Posts Tagged ‘sweet potato’

Next up in project clean out my parents’ freezer: pork loin

Back when I was buying cheap meat, a pork loin was one of the best bargains out there – almost all lean meat, no bones, and could be found on sale as cheaply as $1.88/lb

Being just one person, I’d cut a whole loin into three roasts and freeze them. Even then, it’s quite a lot of meat. And it has a tendency toward being dry and flavorless.

The cooking method I learned from my mother was to pick the roast with the thickest outer layer of fat as possible, embed some garlic cloves in the meat and threat some rosemary sprigs between the fat and the meat, coat the outside in garlic salt, and roast it in a slow oven. This produced a lovely, and usually juicy, meal. But the leftovers still tended to be dry.

So ever since I discovered carnitas, I’ve taken to braising this cut. And that means I can even trim off the fat layer.

Braised Pork w/ tomatoes and orange peel

Put the following things into a pot:

  • Pork roast, trimmed of exterior fat and freezer burn (cause I live a classy life)
  • 1 quart of (homemade, home-canned nyah nyah nyah) stock
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes (okay, so this was storebought, but it was a great sale)
  • thinly sliced orange peel – now this one requires some explanation because I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this, but last year I started keeping my citrus peels in water. That simple: eat fruit, put clean peel into a container, fill container with water all the way up to the top so there’s minimal oxidization, refrigerate. I should probably worry about bacteria, but the citrus is fairly resiliant on its own and the peels never developed an off smell. If you change the water every couple of weeks, then the peels are less bitter with each successive change of water, and the pith softens so it can be easily scraped away. Seriously – this is amazing. Why isn’t everyone doing this? Right, so I had these from last winter and they still smelled fine, and I knew I’d be cooking the stuff for hours, so I sliced it into little orangey ribbons and delicious flavor.

And then cook it for a few hours. I went to OutFest with it on low, and then turned the heat up for a few hours once I came home and could supervise it.

I considered it done once the meat was falling apart and almost all of the liquid had been cooked out (as much as I felt confident cooking out without burning it to the bottom of the pan)

So now I had a tasty meat base, so what was I going to do with it so I didn’t get tired of it?

Well, I made half a cup of white rice, and I froze some lunch portions with the rice and about half of the braised pork.

And I had a we smidgeon of rice left, so I took another wee smidgeon (1/4 cup) of pork and made quesadillas

Braised Pork Quesadillas (pork is braised, not the quesadilla)

They key to a good quesadilla (and a good filled crepe) is to not put too much in. If it’s still flat, then you’re I’m going to enjoy it more.

So throw a tortilla in a heated skillet. Once the tortilla is warm, flip it over and start working very quickly (that is – have a mis en place).

Add the thinnest layer of cheese you can.

Pick a half of the tortilla. Cover it with a little leftover (but warm) rice that has been tossed with lime cilantro dressing, a little of the braised pork (drain the liquid away and have a mostly dry filling), and some shredded kale (some sharp onions would have also been good here).

Fold the bare (i.e. with just cheese) half of the tortilla over the filling and make a nice even sandwich. Press flat. And flip it over to brown the outside of the tortilla and wilt the kale. Peek under to see when you have a few burnt spots on the underside of the quesadilla. Decide whether you want the (now) top crisped up anymore (if so, flip and cook a little more). Then serve. Have sour cream on the side.

And I still had about half of the braised pork left. So I made a stew-type dish.

Pork and Chickpea Stew

Add a little oil to the bottom of a pot and sweat an onion, diced. Once the onion is translucent, add a drained can of chickpeas (or soak them overnight and cook them a bit longer than is called for in this recipe… since this here cooking is mostly just getting everything warm enough for the flavors to intermingle).

Now my braised pork was pretty intensely flavored, but if it hadn’t been, I would start adding seasonings here – some cumin seeds, maybe a stick of cinnamon, marjoram, and maybe some raisins would have been an interesting choice. But I didn’t do that.

I did, however, have a baked sweet potato in my fridge, and that seemed like a good addition, so I pulled it out, peeled it, sliced it a couple times against the grain, and mixed it in with the chickpeas.

And then I added the braised pork.

Cooked it for a couple minutes until the smells mixed, and then I dished it up into containers to freeze for lunches.

