Thursday, May 29, 2008

Pork Busters!

Wife and I, we get silly sometimes. One time in the car, we were on our way to Costco, somebody said, "Pork Busters." I don't remember who said it first, or in what context, but we both decided that it was important as a phrase, and that it needed preservation somehow. So I decided to make a dish befitting to such a name. This was years ago. Since that time Pork Busters has evolved into a regular menu item.

The reasons are twofold:
1)It's easy.
2)It's tasty.

Basically, you find a small pork roast (Costco around here carries these three packs of lean 2lb shoulder roasts, but I've also used a tenderloin and other roasts with success). Then you rub it liberally, crust it even, with a special little mixture. The mix consists of about 66% chili powder, 15% ground cinnamon, 6.3% cumin, 6.3% coriander and 6.4% salt and pepper. Bear in mind that none of this is ever measured, I just eyeball my ratios.

Mix all that together and then roll your dried roast in it until it's completely coated, pack it on there so you really get a nice crust.

Then throw it into a hot hot cast iron (or other oven safe) skillet with some butter melted and sear that baddy on all sides. Remove skillet to preheated 375° oven for about an hour, depending on your roast. Use a probe thermometer and remove when it reaches 150°. Remove from the cutting board to a plate, cover with foil: it will coast the last 10° goverment mandated degrees.

Slice it thin and serve with Raspberry Chipotle Sauce. Which is easy. 1 big tub of Danish Orchards Raspberry Jam (yep, the cheap stuff-I prefer seeds in), 1 can of chipotle pepper in adobo sauce. Chop the chilis (which are HOT). Remove enough Jam from the tub to accomodate chilis and sauce. Mix. You can also buy premade versions of this sauce from most grocers.

Described so far is Pork Busters 'control group.' There are variations.
-First, use different cuts, as mentioned above.
-Also, at one point we decided such a name should mean that 'something' should be busting out of the pork. I've tried different things, the best results were using more pork: we stuffed the roast with chorizo. That was pretty good, but also heart attack material.
-And today's variation: hickory smoked on the grill!

I fired up Chewie and soaked some hickory chips and chunks in water while the coals were heating. Then basically, prepare as above, but skip the sear and roast in the tightly shut grill for about an hour. Ho Ho, that's tasty.

On the side there was some grilled asparagus (we do eat a lot of that, don't we?) and some brown rice I steamed with chicken stock and dried shitakes. Pour a glass of wine -today I uncorked a bottle of Reschke 'Vitulus' Cabernet- a nicely spiced deep red that paired well I think - and Enjoy!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

National Bike-to-Work Day

Today is National Bike-to-Work day. I've known about and even hung posters in my cubey campaigning for this day in years past, but this is the first year I've actually ridden my bike to work on this day. In years past there's always been something, inclement weather, inclement dentist appts, etc. Not this year, record breaking highs (for May) and a Friday attitude got me in gear and it was a beautiful ride. I even went out for a short jaunt on my lunch break.

When I got home I started preparing a gorgeous sockeye fillet Wife picked up. Just a quick rinse in cold water, a quick, light brush of olive oil, sprinkle some white pepper, salt and a little parsley on top. Then I set it on an alder plank NOTE: do not buy this in a kitchen store, and do not use cedar (kitchen store or otherwise, too pitchy). Just go to the lumber yard and buy an 8 foot length of untreated alder. Then lop off 18in lengths as you need them, you can generally get at least 3-4 fillets out of a single board. Set it aside until the coals are ready.

Which means I need to prepare the coals on Chewie, my grill. [Hold on a sec, You Named your Grill?! - - HellsyeahIdid!]. If you work with briquettes, throw away your lighter fluid. 1. That stuff is so safe now that it's actually difficult to alight in the slightest of breezes 2. Just buy a chimney, they are $8 at Lowes, you don't have to replace them and all you need is a little wad of newsprint.

While the coals are doing their thing, I open the fridge to what foliage I have to accompany the meal. Carrots. and that's it. That's all I got. Well, that won't do. I pack up Oldest Kid and we head to the grocery store around the block to pick up something suitable. Once there we pick up One Orange, Two Baby BokChoy, Three Zucchini. And a bottle of Cycles Gladiator Syrah. I'm always a sucker for wine with bicycles on the label and today's it's even thematic, so there you go. And one of the La Brea Rosemary Rounds (Wife's fave).

