Tacos de Carne de Cerdo

This weekend was the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival. I had a great time, as I was on a couple of panels and even did a reading from my latest book, Bitter Heart. On one of the days that I knew I was going to be busy all day at the conference, I put a pork shoulder in the slow cooker with some spices and a bit of citrus juices for us to have meaty tacos for dinner and for me to have delicious leftovers.

I was joined for dinner by my fellow author, Mercedes Lewis, who read from her book of poetry (Glimpses of a Fractured Soul) at Saints and Sinners and also participated on a poetry panel.

Tacos de carne de cerdo

Dry Rub

1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground oregano
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Mix dry rub together and store until ready to use in an airtight container.

Carne de Cerdo

5-8 lb pork shoulder, bone in preferred
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1 cup chicken stock
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed

Cut off the large fat cap and any other spots of hard fat. Rub spice mixture on the meat. Heat a skillet and brown the meat on all sides.

Remove meat from the skillet and place on a bed of onions and garlic in a large crockpot. Pour the juice and stock into the skillet to deglaze the pan. Scrape up any fond on the bottom and then pour over the meat.

Cover and cook on low in the slow cooker for 6 to 8 hours. Remove when the meat is falling off the bone. Let cool for 15 minutes before attempting to shred for tacos.

For the tacos, I had both hard corn taco shells and soft flour tortillas, guacamole, sliced red and green bell peppers, black beans, grated pepper jack cheese and salsa to go with the shredded meat. We built our tacos based on our own taste and ended up eating more than planned as everything tasted so good.

I will use the leftovers in quesadillas, burritos or even with a little BBQ sauce for a pulled pork sandwich.

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Shredded Beef Short Rib Tacos

Election Night 2016 falls on November 8. That means that evening’s Taco Tuesday offering needs to be able to compete with presidential politics. For my returns watch party, I’m going to serve these Shredded Beef Short Rib Tacos done in a slow cooker. I found a recipe on Rick Bayless’ website that I’m using as a jumping off point. After making changes to suit my tastes, I’m quite pleased with the results and I hope you will, too.

tacos

Shredded Beef Short Rib Tacos

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lbs beef short ribs (I prefer bone in)
1 large onion, cut lengthwise
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 28 ounce can whole, fire roasted tomatoes, drained
1 10 ounce can Rotel tomatoes and green chilies
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bottle beer, 12 ounces

If the insert of your slow cooker is stove-top safe use it. Otherwise, use a large skillet. Heat the oil in your choosen pan over medium high heat. While the oil heats, salt the beef short ribs. Brown the beef on all sides and then remove to a plate.

Reduce the heat and add the onion, stirring regularly. Cook them until soft and golden. This takes about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Transfer the garlic and onions to the slow cooker.

Sprinkle with salt. Lay the short ribs over the onions, bone side down. Quarter the tomatoes and distribute them and the can of Rotel over and around the beef. Drip the Worcestershire around the beef and then sprinkle the remaining spices around the meat. Pour the beer over everything.

Cover and turn on the slow cooker to high. The meat will be braised in 5-6 hours. Remove the meat from the cooker and the bones from the meat before shredding it coarsely. Strain out the onions and tomatoes and discard the bay leaves. Taste for seasoning. Mix the tomatoes and onions with the beef and serve with refried beans, guacamole and cheese on soft or hard corn tortillas.

Pork Shoulder Cassoulet in the Slow Cooker

There are probably some people out there who think the only thing I know how to do with a pork shoulder/Boston butt is to make BBQ pulled pork. And, while that is almost the world’s perfect food, I am capable of doing other things with this humble cut of meat.

In fact, I’m going French and making a cassoulet. A cassoulet combines beans, meat and seasonings together over a long, slow cook to make filling fare – the beans are creamy, the meat is succulent and the aromatic veggies help to flavor the rich stock. Taking this dish to the crock pot, frees up the cook to, I don’t know, enjoy a Mardi Gras parade or two.

