Monday, February 24, 2014

North Carolina Influenced Pulled Pork

In case you haven't been counting, this is pulled pork recipe #5. Why so many pulled pork recipes? Well, it is easy to assemble and make. The recipes make a lot of pork for fairly cheap and the pork freezes well. 

Types of Pulled Pork
There are many different types of pulled pork due to the regional differences (North Carolina, Memphis, Texas, and Kansas City). Differences include tomato based, vinegar based, dry rub, etc.The slow cooker pulled pork is also different than actual pulled pork which can change based on the wood used while smoking/barbecuing. The type of meat is also influenced such as using pork butt, pork shoulder, or the whole pig!

Cut of Pork
Now that I am getting more familiar with pulled pork recipes, I go for the cuts of meat with the names: Pork Shoulder, Pork Butt, or Boston Butt. 
Bone in cuts are good and will give more flavor but you do have to make sure you wait for the pork to be cooked enough. The pork is done when the bone slips right out and no need to cut it or hack away. If you have hack at it, put the pork back into the cooker and let it go for another couple hours. 
You can cheat and use pork tenderloin that has no bone and is often leaner. This is a more expensive cut but will cook faster.

Size of Cut of Pork
I generally pick between 6-8 pounds of meat since I know that will fit in our 6 quart slow cooker. This will make about 6-10 lunch/dinner servings.

Cooking of Pork
6 pounds will take about 10 hours on low. 2 options of preparation: 
1) I prepare the pork the day before and let it marinate in the fridge over night then turn it on the in the morning before work. The pork is ready to go once I'm home!
2) I also have assembled it and let it cook over night then when I wake up I can pull it and toss it into the fridge. 

I actually prefer to let it chill before using. This way the fat will solidify at the top and I can scrape it off and toss it. 

Serving Pork
Now that you have made this grand amount of pork, how do you serve it? Some options include: over rice, with slaw, with corn bread, in quesadillas, in burritos, on pizza, in eggs, on sandwiches, etc

Reheating Pork
Store in an air tight container in the fridge. If I can't finish it in 3 days, I package it into 1-2 serving containers and freeze. Pork will contain a lot of water when defrosting. You may want to add bbq sauce or ketchup once its heated up.

To thaw the pork, I let it thaw in the fridge overnight, heat over low on the stove, or microwave using defrost setting. 

Check out my other pulled pork recipes:

This is a North Carolina influenced recipe as it has a vinegar base. The recipe comes from 100 Days of Real Food, the blog has easy recipes and tries to cut out and cut down on processed foods. 

Recipe Idea: Pulled Pork Pizza using the No Rise Pizza Crust. Roll out dough. Cover dough with a thin layer of olive oil and minced garlic. Add a layer of sliced red onion, pulled pork, cheese, fresh cilantro, and a drizzle of bbq sauce.

pulled pork pizza!

pulled pork nachos! 
North Carolina Influenced Pulled Pork
Adapted from 100 Days of Real Food

6 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
3 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried thyme
¼-½ cup honey
½ cup apple cider vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil 2/22/2015 - Omit, the fat cap keeps it moist enough
1 onion, peeled and cut in half (optional)
6-9 lbs pork butt

In a bowl, mix together all of the spices with a fork. Pour in the honey, vinegar, and olive oil and stir until combined.
Place the onion in the bottom of the slow cooker. Put pork on top (fat cap on top) and then pour the spice mix over the pork. A lot of the spice mix will drip to the bottom of the cooker.
Set the slow cooker to low and cook for 10 hours -15 hours or until the meat is tender enough to be easily shredded with a fork.
Refrigerate or freeze the leftovers.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Spicy Chipotle Chicken Chili

I had some left over chicken and wanted to move some of the canned items I have in the pantry. I had a chicken breast in the freezer that I added to the left over rotisserie chicken. To give the chili a more uniform consistency I ground up the chicken in the food processor. A large dice would also work.

I have never used a can of the chipotle peppers before and there were big peppers in the can! So I blitzed them in the food processor and added them to the chili. Apparently, you should put them in whole and then take them out so you can monitor the spice levels. Or only use 1 until you know how spicy you want your chili.

Now, how does one get the chili to be less spicy??? I added an extra can of beans, you can add in a couple tbsp of dairy (yogurt, sour cream, cheese, milk), a few tbsp of cocoa powder, a couple cups of cooked rice, also works. Whatever you choose, add in a little at a time until you reach the desired spiciness.

The recipe below is for cooked chicken and the chicken is added at the end. If you have uncooked chicken, add the chicken in after the garlic and before the seasonings. Cook the chicken and once it is mostly cooked add in the rest of the ingredients.

Chipotle Chicken Chili
makes 6-8 servings

1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp each chili powder and ground cumin
1 can tomato sauce (15 oz)
2-3 cups of ground (or diced) chicken, cooked
1 can adobo chipotle peppers --> SPICY!
1 can each corn, kidney beans, chick peas, cannelini beans (it was what I had in the pantry, any mix of beans would be fine).
1 can chicken broth

Saute the onion and garlic, until onion is softened and turning translucent.
Add in the chili powder and cumin. Stir.
Add in tomato sauce, chicken, corn, beans, broth, and peppers. Stir. Let simmer 10-20 minutes.
Serve hot!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Steamed Chicken

Steamed chicken with salad
This is a really easy, hands off, moist chicken. I make this fairly mild/bland for kids and for when I'm not feeling well. Considering how often I make this, I need to remember to take pictures! I'll update with pictures one of these days.

I use about 2 tsp of ground ginger and 1/2 tsp of pepper to flavor the whole 5-7lb chicken.

1) Remove chicken from packaging. Check to make sure the chicken is empty of any guts.

