Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mmmm, Carnitas

 Baby, it's cold outside...actually, today it is 31*F, much warmer than the 14*F of a few days ago.  Still, the crispy weather just begs for something hot and slow-cooked in a flavorful braise.

A few weeks ago we picked up a whole pork shoulder for about 11 bucks. I had a thought of making pulled pork, but decided on carnitas.  Both are slow-cooked pork, but I associate pulled pork with barbecue and carnitas is definitely mexican.  Anything that can be folded into a tortilla has my vote.

I scanned some recipes online and eliminated any that called for orange juice.  I have a dislike of fruit or citrus with flesh. I spotted one from David Lebovitz that looked good and easy to adapt to the crockpot.

It was my first pork butt.  Why is it called pork butt if it is from the shoulder?  I don't know, but it's fun to say "pork butt".  Let me tell you, pork butts are huge.  I decided to just work with half of it at a time, since I wanted to use my crockpot.

Carnitas, adapted from David Lebovitz's The Sweet Life in Paris

4-5-pounds boneless pork shoulder (pork butt!), cut into 5-inch chunks, trimmed of excess fat
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons canola or neutral vegetable oil
1 cinnamon stick (omitted)
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder (omitted)
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly-sliced

1. Rub the pieces of pork shoulder all over with salt. Refrigerate for 1- to 3-days. (You can skip this step if you want. Just be sure to salt the pork before searing the meat in the next step.)

2. Heat the oil in a roasting pan set on the stovetop. Cook the pieces of pork shoulder in a single layer until very well-browned, turning them as little as possible so they get nice and dark before flipping them around. If your cooking vessel is too small to cook them in a single-layer, cook them in two batches.

3. Once all the pork is browned, remove them from the pot and blot away any excess fat with a paper towel, then pour in about a cup of water, scraping the bottom of the pan with a flat-edged utensil to release all the tasty brown bits. I poured this liquid into the crockpot with the pork.

4. Heat the oven to 350F (180C) degrees.  If you are using oven instead of crockpot.

5. Add the pork back to the pan and add enough water so the pork pieces are 2/3rd's submerged in liquid. Add the cinnamon stick and stir in the chile powders, bay leaves, cumin and garlic. I added the juice of one lime, too.

7. Braise in the oven uncovered for 3½ hours, turning the pork a few times during cooking, until much of the liquid is evaporated and the pork is falling apart. Remove the pan from the oven and lift the pork pieces out of the liquid and set them on a platter.  OR - cook in your crockpot on low for 8 hours.  The liquid won't evaporate, but I just pulled out the pork with a slotted spoon and transferred it to a sheet pan. 


8. Once the pork pieces are cool enough to handle, shred them into bite-sized pieces, about 2-inches (7 cm), discarding any obvious big chunks of fat if you wish.

9. Return the pork pieces back to the roasting pan and cook in the oven, turning occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the pork is crispy and caramelized. It will depend on how much liquid the pork gave off, and how crackly you want them.  I browned my carnitas for 20 minutes in a 375* oven.

These were delish.  We had some in tortillas the first night, and then I had the idea to try to recreate a carnitas bowl from Chipotle.

I started with the cilantro-lime rice.  I browed one cup rice in a tablespoon of oil for 10 minutes, or until it smelled nutty, almost like popcorn.  Then I added chicken stock and cooked covered for about 20 minutes.


I juiced some (way too many) limes and added the juice to the rice.  Next was chopped cilantro.


 In a bowl, I layered rice, carnitas, lettuce, tomato, salsa and sour cream.  The only thing missing was the black beans.



Friday, November 20, 2009

Brian's Clam Chowder

I'm back from my honeymoon in Cancun and have lots of pictures. I'll get to that a little later. I don't know if you know this, but I Love Clam Chowder. I have since I was little. Not the red Manhattan style, but the creamy, buttery-rich New England kind. As far as I'm concerned it's the only kind.

I've sampled my share. Here in Oregon, most restaurants serve a version on Fridays. Mo's on the beach is often touted as the best chowder out there, but no way, Jose. It uses frozen potatoes. You can buy it as a mix. Disqualified. My favorite in Portland is at Salty's on the Columbia. It is thick and clam-by and buttery. I like it with oyster crackers.

