Taco El Pastor

If you haven’t had Taco El Pastor yet, you must try it. It consists of pork marinated in a blend of mexican spices , vinegar, and pineapple juice which you eat in a taco with fresh salsa and pineapple.  It is absolutely delicious and sure to be a hit with everyone.

INGREDIENTS

Serves 10-12
5-6 pounds boneless pork shoulder (boston butt)
3 tablespoons achiote paste
2 tablespoons guajillo chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder (1/8 garlic powder = 1 garlic clove)
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
¾ cup white vinegar
1 cup canned pineapple juice
1 pineapple, skinned and sliced into 1-inch rounds
10-12 small corn tortillas
1 white onion, chopped finely
1 cup cilantro, chopped finely
1 cup salsa of your choice
The traditional recipes call for adding achiote paste, but I skip this step as it’s basically used to add color to the pork, but doesn’t add any flavor,  and most of the pre-made achiote paste available contain a bunch of preservatives.  I haven’t found it worth the time to prepare achiote from scratch.

PREPARATION

Slice the pork shoulder into about 1-2 centimeter slices, then transfer to a large dish or bowl.

 

In a bowl, combine chili powder, garlic powder, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, vinegar, and pineapple juice (and an ounce of achiote paste if you have some).

Next, pour the marinade over the pork, then toss the pork slices to make sure that they are coated on all sides.
Wrap the dish/bowl in cling film, and let the pork marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (marinating overnight will give more flavor to the pork).

You have several options on how to cook the pork:
The optimal way to cook Taco El Pastor is on a skewer standing up, with a couple of slices of pineapple on the top, to allow the juices to run down on the pork while cooking.
However, cooking the pork horizontally on a rotisserie works very well also, giving the meat a wonderful crisp charred appearance.
You can also cook the pork in a skillet, or on the grill.

On the rotisserie or oven, cook at 350F for about an hour and a half, until slightly charred on the outside and deep red.
Alternatively, cook small batches of the pork slices on the grill or skillet until charred and cooked through.

Rest the meat for about 10 minutes, then carve off thin slices of the pork and cut the roasted pineapple into small slices or cubes.
To assemble your taco, place some pork on the tortillas, followed by a few pieces of pineapple, a spoonful of the salsa and fresh guacamole, and top off with a pinch of fresh cilantro.  Best enjoyed with a margarita or a quality beer.
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Stinkbug salsa for Cinqo de Mayo!

It is Spring time and the stink bugs have been coming out of their hiding spots. Just in the past few days I must have killed a dozen already.   As they meet their demise under my shoes or down the toilet, I noticed that they smell very similar to cilantro.  This made me wonder if anyone ever made salsa with stinkbugs (a common question I am sure).

A quick internet search revealed that stink bugs can indeed be eaten safely* and they are indeed a good salsa ingredient.  Apparently cooking them significantly improves their fragrance and taste.  So in honor of Cinco de Mayo, and the stinkbug, I thought I would post this salsa recipe made with stinkbugs, just in case any of you are adventurous enough to try it out.   If this becomes trendy, it may help reduce the overpopulation of stinkbugs.

Ingredients:
20 stinkbugs (give or take a few)
4 small tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 jalapeño
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Salt to taste

You can collect stinkbugs in your home or neighborhood, but these may be contaminated with pesticides or other harmful chemicals so I recommend going out in the woods, away from farms or neighborhoods to collect them.   If you aren’t up for stinkbug foraging, they can be purchased online.   Of course, you can find them on Amazon , but they are also available elsewhere, such as bizzarefood.com which sells the Korean variety of stinkbugs. 

 

Recipe:
Roast the tomatoes, garlic, and jalapeño in a hot oven or a skillet until they’re charred and softened. While they cool, toast the stinkbugs briefly in the skillet.

Add the stink bugs in a food processor and grind to a fine consistency, then add the peeled garlic, jalapeño, cilantro, and tomatoes. Mix to a chunky consistency. If you do not have a food processor, a mortar and pesle will work perfectly fine. Add salt to taste and enjoy with your favorite corn chips or add to your taco.

 

* Apparently eating “too many” of them may cause upset stomach and abdominal pain but I could not find any evidence that they are poisonous.  In fact they are considered a delicacy in some Asian countries, where the stinkbug originate.  I am not responsible for any illness you may derive from eating stinkbugs – this is all done at your own risk and enjoyment.

