Category Archives: Entree

‘Udon it Again.

Because… I did a post about Udon before and…Who doesn’t love a good noodle related pun…huh?….???  Heh…Heh…

But seriously dinner was on point. A rich pork, shrimp, miso broth, with wood ears, shiitakes, straw mushrooms, scorched scallion, seared pork and shrimp dumplings I made last week in a fit of post work delerium, seared then thinly sliced fatty pork shoulder tossed in at the end & quickly seared fat scallops. 

Does someone want to gift me millions of dollars so I can fund my expensive food choices and never work again? Kay thanks, byeee! 


Pasta Salad Redeemed

Growing up, if there was a summer barbeque, it was inevitable that my Mom was going to make pasta salad, it was quick and easy, most people liked it and she had three kids, give the lady a break. As one of said children, it was my duty to whine about it and be ungrateful. Turns out, I wasn’t giving it a fair shake because of my long standing hatred of celery salt…One of the key ingredients in the seasoning packet she used. I feel like it was literally Italian Dressing and a packet or shaker of Ms. Dash…the bile is rising… I LOVE PASTA SALAD though, and it was my duty today to redeem it.

Yeah, they were a little dirty...its good for you.

Yeah, they were a little dirty…its good for you.

So! I started with a boiling pot of salted water. I cut some button mushrooms in half while I got my cast iron skillet roaring hot.

Mise en place for your vinaigrette. Parsley, Basil, Lemon Juice and Zest, Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Salt, Pepper

Mise en place for your vinaigrette. Parsley, Basil, Lemon Juice and Zest, Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Salt, Pepper

When it was smoky hot, I added a bit of olive oil and threw those filthy little things in the pan to sear. While those were browning up nicely, I minced up some parsley  and chiffonaded some basil. I also zested a whole lemon and  squeezed the juice into a large bowl with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Once the mushrooms were seared nicely, I tossed them hot into the vinaigrette.

Sear those mushrooms hard and toss them in a vinaigrette of lemon juice, zest, balsamic, olive oil, salt an pepper.

Sear those mushrooms hard and toss them in a vinaigrette of lemon juice, zest, balsamic, olive oil, salt an pepper.

By this time the boiling water was nice and boily, and I tossed my garlic scapes into the pot. Garlic scapes are lovely if you haven’t ever tried them before. They are surprisingly mild on the garlic. They are similar in texture to blanched asparagus, and they can get a bit woody at the ends so, make sure you trim them, and you will eventually be cutting them on a sharp bias.

Blanch a few Garlic Scapes and watch them brighten up.

Blanch a few Garlic Scapes and watch them brighten up.

Once they are nice and bright and a little softer (don’t kill them, they are little guys), pick them out of your water with tongs and run them under cold water until they are cool to the touch. This locks in the color so that they stay bright and pretty!

Then shock them with running cold water or icy water if you are fancy.

Then shock them with running cold water or icy water if you are fancy.

Once they are cool you can cut them on a sharp bias and add them to your growing heap in the bowl.

Scapes are so pretty!

Scapes are so pretty!

Now you can go ahead and use the very same boiling water to throw your rotini in. Look how resourceful I am!  I like rotini the most because it is a throwback to my Mom’s pasta salad. Props, D…

A medley of salty olives and capers.

A medley of salty olives and capers.

While you are waiting for the pasta, you can get out a melange of olives of any variety that you like, but please not canned black olivesblarf. If you have to pit them, chop them up a little and while you are at it, why not some capers or caper berries even???

Little salt bombs.

Little salt bombs.

This is starting to come together folks… Now, here is where I was a little worried, but I figured that my love of cauliflower would not lead me astray. I cut some big hunks of cauliflower up and got my pan nice and hot again.

Cauliflower is highly underutilized.

Cauliflower is highly underutilized.