2) Rinse the chicken in cold water, inside and out. Scrub the chicken with salt (inside and out).

3) Put chicken into the large pot. Sprinkle chicken ground ginger and some cracked black pepper to both sides of the chicken, leave it feet sides towards the bottom of the pot. Fill pot with enough water to go about 1/4 - 1/3 of the way up the side of the chicken.

4) Simmer for 20 minutes. Flip chicken. Simmer for another 20-30 minutes. The chicken is done when you poke it and the juices are clear, use a meat thermometer, and when it is not pink anymore. Cue everyone in the kitchen hovering around the stove with a fork and start to eat pieces of the chicken dipped in the broth it cooked in.

5) Let it sit until cool enough to handle then pull all the meat off the bones. Keep the broth, it is great for soups!

Serve with white rice and veggies, you can dip the chicken in some soy sauce for extra flavor too! I have used the chicken in soups, made sandwiches on fresh crusty Italian bread, made chicken salad from it, etc.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Chicken Fajitas

I adapted this from Paula Dean's Gold Medal Sizzling Fajita recipe. Check out my easy homemade tortilla recipe!

I didn't butterfly the chicken breast so it took about 5 minutes each side and flipped twice, a total of 20 minutes, 10 minutes each side.

The cool thing about this meal was that I was able to cook everything on my new Lodge Cast Iron Griddle!

The chicken was not spicy but was flavorful. Because I cooked the peppers and onions on the skillet after the chicken the flavors carried over. We topped with salsa and some fresh cilantro.

Chicken Fajitas 
Adapted from Paula Dean, serves 4

Olive oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 lbs meat (boneless, skinless chicken breast, skirt steak or peeled and deveined shrimp)
1 medium onion, halved and sliced lengthwise
1 each red, orange, and yellow bell pepper, sliced
Flour tortillas

 In a bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper and your choice of meat. Seal and toss the meat in the bowl to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator. Note: 15 minutes for shrimp, 20 minutes for chicken and 1 hour for skirt steak.

Heat cast iron skillet or large frying pan to medium-high heat. Remove the meat from the marinade and place it on the hot grill, discard the marinade. Cook chicken until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side, skirt steak about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare and about 2 minutes for shrimp. Slice the chicken and steak into strips if you are using.

In a large skillet heat up the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and fry the onions and bell peppers until crisp-tender with some salt and pepper.

Serve sizzling immediately with the warm tortillas. 

Option toppings include Option toppings: lime juice, fresh cilantro, sour cream, salsa, guacamole, and shredded cheddar cheese.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Soft Pretzel Recipe

Whenever I am in the mall and I walk past the pretzel kiosk I can't help but buy one! But now I can make them cheaper at home without all the freaky ingredients! 

Making fresh pretzels has always been on my list of items to try and make. But they seem very intimidating! Yeast recipes seem to be very hit or miss. But I have a giant container of yeast and no plans for the why not!?

I did a taste test between Allrecipes Buttery Soft Pretzels and Brown Eyed Baker's Soft Pretzel recipe. Hands down the Brown Eyed Baker recipe was the winner if you want that pretzel texture. The Allrecipe recipe was bready and tasted yeasty.

All Recipe
Brown Eyed Baker Pretzel...Struggle
Brown Eyed Baker Pretzel Nuggets
Clearly, I had difficulty with making the pretzel shape for the Brown Eyed Baker pretzels... but I was impatient and didn't want take much time. Hence the nuggets. Nuggets are great. Nuggets also cook the same length of time as the pretzel shapes.

I didn't use the egg wash or sprinkle with salt. I will try that next time and provide an update.

Tip: When using yeast be sure that the water is between 110F and 115F. Use a thermometer. Too cold and the yeast won't activate, too hot and the yeast will die.

Was this a lot of work? Not really. The dough is assembled quickly and then you wait for it to rise. After it rises it takes about a half hour to roll out and shape the pretzels. Next time I'll do nuggets and save additional time. Then the 30 second boil and 10 minutes of baking! Less than an hour creates tasty soft pretzels! And yes, I'll be making these again.

The reviews on the site say the recipe freezes well.

Update 11/11/14: Here are some pictures. Note: don't triple the recipe unless you enjoy detailing your kitchen aid and getting dough out of every crevice. :)

The Triple Batch. It reminded me of that I Love Lucy episode
1 hour of rising
chop, slice, or pull apart

put them on the sheet

boil 30 seconds

put back on sheet and cook 7 - 15 miuntes

Don't burn your mouth trying to eat them out of the oven!

Soft Pretzel Recipe
slightly adapted from Brown Eyed Baker 
makes 8 pretzels

1½ cups warm water (between 110F - 115F)

1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)

4½ cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

6 cups water
2/3 cups baking soda
1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon water, whisked together (for egg wash) (optional)
Coarse salt, for sprinkling (optional)

1. Combine the water, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to foam.

2. Add the flour and butter. Use the dough hook attachment to mix on low speed until all of the ingredients are combined. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 4 to 5 minutes. If dough is too dry, add in water 1 tbsp at a time.
3. Remove the dough from the mixer and place in a clean, oiled bowl. Cover with a damp towel (or plastic wrap) and place in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with a silpat mat (or parchment paper brushed with the vegetable oil); set aside.
5. Combine the water and baking soda in a large, wide pot. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil.
6. In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the lined baking sheet.
7. Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 2 or 3 at a time (or however many will fit comfortably given the size of your pot – don’t crowd them), for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large, flat spatula. Place the boiled pretzels back on the baking sheet, brush the top of each pretzel with the egg wash and sprinkle with coarse salt.
8. Bake until dark golden brown in color, about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving