Sunday, November 3, 2013

Yes You CAN Kiss this Cook with this November Chili

In November, I like to make chili. A few nights ago, I made a this pork tenderloin chili, and now I will share that recipe with you.

November Chili (serves about 8-12 bowls)

Pork Tenderloin (you will be using both if you buy a package that comes with two) 
1 22 oz beer (I used Stella Atrois, but you can also use other fun/nice beers) 
1-2 cans of black beans 
1-2 cans of red kidney beans 
1 can of white beans or one can of garbanzo beans 
1 can of corn (you can also use freshly cooked or grilled corn) 
1 large can of diced or peeled whole tomatoes 
3-4 jalapeños (seeds removed) 
1 yellow onion 
2 red bell peppers sliced and diced
3-4 cloves of garlic 
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup of flour

These are spices are kind of to taste/by sight - don't go overboard on any of them: 
garlic power 
 brown sugar 

First, taken the pork tenderloins out of the package and try to trim off some of the "silver" fat sections. If you choose to leave them, I think that is also fine. Then, cut the pork into roughly 1 inch pieces. Then take those pieces and in a bowl combine the spices and sugar to dry rub the meat. Your hands will get dirty, but it is worth it. You want the pieces to be evenly covered and rubbed with the spices.

[The next step can be done in either the pot you are using for cooking (I used a Le Creuset huge round pot that can transfer from stove to oven), or you can use a pan and then transfer it to your crockpot.]

Next, lightly (LIGHTLY) dust the pork pieces with flour. In the pan you are using, add a little bit of oil and brown all sides of the meat pieces. This is about a 45-1 minute per side. This gives the meat a good sear and helps lock in those spice flavors. Don't try to brown all the meat at once, do them in batches. You can put the seared off the to the side in a big bowl or plate.

Then you want to sauté the onion, garlic, and peppers in the same oil as the meat. I added a little beer at this point to kind of de-glaze the pot. Don't remove the veggies, just add the canned beans and veggies together. Then add the bay leaf. And then add the meat back in, and pour in the beer.

I cooked mine in the oven at about 350-375 for 3 hours. It was fantastic! I had it over some plain white rice, with some sour cream and cheddar cheese. The next day, I reheated the chili on the stove on low for a few hours, even better. I have frozen the rest for now, and am looking forward to it later this month.

ENJOY! Please email me or comment if you have any questions about prep.

TA-DA! :) 

PS: I don't use crockpots anymore because they have all, at one point, turned on me. I trust my dutch oven and Le Creuset cast iron pots over something you plug in any day!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

You say Frittata, I say Mediterranean Frittata

Good Morning World! The weather here in Austin is finally starting to get out of the 100s and into the 80s and 90s. It doesn't sound like that big of a difference, but trust me, it is. I have been able to cut down on my electric bill considerably, leave my windows open, and finally enjoy some time on my porch. I even bought a basil plant and a mint plant. There is every chance that these plants may die soon, because I have the opposite of a green thumb.

This morning, I woke up and wanted something delicious. I was thinking a lot about our friend Lauren, I grew up next to her kids and actually was their baby sitter for a long time, I always think of them as my family because that's what we really became to each other over the years. Lauren always made the most delicious frittatas when I lived with her and her daughter in Charlotte, NC after I graduated from college. A good frittata (to me) is fluffy yet firm, cheesy, and has some sort of veggie with in it, and sometimes, bacon. Lauren used to make all different kinds of frittatas - my favorite was mushroom. I really like it when food and memories are one in the same.

So today, I decided to try my hand at a Mediterranean Frittata. I was looking at recipes earlier and there can be a million different ways to make the frittata fluffier, cheesier, fancy as hell, or kid friendly. I decided on a Mediterranean frittata because I have some great little potatoes right now (some are purple!), kalamata olives, garlic, FRESH basil leaves from my plant outside, fresh spinach, chard, and kale, and good cheese. This is also a good way to save some food in your fridge that you don't want to freeze but need to eat.

