Archive for the ‘recipes’ Category

Instant Pot Smoked Hawaiian Pork seasoned with two kinds of guilt

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

I’ve jumped on the Instant Pot bandwagon and last night I tried a new recipe. You will find similar recipes online described as Kalua Pork, but when I’ve seen them, I have always assumed it is some kind of coffee-flavored stew, and scrolled past.

It turns out that Kalua Pork is, more traditionally, the result of cooking a whole pig in a pit at a luau in Hawaii. Read about it here – I won’t quite apologize for the fact that I am culturally misappropriated the whole concept, but I will suggest that what I made is a faint shadow of the cultural and historical truth, translated into a midwestern kitchen using a shiny gadget to cook store-bought pork. While you’re at it, read Unfamiliar Fishes, a book by the quirky Sarah Vowell that will teach you a ton about the tragic history of Hawaii.

Farm to Market had a yeast mishap, but the bread was still good for sopping up pork juice.

Back to my kitchen.  I cooked a bastardized version of a food with a proud tradition worthy of tremendous respect. Sometimes, you gotta focus on the eats. At least I acknowledge it.

I bought a 4 pound boneless shoulder roast at the grocery store for $1.48/pound. I’m never going to do that again. Robin and I talked about it yesterday evening – my meat came wrapped in plastic from a Hormel factory. With my modest purchase, I endorsed the entire CAFO system, just like politicians I used to demonize. I would cut myself some slack if I were scraping by meal to meal, but I am fortunate enough to have the financial means to have walked into Broadway Butcher, Local Pig, Curt’s Meats, or McGonigle’s and purchased a better product and a cleaner conscience. I’m turning over a new leaf.

Back to my kitchen. I can do better in the future, but I had people to feed last night.

Now, here’s the recipe:

Smoked Hawaiian Pork seasoned with two kinds of guilt

~ 2/3 pound of bacon

4 pounds pork roast

1/2 TB of liquid smoke (a truly legit ingredient, by the way)

~ 1 TB smoked salt (mine came from a trip to Italy, but you can find it here or make your own)

~ 1 TB minced garlic

~ 1 1/2 cups of water

Brown the bacon using the Saute’ setting on the Instant Pot. Spoon out the bacon then brown the pork roast on all sides. Then add the bacon back in, the garlic, the liquid smoke, the water and then the salt. Put it on high pressure for 1:45, then let the pressure naturally decrease.

Serve with whatever sides sound good to you. We’re doing bread, avocados and cilantro-lime rice. Bon appe’tit!

The meal was wonderful, with fall-apart pork and a deep smoky flavor. Best of all, it was incredibly easy – hardly any prep time required for a big meal that fed 4 adults and one child and made plenty of leftovers.

This, plus some bacon, added smokey flavor

Home Cooking – Polish Pizza (Pizza with Bacon, Onions and Cream)

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

Forgive me for naming this dish Polish Pizza, when, in fact, I happened upon the recipe under a much more elegant and descriptive name – Pizza with Bacon, Onion and Cream. But I made this last night, after a week of sub-freezing temperatures and gray skies, and it reminded me of the warm, rich foods I associate with the Eastern European side of myself.

For crust, I mixed together a cup and a half of flour, a half cup of warm water, around a tablespoon of olive oil, a little less than a teaspoon of yeast, and a little less than that of salt, and stirred it until it formed a ball and I could knead it in my hands. If the thought of kneading dough brings even a touch of technique-intimidation to you, all you need to know is that massaging moistened flour makes dough. I’ve seen cookbooks offer helpful diagrams with quarter-turns and arrows, but all you really need to do is to give it a deep massage. I roll it between my hands, fold it over on the cutting board, and just kind of free-form wrestle with it until it feels like a cohesive ball that wants to stay together. If I poke it with a finger and the dough pulls together to shrink the indentation, then it’s ready.

