Hello Mr. Piggy

One of the things I usually don’t buy is pork, since at least all the pork I’ve seen has as the highest rating just “organic”, and just like several sources have pointed out, that can be a bit misleading (or flat out hiding other problems) I’ve never felt that comfortable buying it. However, every once in a while a change of food in the menu is in order, so I decided to do it this week.

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Pork chops are probably not the cheapest cut, but they are quite easy to make. In this case, I rubbed both sides with salt and pepper, and fried them in coconut oil until both sides were seared, and they had started to cook inside.

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When cooked (but not done), I removed them from the fire, and in the mixture of grease that was rendered and coconut oil I fried onions and mushrooms.

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Then with some sour cream the mushrooms morphed into a creamy thick sauce.

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When thick and rich I put the chops back in place. Since they were already salted I didn’t add salt to the sauce, but you can do that while it’s thickening if you think it’s lacking flavor. I let them boil in a low fire until the meat was done.

Garlic. Garlic everywhere.

I’ve made Bill and Haley’s Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic before when I just wanted to experiment with the idea of using so much garlic to cook a dish. In this case I did it because it’s simple, and all it requires is to baby sit the over (which you can do while doing other things in the kitchen anyways).

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Just like the previous time the hardest thing to do is to cut up the chicken. Every time I do it, though, the easier it becomes, and I’ve gone from 30 minutes “I have no Idea what I am doing” to 5 minutes “I’m also chopping some shallot and other stuff at the same time”.

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Besides that, everything is even sequential: fry the chicken, fry the garlic, fry the shallot, put everything together and bake for 1.5 hours.

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One thing I forgot to buy were the fresh herbs, lemon thyme and rosemary. I will try my hand at herb growing again, but I need to stick it in my calendar that I have to water my herbs. I somehow managed to kill mint, which is basically a weed, so yeah, I suck.

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However, a good bunch of dried herbs were a good substitute.

A different kind of liver

My roommate, Nick, has been working in a farm for a couple months now. One afternoon he called me and since I still have problems understanding English over the phone I only got that I’d be getting some free organ meats from a grass-fed cow. YES!

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I considered first doing just liver and onions but I realized I didn’t have enough onions, so I moved onto the next easiest thing you can do with liver: liver with bay and onions. The idea is to fry some onions, then fry the liver, then add some wine and let the liver stew in it. Ah, and some bay leaves, obviously.

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I have to admit that since the liver was presliced I found it easier to cook, since it was stewed more uniform. If you don’t have wine (like I did that night) you can always use broth as a substitute. Surprisingly enough, this is a dish that requires very little salt when using broth since that has a fair amount of it – but if you are using wine you may need to add a bit more just to bring out the flavors.

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Also, I found the taste to be milder than my usual lamb liver. I have to admit I like lamb liver more, but this was definitely tasty. Now, if I can convince my roommate to give me more free meat…

Annatto life

One of the nice things about mexican food is the variety of spices it uses in its recipes. While not as big as, say, Indian food, it is something to be relished, and I have to say I have been learning much about it. One of the spices I found lately is Achiote, or Annatto, derived from the seeds of Bixa orellana, or Achiote (tree).

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Achiote is tangy, and a bit bitter, and usually sold in the form of paste that includes other spices such as pepper and chilis. This paste is usually dissolved in a bitter liquid in order to bring out the flavor of the spices. Traditionally, the juice of bitter oranges is used, but any variety of vinegar can be used as well, as long as it is not balsamic or sweet. I decided to splurge a little bit and try it with Maple Vinegar, to try and accentuate the wooden taste of the annatto instead of the spice of the chilis. It was a bold move, yes, since it would have been easier just to use apple cider vinegar, but I went with it. I mixed the paste with the vinegar (just a shot) and a couple of garlic cloves.

