Slow cooked pork butt

This past weekend, we cooked a pork butt in the slow cooker. It’s a huge 8 lb piece of meat with nice marbling and a small layer of fat across the top. Our plan is to use it for pulled pork tamales that we’ll make later. We’ll also use some leftover Thanksgiving turkey in the tamales but that will be a different post, so check back later.

The pork butt is actually part of the upper front shoulder of the pig but calling it a butt is much more fun and entertaining. The word butt refers to the containers they used to use when transporting the pork. The meat is a tougher meat so everyone recommends cooking this low and slow. We used the slow-cooker on the low setting for 6 hours. When your time is up, you should shred the pork in the crock pot and let it cool down in its own juices. If it doesn’t easily shred with a fork, then cook it a little longer and then try again. We had to cook it about 2 hours longer than we expected, but it was worth it! The meat shredded with ease and tasted great.

We used a dry rub on our pork which is a variation of Alton Brown’s Ring of Fire Rub. I call it a variation because we make it in large quantities and end up using what’s available. Here is the original recipe from Alton.

For our pork, we covered all side liberally with the ring of fire mixture and put it in the slow cooker. We have been using the liners for the slow cooker because it makes it so much easier to clean. You can get them at the local grocery store.

The great thing about the slow cooker is that you can basically set it and forget it, allowing us to put up Christmas decorations while the slow cooker did it’s work. One thing we added was a half can of beer just for a little something extra.

Once you’re pork is cooked, you have an unlimited amount of options on what you want to do with it. Like I mentioned earlier, we are using most of ours in pulled pork tamales. We’ll also make some pork tacos out of it. You can also make sandwiches, barbecue and any number of dishes. Have fun, experiment and enjoy!

Roasted Rosemary Sweet Potatoes

We found a great bargain on sweet potatoes and stocked up on them. When we got home, we started looking online for some options on how to prepare them. Tonight, we settled on roasting them with rosemary and garlic. It’s very similar to our recipe for roasted beets. We just kind of winged it by combining a few recipes that we found. One thing we added was chopped walnuts and red pepper flakes. Some of the recipes had these so I thought it sounded like a great addition to give it a nice fall, earthy flavor. These are optional and I am sure it would taste fine without them. however, the roasted walnuts really are a nice addition to this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium-large sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary (adjust to taste)
  • 3 cloves of chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil (enough to coat the potatoes)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
  • light sprinkling of red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)

Directions

Preheat your oven to 425.

Cubed Sweet Potatoes

Wash your potatoes thoroughly. We like to leave the skins on them so we use a scrubber on them to remove all the dirt and debris on the outside of them. However, you can peel them it you don’t like the skins. Cut your sweet potatoes into 1 inch cubes and place them in a large bowl. Add your chopped rosemary, garlic, sea salt, nuts and pepper flakes. Now add that olive oil and mix to get an even coating of olive oil on all the potato cubes.

This is our mixture of potatoes, rosemary, garlic and walnuts

Place the potatoes in one layer on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 425 until they are golden, about 30 minutes.

Green Bean Casserole

Here is our recipe for green bean casserole. It’s the first one we made from scratch with fresh green beans, as opposed to using can beans. It’s really not that hard and the FRESH  home-made fried onions are awesome. I got this from a magazine years ago but we’ve adapted it a lot over the years. Please make them and don’t use the canned onions. I know it takes more work but your tongue will totally thank you!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb green beans (or you can get fancy and use hericots verts, trimmed
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying
  • 1 large white onion sliced into 1/4 inch rings
  • Flour seasoned with salt and pepper for dredging onions
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 12 ounces of mushrooms, we use whatever is fresh at the grocery store which is usually button mushrooms; however the original recipe calls for shiitake and cultivated mushrooms
  • 2 teaspoons fresh or 3/4 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk, heated
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Cook the green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water for 3 minutes or until crisp and tender. Transfer to a bowl of ice water with a slotted spoon. Let them cool completely and then drain on paper towels. This helps them stay bright green and crisp.

For the fried onions: Heat 2 inches of the oil in a large deep skillet to 375 degrees. Working in small batches, dust the onion rings with the flour, shaking off the excess, and fry them for 1 to 2 minutes or until light golden. Transfer the onions after they are browned to paper towels to drain. Repeat the procedure with the remaining onions and flour.