There is a long soak of the beans, which I find helpful in muting their more musical qualities. I’m giving this a little Louisiana flavor with blackening seasoning on the meat and the andouille sausage.

pork shoulder cassoulete

Pork Shoulder Cassoulet in the Slow Cooker

4-5 lb. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 8 or 10 pieces and trimmed of excess fat
Blackening seasoning (my recipe is here)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 cups dry white wine
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
2 carrots, cut in half
2 stalks celery, cut in half
2 cups chicken broth
1 lb Great Northern beans or other small white
 dried beans, soaked overnight
1 lb. andouille sausage, halved on the bias
10 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves

Cook’s note: I recommend doing all of the prep work the night before because the slow cooker will take up to 10 hours to cook the pork. Once all the prep is done, store it overnight in the fridge in your crock pot insert (or a plastic container) and everything will be ready to go first thing.

The day before:

Season the pork generously with blackening seasons; set aside.

Heat a large skillet with the olive oil. Add half of the pork to the skillet and brown on all sides, 7 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to a platter. Repeat with the remaining pork.

 Add the onions and 1 teaspoon kosher salt to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and softened, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes, carrots, celery and broth. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the beans, pork, andouille and garlic.
 Place everything in the insert of your slow cocker and cover with plastic or put in a plastic container and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning:

Place everything in the slow-cooker, cover and cook on low until the pork pulls apart easily with a fork, 8 to 10 hours. Skim off the fat and remove carrots, celery and bay leaves. Adjust the seasonings with kosher salt and pepper.

Let the cassoulet stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving.

Adapted from a recipe by Thomas Keller, Chef/Owner, The French Laundry.

 

Slow Cooker Ham and Applesauce

Today the Saints were playing the Indianapolis Colts (and won 27-21). The game started at noon and I have folks coming over for dinner, so I decided to pull out my Crock Pot and let it do the work while I enjoyed the game.

This recipe started from one I saw on Make, Blog, Repeat a while ago. I’ve experimented with amounts and have decided the ham really needs a brown sugar/cinnamon coating and that the applesauce was less salty if a bit of apple cider is added at the beginning of the cook time and some cinnamon/brown sugar added in the final cooking of the applesauce. Give it a try yourself and tell me what you think.

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Slow Cooker Ham and Applesauce

1 tablespoon butter
4 to 6 lb bone-in ham, I used Chisesi
3/4 cup packed brown sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tart apples, I like Granny Smith
1/2 cup apple cider (or apple juice or even water)
1/2 cup water

Slather the bottom and the lower third of the crock pot with butter. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the brown sugar on the bottom of the slow cooker. Score the ham with shallow gashes in a diamond pattern. Place in the slow cooker. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup of brown sugar and the cinnamon in a bowl and mix well with your fingers. Press the mixture to the sides and top of the ham.

Peel and quarter the apples, placing them in a bowl of water with a bit of lemon juice to keep from browning. Dice the apples into the slow cooker. Pour in the apple cider (trying not to pour directly over the ham and taking off the brown sugar coating). Cover and cook for about 5 hours on low or 2 hours on high or until the internal temperature of the ham is 160 degrees F.

Remove the ham from the slow cooker and allow to rest before slicing. Strain apples from the juices and place in a small saucepan. Use a fork (or potato masher) and up to 1/2 cup of water to get them to desired applesauce consistency. Stir over medium heat. Add additional cinnamon and brown sugar to taste. If you want to make them more tart, add a little bit of lemon juice. Stir well and remove from heat.

Serve slices of ham with the applesauce.

Slow Cooker Hot, Sweet, Sticky Chicken Drumsticks

Like a lot of people, I like chicken wings. Buffalo style, honey BBQ style, Asian style, Caribbean jerk style, you name it, I like ’em. Unfortunately, they just aren’t that much fun to make at home as you have to make a lot to before you can even think of getting your fill. One way to overcome this, is to use your favorite wing recipe but substitute drumsticks. Much more bang for your buck, especially if you wait for a sale.

