Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pork Rillettes


pork belly, pork shoulder, rosemary and duck fat.

finally i think i have conquered the Rillette. for a long time i was fascinated by them , but a little intimidated. meat swimming in it's own FAT and topped with more FAT...how can this be a good thing?... i also thought they might be too involved and too much to take on. not so. when you break it down in layman's terms they are just fancy flavored potted meats topped with duck fat, pork belly fat, clarified butter or a tasty combo of fats.

my first attempt was the pork rillette, for a couple of reasons...I LOVE PORK and the mention of pork belly sold me...also pork is usually inexpensive. i think i spent less than $10.00 for the whole thing. for a first try with a Charcuterie recipe i think i did pretty good. now i'm hooked. the best part is that they keep in the fridge for weeks if sealed properly and make a great impression on drop-by guests, a tasty late night snack or a great addition to any party.
as i mentioned i was fascinated by the "Rillette" for quite a while so i googled around a lot of blogs, websites and thumbed through most of the books i had. came across loads of different techniques and all sorts of flavors. i settled on the something basic and a recipe that wouldn't require a lot of ingredients. pork is cheap, i had duck fat in the fridge and rosemary in the garden...done....i did, however, have to go out and buy the cute little French jars. they cost more than the whole recipe.


adapted from many recipes, but one in particular had good easy instructions found at a great blog called Eat me Drink Me. i have copied his instructions, but added my recipe ingredients below.

Ingredients i used

1.5 lbs pork shoulder

1.75 lbs pork belly

7 smashed cloves garlic

3 large sprigs fresh rosemary

2 sprigs thyme

2 tsp oregano

2 bay leaves

1 oz veal demi glace (optional)

2-3 cups water

2/3 cup duck fat (not necessary, but good)

Cut the rind off the belly. In a Dutch oven, or oven proof pot, combine the pork with rosemary (I used 3 large sprigs), crushed cloves of garlic, and bay leaves and season generously with salt, black pepper and nutmeg - most recipes call for a bouquet garni, not just rosemary, or thyme and parsley instead. But hell. Here's to living dangerously, eh?

Cover with a cup full of water, and bring to a low simmer on the stove. Not quite bubbling. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to gas mark 2. Cover, and place in the heated oven. Read a book. Watch TV. Call you friends. Cooking times vary from 2 to 6 hours. Bake bread to go with your rillette. I cooked by eye, as it were, taking the pot out of the oven every 40 minutes or so, stirring to make sure it didn't stick, and eventually, forking the thicker parts of meat apart to allow it to cook a little more quickly.

The fat should largely melt to a clear liquid, and the pork cook until meltingly soft - it should fall apart in the pot when gently forked. When that happens, drain and reserve the liquid. Discard the herbs, and allow the pork to cool enough to handle. Best to keep it a little warm though. With your hands, or two forks, shred the meat into, depending on your taste, pistachio sized piece, or small threads of pork. Or less even. Taste the pork, and add herbs, salt, pepper - whatever you used originally - to taste. Place in a terrine dish (no grease or bacon required. Any more pork might actually kill you) or a regular bowl, or container, and compress. For ten minutes, or two hours. Again, your preference is, I think, prime, though I only loosely compressed it, and the dish soaked up huge amounts of fat.

Finally, pour over some of the reserved fat to form a thin layer of fat on top of the crock, terrine dish, bowl.....and leave covered, in the fridge, for three days. It can keep for ten days without the fat covering, and longer with.

Eat, with pickled cornichons, or black olives, on bread. To serve, take what you want from the terrine. Allow to come to room temperature, and serve.