Tags: , , , ,

9
Nov

Ghost Chili Breakfast

   Posted by: Livia    in breakfast, Challenges, course, experiments, Food, Marx Foods

So I have these insanely hot peppers to test (see previous entry for full disclaimer about free peppers), and I don’t actually have any friends who will eat spicy foods with me. They sometimes have difficulties with black pepper.

I solved that by putting out a call on the internet to find local people who were excited by spicy food. And this morning I got to meet a lovely person with a delightfully high heat tolerance (who happened also to know two of my pre-existing friends).

We met for breakfast.

Fried eggs were just as tasty on the second go through.

The sweet potatoes were amazing! They didn’t get as caramelized as I expected, and the heat ended up being surprisingly mild. I think I might try candying the sweet potatoes, instead of glazing, just to see what happens.

The butters got approval (as did my homemade bread), and she preferred the honey butter on general principles of texture.

And then I started to improvise.

I picked some of the (bountiful and thriving) chard from my garden and prepared my Kenyan greens recipe, but with some hot pepper sliced in… and that was too hot. Unpleasantly so, without adding anything to the flavor. But once I picked the pieces of pepper out, it was pretty tasty – so perhaps just adding a chunk of pepper while cooking and then removing it.

And then I had the lovely stems left, so I made some fried rise with an onion, chard stems, diced carrot, leftover brown rice, finely sliced ghost chili, and a few drops of oyster sauce for moisture. It received approval from my guest, and I added some roast pork leftovers to it as I packed it up and froze it into lunch portions.

And I sent her home with the spicy truffles, so I haven’t heard back yet. The filling was right on the edge of okay for me, so I’m hoping they end up better once they have another layer of chocolate. I only had time to coat three of them, though, so my taste has to wait until tonight. I did learn an unrelated lesson about truffles, though – using a lower milk fat dairy option for the ganache center (the store was out of heavy cream) really makes a noticeable and unpleasant difference to the texture. I won’t be doing that again.

Note: Marx Foods did provide the ghost chilies to experiment with for free. They did not, however, influence my impressions of the product.

Tags: , , , , ,

17
Dec

Leftover Soup

   Posted by: Livia    in course, easily modified to vegan, friendly, Recipe, soup, vegetarian

So I came home from work, and I heated up some leftover soup.

And then I had amazing garlic bread on the side – this morning, I had mixed together some black garlic and softened butter. But – I’d been reading cookbooks at work, and I forget which one had it – but I just passed right by a mention of tomato toast (which looked like bread with some tomato sauce spread over before toasting). I don’t even know if that recipe involved toasting because it didn’t register consciously, but I have this jar of salsa with a smooth texture that’s not all that pleasing for chips so I’ve been looking for ways to cook with it… and that, drizzled on top before the buttered bread went under the broiler, made delicious toast.

But then I was looking at the dregs of the jar of salsa, and I figured out a soup that would use up a bunch of odds and ends around the refrigerator. Only, people – I have already had dinner, but I can’t stop sipping this soup in progress. It’s really good so far, and I’m hoping I don’t fuck it up.

Mexican-y leftover soup

So I started off with slightly less than two teaspoons of whole wheat flour, and I toasted it in the bottom of a dry saucepan.

Once it had turned a rich dark brown, I added a finely diced medium/large onion. And I let that cook for a few minutes without adding any oil so that the onions would have a chance to soften and get coated with the flour.

Then I added a teaspoon of bacon fat and two teaspoons of olive oil, and stirred it together thoroughly, until the flour was all gooey.

I added three large minced garlic cloves while there still was some dry-ish cooking to be had.

Then I slowly incorporated 1 pint of turkey stock and 1/2 a pint of vegetable stock (because that’s what I had hanging around).

And I added the last of the cubed and roasted squash out of which I had made the last two soups – umm… about a pint’s worth.

At this point, I pulled out the badly aging remnants of my last trip to the farmers market (which I think was before Thanksgiving) – a carrot and a parsnip. Peeled them. Sliced the parsnip thinly on the bias and diced the carrot, not that the shape is likely to matter, as I’m thinking of pureeing it. Added it to the soup.

I minced some ginger and added it.

I added the remains of the jar of salsa (about an eighth of a cup, but I can’t see significantly more being a bad thing) and a can of diced tomatoes.

And then for the removable ingredients – I cleaned a stalk of celery and added it whole and I tossed in a bay leaf.

