27 September 2006

Ode to A Dutch Oven

I love you, Dutch Oven.
I shall name you Sadie.
I had been saving the name Sadie for my firstborn daughter, but now I realize that I love you more than I will ever love any of my children.
I love you, Sadie.
You are red.
So far you have not destroyed any of my meals,
but only showered them with glorious, porcelain-enameled, cast-iron kisses.
I shall never eat anything again that is not braised in your glory.

oh no what have I done now the cats are jealous

Don’t worry, I did not cook the kitties. I have a feeling the orange one is poisonous. I don’t know why, I just have a feeling about it.

I made Pozole Rojo instead. Pozole is a hearty stew that dates back to pre-Columbian times, and it tastes better than my orange cat. It tastes better than lots of things, for that matter. It tastes better than almost everything.
This recipe uses pork shoulder, slowly braised in its own juices and other ingredients’ juices. Other essential components to a pozole are hominy (dried corn kernels treated with lime to remove the rough outer shell and make the germ more palatable), ancho chile puree, and various crunchy and refreshing garnishes such as radishes, avocados, and cilantro. The red tomatoes and the ancho chiles give pozole rojo its red color, while tomatillos and jalapeño chiles lend their green-ness to pozole verde.

pozole rojo

Pozole Rojo

~adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

5 lbs. bone-in pork shoulder (ATK recommends bone-in for more flavor…I used boneless because that’s all I had and it was still delicious)
salt and pepper
2 tbs vegetable oil
2 medium-large onions, coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
5 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 14.5-oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
6 cups chicken broth
1 bunch of cilantro stems, tied or rubber banded together
3 large, dried, ancho chiles
1 ½ cups boiling water
3 15-oz. cans of hominy

2 limes, cut into quarters
½ head romaine lettuce, sliced into thin strips
6 medium radishes, sliced thin (a simple vegetable peeler works very well for thin slices)
1 small onion, minced
1 bunch of cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
¼ cup of ancho chili puree (prepared with the stew)
tortillas, soft or hard

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Trim fat off the pork shoulder and cut into several large pieces. Rub a generous amount of salt and pepper into the pieces.
Heat oil in your wonderful and magnificent Dutch oven. Cook onions for about 4 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Don’t let the garlic burn!
Add the meat and bones and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring often, until the outside of the meat is no longer pink.
Add the tomatoes, oregano, broth, cilantro stems, and ½ teaspoon salt. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. This will allow fat scum to come to the surface, which you can skim off with a wooden spoon.
When you have removed enough scum, cover the Dutch oven and put it in the oven. Cook the meat for 2 hours, until it is tender and falling apart.
Meanwhile, remove the stems and seeds from the ancho chiles. Soak them in the boiling water for 20 minutes. Puree the chiles and the soaking water in blender, then pour the purree through a fine mesh sieve.
When meat is done, remove the meat and bones from the pot. Throw away the bones.
Add the hominy and ¾ cup of ancho puree to the stew. Cover the stew again and simmer it on top of the stove over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes, so that the hominy can soak up the flavors of the stew.
Remove the bunch of cilantro stems from the stew and discard. They have served their purpose and I am grateful to the cilantro stems.
When meat has cooled, shred it with your hands or the tines of two forks. Stir the shredded meat back into the stew.
There might be more fat scum on the stew, which you can skim off again, if you like, or not. Fat scum be gone!
Ladle the stew into bowls and top them with the garnishes.

18 September 2006

Stress Relief for Cubists

If you were a Cubist painter in the early twentieth century, you probably spent time reducing objects into basic geometric shapes and reassembling them on the canvas, utilizing a two-dimensional artistic medium to present a three-dimensional view.

I like to think of myself as a Cubist, but for a different reason, and that reason is just that I like squares.

In junior high, instead of socializing with other teens or practicing my violin, I played Tetris. I spent hours and hours and hours trying to fit shapes made with squares into holes made from the absence of shapes made with squares.
Also, when teachers told me to circle something on a worksheet, would I circle it? No. Rebel that I was, I would put a square or rectangle around it instead.
I even developed my own block-letter font:

Years later, I maintain my affection for all things square by coming home from work and commencing to chop things up into cubes. I obtain copious amounts of glee from cubing potatoes, hard cheese, and occasionally raw lamb meat.

Chopping objects into squares can provide stress relief for self-proclaimed Cubists like me. Similarly, abstract expressionists might find inner peace by throwing raw eggs at walls in order to experience the pure emotion of the color yellow. If one is in a less destructive mood, smearing an entire countertop with chocolate icing has the same soothing effect.

Perhaps you are a Cubist and you don’t even know it. Next time you are feeling anxious and overwhelmed by the trammels of everyday life, and you only have 34 cents, which is not enough money for a vacation or even a massage, but does happen to be enough money for a potato, try chopping that potato into squares and see if you feel better afterwards.

Start with slicing a side off of the potato to give you a flat surface.
Place the potato on the flat side and continue to slice off the rounded edges, until you are left with a block of potato. Blockato.

Cut the blockato lengthwise into rectangles about one centimeter wide. Turn the blockato on the next side and cut lengthwise again. You should have long rectangles that look like square French fries. Fun!

Now cut the blockato crosswise, so the long rectangles are divided into squares.
Hooray, happy potato cubes!
Do you think I am a nerd?

12 September 2006

A Side for your Gordita

arroz rojo (red tomato rice)

Please ask yourself how many times you have made gorditas for dinner and have not prepared the appropriate sides for them.
Actually, I have never made gorditas, but I have made tacos about 37 times, and there have been more than a few times that I have not had the perfect side for them.
Those days are over.
Lovely arroz rojo has come into my life, and from now on, that is what I shall serve alongside my tacos.
Now I just have to figure out how to make a gordita.

Arroz Rojo (Red Tomato Rice)
~adapted from Mexico One Plate at a Time, by Rick Bayless

4-6 plum tomatoes or 2 medium round tomatoes, very ripe, cored and chopped
OR a 15 oz. can whole tomatoes in juice, drained
½ small white onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 ¾ cups chicken broth
1 ½ tbs. vegetable oil
1 ½ cups white rice
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into ¼-inch cubes
3 serranos or 2 jalpeños, a slit cut down the length of each one
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (I going to try cilantro next time and see how it goes)
1 ½ cups defrosted frozen peas or cooked fresh peas

Combine the tomatoes, onion, and garlic in a food processor or blender. Blend into a smooth puree. Reserve about 1 cup.
In a medium saucepan that has a tight fitting lid, heat the oil over medium over heat. When the oil is hot, add the rice and cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the grains turn from translucent to milky-white. Add the tomato mixture and the carrots, stir until mixed, and cook about 2-3 minutes until the liquid is reduced.
Meanwhile, heat the broth in the microwave. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and stir until the salt is dissolved.
When the tomato mixture is looking dry, add the salted broth, chiles, and parsley, stir thoroughly and cover the pan. Cook the rice on low, low heat for 15 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat, uncover it and quickly strew the peas over the top of the rice. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
If the grains of rice are still hard, re-cover the pan and set it on low heat for another five minutes. If they are dry, you can add one or two tablespoons of water before you put it back on the heat.
When the rice is done, fluff it with a fork to release the steam. Pour into a warm bowl and serve. You can remove the chiles and discard them, or you can put them on top of the rice as a garnish. Pretty garnish.

03 September 2006

Whole Paycheck Trail Mix

Whole Paycheck Trail Mix:

Go to the bulk aisle at Whole Paycheck (commonly known as Whole Foods).
Buy stuff you like.
Mix it together in a bag.