The Santa Fe Experiment

Recently I had opportunity to travel to Albequerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico. To me it seems like the entire state smells amazing, and especially the farmer’s market that I visited in Santa Fe. The smells of sage, chili powder, piñons and fry bread wafted through the air like a savory air freshener, as I walked through sampling any and everything I could find!

When I returned it only made sense to try one of the “edible souvenirs” that I brought back with me. (Those also cost me an extra 20mins and an extra bag search at airport security.)

Posole mixes were abundant at the farmer’s market and after looking over all the choices I selected one that looked fool-proof for a gringo like me to make. Posole is a Mexican (or probably more accurately Aztec in origin) pork and hominy stew. The mix contained dried hominy and several over dried beans/seeds/legumes that I really have no idea what they were. It also came with a spice packet and recipe.

I followed the instructions exactly except for 2 things. I decided to use the slow cooker as one change to the recipe and since I have a smaller slow cooker, I only used 2.5 quarts water, figuring I could always add water. I was glad I used the slow cooker since it took longer then 3 hours on high – I actually ended up leaving on it overnight on low after the first 3 hours on high. And I never need to add the extra 1/2 quart of water.

Here is the recipes in pictures with one notation…after trimming the pork meat from the bones I tied up the bones in cheesecloth to add to the stew for flavor. Remove the bundle before serving. (click on the slide show below to enlarge)

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In full disclosure, I added a generous amount of salt and pepper to this as well as a healthy tablespoon of mild New Mexico red chile powder that I also obtained at the farmer’s market and made it through security at the airport. Without that and the fresh toppings, the stew would have been actually kinda bland. I am not experienced to know if the stew is supposed to be just a rich broth with a somewhat mellow flavor to allow the fresh toppings to shine? ( kinda like vietnamese Pho)

Or maybe I was supposed to season/brine the pork first? And perhaps even brown it first? I do know that it is common practice to add green or red chile to the stew and so I felt justified in adding some red chile to mine.

And while my version turned out pretty good – but not amazing – next time I would get even more elaborate on the fresh toppings… sliced radishes, avocado, thin sliced cabbage to name just a few more.

Here is a nice source for seeds if you want to grow your own chile peppers: https://www.sandiaseed.com/pages/about-us

 

 

Fresh From The Snow

Anybody who has been stuck in the house this winter with blizzard after snowstorm after blizzard has probably already cooked their way through the entire repertoire of soups, stews and slow cooker meals. I know I have. So last week with a “dusting” of 3-6″ expected and temperatures stuck in single digits, I decided I was tired of “cold weather food” and made some summer food instead. However with the grill drowning in 5 feet of snow out back I had to adapt summer food to indoor cookery.

Pork Spare Ribs, Broccoli slaw and roasted cauliflower ended up on the menu. Easy, fresh and bright – everything that winter is not.

spareribs-slaw-cauliflower

I had about 3 lbs of spare ribs that I brushed with about a 1/4 cup of Dijon mustard (option here to add  a Tsp of liquid smoke to the mustard) and then coated with my favorite BBQ spice rub, salt and pepper. Wrap in plastic and store 3-4 hours in the fridge or even overnight, but be sure to bring out and let the meat come up almost to room temperature before cooking. I placed the ribs on a rack on a sheet pan – cranked up my broiler – and cooked each side long enough so that they got brown and caramelized. Next I poured a little bit of apple juice under the rack and closed up the whole thing in foil, a big pouch, but not too tight. The oven got taken off broil and dropped to 300 degrees and the ribs cooked like that for about 1.5 hours. For the last 15-20 minutes I unwrapped the foil pouch and brushed on some BBQ sauce to give the ribs that tangy, saucy glaze and of course served more (warmed) on the side to pour over.

The broccoli slaw was simply a bag of shredded slaw and I added tiny shreds of raw sweet onion and a standard coleslaw dressing to it. Mix this up at least an hour (preferably longer) before serving so it has time to develop flavor and break down the raw veggies a bit.

The Cauliflower was sliced thick, drizzled with just a bit of sunflower oil, (great nutty taste – use olive oil instead if you want) salt and pepper. Roast it on a sheet pan at 425 degrees until tender and starting to brown on the edges.