Morgan's Mediterranean Frittata
8 large eggs
3/4 chopped fresh basil leaves (dried basil leaves will NOT work here) 
1 stick of butter (you can reduce this is you want, but butter does make it pretty amazing) 
1-2 cups of chopped mini potatoes (or 4 red potatoes cubed/chopped) 
1/2 kalamata olives 
2 cloves garlic 
1-1.5 cups of cheese of your choice (I chose Monterey jack and 3 blend parmesan) 
1-2 cups of kale, spinach, chard blend 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
Cayenne (a pinch of two, unless you want a lot of heat) 
** you can also add some chopped onion, but that is up to you**

Finished Product: 

Directions: First, you want to choose an oven safe pan for this - I am using my cast iron skillet. If you don't have these, you can use a baking dish and just transfer everything over to the oven safe dish.

Second, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Next, you want to melt 3 tablespoons of butter in the pan and throw in your chopped potatoes (sorta like making hash browns) and cook/sauté those for about 10-15 minutes. Then you can add the leafy green mix (kale, spinach, chard) and the garlic into the pan and give it a good mix and let it get in there.

While that is cooking, you will want to combine the eggs, salt, pepper, baking soda, and basil and whisk until blended. Then add about 2/3 of the cheese you want to use. Melt the rest of the butter in the microwave or on the stove, and then finally, add this to egg-cheese mixture.

Next, you will want to add the egg mixture over the veggies in the pan. Add the remaining cheese on top and pop it in the oven for about 45-min to an hour, depending on how your oven routinely cooks things.

It will raise up while cooking and sorta puff out slightly. To see if it's done, you can put your knife in the center and it should come out clean (nothing sticking to it).

Viola! Mediterranean frittata!

(oven shot/action shot) 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Hot Sauce Boss? Maybe...I am in training.

It is an absolutely beautiful day in Austin. There's not a cloud in the sky, and it is only about 80 degrees today (give or take). I've had my windows open all day, drying clothes and blankets on my porch, took Carmen on an awesome walk this morning, and now I am ready to get down to business and start cooking something. Right now, as I type this blog entry, I am on my porch with my dog Carmen, who has made a lair/fort with my drying blankets. As a side note, there is just something about air and sun dried fabrics that is just nostalgic. It reminds me of spending time with my Mommom after the beach, with all of our towels on the porch or chairs drying out. Mmmmm.

Carmen in her fort/lair on our porch. 

I've decided today, that I am going to make some more hot sauce. The wall of peppers at my local Whole Foods store is somewhat bewildering, which is how I came to make this decision today. In my selections I have: red peppers, jalapeños, habaneros, thai chili peppers, and a package of ghost peppers that I am frankly terrified to handle. I have my onions, coconut oil, salt, garlic, and beer ready to go. My goal today is to make a good tangy hot sauce that won't make me explode. Graphic, but necessary.

Remember September Hot Sauce
5 large red peppers 
4 jalapeños 
3 habaneros
8 thai chili peppers
1-2 tablespoons of local honey 
1.5-2 cups of white wine vinegar 
1 tablespoon salt 
1 teaspoon whole pepper corns 
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger 
5 large garlic cloves 
1/2 of a large yellow onion (you can do the whole onion too if you want) 
1 tablespoon of coconut oil

Directions: Use a pan that is large enough to evenly cook all of these ingredients. Today I chose a risotto pan (flat bottom, large). Give the onions and the red peppers a decent chop and add them to the pan with the oil. You can also grate your ginger over the ingredients at this point.

YOU WANT TO BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL PREPARING ANY KIND OF HOT PEPPER! You can wear gloves, and probably should if you don't usually wear gloves with peppers. The oils can stay on your skin even after washing with soap and water.

With each of the peppers (with the exception of thai peppers), you want to cut them in half long ways, and then remove the ribs and the seeds. If you leave the seeds in, your sauce will become a lot hotter than you anticipate. After the peppers have been prepared, then give them a pretty good chop and add them to the mix in the pan.

