Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More pasta sauce!

I think it's clear that there is some strong Italian blood in these Mexican Irish veins if my propensity for tomato sauces is any indication. My grandmother (the Irish part) made the yummiest bolognese around though, so maybe we're just creative geniuses with tomatoes.
Rather than purchase a jar of sauce last night, I figured I'd use up some of my many cans of tomatoes and make my own to go with the whole wheat three cheese tortellini I had.
2 cloves of garlic - smashed
1 medium onion - cut in half and very thinly sliced
2 cans tomatoes - I used one can of plum tomatoes with oregano and basil, and one can of diced tomatoes
3/4 can tomato paste
1-2 tbsp dried basil (to taste)
pinch of oregano
pinch of red pepper flakes
glug of olive oil

I went twice around my pot with the oil, let it heat over medium high, then added the garlic and onion and cooked until fragrant and just soft. Then I added the two cans of tomatoes and let cook for a few minutes.
Next, I added the tomato paste and the herbs, mixed everything well, turned it down to low and put a lid on it to simmer.
Stirring occasionally, once it looked thick enough I was done. I didn't even need to add salt and pepper it was so perfectly yummy and ready to go. I put half of it in the freezer, and mixed in 1/4 cup or so of fat free half and half into what was still in the pot to make a pink sauce. At that point I felt like I could've gone with another clove of garlic, but darn it was tasty.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pulled Pork

Okay y'all - it's time to talk pork. Forgive the twang but I'm in Savannah soaking up the south and you can't help but start saying y'all almost immediately.
One day, the Mistress of Butter herself came on tv and started making pulled pork. I'm a bit of a fan, so I hit record on my TiFaux (stolen from TWOP, sorry guys) and that was it. Some days or weeks later, I saw "Paula Deen" sitting in there and thought, "What the? I don't like Paula Deen. How good could that pork have been anyway, and furthermore, I'm sure I can just get the recipe online." And deleted it. If you wonder why I'm not a huge Deen fan, it's her copious usage of butter, mayonnaise and crushed up "putaytuh chiyips" as main ingredients in her dishes; oh, and things like this. I'm not from the South, I just don't get it.
Fast forward to yesterday. I'm in Savannah, my hotel is three blocks from Deensneyland. I went to my bank just around the corner, it was lunch time and it had started to rain. Major road construction + filthy street sweepers flinging mud and rocks + rain + white pants and a silk blouse do not = good things. I ducked into The Lady and Sons hoping the genius over at Mock Eel would still speak to me once he found out.
It's been 24 hours, and I'm wondering if the same people are working today, because I think I'd really like to go back and have another pulled pork sandwich without being given the pig eye. I even ate the slaw y'all. And you should know I don't do mayonnaise, unlike Ms. Deen. This has renewed my passion for her pulled pork recipe, which is featured on Food Network.
Here is that recipe; now I just have to find the time and dedication to try preparing it myself. You'll probably want to come over that day. Oh, if you do, could you please bring a dutch oven? Thanks. (so help me, if you're giggling that you're going to give me a fart wrapped in a blanket you're totally uninvited)

BBQ Pork Sandwich Recipe courtesy Paula Deen

Dry rub:
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons black pepper
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons paprika
1/2 tablespoon cayenne
4 pound shoulder pork roast

2 cup apple juice
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
1/2 tablespoon liquid smoke
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder

6 soft hamburger buns with seeds
Bbq sauce
Cole slaw

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Mix the dry rub ingredients in small bowl. Sprinkle dry rub all over the pork roast, pressing into the pork. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Combine liquid ingredients and the garlic powder in a medium bowl and pour into a large Dutch oven. Place pork in the oven and tightly cover with aluminum foil then lid. Roast for 4 hours or until fork tender and shreds easily. Brush the roast with cooking liquid every hour.

Remove from oven and let stand until cool enough to handle. Shred the pork with a fork or tongs into bite size pieces.

Serve on hamburger buns topped with BBQ sauce and cole slaw.

