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BBQ Pork Balls

26 Jun

BBQ Pork Balls 2

Look at these guys. It almost makes me tear up just reminiscing about making them, let alone eating them.  I have posted a few recipes for meatballs on this blog, two of which are based on recipes from a book called The Meatball Shop Cookbook, which is a compilation of recipes from the guys who own The Meatball Shop in Manhattan, assuredly a destination on my next trip to NYC. These BBQ Pork Balls are based on their recipe too.

I’ve only been to New York twice: once when I was in my twenties to visit my friend Rich who was getting his Masters in art, and last April with my father-in-law, Bill. Bill is originally from Moonachie, New Jersey, which is across the Hudson a few miles.

On my first trip there about 15 years ago, I was wide-eyed and punch drunk. New York City is way too much to comprehend in a few days. I must have walked 20 miles through Manhattan and dodged 3 taxis for each mile; those fucking guys mean business when you’re crossing the street, as I learned quite quickly. I did get a taste of NYC, but I knew I had to come back at some point.

When I first met Bill (before my wife and I were married, of course), I knew I wanted to go to New York with this guy. I had to. Being a California Italian, I often have pined to have the New York Italian accent, the Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci “What the fuck are you lookin’ at?” edge. Bill owns this. For example, while helping us restore our old house, he once came back from Home Depot and said, “Hey Jonny, I did that thing you needed. No problem,” and I wondered if our room was tapped and if all of my enemies were still around.  It was fucking beautiful.  In any case, while I envy those brought up in New York and New Jersey for the accent, I will settle for having Bill around and, after a few glasses of wine, adopting his accent. I figure, at least it’s in the family and I am Italian, when all is said and done.

So after 11 years, we made it to New York with Bill. I mean, the guy had The Sopranos theme song on the radio as we crossed the bridge like Tony does in the opening of the show. Are you kidding me? It was all bitchin’ from then on out. We saw all of the sites, my 3 year old was speechless (which is a good thing, sometimes), we ate at diners and at Italian family restaurants, and I even got told to “get the fuck outta here” when declaring, with alacrity, that the Angels would beat the Yankees that season. Yankee fans have been busting my balls at the Big A my whole life, so I felt a need to recompense.  In essence, it was the trip of a lifetime.

I mention this story because I can feel New York in this cookbook. The authors are a “couple of fuckin’ guys,” to use my family’s complimentary epithet, and their recipes exhibit this. Moreover, these aren’t classic Italian meatballs; they’re pork balls, perfect if you want BBQ and you don’t have the time or the resources to spark it up in the back (the BBQ, that is).

I served these on sandwich rolls with a liberal amount of BBQ sauce and homemade KFC coleslaw. Nothing more needs to be said.

BBQ Pork Balls

Makes about 12 cueball-size meatballs

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 lb. ground pork

1/2 cup BBQ sauce (I’m a KC Masterpiece guy, myself)

1 egg

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

Makin’ ‘Em:

Preheat the oven to 450°. Get a, 8″ x 8″ or similar size baking dish and coat the bottom of it with 1 tbsp. of the olive oil.

Heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and cook them until they are soft and browned, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Transfer this to a bowl and put it in the fridge to cool (hot onions would make scrambled eggs when you add them to the mixture, so that’s why you chill them, kid).

When the onions are cooled, put them in a mixing bowl with the pork, BBQ sauce, eggs, bread crumbs, and salt. Mix this all together with your hands until everything is thoroughly combined.

Have a cup of water next to you as you roll out the meatballs. A key to making good meatballs is keeping your hands moist as you roll them.  It makes the balls smooth and it’s easier to make sure there are no cracks in them.

Roll the mixture into cueball-size meatballs and make sure the meat is packed firmly. Place the balls in rows and columns in the oiled baking dish. The meatballs should be touching one another.

Bake these guys for 20 minutes, or until cooked through. The meat thermometer should read 165° when poked into the center of a meatball. Remove them from the oven and let them cool for about 5 minutes before you dig in.

