Monthly Archives: May 2012

Best BLT from Carnitas’ Snack Shack

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Shack BLT from Carnitas’ Snack Shack

BLT. Those three letters in that order are beautiful.

A modest combination of crisp bacon, juicy beefsteak tomatoes and cool lettuce on warm toasted bread, the BLT is an iconic American sandwich that dates to the 1920s and likely evolved from the British Bacon Butty, or bacon sandwich. Despite its age and humble nature, the BLT never loses its charm, especially for lunch on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

Originally a seasonal summer snack, the BLT became a staple after World War II when the expansion of supermarkets made fresh lettuce and tomatoes available year-round. You can find countless BLT variations across the country. Some people add pesto, chipotle mayo or avocado slices while others swap bacon for slices of Canadian bacon, prosciutto or pancetta. A select few use peanut butter instead of mayo. (I’m not sure about peanut butter. Whaddya think?)

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In San Diego, the pig-worshipping folks at Carnitas’ Snack Shack (a local, farm-to-table eatery) have created their own version of the classic BLT: Two slabs of golden, sweet toasty brioche are packed with juicy tomato slices, crunchy lettuce, grilled ham, creamy aioli and a magnificent amount of crisp, salty bacon ($8). It defines sublime simplicity.

If, make that, when, you go to Carnitas’ Snack Shack, get an order of regular fries (pictured above) or seasoned fries ($2.50), which are impossibly light, hot and crisp.

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And, while we’re talking sensational sandwiches, don’t forget to enter the give-away we’re hosting!

Three lucky readers will receive a signed copy of The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches, a chunky, little book dedicated to everything between sliced bread. Click here for the contest details. Good luck!

Got any recommendations for amazing BLTs?

Please share them with us in the comment section below.


10 Great Sandwiches, Plus an Encyclopedia of Sandwiches Give-Away

muffulettaMuffuletta from The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches (photography by Matt Armendariz)

I always knew I liked pork. I always knew I liked sandwiches. I didn’t realize how much I like pork sandwiches until recently when writer, Larry Bleiberg, interviewed me for a USA Today article on 10 great places to get a surprising sandwich. (I’m the author of The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches (Quirk Books, 2012), so I’ve become known affectionately as the “the sandwich lady,” which isn’t a bad moniker.)

It wasn’t until I read the finished article that I realized, “Whoa, I really like pork.” Of the 10 sandwiches I recommended, eight of them feature pork.

The grilled cheese I adored from The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen in San Francisco was the “Piglet,” with ham. The meatball sandwich I devoured at NYC’s Meatball Shop was the spicy pork variety. The sandwich I ate three times in five days at Rick Bayless XOCO in Chicago was the Cochinita Pibil torta, a muscular sandwich of roasted pig, black beans, pickled onions, and habanero sauce. Just typing that last sentence caused me to salivate.

See what I mean? If you’re salivating too, then check out the rest of my best sandwich picks in the article, “10 great places to bite into a surprising sandwich.”

In the meantime, please share with us your favorite place(s) to get a surprisingly good sandwich in the comment section below, and you might WIN a signed copy of The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches.

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We’re giving away 3 signed books! Here’s what you have to do to win a copy:

  1. In the comment section below, tell us where you get a surprisingly good sandwich and why it’s so grub-worthy.
  2. Boost your chances of winning by sharing this give-away announcement on Twitter and mentioning @Porkandknife or on Facebook. (Let me know if you post on Facebook so I can tally it.)
  3. FedEx me a muffuletta from the Napoleon House in New Orleans, and you’ll win all three books.
  4. Ignore #3. I was kidding. Sort of.

Good luck! And, remember, sandwiches make life better.

Salt Lick BBQ Offers Good Grub at the Austin International Airport

7139036547_72c9c62920Salt Lick BBQ Pulled Pork Taco

There are some universal truths: Bacon makes everything better. Burgers must be eaten with fries. Airport food is bad.

Pleasantly, I’m here to dispel one of those universal truths. Airport food isn’t always bad, especially if you eat at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. True to its community roots, Austin’s airport favors local businesses over chains. So instead of KFC and Barnes & Noble, you find locally beloved Salt Lick BBQ and indie bookstore, Book People.