Enjoy with a cold beer, plenty of napkins and a view of the snow-filled back yard.

 

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!

 

Level 3

Level 3 refers to ( in this case ) the level of hot in my jar of Korean hot pepper paste!

level 3

Recently I had a hanker-ing for some Korean BBQ and with no food trucks in sight I was forced to search the aisle of my supermarket for just the right stuff. There was only level 3 available, no #1 or #2 . I was worried this might blow the roof off my mouth, but I was brave and tried a tiny bit as soon as I got home. Straight up from the jar. It wasn’t bad. Downright tasty even. In fact I bet I could handle up to “level 4” should I come across it some day!

First, I applied a dry rub to the pork spare ribs I decided to use. A quick mix of ground ginger, seasoned salt, onion powder and smoked paprika did the trick. (I used 1 tsp each for about 2 lbs of spare ribs.) I let that hang out on the ribs for a few hours during the day while I did errands, etc.

Second, since I didn’t have all day to fire up the smoker in the back yard – oh wait I don’t have a smoker – I simply put them into a foil-covered baking dish into a 375 degree oven for about an hour to steam them to delicious. (longer if you have more ribs, use a thermometer if you want.) So at this point the ribs were cooked through and tasty but lacking the caramelized, charred outside that we all love.

Thirdly, I put those ribs directly onto a hot gas grill in my backyard – that I do have – and charred them a bit until they looked good enough to eat.

But wait!

The final step was to brush on my homemade “Korean BBQ” sauce and char the ribs even more. Watching carefully that they didn’t cross the fine line of deliciousness to burned. With all that sugar in the sauce you have to be careful not to apply the sauce too soon.

Like all good BBQ, serve with homemade slaw and some sweet pickles! Extra sauce on the side too!

Like all good BBQ, serve with homemade slaw and some sweet pickles! Extra sauce on the side too!

The Sauce:

1 tb +/- finely diced(minced) onion

1 tsp of oil for sautéing onions

2 small garlic cloves, super finely minced

1 tsp fresh ginger, super finely minced or paste

1/2 cup Ketchup

1 tsp low sodium soy sauce

2 tsp rice vinegar ( plain or low sodium seasoned)

1 tsp toasted sesame oil*

2 tsp ( or more if you want it hot!) Gochjang paste ( Korean Hot Pepper Paste)

1 cup pan drippings from your spare rib oven-roasting pan or just plain water.

Saute the onion in the oil till nice and soft, and a bit brown. Turn off the heat and add the garlic and ginger in. The residual heat kind of warms the garlic and takes some of the raw “bite” out without really cooking it. (at least I thought so) Add the ketchup, soy, vinegar, oil and pepper paste to the warm sauce and stir thoroughly. It will be thick. Add enough pan drippings from your rib oven roasting dish or even just plain water to thin it to your liking. Sauce will end up being about 2 cups +/- of liquid.

This sauce can be served as a table condiment as is, used for a glaze in the last 10 mins on your grilled food or just eaten with a spoon. Probably keeps in the fridge for at least 5 days but I am no expert and frankly it was just the perfect amount for 2 lbs of ribs!

*due to sesame allergies in the house I actually used Pumpkin Seed oil but toasted sesame oil would be more traditional.

Note: gluten free folks – read your labels on the hot pepper paste – not all are created equal.

Rubies and Pearls

’round these parts if you mention “pearls” in the context of food, you might be referring to a brand of giant size hot dogs made right here in Massachusetts.

But in this case I am actually referring to “pearl onions” and of course my “rubies” are the little red new potatoes. Both of these went along side a large pork roast that I thought would be fun to cook on a random rainy, overcast Thursday. ( too lazy to pick up something more appropriately sized for 2 people, so out of the freezer came this piece of meat – guess we will be eating leftovers for a while!)

rubies and pearls            ready for the oven

I didn’t bother tying the roast and making it look pretty for presentation, I just seared it in a hot skillet and transferred it to the sheet pan.I did the same with my “rubies and pearls” – I got a little color on them (and coated them with a little oil/fat/seasoning by doing this) before putting them alongside the roast on the sheet pan. I threw a couple garlic cloves on too for fun.

dinner

hmm… where did that green veggie go anyway?