Getting back to the Hordestead, the coals are perfectly ready. Just lay the plank right on the grill, and close the top. We've got about 25-30 minutes until it's ready. Better get cracking.

Arranging the rest of the grill is a snap though. Slice the zuccis in half, dribble with a little olive oil and light dusting Old Bay seasoning (a tasty combo). Slice the bokchoy in half and dribble with a little soy sauce and black pepper. Slice the rosemary round into this slices and brush a little olive oil on one side. Then just fit it all on the grill. Dassit.

Heading back inside I grab those carrots. They have been in the fridge awhile, not too long, but long enough. I just run 5 of them up and down the box grater until they're shredded. Then rotate the grater 90 degrees, and zest the heck outa that brand new orange. Then juice it. Combine those three items with a some salt, pepper, a little honey. And the secret ingredient, Orange Flower Water. You can find it at a specialty grocer, or any Mediterranean grocer, I found mine at my local Chinese market, go figure. This stuff is crazy, it's intensely floral, so only use a smidge. About a half a capful will do for this salad. That's basically it, just toss this all together for a cool Cairo carrot salad. I originally pulled this recipe from a little North African cookbook I picked up for $1.99. One of my best kitchen purchases, I have made quite of few of the recipes.

Back at the grill, everything is done! Pull it off, platter it, top off the wine, snap a picture, Feast!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mother's Day

Last week my family and I enjoyed a Southern California vacation. Unfortunately there were not many notable meals involved. We had a good time with my grandparents at brunch, and my sister's rooftop grill, but I didn't do the cooking. Apart from that we ate at Disneyland and a variety of chain restaurants. I didn't bother snapping any photos of my Tomorrow Land slice of Pizza or my Coco's soggy salad.

But the day after we arrived back in the PNW we packed up the horde and headed over to my parents for a bbq. I prepared a California Santa Maria style BBQ. A favorite of my family since growing up in San Luis Obispo. I did lift some of recipes from Steve Raichlen's BBQ USA cookbook, worth picking up if you lika da grilled food as I do. The meal hinged on a couple citrus-marinaded, then rubbed tritips. But also crucial are the pinquito beans! Only grown in Santa Maria and surrounding area, they are core to Santa Maria Style BBQ. My parents always like to tell the story of a church dinner they were involved with years ago. They borrowed two commercial stew pots and made 20 lbs of beans (20 lbs dry!). It was too much beans. I only made about 1/5c of dry beans, it was just enough.

I also threw together some salsa fresca for an hors d'oevre and as a topping for the tritips. There were some grilled asparagus (very similar to the pan seared ones in the prior post, just a different, and more delicious heat medium) and a heavily garlic buttered pugiliese loaf.

Beef Tri Tip

This is an easy cut. And delicious. But it's biggest allure is it's price point, it's also cheap. There is a lot of connective tissue here, it looks a little like a strip steak, so you just need to be sure to slice it very thin, across the grain. You'll be left with some of the most intensly flavored, and not overly tough beef steak you'll ever taste. I threw together a quick marinade of the juice of two oranges, one lime, a little soy sauce, and a few crushed cloves of garlic. I had just purchased the beef that same morning, so I didn't marinate for more than a few hours, but that's okay, I wasn't looking for an intense marinade flavor, just a little citrus hint in the background. Once we started the coals I dried the meat and gave it a good rub of salt, pepper, garlic powder and dried rosemary. Once the coals were ready it was tossed on the hot grill for around 10 minutes a side for medium doneness. As I said, be sure to slice thin across the grain and then top it with a little fresh salsa.

Salsa Fresca

Chopping. chopping. chopping. I like it. Relaxing to me.

2lbs ripe tomatoes, chopped. Cut out the stem then slice each one across the equator so you can squeeze out the seeds. Once chopped put your tomatoes in colander in the sink and lightly salt. This will allow them to shed some excess moisture so you don't wind up with salsa soup.
One small yellow onion, or half a large one, chopped. Don't add too much onion to your fresh salsa, it's too overpowering unless you cook it. but then it wouldn't be fresca, would it?
Three Anaheim chilies, chopped, one of them roasted.
Three Pasilla chilies, chopped, two of them roasted. When you are roasting your chilies just toss them right onto your hot bbq coals and turn them only once completely blackened and blistered. Once the whole thing is charry, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Then rinse the charred skin off under water. Your're left with the delicious and sweetly roasted chili flavor. I realize this isn't exactly 'fresca' but that's what sets this recipe off!
A fistful of cilantro, chopped.
Some folks in Cali will add some celery, feel free, but I think it has enough bite without it.
Toss everything together and squeeze the juice of a lime over it. Salt, pepper and you are ready to dip a chip in already.