The sauce for this pizza is what made it seem Polish to me. It was a half cup of ricotta cheese, a half cup of sour cream, and a generous amount of fresh-ground black pepper – maybe a tablespoon? I know ricotta is not Polish, but that sauce tasted just like the filling of my mother’s pierogies – one of my favorite things in the whole world. On top of that I spread bits of crispy bacon, and onion caramelized by slow cooking in the bacon grease. Then I baked it on the bottom rack of a 450 degree oven until the crust was golden brown and super-crisp.

Technically, it was a pizza, but pizzas are sunshine, tomatoes, and snappy spice. This was solid, deep, and snowy-colored. It was pizza, but it had a Polish soul.

Real Ragu Sauce Doesn’t Come in Jars

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

It’s ironic that if you mention ragu to most Americans, they think of the epitome of convenience – jarred spaghetti sauce. If you mention it to someone who has tasted the real thing, though, it conjures almost the opposite mental image – meat cooked for hours in sauteed vegetables and sauce until it falls apart into shreds, creating a luscious, rich sauce with incredible meatiness.

On Sunday, I prepared this masterpiece for friends with a couple culinary quirks. One does not eat ground meats, and one is allergic to onions. The proscription on ground beef was not a problem for ragu – only bastardized short-cut recipes employ ground beef, but the absence of onions called for a bit of adaptation. I increased the celery and garlic substantially – I would have happily substituted shallots, but I wasn’t sure if the onion allergy would extend to shallots. I’ll do a lot to increase depth of flavor, but putting a friend into anaphylactic shock seems extreme.

To make my version, I started with 4 pounds of boneless beef chuck short ribs. These have become my go-to meat for stews, chilis, and other recipes where “stew meat” might otherwise be called for. The meat is marbled, tender, tasty and easily available at Costco.

Most recipes call for the meat to be browned in oil, but I’m a Kansas Citian, and I love my grill, so I browned the meat close to charring and made the neighbors drool. I figure that by dripping the fat through the grill, I may be avoiding a little bit of fat in the sauce, and it adds a better flavor than I can ever achieve by browning in a saute pan. That’s just Kansas City Culinary Improv – if you prefer to brown the meat on a stove top, then do so.

After the meat was seared on the grill, I roughly chopped a few carrots and 6 stalks of celery, and minced around 12 cloves of garlic. That went into a big pot with some olive oil, and I sauteed them until they started to soften up. While that was going on, I added the meat after cutting it into chunks, and I added a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and a similar amount of fresh thyme. I rummaged through our dry spice jars and tossed other things in – I think some bay leaves, oregano, sage and basil made their way to the pan, along with salt and a generous grinding of pepper.

Let me tell you, meat, garlic, celery and herbs sauteing in olive oil makes wonderful kitchen perfume.

After the vegetables had started to soften, I added a bottle of red wine. Not great red wine, but not “cooking wine”, either. I used a cab/merlot blend, but a great dry Italian red would have been more authentic. I simmered that for about an hour, then added two 28 ounce cans of crushed Italian tomatoes, covered it, and put it in an oven at 275 for most of the afternoon.

Most recipes call for shredding the meat with a fork after letting it cool. My sauce was thick enough that I just went after it with a potato masher.

I wound up using the sauce in a rich lasagna, but it tastes great over plain pasta, too. It freezes well, which makes future meals almost as convenient as its jarred namesake.

Easy Great Bread at Home in 5 Minutes

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

I’ve written about my sourdough baking, and I got comments and emails about people’s love of home-made fresh bread. But it’s an hours-long process, requiring attentive measuring and careful timing, with uncertain results, particularly for newbie bakers. With Farm-to-Market’s wonderful bread on supermarket shelves, and Fervere producing some of the best breads in the world, you can avoid the whole hassle for 4 or 5 bucks.

But you can make your whole house smell like baking bread for cents a loaf, and be rewarded with a truly top-notch bread, way up there with Farm-to-Market, without worry and without scheduling your day around it. I don’t mean to sound like a street corner evangelist, or a side-show barker, but, seriously, I mean YOU, you should have fresh bread this week.