Everything went into a hot (400 degrees) oven for 20 mins a lb. If you think the veggies are getting overdone before the roast is finished just scoop them out and keep them warm somewhere till time to serve. serve with a pan sauce made from the drippings of the pan you seared it in and a little apple juice. Also great to serve a little apple sauce and a green veggie on the side!

Production notes

I brined the roast during the day in “seasoned salt” water with coriander seed and bay leaf. Then I rinsed and dried it before coating very liberally with ground cumin and some black pepper.

“Storm Stew” (guest blogger)

Since I am extremely busy with work and midterms at school right now, my poor husband has had to fend for himself. But recently he has more than “fended for himself” – he rolled out a wonderful take on “pork cacciatore.” Here is what he had to say about his process and a few photos he took along the way….

Yet another blizzard day here in Boston and since I had the day off – I knew that it would be a perfect day for a big pot of Italian cooking. (Well at least Irish- American – Italian cooking!)

I started things off by consulting one of my wife’s many cookbooks and settled on Marcella Hazen’s The Classic Italian Cook Book, circa 1973. I figured if it has been around that long, she must know what she is talking about. Page 93 “Tomato Sauce I” got me started on a grocery list and a mission.

Next up was the meat. I like a “meaty” sauce and ever since my buddy Marky advised putting a chuck roast in the “gravy” I have never done it any other way. Except today. Today was a pork day. So a piece of pork butt went in.

Under advisement from a sleepy wife in the early am I heated the oil HOT and seared the meat.

Under advisement from a sleepy wife in the early morning,  I heated the oil HOT and seared the meat.

After searing the meat and putting it aside, I chopped up a classic “mire poix” of celery, carrots and onions. ( ok maybe I asked her for a little advice on this part too.)

so what if my pieces are a little big - I like it that way!

so what if my pieces are a little big – I like it that way!

Next up: add the mushrooms.

now it is more like a Cacciatore!

Now it is more like a Cacciatore!

I added in some tomato stuff, seasoning, garlic and put the meat back in and then the hard-part – waiting for it to cook and fully develop into the masterpiece I know it will be!

oops - A bit of a mess in the kitchen but I KNOW it will be worth it!

oops – A bit of a mess in the kitchen but I KNOW it will be worth it!

And it was! Totally delicious served as is – meat and sauce- but even better with the starch of your choice: garlic bread, rice, pasta or roast potatoes!

wifey says…What a wonderful and yummy dish to come home to! Thanks honey!

An Unlikely Couple

Ketchup and ginger ale.

Who would have thought these would make such good companions. Not I.

So when my husband came home from work one day and told me that one of his coworkers made a pork roast marinated in nothing but ketchup and ginger ale, I felt sure he had misheard the lady. BUT a quick check of the internet (What did we do before Google?) told me that not only did he hear the lady correctly, but aprox 363,000 other people were on-board with this marriage of beverage and condiments.

So I whisked together 1 cup of each and marinated overnight a 3.5 lb +/- standard pork roast (butt or center cut, not tenderloin although I think that would be yummy but too fancy and lean.) I threw the pork and the marinade into an oven proof dish and into a preheated 375 degree oven.

I couldn’t resist deviating. I added 1 medium onion sliced around the roast for a yummy addition. The whole thing roasted for about 20 mins per pound and needed absolutely no attention. Easy AND delicious!

heading into the oven just out of the oven

… Before                                                                              …After

By the way – It seems the general consensus on the internet is to use this marriage of flavor for meatballs ( think “cocktail style”) and there was also a lot of chatter about beef brisket. Both of which would be delicious!  I personally think this would be absolutely great on pork chops, ham, Kielbasa, hotdogs, grilled chicken, shrimp, cardboard or maybe even a sneaker – it was just that delicious. Also I think this could easily be done in a slow-cooker.

Full Disclosure

Although I like to cook and eat organic, unprocessed and locally grown just as much as the next person – that is really isn’t the focus of my blog. So for the record I just used Heinz and Canada Dry (no diet).

Just keeping it real here in blog-land.

Served up with twice-baked ranch potatoes and balsamic rosemary braised Brussels and carrots!

Served up with twice-baked ranch potatoes and balsamic rosemary braised Brussels and carrots!