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I coated the chicken evenly with the sauce before putting it in the crockpot with the rest of it, and let it cook for five hours. The original recipe has the chicken in pieces wrapped in banana tree leaves, but I did not spend time looking for those. Since it came out a little bit dry, I will add an onion (sliced) to the bottom of the pot next time to provide a bit more of juice, and reduce cooking time a little bit.

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But the taste was so good, oh Sweet Gandalf it was delicious!

Hm… gravy

The convenience of the crockpot is that as long as you dump stuff on it and take care of it, it will cook it thoroughly without having to pay any attention to it. Bad thing is that if you forget about it, it can get overcooked, so you do have to be at least a bit careful. Otherwise dry chicken can happen.

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Michelle from Nom Nom has a recipe for chicken that makes its own gravy. We need to fry some onions and garlic in butter, to let them sweat, and let their flavors come out.

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We add tomato paste and we let it cook for a bit. Now, I know we are not supposed to use acidic food in cast iron because of leaching. I decided to take a risk since we had already added a decent amount of butter to the pan when sweating the onions.

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In the meantime, we rub the chicken. Michelle uses a prepackaged rub – I decided to use the rub I make when I put my chicken in the oven: mustard, thyme, salt and pepper.

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Rub it all over. In and out.

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We put the sauce in the bottom of the pan, and the chicken on top of it.

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And let it cook for four to six hours. After that we take the chicken out and we blend the sauce into a gravy.

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The amount of gravy was so much that I will use it with other chicken.

When lacking something, look at the ingredient list

I’ll admit that I’ve been missing some stuff from back home. My mom’s Mushrooms in Green Sauce is one of them, and I haven’t tried to emulate them just yet because the stores I frequent don’t carry tomatillo. Yes, I should go to the mexican store. When it stops snowing and I can bike there thank you very much.

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So when I was wandering in George’s site and found this Chicken Tomatillo recipe I was stoked. Now, he has two versions – one with home made salsa, which I’m pretty sure it’s a thousand times awesome (or at least, easier to manipulate) and one with store-bought salsa. I gave up and spent ten minutes in the aisle of Vitamin Grocers reading labels until I found a satisfactory salsa jar.

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Another thing that I loved about this recipe is how mexican it looks. Well, everything that has green, white and red gets classified as that, even though we share colors with Italy and I am babbling now and haven’t said anything about the recipe. Basically, a green pepper, a red pepper, a tomato and an onion, all of them sliced, tossed with mushrooms, salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, lime juice and the salsa.

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The chicken goes first – this is to allow the salsa to penetrate from the top into the chicken, and allow it to mix with the juices that will be released by the animal.

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Just like that.

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Six hours later (in low, like usual), the chicken comes out moist and tender… even probably to the point of destruction. That’s what happened to me, so I immediately took the veggies out, the chicken, and the sauce in three different containers, shredded the chicken and made lettuce wraps with the veggies and the sauce as sides. Awesome.

Kentucky baked, take one

Well, I already have a Fried Chicken recipe. However, I found myself with a chicken and virtually no idea on how to cook it (Har Har) so I turned to my grandma’s cookbook to see what I could do with it. Lo and behold, a recipe for Fried Chicken that is not fried appeared.

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I’m not exactly happy with the way this recipe turned out – I still want to tinker with it. The procedure is pretty basic – chop up the chicken, crack an egg and whip it with salt and pepper, dunk the chicken in the egg and then in flour.

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I used almond flour, don’t panic, and then put it all in an oven proof container and bake it.

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Two things happened with this recipe. First, the crust did not form that nice and sweet way I had got before, and I blame the flour: instead of using the usually coarse Almond Flour I get at my local Sprouts, I used a super fine almond flour I got from Amazon when I decided to make cookies.

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Second, the chicken came out a bit dry. Not “I’m choking” dry, but dry, and that makes me a sad panda. I’m looking into marinating the chicken (Kim suggested buttermilk, which I’m culturing myself so that would be interesting) and hopefully it’ll come out better next time.