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

 

 

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A Chicken in Every Pot (or Not)

No I am not stating my political views. I just couldn’t resist the play on words!

I saw one of those recipe videos on Facebook  – you know the ones where they step through the recipe in double-time and it looks super easy and successful. Well I saw one for a roasted, beer-can type chicken in a slow cooker.

Seemed simple – put some foil balls in the bottom of your slow-cooker (instead of the beer can) and pour the beer ( or water or cider or whatever liquid) in the bottom. Place a seasoned chicken on top and put the lid on – cook on high for 4-5 hours. Voila! Perfectly juicy, roasted chicken.

So I bought a chicken, pulled out my slow cooker and tried it. Here is my video (slide show):

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I left the chicken in there  about 4.5 hours and it didn’t look any different – it just looked raw! I pulled it out and took its temperature – 120 degrees!! After FOUR AND A HALF HOURS!

I considered for a quick minute about finishing it in the oven, but then I thought about how many hours it had been squished in the pot, in the FDA danger-zone, trying to reach temperature. No thanks – into the trash. What a waste.

Moral of the story: get a bigger pot or a smaller chicken – pretty sure you need to fit the chicken in spaciously but who knows sometimes, the internet is just plain wrong.

 

longs days, slow cook

open book

I am sorry I have been away for so long! I have been busy. Very Busy. Some may know and some may not, but I am a grad student finishing up my thesis in the next 2 months and I barely have time to breathe never mind cook!

So I am hoping to squeeze in a few things between now and my final thesis deadline in late January but forgive me if I am a little slow about posting. Now as I head into the holidays I am going to have even more things to juggle!

These busy days call for the helping hand of the slow-cooker. There is nothing better than dumping a few things in and hours later having a meal waiting for you. My latest creation was inspired by the cold night and the fact that I happened to have potatoes on hand.

I put scrubbed, chopped to bite size potatoes into the slow-cooker with a couple of tablespoons of butter and 1 smallish-medium onion chopped small. I opened a can of creamed corm and a can of niblet corn and added that. Next a can of low sodium broth, a dash of ground nutmeg, dash of garlic powder and plenty of salt and pepper. I also happened to have a small ham steak in the fridge so that got chopped and added too, but you could leave out for a vegetarian version. I let the whole thing cook on low for 8-10 hours till potatoes were tender. (consult your crock pot directions for times/settings as you may want to do high for a shorter time) At this point I took out my immersion blender and gave the mix a quick couple of pulses just to “thicken it up” with the blended potatoes etc. I added about a cup of half and half, adjusted for salt and pepper and served!

It came out delicious, couldn’t have been easier and sustained me  and my husband for several servings each while I march onward towards my academic goals!

chowder

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!