This recipe cooks the chicken in the crock pot before finishing with the glaze under the broiler. Pomegranate molasses can be found at middle eastern and high end grocery stores and adds a rich color and tanginess to the glaze.

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Slow Cooker Hot, Sweet, Sticky Chicken Drumsticks

2 to 3 lbs chicken drumsticks or wings
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon hot sauce (more, if you prefer your chicken blazing)

Wash chicken very well. Don’t dry it off. Just layer the chicken in a 6 quart slow cooker. Sprinkle each layer with salt and pepper. Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. The chicken won’t look like much when it comes out but check with a meat thermometer that the internal temperature has reached at least 160 degrees F. Now, it is time to start adding color.

Place oven rack in the center of the oven and heat broiler. Place wire rack coated with vegetable oil spray over a foil lined baking sheet.

Make sauce by combining honey, pomegranate molasses and hot sauce in a large bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds to a minute and whisk well.

Toss chicken in the sauce before transferring to pan. Broil 5 minutes on that side. Rotate chicken and brush with more sauce. Return to boiler for 5 minutes. Continue until all sides have been basted and broiled, about 15 to 20 minutes total or until desired crispness.

Slow Cooker Jerusalem Chicken

I loved the Two Fat Ladies cooking show back in the day. Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson were funny and wise and proponents of cream and butter (and lard) in rich traditional cooking. I used their recipe for Chicken Jerusalem from their Obsessions cookbook as a stepping off point.

I prepared the meal in the slow cooker as it is Labor Day and I didn’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen. As I had another 10 lb bag of leg quarters, I cut off the drumstick and took off the skin to only use the thigh. I think that next time, I may go for boneless chicken here. I may also add a little more herbs as well.

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5 lbs of chicken, cut into pieces
Flour, for dredging
salt and pepper to season flour
1 stick of butter, divided
2 lbs mushrooms, sliced
2 boxes (9 oz) frozen artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained
1 cup sherry
2 cups half and half or cream
2 cups rice
2 cups boiling water

Season the flour with the salt and pepper and place in a shallow dish. Dredge the chicken. In a large skillet, melt half the stick of butter and brown the chicken on all sides. Remove from the pan. Melt the remainder of the butter and add the mushrooms and artichoke hearts. Cook for about 5 minutes. Pour in the sherry and stir well. Add in the cream and remove from the heat.

Put two cups of rice in the slow cooker. Pour in the boiling water and stir. Add in the mushrooms, artichokes and all the pan sauces. Place the chicken in the pot, being sure to submerge the pieces in the liquid. Cook on high for 2-3 hours or low 4-5. It is done when all the liquid is absorbed and the chicken meat is falling off the bone.

Crock Pot Chocolate Nut Candy

I’m super craving chocolate today and the Peppermint Bark Ghirardelli Squares a friend brought from the factory outlet in Oakland just aren’t cutting it. I decided to pour the last of the container of roasted peanuts plus some cashews I had in the freezer into my crock pot with a whole lotta chocolate poured the top. It’ll take 3 hours but I won’t have to stir and mess with it while the New Orleans Saints are playing today. This is a slightly altered version of Trisha Yearwood’s Slow Cooker Candy recipe because more chocolate makes it more better!

finished2 pounds salted nuts (in my case a pound each of dry roasted peanuts and cashews)
4 ounces German’s sweet chocolate
2 12-ounce packages semisweet chocolate chips
24 ounces white chocolate chips

Put the nuts in the bottom of a slow cooker. Layer the chocolate over them, beginning with the sweet chocolate, followed by the chocolate chips and then the white chocolate. Set the temperature on low and cook for 3 hours. Just walk away – do not stir!

chocolate mixAfter 3 hours, stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until smooth. It may be easiest to transfer the whole mess to a large mixing bowl. Drop the candy into cupcakeliners or spoon mixture into tablespoon sized dollops on to wax paper. Allow to harden for at least 1 hour or speed up the process by putting them in the fridge.

almost done

I divide the dollops into zip top bags and stick half the candy into the freezer for next month’s craving.