Loaded Smashed Potatoes

Good grief – will someone please tell me how it got to be September already??

Things have calmed down somewhat around the Sushi Bar; The G Man is in Michigan and starts kindergarten today (boy, talk about time just flying by!!) and while The Young One came home for the long weekend, we didn’t see much of him (he spent a lot of time sleeping) and he was back on campus by Sunday afternoon.

However, even though our lives are no longer ruled by the comings and goings of young men, things are still pretty busy.  It is, of course, prime canning season and we did it in style this last weekend.  If you think we went crazy with the zucchini and green beans, well…let’s just say they weren’t anything compared to this weekend.

We took Friday off from work, which was a good thing, since it gave us the opportunity to do some housework and yard work.  We made our usual CSA/farmer’s market runs Saturday morning, and came home with 2 bushels of paste tomatoes (to which we added another half bushel from our own garden), 5 dozen ears of sweet corn, 5 pounds of okra and a 1/2 peck of the sweetest peaches I’ve ever tasted.  The result?

– 8 pints of barbecue sauce canned

– 32 pints of tomato canned

– About 2 1/2 cups of tomato paste made, portioned and frozen

– All of the corn shucked and cleaned; 1 1/2 dozen frozen on the cob, the remainder cut away from the cob, portioned, and frozen

– All 5 pounds of the okra cleaned and sliced; about 4 pounds breaded before being frozen (’cause we love our fried okra)

– All of the peaches peeled, sliced and frozen

The tomatoes were milled and the sauces and paste were made on Saturday.  The canning, corn and okra were done on Sunday, and I peeled and sliced the peaches while cooking our dinner (an amazingly delicious and un-paleo gumbo) Monday evening.

In short, we basically came back to work today to rest from our “long weekend.”

We’d have gone out to eat Sunday night – the day was just that exhausting – but all the decent restaurants in Podunk are closed on Sunday, so we made dinner as simple as possible.  Beloved fired up the grill and cooked us steaks, while I roasted some of the okra I’d left whole.  Darling Daughter asked for this particular dish and since she did most of the work, I’ll credit her with the execution.

I have to tell you, these smashed potatoes are really pretty easy and they are really very delicious; even Beloved, who prefers sweet potatoes, wolfed them down.  The leftovers keep quite well, too, as you can see in the photo below, when we had them with the leftover steak, over-easy eggs and watermelon the next morning.

Note:  You can leave off the bacon if you don’t eat pork or want to make them vegetarian-friendly – simply sub the bacon fat with melted ghee or olive oil.

Loaded Smashed Potatoes.  Crispy and delicious, these are somewhere between potato skins and baked potatoes.

Click the image to enlarge

Loaded Smashed Potatoes
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound whole new potatoes, preferably Yukon golds
  • 4 ounces bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup snipped chives
  • 1/4 cup sour cream, (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  2. Scrub the potatoes well. Carefully drop them into 2 quarts of boiling salted water and cook until tender enough to pierce with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain; spread out on a shallow-rimmed baking sheet to cool slightly.
  3. While the potatoes are boiling, cook the bacon in a small skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel to drain; reserve the fat left behind in the pan.
  4. Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, smash them slightly (still on the baking sheet) with a potato masher or the bottom of a heavy glass measuring cup. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and drizzle with the reserved bacon fat.
  5. Roast the smashed potatoes until crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the bacon and cheese. Return the pan to the oven until the cheese is melted, another 5 to 7 minutes longer.
  6. Sprinkle the potatoes with the snipped chives and dollop with sour cream, if desired, before serving.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 235 calories, 16.1g total fat, 36.6mg cholesterol, 283.1mg sodium, 395mg potassium, 14.1g carbohydrates, 1.7g fiber, <1g sugar, 8.8g protein

Green Bean and Tomato Salad

I bemoaned on Facebook this morning that, “I will be SO glad when school is back in session so I can eat like an adult again.”

Having The G Man so often this summer has required a lot of kid-friendly meals.  Which suits The Young One just fine – he’s never outgrown his love of chicken nuggets, spaghetti, pizza and meatballs in barbecue sauce over mashed potatoes (last night’s dinner).  Beloved, Darling Daughter and I, on the other hand, are going through quinoa, lamb curry and liver paté withdrawal.

In fact, once the adult palates are all that’s left in the house, liver paté is going to be one of the first things I’m going to make.

