A lot Like Matt

Have you ever had the pleasure of meeting Matt? As in “Fat Matt?”

No really that is his real name!

Well I had the pleasure some years back of going to see him in his hometown of Atlanta Georgia. Yup some of the finest BBQ you will ever experience. None other than “Fat Matt’s Rib Shack!”

While I can’t imagine be able to replicate BBQ anywhere near what they do so well down there, I do try on occasion to make an old-fashioned plate of BBQ.

served

Serve it like Matt does with slaw, white bread and pickles but this could easily be on a bun or over rice and beans!

While they didn’t ask me or pay me to talk nice about them – if anybody out there wants to send some of their food my way – email me and we can make it happen!

In the meantime I can’t emphasis how easy it is to make some more than acceptable BBQ at home. With your slowcooker. Yup no grill and no smoker needed, just the slow cooker.

The secret to sucess is that you purchase a high quality jar of sauce – preferably one with a “smoky” flavor built-in. I simply pour a jar of sauce over a small roast (usually 3lbs+/- for me) into my relatively small slow cooker, cover and cook on high for at least 4-6 hours. If you are feeding a crowd or want lots of leftovers (freezes well!) you can double the meat and use two jars of sauce. You don’t need to add anything else unless you want to.

So if you can’t get down to Atlanta, this could be an easy alternative!

 

Light And Bright

That’s how I like my chicken soup.

I like a broth that is flavorful and rich but still light and little sparkle from some lemon never hurt any chicken soup.

This soup makes a nice cheerful bowl in March, especially when winter never seems to end !

chicken soup

This soup couldn’t be easier…

I started out with some diced chicken breast and onions in a slow cooker with enough water (fortified with a bouillon cube)  to fill the cooker. (I was out of box stock but you could use that too or homemade if you had it!) I added carrots and lima beans from the freezer about halfway through.  I cooked the light egg noodles separate and just spoon the soup over at serving time with plenty of salt and pepper and a generous twist of lemon when you serve. If you had some leftover rice, that would be nice too. Cooking times vary depending on your slow cooker and whether you use the low or high setting, but basically you need the chicken to be cooked through and frozen veggies too.

Slow-Cooker Chinese Food

Yup. Chinese food in the slow-cooker!

I was inspired by Lydia over at The Perfect Pantry to try my hand at this crazy mix of flavor and easy cooking method.

And it was easy. She was doing chicken – but I had stew beef in the freezer so that is what I went with. I added some water chestnuts and fresh broccoli florets in the last 30 mins and cooked some rice on the side in my trusty rice cooker and voila! Beef and Broccoli. A fine staple of any Chinese-American restaurant around.

It was "sauc-ier" than it looks the rice absorbed all of it! yum!

It was “sauc-ier” than it looks, the rice absorbed all of it! yum!

Production Notes

1.5 +/-  stew beef

2 Tb finely minced garlic

1 Tb rice vinegar

2 Tsp brown sugar

2 Tsp ginger (fresh, minced is nice; I used dried, powdered)

1/3 cup soy sauce

1 Tsp +/- grated orange zest + the juice of the orange

1/2 Tsp ground black pepper (or to taste)

1 Tsp Chinese 5-spice

2/3 cup chicken or beef stock

1 small onion sliced

1 Tbsp Cornstarch or Arrowroot dissolved into 2 Tbsp water

Several “crowns” of fresh broccoli chopped into bite size or 1 small bag of frozen (defrost but don’t cook first)

Combine garlic, vinegar, sugar, ginger, soy sauce, orange zest/juice, black pepper and Chinese 5-spice with a whisk. Pour over meat and onions which you have already placed in the slow cooker. Cook on high 4 hours or so OR low for 6-8 hours. Whisk in the cornstarch or arrowroot slurry about an hour before serving and add the broccoli about 30 mins before serving.

If you wanted a thicker sauce and was feeling like the extra work – you could remove the beef from the slow cooker (without adding the slurry and broccoli yet) strain the sauce and heat it to a boil in a sauce pan. Than you could add the slurry to the sauce, cook for a bit  and make it thick and rich. Add everything back in (beef, sauce and now add the broccoli) and serve once the broccoli is cooked to your liking – just keep any eye on the heat so you don’t burn. ( i.e. turn slow-cooker down) This would be great to bring to the office potluck!