The Beans

I follow Raichlen's recipe pretty closely here. And unless you live on the central coast you'll have to go to the interweb for the beans. Pinto beans will do though, if you must. Take 1.5 cups and make sure there's no pebbles in the mix. soak in water overnight. Drain the water and refill the pot to a level at least a few inches above the beans. You can add a little onion or a ham hock if you like. I like. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 1.5 hours. You may need to skim off a little foam after the first 20 mins or so. Drain the beans, but save a little of the beanjuice.
Meanwhile, in a little saucepan, stir together 3/4 of a can of tomoato paste (smear the remaining 1/4under your eyes as warpaint), a spoonful of brown sugar, a squirt of prepared mustard, some toasted and ground cumin, and some oregano. Oh! and you must add some chili sauce. They say that in Cali they prefer Las Palmas. Raichlen says it. The internet says it. My dad seemed to recall it a little. But I can't find Las Palmas around here. I really like PicoPica though, and you can find it anywheres. Add about two tablespoons I think. I just glub it in.

lets see, what else?

Oh, the Garlic Bread

I don't really have a recipe or anything. I bought a nice pugiliese loaf, which I really like, it's got a great crust but is really doughy and moist inside with a great mild sour flavor. I melted a stick o butter in the nuker for a few seconds-just enough to make it pliable. Then I pressed 3 or 4 cloves of garlic (you must pick up a Zyliss, accept no subs) and a few green tops of some spring onions I had in the fridge. slice your loaf in half and smear that stuff all over the place. Then grill it until it's toasted, you can do this while the beef is resting.

You'll need to pair this with a nice bottle of Central Coast, fruit-forward, Cabernet. Maybe two bottles.

Cheers to Wife, my mom, and all the mothers out there!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Salmon Candied with Ginger-Marmalade, Pan Seared Asparagus and Mushroom Quinoa

This is one of my favorite ways to prepare a fresh salmon fillet, which we do eat a fair amount of around here. This is not one of Wife's favorite ways to eat her salmon (which I don't understand at all, this is delicious), but the kids like it well enough so it's not completely vetoed from our menu.

Earlier, we picked up a beauty fillet of sockeye, though even a farmed atlantic salmon would be fine, we eat plenty of that too. Unwrapping the fish and giving it a quick cold water rinse, set it aside. Fire up the oven (on broil) and let the mercury rise. Next prepare the candy coat.
Salmon Candied with Ginger-Marmalade

One big scoop of Orange Marmalade - nothing fancy, I'm using Smuckers.
Grate some ginger - I keep mine in the freezer in a little baggie with my galangal, tumeric and any other rhizomes I might have around. It keeps forever and makes grating on the box grater or microplane a cinch. Today we'll need about a tablespoon or so. Also, about a tablespoon of brown sugar.

Combine these items in a little ramiken and heat in the microwave for, I dunno, how about 54 seconds? Just make it warm so the sugar will dissolve and the ginger flavor permeates the mixture. Put your fillet on a lightly sprayed broil pan and smear your marmalmix all over the top. ooo yeah.

Place under the broiler for about 7-10 minutes, keeping a careful eye on it. Don't blacken the top, but it should just begin to brown and carmelize. If your fillet is very fresh, as this one was, you can serve it a little rare. If you are not sure maybe you'll want to move it to a lower rake and bake it through. Garnish with a little cilantro and platter.

Let's move on to the side dishes.

Pan Seared Asparagus

This is one I cook very regularly. Wife likes it a lot and the kids tolerate it. When I met Wife years & years ago, her least favorite vegetable was asparagus. "It's a weed, it grows by on the freeway," she would say. Now she loves it and I don't think I have ever seen asparagus growing wild. Freeway or no.

1 bunch of asparagus 1 glub of olive oil
dried oregano kosher salt fresh black pepper

Pick over the asparagus and snap off the woody bottoms. Set in a flat-bottomed container and pour enough olive oil over to coat. Sprinkle the herb, salt, pepper over the spears and toss to coat evenly.
Heat a skillet up quite hot, maybe not red hot, but close. Throw the spears in and they'll sizzle and such. Once they brown on the bottom use your tongs and flip 'em on over. Same thing, once they brown on the other side they should be ready to serve. Throw them on a platter and squeeze a little lemon over the lot. You'll probably need to grab a spear and test it too...yep, that's good. This dish is fast, 10 minutes start to finish.

