Simple Carnitas

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Pork, water, salt – that’s it for this simple batch of carnitas.

I set up my Big Green Egg  for an indirect cook – filling the firebox with lump charcoal and using the plate setter with a trivet on it to diffuse the heat. Once the Egg had stabilized at 300°F, I added a couple of chunks of hickory for smoke.

I cut an 8 pound boneless pork shoulder roast (Boston butt)  into 3-inch chunks, discarding any big pieces of connective tissue, but keeping all of the fat. I put the meat into a 12-quart Dutch oven, mixed in 2 tablespoon of kosher salt, and added a cup of water.

I put the Dutch oven on the grill uncovered, closed the lid, and let it simmer undisturbed for about an hour. The idea is to have the water render the fat out of the meat, then when the water evaporates the meat starts to fry in it’s own lovely grease.

I gave it a stir, and let it continue to cook for another hour until the liquid had cooked down and the meat began to brown. There was enough fat rendered from this batch to brown the meat, but had there not been, I would have added a little lard or peanut oil.

Once the meat started to brown I started checking  and stirring  about every 15 minutes until the meat was crispy, but not dry or burned. The meat was done after about 3 hours total cooking time.

Here it is served on hot corn tortillas with a big glob of guacamole. Heaven.

Salmon with Horseradish Mustard Sauce

We try to do salmon at least once a week. This is just a simple oven-roasted version.  I originally made the sauce to go with corned beef and cabbage, but its tangy richness also goes very well with salmon.

Roasted Salmon

2  (6 ounce) salmon fillets with skin, wild caught is best
1 teaspoon olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh-ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rub salmon with olive oil and lay skin side down on the paper. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast until the fish is just cooked through, about 12 minutes. Lift the meat from the skin with a thin metal spatula and transfer to a plate.  Serve with a squeeze of lemon and a dollop of the sauce.

Horseradish Mustard Sauce

1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
Dash kosher salt

Whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard, horseradish, and salt in a small bowl. Let chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to let the flavors all get to know each other.

Suck Creek Thighs & Corn Pudding

I finally got a chance to try the award-winning Suck Creek’s Original Hot Wing Sauce. I was (of course) going to try it on a batch of wings, but dinner plans for the weekend called for something a little more substantial. So I matched the sauce with chicken thighs and my version of the corn pudding from The Grand Central Baking Book via Caroline Russock at Serious Eats.

Suck Creek Thighs

8 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
1-2 tablespoon of your favorite barbecue rub (I used John Henry’s Texas Chicken Tickler)
1/2 cup Suck Creek’s Original Hot Wing Sauce

About 2 hours before cooking, dust the thighs with the rub, lay them out in a single layer on a sheet pan, and let them sit uncovered in the fridge. This step not only to seasons the thighs but also dries the skin out a bit to keep it crispy.

Set the grill up for an indirect cook over medium-high  (400°F) heat. On the Big Green Egg I used the plate setter to diffuse the heat and added a raised grid to get the thighs crispier still by moving them up into the the hotter part of the dome.

Put the thighs on the grill skin side down, close the lid,  and let them cook for 30 minutes. Flip them and let them go another 20 minutes.

Check for doneness –  when the juices run clear and the internal temperature in the largest thigh hits 160°F , brush the thighs on both sides with the wing sauce. Let them cook 10 minutes more and brush them again. Let them cook  5 more minutes, brush one last time, remove them to a warm plate, and let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Corn Pudding

1 cup all-purpose flour (I used Pamela’s Ultimate Baking and Pancake Mix to make it gluten-free.)
2/3 cup (3 ounces) cornmeal
2  tablespoons finely chopped dried chives
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of your favorite barbecue rub (Dizzy Pig’s Dizzy Dust this time)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 (15.25 ounce) can corn, drained
2 cups (16 fluid ounces) whole milk
2 tablespoons butter or bacon grease, melted
2 eggs, beaten
3 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheated the oven to 350°F and greased a 2 1/2 quart casserole. The original recipes calls for a 8×8 cake pan, but the casserole gives it a more pudding-like consistency.

The drys – combine the flour, cornmeal, chives, sugar, salt, baking powder, rub, pepper flakes, and baking soda  into a large bowl and mix well.