“Juicy” BBQ Pork Roast

And by “juicy” – I mean both moist and made with actual “juice!”

Pomegranate/dragon fruit juice – you know the one that comes in a small, curvy bottle.

Here is the supporting cast of characters….

Think “sweet and spicy” pulled pork on rolls with bread/butter pickles! Also great over mashed potatoes which is how I ate it!!

I simply whisked all these guys together with the diced onion and added it to the slowcooker with the pork.

..but I did take the effort to “put a little brown” on the pork roast first by searing it in a pan. And then it was “everybody in the hot tub!”

I think it was worth it to take the time to “caramelize” the outside (fancy cooking term) but you can decide if you want to clean the extra pan. Also worth noting…make sure you set your slow-cooker to the correct setting for the day. i.e. lower if you are going longer or higher if you are going shorter. Otherwise you might come home to a delicious but REALLY falling apart pork due to an overly long time on high setting. (Not that I am speaking from experience or anything.)

Production Notes

Actual recipe for sauce…

2lb +/- pork roast

16oz Pomegranate juice or juice blend ( I happened to have a “lite” version on hand)

3 heaping tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 med onion diced

6oz can of tomato paste

1 tsp ground Ancho chili powder

2 tbsp “Galena Street” seasoning from Penzey’s or whatever your favorite BBQ seasoning is

1 tsp ground Cumin

S&P to taste

Whisk to combine and add to slow cooker with meat and onion or simmer on low heat for a while to serve as a side sauce with just about anything!

Can These Two Be Friends?

I had some chicken thighs defrosting and a hankering for some “Indian food.” So instead of following a recipe, I just got out two spices I think of  as “Indian.”

In reality “madras curry” is a British invention and “Sate/Satay” is from the Indonesian islands, not actually India. Fusion cooking right?

I coated my chicken in a heavy dose of the Sate seasoning and browned them in the skillet first.

After that, I removed the chicken and tossed in some sliced onions and my very own green peppers grown in my garden! (Toot-tooting my own horn!)

After that I added diced sweet red bell pepper, a couple fresh garlic cloves, lots of curry powder and some tomato paste and let that kinda “toast” for a minute. If you like it hot, add something hot like chili flakes or hot peppers. I de-glazed the pan with some stock and threw everybody into the hot tub! (slowcooker)

Cook for many hours, until you can’t stand how good it smells and add some frozen peas (my husband is obsessed with them) about 30 mins before serving (not shown here) and serve with the Naan you found in the freezer this morning, which started this whole fusion-travel-food journey in the first place!

Dinner for Breakfast

Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. Words to live by.

Big breakfast, light lunch, even lighter dinner. I am still working on that “even lighter dinner” thing. (and therefore those last 10 lbs!)

Somewhere after high school when I started to actually eat a breakfast that consisted of more than just a Diet Coke, I realized I was much better off. But the problem was I didn’t really want donuts, Danish or pastries for breakfast. I didn’t want cereal because I don’t really like milk. I wanted food I really liked. Cheeseburgers. Chicken fingers. Nachos. Or at least a savory ham and egg sandwich. So I launched into a secret life of eating last night’s leftovers at 7 or 8 am for breakfast. I only draw the line at two things I won’t eat for breakfast: Fish – I don’t like it any time of the day. Salad – there is nothing warm and cozy about lettuce at 8am.

I kept this secret fairly well hidden until I met my future husband. He is a true early riser and the day I awoke at 8am to the smell of a roast beef dinner wafting from the kitchen, I knew I had met a kindred soul. Fast forward some 11 years and we are still doing dinner for breakfast. Mostly we don’t cook these big dinners for breakfast unless it’s the weekend. Like brunch – just earlier. But we do heat up and eat some serious dinner leftovers for breakfast. A fact I try to hide everyday at the office, so my co-workers won’t think I am weird!