Mushroom and Avocado Quinoa Have you tried the Quinoa? It's awesome. A delicious grain from South America that's cooked with the germ intact so it's loaded with protein. Around here it comes in a little box that holds about three cups of uncooked grain. Make sure you say it right, lest you sound like you read about it on a blog: KEEN-Wah.

I usually cook a little over a cuppa quinoa at a time. It cooks just like rice, but faster, with a 2:1 water to grain ratio.

We're going to cook ours with dried shitakes though. So grab one big handful of dried mushrooms and remove any stems. They don't rehydrate well and will be a weird texture if you leave them in. Next break or chop the shrooms into little pieces. Rehydrated mushrooms can be a little mushy and I don't like they way they feel if the pieces are too large. But they do taste delicious. Next, heat a little more twice as much water as you have grain volume in pot. Put the shitakes in the water to rehyrate for about 10 minutes (sorry, this recipe is a little convoluted, maybe you wanted to heat the water first). Remove the mushrooms from the broth and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Heat the broth to boiling and add the quinoa, reduce heat to low.
Follow the box's stovetop directions from here.
Chop up one large or two small avocados into little cubes. Also, chop some cilantro. Once the grains are done remove from the heat, toss in the mushrooms, avocado and cilantro. Salt & Pepper to taste. This is one is very healthy and everyone likes it fairly well.

Phad Thai

This is a somewhat old photo, but I think this is an appropriate first post. Making a good phad thai was one of the first dishes I was really proud of being able to make. When I was in college my parents started to be foodies to some extent and certainly began branching out their canon of regular American style meals. My dad bought a couple thai cookbooks, a wok, accoutrements, and became a regular at a little southeast asian market in Lynnwood (is no longer there, sad). I began requesting phad thai, tom kha kai, stir fry with crispy noodles, and all sorts of new dishes whenever I was home for visit. I loved the smell of ginger and garlic and peanut oil streaming through the house.
When I had my own foodie rebirth (?) about six years ago the phad thai recipe was one of the first I requested from my dad. I still have the scribbled notes I jotted down on a piece of lined paper, it's wadded up in my little recipe box that I honestly never open anymore. That's okay, I make this dish by feel these days.
That said, I also don't make this very often anymore. Wife still requests it but I usually suggest something else southeast asian instead. I've found myselft in a little catch-22 with this dish. My dad's original recipe makes a very saucy version of the dish, which I have grown to like. Most restaurants' recipes taste a little bland to me now. But, it's also really salty (which is why wife likes it so much). I've tried to combat the saltiness, by reducing the fish sauce a bit, and it is better now. But I've also found that the ingredients in the liquid need to be reduced in proportion, otherwise the taste gets thrown completely out of whack. Speaking of salty I like to make this with steamed broccoli tossed with a little black bean paste. I'd post the recipe for that, but there's not anything more to it than that. Steam some broccoli, then toss with some black bean paste (comes in a jar from your local asian grocer). A little bit goes a long way. But here's my phad thai recipe.

Phad Thai

3/4 lb prawns, deveined and shelled
8 oz. rice stick noodles (the 3mm ones, often labelled ‘Chantaboon’)
2 eggs
¼ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ sugar
2 tbsp. ketchup
6-8 cloves garlic
1-3 serrano peppers diced
½ cup chopped peanuts
¼ cup green onions or chives
¼ cup shredded carrot
peanut oil

Remove noodles from package and soak in warm water for 12-18 minutes. Combine vinegar, fish sauce, sugar and ketchup in a small bowl, whisk until sugar is disolved, set aside.

While noodles are soaking saute shrimp, garlic and peppers in a hot wok. Once the shrimp is seared and beginning to brown remove to a separate bowl. Scramble the eggs in the wok next, chop into small pieces and mix in with the shrimp.

Add noodles to the hot wok with a little more oil if necessary. Once noodles begin to heat add the liquid mixture and stir into noodles. As the noodles begin to absord most of the liquid add the chicken and egg along with the peanuts, heat through. Add the chives and carrots and cook for one minute longer. Remove to platter and garnish with lime and cilantro.