For the thai chili peppers, I cut off the tops and then gave them a rough chop. They are so tiny that it's kind of hard and tedious to try to take the seeds out.  Add these to the pan.

Let all the ingredients sauté for about 5 minutes so that every one is getting to know each other. Then add the vinegar and honey. Let this simmer for about 10-20 minutes.

A view of right after you add the vinegar. 

At this point, I like to see where my sauce is at and either add more vinegar or just leave it alone. I like to let it sit and cool for at least an hour, if not overnight. Tomorrow, I will put it into my food processor or may even try it in the nutribullet (no hot liquids allowed!) and blend and then strain. If you refrigerate it, it should last up to one month.

Simmering in action! 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hatch Pepper Hot Sauce

It is that time of year when the Hatch pepper from New Mexico graces the world's presence. It is a beautiful green pepper that can be roasted, toasted, grilled, stuffed, or used in just about anything. I never really knew about them until I saw them all over the place in Texas. More Facts about the Hatch Chile Pepper. Whole Foods Market makes a huge show at their market in downtown Austin - big old pick up truck out front with a lot of colorful signs. People here just celebrate everything. I love it.

So, I have been on an epic quest to find a good hot sauce, I know what I like, I know what it is very hard to find here (Texas Pete, which is actually made in NC), and now I am trying to make my own hot sauce. I have made my own sauces for just about everything else, why not this? Why have I not come to this decision until now? Oh yea, that damn bar exam. Well, I've decided I'm going to have a future with or without passing this bar right now, I am a great employee and I try really hard. And FYI, I am a smart cookie (no one is perfect right?).

Here is how I made my "Hatch Pepper Hot Sauce"
6-8 fresh hatch peppers sliced and diced
1.5 cups of vinegar (I used apple cider, you can use whatever kind you like) 
2 cups of water 
8-10 cloves of garlic smashed and peeled 
1 teaspoon of black pepper corns 
1 tablespoon salt (you can half this) 
1 tablespoon local honey (you can double this) 
1/2 of a large yellow onion (you can substitute this with a shallot) 
1 tablespoon asian chili oil 
1-2 teaspoons garlic powder 

Directions: Add everything into the pot and let it come to a boil. Let it reduce by about half (prob 10-20  minutes) and let it cool. If you have a hand blender you can just put it in there and go to town and make a puree. If you don't, you want to let your sauce cool slightly before adding it to a blender or food processor as it WILL somehow get on you. Blend it to a nice even puree.

At this point, you can give it a taste and decide how you want your sauce to move forward. To be safe though, you want to let it cool or sit over night and let those flavors really sink in. Now, I wanted a little more umph to mine - so I added a few more peppers (2) and a little more honey and a little more vinegar, water, and a pinch of salt. I brought it back up to a boil, let it reduce again, and I will be putting in the fridge over night.

So, you let it cool over night, and then you can strain it to get all the seeds and chunky garlic, onions, and seeds out of there. This can be a frustrating process, but it is worth it. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Let's Talk Pork -- Pulled Pork

So, I have had a resurgence of my love to Pinterest while I have been taking study breaks... in a thought, that shit is addicting. I am not dating currently (by choice - let's face it, I have my moments of awesome), but if I were and remotely had a thought I might one day get married to that guy, Pinterest has it on lock. I could plan my dream life on Pinterest, and even though I might never be able to afford a closet of Chanel or bedazzle myself in Tiffany & Co., it is pretty amazing. In addition to material things I love, they have a TON of recipes on there. In looking at some of these amazing and not so amazing photos of people's recipes (now, I know my photos are NOT super great) - the photos aren't a deal breaker for me, but they do make a better selling point.