He has recently started working the overnight shift at the local hospital and when he comes home he is hungry and ready for a meal! So the other night ( I am the night owl in the family) I started a rump roast in the slow-cooker at midnight. I set it to low so it would be ready just in time for breakfast (dinner?) at about 8 or 9 am. Somewhere around 6am the wafting smell of delicious-ness rousted me out of bed and I checked on it – added some frozen peas, turned it to high, and went back to bed. Later after morning coffee, I buttered some warm Naan bread and we sat down to an “Indian inspired beef roast.”

The Recipe

(also delicious at other times of the day!)

3lb +/- Bottom Round Rump Roast or whatever roast cut works for you.

2 slices of uncooked Bacon – diced

2 med Vidalia onions- thick sliced into half moons

1/2 box of Beef Broth (2cups)

1 cup Ketchup

1/2 to 1 whole Chipolte in Adobe Sauce diced fine. (Once I open a can, I store the rest in the freezer and just use tiny amounts as we are babies about spice around our house. Add more if you can handle it!)

1 tbs Madras Curry Powder

Juice of 1/2 of a Meyer Lemon ( I happen to have this kind but any lemon will do)

Splash of Half and Half

Salt and Pepper to taste

Aprox a 1/3 cup Cornstarch mixed with just a little water to create a smooth slurry.

2 cups Frozen Peas

In your slow-cooker. Layer the diced bacon down first. Next the beef. Now throw in the onions. In a bowl whisk all the other items except the cornstarch slurry, the half and half and the peas. Taste for seasoning and spice level. Adjust as desired. Pour this over contents of slow-cooker. Put a lid on it and cook for many hours on low or less hours on high. Consult your slow-cooker instructions if you have questions or use a meat thermometer if you want.  About an hour or two before you want to eat add in the half and half, the cornstarch slurry and the peas. Liquid will thicken. Serve with warm Naan bread with or without rice as desired.

Ain’t the internet great?    Check out this link I stumbled upon…makes me want to visit Minocqua, Wisconsin wherever that might be!

Boston Butt

Nope, not talking about my own butt – talking about a pig’s shoulder.

Boston Butt: Pork Primal Cut

Graphic: Wikimedia Commons / Danilo Alfaro

Confused yet? here is the official “Wikipedia” explanation:

In pre-revolutionary New England and into the American Revolutionary War, some pork cuts (not those highly valued, or “high on the hog,” like loin and ham) were packed into casks or barrels (also known as “butts”) for storage and shipment. The way the hog shoulder was cut in the Boston area became known in other regions as “Boston butt”. In the UK it is known as “pork hand and spring”, or simply “pork hand”.

No matter what it is called – it is delicious! No brining, no fancy marinade, just a slow cooker. I decided to make the effort to “sear” the meat first and therefore create the sauce using the brown bits of flavor from the pan before putting all into the slow cooker. I suppose you could just skip this step and go right into the slow cooker but I think it was worth the extra step and pan. Besides the slow cooker really does all the heavy lifting.

The result: 100% authentic BBQ flavor – no smoker needed!

The Recipe

3lbs +/- Pork ( preferably Boston Butt – I removed the strings that were tired around it, since I was “pulling it” later)

oil for browning in heavy bottom pan

2-3 tb seasoned salt of your choice rubbed into the meat on all sides (use liberally as this is your only “salt” in the dish)

Fresh cracked black pepper to taste rubbed on the meat as well

Heat the oil really hot and sear each side of the meat – patiently waiting until each side is unstuck from the pan before turning. Remove the meat to a waiting slow-cooker and turn down the heat on your pan a bit.

Add in this order:

1 smallish/medium onion finely diced

1 small can (6oz) tomato paste

1 tsp each: smoked paprika, ground ancho chili pepper, cumin

Stir and cook a minute – “toasting” spices and paste.

Now add:

1/4 cup mustard (brown, spicy or dijon works well)

1 garlic clove – mashed really well

1 cup Ketchup

1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white wine vinegar ( I am sure reg white or apple cider would be nice too)

stir and get all the bits off the bottom.

Add enough of your favorite hot sauce to make it your level of spiciness. ( I use Tabasco for this)

Now pour this all into the slow cooker with your meat, cover and cook on low for at least 4 hours. Meat should be falling apart when done. Shred and serve on toasted rolls with bread and butter pickles.