Sous Vide Carnitas

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I’ve made carnitas the traditional way, but the process can be a big a pain in the ass. Delicious, yes, but it requires more effort than this lazy-butt is willing to expend. I’d rather head to my favorite taqueria and buy a pound.

This is why I was so excited to read R’s super-simple yet scrumptious recipe for sous vide carnitas a few days ago. As soon as I read her post, I immediately ran to the garage and pulled a big pork butt out of the chest freezer to recreate the recipe at home. (Remember? I have 100 pounds of pork in there.)

I followed her recipe pretty explicitly, but I lazified it even more by using 4 tablespoons of Penzey’s Arizona Dreaming seasoning instead of making my own dry rub.

Here’s the play-by-play:

I brined the cubed pork butt for the suggested 24 hours in the fridge…

…rinsed off the excess brine…

…dried off the pork…

…tossed it with the Arizona Dreaming seasoning

…vacuum-sealed the seasoned pork in two packets…

…dunked the packets in the SousVide Supreme for 28 hours…

…removed the cooked pork from the water oven…

…blotted the pork cubes dry…

…pan-fried the cubes in a couple tablespoons of lard, and drained them on a wire rack.

For dinner, I served carnitas lettuce tacos topped with diced white onions, cilantro, Primavera salsa, and homemade guacamole.

Very tasty and easy-peasy! The meal prep takes some advance planning, but it’s definitely worth it. I can’t wait to make this again and again and again and again…

Thanks for the great recipe, R.! I’ll repay you with a big slab of pork belly!

Marinated Roasted Beets

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My husband lurvs beets, so whenever they show up in my CSA box, I always prepare them using Alice Water’s recipe for lightly pickled beets from Chez Panisse Vegetables. Me? I’m not a super fan of beets, but this recipe works so well that even I will happily down a few — and not just so I can change the color of my pee to a pretty shade of red. These beets are tasty!

Here’s what I gathered to serve 4 people:

  • 6-7 medium sized beets (try to shoot for the same size so they’ll cook for the same amount of time)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Here’s how I made them:

I preheated the oven to 400 F and I washed and trimmed the beets so the stems were about ½ an inch.

I had two different bunches of beets so they weren’t even close to being uniform in size. I could have baked two separate batches but that’s a pain in the keister. Instead, I ended up taking the smaller beets out earlier and letting the larger beets bake for 30 more minutes.

I placed the beets into a baking dish and added an inch of water. I covered the container with a lid (or aluminum foil) and popped it in the oven for about an hour…

…or until the beets were easily pierced with a knife (~45 minutes for the little ones, ~75 minutes for the big ones).

I let the beets cool before I sliced off the tops and peeled of the skin and long tails. Then, I chopped them into bite-size pieces…

…and seasoned them with salt, pepper, and a generous glug of balsamic vinegar.

I marinated the beets for at least 30 mintues, stirring once or twice,…

…before I add a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil.

Per Ms. Waters, if you don’t wait to add the oil, the vinegar won’t penetrate the beets properly and they won’t taste as good.

These beets are yummy eaten as is or thrown into a bunch of composed salads. Don’t be alarmed if your poop and pee turn pink. You don’t have a kidney infection or a GI bleed — it’s just another stupid human trick.

Roasted Baby Artichokes

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Of my two vegetable CSA subscriptions, I definitely prefer Mariquita Farm’s. Full Belly Farm has wonderful produce but the contents of the box are too dang small for our family. Case in point, we received five baby artichokes in our box last Saturday.

Dude, this amount is barely enough to feed me.

On the other hand, I’d be cursing them if I had a large bag of baby artichokes to trim and prepare. I guess I can always find something to whine about…

If you haven’t noticed, my favorite way to prepare vegetables is to roast them in a hot oven tossed in fat, salt, and pepper and then I spritz a bit of acid on the finished dish. Baby artichokes taste fantastic roasted but there is a little work involved to get them oven-ready.

Here’s what I assembled to feed just me:

  • 5 baby artichokes
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • Avocado oil (or your favorite fat)
  • Kosher Salt
  • Freshly Ground Pepper

Here’s how I made them:

I preheated the toaster oven to 400 F. Then, I filled a large bowl with cold water and squeezed in the juice from the lemon and dumped in the spent halves. Artichokes brown as soon as you cut them so dunk them in the water as soon as you make the first chop.

I chopped the artichokes about ¼ of the way from the top…

…and removed all the tough outer leaves.