I digress. Tonight, as my own random pulled pork recipe is slowly cooking in my Le Creuset dutch oven IN my oven, filling my apartment with the most delicious smells, I got lost on pinterest and found a wide array of pulled pork recipes. Let me back up a touch, I have lived in several areas of the US, and each take their pulled pork seriously. To be clear, there's a lot of different methods to making pulled pork - you can roast it, smoke it, grill it partially then bake it, etc. I've had it almost every way there is. I like smoked and roasted in a crockpot or dutch oven, and then I like to put it on a really good bun (preferably toasted and slightly crispy...which RARELY happens in public, but always happens in my home).
 -  In South Carolina (born and raised), the BBQ is a mustard based sauce for the most part. I haven't really had any complaints with this style, but I have had a few experiences where I wanted to remove the sauce from the meat (blasphemy!), but overcame that by eating beans or drinking beer or both. And to be honest, this is my least favorite style of BBQ/pulled pork. Actually, my friend's mom and her husband make the BEST pulled pork I've ever had in my life - from Palm Key Catering. Lindsay has a variety of sauces that she makes, but they smoke the pork in a HUGE smoker they have and I am drooling just thinking about it.
 - In North Carolina, the sauce is vinegar based. I lived in Charlotte, NC for a year before law school. I loved it because the firm I was working at loved BBQ too! We attended some conferences or had lunches of BBQ that were just divine. Same sides as most BBQ all over the county - beans and cole slaw. I am not a super huge fan of a lot of mayonnaise in anything except chicken salad. Just so you know, I just spelled mayonnaise incorrectly, that's how much I use it. Moving on.  I really like the vinegar based because it wasn't so thick. This may be a double edged sword because you may feel that you can eat more than you should. Whatever, when has anyone in America really listened to "don't have a second helping" at least once in their life? I mean really.
- In Virginia, ya know, honestly, I don't know WHAT was happening. It wasn't something I really noticed at first, but then one word dominates the entire taste: Ketchup. I'm all for people making their own sauce and using ketchup, but I don't know, something about it says "cheater" - which might make an asshole, that's up to you.
- New Hampshire: I only had it a few times when I was in boarding school in New Hampshire, BUT, I recall it being smoked, and I don't remember using sauce. That may have just been my taste and aversion to BBQ sauce in high school, I am sure there's a style that I just haven't personally experienced, I just don't know what it is right now.
- Texas, well Texas BBQ is all about beef. There is pulled pork here, but a consistent "style" of pulled pork simply doesn't really exist as far as my research and experience has proven. There are pork ribs that are FABULOUS. Texas BBQ is all about the smoked awesomeness of a smoked brisket or other cuts of beef, and smoked chicken. It does not disappoint, minus the pulled pork style front.

To be honest, I don't know where my go-to ingredients put me on the East Coast/Texas map of "style," I've actually never tried to place it before tonight. Am I lost in this Lord of the Rings-esque Pork Wonderland? Perhaps. Let me tell you about why I like my pulled pork....
 - First, I use a beer based sauce. Why is this better? I don't know, but it does seem to tenderize my meat and give my sauce a little something extra. I like to choose artisan beers that are made by people who give a shit about the ingredients - like cool fruits and organic veggies.  My dad used to make his own beer when he lived in Seattle in the late 70s. I've never had it, but he has told me all about it. He put so much care and thought into making it, now you tell me why that wouldn't make any meat dish better?
- Second, if I don't have demi-glace on hand, I use stock that I have made in its place. I think this just adds to the flavor. This insures that my meat will NOT be dry. I say that like it's STD or something, but dry meat just sucks. I've over cooked meat, and been like afraid to serve it to ANYONE. Cut to, this Seinfeld clip with Frank Costanza and Kramer. I also like to use fresh veggies and a variety of dry spices for the dry rub that I have come to love so much (ginger, salt, pepper, rosemary, chili powder, garlic, red pepper flakes, wasabi, etc - I don't always use all of them at once, but I have before and I likely will again.)
------- Side bar - Now, if I had a grill or smoker, I would use that I reckon. However, the laws in Texas do not allow you to have a grill or smoker on your apartment porch. It's pretty dry here, and it's also considered a very serious fire hazard. I know my way around a smoker - this is what I made my for my family on Thanksgiving in 2012....Smoked Turkey - Thanksgiving - 2012
- Third, I use fresh veggies in my sauce. I think this gives it sense of freshness, and especially if you have the chance to stuff them into the just sinks into the flavor of the meat even more.
- Fouth, Apple Cider Vinegar v. Rice Wine Vinegar - this is a debate I have every time I choose to make pulled pork. Apple Cider Vinegar will add a hint of fruity sweetness to your dish. Rice Wine vinegar is less invasive on flavor, but still gets the job done. What is that job? It helps to thin out the sauce, and on some levels acts to help cut some of the other flavors in your sauce down a touch. You aren't trying to hurt anyone! haha.
- Lastly, fifth, I like to remove the pork from the sauce and pull it, and THEN reduce the liquid into the sauce. I usually add at least a cup of vinegar to the liquid at this point, because the whole thing has been cooking for at least 5-7 hrs at this point, it's going to be emitting strong flavors. ALSO, when reducing, this helps slightly accelerate the process, in my experience anyway. I like to reduce the sauce for about 30 minutes, let it cool a little and either remove some of it and put it in a food processor to deal with the chunkiness of the veggies in there OR use a handheld blender and just go to town in the pot. Blending anything that hot is a hazard, I am pretty impatient and usually risk it. I recommend you don't totally emanate my actions, as I have been burned and cleaned up a number of hot pulled pork sauce messes. (no one told you this was going let you come out totally clean... wink wink). The reducing also helps to really bring the flavors alive. And on another note, I don't like a loose sauce. Ya, it sounds kinda gross when I phrase it that way, doesn't it? I like my pulled pork to be treated with respect, with a nice thick, delicious sauce, and frankly, you should too.