Sunday, June 27, 2010



who knew it was so easy to make your own...the hardest part is waiting the few days for it to cure...patiently waiting and flipping it over every 12 hours wondering "is it done yet?"

if you're a fan of LOX, need more fish in your life or just want to save some $ money you should really try this at home. i must say i was quite impressed with myself. i've always paid big bucks for this salmon that i considered a Sunday brunch delicacy. it was only around for the special occasion. well, i have now rid myself of that silly myth. this is too easy. salt, sugar, dill and a few days is all you need. i've made it twice in the last 2 weeks. as a matter of fact, i might just make it again this week. it may very well become a staple in my fridge. i've been so wrapped up in all this PORK stuff lately that it's been a nice change to open the fridge, grab a sharp knife and slice off a lovely pink slab of fresh cured salmon. i need a kind of a Yin Yang effect. i have to have something to balance out all the meat, pork, frog legs and turkey tails i've been consuming. i've even tried TOFU ! (i'll be posting about that soon.)

there are a few ways to prepare Gavlax, but i found a common thread in all the recipes i looked at. fresh salmon, salt, sugar, dill(optional),sandwich them together and cure for 48-72 hours.


adapted from Modern Beet and quite a few others i will list for you to check out.
2 lbs. of fresh salmon

a note about the salmon...buy 2 pieces equal in size, or one large to cut in half so you can sandwich them...ALSO, upon further investigation i found a few sites that suggest freezing the salmon for 72 hrs to be sure to rid any bacteria if not buying sushi grade salmon. sushi grade is very expensive. i did not do this the 1st two times and i'm not dead yet, but i DO have my next batch in the freezer right now. i'm curious to see if the freezing effects the texture.

1/4 cup kosher salt

1/8 cup white sugar

1/8 cup brown sugar

1-3 tsp fresh ground pepper

5-6 sprigs fresh dill

Remove all of the pin bones from the two salmon filets using a pair of tweezers. Trim the filets so they are the same size when stacked on top of each other. Place both filets skin side down on a cutting board.

Mix sugar and salt together in a small bowl. Generously sprinkle about 2/3 the mixture over the filets and gently rub in. Flip the filets over and sprinkle skins with the remaining mixture and rub in. Flip the filets again so the skin side is down. Let stand for about 5-8 minutes. Brush off any cure that seems excessive to you.

Trim dill so that it is roughly the same length as the filets. Mound dill on top of one filet in an even layer, then top with other filet so that the flesh is in contact with the dill (think filet & dill sandwich). Wrap the stacked filets tightly in a double or triple layer of plastic wrap. Place in a dish (to catch any juices that should leak out). i used a tupperware...alot of juices will come out and leakage would NOT be a good thing. ALSO, alot of recipes call for a weighted object placed over the filets. i used a tinfoil/plastic wrapped brick. ..anything semi heavy and flat. most recipes call for this. then refrigerate for 2-3 days, flipping occasionally, and pouring off any juices that might have accumulated.

Once the 2-3 days have passed, unwrap salmon, discard the dill, and rinse the filets with cold water. Remove the skin to make cutting easier, if desired. Slice the gravlax thinly with a sharp knife across the grain to serve. Enjoy!

*Note: though it may seem counter-intuitive, choose fish that has been previously frozen, sushi grade or other. If using fresh fish, you should freeze it for at least 1 week in order kill off bacteria, etc.

a few other sites i checked out might be of interest....

this 1st one is on youtube...funny and super EASY, but i don't know about leaving it on the kitchen counter for 18hrs. and NOT in the fridge?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sticky Fig Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Glaze

these little/big sticky figgy moist cupcakes are a winner. my ever so cute and fabulous next door neighbor, Wendy, asked if she could borrow our large cupcake tin...little did we know that we would get a sample of this incredible recipe she was testing. she's quite the baker and everything she's brought over is killer good. for my birthday she made some triple chocolate brownie cookies that were gone so fast i couldn't get a picture of them. i wanted to post the recipe with photo, but i guess i'll have to make them myself. the problem would be having them in the house. the whole recipe might just send me over the edge...they were THAT GOOD ! anyway, these cakes are awesome and the subtle crunch from the figs just adds that extra little...hmmm...something...something yummy. served a little warm with fresh whipped cream and oozing brown sugar glaze it's pure heaven.