Serve them with more BBQ sauce, buns, coleslaw, and whatever your little heart desires. You’ll maybe get this:

BBQ Pork Balls 7

Fuhgeddaboutit.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

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Bitchin’ Chicken Salad

15 Jun

Weight Watchers Chicken Salad

We all have our secret food indulgences that we are reticent to divulge. Now these guilty pleasures could be weird combinations, bastions o’ fat and calories, fast food, or items that are simply “wrong.” For example, there’s a reason why 7-11 sells rolled meat things filled with all sorts o’ stuff: people eat them!

One of my oldest friend’s weird indulgence is to have rocky road ice cream topped with halved green grapes. She then eats this using yogurt-covered pretzels. WTF? “It’s a texture thing,” I was told, and after having watched my wife go through a rough pregnancy, I totally understand this now.

My brothers and I swear by the 1970’s bologna sandwich, which is white bread (the Gemco brand, Lady Lee, no less) with generous mayo on it and two layers of American cheese and bologna. Heaven. How about a peanut butter and marshmallow cream sandwich? How about Kentucky Fried Chicken? Watch Louis CK talking about Cinnabon (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-N1MoKF31mg) and you will identify with him on some level. Lastly, if you follow this link, http://thisiswhyyourefat.com/, you will see some beautiful creations by people who have thrown off the yoke of decorum and set forth their food exhibitionism with grandeur. I am thinking that most people reading this post won’t get past these links, but oh well.

I have a food indulgence about which I am embarrassed, I admit. I have told very few people about it, and I know it’s wrong, but I still do it whenever I’m on a road trip. I love, and I mean love, the pre-made chicken salad sandwiches at gas stations or liquor stores. And I love to eat them whilst driving with an open bag of puffy Cheetos by the stick shift. If you ever happen to see me on the 101 south around the Las Virgenes exit, you will espy me doing this while maintaining beautiful SoCal driving control; with my knees I can almost pull off a 3-point turn in between bites of sandwich and puffy Cheeto.

Funnily enough, this whole diatribe leads to a chicken salad recipe that’s probably the best I’ve ever had, and it does NOT taste like the gas station sandwiches. In fact, this is based on a Weight Watchers recipe, and while I sometimes wonder if WW can pull off certain dishes, I admit that this one tastes as good or better than any non-WW chicken salad recipe I’ve had. The cider vinegar in it gives it a good kick in the pants, which is why I like it.  Moreover, one cup is a 4 on the old Weight Watchers system (PointsPlus and 360° can both fuck off egregiously), and with 2 slices of wheat bread, you’re looking at a 6 for lunch.  Not bad at all.

Bitchin’ Chicken Salad

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

1/4 cup light sour cream

1/4 light mayonnaise

1 tbsp. cider vinegar

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

2 cups cooked, shredded or chopped chicken (Tip: Roast a whole chicken (450° for an hour) or some cut up chicken (400° for 35-45 minutes) coated with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Let it cool, discard the skin, remove the meat from the bones, and you’ll have the juiciest, most beautiful chicken ever. Or buy a rotisserie chicken from the market, take off the skin and bones, and you’re solid.)

2 stalks celery, diced

2 tbsp. finely minced onion

Makin’ It:

For the dressing, in a small bowl whisk together the sour cream, mayo, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper.

In a bigger bowl, combine the chicken, celery, and onion. Add the dressing and mix it all up well. Cover it with plastic and chill it for at least an hour. Serve it as a sandwich or alone. Avocado works well with it, too, but adds on a few points.

‘Tis a piece o’ cake, good for you, and perfect for summer lunch.

Weight Watchers Chicken Salad 2

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Slow Cooker Country Captain Chicken

27 Apr

Country Captain Chicken 003

Being a California native, I asked myself in my head, “What the hell is Country Captain Chicken?” the first time I heard of it. During my first years of teaching, one of my colleagues, originally from West Virginia, said she was making this for her son that night because he was coming home from college for the weekend and this was his favorite.  When I heard this, I asked her, “What the hell is Country Captain Chicken?” I received but a nebulous answer that it was chicken. And lastly, when I was looking through my Weight Watchers cookbook, I saw a Country Captain Chicken recipe, and I therefore inquired aloud, “What the hell is Country Captain Chicken?”  I am somewhat implacable concerning some things.