If you’re not sure if the leaf is tough, yank it out. You’re going to pop the whole thing in your mouth and no one wants to gnaw on a fiber-y leaf.

Next, I used a sharp paring knife to trim the stem and base of the artichoke of the tough skin.

I cut the trimmed artichokes in half…

…and dunked them in the acidulated water.

I drained the artichokes and tossed them with a nice glug of avocado oil, salt, and pepper.

I placed the artichokes on a foil-lined baking sheet and popped it in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, flipping them halfway through the roasting.

I ate the artichokes with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

The whole thing is edible since the choke hasn’t fully matured and it’s crispy on the outside and tender in the middle. Yes, it can be kind of a pain to prepare but baby artichokes are only around for a short period so suck it up.

Super Porktastic Bacon-Topped Spinach and Mushroom Meatloaf

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I was inspired to make this bacon-topped, veggie-laden meatloaf after watching this video on Chow.com. I wasn’t brought up on bad meatloaf as a child, so I don’t have an aversion to it like some folks. Quite the opposite, in fact. As a college student, I used to routinely hit up all the local diners to seek out the best meatloaf sandwiches.

I’ll be the first to admit that not all of my kitchen experiments turn out tasty, but tonight’s pork-y loaf was definitely a winner. Don’t believe me? My six-year old declared that he was rating it “FIVE stars!” AND he polished off his plate. (This doesn’t always happen; often, he butters me up with a compliment but then doesn’t eat the meal at all. It’s sweet, yet infuriating.)

The original recipe looks delicious, but I decided to veer away from it — not only to make it Paleo-friendly, but also to simplify the steps. In place of the milk and fresh breadcrumbs, I threw in coconut cream, coconut flour, and minced mushrooms. And since I’m too lazy to steam, drain, and chop fresh spinach, I replaced the fresh spinach with chopped frozen spinach. Also, after the recommended baking time, the bacon on top was still kind of limp, so I briefly stuck the meatloaf under the broiler to crisp up the bacon. Who wants soggy bacon? Not this gal!

Here’s what I gathered to feed 4-6 hungry adults:

  • 1 pound frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (or coconut oil)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion (from 1/2 medium onion)
  • 1/2 pound Cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream or coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup small-dice celery (from about 2 medium stalks)
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 pound ground pork (the original recipe calls for 1 ¼ pounds of pork, veal, or beef but I only had 1 pound of ground pork defrosted)
  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3-5 bacon slices
  • Tomato sauce, warmed, for serving (optional)

Here’s how I made it:

I preheated the oven to 350 F with the rack placed in the middle. I dumped a packet of frozen spinach into a Corningware container

…covered it with a lid and nuked it on high for ~4 minutes to defrost it. Then, I dumped the spinach in a colander and pressed out all the liquid.

I heated the butter over medium heat in a large cast iron skillet and tossed in the chopped onions and mushrooms along with some salt and pepper to taste.

I sautéed them until the liquid had evaporated and the onions were softened.

Next, I blended the coconut cream, parsley, and celery until a puree was formed.

In this case, the $29 immersion blender trumped the expensive Vitamix; the small volume didn’t blend properly in my fancy blender.

I placed the pork in a large bowl, followed by the chopped spinach, coconut flour, garlic, measured salt and pepper, and nutmeg.

Then, I added the coconut cream puree, beaten eggs, onions, and ‘shrooms.

I used my hands to gently combine all the ingredients.

I tested if the seasoning was right by frying up a tiny meatloaf patty.

Then, I transferred the mixture to an ungreased 9 x 5 loaf pan…

…and layered the bacon on top.

(You can store the uncooked loaf in the fridge for up to a day and then bake it at your convenience).

My loaf pan is kind of leaky, so I put it on a lined baking sheet before sticking it in the oven. I baked the meatloaf for 70 minutes, rotating it at the halfway point. Then, I broiled it for 3 minutes to crisp up the bacon.

There’s quite a bit of grease that pools in the pan so I poured it off and I let the loaf rest for 20 minutes before slicing into it.

I served the meatloaf slices with a generous ladle of Rao’s marinara sauce, but they also taste great without it.

Man, this meatloaf was super-moist, delicious, and chock-full of veggies! Coconut haters: Don’t worry - you can’t taste any coconut at all.

I can’t wait to eat the leftovers!

Emergency Protein (a.k.a. Garbage Stir-Fry)

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The whole idea behind emergency protein is that I want to cook some protein and veggies really quickly so it gets in my rumbling belly FAST. Plus, I want to make sure I make a big batch so I have leftovers.

