Sunday, January 29, 2012

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork

Growing up in Michigan and then moving to North Carolina I never got much of a chance to follow a football team to the Super Bowl. This year being a fan of the Lions and the Panthers was kind of like Charlie Brown kicking the football. Every year Lucy convinces Charlie to kick the football, even though it is against his better judgment and old Charlie falls flat on his back. This year the Lions and the Panthers actually showed signs that they might be able to at least make it to the playoffs, but at the last minute they both ended up falling flat on their backsides. But if I did have a team that made it to the Super Bowl this would be a great tailgate dish for the party.

This recipe is based on Cook's Illustrated's North Carolina Pulled Pork from Slow Cooker Revolution. I could not find smoked ham hocks so I substituted the bacon for the hocks, hoping to keep the pork flavor but add some smoke flavor. The bacon had completely disintegrated, during the long cooking time. I also switched paprika for smoked paprika to give it a smoked flavor. Remember true NC pulled pork sandwiches are served with coleslaw on the bun with the meat.

North Carolina Pulled Pork
6 tbs brown sugar
1/4 cup smoked paprika (original called for regular paprika)
2 tbs chili powder
1 tbs ground cumin
2 tsp salt
1 tbs fresh ground pepper
1 5 pound boneless pork butt roast, trimmed and quartered
6 oz bacon (original called for 3 smoked ham hocks)
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup ketchup
1 1/2 tsp liquid smoke

Mix 3 tbs of brown sugar, the paprika, chili powder, cumin, 2 tsp salt and 1 tbs pepper in a large bowl. Poke the pork all over with a fork. Roll the pork in the sugar mixture until completely covered. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours.

Lay the bacon across the bottom of the slow cooker. Unwrap the pork and lay it on top of the bacon. Pour the broth over the meat. Cover the slow cooker and cook for 5 to 7 hours on high or 9 to 11 hours on low.

Remove the pork form slow cooker and let it cool. The bacon should have dissolved into the cooking liquid. Let the cooking liquid cool for 5 minutes then skim any fat off the top.

Pour the cooking liquid into a saucepan, skimming any bits and pieces out as you pour it. Cook until you have about 1 cup of liquid left, this will take about 30 minutes. Add vinegar, ketchup, liquid smoke and remaining 3 tbs of brown sugar to liquid. Whisk it and bring to simmer. Add salt and pepper if needed.

Shred the pork while the sauce is reducing. This should be easy as it will be falling apart as you touch it. Toss the pork with 1 1/2 cups of the sauce. Put the remaining sauce on the table, so people can add more if they like.
NC style pulled pork with the slaw on the sandwich.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mexican Pizza and Top 10 for Food Bloggers

After watching the food blogs the last few weeks apparently there is some sort of food blogger rule that says between the last week of December and by mid-January a blogger must post a top 10 list. Some post the best recipes of the year, some the best photos and some promise what they will do during the next year. My list is slightly different approach. The Top Ten Foodie Trends I Don't Understand.

Top Ten Foodie Trends I Don't Understand
9. Why does it have to be 10 things?
8. Highly specialized cooking gadgets. There is a new popsicle maker on the market it makes 2 popsicles at a time and sells for $50. Have you never heard of dixie cup, recycled popsicle stick and a freezer? Cost .03 cents. Maybe I have watched to much Alton Brown and believe his slogan Death to Uni-taskers.
7. Bacon - I like bacon. I have 2 bacon t-shirts. But this bacon thing has gone to far. Bacon Mints, Bacon toothpaste, bacon soap, and the thing that pushed me over the edge bacon nativity scene. Bacon has officially jumped the shark.
6. Cupcakes - when they started bacon cupcakes, there are 1,140,000 images in the Google search, cupcakes jumped the shark.
5. Grains - This years grain of the year is quinoa. I think the reason it is so popular is because no 2 people pronounce it the same way, so every time you hear the name it sounds new and run out and buy it. Now everybody has 12 boxes of quinoa and they have to cook with it. Yes I understand grains are good for you, but why all of these exotic 3 times more expensive than oat, barley and corn grains. Oh wait I think I just answered my own question.
4.  Gluten Free - I know some people actually have a medical problem with gluten and they are exempt from my rant. I have seen foods that have never had gluten advertised as gluten free, while this may be true the fact that they are advertising it implies that other brands contain it. Gluten is generally found in processed foods and grains. Gluten has become the new "fat" we must get rid of it in all food.
3. Sliders - Smaller burgers are good right? Except they are small so people eat twice as many and end up eating more fat and calories than if they would have eaten the full size burger.
2. Making things in a jar - why do we want to make it harder to get things out of the container. Tall and skinny usually means awkward and hard to get at.
1. Pops/balls - I don't like to bake so maybe I am missing the idea of why these are good. But why would you make a cake then squish it into a ball and then put it on a stick? If some one would hand you a piece of cake that is all squished up you wouldn't eat it.

Mexican Pizza
2 tortillas
1/2 can refried beans
1 cup Mexican Chicken

Salsa, sour cream, black olives, green onions, red onion, tomato, jalapeƱo, queso fresco or any other favorite topping to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss the tortillas in the oven and heat them until they start to bubble. remove them and they will finish crisping as they sit. While the tortillas are crisping heat the beans and chicken. Spread some beans over the tortilla, then put down a layer of the chicken. Top that with some cheese. Put back in the oven until the the cheese melts. remove and top with the other ingredients.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Turkey Noodle Soup

 At Thanksgiving I did something I haven't done for awhile, I made turkey stock. I tried a different approach this year than I have in the past. I put the stock brought it to a boil and then turned it down to a simmer and promptly for got about it. After 6 or 7 hours I had achieved a stock about the consistency of turkey jello. This is actually a success you want thick stock for the most flavor.

