Monday, May 19, 2014
All photos courtesy of Brad Lovejoy
Let the games begin! We are back to hosting meals for friends and family at our house and I am really getting into it. Last night we invited our friends, Byron, Cari and Ava Anderson, over for dinner. They are lovely dinner guests because conversation is always good and they are easy to be around. As a bonus, Ava always tells great riddles, which adds a fun touch to our evening.
I wanted to prepare something casual but delicious so I searched through a few cookbooks until I found two recipes that I knew would compliment each other well. The first is Chili & Lime Slow-Cooked Pork with Onion Escabeche. This recipe is from a local chef named Kathy Casey. I always enjoy using recipes by Northwest food experts because they are usually inspired by the cultural heritage of our region and often use locally inspired ingredients. This particular recipe features culinary influences from the Northwest's Latin American heritage.
The second recipe is from a Quick and Easy Mexican cookbook that I purchased last year. This is the first recipe I have cooked from this book and it was absolutely delicious. The day before our dinner, I went grocery shopping for the ingredients. I asked the produce specialist at Metropolitan Market to choose my mangoes because I sometimes choose fruit that is underripe. I wanted them to be perfect for our dinner so he chose three mangoes that were almost ready. He then gave me a paper bag and told me to put them on my windowsill in the bag until I was ready to use them. I learned that mango skins are slightly wrinkled when they are at their perfect ripeness. Sure enough, by the next afternoon when I took the mangoes out of the paper bag, they were the soft and sweet. I love learning helpful hints like this!
Chili & Lime Slow-Cooked Pork with Onion Escabeche
1/4 cup chili powder
1 Tbsp coriander seed, crushed
1 Tbsp salt
1 boneless pork butt (shoulder), about 3 pounds, cut into 2 pieces
2 large tomatoes, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 large carrots, julienned
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh lime
2 Tbsp corn or other vegetable oil
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro (about 1 bunch)
1 tsp salt
warm corn tortillas
salsa or freshly made pico de gallo
Queso Fresco (Mexican-style fresh cheese)
fresh cilantro sprigs
To prepare the pork, mix chili powder, coriander seed, and salt in a large, shallow bowl. Roll pork in mixture, taking up all seasoning. Put pork in slow-cooker, add remaining ingredients, and set cooker on high. Let cook for 8 hours; or up to 10 hours.
When ready to serve, mix escabeche ingredients well and place in serving dish.
Shred pork and place in large serving bowl with some of the cooking liquid. Serve pork and escabeche with accompaniments. Diners build their own soft tacos then squeeze lime juice over filling before folding.
Chef's note: To heat tortillas, place them one by one on a dry skillet over medium-high heat and turn frequently. As they are heated, place them between folds of a clean dish towel or cloth napkin. Wrap towel in foil to steam tortillas in their own heat. Or, microwave tortillas briefly and put into a napkin as recommended above.
Mangoes With Chile and Lime
1 dried pasilla or ancho chile, seeded and stemmed (or you can buy pure ground chile or chile mixes)
2 ripe mangoes
1 or 2 lime(s)
In spice grinder or coffee mill, process dried chile until it becomes medium-fine powder. Peel and seed mangoes and cut them into strips or cubes. Arrange in four separate bowls or on plates.
Grate a bit of lime zest over mangoes. Quarter the lime and squeeze juice over the mangoes. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and powdered chile. If desired, cut second lime into slices or wedges and serve on the side as garnish or for extra squeezing.
The verdict is in and we all loved these two dishes! The pork was cooked to perfection and had a nice subtle flavor. The texture was absolutely wonderful. The escabeche was my favorite part of the dish. The flavor was refreshing but strong and tangy. It added the perfect amount of brightness and acidity to the dish. The mangoes were delicious as well! I sliced one mango and left it plain for the Olivia and Ava to enjoy and prepared the other two mangoes per the recipe. Lime zest, salt, and peppers go beautifully with mangoes. The ingredients actually enhanced the sweetness of the mangoes. As a side note, I ended up using ground red pepper flakes instead of pasilla or ancho chiles. I thought I had a dried ancho chile at home and when I discovered that I had already used it, I decided to improvise. Red pepper flakes worked well with this dish and it is an ingredient that most of us already have in our cupboard.
Cari ended up putting the mangoes on her tacos, which was a great idea. The sweet element complimented the pork and escabeche. I ate most of my mangoes as a side dish but added mango to my last few bites of taco. I also need to give credit to the Queso Fresco. I went to PCC Natural Market and purchased an all natural, no preservative, rBST Hormone Free cheese by Don Froylan. So tasty! I would absolutely prepare this dish again in exactly the same way; no changes necessary.
Chili & Lime Slow-Cooked Pork with Red Onion Escabeche
"Kathy Casey's Northwest Kitchen" by Kathy Casey
Mangoes with Chile and Lime
"Quick & Easy Mexican Cooking" by Cecilia Have-Jin Lee
Although I haven't been posting new recipes as of late, I have been cooking quite a bit. I have come to the conclusion that I missed cooking some of our family's favorite meals while we were kitchenless so I have been sticking with the basics. I have however, been thumbing through my cookbooks again, which always leads to trouble. Stay tuned for some good summer dishes coming your way.......
In the meantime, I have decided to feature a few of my favorite items to use in the kitchen. For this post, I am concentrating on Pre-Made Sauces. I will write about other types of products in the future but I thought this was a good place to start.
Over the past few years, I have turned into a sauce snob. I never realized how great sauces can taste until I started preparing them from scratch. There are three pre-made sauces, however, that I cannot duplicate or improve. The first is San-J Teriyaki Stir-Fry & Marinade Sauce (this item happens to be gluten-free). The ingredients include soy sauce, honey, apple cider vinegar, ginger puree, plum juice and sake. Somehow, the mixture of these ingredients creates the perfect salty meets sweet flavor. Every time I serve this sauce whether in stir-fry, as meatball marinade or on rice, it solicits positive comments. If the crowd that I am feeding is happy, my work is done.
Roasted Apple Grille Sauce by Stonewall Kitchen has become a staple in our family. I typically serve it with pork or with sausage but the bottle also recommends adding it to homemade baked beans. Consider this recommendation officially on my list of things to try. This sauce can be used during the cooking process or used cold as a condiment. I can't decide whether it is so good because the apples are roasted or if the cider vinegar, maple syrup and dijon mustard make it fantastic. It has a tangy quality that really appeals to me and the texture is absolute perfection. All I can say, is that this is one of our favorite foods and it makes every pork dish taste better. Check out other sauces and products by Stonewall Kitchen by clicking on this link. They also make an amazing Strawberry Jam that is a family favorite.
Finally, Patak's Original Brinjal Egglplant is technically considered a relish but I use it like a sauce on rice, pita bread and as a spread on sandwiches. This product contains eggplant, chili pepper, fenugreek, turmeric and mustard which create a spicy pickled flavor. It definitely delivers a kick but in my opinion, it offers just the right amount of spice. As a side note, it is both gluten-free and suitable for vegetarians. This is truly one of my favorites. Enjoy!