The one that blows them all away is my husband's recipe. He used to be a professional cook, so it's probably a conglomoration of recipes he's used in different workplaces.

He made it for me last weekend. I paid attention and took lots of notes. However, like many soups, it is different every time, depending on time and what ingredients. The last time we used fresh clams; this time it was canned. We use tarragon, but you don't have to. Lemon juice will suffice when champagne vinegar isn't available. Etc.

One thing I learned from Mo's is that a pat of butter melting atop a steamy bowl of clam chowder is a must. Try it.

Brian's Clam Chowder (makes about 4-5 quarts)

3 yellow onions, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
7 stalks celery, chopped fine
2 shallots, sliced
1 head garlic, cloves sliced thin
6-8 oz bacon, diced
1 lb fingerling potatoes, in one inch chunks
1 cup vegetable stock
4 cans chopped clams (6.5 oz cans)
1 bottle clam nectar (8 fl. oz bottle)
10 oz. can whole clams
2 bunches green onions
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons dried thyme
4 bay leaves
fresh tarragon
1 bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley
freshly ground pepper
pinch celery seed
pinch salt
juice from one lemon (or 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar)

In a large soup pot, head 1 teaspoon vegetable oil over medium heat. Add bacon and saute until fat is rendered. Drain fat and transfer bacon into another bowl and set aside.

Deglaze pot with stock and reduce a few minutes.  Add 1 tablespoon butter, then shallots and garlic.

Saute briefly, 1-2 minutes.  Add another tablespoon of butter, then onions and celery.

Saute over very low heat for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

After 30 minutes, add potatoes and stir.  Add the chopped green onions.

Drain clams, reserving juice.  Add clams to soup.

Add bacon back to the pot, along with cream, milk, clam nectar from cans & bottle, bay leaves and thyme.  Stir well and cook over low heat.

Meanwhile, chop fresh tarragon.

Add tarragon, parsley, fresh ground pepper, celery seed, salt and lemon juice.  Stir and heat for about 30 minutes.  Stir often so a skin doesn't form.

Serve with celery leaves, crispy bacon and/or green onions as a garnish.  Eat!

Mmm, look at that.  All that is missing is a nice chunk of butter. 

Thanks, honey!

*note:  you may notice the pictures show two soup pots.  That's because we made this batch in two pots, adding half the ingredients to each pot.  Maybe it's time to get a great big stockpot.

This is my 100th Post!  Whoo hoo!

Friday, October 16, 2009


Best Dishes or Meals of the month so far:

Bechamel - topped lasagna (my own kitchen)
Duck - the London Grill
Seafood Dinner - Taste of Jakarta (my first Indonesian food!!!)
Cabbage Chicken Salad - Bambuza
Bun Bo Hue - Chino Saigon

Best Birthday Gift:

iPhone - my favorite app is Kindle for iPhone. I've already read 3 books on my phone and am halfway through the 4th.

What should I post about next? I may need to bake something...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I am officially giving myself a break for the next 2 months while I finish planning the wedding and actually get myself married off. I may post now and then, but don't look for me back until October.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Creamy Asparagus Soup

Asparagus, the harbinger of spring. It's a little past spring now as summer is just getting started in the Rose City, but asparagus still has a strong showing at the local markets. Asparagus is one of Brian and I's favorite vegetables and we are always looking for new ways to prepare it.

Earlier this year, when we were planning the menu for my dad's dinner, I wanted to make some kind of soup. We thought about a shrimp or lobster bisque first, but a lot of our menu was already so rich that we wanted something clean and fresh for the soup.

After browsing the various food recipe sites, I came across this recipe from Emeril. It looked simple and refreshing. I especially liked the idea of simmering the woody ends of the asparagus stalks (the part you don't eat) in the chicken stock, infusing it with asparagus flavor.

Creamy Asparagus Soup courtesy of Emeril via the Food Network

3 pounds fresh asparagus, rinsed
8 cups chicken stock
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup minced shallots
1 cup minced leeks, whites only, well rinsed
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, garnish

Trim the attractive top tips from the asparagus, about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Cut the woody stem ends from each spear and reserve. Cut the remaining tender stalks into 1/2-inch pieces.