Hands-down, the quickest way to cook meat is to stir-fry it. Everything should be cut small so your dish is finished lickey-split. Similar to my Garbage Soup, this “recipe” makes use of whatever protein and wilting veggies are in the fridge or freezer. I don’t have any set measurements, and I rarely make this dish the same way more than once. I taste constantly while I’m cooking and I stop seasoning when it tastes right. 

All variations normally include:

  • Quick cooking veggies (e.g. pre-washed baby spinach, leftover sautéed chard, frozen broccoli, shredded carrots, broccoli slaw, etc.)
  • 2 tablespoons of your favorite cooking fat (e.g. lard, coconut oil, ghee, etc.)
  • ½-1 cup of onions, leeks, or shallots cut into small dice
  • 1 pound of ground or thinly sliced meat
  • 1-2 tablespoons of your favorite seasoning or coconut aminos
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Here’s an example of how I prepared a batch of emergency protein today:

I quickly chopped up my veggies…

…and melted 2 tablespoons of ghee over medium heat in a large cast iron skillet. I tossed in some sliced green garlic and diced shallots and stir-fried until they were tender. 

I added the mushrooms…

…and shredded carrots (i.e. vegetables that take longer to cook) along with some salt and pepper to taste. 

Next, I tossed in some thinly sliced chicken breast  along with a few healthy shakes of Turkish seasoning, salt, and pepper. 

When the chicken was cooked through, I tossed in some pre-washed spinach leaves… 

..and turned off the heat when the spinach was wilted.

It’s that easy. 

Semi-Homemade Paleo Spaghetti And Meatballs

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Tonight’s quick faux spaghetti and meatballs utilized some high quality prepared items that made cooking dinner a breeze. In a sense, it’s a semi-homemade recipe a la Sandra Lee.

I hate to even type that because Sandra Lee chaps my hide: her recipes are terrible, her tablescapes are retarded vomit-inducing, and she’s too damn perky for me. However, I do like the premise of her show – using shortcuts to get a tasty meal on the table fast. In fact, some might argue that’s kind of the idea of this here blog but I’m too much of a cranky mofo to be mistaken for a Paleo Sandra Lee.

Here’s what I gathered to feed 4 people:

  • A tablespoon or two of ghee
  • A pound of uncooked Italian sausage made from the trim of my Full of Life Farm  ½ hog

  • 1/2 a jar of my favorite spaghetti sauce

Here’s what I did:

I took the sausage out of the casing and rolled them into little meatballs.

Ingenious, right? I can’t take credit for it though ‘cause I was inspired by this recipe from the cool folks at White On Rice Couple.

I melted a tablespoon of ghee in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. When the pan was hot, I fried the mini meatballs in a single layer in the pan until they were browned on all sides.

I added about ½ a jar of Rao’s marinara sauce and brought the sauce to a boil.

Then, I covered the pan and simmered the sauce on low for about 5 minutes.

I rinsed off the kelp noodles in a colander and added them to the meatballs and sauce.

I covered the pan and simmered the sauce and noodles for a few minutes until the noodles were tender.

The softened noodles resemble  Asian bean thread noodles so don’t expect them to have the taste and texture of Italian pasta. Hell, you can leave out the kelp noodles and still have a quick and yummy meal.

Cauliflower & Carrot Puree

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If you haven’t noticed, I’m obsessed with making veggie purees this week. Tonight I made another one with cauliflower, carrots, onions, and garlic. I love the original recipe for garlic cauliflower mashed potatoes but with this recipe you get a healthy dose of beta carotene AND clean-up is a breeze — just one pot and the immersion blender. I’m all about the shortcuts.

Here’s what I gathered to feed 6 adults:

  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut up into florets
  • 3 large carrots, cut into small chunks
  • ½ medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup organic chicken broth
  • ¼ cup water
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Splash of heavy cream (optional)

Here’s how I made it:

I chopped up my veggies…

… and melted 3 tablespoons of butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. 

Then, I dropped the veggies, broth, and water into the bubbling fat. 

When the liquid started boiling, I covered the pot, turned down the heat to low, and let everything simmer until softened (25-30 minutes). Make sure your pot doesn’t dry out!

I added another tablespoon of butter, heavy cream, salt, and pepper and blitzed everything with my immersion blender

…until smooth.

