24 January 2011

Pulled Pork Soft Tacos

Pulled Pork Tacos

Our local market was having a sale on pork shoulder butt roasts this week and featured a recipe for Carnitas Tacos.  I thought I would try it since it would be another meal that would be easy on me with my braces...messy, but not too hard to chew.

I had never made pulled pork before and had my usual pre-cooking jitters.  Will it work or will it be tough and inedible? Like the beef shank a couple weeks ago, it surpassed my wildest dreams.  My husband was in heaven. The only warning I have to give is that is smells so incredible while cooking that it will drive you crazy.  I had to suppress the desire to make like a cat and curl up on the floor in front of the oven door, sniffing the heavenly aroma.

Pulled Pork
1 2 lb. Pork Shoulder Butt Roast
2 T chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/4 cup red wine

Carnitas Tacos
pulled pork
1/2 head of red cabbage, thinly shredded
soft corn tortillas, taco size

Ok, here's what I did.  The recipe from the market called for using a slow cooker, which I do not have.  I started by mixing a couple tablespoons of chili powder and a teaspoon or so of cumin and spreading it on a 2 lb. pork shoulder butt roast (after patting it dry).  Then I sprinkled some salt and pepper on it and set it on a plate while I sauteed one onion (diced) and one carrot (diced) in about a tablespoon or less of olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. When the onions were translucent, I pushed them and the carrots to the side and put the roast in the dutch oven, turned the temperature up to high and seared it on all sides. Then I added 1/4 cup of dry red wine and turned the heat back down a bit while it cooked down for about a minute or so.  Then I covered the dutch oven and put it into a preheated 250° oven and left it in there for 5 hours.

When it was done, I took it out of the oven, put the roast on a plate and shredded the meat with two forks. That's it. Anyone can do it and for less than $8 we had enough pulled pork for a whole lot of tacos...and two containers of leftovers.

I had sauteed shredded red cabbage in olive oil and added a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar to it.  We heated up some corn tortillas in the microwave, added the pork, cabbage, salsa and avocado slices to make our tacos.  They were great and are now a new standard in our house. Try them and see if you don't agree.

Karen, herself

13 January 2011

Braised Beef Shank

Braising Beef Shanks

The idea of making a lamb or beef shank came into my head the other day. Not really sure why, but with my braces on my teeth and my TMJ issues, eating meat that is very tender is essential.  Since my husband is not wild about lamb (although I adore it), I went looking for beef.  The butcher at Whole Foods had some in the back of the store and brought out two whole beef shanks on a tray to show me.  I nearly passed out...each one is as long as my thigh! He said he could slice off a couple pieces that I could cook like Osso Bucco, so that is what I did.

I researched some recipes online for beef shank and got the main idea of how to cook it.  Even though the butcher told me browning or searing the meat first was redundant, I browned the meat first in olive oil in a dutch oven.  Some French recipes recommended it (as did Emeril Lagasse!) so I went for it. After browning the meat, I removed it while I sauteed the vegetables, added wine and tomato paste. Then I brought the shanks back, added beef broth and herbs and put it in a slow oven for nearly 4 hours.  I took the meat out to rest while I reduced the broth on the stove to a dark, delicious sauce, which I poured over mashed potatoes and the meat itself.

It was incredible.  Meat falling off the bone, so tender and so delicious.  But after smelling it cooking all afternoon, I was too hungry and anxious to eat it to snap a photo of the final result!  You will have to do with the process photos above.  My advice to those who want to try it: do it on a day when you have about 5 hours available.  It took me about an hour to assemble my ingredients, chop the vegetables and get the dish to the stage where it goes in the oven.  It took 3 3/4 hours to cook the meat and about 15 minutes to reduce the sauce.  I made a sauteed cauliflower and tomato dish to accompany the meat and potatoes.

Braised Beef Shanks
2 thick slices beef shank (about 1" thick)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tsp each paprika and allspice, salt and pepper
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 small shallots, peeled and minced
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly sliced
2 stalks celery, roughly sliced
half a package sliced fresh mushrooms
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 cup red wine ( I used Bogle Petite Syrah)
1 heaping Tablespoon tomato paste
3-4 cups organic beef broth ( I used Pacific brand)

(Preheat oven to 325°) Heat olive oil in heavy, ovenproof dutch oven on top of stove on medium-high heat.  Pat beef dry and season with salt, pepper, paprika and allspice.  Brown in dutch oven until meat develops a bit of a crust.  Remove meat to platter.  Add onion and shallot to pan and saute, adding a bit more oil, if necessary. After the onions and shallots are translucent, add the garlic, carrot, celery and mushrooms and cook for a few minutes.  Season the vegetables with salt and pepper as you add them to the pot.  Pour in the wine and cook for 5 minutes or so until it reduces a bit.  Add the tomato paste and cook for a minute or so.  Return the beef to the pot, moving away the vegetables so the meat sits on the bottom. Arrange vegetables around and on top of meat.  Add enough beef broth to cover the meat and bring to boil.