Briefly, Country Captain Chicken is a full-on American dish comprised of Chicken (told you), mushrooms, tomatoes, raisins, and curry over rice.  I would never have guessed, based on the ingredients, that it would be a southern tradition, but ’tis, and ’tis another reason I love the south.

Wikipedia, a reference that I mock and scorn as a teacher teaching research (yet I embrace as a lover of easily-accessible information in my private life), indicates that Country Captain Chicken could be regarded, as Chef Mamrej Khan has said, as one of the world’s first fusion foods.  Wow.  Wikipedia also describes that it was brought over here by the British probably through the port of Savannah with which the British East India Company traded.  Therefore, my Anglophilia is satisfied by this account and it is an Indian-British-American South dish.

Now with Weight Watchers, stews are very prominent because they fill you up, they can made without a lot of fat, and they still pack tons o’ flavor.  The Country Captain, whoever he is, does that job brilliantly here. The curry ties everything together, and you get a huge portion (2 1/4 cups) on rice (1/2 cup) for only 7 points on the old WW system (Points Plus and 360° can both fuck off indefinitely).  Moreover, it’s a slow-cooker recipe, so you can put this baby together before work and, when it’s time to eat, all you have to make is the rice.  Easier than a curious college student on Mardi Gras.

Slow Cooker Country Captain Chicken

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 cups mushrooms, sliced (any mushroom variety would work)

1 cup onion, chopped

1/2 cup celery, chopped

1 chopped bell pepper, seeded and membranes removed

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken (breast or thighs), chopped into bite-size pieces

1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1/2 cup chicken broth, fat free if possible

2 tsp curry powder

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp.  black pepper

1/2 tsp. paprika

3 cups canned crushed tomatoes, or diced tomatoes crushed by hand

1/4 cup raisins or dried fruit

2 cups cooked rice, white or brown

fresh basil leaves (optional)

Makin’ It:

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat it with cooking spray or a tiny bit o’ olive oil.  Add the mushrooms, onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic. Saute these guys until they’re tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Add these to the slow cooker along with the chicken and mix it all up.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and the broth until it’s smooth.  Add it to the slow cooker. Add in the curry powder, salt, pepper, paprika, tomatoes, and raisins.  Stir this together until it’s well-blended.

Cover and cook on the low setting for 5 hours.  Spoon 1/2 cup o’ rice on four plates (use a measuring cup to make the cool rice dome you see in my pictures). Ladle the chicken and sauce on each plate. You can serve it with fresh, torn basil leaves too, and it’s wonderful.

Country Captain Chicken 009

This has been a regular in my house for years.  Taste it and you’ll know why.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino 2013

Steak on Cornbread with Salsa Pesto

9 Feb

Steak, Pesto, and Cornbread 020

There’s this restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama, called Highlands Bar and Grill, and, a few years back, I had a food-gasm there.  The wife and I had gone to the south to visit family and friends, and we had about 18 hours in Birmingham.  Our friend Tree took us to the aforesaid restaurant.  For my main course, I had a braised side of rabbit over dirty rice made with rabbit offal, complete with a half-bottle of Chateauneuf-de-Pape Vieux Telegraph (forgot the year).  It was one of the best goddamn meals I’ve ever eaten, hands down.

Moreover, I tripped out because in California, we usually “share” a dessert, you know, to be “good,” in the caloric sense.  In Alabama, everyone gets their own dessert, and fuck off if you want to “try” someone else’s; you should have ordered it to begin with.  I had banana pudding, a southern staple, and I think the other patrons noticed my eyes rolling back in my head and the table shaking.  This is yet another reason I have a love affair with the south.

Upon leaving Highlands, I bought the chef’s cookbook, Frank Stitt’s Southern Table (http://www.highlandsbarandgrill.com/southern-table.php), and I have used it for years.  There’s a shredded potato cake recipe in there that alone will make you want to put the book in your pants for the evening.  To be honest, though, a lot of it is pretty highfalutin and chef-y, so I can only get so deep into it.  But I have wanted to make the steak on cornbread with salsa verde meal for years.  Tonight, I made it.  I made it for you, kid, and I made it easier.