Once again, I poured in some tasty olive oil and seared them crispy and brown. The squirrel wasn’t so sure about it, but I was like, “Shut up, Squirrel, leave this to the professionals…”

Seared Cauliflower, Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper, Suspicious Squirrel Plate.

Seared Cauliflower, Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper, Suspicious Squirrel Plate.

Ok, so I’ve been hitting the sauce Zissou-style. Only one though, I am a responsible adult here, people.

Mama likes to drink when she is cooking in a hot kitchen.

Mama likes to drink when she is cooking in a hot kitchen.

Now my pasta is ready, so I ran that under water until it was cool and tossed it in the bowl to start to get it’s mingle on.

Rotini time!

Rotini time!

I salted and peppered my seared cauliflower, and ran a knife over it a few times to make it more appropriately bite sized. I also decided at this point that the garlic scapes were really super mild and I am a woman who loves her garlic, so I minced up a fat clove and mixed it in.

Almost there!

Almost there!

Now I halved a bunch of lovely grape tomatoes. and tossed them in. Folks at this point, you have a LOVELY vegan salad that any person could get down with. Season it to your liking…don’t be afraid of a little salt. But, if you are a cheese and anything meaty-umami eater like me, go the extra mile, guys.

Try to make anchovies look good with an iPhone...I dare you. Also, Parmesan.

Try to make anchovies look good with an iPhone…I dare you. Also, Parmesan.

I added, three fillets of anchovies sliced thin, and a good 1/3-1/2ish cup of grated Parmesan Reggiano. I also chiffonaded more basil leaves and threw in a handful of pinenuts because I am fancy like that.

Finished Product! Sucess!

Finished Product! Sucess!

And folks that’s it. I am for once, looking forward to having pasta salad leftovers to eat for the next few days. I am not knocking Dawn. She is a great cook, and she taught me how to cook, but I think that she would agree that this is worlds apart. Now I just have to see what Eric thinks of it when he gets home from work!


Cherry-Chipotle chops!


Terrible photo, but I made chops with a delicious cherry-chipotle white wine pan sauce. Super easy and amazing.

Rub the porkchops with cumin and salt. Sear them in a HOT pan on all sides. Deglaze with white wine, add about 2 T of rough chopped chipotles en adobo, and 2 T of cherry preserves (mine are a fancy version of Smuckers) and a nice heavy tablespoon of dijon. Turn off your pan (if you have a heavy pan to cook them in) and cover (if you don’t turn the heat down and let it cook for like 3 more minutes covered).

Cochinita Pibíl

I decided to dust off the keyboard for this tasty and traditional Yucatecan-Myan dish. Scouring my walk-in meat cooler, I was dismayed to find that I was fresh out of lechón, cochinita, or suckling pig as needed, and in even more of a dire need of a fire pit. Never fear though, I decided to improvise, as I am sure any clever Mayan would have in a pinch. I was, however, lucky enough to chance upon banana leaves-nature’s tinfoil, used by man for a millenia, to swaddle various meats, tamales, and many other delicacies while cooking. The flavors used while cooking cochinita are similar to al Pastor. They are heavy on the achiote (annatto) and the acid.  The acid tenderizes the meat, and the fattiness of the pork mellows the acid with time and slow cooking.

Traditionally, in the Yucatan, Seville Oranges are used. They are very bitter acidic. I was not bitter at all when I discovered they were not to be found. Instead, I decided to substitute oranges, limes and a little apple cider vinegar for my cause. I also minced some garlic, toasted and ground pepper, cloves, and cumin, and added some Mexican oregano to the mix. The other key ingredient was achiote or annatto paste. El Yucateco makes a lovely little brick in various sizes, with a happy little chef and a happy little cochinita on it. I broke that up into smaller pieces, and then I added all of the ingredients to my blender cup. BuZzZzzzzZZ! Then that is it! On to the meats, the delicious meats….