For the main casserole: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium, add the remaining tablespoon of butter, all the mushrooms and thyme, and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid the mushrooms give off is evaporated.

Sprinkle the flour on top of the mushrooms and cook the mixture, stirring for 1 minute. Add the milk in a stream, whisking, bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer for 3 minutes. stir in the green beans and half the cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the mixture to a 2 quart casserole dish. Top with the remaining cheese and fried onions and bake until hot and bubbling (about 20 to 25 minutes).

Chorizo, Squash, and Jalapeno Cornbread Stuffing

Here is our golden brown stuffing right out of the oven

This is from a recipe that we found in a magazine a long time ago. It was part of a group of recipes that we used to create a southwestern inspired Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a great alternative to the standard stuffing with a lot more flavor and complexity. By the way, don’t be afraid of the jalapenos, you’re going to remove the seeds and interior veins so it won’t be too hot, but you can cut back on the amount of the peppers if you have sensitive eaters at your table.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled ans cut into 1/2 cubes (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 12 ounces chorizo sausage, casing removed
  • 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped green onions (about 8 large)
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped seeded & deveined jalapeno peppers (about 4 large peppers)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • Cornbread (2 packages of cornbread mix – see Quick Buttermilk Corn Bread below)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup (or more) low-salt chicken broth

INSTRUCTIONS

Combine the squash and 1/2 cup of water in a large skillet. Bring the water to boil over medium high heat. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 7 minutes, until the squash is almost tender. Uncover them and sprinkle them with salt. Boil uncovered until squash is tender and water has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Let them cool completely.

Then, saute the chorizo in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until cooked and fat is rendered. About 5 minutes. Break up the chorizo with the back of a fork. Now, strain the chorizo and dippings over a bowl.

Using the same skillet that you just cooked the chorizo, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add onion, green onion, celery and chilies. Saute the items for 8 minutes then mix in the drained chorizo, cilantro, sage, and squash. You can make this a day ahead. Just store it covered in your refrigerator.

Here is our chorizo mixture. We made it on Wednesday night so it will be easier to put together on Thanksgiving morning.

Now, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a glass baking dish. Coarsely crumble corn bread into a large bowl and mix in the chorizo mixture. Using a small bowl, beat eggs and 1/2 cup broth. Now, add the egg mixture to the stuffing. Gently toss this together. If the mix is too dry, mix in additional broth, 1/4 cups at a time. Transfer this stuffing mix into the prepared glass baking dish and cover with buttered foil, butter side down. Bake this for 45 minutes and then uncover and bake until the top of the stuffing is crisp and gold, about 15 minutes.

Here is our stuffing ready to go into the oven.

CORNBREAD

For the cornbread, use 2 packages and make this before you’re ready to begin putting the stuffing together. You can use any cornbread you like. If you are at a loss, here’s an easy recipe for home made cornbread from scratch or you can use the recipe below:

Cornbread

Here’s the finished cornbread. A classic, just like my Granny would have made in this old skillet.

Mix the following:

  • two 8.5 ounce packages of corn bread mix
  • 1.5 cups of buttermilk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted

Blend these items in a large bowl, then transfer to a prepared pan. Bake the bread until tester inserted into the center is clean, about 25 minutes. When it’s done, cool it on a rack. You can make this a day ahead. Just wrap the bread in foil and store it at room temp until you’re ready.

Cornbread from scratch

Cornbread

Here’s the finished cornbread. A classic, just like my Granny would have made in this old skillet.

Well, this is a first. When I volunteered to get the cornbread ready for our cornbread stuffing, I thought I was going to be using packaged cornbread mix. But, we don’t have any so I am starting from scratch with the recipe on the back of the Pioneer Corn Meal bag. Just like with the pie crust, I was amazed at how easy it sounds. It’s sitting on the stove cooling right now so we can get the stuffing made.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of Pioneer Yellow Corn Meal
  • 1/3 cup of flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2/3 cup of milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil or shortening (I used the vegetable oil)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 450 F while you’re making the batter.