The last time I was at the airport, I overhead the following conversation among three businessmen, whom I’ll call Mo, Larry and Curly:

Mo: I’m hungry. I’m gonna get some bbq from Salt Lick. You guys want some?

Larry: No, thanks. I don’t eat in airports. The food’s always terrible and overpriced.

Mo: You haven’t had Salt Lick then.

Curly: Oh, man, I LOVE Salt Lick. I get it every time I come here. And you gotta have it with that beer. What’s it called?

Mo: Shiner?

Curly: Yeah, that’s it, Shiner Bock. Salt Lick and Shiner Bock. It’s killer, Man. Killer.

6992951866_d91864c678Salt Lick Sausage Platter and Shiner Bock Beer

Curly’s right. Salt Lick BBQ is killer. Its roots run deep — back to the mid-18oos when a plucky 14-year-old girl named Bettie began searing meat and cooking it slowly over coals. Over 150 years later, Salt Lick uses the same cooking process. Their pulled pork  tacos are some of the best you’ll ever taste —succulent, perfectly sauced, tangy and not too salty. To my delight, most bites include a crispy nugget of charred meat that takes some extra chewing. Their sausage platter is a grand affair: muscular links of spicy pork sausage are drizzled with bbq sauce and served with classic Southern sides such as beans, mashed potatoes and cole slaw. It’s served with soft white bread, which is requisite in Texas BBQ.

Oh, and if you were wondering about Mo, Larry and Curly. When I spotted them next, they were devouring Salt Lick BBQ pulled pork tacos. Larry had bbq sauce dribbling down his chin. That’s the power of Salt Lick.

Sunday Suppers and Family Recipes: Making Meatballs With My Mom

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Sundays are for suppers. Not just any suppers. Suppers made patiently, slowly, lovingly. Like the way your mother or grandmother used to do.

When I was a child, most Sunday mornings were spent rolling the meatballs. From the time I about four years old, I’d stand on my mom’s rickety yellow step stool, and eagerly dig my hands into the cold pork and beef mixture she had waiting for me on the counter top. I’d add the eggs (yes, I was an egg-cracking prodigy), the bread crumbs, the parsley, the grated cheese, and I’d being to squish and mash the mixture with delight. That is, until my hands turned purple from the cold. Then my mom would run my hands under warm water, rubbing them with her own, before she’d let me start rolling the meatballs again.

If you think 4-year-olds love to bake cookies, give them a crack at rolling meatballs — you can keep them occupied for hours. I’d roll about 40 meatballs every Sunday, filling large rimmed baking sheets end to end. Every Sunday my mom would invariably say, “Honey, are you sure your hands aren’t too cold? You want me to roll the rest?” And I’d say, “Nope, I’m fine.” Why would I want to leave the kitchen? I loved being there. Everything — the sizzling of the hot olive oil, the sharp smell of garlic, the many “sweeties,” “good jobs!,” and “loves” I received from my mother — was perfect. I would have chosen making meatballs with my mom over playing with my my play-dough. And I loved my play-dough.

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Over 35 years later, those Sundays remain some of my most delicious memories. When my husband I are missing home, or I’m just missing my mom, we do what always makes us feel better: we make a big batch of meatballs. And meatballs are only as good as the meat that goes into them. While most people make meatballs with all beef, my mom always said that pork gave meatballs that “extra oomph!” So her meatball recipe consisted of half ground pork, half ground beef, 100% goodness.

Everyone knows you can’t eat meatballs without tomato sauce, or as we Italian -Americans call it, “gravy,” so you’ll find my family’s recipe below. (Gravy is a separate story for a separate post.) Even though it’s just my husband and me now on Sundays, we still like to have our Sunday suppers. Our Sunday suppers aren’t as grand as my mom’s used to be, but they’re still special, particularly when meatballs are involved.