The first time around, I did not choose the right meat, rather, my store didn’t have the meat I wanted available. I think that I got mostly loin or something really lean. Since traditionally, it is made with the whole pig, you have to consider that there would be a fair deal of fat with it, even if it is just delicious and tender baby piglet fat. The next time, I vowed to set things right with a fatty cut like pork butt, and kept my promise with much better results.

I doused the pork in the marinade and let it chill out for a while.

I tore the banana leaves,which I found in the freezer section of my Mexican Grocery Store, into pieces that fit the baking dish that I used. I alternated directions between layers.

I added the pork, and tossed in a dozen or so bay leaves into the banana leaf bundle.

I tucked the cochinita into bed by folding each layer into the other.

I finished using the left over scraps to tuck underneath the whole bundle. It looked so beautiful, I wanted to cradle it in my arms like a new-born babe.

Instead, I placed it in a 300° F oven and baked it for about 4 hours (or more, if you can bare it). At one point, I was concerned about the leaves getting too dry, so I poured some warm water over the leaves. In the end,  I dont think it really mattered.

While the pork was cooking away, I pickled some red onion cut in a very fine Julienne. I just squeezed a lime, added a dash of apple cider vinegar, and a heavy pinch of salt. Normally, I would have also made an Habanero salsa for the cochinita, but I had just made Chile de Arból salsa, and I wanted to be thrifty.

I have since made an Habanero salsa with a happy result. I toasted about 4-5 Habanero and 5-6 big garlic cloves still in their papers in a hot skillet until charred. I deveined and seeded the Habaneros with gloves since I had some lying around. I also peeled and rough chopped the garlic. I added about 3/4 of a cup of the same mix of lime, orange and vinegar-mix to taste with a little bit of salt.  I blended it just enough to break up the big chunks. It is totally worth it, if you are debating whether or not to spring for it, and so simple.

When I was sure that the meat was fally-aparty-good, I took my little bundle of joy out of the oven. Then I unwrapped it and took a horrible picture of it….

This was the point that I realized the meat was way too lean. It had a similar texture to shredded chicken breast. If that is what you are into, by all means go for it, but I wanted something a little more flavorful and fatty. I’m not here to judge.

I finished the whole thing toasting off some delicious corn tortillas on a hot dry skillet, filling them with the cochinita, the salsa, the onions and a few cilantro leaves. Perfection.

Hot and Sour Shortrib Udon Goodness

On this Indian Summer day, there is a beautiful blue sky against leaves clinging to their last bit of green. It is a beautiful way to say goodbye to the last bits of summer. When I think of fall, I think of hearty soups, but since it is such a warm summery day, I decided to lighten it up a bit with a nice broth-based hot and sour. We used to make something reminiscent of this at Green Zebra, but obviously with no meat. I couldn’t resist using my new cast iron to braise a couple short-ribs.

I seared them really well, leaving them to sear for a few minutes in plenty of oil in a HOT  pan. Once all sides were seared, I turned my oven on at 325. I poured out most of the oil.

Then I added some mushroom broth, a good ammount of Mae Ploy (sweet chili sauce), Sambal Olek (chili paste), and some ginger rough chopped. I didn’t fully cover the shortribs, just about half way.

I let it cook in the oven, at first covered until the meat tightened up around the bones, then uncovered until it got soft again and the sauces reduced. Somewhere in the middle, I remembered to put some sliced garlic in there too.

Once they were nice and tender, I pulled the bones out, and cooled them in the refrigerator for later slicing. I kept the bones and the liquid for making the broth.

I strained the chunks out of the broth, and then I sliced an inch long hunk of peeled ginger thinly and added them to a mesh strainer that I left hanging for the duration of the broth making process. To that, I also added one stalk of  thinly sliced lemongrass. I slice this on a bias so that there is maximum surface area to extract the flavor. I also took the stems off of about 15 shiitake mushrooms and saved the caps for finishing the broth. It is a good way to use every part of the buffalo. I also chopped the ends off of a bunch of scallions, and I saved the tops for garnishing the finished product. I also added the bones into the strainer for infusing into the broth.