Recipe Summary
Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Yield: 6 servings

As for the slaw, I imagine this is it here:
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
1/2 large carrot, chopped
1/8 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cabbage head
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt (recommended: Jane's Krazy Mixed-up salt) - you know it's truly crazy when they spell it with a k I guess
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Using a food processor, gently process the bell pepper, onion, carrot, and parsley, being careful not to over process. Cut 1/2 of the cabbage into chunks and place in the food processor and process lightly, making sure the cabbage doesn't become mushy. Slice the remaining cabbage thinly. Mix the cabbage together with the processed vegetables. In a separate bowl, mix the remaining ingredients together and allow to stand for a few minutes. Combine the mayonnaise mixture with the vegetables and toss. Chill for 1 hour.
Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 1 hour
Yield: 6 servings

My conclusions thus far clearly show that Southern cooking takes a damn long time. Perhaps this is why so many women here have remained thin. There is just no time to prepare this stuff, nor do you want to be anywhere near a stove when it's so hot out.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fall flavors to celebrate Summer in SF

A few weeks ago I had dinner plans with my mom. Not in the mood to go out, and having withdrawals from a lack of kitchen time lately, I invited her up for dinner. I may have had to bribe her with one of her favorite dishes since I know she gets nervous driving through city streets and hunting for parking. My bait? "Impossible Chicken n Broccoli Pie" from an old Bisquick recipe book I was given when I first started cooking.
The impossible stands for impossibly easy in this case. Fantastic in the fall (or brisk SF summers) because it's warm and comforting, and the veggies you use are frozen. I highly recommend it.

1 10 oz package frozen chopped broccoli - you can just toss it into a colander in the sink and let it thaw as you cook the chicken and get everything ready. If it's not thawing fast enough, or I waited too long to pull it out, I just run some water over it and break it up with my hands. Caution - if you choose to do this you should know that your hands will turn bright red and lose all feeling.
2 c shredded cheddar cheese - jack would be good too, but I like the tang from the cheddar
1 c cooked chicken, cut into bite sized pieces - if I'm lucky, I'll pick up a roaster chicken and it's done for me; if I'm not, I just boil some skinless boneless breasts (or better yet the little tenders since they cook faster and I'm impatient). I know, what am I, Irish?! Boiling chicken. Honestly. But don't worry, you still get plenty of flavor.
1/2 cup of chopped onion (I hate recipes that say "medium" or "small" onions - what size is that any more?!), but I think I typically just use the entire onion if it's close, so I may end up with 3/4 cup
1/2 cup Bisquick
1 cup of milk (yes, I use nonfat)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper - I use more s&p than this. I find it just a bit bland with this ratio, and depending on your onion, maybe a touch too sweet. And really, anyone who still thinks I'm actually measuring these things out at this point is delusional.

Preheat your oven to 400 F and grease a glass pie plate - I use olive oil spray, the Pam kind, but it really tends to stick, especially if you stir later, so be generous or use butter or Crisco or something awful like that.
To avoid the stirring quandary, you can toss the chicken, broccoli, onion and 1 1/2 cups of cheese in advance, and then add them to the plate. It's much easier to do it this way anyhow.
Whisk the eggs, milk, Bisquick, s&p to get most of the big lumps out - some lumps are okay. Pour over the top of everything in the pie plate and shake gently to distribute.
Bake for 30-45 minutes, until a knife comes out clean from the center. Now sprinkle it with the rest of the cheese and pop it back in until the cheese melts (and gets a bit brown if you're like me).
Now the hard part. Letting it cool. See, at this point your entire house smells delicious and if it's one of those dreary days you are really looking forward to eating the hell out of this (and please, don't be alarmed if you can eat half of the entire pie dish yourself - this appears to be completely normal; in fact, you may want to make two at the same time just so you can have some leftovers), but you MUST LET IT COOL. Cutting into it too soon does nothing but make you regret it. If you just can't wait, forget all about cutting nice slices or wedges out, and just get a big old spoon and glop it onto the plate. Don't burn the roof of your mouth.

If this has you in the mood for more yummy fall flavors, check out this awesome dinner over at Mock Eel!

Speaking of Vanilla

I can't stop thinking about making my own vanilla extract since I saw it in a magazine. Then I can use the old pods for making vanilla scented sugar and then. . . . creme brulee. * drool *
I've only fallen for creme brulee in the last year or so, and man, I would eat it every day if I didn't know what was in it. In fact, I loved that I didn't like it since I'm such a dessertie - that was one thing I could always skip. Now I'm looking for seconds. Damn you palate!!
Check out this instructable for making your own extract.
Check out this recipe for creme brulee from Alton Brown.
Now make them and invite me over. I promise to make you some lavender/vanilla lemonade, I just have to work the recipe out a little. Stay tuned.