Saturday, February 28, 2015

Drunken Beans

How many beans recipes have I posted, over the years? Quite a few! I never tire of finding new ways to prepare them.  We especially enjoy beans with barbecue and chili con carne.

Given my first choice, pinto beans always win. This must come from my childhood love of my "Nana's" refried beans and homemade tortillas. This is true comfort food for me.  I bookmarked this recipe in the January/February 2015 issue of Cook's Illustrated.  The name "Drunken" comes from the tequila and beer that is added to the beans!   I can assure you that you can't really taste the booze-- pinkie promise. The liquor just gives a more complex depth of flavor. That's "foodie" talk for "awesome taste".

For this recipe, you'll need fresh cilantro.  If you're cursed with taste buds that doesn't like cilantro, this recipe isn't going to be for you.  Fortunately, cilantro is an herb that my entire family really likes.

I needed 30 sprigs of cilantro, pulling off the leaves of 20 of the sprigs.  The sprigs are all tied together, and the leaves are chopped and reserved as a garnish.

Things are about to get even better-- bacon is cooked to render the fat, then removed with a slotted spoon. To the bacon fat, we cook onion, garlic, poblano peppers until softened.  Now-- we add 1/2 cup of tequila and cook until it evaporates.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Mexican Pork Carnitas/Pulled Pork (with a little help from my pressure cooker)

I have often given credit to my mother for forcing teaching me how to cook, ever since I was a little girl. Most of the recipes she taught me how to make were from her German (Bavarian, to be specific) origins. To this day, my siblings request that I make her Austrian Goulash and homemade spaetzle, at least once a year.

There is another side of my ancestry, from my father's side, that I closely identify with.  My father is from Spanish descent with a bit of American Indian blood.  One of my fondest childhood memories, is visiting my "Nana" on her small ranch and enjoying a breakfast plate of her homemade refried beans and homemade flour tortillas.  Served with eggs, over easy, and a bowl of salsa-- my father and I would eagerly dig in.

Shortly before my father passed away, we traveled south to spend Thanksgiving with my aunts, uncles, and cousins.  Our Thanksgiving spread had all the traditional turkey and side dishes. But, there were also large pans of traditional Mexican food. One of my uncles made his famous pork carnitas and I was truly smitten, at first bite.  The flavor of the pork, tender on the inside, and crunchy on the outside-- wrapped in a corn tortilla with just a bit of cilantro... I will always remember that particular Thanksgiving as one of the best holidays gatherings (my father passed away a year later).

Since then, I always wanted to recreate my uncle's Pork carnitas, and this recipe fulfilled a long-time desire to do so.

Carnitas can best be described as pulled pork. Traditionally, the pork is braised with oranges and aromatics (such as bay leaves, cumin and oregano). Once the tender meat is "pulled", it's then deep-fried to give it that delectable crunchy texture.

America's Test Kitchen, as usual, delivered a more contemporary way of recreating pork carnitas, without deep frying the meat.  

The cut of pork used is a pork-butt, cut into 2-inch chunks.  To the pot, we add salt, pepper, cumin, bay leaves, and lime juice, orange juice and the orange halves.

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Blood Orange Upside Down Cake

Until I spent two weeks visiting my grandmother, in Bavaria, I wasn't familiar with blood oranges. I learned this the hard way. Each morning, the bed and breakfast where I stayed, would lay out a beautiful breakfast buffet. Freshly baked rolls, European butter, soft boiled eggs, cold cuts, fresh coffee and a weak looking pitcher of tomato juice. (Unless tomato juice has a stalk of celery and a good splash of vodka and hot sauce, I'll usually pass it by.)

True story: It wasn't until the last day of my stay that I discovered that tall pitcher of red juice was blood orange juice-- from Italy. Needless to say, I could've slapped myself silly for my ignorance. Live and learn.

Fortunately, blood oranges are also grown in California (and other states such as Florida and Texas).  I keep my eyes wide open for them from December through March, when they are typically in season.   I think their flesh is such a beautiful ruby color, and the juice has a much deeper citrus flavor.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake is one of my favorite (and easiest) cakes to make.  When I saw this recipe for Blood Orange Upside Cake on Stacey Snacks I was eager to try it.  This cake uses cornmeal, instead of all-flour.  One of my favorite cake pans is this  9 x 3 Inch Round Aluminum Cake Pan.  I bought it to make this Rhubarb-Upside Cake (also very delicious) and is now one of my favorite baking pans.

We begin by melting brown sugar and butter in a 350F degree oven (about 5 minutes, or so). Likewise, I see no reason why a cast iron skillet wouldn't make a great substitute.  I sprayed the cake pan with Baker's Joy (my favorite non-stick baking spray).

Next, we layer thinly sliced blood oranges.  Let's pause here, a moment.  In retrospect, I wish I had layered more oranges by overlapping them. You'll see why, when you see my finished cake. 

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Meyer Lemon Meringue Tartlets

Back in the day, when I attended a Food Blogger conference, I attended a writing workshop on how to describe the taste(s) and textures of a recipe. That proved to be quite a personal challenge, because the guest speakers asked us to eliminate the use of the words like "awesome", "tasty", "yummy"  and to replace them with alternate words to describe various foods we were asked to taste.


Food Grammar Police Rules be darned!  These tarts are amazing, yummy, fantastic... They are delicious. They are buttery,  lemony, and  creamy. This dessert has earned my personal best in bursting with flavor and is now one of my favorite desserts I've ever made. Seriously.

Recently, I noticed that our Meyer lemon tree, was laden with lots of fruit, and I needed to pick them and use them immediately.  That is never a problem, because Meyer lemons are perfect for baking. They have an exquisite balance of sweet and tart.  I usually make my fool-proof lemon curd recipe, that uses the whole egg.  Then, I got to thinking about making a lemon meringue pie-- which I had not made in many, many years.   That thought process began to morph into an obsession that I was determined to make a lemon meringue pie.
I've posted many recipes for pies, in my recipe index. I usually begin by saying that I'm not the biggest fan of shortening based pie crusts.  (I also know that I'm in the minority here.)  I do, however, prefer a French Pâte Brisée crust, which is all butter and a little bit of sugar-- very similar to a shortbread.  Using a food processor makes this a whole lot easier. With this pâte brisée recipe, I also added lemon zest and a little bit of pure vanilla extract.

I was going to make one large tart, when I remembered that I had recently purchased these cute 4.75 Inch Round Tart/Quiche Pans.   I did roll out the dough, cut individual circles and then pressed them into each pan.  

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