First, he has a cornbread recipe that sounds awesome, in that you should make it with bacon grease.  I made it with veg oil and, well, I would have preferred a Jiffy Corn Bread instead.  I can’t bring myself to use bacon grease in anything, now that I have a kid and all.  Also, he calls his sauce a “salsa verde,” which it is, to be sure. But to me, its more of a pesto sans pine nuts, and it is wonderful nonetheless.  Lastly, the steak I made was a Trader Joe’s Flat Iron marinated steak.  It’s prepackaged and one of the best cuts of meats around for the money.  I sliced it thinly, seen above thusly, and it was a rock star with everything.

Make the pesto in advance, and then you’ll have time for the sides and the steak.

Steak, Cornbread, and Salsa Pesto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 steaks, filet, flat iron, rib-eye, New York, whatever

4 garlic cloves, smashed with the flat side of a knife

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 red onions, sliced into 1/2″ slices

salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Corn Bread Slices (use the Jiffy recipe on the side of the box)

Salsa Pesto (my name for it), recipe after

Makin’ It:

Rub the steaks with the garlic and drizzle with the olive oil.  Let them get to room temperature.  Then, sprinkle them generously with salt and pepper.

Heat a grill, grill pan, or skillet over high heat.  Drizzle olive oil over the onion slices and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.  Sear these (meaning grill them) for about five minutes on each side, until they’re charred and soft.  Transfer them to a separate plate, cover with foil, and let them hang out.

Remove the garlic from the steaks, and cook them to your liking.  I’m a medium to medium rare guy myself.  Once done, let them sit for a good 5 to 10 minutes, and then slice them against the grain.

Place a few slices of the corn bread on the plate and top with some steak slices.  Top that with some seared red onions, and then top THAT with the Salsa Pesto.  Serve the Salsa on the side, too, for people who want more of it, which they will because it’s a sack-fondler.

Salsa Pesto

Makes 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

2 cloves garlic, chopped

3 tbsp. capers, rinsed

2 tbsp. chopped cornichons (or small dill pickles)

1 shallot, minced

1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup chopped chives or green onions

1/4 cup chopped cilantro (I omitted this because the wife hates it and it worked fine, but I would have liked it for sure)

1/4 red wine vinegar

3/4 cup olive oil

Grated zest of 1/2 lemon

salt and pepper to taste

Makin’ It:

Combine the garlic, capers, cornichons, shallot, and fresh herbs in a food processor and pulse it until it’s chopped up well.  Then, add the vinegar, olive oil, zest, and salt and pepper (take it easy on the salt…you can always add more later).  Pulse this until it’s like a pesto.  Note the picture:

Steak, Pesto, and Cornbread 022

We both remarked that the flavors are intensely rich, yet light and herby (herbaceous sounds dickhead-ish).  I served it with brussels sprouts and potatoes, but next time I would probably make a side salad with a light vinaigrette to balance it all out.

I had this again tonight to complement it:

Trentatre Rosso

This is one of the best reds I’ve had in its price range from Trader Joe’s.

This is just an interesting way to serve a steak, and only the south could make it so elegant.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

Cajun Jambalaya

3 Feb

Jambalaya 011

I have a few love affairs with certain cultures, and the culture of New Orleans is one of them.  Way back in the ’80’s when I was in high school, I rented a movie on VHS called The Big Easy starring Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin.  It’s a sexy legal thriller about the mafia and corrupt New Orleans cops.  The music, the accents, and the food depicted in it made me long to know more about it.  I told no one then, but I actually bought the soundtrack to the movie on cassette, and I still have it memorized.

From there, I developed quite an interest in New Orleans culture, and I got to know the music quite well. When I began playing the drums at 18, I practiced often to New Orleans-Zydeco-Funk music, and The Meters, Aaron Neville’s band, has had one of the most profound influences on my drumming.  Even more interesting is that, last year, a colleague of mine wanted to jam New Orleans music, and he asked if I had any knowledge of it.  Of any drummer he could have asked,  I have that background, which is a bit esoteric.  My wife and I went to New Orleans for our first time 6 months before Katrina hit, so I watched the tragic events that followed in tears, literally, because I love that city so much.  A big reason that I studied French all through college was partly due to my love of New Orleans, too.