i copied this recipe from the xerox my neighbor Wendy was kind enough to pass along. i didn't get to ask her where it's from so BIG thanks to the original baker out there somewhere.

makes 6 extra large cupcakes

2 Tbsp.unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla

1 cup water
1 cup (about 4 oz.) dried figs quartered
1 1/4 cup unbleached flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter. room temp.
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla
heavy whipping cream for serving

make the sauce. in a med. sauce pan, heat the butter, cream and brown sugar over med. heat, stirring often, until the butter melts and the brown sugar dissolves. increase the heat to med. high, bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. set aside.
make the cupcakes. position the rack in the middle of the oven. preheat to 350F degrees. line tin with liners or Wendy used a non-stick tin. if using liners, spray the inside with non stick cooking spray.

put the water and the figs in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil: set aside to cool while you prepare the batter.

sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl and set aside. in a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until blended and creamy, about 2 minutes. stop the mixer and scape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. add the eggs, lemon zest and vanilla, mixing until smooth and thick. you may see a few small pieces of butter which is fine. on low speed, mix in the flour mixture to incorporate it. mix in the figs, with the liquid that remains in the pan.

fill tin with 1/2 cup batter, to about 1/2 inch below the top of the cupcake tin (or liner if using). bake in 350F degree oven. bake until tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out wet, about 20 minutes. remove from oven and reduce the oven to 225F degrees.

spoon 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar sauce on top of each cupcake. the cakes will have risen to the top of the liners/tin, so some sauce may drip down the sides onto the pan. return the cupcakes to the oven and bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry, about 20 minutes. cool the cupcakes on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

carefully place a wire rack on top of the cupcakes in their pan. protecting your hands with pot holders and holding the pan and rack together, invert them to release the cupcakes onto the wire rack and turn the cupcakes top side up. if any sauce remains in the bottom of the tin, spoon it over the cupcakes. let cool completely.

so serve the cupcakes, warm the remaining sauce over low heat. remove the paper liners and place each cake on a plate. pass a little pitcher of the warm sauce and some warm or whipped cream.

the cupcakes can be covered at room temp for up to 3 days. the sauce can be made ahead, covered, and refrigerated for up to 5 days. warm before baking the cupcakes.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

PORK BELLY. Slow roasted and seared.

PORK BELLY...ooooh the possibilities...
cured for 24hrs, slow roasted and seared to order...

a delicious amuse bouche...the perfect bite dipped in maple syrup...
a tasty appetizer will keep your guests wanting more...
sliced and seared for amazing bacon and eggs...

i was completely amazed and fascinated by my first slab of pork belly. #1 i never put 2 and 2 together and figured out this is really just bacon in the raw. #2 i had no idea that the meat enveloped by all that fat is like the best pork chop i've ever tasted.

so far i think i've only scratched the surface on the preparation and consuming of pork belly. i think i like it most in the morning seared to order with a little maple syrup, but also it's pretty darn tasty wrapped in butter lettuce with a little chili garlic sauce.

as a matter o' fact i have one in the oven right now!...i'm trying Jamie Oliver's recipe. it's meant more for a family dinner pork roast with gravy type dinner...of coarse i'm the only one in the house that will be eating it. it looks like i'll be eatin' roast pork belly for a few days
every bite is different. as you can see in the photo above this is one of the cuts from the lean part. this is an example of the delicious pork chop bite i mentioned. i must admit i was a bit worried about the fat content, but quickly got over that when i took my first bite. it's hard to describe. you can't just take a nibble...you have to take a big bite and get the whole experience of the moist meat, the tender fat and the crispy skin all at once.

