflower, or vegetable oil).

Whip it all together!

Just to mix it of course, this isn't quite the arm workout of whipping whipped cream by hand.

Add 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 tsp white vinegar.


If you're using almond flour and want to play up the almond flavor , I would recommend adding 1 tsp almond extract here - yum!

Remember those whisking skills? Use them again.

Now butter and sugar a 9 inch (or so) cake pan...or pie plate if you're like me.

This just involves buttering the pan, adding 2 tbsp or so of sugar, and swirling the sugar around until it coats the pan.

I recommend doing this over the sink. Trust me.

Your cake pan or pie plate should now look all sparkly like this.

It's the small things in life.

Back to the batter! Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients....

...and stir!

As with all cakes, muffins, and brownies, try and keep the stirring to a minimum. Just until it all comes together and there aren't (too many) dry clumps.

Pour into the prepared dish and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Ta da! I recommend letting it cool at least a little before you attempt to slice it. This cake stays together remarkably well (considering it's gluten free) but as with all cakes, is a bit crumbly if you try and cut it too soon out of the oven.

Now this cake is delicious as is, or feel free to doll it up with chocolate sauce, caramel, or fruit.

I cut a slice, added some peaches and blueberries and dolloped with sour cream. Yum!

If you think sour cream is weird, just remember how delicious strawberries are with sour cream and brown sugar. If you don't know how delicious strawberries are dipped in sour cream and then coated in brown sugar, then you should immediately stop reading and go try the combination!

Of course you could also just top the cake with whipped cream or creme fraiche.

Here's the concise recipe:

Hazelnut Cake

1.5 cups hazelnut flour (or almond flour)
1,5 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1/4 tsp allspice (optional)
4 large eggs
1/4 cup oil (such as canola, walnut, or vegetable)
1/2 tsp white vinegar
3/4 cup brown sugar
Butter and sugar (for coating the pan)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and sugar a 9 inch (or so) cake pan.

Mix together the hazelnut flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.

In another bowl mix together the eggs, oil, vinegar, and brown sugar.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until moistened. Pour into the prepared baking dish.

Bake 25 minutes. Let cool. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

the Simplicity of Summer...

Now that summer has finally arrived in Seattle and decided to stay(!), I just can't bring myself to turn on the stove or oven without a really good* reason. Anyone with a small apartment can attest to how rapidly it goes from hot to sweltering. Any other time of year you can just open all the windows and wish the extra heat away, but right now? Not an option.

So what's a girl to do? Well, aside from turning on the barbecue or ordering take-out, I've been taking advantage of all the delicious fresh fruit and veggies available and making simple salads, desserts, and the like which require no cooking. Isn't it convenient that the hottest time of the year is also when all the most delicious produce is available - produce that's perfectly ripe and doesn't need intense cooking or seasoning to taste it's best.

Oh, and the best part about these summer meals? They tend to come together really quickly, meaning more time to sit outside and relish in the sights and sounds of summer - preferably while sipping a mojito, of course.

Take this simple dessert. Cut up some perfectly ripe figs, add a dollop of creme fraiche, and finally drizzle with honey.

Simplicity at its finest.

What's your favorite way to enjoy figs? My friend Matt recommended using them in a salad paired with goat cheese and a honey-balsamic vinaigrette. Sounds tasty, no?

*Really good reasons include (but are not limited to): cinnamon rolls, carnitas, and blueberry pie. I might have to go turn that oven on after all.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A quick lunch...

It's been a long time.

Like really, really long.

Sorry about that!

Rather than wowing you with an amazingly complicated, company-worthy dish, I thought I would ease myself back into the whole "blogging-thing" by sharing one of my favorite comfort food quick fixes.

A fluffy mound of sticky rice - flash fried to get intermittent crispy, chewy grains - is topped with fresh shelled edamame and drizzled with soy sauce and sesame oil. Garnish with some chopped scallions and you've got yourself one really fast, delicious, and refreshing lunch. Oh, and it happens to be vegan and gluten-free (if using gluten free soy sauce) if you're into that sort of thing.

You will need cooking oil, cold leftover sticky rice (or you can cook fresh), edamame, soy sauce, sesame oil, and scallions.

Start by heating a wok over medium high heat.

Add your oil of choice.

Peanut, vegetable, canola, olive...

I used olive oil because that's the only thing I had around. I'm not sure you realize how truly out of character it is for me to not have any other type of cooking oil. It's just strange.

Add cold leftover rice, crumbling it as you add it to the pan.

You can also do this with fresh rice, but it will be a lot stickier. I'll often just skip the whole pan frying step when I'm using freshly cooked rice. Usually out of laziness.

Press down on the rice to make sure it's contacting the heat and getting little crispy bits. That's what we're after here. You can add more oil, drizzling it along the side of the wok, if needed.

Don't stir the rice too much. Just move it around every 60 seconds or so and then practice patience while it is doing it's thing.

If your leftover rice is more than a day or two old, you can add a tbsp of water to "reinvigorate it." Just splash in the water after frying for a minute or two and stir it around. Then press the rice down and continue frying for a couple minutes.

Did that make sense? It's really not complicated, I promise.

While the rice is finishing up (should only take about 5 minutes) grab out your fresh edamame.

Trader Joe's sells it already shelled. It makes my life much easier.

(You could also substitute fresh fava beans or canned garbanzo beans if you want to go a slightly different route.)

Chop some scallions (aka green onions). Oh, and grab out your soy sauce and sesame oil.

Now scoop that rice into a bowl, top with the edamame and scallions, and drizzle on the sesame oil and soy sauce. Add some sesame seeds if you want even more pretty garnish.

Dig in!

Oh, and here's the recipe in a more compact form. The amounts are incredibly approximate (this is sort of a taste as you go dish)...

Ingredients (per serving):
2 tsp oil (canola/peanut/vegetable or olive oil)
1 cup cold sticky rice
1/3 cup edamame
1 scallion, chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil

Heat 2 tsp oil in a wok (or skillet) over medium high heat. Crumble in cold rice and press down so the rice contacts the pan and begins to fry. Continue frying for about five minutes, moving the rice around once a minute or so and then pressing down again. Top with edamame and scallions. Drizzle with soy sauce and sesame oil. Enjoy!