Monthly Archives: January 2010

how could we not share this?

pulled pork

We could write this with much innuendo and suggestion.

Instead, we simply want to share this story, widely reported on the 28th of January:

“BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentina's president recommended pork as an alternative to Viagra Wednesday, saying she spent a satisfying weekend with her husband after eating barbecued pork.

“I've just been told something I didn't know; that eating pork improves your sex life … I'd say it's a lot nicer to eat a bit of grilled pork than take Viagra,” President Cristina Fernandez said to leaders of the pig farming industry.

She said she recently ate pork and “things went very well that weekend, so it could well be true.”

Argentines are the world's biggest per capita consumers of beef, but the government has sought to promote pork as an alternative in recent years due to rising steak prices and as a way to diversify the meat industry.

“Trying it doesn't cost anything, so let's give it a go,” Fernandez said in the televised speech.”

Well, duh!

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a modest breakfast

quinoa, poached egg, and bacon

If you are trying not to spend too much money on food in one week, you can still eat well.

Quinoa is one of our favorite grains — light and fluffy when cooked right — mild enough to accept the tastes of foods around it, assertive enough to have its own taste. Every day, we throw some whole grain in the rice cooker (we wouldn't know what to do without this rice cooker, particularly with a hungry toddler around) and have it around for meals. Quinoa for breakfast is fantastic.

And a poached egg, timed just right so that the texture of the white is firm (I love the ripples on this one), the yolk just a touch runny. I love the taste of a slightly salted quinoa that has soaked up some poached-egg yolk.

Plus, the bacon. Supple slices with a crunch, cooked solid without a touch of singe. Drape them over quinoa, plop on the egg, and you have a perfect breakfast.

Pork is wonderfully friendly to the family budget.

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the hunger challenge

pork shoulder waiting to be braised

This week, Danny and I are taking on King County's United Way Hunger Action Week challenge. From January 25th to the 29th (yesterday through Friday), many of us food bloggers will be living on a bare minimum of food money each day, equal to the maximum food assistance available to an individual living in Washington state.

Here, in King County, that's $7 a day.

For a family of three, the maximum allowed is $18 a day.

That's a heck of a lot less than we have been spending.

When we planned out our groceries and rough ideas of meals on Sunday, the day before the challenge, we immediately thought of a pork shoulder to roast. Not only could we eat the tender, falling-apart meat right out of the slow cooker, but we could also make great quesadillas with grated cheese, as well as a satisfying dish of brown rice, pieces of pork shoulder, and sauteed vegetables, with a sauce made out of the braising liquid, reduced.

No matter how much we spend, we're eating well this week.

Slow-Cooked Pork Shoulder

2-pound pork shoulder roast
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large carrot, peeled and medium chopped
2 stalks celery, medium chopped
1 large yellow onion, peeled and medium chopped
½ head small garlic
1 apple, cut into eighths
1 sprig rosemary, taken off the stem and fine chopped
½ fresh bay leaf (or 1 whole leaf, if dried)
1 quart chicken stock

Searing the meat. Set a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Pour in 1 tablespoon of the canola oil. When the oil is hot enough to run around the pan easily, put in the shoulder roast. Sear until the bottom has browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Sear the roast on all sides. Remove from the sauté pan and put in the slow cooker (we used a 6-quart cooker).

Pan-roasting the vegetables. Pour the remaining oil in the same pan, again on medium-high heat. Add the carrot, celery, onion, garlic, and apple. Cook, stirring, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the rosemary and bay leaf cook until they release their fragrance, about 1 minute.

Cooking the pork shoulder roast. Add the roasted vegetables to the slow cooker. Pour in the chicken stock, making sure that the roast is covered with stock. Put on the lid and turn on the slow cooker to low. Cook until the roast is tender enough to almost melt between pinched fingers, about 8 to 10 hours.

Enjoy.

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cider-braised pork shoulder

apple cider braised pork shoulder

It's cold outside. Time for hot cider, warm garlic, sprigs of thyme, and pork shoulder.

You may not think of putting these together to stave off a January day. We're going to change your mind.

Frankly, you don’t need this recipe. You could take all these ingredients, stand over the stove, and make beautiful food with your hands.

But if you want a starter recipe, here’s one we think you’ll like.

Apple Cider Braised Pork Shoulder

2 ½ pound pork shoulder roast
¼ cup dijon mustard
¼ cup whole grain mustard
kosher salt and cracked black pepper, a pinch each
3 tablespoons canola oil
6 small shallot bulbs, peeled and rough chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and fine chopped
3 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and chopped
½ gallon of best apple cider you can find

Preparing the pork shoulder. Mix the two mustards together, then add the salt and pepper. Stir. Slather the entire mixture over the pork shoulder. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350°.

Searing the pork shoulder. Bring a Dutch oven (or cast-iron skillet) to medium-high heat. Add the canola oil and bring it to heat. Lay the pork shoulder down in the sizzling oil. Allow it to sizzle and pop for about five minutes, or until that side has browned. Carefully, turn the shoulder over and brown the other side. Take the pork shoulder out of the pan and set it aside.