on with the recipe

there are so many ways to prepare this lovely slab of pork i was confused so i ended up throwing alot of ideas together and came up with something pretty darn tasty...and fairly easy for the first time belly chef.
buy yourself a 2-2 1/2lb. slab of belly with skin...no bones
i like to wash and dry it completely with paper towels
mix 1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1-2 tsp fresh ground pepper

completely cover the belly with the mixture. place skin side down in non-reactive container just big enough to fit and cover the flesh side with more salt/sug. mixture. cover and let sit in fridge for at least 24 hours. this is the all important curing process. after about 12 hrs you can pour some of the liquid out of the container. i did. after 24 hrs remove and wash remaining salt off under cool water. dry completely. take a sharp sharp knife and cut slits through the skin but not to the flesh. i cut about every inch or so.

place the pork in a roasting dish covered with tinfoil and push foil up against the sides as shown in small photo below. this is to prevent the sides from getting too brown and it also keeps the bottom meat part cooking in it's own fat..kind of confit-like.
put in 225F degree oven for 5-6 hours.

about 3 hours in i basted the sides and the cut slits with some Soy Vay Hoisin Garlic Sauce. Teriyaki or BBQ sauce would work great to. do this every hour or so until you think it done...the flesh is fork tender and it has a little glaze going on the sides. remove from oven and let cool as is. when cool enough put it in the fridge for at least a few hours. this makes for easy slicing and you can keep it there for the week as you whittle away at the slab unless you decide to consume the whole thing with some pork belly lovin' friends.

now what you want to do is slice off about an inch thick piece and sear that on all sides in a very hot pan. i love to use my new SCANPAN. it's non-stick and can withstand high heat. don't forget to sear the skin top side. you'll have to hold it up with your tongs. it's worth it. serve as is and please try dipping it in a little of your favorite syrup...maple, blueberry even caramel...hmmmmm. the perfect bite will change your pork lovin' world.

the picture to the right is an example of how i put it in the oven. there was so much meat showing that i didn't want it to be exposed to the heat for the full 6 hours so i crunched the aluminum up around it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Chicharron Pancakes

pancakes made with ground pork rinds

NO flour...NO kidding !
well, i don't have to tell you that these are my new favorite thing. what could be better? a pig in a pancake? i seem to be alllll about anything PIG lately and i apologize...wait a minute...no, i don't apologize. PIG STUFF ROCKS!...

about these pancakes...chicharron pancakes are another on of those "i can't believe this is gonna work" type recipes. i mean, how is fried pig skin going to turn into a fluffy pancake? well, it's just a miracle i tell ya....

i like to have one every morning for breakfast with maple syrup, spicy pecans and a slice or 2 of bacon (of course). i mention this because that's how much i love them AND they can be made ahead and rewarmed throughout the week. i don't know about you, but i don't have time to whip up pancakes every morning and breakfast is my favorite meal of the day so whenever i can find something out of the ordinary that can be thrown together in the early morn. ...i'm all over it.

i found this recipe while searching for low carb breakfast ideas and it was on quite a few sites. the real recipe is called "Wonder Waffles". i don't have a waffle iron so i went with pancakes instead and as you can see they come out fabulous. i wish i could try the waffles. i was tempted to by an iron, but just can't fit another gadget in the kitchen right now. i don't know who the original came from, but i would love to give thanks to someone out there...so THANK YOU someone out there...
adapted from the Wonder Waffle recipe found in the lo-carb forums
4 large eggs (i used Egg Beaters)
2 Tbls. heavy cream (plus more to thin)
2 Tbls. water (plus more to thin)
1 Tsp. vanilla extract
3 Pkt. Splenda
3-4 ounces of crushed/ground pork rinds (1 bag Mission Pork Rinds)
1/4 Tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp pumpkin spice

use a food processor to get the pork rinds down to a fine, almost powdery consistency.