In a medium pot, bring the stock to a boil. Add the tough woody stems, lower the heat and simmer to infuse with asparagus flavor, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and discard, reserving the stock.

Add the decorative tips to the stock and blanch until tender, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Remove with a strainer and refresh in an ice water bath. Drain on paper towels and reserve for the garnish. Reserve the stock.

In a medium stockpot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. When foamy, add the shallots and leeks and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chopped asparagus stalks, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the reserved broth and simmer until the asparagus are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.

With a hand-immersion blender or in batches in a food processor, puree the soup until smooth. Adjust the seasoning, to taste. If serving right away, return to medium heat and add the cream and reserved asparagus tips. Cook, stirring, until the soup is warmed through, about 3 minutes.

Alternatively, if serving the soup later, do not add the cream and let cool at room temperature (or in an ice water bath). Cover and refrigerate. Before serving, add the cream and asparagus tips, and warm the soup gently over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

To serve, place the soup in a soup tureen and sprinkle with cheese. Ladle into demi-tasse cups or small coffee or tea cups, and serve.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sel Gris

This post was written in November 2007 but never published. Why, I don't know.

As the new home of Portland favorite Chef Daniel Mondok - formerly of Carlyle and Olea, Sel Gris has to live up to some lofty expectations.

Ris de Veau: crisp sweetbreads, apple butter,“bacon and eggs”11. Melty-crisp sweetbreads were delicious. The "exploding egg pancake" that came with it impressed me with presentation, but I didn't care for the flavor. Too sweet. Brian scarfed it up happily.

Calamari “fritto misto”: Oregon rock shrimp, preserved lemon, green beans,Italian parsley, halibut gujonette, and walnut bagna cauda 10. I loved this - big chunks of halibut and shrimp lightly fried till crisp mixed with fried lemon and green beans sprinked with parsley. And the walnut bagna cauda is a warm dip of garlic, anchovies, walnut oil and cream. Luckily Brian was busy with the sweetbreads and let me have most of it. Hee hee.

Cauliflower Panna Cotta. Our server Tim brought this out gratis. Yes, it's Tim, the same server from Carlyle. He actually remembered us from our Valentine's Day dinner. That's a good server. Anyway, I loved this! It was cold, creamy and rich, tasting of cauliflower and cheese.

Duck Confit with baby chicories, Roquefort, sherry-shallot vinaigrette 12. Wow, great salad. I love duck, especially confited. This was the perfect venue for it - spicy chicory, intense Roquefort and the acidic dressing.

Endive salad with toasted walnuts, arugula, red wine spiced poached pears, Muscatel vinegar, under a "Humboldt Fog"9. What does under a Humboldt Fog mean? Something about cheese? It was good, too.

I wanted to order the salmon (pan roasted, crevette risotto, foie gras melted leeks, squid and crab "salad", butter poached prawn, coral oil), but I found I wasn't really hungry anymore. God, ya think? Brian went and ordered what would have been my second choice.

Diver Scallops: seared and bacon wrapped, polenta, foie gras béarnaise, figs and fennel 24. Decadence on a plate. The scallops were perfectly rare in the center, as expected, and the polenta and béarnaise gave each scallop bite a blanket of richness.

Daniel Mondok has hit his stride with Sel Gris. We are looking forward to seeing what other amazing creations come out of his kitchen.

Sel Gris
1852 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 517-7770
Dinner Monday - Saturday, 5:30 PM to close


Note: Sel Gris has recently been under attack by foie gras protestors. Please go as often as you can this month to support them. I will. (If you are anti-foie, don't bother spamming the comments; I won't publish your mis-directed diatribe.)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Chocolate Mousse Tart (& more Pâte Sablée)

This is my new favorite dessert to bring. Bring where? Anywhere! Potlucks, picnics, dinner at dad's, baby showers, and the like.

There's two sticks of butter in the crust. And one whole pint of heavy cream in the tart. So don't make this to keep at home and risk eating all the leftovers for breakfast. You'll thank me for this later.