It also happened that, as I got into that culture, a certain chef by the name of Emeril was festooning the TV channels with “Bam!”, heavy spice, garlic, and a laissez faire, confidence-building attitude to inspire amateur cooks at least to attempt to make good food.  I didn’t really start cooking regularly until my late twenties, but when I did start, I started with Emeril.  He made me want to cook.  Whatever one may think about him, just like Ringo on the drums, he got many people not to be intimidated by cooking and instead to try daring recipes.  I was one of them.

Jambalaya is the quintessential Cajun dish.  Simply put, it’s a spicy rice stew and, if made right, it’s a nut buster. For me, jambalaya is one of those dishes by which I will measure a restaurant.  If it’s on the menu and they make it well, I’ll be back.  If not, pox on them and their families.

The best part is that jambalaya is quite easy and somewhat cheap to make.  The recipe below is Emeril’s, and I really don’t mess with it because there is no need to.  I will say, though, that I will omit the shrimp sometimes just because I have to be in the mood for shrimp, but that would be my only alteration. If I don’t use shrimp, I add more chicken and sausage to it.

I put the recipe for Emeril’s Essence (the crack-like substance he “bams!” on everything) after the jambalaya recipe.  I always have a batch of it in a jar because I use it for a dry rub on steaks, chicken, whatever.

Cajun Jambalaya

Serves 4

Ingredients:

12 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and chopped (if you like shrimp; if not, omit and add more chicken and sausage)

4 oz. chicken, diced

1 tablespoon creole seasoning (like Emeril’s Essence, recipe follows)

2 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (whatever color you have works, dude)

1/2 cup chopped celery

2 tbsp. chopped garlic

1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, or 1/2 can of diced tomatoes with some o’ the juice (my trick)

3 bay leaves

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. vinegary hot sauce, like Tabasco or Crystal

3/4 cup rice, rinsed

3 cups chicken stock

5 oz. Andouille sausage, sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

Makin’ It:

In a bowl, combine the chopped shrimp, chicken, and the creole seasoning.  Mix it together well and set aside.

In a large saucepan or skillet, heat the oil over high heat and add the onion, bell pepper, and celery.  Cook this for about five minutes.  Then, add the garlic, tomatoes, bay leaves, Worcestershire, and hot sauce. Cook this for a minute or two.  Then, stir in the rice and cook for a minute. Slowly add the broth and get it boiling.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook it, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the rice absorbs the liquid and becomes tender, about 15 minutes.  When the rice is tender, add the shrimp, chicken, and sausage.  Cook this until the meat is done, about 10 minutes more.  (At this point, I have even hit it with a 1/4 cup of white wine for good measure and it works out famously.) Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more Creole seasoning, if you want some more heat.

Spoon it into a bowl and serve with some French bread and alcohol of some sort, like red wine, a beer, or a Sazerac, if you have some class.

Jambalaya 009

Emeril’s Essence

2 1/2 tbsp. paprika

2 tbsp. salt

2 tbsp. garlic powder

1 tbsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. onion powder

1 tbsp. cayenne pepper

1 tbsp. dried oregano

1 tbsp. dried thyme

Combine all of the ingredients well and keep in an airtight container.

And that’s it!  This is a great dish to serve company, too, as long as you are sure that they like some spice.

Mardi Gras is next week, so it’s apropos to share a jambalaya recipe.  Go on Pandora and find a Mardi Gras station, cook some jambalaya, get your gin-and-juice on, and laissez les bon temps rouler.

A la prochaine, mangez, buvez, et ayez surtout la paix.

©Jon Marino 2013

Cornbread Chicken Chili Casserole with a Caesar Salad

5 Dec

Cornbread Casserole Served 2

My mom used to make a cornbread casserole on a regular basis, but it was the beef and kidney bean variety.  The idea is to make a chili of some sort, and then pour cornbread batter over the top of it and bake it for a while.  In the end, you have a cornbread crust on top and some savory chili underneath it.  You spoon this puppy out and it’s ridiculously good.

I’ve had a hankerin’ for some white chicken chili for a while now, especially since the winter months are upon us in the northern hemisphere.  I also wanted cornbread because who doesn’t want cornbread on a regular basis?  I also had taken chicken breasts out of the freezer two days ago, so I had to use them.  All of these elements played into what I created tonight.

