Thursday, June 7, 2012

Growing Dinner

We've had all sorts of wonderful rain storms lately - so that stay the entire day, others that roll in and out without warning, some with rumbles of thunder and flashes of lightning. It's doing wonders for my garden.

Last night I cut these beautiful bunches of greens, freshly washed off my a passing storm.

And then I made this delightful chicken Caesar salad. The chicken is from a local farm - free range and no antibiotics. Just cooked with a little olive oil and garlic. Add some halved grape tomatoes, croutons, a little shredded mozzarella (I forgot the shaved parmesan...I'm good at forgetting), and light Caesar dressing. And that's dinner...filling yet light and fresh.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Here, Piggy Piggy

For someone who grew up a Carolina girl, I discovered the delicious pulled pork sandwich late in life. I always knew it was there, hanging out at every BBQ joint in town, but never did my taste buds say "Yo, sister - we need that!" Then one fateful October night when I was in college, I found myself walking by the pulled pork stand at the North Carolina State Fair. I paused, pondered, and took the first step toward happiness: I got in line. I loved that sandwich so much, the next night I got another.

I've made pulled pork in a crock pot 3 or 4 times over the past year or so, and each time the flavor has been a little bit different, but always good.

I used a cut of pork called a "Boston butt," which had the bone in and a layer of fat on the bottom of the cut of meat. When making pulled pork in a crock pot, you do want some amount of fat on the meat to add a little flavor while the meat is slow cooking.

The next step was a little crazy - I opened the spice cabinet and started digging through, pulling out this and that and dumping whatever amount spoke to me into a mixing bowl. The mix contained cayenne pepper, chili powder, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, cumin, coriander...and I think that may be it. Like I said, it was a bit of a tornado-in-the-kitchen moment. Once mixed together, I rubbed the mixture all over the cut of meat and let it sit for a few minutes. This time, I did not brown the meat before cooking, and I think it was for the better.

I forgot to pick up a yellow onion at the grocery store, but luckily I keep a bag of Trader Joe's pearl onions in the freezer (they sell the most useful products!). In a little olive oil and a couple tablespoons of evaporated cane sugar, I sauteed the onions until they became caramelized, then put them in the crock pot. Ash and I looked through the various stouts he picked up at a little by-the-bottle beer convenience store (in PA, you otherwise have to buy beer by the case from a distributor). We chose three, poured them in the crock pot over the chunk of pig, and added a Blue Moon because we needed a little more liquid. I also added about half a jar of McCutcheon's BBQ sauce and a healthy dose of Cotton Honey straight from North Carolina. It's a great sauce with real, fresh ingredients. Finally, I threw in a couple of bay leaves. Usually I add fresh thyme, but /i forgot that, too...oops!

The pig was cooking by noon and we ate around 9 that night. Half to three-quarters of the time, the crock pot was set to "high" and the rest of the time it was set to "low." The meat pulled apart amazingly and we shredded it into fine pieces. I added a little of the "juice" and a dash of salt and then piled it on toasted potato rolls. Ash made all sorts of sauce concoctions to mix with his shredded pork. I definitely tasted a bit of heat from the cayenne pepper but it was just the right amount.

The next day I reheated some of the meat to have a sandwich for lunch and I swear it was even better than the day it was first cooked. I tasted a little more spiciness and a bit more flavor overall (I added a little of the juice to the meat before storing it in the fridge).

Honestly, the worst part of this process is the clean-up. Prep is easy, and cooking is almost effortless, since the crock pot does it all for you. This is a great meal to prepare for your own family, or something great to prepare the day before and bring to a potluck or cook-out. Nobody will be disappointed!