Cornbread ingredients

Mix the corn meal and all the other dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Then stir in the egg and milk. Once it’s mixed together, add the oil or shortening and mix it all thoroughly. Pour it into an oiled cake pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Now, you’ll see in my picture that I am using a large skillet. This came from my grandmother and it’s about 12 inches wide. My first batch of batter barely covered the bottom of the skillet so I quickly made a second batch and poured it right on top of the first batch. You really can’t have too much cornbread in my house and it’s going into a stuffing so I probably would have needed to make a second batch anyhow.

Simple Pie Crust (Pate Brisee)

It’s now two days before Thanksgiving, 2012. As usual, the paper has a story about pies so I am thinking, why not give it a try. We typically make a pie or two but we’ve always used pre-made pie crusts but the paper makes it sound so easy. There are only 5 ingredients and you mix them together in blender. They make it sound like it’s something you could do in your sleep so how hard could it be? I guess we’ll find out in a couple days! My dough is currently resting in the refrigerator because I’m not making the pie until tomorrow (that’ll be a separate post).

This recipe is actually a pate brisee and is very similar to the one I made for the chicken pot pies so I’m thinking this should be a snap.

Ingredients

  • 1.25 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (sea or kosher salt)
  • 1/2 cup chilled, unsalted butter cut into on-inch cubes (1 stick)
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup ice-cold water
  • extra flour for the work surface

Mix the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of your food processor to combine them. Then, add the butter and process them until it resembles coarse meal. This is only about 10 seconds. Now, slowly add the ice water and process until the dough just holds together. This should take no longer than 30 seconds.

Now that you have the dough made, empty it onto your floured work surface. You can add a small amount of ice water if the dough isn’t staying together. I added a little, but that’s just because I wasn’t sure if it was holding together enough. I’m sure with more practice, I’ll get it down.

Now, form a flattened disk with the dough – but don’t overwork the dough. By the way, I don’t know what that means, so I just tried not to handle it too much. Then wrap it in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Movember, 2012

Moustachery

As some of y’all know, Movember is a fundraising and awareness raising campaign that goes on around the world. This fundraising organization is focused on men’s health issues, especially prostate and testicular cancers.  Money is raised by supporting your Mo brothers as they grow a mustache through the month of November. The other purpose is raising awareness, which comes from the discussions that inevitably come from growing out a mustache.

This is my second time to grow out a mustache for Movember and I will tell you that friends and family do ask about it and gives you an opportunity to tell people why you’re growing it. Awareness is key to men’s health issues because we all know that men (yes, me too) avoid acknowledging health issues. By giving information about health issues men face, hopefully, some will make lifestyle changes or at least visit their doctor and discuss their risk factors.

If you’d like to make a contribution, please feel free to make one on my Mo Space. At the very least, please go to the site and take a look at their resources for health issues. At the bottom is a link for men’s health that has tons of information for you.

Cioppino – San Francisco Fish Stew

Here is our stew, ready to eat.

I’ll admit, I’d never had this fish stew. Maybe that’s because I haven’t been to San Francisco before and we live far enough from the ocean that good fresh seafood is hard to come by. However, I do love fish and I was looking forward to this dish.

Cioppino is a stew that originated in San Francisco by Italian immigrants. The story is that the immigrant fishermen would use the catch of the day to make a stew while on the boats. As Italian restaurants started becoming popular, the stew became popular with everyone else. There are a ton of recipes online for this stew and, apparently, one of it’s best attributes is that is very versatile. We used the recipe provided by Luke but made a couple modifications based on what’s in our pantry and creativity. For example, some of the online recipes call for white wine, so we substituted this for the plain water.

This recipe comes to us from Luke Shaffer. Luke’ wife and Curt worked together at a place which shall no longer be named. It wasn’t a great experience for him but he met some really great people while he was there. Chef Luke is a professional Longhorn Fan who pays the bills by working as a top rated chef in Austin. You can see more of his creations at his blog LukeWhatsCooking.

To start with, we used a bag of Costco’s frozen seafood medley. This was Luke’s suggestion. Thaw the frozen seafood in the refrigerator so that it will cook evenly and not taste like frozen fish.

Here are the vegetables ready for chopping.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 Tablespoons of bacon fat
  • 1/2 cup carrot, small dice
  • 1/2 cup celery, small dice
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, small dice
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, rough chop
  • 28oz can CENTO brand crushed tomato
  • 28oz can CENTO brand chef’s cut tomato
  • 8oz tomato puree
  • 28oz water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • Salt to taste
  • Crushed red pepper to taste
  • One bag of Costco Frozen Seafood Medley (2.5 pound bag)

Here is our seafood thawing while the soup simmers.