This Cornbread Chicken Chili Casserole is an excellent example of “Dinner with Jonny.”  I found this recipe at about 3 p.m.  on the Betty Crocker website: (http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/southern-chicken-cornbread-casserole/b79f3235-9dc3-4c39-baa6-7c018a32be7f).  I had to go to the store anyway, so I printed this up, put it in my pocket, and bought what I needed for it, and what I wanted to add to it, by 4 p.m.

By 5 p.m., I had some chicken breasts cooked, a glass of Johnny Walker Black poured, and all of the parts assembled on my counter.  I just needed to find out when my wifey would be coming home to know when I needed to put it in the oven.

I also wanted to have some green with this, so I made my caesar salad dressing beforehand (recipe to follow) and chopped some romaine lettuce.

Lastly, I felt like this needed to be lightened, somewhat.  So I substituted lighter versions of some of the ingredients to make it thus.  The Weight Watchers training pervades my cooking…and I feel less guilty.

From start to finish, it takes an hour.  But, a lot of it is inactive cooking time where you can chill with the kid or kids, do a load of laundry, make a cocktail, and/or grade some papers.

Cornbread Chicken Chili Casserole

Ingredients:

3 cups cooked chopped chicken breast meat (you can buy the precooked stuff, of course.  You can also rub a few chicken breasts with olive oil, season them with salt and pepper, and cook them in a 375° oven for 35 minutes, and you’ll get some juicy meat.  If you use a bone in chicken breast, cook it for 45 to 50 minutes.)

1  4 oz. can diced green chilies

1  15 oz. can white beans

1 tsp. poultry seasoning (You can buy it or make it.  This is a recipe how to make it: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/poultry-seasoning/)

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1 1/2 cups light sour cream (use regular of you’re of that “I can eat anything” body type)

1 cup low fat milk (use whole milk if you have no qualms about calories)

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 1/2 cups Shredded Cheddar (who opens for Cheap Trick next month at The Grove)

3 green onions, sliced

Cornbread Topping:

1  8.5 oz. box of Jiffy Cornbread mix or something comparable

1  15 oz. can creamed corn

1 egg

2 tbsp. melted butter

Makin’ it:

Preheat the oven to 400°. Spray a 13″ x 9″ inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix together the chicken, beans, chilis, poultry seasoning, garlic powder, sour cream, milk, salt, and pepper (adjust the salt and pepper to taste, by the way).  Mix in the cheese and green onions.

Spoon this evenly into the baking dish.  You’ll get this:

Chicken Casserole filling

For the cornbread, make it like the box says, except use the creamed corn instead of the milk.  Add in the butter and egg.

Now you need to spoon this over the filling.  I would suggest putting dollops of it over the whole thing and spreading it out evenly like that.  If you don’t, you will mix too much of the filling with the cornbread mixture, resulting in an angry cook.  If you do it right, you’ll get this:

Chicken Casserole topped with corn bread mix

Put this in the oven for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the cornbread and it has a tannish crust on it, like this:

Cornbread Casserole Served 1

This serves 8, it says, but I’m thinking 6 would be more likely.  We took half as much filling and doubled the amount of cornbread to eat.  This is how we roll.

Cornbread Casserole Served 4

This is unbelievably good and hearty.  The caesar salad worked well with this to give it some green.

The Best Caesar Salad, Ever

Ingredients:

3 cloves garlic, peeled and whole

2 tbsp. white wine or rice vinegar

3 tbsp. mayo (low fat is best)

1/8 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. anchovy paste or 2 anchovy filets

2 tbsp. olive oil

Makin’ it:

In a food processor, add all of the ingredients EXCEPT the olive oil.  Get the food processor going and, through the chute, slowly pour the olive oil as it mixes.  Let it go for a minute or two and you will have a creamy, beautiful dressing that kicks bottled salad dressing in the nuts with force and mercilessly.

This is enough for 4 servings, so chop up some romaine lettuce, add about 1/4 cup of parmesan, add some croutons, and you have a caesar salad fit for a Roman emperor or an obstetrician.

On a lighter night, make two bigger caesar salads and add a grilled sliced chicken breast on top of each.  You’ll be cryin’ yourself to sleep on your huge pillow it’s so good.