At any rate, this past Saturday it was just me and Beloved for dinner.  (Of course it was just me and Beloved for dinner – there was a bushel of green beans to clean and can; do you honestly think there would be a kid anywhere in sight??)  While I was busy with the green beans, Beloved cut up and vacuum sealed three of the four chickens we’d picked up from our poultry farmer a couple of days before.  The fourth chicken was duly spatchcocked, seasoned with s&p and slipped into a Ziploc bag with some buttermilk and fresh tarragon to marinate.

Later that evening, after the beans had (mostly) been dispensed with, Beloved fired up the grill and roasted the chicken along with a couple of ears of fresh sweet corn, and I made this, for a dinner that was so locally sourced I could barely eat it, I was feeling so smug.

Oh, I kid.  I wolfed it down.

Along with the absurd amount of green beans we picked up last week, we also have been getting some lovely cherry tomatoes and red onions from the CSA.  Inspired by a recipe that came with our CSA share last week, I decided to combine the 3 with some fresh rosemary from our garden, although you could use any fresh herb you like (I know at least one of my readers is allergic to rosemary).  One quick balsamic vinaigrette later, we had a wonderfully refreshing, delicious and seasonal salad.

Please let the salad marinate in the fridge for at least an hour before eating to allow the flavors to marry – in fact, if you can remember to make it ahead, this is even better the next day.  I ate the leftovers for 3 days straight, it’s just so yummy.  And this is not only paleo-friendly, if you leave out the honey, which is completely optional, it’s Whole30 compliant, as well as vegan-friendly.

Green Bean and Tomato Salad. A fantastic summer side dish for when fresh green beans and tomatoes are at their best.

Click the image to enlarge

Green Bean and Tomato Salad
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut in half
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey (optional)
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil in a stock pot; drop in the green beans and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain and plunge into a large bowl of ice water until completely cooled.
  2. Drain the beans again and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a large bowl with the tomatoes, onion and rosemary; toss to combine.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar and honey (if using). Add the olive oil, pouring in a thin stream, whisking continually until well-combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour the dressing over the green bean mixture and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before tossing again and serving.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 142 calories, 12.2g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 6.4mg sodium, 151.5mg potassium, 8g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 2.7g sugar, 1.3g protein

Even Better Better Than Miracle Whip

Oh, look – I’m alive!

Sorry for the lack of posting, but real life has been, well, real.  Our garden is coming along quite nicely, although that is more Beloved’s doing than mine. The man has been a gardening maniac; I will have pictures soon.  The Young One is home for the summer, and gainfully employed – HOO. RAY.  Darling Daughter has completed her two week certification course for becoming a state tested nursing assistant; she’s busy looking for a job and studying to take the state test (they make them wait a minimum of 7 to 10 days after completing the certification course).  Jolly has landed a coveted field position within her company and is making ready to move to Michigan, which means we’ll have The G Man quite a bit this summer while she makes the transition at work and finds a good place (read: within a good school district) to relocate.

As for me, I’m looking for a new refrigerator, since ours is slowly dying, working on approximately 793 gum paste flowers for a tiered cake I’m doing in early June, planning a groom’s cake as well as a tiered cake for a fall wedding, and juggling two crochet projects and a cross stitch project while trying to work my way through season 6 of Sons of Anarchy.  All while working a 50-hour week and gearing up for what looks to be an incredibly busy season of canning, freezing and otherwise preserving the produce from not only our own garden, but the CSA as well.

If I collapse from exhaustion right before Halloween, you’ll know why.

Despite all the busyness, I do have things to blog about, including this little gem.  Since I posted it, my Better Than Miracle Whip has been been one of my most popular recipes.  However, as written, it requires a piece of equipment not everyone has in their kitchen: a stand mixer.  It also takes a bit of time and even then, the results aren’t always consistent – sometimes it thickens up really well; other times, not so much.  Recently, thanks to many demos on the interwebz, I’ve discovered a way to make it consistently and in a fraction of the time it takes in a stand mixer.

If you don’t have a stick blender, I suggest you buy one.  Like, right now – they are simply amazing, and you can get a good one for under $35.  Not only does it make the most amazing mayonnaise (or, in this case, Miracle Whip knock-off) consistently in under 2 minutes, it’s versatile as hell – we use it for everything from pureeing cauliflower to blending soups to whipping cream.