When everything has reached a rolling boil, remove from the stove and place dutch oven in the preheated oven uncovered.  Set timer for 4 hours.  After one hour, take dutch oven out and turn beef over in pot.  Continue to cook, checking occasionally to make sure the liquid does not evaporate too much and expose too much of the beef.  I turned it about once an hour to make sure one side did not dry out, or you can add more liquid.

In the last hour, make mashed potatoes and get other side dishes ready.  When the meat is falling off the bone, remove the dutch oven from the oven and remove the beef with a slotted spoon or tongs to a platter and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.  Place the dutch oven with the remaining vegetables and broth on the stove on high (remove the bay leaves and rosemary) and cook, stirring until the sauce reduces.  Serve the beef with mashed potatoes and a vegetable side dish.  Pour sauce over meat and potatoes.  Have a glass of red wine with it...you deserve it!

Serves 4

Karen, herself

09 January 2011

Gluten Free Pierogi: A Dream Realized

Tvorog and Potato Filled GF Pierogi with Melted Butter

I did it.  For the last four years since going gluten-free I have mourned the loss of my favorite family foods, but none more than homemade pierogi filled with a cottage cheese and potato mixture, with melted butter drizzled over them and a dollop of sour cream. They were a staple in my family (Polish and Ukrainian in origin), especially around the holidays.  We used to spend Christmas Eve at my Ukrainian Grandmother's house where she served them with roasted kielbasa, pickled herring on rye bread, head cheese (never was brave enough to try that) and various pickled vegetables.  I loved them best the next day fried in butter.  My Mom (Polish side of the family) learned to make the Ukrainian version when I was little and she had a hard time with the dough, possibly because my Grandmother forgot to tell her to add a little oil to it.

I made them once before going gluten free and had trouble with the dough too, so the thought of making them with GF flour really scared the living daylights out of me.  But, after having much success with GF baking with Jules GF All Purpose Flour, I decided to have a go at it this year. Mom came for Christmas and we made these Christmas Eve and served them with Polish Kielbasa from George's Deli in Seattle and with homemade borscht (The Russian Tea Room Cookbook recipe). I used Jules' flour and substituted tvorog (an East European version of Farmer's cheese, which is not as wet as cottage cheese) for the cottage cheese in the recipe.  I got the tvorog from an Armenian Deli in Bellevue, WA.

The recipe I used for the pierogi dough is a modified version of my Ukrainian Grandmother's Pyrohy (Ukrainian version of pierogi).  I used the instructions from the recipe for Varenyky (Pyrohy) recipe from the Ukrainian Daughter's Cookbook, because they seemed more fool-proof.

4 1/2 cups of flour (I used Jules All Purpose GF)
1 Tablespoon salt
1  1/2 cups cold water
1 egg
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

6 cups of mashed potatoes
1 carton regular cottage cheese (or equivalent amount Farmer's cheese or tvorog)

Whisk together water, oil and egg (use a large bowl).  Blend well, then add 3 1/2 cups of the flour.  Knead dough, while adding the last cup of flour. Knead until smooth and soft.  Put in a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Let rest 20 minutes ( I put the bowl in the fridge).

Roll out a small amount of the dough on a floured board (I used marble) until thinner than pie crust and cut out circles with a 3" biscuit cutter.  (I rolled out enough dough for 5-6 circles at a time).  Place a teaspoon of filling in the center of the dough circle and fold in half, crimping the edges with your fingers. Place completed ones on a linen towel and cover with another towel to keep them from drying out. When you have rolled out, cut out and filled all the pyrohy, cook them in boiling water.  They will float to the top when done. Stir them with a wooden spoon while cooking so they do not stick to the bottom.  When done, remove them with a slotted spoon (I used a Chinese skimmer) and place them in a bowl and drizzle with melted butter.  Serve with sour cream.  You can refrigerate or freeze leftovers and reheat again without loss of flavor.  Take care to put butter over them before storing so they do not stick together.

Pierogi Making Process