Drinks!  I tried the Kirkland Cabernet from Costco this evening because I saw it there today.  Meh.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

p.s.  I know my pictures suck.  I’m working on it.

Pulled Pork, Southern and Easy

29 Nov

I have been to the south (in the U.S., that is) three times now.  Every time I leave there, I am charmed and buttered, literally, both on the inside and outside.  The first time I went to Alabama in the mid 1990’s, I went to my friend Tree’s wedding, and the barbecue they had there was nothing like I had ever tried before: pulled pork on buns with cole slaw and sauce.  I had so many food-gasms during that three day stay that it’s imprint on me is indelible.   Mind you, this is before the ubiquitous Food Network and Travel Channel got really rolling.  In California, this sort of cuisine was not as common then as ’tis now.  The hospitality, too, is unparalleled, even now.

The beautiful part about the t.v. programs now is that they have done a service in conveying these recipes to the masses.  I often ponder if people realize how easy it is to make pulled pork.  So many of the food shows say that we spend way too much money on cuts of meat that are flavorless, but tender, filet mignon being the prime example.  While I tend to disagree with them on some level (filet mignon is a delicacy regardless of their high-falutin-ness), there is something to be said about taking a big hunk of fatty meat and cooking it a long time to make something awesome.  It’s so easy that, even if you work all day, it can be done without even thinking about it.

I searched through the grocery store ads this morning, and I found a pork picnic shoulder for $.99 a pound at Smart and Final.  This was at 7 a.m.  I went and picked up, for $10, a big ol’ pork shoulder with the bone in and fat hanging off of it…just a beauty of a specimen.  What did I do?  I rubbed it with spice and put it in a 300° oven for 9 hours.  Yes, nine whole hours. By the time I took it out (and my house not only did not burn down, but smelled like a palace dedicated to Boss Hogg and the Duke brothers), I had this giant piece of pork falling apart on me, dripping with goodness, and pulled pork sandwiches were waiting for us.  It’s like a slow cooker recipe, but made in the oven.  Get it ready before work, and it’s ready when you get home.  Easy peasy.

Pulled Pork

Ingredients:

A 5-10 lb. pork shoulder, picnic roast, boston butt, or some kind of giant cut of pork with a lot of fat on it.  It’s made to roast for a long time.

Dry Rub:

3 tbsp. paprika

2 tbsp. brown sugar

1 tbsp. dry mustard

1 tbsp. garlic powder

3 tbsp. salt

Makin’ It:

Preheat the oven to 300°. Mix all of the spices together. Put the pork in a baking dish or roasting pan and rub that guy with all of the spices.  Your hands will get caked with it, which makes it primal on some level.  It will look like this when you put it into the oven:

Now, and this is important,  just forget about it.  Really.  Let it cook like this for 6 to 8 hours.

When it’s done, it looks like this:

And after you let it rest for at least 15-20 minutes, shred the pork and get rid of the excess fat and skin (unless you’re into to that sort of thing).   To shred the pork, use two forks, and stab a giant piece of pork with one fork and, using the other fork, pull away the shreds of pork piece by piece.

I made some coleslaw for this.  I bought the packaged cabbage and carrot mix at Smart and Final, and then I made a dressing:

Coleslaw Dressing:

1 tbsp. vinegar

1/2 cup light mayonnaise

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. celery seeds

1/2 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground

1 tbsp. sugar

Mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl and pour over the slaw mixture, which should be in a big bowl.  Mix it well so every little leaf has some goodness on it.  Cover it and put it in the fridge to chill.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches: The Final Project

Hamburger or steak rolls, soft

Pulled pork

Coleslaw

BBQ sauce (if you make one that you like and kicks ass, right on.  If you like a bottled one and it kicks ass, right on.)

Now it’s time to put it all together.  Rub the insides of the bun with bbq sauce. Place some shredded pork on the bun, top it with some sauce, top that with some coleslaw, and you will bust your zipper.  It takes all day to make, but it’s hands off, and it feeds everyone around.

Drinks!  A good, rich red, like a Cabernet, is perfect for this.  But, beer, a Coors Banquet Beer or a Miller High Life, was created for this.

Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.

©Jon Marino, 2012

p.s.  I love feedback! Let me know what works, what doesn’t, or what you want.