Turkey Stock
1 turkey carcass, you might have to cut it into smaller pieces to fit in your stockpot
1 onion, peel the skin off and cut into quarters
3 ribs celery, cut into quarters you don't have to remove the leaves
3 carrots, cut into quarters
3 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
Enough water to cover all of the ingredients

Put everything in a large stockpot and bring to boil. After it starts to boil turn down to a slow simmer and check it periodically to make sure their is enough liquid in the pot. You shouldn't have to worry about it evaporating that much if you are simmering not boiling the water. When the liquid becomes thick the stock is ready. Drain through a sieve into a pot so the bones and vegetables are caught in the save and the stock goes into the pot.

Turkey Soup
1 tbs olive oil
1 onion, cut into a small dice
3 carrots, cut into bite size pieces
1 tbs mixed dried herbs, I used thyme, parsley and sage
8 oz cooked turkey, cut into bite size pieces
1 qt. of turkey stock, you can use store bought chicken stock
3 oz of egg noodles, homemade are best but you can use store bought

In a large pot, such as a dutch oven, heat oil to medium heat. Add the onion and carrots, cook until tender. Add the herbs and turkey and cook until turkey is heated through. Then turn up to high and add the stock. When the stock starts to boil turn heat down to simmer. While soup is simmering add water to another pot and bring to boil add the noodles. Cook noodles as directed on the package. When the noodles are done add to soup and remove from heat and serve. Note you can add cook the noodles in the soup but you will need to add 1 1/2 quarts of stock to the soup as you will have to leave the soup boiling while the noodles cook. The noodles will absorb some liquid and some will evaporate.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Irish Dinner Party

Over the holidays I invited a few friends over that went to Ireland with us. I served food that we had eaten  while we were in Ireland or at least my version of the food. We started by serving mead, a fermented honey drink that is served at room temperature or in cool weather you can heated it and add cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Along with the mead we had various Irish cheeses.

For the first course I served a salad with pears, goat cheese and pecans. Mixed greens with pears, goat cheese and pecans is no big deal and I was trying to think of a way to jazz it up. I realized that with the appetizers we served the mead, the main course was Guinness Stew and the dessert course had Jameson's Irish Whiskey. Could I add an Irish alcohol to the salad? Of course I can. The women with us frequently drank Bulmers Irish Cider at the pubs. Bulmers is a sweet tasting hard cider made from apples. I opted to replace the acid in dressing with Bulmers. By adding honey and Dijon mustard I had created an amazing dressing and added an Irish alcohol to each course. Seriously this salad dressing was one of the best things  I made that night. Bulmers is available in the US as Magners Irish Cider.

Magners Salad Dressing
1/4 cup honey
1/4 Dijon Mustard
1 Magners Irish Cider, you will only use a little bit so you will have to drink most of a bottle :-)

In a small bowl mix the honey and Dijon mustard. Slowly drizzle the Magners Irish Cider into the bowl until the dressing is the consistency you want. Taste it and adjust as needed.

Along with the Guinness Stew I made Potato Cakes. One of the people on the trip with us tries to eat a vegetarian diet and she liked the Potato Cakes we frequently found in the pubs. This is an estimate as I totally winged this recipe. There is no milk in the mashed potatoes as you want to keep them dry when you fry them.

Potato Cake
1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes
2 tbs butter
1/2 cup spinach, cut into fine ribbons
4 green onions, chopped finely
1/2 cup flour
2 tbs olive oil

Peel and cut potatoes into small pieces. Add to pot and bring to boil. Cook until potatoes are soft, but do not over cook. Drain the potatoes. Add butter, spinach and onions to potatoes in pan. Mash the potatoes. Take the potatoes and form into a flat round shape. These can be thin like a cookie or thick like a hockey puck. Sprinkle flour on each side. In a frying pan heat heat Olive oil. Add potato cakes but do not overcrowd in the pan. Cook until potato cakes are browned and then flip over and brown the other side. Remove and sit them on paper towel until all of the cakes are cooked. Serve immediately.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Lentil and Sausage Soup

My wife and I have given up going out for New Years, we just spend the evening at home. We have a nice dinner, usually lobster of some kind. Open a bottle of presecco with the lobster and finish it at midnight. Presecco is a sparkling wine from Italy. It is sweet and tastes very much like Asti if you have had that. Presecco is the traditional alcohol used for making Bellini's. My wife and I prefer it over champaign. This year only one of us made it past 10:30 PM, but I won't embarrass my wife by telling you she fell asleep at 9:00 PM slept until 10:00. Then she watched most of the news and then went upstairs to bed.
For New Years Day we had a bowl of sausage and lentil soup. Lentils and pork (the sausage) are both considered symbols of good luck in Italy. Lentils are also a symbol for money. I don't know anybody who doesn't want good luck and money so it just seems like a good idea to start the new year.

Lentil and Sausage Soup
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. Cotechino Sausage, or any pork sausage cut into small dice
1 medium carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced see note
1/2 pt cherry tomatoes, halved
2 14.5 oz cans Lentils or 1 pound dried
3 cups water
salt, to taste
crushed red pepper, to taste

Note: I don't use cherry tomatoes I use canned "small tomatoes from the hillside" from Italy. These tomatoes have been peeled and are grown on the mountainside in volcanic soil. So you can peel you cherry tomatoes or find pomodorini di collina on the internet or eat an Italian import store like I did. The brand that I have is Annalisa.

In a dutch oven over medium heat add the olive oil. When olive oil is hot add the sausage and cook for 3 minutes. Add the carrot, celery, garlic and tomatoes. Cook for 10 minutes until vegetables are soft. Add the lentils and water, bring soup to simmer, cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Season with salt and crushed red pepper.