The secret is cold, wet dough. You spend a few minutes mixing together 3 cups of water, a table spoon and a half of yeast, two teaspoons of salt (more or less, depending on your taste), and six and a half cups of flour in a bowl with a spoon (no kneading), let it sit, covered loosely, for a couple hours, then put it in your refrigerator. Over the next couple weeks (if it lasts that long), you put flour on your hands, grab a grapefruit sized chunk of it, shape it into a sticky ball, let it rest for 40 minutes, and then bake it in a 450 degree oven for half an hour or so. Your hands are dirty for under 5 minutes, and you’ll be pulling an awesome loaf of bread out of the oven in less time than it takes for 3 episodes of “Scrubs”.

I meant to post a picture of one of the loaves I made this week, but it fell victim to breakfast toast.

If you want to learn more, and make the bread even better, this article is what turned me on to this miracle method, and it has a few tips that are absolutely worth it, like using a pizza stone and putting a pan of water in when you bake the bread. The authors of the article also have a blog and a couple books (Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking and Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients). I haven’t even read the books yet – the Kansas City Public Library (yea, Waldo Branch!) is working on it for me – but I’ve been wildly impressed with the breads I’ve made over the past couple weeks.

Pasta Carbonara in Minutes – and the Fiction of Recipes

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

For most dishes, recipes are an inspiration, not a road map. There’s no point in stressing over exact measurements for most recipes – differences in technique and ingredients are going to make your dish an individual creation anyhow. Relax, be yourself, and make it the way you like it.

Pasta carbonara is a great example of this approach. In essence, it’s bacon and eggs with pasta – breakfast bolstered for dinner. Calvin Trillin argues that it ought to replace turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, though I don’t go quite that far. Turkey deserves its place as a once-a-year struggle, while pasta carbonara ought to be in the regular rotation of weeknight dinners.

Here’s how I made it last night. I am completely capable of writing this in the traditional format of recipes, with a list of ingredients followed by cooking instructions, but I’d prefer to break out of that mold. This is not a scientific formula to be slavishly recreated. I started a pound of pasta boiling, and fried up a third of a pound of pancetta, adding a a few cloves of minced garlic when it was almost crisp. When the garlic was softened and the pasta cooked to my liking, I tossed the drained pasta in with the pancetta along with a little bit of the pasta water, removed it from the heat, tossed in 4 eggs I had whipped with salt and pepper, stirred that vigorously together, and then stirred in about a cup of parmesan and some parsley.

That’s all, folks. In the time it would have taken to heat up two microwave dinners, I made enough pasta carbonara to make dinner and a couple hearty lunches.

At almost every point in that brief recipe, though, there was room to add your own preferences. I used pancetta this time, but bacon works great, and so does prosciutto. Go with your preference. I used a pretty heavy hand with the garlic – use as much or as little as you like, and add it early if you want its flavor to mellow and meld, or add it late if you want it to be sharp. Use as much or as little pasta water as you like to get the consistency you prefer, or toss in a little white wine to give it a touch of acid. Use as many eggs as you see fit, and substitute different cheeses for the parmesan – or simply use a different grade of parmesan. (I was lazy last night, and used the parmesan that had been grated at the store – I could have easily upgraded by buying a chunk of real parmesan and firing up the food processor.) If you want, you can add capers or olives, and you can toss in herbs.

Even if I had set out to accurately recreate someone else’s recipe, it’s doubtful that I could recreate exactly what the recipe writer makes. How crisp is crisp pancetta? What brand of pancetta are we each using? They’re not all the same. Even the pasta and eggs have subtle differences and vary in freshness – not to even mention the possibility of home-made pasta. The cheese is a wild card – even IF we both chose parmesan, it’s unlikely that they’re going to taste very much the same.

Most recipes are springboards to get you started creating. Don’t fear the recipe police. Go with your preferences.

Milk-Braised Pork Roast

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

On Sunday, I had the time and inclination to try making something new. My wife suggested pork for dinner, and off I went to find something new and exciting in the pork world.

The answer came from Molly Stevens‘ soul-satisfying book, All About Braising. Her recipe for Pork Loin Braised in Milk is simple but unusual, and it came out fantastic.