I think I just like the texture of baby food…

Cauliflower, Carrot, and Parsnip Puree

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Tonight, I decided to fiddle with my carrot and parsnip puree recipe and toss in some cauliflower. Why mess with a good thing? Well, I picked up some cute baby cauliflower heads at the Mountain View Farmers’ Market…

…and I was feeling wild and crazy.  I could’ve ended up with a pot of grossness but, luckily, my tinkering led to another yummy mashed potato substitute.

Here’s what I gathered to make enough mash for 6 people:

  • 3 tablespoons butter or ghee, plus 1 tablespoon of butter or ghee
  • 3/4 lb parsnips (or about 5 medium parsnips), coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 lb carrots (or about 2 large carrots), coarsely chopped (slightly smaller than parsnips)
  • 1 1/2 lb cauliflower florets (or about 1 small head of cauliflower), coarsely chopped
  • 4 green garlic stalks, thinly sliced or 4 whole garlic cloves
  • 1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup organic chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Here’s how I made it:

Basically, I followed the same steps as I did with the carrot and parsnip puree recipe. If you’re too lazy to click on the link, here are the steps again.

I melted three tablespoons of butter in a large stock pot over medium heat and chopped up my veggies…

…and alliums.

I dumped the veggies, broth, and water into the pot and waited until it came to a boil.

I lowered the heat and simmered the covered pot for 25-30 minutes until the vegetables were mushy.

I added salt, pepper, and the last tablespoon of butter and I pureed everything with my immersion blender.

This puree is pretty tasty. It’s a good compromise for peeps who find the carrot and parsnip puree a little too sweet and the cauliflower puree too bland.

Carrot & Parsnip Puree

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Looking for a substitute for mashed potatoes but you’re tired of eating cauliflower or winter squash puree? Make some carrot and parsnip puree!

Yesterday, my vegetable CSA box came with some big ass Chantenay carrots and parsnips. After googling the interwebs to figure out what to make with them, I came across this recipe for carrot and parsnip puree from Miss Martha Stewart. I changed the proportions and ingredients a wee bit and the resulting orange-colored mash was delicious.

Here’s what I gathered to make 6 servings:

  • 2/3 lb parsnips, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped (slightly smaller than the parsnips)
  • 2 stalks of green garlic, thinly sliced (or 2 garlic cloves)
  • 1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup organic chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Here’s how I made it:

I did my best Martin Yan impression and quickly chopped up all my veggies.

I melted 3 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter was liquefied, I dumped in the veggies, broth, and water.

I brought the liquid to a boil, turned down the heat to low, and simmered the covered pot for 25-30 minutes. Once the vegetables were soft and tender, I used my immersion blender to puree everything.

Then, I added another pat of butter along with some salt and pepper to taste.

After one last pass through with the stick blender, the puree was ready to eat.

I do miss mashed potatoes but having tasty technicolor substitutes helps with the cravings. I guess it’s like methadone for spud addicts.

Sous Vide Grass Fed Flank Steak

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I’m always hesitant to cook new cuts of grass fed beef in my SousVide Supreme because my results have been hit-or-miss. When I mess up, I end up with a ton of powdery, overly-tender leftovers that I have to force myself to choke down. (It’s too damn expensive to toss, people.)

After perusing the interwebs and consulting my Douglas Baldwin sous vide bible, I decided to cook my grass fed flank steak at 130 F — medium rare — for 24 hours (his book recommends 24-48 hours cooking time). Most references indicate that you can actually cut the cooking time for grass fed beef by half, but I’m leery of taking the meat out too soon. I’m self-aware enough to know that I’m too lazy to vacuum seal it again if it’s underdone. 

*Update on 8/1/11: I’ve gotten great results when I’ve left the steaks in for about 36 hours. Sometimes, they’re still too chewy at 24 hours.

I seasoned the flank steak with just salt and pepper; I’ve found that with prolonged cooking (more than 6 hours), spice blends tend to overpower the meat or impart some off flavors. That being said, you should season the steak liberally with salt and pepper before sealing it. 

I seasoned and vacuum sealed my steak but I let it marinate in the fridge for several hours before I dunked it in my 130 F water oven.

I removed the flank steak which had been submerged for 23 hours…

…dried it off with paper towels…

…and blasted it with my kitchen torch.

The blowtorch is pretty awesome. I’m still getting the hang of it, but I love that I can char the whole piece of meat evenly. Whenever I’d sear a piece of sous vided meat in a pan, there would always be parts that wouldn’t brown properly because the cooked meat wasn’t flat.

After 24 hours and a quick char, the flank steak turned out tender and juicy.

Yay!