And some seasonings – two cloves (pinch off the caps, powder them in your fingers, then keep the stem for when you want to stud something with cloves), a dash of oregano, a tiny amount of dried chipotle (just a little because I don’t yet know how much the heat will increase during cooking), and some ground pepper.

And then I looked in the fridge and saw that I still had a leftover baked sweet potato from Thanksgiving, so that went in, too.

Now I have a lot of liquid – so it’s on a slow simmer, cooking down.

But it’s delicious. It’s delicious in a spoon, and it’s delicious with a piece of bread surreptitiously dunked in it. Mmmmm!

The working plan is to puree it once it has cooked down and then add cubed leftover turkey (currently in the freezer, not the fridge), but I’m thinking it might be too tasty to tinker with.

ETA: I never did add the meat. It was just too tasty as it was.

Tags: , , , , , ,

This was only my second time making Thanksgiving, so the food is still shiny, new, and exciting to me.

So I went with a very simple recipe for the turkey because my parents went wild and paid for a turkey, instead of earning a free one through buying groceries. And they splurged for a free range, sexy turkey. So I just chucked some onion, garlic, and herbs inside and rubbed the outside with an herbed garlic butter. After the first half of cooking, I basted with a mixture of the turkey’s juices, orange juice, and soy sauce. Easy, simple, and it turned out juicy and reliable. There was a surprising amount of white meat for a free range bird, but apparently it was an especially breasty breed of bird – but the white meat wasn’t anymore flavourful for the wandering around. But I do think you could tell a difference with the dark meat – with a richer and more complex taste. And a cruelty free holiday!

And my mother scandalized me by not letting me come up with a recipe for dressing – but, instead, she bought Stove Top’s cornbread dressing. And to doctor it, she stirred in sliced scallions right at the end. Yeah. But I have to admit, even if it was sleazy, it was still very tasty and we finished all of it.

She was also going to have our only vegetable be microwaved frozen sugar snap peas (because my father can’t have Vitamin K), but I insisted on a second vegetable (mostly because I still had an abundant amount of Swiss Chard in the garden to use up before first frost). So I melted two teaspoons of bacon fat. Once that warmed up, I tossed in three cloves of garlic, thinly sliced. Once that started to brown, I tossed in the Swiss chard (washed, leaves cut off the spines, and then sliced across into 3/4″ ribbons, still damp). I had meant to add red pepper flakes after, but I ended up getting distracted getting the meal on the table, so there weren’t any – and the dish was delicious without them. Not healthy, mind you, but delicious. My friend, who is a chef, was absolutely right – swiss chard must always go with bacon.

And then there is the dish of which I am the most proud. The sweet potato casserole. Everyone makes this dish, and there are hundreds of recipes for this on the internet – but the first five pages on google didn’t come up with the recipe I was looking for. All of the called for butter. Many of the called for heavy cream. I really liked the recipe that called for orange juice and zest, and then I was amused to notice that the orange juice was never used in any of the versions claiming to be lower fat. Also, while I remember from my youth great debates over whether one would add diced apples or crushed pineapple to the casserole, not a single recipe called for any fruit. So I ended up kind of making my own way to a healthy version of this side dish for my diabetic father.

Sweet Potato Casserole – topped with marshmallows

First off, I made made it in individual ramekins, instead of a large dish, so there would be portion control. I don’t know if it’s necessary, but just for the ease, I did lightly butter the dishes.

Roast and peel 2 medium sweet potatoes.

Core, peel, and dice finely half of a smaller apple.

Stir them together in a bowl with the juice of one orange and the zest of half of the orange.

Since my parents have on hand the sugar/splenda blend, I used that. It runs twice as sweet as a comparable measure of sugar. Start with an eighth of a cup and taste, adding up to a quarter of a cup.

For spices, I added cinnamon, sweet paprika, black pepper, and a few drops of vanilla extract.

Then I stirred in 1/2 a teaspoon of baking powder and 2 egg whites. Beat that thoroughly through the mixture.

Fill the ramekins, making sure to leave about 3/4″ from the top because not only do you need room for the marshmallows, but also you the casserole will rise as it bakes.

Then I popped the ramekins into the 325F oven with the turkey for 45 minutes. I pulled them out and let them cool (they did puff up like souffles, but the settled down and still had a light, fluffy texture).

Once the casserole is no longer piping hot, cover with the big marshmallows (size totally matters). And, yes, I used normal, storebought marshmallows instead of trying to find a healthy way around that part.