The almost last thing I have to say is, my crock pots have turned on me. Sometimes I put too much in them and they boil over, what a mess. Sometimes they over cook what I am trying to do because, due to lack of research, I don't really know how hot the crock pot gets. I really love my dutch oven that my mom got me a few Christmas' ago. It NEVER fails and I really know how hot it is because it's in the oven. ALSO the dutch oven makes it MUCH easier to reduce the sauce because I can put it right on the stove and continue working.

This is really the last thing I have to say now: pulled pork is awesome. You can choose how you want to make it, you will develop your own tastes. I think it's important to know the regional styles of how certain dishes are cooked. I try to bring a little bit of everywhere I have been, to my kitchen where I am right now. So far, so good. Don't stop exploring your tastebuds.

This is partly what my pulled pork looks like tonight before it went in the oven:

Saturday, July 6, 2013

I've got Pork Tenderloin on my mind...I hear it, don't care.

Today, after a day of studying estate administration (full of rules and tax jargon), I couldn't stop thinking about my Mommom. She passed away at the age of 90 back in November. Mommom loved pork tenderloin. I think back to my childhood after a long day at the beach with my cousins and smelling the pork tenderloin cooking in the oven. She knew pork, probably better than some other genres she cooked with. Tonight, this pork tenderloin is for you.

Now, I like to incorporate cooking my veggies with my meats when possible (unless of course, I have a vegetarian or vegan in the house - then cooked separately!). So I have put a bunch of veggies in the bottom of my pan and you can add ones that I don't have like peppers, carrots, celery, squash, etc. It is really up to you. 

I present: Hopped Up on Pork Tenderloin
1 package (containing 2) of Pork Tenderloin 
1 bottle of New Belgium Hoppy Bock Lager (link to beer info
1 yellow or white onion chopped 
1 cluster (?) of broccolini
1 cup of chicken stock (or veggie) 
1-2 portobello caps sliced 
3-4 cloves of garlic 
1-2 fresh sprigs of rosemary (it grows wild here, so I pick some from my apt complex, wash it and dry it and use it --- not sorry!) 
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Grapeseed Oil OR Olive Oi 
Balsamic Vinegar 
1/2 cup brown or white sugar

Directions: First, I like to let my pork tenderloins sit in a sugar-salt mixture to tenderize the meat. This time, I added 1/2 a bottle of beer, and 1/2 cup of sugar, warm to hot water, and 1/2 cup of salt. Stir all these ingredients until they are mostly dissolved. Then after you either stab the tenderloins with a fork OR cut a few slits in the meat, let them sit in the mixture for about 20-30 minutes. 