Beat the eggs then add the cream, water, and vanilla extract and beat some more. Mix the Splenda with the cinnamon and then add that to the eggs. (Mixing the cinnamon with the Splenda before adding helps to keep the cinnamon from clumping up as much.) When well blended mix in the ground pork rinds.
Let the mixture sit for a couple of minutes until it thickens. Then stir and check the consistency. It should be thick, but not to thick to spoon easily. If too thick, add a little water. i found that i needed to add quite a bit of water and maybe a little more cream. If too thin, add a little bit more pork rinds, but i doubt it will be too thin. now go ahead and make your cakes as you normally would. i found that spreading them out with the back of the spoon as they hit the pan helps. they shouldn't be too thick...do a few testers.
as i said, these keep in the fridge and are great warmed up in the microwave for a quick bite.
i'm thinkin' tomorrow morning i might even make a sandwich with peanut butter and apricot preserves...what do you think about THAT ?!...
the possibilities are endless...

Friday, June 11, 2010


i beg you to try this just once.

it is absolutely the best, easiest...melt in your mouth pork recipe EVER.
i know just a little while ago i wrote about the slow roasted pork and i still think that is a fabulous way to cook a pork shoulder. this is equally as good...and just as easy. this one doesn't require the huge layer of fat that is on the shoulder and, of course, it won't tie up your oven all day.

maybe not the most beautiful pork roast picture you've ever seen, but it's the only one i could get before it literally fell apart. getting it out of the cooker in one piece for the photo was quite a task. i'll bet it's even a bit blurred from the "falling off the bone" factor.

i think the "picnic" pork roast works best for the slow cooker method. this cut is usually cheap or on sale somewhere.


3-4 lb. picnic pork roast

1 can of coke (not diet)

1 package Lipton's Onion Soup Mix

1 large onion sliced thick

sometimes the roast will come with a HUGE layer of fat on the bottom...i like to trim this just a little. the fat is necessary, but sometimes there's just too much.

layer the sliced onions on the bottom of the cooker. place the roast on top. sprinkle the onion soup mix all over the roast. pour the coke in. cook on LOW for 8 hours. if you're around while it's cooking..check it after 5-6 hours and you might want to flip it over carefully. if you're not around don't worry...it's all good.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bestest Moistiest Apple Cake

this is one of the BEST Apple Cakes i have ever tasted. the best for a few reasons beyond just fabulous flavor and texture...my MOM baked it and she discovered it from a fellow blogger at Food Tale. Mom and i are just a little nutty about food. i love that she is a foodie like me...or rather, i'm a foodie like her. we live eat breathe and dream of food...well, i can't speak for her, but all i know is we discuss what's for dinner before anything else happens in the morning. sometimes we'll discuss the next dinner WHILE eating dinner...one could say...the apple doesn't fall far from the tree...oh come on...i had to say it. needless to say i was very proud of her web surfing and finding this beautiful delicious cake...it's earned it's place in the go-to pile for winners. by the way...this makes for an awesome breakfast treat and would make quite an impression for Sunday brunch.

this recipe comes from FOOD TALE and she adapted it from COOK EAT LOVE
many thanks to these 2 fellow bloggers for sharing this recipe.

unlike myself, Mom followed the recipe to a T so i have copied the recipe below for convenience, but please visit the original bloggers to enjoy their comments as well.

Moistest Apple Cake Recipe

•1 1/4 cups sugar (DIVIDED 1 and 1/4 cups)- original recipe was 1 1/2 and 1/4 cups
•1/2 cup vegetable oil/butter
•1 tsp vanilla
•200 gm cream cheese
•2 large eggs (Food Tale used Egg Replacer)
•1 1/2 cup flour
•1 1/2 tsp baking powder
•1/4 tsp salt
•2 tsp cinnamon
•3 cups chopped peeled apples (Food Tale used red apples)***

***note...the original recipe called for Granny Smith so that's what Mom used. i think they made the cake. Grannies are always crisp, tart and reliable