At this time, I also added mushroom broth about 3/4 of the way up to the top of the pot. I brought it up to a boil, then I let it simmer covered about a half hour. I pulled out the strainer and added my mushroom caps, which I thinly sliced. I also added some pickled baby corn that I cut into one inch pieces.

I also small diced an inch nub of peeled ginger. This time, I took care to brunoise it nicely.

By the time I got all of that done, the short ribs were fully cooled. I took them out and trimmed them up, taking care to trim any weird connective tissue that was too chewy. I very thinly sliced the pieces of meat into bite sized pieces. I set them aside for later addition to the soup.

I added an entire packet of wide soba noodles to the boiling pot, stirring rapidly so they didn’t stick.

Once they were mostly cooked, I added some thinly bias cut carrots and the meat to the broth. Once the carrots were tender, I took everything off the heat and cut my other garnish.

I thinly bias-cut a jalapeño, chiffonaded cilantro, very bias cut scallion tops and a lime.

To finish the broth right before serving, I added soy sauce, rice vinegar and lime juice to taste.

In the end, I think it was the perfect way to say, “So long, Summer…..Hello Fall!” It was spicy, it was a little sweet from the Mae Ploy,  sour from the citrus and vinegar and a little salty from the soy sauce. The mushrooms added the perfect ammout of umami to really kick up the meatyness of the short ribs. The ribs were amazingly tender and had the perfect ammount of fat to have delicious flavor. What a great thing to have waiting for you when you come home  on a warm fall afternoon. 

Cast Iron Comfort

Fall is my favorite time of the year, it is crispy brown leaves (not burning ones, ever since I am a city kid now), Indian corn, jackety weather, pumpkins, crocheting hats and blankets while sipping hot tea. I have always had a fondness for this season, I miss playing in the leaves and planning my Halloween costume. I miss trips to Uncle John’s Cider Mill in Michigan. We would go on a hay-ride and then come inside to drink hot cider and eat doughnuts. When it got close to Halloween, we would go to Paulsen’s Pumpkin Patch and pick out monster pumpkins. I just have such warm memories of this time that there are few foods things that I can think of that are more fall inspired than a nice root vegetable Shepherd’s pie. My Great Grandma used to make them with old pot roast. I honestly think that she thought that it was a quick solution to the problem of too many leftovers. For me, it was amazing. I grew up in a home where experimentation was not unheard of. Whereas, most kids I grew up with lived off of pot roast and the meat and potatoes diet, to me, such things were a treat, even if it was leftovers.

I decided to elevate it to the center of my meal in her honor, in honor of fall and in honor of love. Root vegetables were to be the stars of the show with a little bit of beef and a few mushrooms to savory it up a bit.

First, I got my cast iron dutch oven combination pot (a GREAT gift from a GREAT friend) roaring hot and ready to go. Meanwhile, I cubed up some beef for stewing and seasoned it with salt and pepper.

Then I tossed it into the hot pan and seared the meat off. I noticed that the pan was not as oiled as I liked it, so I added a little bacon grease that I had in my fridge. I thought that Grandma Hoekie would have liked that.

In the meantime, I sliced some crimini mushrooms for searing after the meat.

Tada! Once I got a good amount of color on the meat, I pulled it out of the pan and quickly added the mushrooms to sear off. I let them get some color too.

It is important to remember that cast iron holds heat really intensely, and it is easy to let it get too hot. Just be pretty careful, knowing that there is some lag time when you turn the heat down or up.

I then added some flour (I cranked the heat down here), maybe 1/2 cup or so to make a roux using the fat from the bacon and the meat. The roux will help thicken the stew as it cooks. I decided to deglaze the pot with some beer, because why wouldn’t I? I knew I had a pretty classy can of beer just hanging out in my fridge, so I decided to honor it with a place in this pot pie.