I made this with Hershey's Special Dark chocolate. I usually go for the Ghirardelli or ScharffenBerger for fancy desserts, but the Hershey's was on sale and I wanted to try it out. I was a little iffy when I tasted the chocolate on its own, as it was too grainy and had that epitomous Hershey's flavor. But, once it was mixed with an ungodly amount of whipped cream and chilled into the sweet, cookie crust, the flavor was exceptional.

The recipe I based this on didn't really work out, so I had to improvise. At first, I made it worse, but it turned out great anyway. The recipe calls for chocolate and half the cream to be heated together in the microwave until the chocolate melted, then cooled to room temperature. Meanwhile, I whipped the remaining cream until stiff peaks formed.

Then, I was to fold the whipped cream into the melted chocolate/cream mixture. Even at room temp, the chocolate/cream mixture was too liquidy to fold the whipped cream into.

So I mixed it the best I could, then thought I could throw the whole mix back into the mixer to re-whip the cream. No, not happening. And then the whole mix was even more liquidy. I poured it into the crust anyway and threw the whole lot into the freezer. And lo and behold! It firmed right up and even had that velvety mousse-like texture I was going for. Whoo hoo!

please ignore my finger marks

The second time I made it, I melted the chocolate and cream using the double-boiler method instead of the microwave, let it cool, then folded the whipped cream in. Worked much better and was definitely a mousse and not a liquid.

double-boiler method is better

A note on chocolate mousse: Julia Child seems to have the go-to recipe, according to my limited on-line research. However, I was making the first tart for a very pregnant friend of mine and Julia's recipe (and most out there) feature raw eggs in the dessert. And raw eggs & pregnant women do not mix. So that is why I chose this simple recipe.

Also, I used the Pâte Sablée crust for this again and it was so good. So, so good. So good that I am going to include that recipe again since I have more pictures of it.

Pâte Sablée from Martha Stewart

2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

With a standing mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low. Add flour and salt, and beat until just combined and crumbly (do not overmix).

Shape dough into a 9-inch round disk, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes (or up to 2 days), or freeze for up to 1 month.

satiny dough

For this recipe, you'll need to fully bake the crust before filling it. I bake it at 400* for about 25 minutes, then check for doneness. Doneness can be however dark you would like your crust to be. The first time I made this, it was pretty dark.

The crust browned nicely in the oven. This was the crust that was too crumbly for me to roll out; I picked up pieces of sandy dough and patted them into place in the tart pan.

You can see the rest of the dough on my cutting board in the top right of the photo. It was very crumbly.

The next time I made this, I chilled it just for a couple of hours instead of overnight. The crust rolled out nicely and baked up a little lighter.

This dough was still very soft. I couldn't pick it up all at once to place in the pie pan.

I used a bench scraper to lift pieces of the dough into the pie plate, then patched them together with my fingertips.

This crust was a little flakier.

Also, after I get the dough into the tart pan but before I bake it, I place it in the freezer for about 15 minutes. This helps firm it up a bit and prevents it from shrinking in the oven.

Now that you know how to make a perfect pâte sablée tart crust, let's move on to the chocolate mousse part.

Chocolate Mousse Tart adapted from Very Best Baking

1 recipe pâte sablée tart crust, baked and cooled
8 oz. dark chocolate, 62% cacao, chopped finely
2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
2 T confectioner's sugar

To begin, set a saucepan with 2 inches of water over medium heat until it simmers. Reduce the heat to low. Place a stainless steel or glass bowl over the saucepan, making sure it doesn't touch the water.

Add chocolate and 1 cup of heavy cream to the bowl. Heat slowly, whisking as you go, until all the chocolate is melted and combined well with the cream.

beginning stages of chocolate melting into cream

When chocolate is thoroughly melted, remove from heat and set aside to cool. You want it to cool to room temperature, but still be melted.

Meanwhile, add the remaining cream and the confectioner's sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer. Whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks.

Add the whipped cream to the cooled chocolate mixture. Carefully, gently, fold the whipped cream into the chocolate.

It should look like this.

Scrape chocolate mousse into the prepared tart crust.

Place tart in the refrigerator for 4 hours or until firm.

Slice and serve. I serve this plain, but it would pair well with a fruit sauce or liqueur-flavored whipped cream.