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Italian Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Recipe by Susan Russo

Makes 6 to 8 servings

This tomato sauce is a quick marinara as opposed to a long-cooking Italian-American gravy made with sausages. In a pinch, you can use bottled sauce, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Tomato Sauce:

2 (28-ounce) cans San Marzano tomatoes

1 (14.5-ounce) can plain tomato sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 whole garlic cloves

1 large yellow onion, minced

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

Meatballs

1/2 pound ground pork

1/2 pound ground beef

1 cup plain breadcrumbs

1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/8 cup olive oil

1/8 cup canola oil

To Finish:

1 pound spaghetti or pasta of your choice

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

7 to 8 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

For Gravy:
Pour the tomatoes into a large bowl, and crush them with your hands (or use a blender or food processor if you prefer). In a large, heavy pot over medium-low heat, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add garlic cloves and onions, and saute for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown and aromatic. Discard the garlic cloves. Pour in the tomatoes (with their juice), tomato sauce, crushed red pepper, and salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, and cook 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened. Stir in fresh parsley and basil.

For Meatballs:
Place the meat in a large bowl. Add breadcrumbs, cheese and parsley. In a small bowl, beat the egg with some salt and pepper; add to the meat mixture. Mix the ingredients with your hands until the consistency is moist and the meat holds together well. If it’s too dry, add a bit of water or another beaten egg. If it’s too moist, add more breadcrumbs. Once the consistency is right, using your hands, roll the meatballs into 1 1/2-inch balls. It should make about 22 to 24 meatballs.

Mix the olive and canola oils in a large skillet over medium heat. Fit as many meatballs in the skillet as you can without overcrowding so you have room to turn them. Cook about 2 to 3 minutes until browned, then turn over and cook another 2 to 3 minutes, until all sides are evenly browned. Place on a paper towel-lined plate to absorb any excess oil. Repeat. Add the cooked meatballs to the sauce after it has simmered for 20 to 25 minutes. Simmer for an additional 25 to 30 minutes. If the sauce becomes too thick, then simply add small amounts of water until the desired consistency is reached.

For Pasta:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain. Add to the pot of sauce and meatballs, stirring to coat. Transfer to a large serving platter, and sprinkle with some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and chopped fresh basil.

Note: The meatballs can also be baked if you prefer not to fry them. To bake them, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place meatballs on a tinfoil-lined baking sheet (for easy clean up) and cook for 20 minutes, or until browned.

Photo credits: Top two photos, Susan Russo; last photo,FCC: MrUsaji

Great Brunch and Dinner Pork Recipes for Mother’s Day

Sure, you could take your mom out for a fancy meal on Mother’s Day. But wouldn’t she be more impressed if you made something from scratch? Below you’ll find lots of scrumptious, brunch and dinner pork recipes that will this Mother’s Day truly delicious.

2349441051_2dd01b5fcbSavory Sausage and Fennel Galette

What mom could resist a Savory Sausage and Fennel Galette — a golden, flaky crust filled with crisp Italian sausage, fennel, sun-dried tomatoes, and smoked mozzarella?

Quiche is the quintessential Mother’s Day brunch food, and this decadent Sausage-Spinach Quiche from Porkbeinspired.com will make Mom feel downright spoiled.

A beautifully set dinner table will be grander with a glistening roasted ham in the center. This Baked Ham with Mojo Sauce from Porkbeinspired.com is both zesty and sweet, just like Mom.

Brie and Bacon Puff Pastry is both homey and elegant, the perfect combination for any Mother’s Day celebration.

Make Mom crazy happy with this Wild Leek and Double Smoked Bacon Tart from Closet Cooking.

If you’re cooking Mother’s Day brunch with little ones, then consider this kid-friendly Cheesy Ham and Macaroni from Porkbeinspired.com. It’s perfect for little hands and adult bellies.

sausage_breakfast_casserole_portion-580Sausage Breakfast Casserole

Made with 10 eggs and milk, this hearty Sausage Breakfast Casserole from Cooking on the Side is satisfyingly thick and custard-y.

With a bourbon, tarragon, honey-mustard glazed, these Honey Pork Tenderloin Kabobs from Porkbeinspired.com are satisfyingly salty and sweet. Prop them on a bed of wild rice, mashed potatoes, or quinoa for a complete meal.

For a show-stopping meal, wow Mom with a regal Honey and Sage Roasted Rack of Pork from Porkbeinspired.com.