So here’s an updated version of one of my most popular recipes.  It makes a bit less than the older version, but is easily be doubled if you need more, and tastes even better than the original.  It really should be its own food group.

Note: Leave out the honey, paprika and garlic powder, sub the vinegar with lemon juice and presto!  You’ve got mayonnaise.  Also, do NOT leave out the water, or you’ll end up with Miracle Whip flavored soup (yes, I speak from experience).

Better Than Miracle Whip.  The deliciousness that is Miracle Whip, homemade in less than 2 minutes!

Click the image to enlarge

Even Better Better Than Miracle Whip
Serves: 16
[i]Makes about 1 cup[/i]
Ingredients
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • pinch smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 3/4 cup cold pressed, high-oleic safflower oil
Instructions
  1. Place all of the ingredients except the oil in a tall, narrow glass or plastic container (such as the one that comes with the stick blender). Slowly and carefully pour the oil on top, taking care not to disturb the other ingredients more than you can manage.
  2. Insert the stick blender all the way to the bottom of the container. Turn it on and leave it there for at least 20 seconds – you’ll see the bottom part of the mixture begin to thicken and emulsify. Keeping the blender running, slowly pull it to the top of the mixture. Gently submerge it to the bottom again; repeat the process 2 or 3 times until the mixture is completely blended and thickened.
  3. Scrape the excess off of the blender into the container and gently mix it in, along with any oil that may remain on the top. Cover and allow it to sit at room temperature for at least an hour before refrigerating.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 98 calories, 10.5g total fat, 11.3mg cholesterol, 65.3mg sodium, 4.7mg potassium, 1.3g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 1.1g sugar, <1g protein

Mexican-Style Chorizo

Well, hmmm – this is my second “Mexican-Style” recipe this week.

I didn’t plan it that way.  It just sort of happened.

If you ask my kids what their favorite breakfast is, they’ll all say “Chorizo!”  Which is shorthand for breakfast tacos consisting of eggs scrambled with Mexican-style chorizo – a fresh sausage, as opposed to Spanish-style chorizo, which is a smoked sausage – fried potatoes and cheese all wrapped up in a tortilla (corn for Oldest Son, Darling Daughter and Miss J and flour for Jolly and The Young One – who will also skip the potatoes.  Yes, the kid is weird).

At any rate, I’ve slowly but surely been cutting out purchased fresh sausages – since we buy or procure all of our meat exclusively from our friends at Whitefeather Meats, this not only gives me a little freedom for how my sausage is seasoned, but is also a little cheaper as well (all those spices, herbs and seasonings cost money, you know).  Making fresh sausage at home is also so quick and easy, I’ve begun to wonder why I didn’t begin years and years ago.

Chorizo was the last hold-out.  Their version – which, of course, isn’t an authentic chorizo but chorizo-spiced ground pork – is just delicious and I tend to buy a pound or two every time we visit them.  Sometimes, though, I get a request for The Favorite Breakfast, and have no chorizo on hand; in cases like these, the 40 minute drive to Whitefeather isn’t exactly an option.

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and this is true – especially when aided by a well-worded Google search.

This recipe tastes pretty spot-on – it was well-received by Darling Daughter, The Young One and Beloved, so I’d call that a win.  As written, the recipe doesn’t give the pork that deep, brick-red tone of most commercial chorizos, but you can add a couple of teaspoons of regular paprika (which has little flavor) if you’d like the color.

If you don’t eat pork, this would be just fine with ground turkey or venison.

Making fresh, Mexican-style chorizo at home is super simple - and super delicious!

Click the image to enlarge

Mexican-Style Chorizo
Serves: 4 to 6
[i]Adapted from [url href=”http://honestcooking.com/authentic-homemade-mexican-chorizo/” target=”_blank”]Honest Cooking[/url][/i]
Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, gently combine all of the ingredients, using your hands, until well-blended.
  2. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours before using in your favorite recipe.
  3. Nutrition (per serving): 218 calories, 16.7g total fat, 54.4mg cholesterol, 402.5mg sodium, 315.4mg potassium, 3.4g carbohydrates, 1.5g fiber, <1g sugar, 13.6g protein

 

Coffee-Peach Glazed Pork Belly

If you’ve been reading here any length of time at all, you know I love me some pork belly – there are five different recipes on this blog that include it in some way or another.