Sautéeing the shallots
. Put the shallots into the hot oil. Allow them to brown for a moment. Add the garlic and sautée for a moment more. Add the thyme. When the herb smell wafts to your nose, warmly, add the pork shoulder back in.

Braising the shoulder. Pour the apple cider all around the shoulder, or until it comes up to about ¾ of the meat. Put the lid on the pot and slip it in the oven. Cook for at least three hours, or until the warm pork and cider smell makes you lose your mind unless you take it out of the oven right now! (You should also look for the temperature to be about 160°.)

Serves 6.

This recipe originally appeared on our other blog, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. We pulled it up and decided to make this for dinner. Then we got to thinking that you might enjoy it this weekend as well.

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pasta with bacon and broccoli

pasta with bacon and broccoli

We were going to make pasta carbonara today.

That was the plan.

We found a great recipe from Mark Peel's book, New Classic Family Dinners. It's a beautiful book, written for folks who truly love to cook and want to bring meatloaf wrapped in bacon and smothered pork chops back to their dinner table. We were excited.

But I had been baking before we started lunch. That takes eggs. We tried making our own homemade pasta, a weekly ritual around here. However, I lost count and made it with four eggs instead of five. By the time I recognized the error — when the pasta came apart in little shreds at the bottom of the pasta machine — it felt too late. I still rushed the dough back to the KitchenAid and turned to the refrigerator for another egg.

I promptly dropped it on the floor. Our toddler dancing on a chair at the counter distracted me. Plop. Lovely orange yolk sat resting on the floor.

I paused, then started laughing. Too much rushing always brings this. We had pasta in the cupboard. (Well, Thai rice sticks. Close enough.)

So we were set. Time for pasta carbonara.

Then Danny turned to me and said, “You can't make pasta carbonara without eggs.”

Hm. We paused. And then he started cooking. He made this pasta instead.

No one complained. We still had bacon. Our daughter ate a third of this.

We'll make this again.

PASTA WITH BACON AND BROCCOLI

1 pound cappelini or linguine
1 cup broccoli florets
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 slices bacon, diced
½ medium-sized leek, washed and sliced into half moons (white part)
½ onion, diced
1 teaspoon rosemary
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped
½ cup Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta in heavily salted water until the noodles are al dente.

Just before the pasta is fully cooked, throw the broccoli into the water and let it blanch for 2 minutes.

Rendering the bacon. Bring a large sauté pan to medium-high heat. Pour in the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the bacon pieces. Render until the bacon is crisp. Remove the bacon and leave the fat in the pan.

Add the leek and onion to the hot bacon fat, stirring frequently to ensure the leeks don’t burn. Add the rosemary and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Put in the cooked pasta and broccoli, along with the bacon. Toss everything well. Taste. Season to your own taste. Put the pasta into bowls.

Top with the parsley and Parmesan. Serve.

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bacon lip balm

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photo from this story on bacon balm in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune

Just when you think you've seen everything….

Did you know that there is bacon lip balm available for your chapped lips this winter?

Not only that, but there is more than one brand?

J&D's Bacon Flavored Lip Balm comes with the slogan: “Everything should taste like bacon.”  The company's description of the product:

“When your bacon hunger has been satisfied but you still crave that bacon taste… now you can make yourself taste like bacon! Our Bacon Flavored Lip Balm is a constant reminder of the awesome power of bacon.”

You can order these on Amazon. They come in four-pack size. Apparently, you'll be so busy nibbling your lips for the taste of bacon that you'll eat through an entire package of lip balm in mere days.

Hm.

And the Bacon Lip Balm by Accoutrements comes with this description:

“Every time you eat bacon don't you wish you could taste that cured meat flavor all day long? Well, now you can! Just carry around a tube of this Bacon Lip Balm and you can keep your lips moist and meaty around the clock. Warning: Your lips will smell like bacon, but they are not bacon. Do not bite your lips.”

It is also billed as a “zero-calorie bacon treat.”

We have to say that we might like bacon more than most people, perhaps more than anyone else we know. Still, the only bacon we want on our lips is from the residue of breakfast.

What do you think? Has anyone ever tried these? Do they taste any good?

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local artisan bacon makers

bacon-wrapped bacon

You know that when you want a bacon fix, quickly, almost any bacon will do. Right?

However, sometimes you want to take more time with your bacon and experience the varieties of flavors that cured smoked pork belly can provide. If so, there are a number of artisan bacon makers across the country who would love for you to sample their wares.

Today, in SFGate, Carol Ness gives a guide to artisan bacon makers in the Bay Area. Listen to the description of Black Pig bacon, out of Healdsburg:

“Black Pig bacon hits a balance: It's meaty, salty, sweet and smoky, but not too much of any of them. The texture manages to be just a little chewy even when crisp.”

I'd like some now. Actually, I'm feeling sad I don't have any right now.

Fatted Calf, which we had the pleasure of visiting in September, makes its own bacon as well: cut thick and cured with cayenne and brown sugar. Yes, please.

The piece also has a recipe for bacon fat mayonnaise, courtesy of Ari Weinzweig, author of Zingerman's Guide to Better Bacon. (Clearly this is an essential book. We need to find a copy.)