I also added a thickly julienned yellow onion to the pot. I want to say that I truly value good knife skills. I think that they are really important for most things, but in this case, throw most of them out the window, relax. This is comfort food, and not high end crazy food that is all about plating.

Next I peeled a rutabaga.

I cubed it in nice big cubes.

Then I peeled some carrots and cut them into similar sizes.

I did the same with a couple parsnips. I cut around the woody centers of them, because they are kind of tough.

Last but not least, I cut up a sweet potato.

I added everything back into the pot and tossed it all together. I added some mushroom stock to the mix to almost cover the vegetables. I also seasoned everything to my liking, and added some cracked pepper, allspice, and sage to the mix.

After that I put the whole pot in the oven covered at 345 degrees for about 90 minutes. I stirred everything up a bit more, then I took the cover off the pot so that everything could reduce and cook a bit more. I gave it about a half an hour. Once the half hour passes, I started getting my potatoes ready.

I cubed about 7 peeled yukon gold and/or red potatoes and tossed them into my steamer basket with about 3 cloves of garlic.

Once they were fork tender, I threw them into my kitchenaid bowl with the paddle attachment with about 3 tablespoons of butter, some salt and pepper, some milk, and an egg.

I whipped them up so that they were nice and fluffy, but not overmixed. Potatoes will totally get disgusting and gluey if you overmix them, so treat them like cookie dough, just until incorporated.

I took my stew out of the oven, and the sauce was nice and thick, the vegetables were nice and tender and the meat was too.

I dolloped the mashed potatoes all over the stew, dropping it in blobs all over the surface, then smearing them together to meet in the middle. I was careful to sort of seal the stew in, without leaving gaps.

Then I put it all back in the oven for about 20 minutes, before I switched the oven over to broil and browned up the top. I was sure to keep a sheet pan under the pot, because inevitably the potato top had weaknesses and some of the sauce bubbled up and out. When things were done, it was a beautiful thing. It was amazing.

Tacos Dorados con Queso y Frijoles

Last night at 2 AM I made tacos dorados for the first time ever, don’t ask why. I never realized how easy they are, until then. I usually am pretty hesitant about deep frying anything….the spent oil….the smell…the clogged arteries….ock. In this case though, I was able to shallow fry them and they worked out really well.

For the beans:

I made some re-fried beans the same night that I made the Salsa Verde, by first rinsing then boiling 3 cups of pinto beans. I added some cumin, chicken stock (or bullion), 1/2 small white onion diced really small, 2 chipotles from a can of chipotles in adobo small diced, a small handful of cilantro and a bottle of Negra Modelo beer. Don’t forget to season them well. When the liquid reduced, I added more hot water as needed. I let this boil away uncovered until the beans were soft and fully cooked. Then I mashed them with my bean masher, but you can use anything with mashing capabilities. I let them cool overnight, but I am sure you could do the tacos with hot beans too.

For the actual tacos, I just steamed a stack of corn tortillas in the microwave wrapped in a dish towel for 3o seconds so they would be pliable enough to fold, then I started to fill them. I put a small dollop of beans onto the tortilla and spread it out. Then I smashed a small ammount of shredded Muenster (I prefer it over Chihuahahua cheese, which I would use if I didn’t have Muenster) in the midddle of the beans. Then I folded the tortilla in half sealing the cheese in the middle of the beans and securing the sides by stabbing them with a toothpick on each side.

Then I fried them in hot oil about 2/3 of an inch deep. I got it pretty hot, but not smoky and left it on medium to high heat. The tacos leaked a little, bit not like crazy. Then, once both sides were golden brown, I blotted them on paper towel and let them cool a little before biting into the little lava filled crunchy amazing treats. The salsa verde was amazing with these. They are often filled with seasoned potatoes or seasoned ground meats too. Both are amazing too. They made for the perfect food at 2 AM, and I am sure that any drunk person would be more than happy with them too. Hahaha.