While that is sitting, you can cut up all of your veggies and arrange them how you see fit in the bottom of your baking pan. Today, I am using a casserole dish. After you arrange them, add the rest of the beer, the chicken stock, and drizzle the veggies with oil and some salt, pepper, rosemary, and thyme. 
I am not super great at arranging...but you could cut up the veggies differently. OR if you are using a different kind of dish, stack them up on the sides, etc. It is really up to you. Be more creative than me. :) 

Once the meat is done tenderizing, take it out of the solution and place the meat over the veggies. Stuff the slits with some garlic and then drizzle with oil, fresh rosemary, pepper, salt, and thyme. Then, you can use balsamic vinegar OR I have this awesome balsamic glaze that is fantastic, and drizzle that over the meat. 
Drizzle it up! 

You can see the pork stuffed with garlic cloves and the rosemary...and the sweet drizzle job. 

Set the oven to about 325-350. It will likely take about 30-40 min to cook (if you use a lower heat). I am covering the meat with tinfoil for the first 15 minutes, and then removing the tinfoil for the remainder of the time. The meat will be done if you take it out of the oven and use a meat thermometer to get it up to about 145-155 degrees. 

Final Product! 

On a plate, not the best lighting, but it is tasty! 

If it turns out there is too much liquid, you can drain it out using a baster and just tossing it. I like my veggies crispier/more roasted so I removed some of the liquid. BUT, I made sure to baste the meat with some of the juices first :)...I wouldn't be the unlawful cook if I didn't break some rules. Wink, wink.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

She was Choppin Broccolini...and then Sautéing it.

Happy Fourth of July Americans! While the rest of the country is enjoying delightfully grilled culinary creations and likely drinking a good American (or cheap, times are tough) beer, I am studying. But, I am not down and out for the count just yet...I went to the store and picked up a nice steak and a bunch of broccolini. Which made me think of my mother singing me this Dana Carvey bit from SNL every time she cooked broccoli (which was often, she always made sure we got our greens). To be fair, my mom was pretty dead on with her cover of "Choppin Broccoli."

Tonight, I am making a very simple variation on broccoli and using broccolini. Broccolini is very similar to broccoli, but it has a longer stem and smaller florets (the top part). I really prefer it over broccoli if I have the option. It also seems more lady-like, but gender aside, I also prefer the texture over  regular broccoli. 

Lemon Zested Sautéed Broccolini
1 bunch of broccolini (washed with ends trimmed) 
lemon zest (to taste) 
1 tablespoon olive oil  or butter
2 cloves garlic - diced 

Instructions: First, blanch the broccolini in large pot of salted boiling water for approximately 2-3 minutes. Then drain them in a colander and put them in a bowl of ice and some water (an ice bath). 

Then add butter or olive oil to the sauté pan and add in the garlic with the lemon zest, let that get awesome for about a minute, and then add the broccolini (just the broccolini, not the ice bath). Sauté for about 3-5 minutes (more towards 5 if you like it crispier).  Add the salt and the pepper, and if you like, some lemon juice (that's up to you). Toss it so it gets awesome all over, then let it sit a few minutes and then, you can enjoy. 
Large stock pot with salted water fixing to boil. 

Ice Bath ready to go. 

Broccolini with ends chopped. 

lemon zest, chopped garlic, and lemon juice.

Water boiling. Time to add the broccolini!

Broccolini being blanched for about 2 minutes. 

Broccolini in ice bath, just chillin. 

Steak cooking. 

I put the iced broccolini in the steak juices to sauté...yay. 

Finished broccolini. Deeeeelicious. I added the lemon juice. 

Finished meal. Delicious. I cooked the steak about 2-3 minutes a side, more if you like it not rare. (more filliping, not more per side all at once, to be clear.)

Happy Fourth of July!!!! 

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