1.preheat oven to 175 degree C and spray 9 inch spring-form pan with cooking spray (or lining with baking paper)
2.Beat 1 c sugar, oil/butter, vanilla and cream cheese until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time and beat until blended after each. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add dry to creamed mixture and beat on low til blended.
3.Combine 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon (to be honest you can use a little less). Combine 2TBSP of cinnamon mixture to apples and mix to coat. Stir apple mixture into batter. Pour batter (it is THICK) into a 9 inch spring form and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon mix.
4.Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until cake pulls away from pan at sides or a toothpick comes out clean. Don’t be afraid-it takes a long time to bake, maybe even longer than written. If it gets too brown cover it loosely with foil.
5.This is under dessert but it is the best breakfast ever. Make muffins too.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

BBQ Frog Legs

let me just start by killing the myth that frog legs taste just like chicken.

i don't know where you get your chicken from , but...


they are, however, worth the challenge...if you're up for it. i've been wanting to get my hands on some of these ever since i went to the LA County Fair last year and had deep fried frog legs (as seen here). i read about the vendor in the LA Times and drove out there all by myself just to get some of these infamous legs..and deep fried no doubt! (of course i went for the chocolate covered bacon too...click here for pics) it was worth the trip just to say i ate Frog Legs from Chicken Charlies at the LA County Fair. i know i'll go again this year for a second round. the BBQ aroma as you drive up is mesmerizing in itself...here's a little more from last year's excursion.

like i said...these are worth a try, but be ready to bring some flavor to the table. i found that they really don't have much flavor. if anything they tasted just a bit fishy? the chicken reference is true with the texture. the actual taste is like a bland fish...kind of nondiscript...kind of watery. mine were bought frozen (where on earth was i gonna find fresh legs besides the Back Bay) so that could have affected the flavor. i could almost liken it to Talapia that was frozen and not thawed/dried properly. so far doesn't sound too good...huh? don't get me wrong, i liked them, however, i will once again be eating them alone. not such a big hit at the dinner table with Big Al and Fancy P. Big Al used to catch them as kid in Michigan and eat them all the time so i thought he might get a kick out of these (pardon the pun), but i guess he's had his fill of frog legs for a life time and doesn't really want to see them again. oh well, i can't wait to try them again. i bought 2 packages and i think i might do the typical fried method next.

for my first go around i just wanted to throw them on the BBQ. i must admit, i knew i wanted to get a photo in so i went the easy route. i googled around and found all sorts of ways to cook these little legs, but i thought if everybody says they taste like chicken, well then, i'll treat them like chicken.

i chose the Hoisin Garlic glaze by "Soy Vay". if you haven't tried this particular sauce i suggest you get some. it's found in the Asian section. one of the favorites around here is pork tenderloin, sliced and marinated in a ziploc for a few hours then put on the grill...same thing with chicken or just brush a little on your salmon, swordfish or shrimp.

oh...the small pic to the right is one way to protect the little skinny calves and feet from getting too cooked. i read this suggestion and wrapped one, then quickly abandoned the idea after it felt like i might be getting too one on one with the legs...you know what i mean?...i have found that when cooking strange things such as ears, tails, trotters and the like...you just don't want to get too too involved with the preparation. it becomes less of a meat and more of a question..."can i really be eating this?"

not such a great photo above, but just a reminder that they shouldn't be on direct heat for the full cooking time. i put them on direct heat to get some grill marks, then moved them to the foil untill i thought they were done. whoose to say when they are "done". since i'm just a tad inexperienced with the frog legs i had to guess...it's like chicken...right? i bet i could have left them on a bit longer. maybe it would have removed some of the moisture or watery texture i was talking about. next time if i BBQ them again, i think i'll use alot more glaze as well...maybe even marinade them first because like i said...they need some flavor.

below are just a few of many sites i found helpful...

where to find?...most likely you will find them in an Asian market. if you live in So. California i suggest to high tail it to a 99 Ranch Market near you. so much FUN!!! click HERE for locations in the Los Angeles area
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