Make that six.

I’ve been using the sous vide enough to make it a good investment, but haven’t really posted any recipes for it other than the Homemade Yogurt.  The reasons for this are varied – it’s not a common household item, I’m not really crazy about the texture the sous vide gives very tender cuts of red meat, like beef tenderloin and venison backstrap (those should be simply cooked – broiled or grilled, really; the sous vide gives them a slightly mushy texture), the one time I made salmon in it I had the temp too high and over-cooked the fish.

Now, having said all that, I LOVE the way pork comes out of the sous vide (and you know how I feel about pork), and pork belly is no exception.  And for all of my recipes for slow roasted pork belly and braised pork belly and glazed pork belly and crispy pork belly, I do believe this is the very best pork belly I’ve ever made.  The sous vide made brining or curing the pork in advance unnecessary; the fat that didn’t render out was incredibly succulent and the meat was firm, yet juicy and tender.  The coffee-peach glaze infused the cut with marvelous flavor – it was just delicious.

This does take a little planning – I wouldn’t suggest immersing the sealed pork belly in the sous vide for less than 24 hours, but once it’s there, you can pretty much walk away and forget all about it until you’re ready to finish it off, which takes less than 15 minutes.

I’m also not going to apologize for the use of the peach preserves – they were high quality, homemade preserves that contained nothing but peaches, pure cane sugar and pectin.  And, because almost all of the glaze is poured off at the end, just a small fraction of that 1/3 of a cup remains in the entire recipe.  In fact, the calorie, fat, carbohydrate and sugar counts included, as usual, with the recipe are probably overstated by quite a bit, since everything in the bag – rendered fat and the coffee-peach reduction – is discarded at the end.

If you don’t have a sous vide, try slow roasting the pork belly.  Combine the preserves, coffee, honey, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce in a pan and heat them just enough to melt preserves, whisking the ingredients together, before seasoning with the red pepper flakes and salt.  Place the pork belly in a gallon-size zip-lock plastic bag and pour the coffee-peach mixture over it.  Seal and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours.  Remove the pork belly from the bag and place it in a small glass baking dish, just large enough to hold it, and pour the marinade over the top.  Roast at 450 F for 30 minutes; reduce the heat to 325 F and continue roasting for 2 1/2 hours, basting the pork belly every 20 minutes or so with the liquid in the dish.  Finish the dish as per the recipe below.

Coffee-Peach Glazed Pork Belly. The sous vide and a reduction made from coffee and peach preserves turns pork belly into a rich, decadent appetizer.

Click the image to enlarge

Coffee-Peach Glazed Pork Belly
Serves: 8 as an appetizer
Ingredients
  • 1 pound pork belly, skin removed
  • 1/3 cup good quality peach preserves
  • 1/2 cup strong coffee
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • red pepper flakes, to taste
  • salt, to taste
Instructions
  1. hours in advance, fill the sous vide to the fill line with water and set the temperature for 160 F.
  2. Pat the pork belly dry and sprinkle liberally with salt. Slide it into a sous vide bag that’s been sealed on one end and is about twice as long as the cut of meat. Set aside.
  3. In a medium sauce pan, combine the preserves, coffee, honey, balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. Stirring frequently, bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and, still stirring frequently, simmer until the mixture has reduced and is thick and syrupy. Allow the coffee/peach mixture to cool a bit, then season to taste with the red pepper flakes and salt.
  4. Carefully pour the syrup into the bag with the pork belly and seal – the bag should be long enough and the syrup thick enough that it isn’t sucked out when the bag is sealed (you can use the “gentle” setting if the vacuum sealer has one).
  5. Place the sealed pork belly into the sous vide and cover. Cook for 24 hours.
  6. Remove the sealed bag from the sous vide. Carefully cut open the bag and remove the pork belly, placing it fat-side up on the top of a vented broiler pan – do not pat or wipe off any of the liquid clinging to the meat. Discard the liquid in the bag.
  7. Place the pork belly about 3 inches beneath the broiler of the oven and broil on high for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the top is crisp and browned. Remove from the oven and allow the pork belly to rest for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
  8. Nutrition (per serving): 346 calories, 30.1g total fat, 40.8mg cholesterol, 31mg sodium, 134.6mg potassium, 13.7g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 10.8g sugar, 5.4g protein