To prepare it, cut several cloves of garlic into slivers, and mix them with spices. I used sage and fennel seed, but you could substitute whatever you prefer. I poked holes all over a 2.5 pound pork loin roast, inserted the spiced garlic slivers, and then salted and peppered the roast. I let it sit for a few hours before browning it in cast iron pan a mixture of oil and butter. After it was browned, I removed the roast, and tossed in a little extra garlic, stirring it till it was toasty. Then I poured in a cup and a half of whole milk, brought it to a boil while stirring the brown bits up from the bottom. After it was boiling, I returned the roast and juices to the pan, and turned off the burner. I put the lid on and put the whole thing in the oven at 250 for around an hour and a half, turning it half-way through.

After taking it out of the oven, I put the roast on a carving board and covered it. The milk had transformed itself into soft, tan curdly sauce. I removed some (but not all) of the fat (pork is so lean these days there wasn’t much) and boiled the sauce until it thickened a little, adding a little salt and pepper and just a few drops of lemon juice. When I served it, the meat was tender and moist, and the sauce complemented the sweetness of the pork.

Next time I try it, I might toss in a few halved new potatoes, but it was just fine served with steamed broccoli. I had never considered milk to be a braising liquid before Sunday . . .

Beef and Pickles

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Sunday nights are the best for cooking in the Gone Mild household. Weekdays call out creativity in terms of meeting the twin challenges of tasty and nutritious, but time is a limiting factor. Sometimes, the extra challenge inspires, but nothing inspires quite like having an entire Sunday afternoon to shop, cook and serve.

Yesterday, I tackled a German challenge. Rouladen are a traditional German food consisting of beef rolled around onions, mustard, bacon and pickles, and then simmered in gravy for hours. I first had them years ago as prepared by my sister-in-law, and somehow they came up in an IM chat with Karl Timmerman (author of the Weekly Ramblings – a must read for solo and small firm lawyers) on Friday evening.

Yesterday, I bought a bunch of round steak, cut it into 4X6 inch pieces, and pounded it to tenderize and flatten it. (Yes, I know I just offered up a straight line, so have your Junior High fun . . .) Then spread it with mustard (I used dijon, but yellow is fine), chopped onion, chopped raw bacon, pepper, and dill pickle cut into chunks. Then roll it up and tie it with kitchen twine.

Brown the rolls a couple at a time in oil, removing them when browned. After the browning is done, mix in a quarter cup of flour, a little garlic, and a couple tables spoons of tomato paste. After that mix starts to brown, add two cups of water and stir like crazy until the chunks of flour break up. Toss in whatever chopped onion or bacon you have left, put the beef rolls back in the pot, cover, and simmer for a couple hours.

I served them with boiled new red potatoes tossed in butter and parsley, and with cauliflower. I love cooking cauliflower with all kinds of spices and flavors – they absorb flavor and show off color. In this instance, I used onion, Scimeca’s Famous Chicken Spiedini Marinade, smoked paprika, a little cayenne, turmeric and chicken broth.

The rouladen had tremendous flavor. The pickles, when simmered for hours, blend with the bacon and mustard and onion to create a fantastic sweet/savory gravy with just a hint of sour. The meat, however, remained a little tough. I should have called ahead and asked the butcher to slice a few round steaks extra thin, or I should have . . . well, tenderized it more.

There are dozens of variations of rouladen – some don’t even use pickles. If he reads my version, I’m confident Karl will, in fine Germanic fashion, point out where I have strayed from his orthodoxy in several specifics. The fun thing about cooking last night, though, was that I put together a meal based on a long-ago memory and a whole bunch of on-line recipes. I didn’t have anyone to demonstrate the techniques or offer definitive opinions on how much mustard to use. I just read up on an unusual recipe, used my own judgment, and tried it.

I’m sure my version has room for improvement. It didn’t come close to matching the rouladen of my memory. But it was a really good meal, and out of the ordinary. It provided a good background for a little beer, a little wine, and a lot of conversation with friends.

Sundays are my favorite day for cooking.