After the turkey comes out of the oven, throw the ramekins back in and switch it to broil. By the time everything else is on the table, the marshmallows should be perfectly browned and puffy.

Also there was gravy. Mmmm…

After the fourth basting, I sucked up about a cup of the drippings and set them aside long enough for the fat to separate out.

Toast some flour until is it as dark as you want it. My mother went with a nice almond color.

Then spoon the fat from the drippings and add it to the flour. If that is not enough to make a smooth pasty, add some butter.

Once that was smooth and ready to have liquid added, my mother poured in the drippings slowly enough that they’d boil and incorporate smoothly.

After the whole cup had been added, I warmed up another cup of vegetable broth, and she added that until she reached the consistency she wanted.

Then she added a little kitchen bouquet (I don’t know – it’s tradition. But you could also toast the flour more in the beginning). Even though there was soy sauce in the basting liquid, after tasting the gravy still needed a little more salt, too. She has a mixture of white pepper, thyme, and rosemary that she grinds herself – a pinch of that. And a teaspoon and a half of Manischewitz wine for richness.

And then after dinner, we had an apple pie I bought at my farmers’ market and the fior di latte and almond gelato I bought from Capogiro.

And now I am back home and making turkey stock from the carcass. Good times.

Tags: , , , ,

24
Nov

Thanksgiving menu planning and family dynamics

   Posted by: Livia    in Uncategorized

The past several years, my parents have gone to my sister’s for Thanksgiving. And she and her husband have made traditional Thanksgiving food (roast turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing from a package, gravy, and steamed broccoli).

This year, however, they shall be going to her in-laws because she’ll be too preggers to fly for Christmas.

So I get to make Thanksgiving for the second time ever. Really – just my second time cooking this mean, so I am not bored of the routine in the slightest.

So I called me mother to menu plan…

For the turkey… well, I was going to take a five or more year old free turkey from our deep freeze and turn it into something amazing through magic and impressiveness. My father, trusting neither my skill with freezer-burned meats nor the turkey in question, insisted on getting a fresh turkey. Apparently, it’s a very nice one, so I’ll go with a much simpler recipe than I had originally thought.

Actually, apparently, my mother isn’t waiting for me to think of a recipe at all. She bought a packet of turkey roasting herbs and the onion for it already. What herbs are these? Thyme, rosemary, and other things I still mostly have growing outside my apartment ready for final harvesting.

And for the vegetable, I am putting my foot down. All my father will eat for a green vegetable is either sugar snap peas or baby peas. Frozen. From green giant. And I declared that not enough vitamin content to count as worth my father’s time, so we’re having a green vegetable he won’t eat – namely, the last harvest of the swiss chard in my garden. So there.

My mother has already bought the sweet potatoes… because of my parents’ health issues, I’ll be making the traditional sweet potato casserole in individual-sized ramekins.

And then I was pondering the savoury starch option. Maybe mashed potatoes from scratch. Maybe I’ll make dressing from scratch. BUT my mother informs me she has already bought a (bag?) of Stove Top’s cornbread stuffing. Mer. So I’ll at least doctor it up a bit for fun and profit.

So all that’s left for fun is dessert. And I’m bad at desserts. I’m thinking of trying to make the old family recipe pecan pie. Unfortunately, I told my mother that, so I am betting that when I get there I will find either: a) a storebought Mrs. Smith’s pie or b) 2 brand new bottles of Caro, light and dark – even though I found half a dozen such bottles the last time I cleaned out their pantry, and I’m sure I left them one of each, kept one of each, and threw out several others.

It’s odd, because I’m pretty sure my mother understands how much fun I have with cooking and planning food. And I thought she trusted me to make fancy stuff still withing the limit of what my father’s bland tastes are willing to eat.

ETA: Oh, right – so one of the points of this whining. There’s still a random frozen turkey at my parents’ that they are never going to eat. And I have this plan for ethical meat consumption that goes: I’m going to eat all of the meat my parents have wastefully bought and then buried in their freezer. But turkeys are huge. Does anyone (well after Thanksgiving, because the turkey will keep) want to help me eat this turkey experiment? Or are you all afraid of the freezer taste, too?

Tags: , ,

5
Dec

note to self

   Posted by: Livia    in soup

Next moot, try this soup

Tags: ,