INSTRUCTIONS

The first part of this is to make the tomato soup that will be base of this recipe. Start by sweating the carrots, celery and onions in the bacon fat with a health pinch of salt and crushed red pepper.

When they are softened, add the garlic. When you can smell the garlic add the tomato paste. Cook this until it just begins to color and then add everything else – except for the seafood.

At this point we made a couple modifications. We used half of a large Costco can of tomatoes instead of the 2 cans listed above. Also, we didn’t want to water it down so we added white wine in place of the 28oz of water. Simmer this mixture for 2 hours. You can adjust the seasoning to taste. When it’s complete, puree with a stick blender OR in batches in the blender. (Luke’s WARNING: if using the blender, fill below half-way and make sure the top is sealed. It will swell and be HOT!!!!)

At this point you have a REALLY good tomato soup. You could stop right here and have a really good meal, but that wouldn’t be the point, would it?

At this point we used the seafood from Costco and mixed it all into the soup. If you have access to fresh seafood, you can use any or all of the following. Add seafood of your choice in the following order: fish, crab legs, clams/mussels, calamari, scallops, shrimp.

Homemade chicken stock

This is a more complex chicken stock that came with the recipe I found for the chicken potpies in a pumpkin. It does turn out great, but I usually don’t have the time so I use what ever is available. Sometime, I use some stock that we have have in the freezer and other times I just use a good quality canned stock.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 6 sprigs fresh dill or 2 teaspoons dried dill
  • 6 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 leeks, washed, white and pale-green parts only, cut into 1/3
  • 2 carrots, scrubbed, cut into 1/3
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 1/3
  • 1 (4-pound) chicken, cut into 6 pieces
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken wings
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken backs
  • 2 (48-ounce) cans low-sodium chicken broth, about 12 cups
  • 6 cups cold water

Instructions

Place peppercorns, dill, parsley, bay leaves, leeks, carrots, celery, chicken, wings, and backs into a large stockpot. Add stock and 6 cups cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a very gentle simmer, and cook for 45 minutes. Liquid should just bubble up to the surface. A skin will form on the surface of the liquid; skim this off with a slotted spoon, and discard. Repeat as needed. After 45 minutes, remove chicken from the pot, and set aside until it is cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bones, set the meat aside, and return the bones to the pot. Shred the chicken, and set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use. Continue to simmer the stock, on the lowest heat possible, for 3 hours, skimming as needed. The chicken bones will begin to disintegrate. Strain the stock through a fine sieve into a very large bowl. Discard the solids. Place the bowl in an ice bath, and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to airtight containers. Stock may be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 4 months. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight. If storing, leave fat layer intact to the seal the stock. Before using, remove the layer of fat that has collected on the surface. Yield: 5 quarts

Pate Brisee

This recipe is for our Chicken Potpie in a pumpkin. Although, I have an idea that I can use it in many other recipes.

If you google this recipe, you’ll find many variation, and to be honest, we tweak ours every year just to keep it interesting. This year is the first time I actually made the pate brisee. We’ve always used frozen pie crust in the past and it works just fine. This year we forgot to pick it up from the grocery store so I decided to go for it since we have all the ingredients and it doesn’t look too hard. I made it last night and kept it in the refrigerator overnight.

The simple recipe for the covering is as follows:

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup ice water

To start, make sure all your ingredients are cold. I even read online that you should rinse your hands in cold water. Put the flour, salt and thyme leaves in the bowl of a food processor. Add the pieces of butter, pulse for approximately 10 seconds, or just until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Use the feed tube to add the ice water, drop by drop, until the dough just holds together without being wet or sticky; do not process more than 30 seconds. Test the dough at this point by squeezing a small amount together. If it is crumbly, add a bit more water. Divide the dough in half, and shape into 2 disks. Wrap in plastic film, and refrigerate to chill for at least 1 hour. I prepared mine last night and it was very good today. If you have any dough left over, wrap it in 2 layers of plastic wrap and save it in the freezer to use it later.

If you are going to use this for a pie crust, substitute the 1 teaspoon of salt for 1 teaspoon of white sugar and leave out the thyme leaves.