Pork Chops seem suddenly sexy when paired with grapes as evidenced in Circle Food’s Pork Chops with Roasted Grapes recipe.

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Pork Medallions with Strawberry-Mango Salsa

For a cheerful springtime pork recipe, try this sweet and savory recipe for Pork Medallions with Strawberry-Mango Salsa.

There’s something about stuffed meats that signals a special occasion, and it’s hard to get more special that this Italian-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin drizzled with creamy Alfredo sauce from Porkbeinspired.com.

Great Mother’s Day Gifts for the Pork-Loving Mom

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You can’t choose your mother, but you can choose what to give her for Mother’s Day. If your mom thinks pigs are cute and that bacon should be its own food group, then read on, cause I’ve got some perfectly porcine gifts for Mother’s Day.

Giving Mom a rose? How about nestling it inside of a pink glass pig bud vase from Etsy?

Better yet, how about surprising her with a bouquet of bacon roses? Yes, actual, edible bacon roses.

Does Mom have a sweet and salty tooth? Consider treating her to Vosges Haut Chocolat which offers a host of “exotic” bacon chocolates from a whimsical flying chocolate pig to an elegant box of assorted bacon truffles.

For the mom who loves to cook, there are countless piggy kitchen tools that will delight her from a wooden pig shaped cutting board and Piggly Wiggly Mini Frying Pan and Spatula Set to pig shaped cake pan and pancake pans. You can even get pig shaped salt and pepper shakers ranging from $12.95 at Sur la Table to $75.00 at uncommongoods.com.

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If mom prefers bling, then she’ll be smitten with a darling silver pig braceletsweet silver pig charm, or attractive pig ring, all from Animal Den.

Bacon Freak has lots of porky treats for Mother’s Day including their and Mother’s Day Gift Bundle, the latter which includes Maple-Bacon Mallamores.

If Mom’s a t-shirt and jeans kinda gal, she’ll look cool in a fitted tank top with logos such as “You had me at bacon” or “Bacon is like a little hug from God.”

Moms-on-the-go will appreciate this spacious, easily portable messenger bag stamped with a cute pink pig from Cafepress.com. I mean, really, how freakin’ cute is this bag?

pig love

If you’re a dad looking for a child’s gift for Mom, consider something pink, soft, and cuddly like Sniffs The Pink Beanie Baby or Arnold The Snoring Pig. Yes, Arnold actually snores and moves his ears when his hoof is pressed. You may have to wrestle this gift out of your child’s grasp. Be prepared for a struggle.

Photo credits, Flickr Creative Commons, thebridgeElizabeth/Table4Fivebeforepigsfly.

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Bacon Guacamole!

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May 5th is Cinco de Mayo, the day when Mexicans commemorate their victory over the French in the Battle at Puebla of 1862. In the Mexican town of Puebla, schoolchildren will study history, artists will sing and dance, and chefs will cook traditional foods, all to honor their brave ancestors.

In cities throughout America, Americans will celebrate Cinco de Mayo by eating guacamole and drinking margaritas.

If you really want to make this year’s Cinco de Mayo memorable, then skip the store-bought guac and make your own instead, with bacon. That’s right, bacon guacamole. (Life just got better after reading that sentence, didn’t it?) Classic creamy guacamole is studded with nibs of salty, smoky, crisp bacon, making it utterly, insanely irresistible.
And in case you’re wondering, bacon guacamole does taste better when you eat it while wearing a sombrero.
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Bacon Guacamole
This recipe is from my book, Recipes Every Man Should Know
Makes 6-8 servings

6 slices bacon
Flesh of 2 ripe avocados
1 medium tomato, chopped
4 scallions (white parts only), finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
A couple of pinches of salt
A couple of dashes of hot sauce
Small handful fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

1. Place bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook until crisp. Drain on a paper-towel-lined plate. Let cool and chop into small pieces.

2. Combine remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until chunky.

Like this recipe? There are over 60 more like it in my book, Recipes Every Man Should Know, co-authored with Brett Cohen. It’s a little, sleek black book that fits neatly into every man’s back pocket.
Photo credits: Top photo, FCC, sjon, second photo, Sala Kannan of www.veggiebelly.com.