The wets – melt the butter (or bacon grease, which I used) in a medium bowl. Add the corn, milk, eggs, cheese, and vinegar and beat until smooth.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Pour the batter into the casserole, then (I love this part!) pour the cream right into the center without stirring.

Bake at 350°F for 50 minutes (I put the casserole in the oven right before I put  the thighs on the grill). It’s done when it still quivers slightly in the middle when shaken. Let it stand for 15 minutes before serving.

The Verdict: ★★★★★

Suck Creek makes some serious wing sauce – great flavor with plenty of heat. Thick and not too vinegary, with lots of herbaliciousness going on. The heat is right up front, but it’s not overwhelming and it doesn’t build or linger. I was afraid it would be a little too much on the thighs without some kind of creamy dip to cool it down, but it really perked up the chicken without covering it up. This is one of the best wing sauces I have ever tried.

Tacos Cecina de Res con Crema de Ají

Great minds think alike.

I had just finished reading Andrea Lynn’s post about her Search for the Green Peruvian Aji Sauce Recipe, when my dear wife called from the mercado and asked if I needed anything.

“Well, honey, I do need a few things…”


Crema de Ají (aka Crack Sauce)

1 fresh jalapeño, seeded, deveined, and sliced
1 tablespoon aji amarillo paste
10 sprigs cilantro leaves and stems
2 tablespoons grated cotija cheese
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Put the salt and garlic in a food processor and pulse until the garlic is minced. Add all the remaining ingredients, except the mayonnaise, and process until a smooth paste forms. Add the mayonnaise and mix to combine. Makes about 1 cup.

Tacos Cecina de Res

Cecina de res is a very thin-sliced beef that’s been seasoned with salt and oil.

Heat a large fry pan medium-high heat. Cut the meat into into tortilla-length strips that will fit flat in the pan. Working 1 or 2 pieces at a time, lay the strips on the hot pan for about  30 seconds, flip and go another 30 seconds on the other side.  Remove to a warm holding plate.

We served the tortillas topped with cecina and a shmear of  crema de aji. The great beef taste of the cecina really befitted from the green heat and tang of the sauce.


In Praise of Bacon Grease

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A little over a year ago we moved to a lower-carb, no-trans-fat, no-high-fructose-corn-syrup, gluten-free, don’t-eat-it-if-you-can’t-pronounce-it way of eating. While it makes eating more complicated, it’s been worth it and we’re both feeling a whole lot better.

Cleaning up our diet doesn’t mean we don’t have a few guilty pleasures – bacon grease being one of them. We keep a jar of greasy goodness in our fridge and use it to enhance the flavor of a whole range of foods:

  • Fry eggs – just adding a teaspoon or so to the olive oil we usually use  really bumps up the flavor of the eggs and helps get those brown, crispy edges.
  • Use it in place of butter in corn bread recipes.
  • Saute greens in it – spinach and garlic wilted in a little bacon grease with a touch of sugar and vinegar makes a quick side salad.
  • Sawmill gravy – bacon grease (or sausage drippings) + flour = milk = heaven.
  • Umami – looking for that chichi foodie “5th taste?”  Bacon grease is the mother of umami – adding a savory depth to a recipe.
  • Beans – I doubt that there is a bean dish out there that wouldn’t benefit from a touch of bacon grease.
  • Barding – turkey breast too dry? Slip a little bacon grease (or strips of bacon) under the skin before roasting.
  • Sandwiches – my father fondly remembers eating brown bread, bacon grease, and molasses sandwiches as a child.

Where There’s a Grill, There’s a Way

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Not so much a recipe as an experience.

The second night of our vacation in Nevis was my birthday. We’d planned to do a big dinner out at one of the fancy plantation inns. But as the day wore on, we decided that it would be much more fun just to to hang out at the house that we’d rented.

What about dinner? While it wasn’t a Big Green Egg, there was a perfectly serviceable grill on the patio. A quick stop at the village grocery store and we had some nice-looking pork chops, a bottle of creole marinade from Trinidad, rice, and fixings for a salad.

I started the chops marinating and we hit the pool. When the sun started to head behind Mount Nevis, I made up a round of rum punch and started the grill. Once I had a nice bed of ash-covered coals, I put the chops on and let them cook about a minute. I rotated the chops 45 degrees without flipping and let them cook for another minute. Then I flipped them over and repeated the process.

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We got out to some great restaurants later in the week, but for that night it just was nice just to be able to sit on our deck and grill.