How could you not want to read this piece on artisan bacon now?

Do you have artisan bacon makers in your area? Tell us about your favorite bacon makers here.

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a guide to eating chorizo

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photo courtesy of Patricia Jinich

Patricia Jinich is one of our favorite food people. She teaches cooking classes, writes about food, and is the head chef for the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington D.C. When she writes messages about food on Twitter, she leaves us hungry. (“Just came back from a dinner, and I am still hungry. Will make some late night quesadillas. With ripe avocado. And Chipotles.”) She embraces the food of her culture, as well as great sushi and spaghetti and meatballs for her kids.

Basically, we want to hang out at her house.

Her recipe for Chiles in Nogada leaves us a little breathless. We want some, now. (And if you would like to attempt more of Pati's recipes, click onto her website, Pati's Mexican Table.)

You can imagine, therefore, how excited we were this week to see Patricia's column on the beauties of chorizo show up in the Washington Post. With an opening like this, it has to be good:

“Right off the bat, you must understand: I heart chorizo. Especially the kind I grew up eating in Mexico. It comes in deep-burnt-reddish links of fresh, moist, exotically seasoned ground meat that, once fried, becomes crisp and filling bites with bold flavors and a thousand uses.

My oldest son's quick choice for breakfast is chorizo fried just until it browns and crisps, with a side of white toast. Add some lightly beaten eggs as the chorizo is starting to brown and some ripe and creamy avocado slices on the side, and that's my kind of rich-tasting brunch dish. Of course chorizo is delicious in sandwiches, in tacos and quesadillas, on top of enchiladas, in mashed potatoes, as a topping for heartier salads, in some of the tastiest bean dishes I have tried, in pastas with a ton of personality and on pizzas with pickled jalapeño peppers on top.

I am really trying to stop myself here.”

You really should go read the piece for yourself. Patricia has so much to teach us about the history of chorizo and different variations in this spicy, fatty wonderful pork sausage.

We can only hope that, if we ever meet Patricia, she cooks us something that has been simmering on the stove for hours, a recipe from her family, food deeply familiar to her, and something with chorizo.

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Bacon-flavored envelopes

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Is it possible? You still haven't had enough of bacon?

We haven't. We're still loving our applewood-smoked bacon for breakfast and the bacon air freshener hanging down from the rear-view mirror of our car. In writing regular updates on bacon products here on this site, we thought we had come across everything bacon.

Until we saw this.

JD foods has introduced envelopes that taste of bacon, called Bacon-Flavored Mmmvelopes. It's brilliant, really. If you sent out holiday cards this year, you know that your tongue was left parched and tasting of sawdust and tire irons at the end of the session. Bleh. Why not enjoy the taste of bacon instead of envelope glue?

As they write on the website:

“No longer will envelopes taste like the underside of your car. You can enjoy the taste of delicious bacon instead. That's right, bacon. It's not real bacon, mind you, so you won't have to start storing your envelopes in the refrigerator. But it really does taste like bacon.”

Who knew?

One of my resolutions this year was to start writing more letters again, instead of so many damned emails. With bacon-flavored envelopes, that goal could be pretty easy to keep.

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Jamie Oliver’s sweet potato and chorizo soup

sweet potato chorizo soup

It's January. It's probably cold where you are. Here, the grey is raining down on bare branches and the sun is so hidden that it's almost easy to think it doesn't exist.

Soup weather.

We are big fans of Jamie Oliver.  Surely you must know that by now. The man is a food god — talented and determined to bring good food to as many people as he can. His latest book, Jamie's Food Revolution: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals, shows people how to cook, simply and with good ingredients in season. He really is trying to start a revolution.

We can too.

So this soup, from Jamie Oliver's new book, combines sweet potatoes (winter = root vegetables) and chorizo (always a good idea, in any season). What's not to love about that?

In the mouth, the soup is even better than on the page. The sweetness of the sweet potatoes is cut by the heat of the chorizo, and vice versa. We wanted to drink this soup, instead of waiting for the soup to dip in, once again. So we did.

You will want to drink this too.

Sweet Potato and Chorizo Soup, from Jamie's Food Revolution: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals

1 ¾ quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
olive oil
2 large carrots, peeled
2 celery stalks, sliced evenly
2 medium onions, peeled and rough chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 ¾ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and rough chopped
7 ounces chorizo sausage, sliced
small bunch fresh parsley, fine chopped
1 heaped teaspoon Madras curry powder
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 fresh red chile, fine diced

Bring the stock to boil in a saucepan. Let it simmer on the back burner.

Bring a large pot to medium-high heat. Pour in the olive oil. Put all the chopped and sliced foods (including the chorizo) into the hot oil.  Add the curry powder and mix it all up.

Cook until the carrots have softened but are not falling apart and the onions have turned a little golden, about 10 minutes.

Pour in the hot stock. Give the soup a stir and let it come to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the soup until the sweet potato is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Season the soup with salt and pepper. Stir. Taste. Season it to your taste.

Blend the soup with an immersion blender (easiest) or by pouring it into a large blender or food processor.

Top with a bit of diced chile and serve.

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