 

Chicago Deep Crust Pizza

My wife introduced me to Chicago deep crust pizza during our first trip to her hometown to meet her family.   Needless to say,  I was immediately hooked by that delicious buttery crispy crust and sweet tomato sauce.    In the time span of living in six states, plus the UK, we have yet to find a comparable pizza.  When we ran across a recipe on Sally’s Baking Addiction web site, we immediately gave it a try; and what better way to try it than on my new toy, the Kamado Joe?

We were both very pleased with the end result and think this recipe is as good as any deep dish pizza we’ve had in Chicago.

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Ingredients:

(recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction)

Pizza Crust (makes about two 9 inches  pizzas):
3  1/4 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup yellow cornmeal
1  1/4 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (1 standard packet)
1 1/4 cups slightly warm water
1/2 cup unsalted butter, divided (1/4 cup melted, 1/4 cup softened)
olive oil

Tomato sauce:
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 garlic cloves
one 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
Toppings (for 2 Pizzas)
4 cups shredded low moisture mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
optional toppings, add to suit your taste: peperoni, cooked sausage,  sliced green peppers, onions, mushrooms, and so on

You will also need a 9×2 , or larger, deep dish round cake pan or cast iron skillet

Directions for the crust:

Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and yeast in a bowl.  Give those ingredients a quick toss with your mixer on low or with a large wooden spoon. Add the warm water (about 90F) and 1/4 cup of melted butter (make sure the water and butter aren’t too  hot as this would will kill the yeast) .

On low speed,  mix the ingredients until everything begins to be moistened. Continuing on low speed (or knead by hand if you do not own a mixer),  until it is soft and supple and gently pulls away from the sides of the bowl and falls off of the dough hook- about 4-5 minutes.

Remove the dough from the bowl and form into a ball. Lightly grease a large mixing bowl with olive oil and place the dough inside, turning it around so that all sides of the dough are coated in the oil. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a warm environment for 1-2 hours or until double in size.

Once the dough is ready, place it on a lightly flour a large work surface. Gently punch down the dough to remove any air bubbles and roll the dough into a large 15×12 rectangle. Spread 1/4 cup of softened butter on top of the dough then roll the dough lengthwise.

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Cut the dough log in half. Form the two pieces of dough into balls and place back into your greased bowl.

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Cut the dough log in half. Form the two pieces of dough into balls and place back into your greased bowl. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and allow to rise in the refrigerator  for 1 hour.   This is the perfect time to make the sauce and enjoy a glass of wine or beer!

Note: you can also keep the dough in the refrigerator overnight, or freeze the dough for 1-2 months, and let it thaw for about 1 hour on the counter when ready to use.

For the sauce:

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Place butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and allow it to melt, lightly brown the garlic, then add tomatoes, and sugar.   Optional: you can also add a small cut up onion with the garlic.

Turn the heat down to low-medium and allow it to simmer until it’s hearty and thick. You want to make sure that the sauce is nice and thick (not runny like traditional pizza or pastas sauce).

Remove from heat and set aside until ready to be used.
Preheat the oven or Kamado to 425F degrees.
Assemble the pizzas:

After the dough balls have risen in the refrigerator, they should be puffy. Keep one ball of dough in the refrigerator while you work with the first one.

Roll the ball on a lightly floured work surface, working it into a 12-inch circle then place over your deep dish pan or cast iron pan.   Using your fingers, press the dough all the way around so that it is nice and tight against the dish, without any air pockets. Trim any excess dough off the edges with a small knife.  Brush the top edges of the dough with a little olive oil to give the crust a beautiful sheen.

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Fill each pizza with 2 cups of low moisture mozzarella, then add your toppings, followed by the tomato sauce (about 1 and 1/4 cups of sauce per pizza).

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You can sprinkle the pizza with 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese now, or immediately after it’s finished cooking.

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Bake , or  grill at 425-450F in your Kamado (on indirect heat) for 25-40 minutes /until the crust is golden brown. Remove the pizzas from heat allow to cool in the pans for 5- 10 minutes, then slice it up and enjoy!

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Place any leftover pizza in the refrigerate for up to 5 days.  Reheat  in a 300 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until hot.  You can also partially cook the pizza, then re-heat the whole thing at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

 

 

Making French baguette using the “No-knead Recipe”

In one of my earlier post, I talked about how to make bread using the “No-knead Recipe”  It’s a great way to make bread, and if you haven’t tried it yet, you should.  It’s so easy and versatile.  I make bread nearly every weekend (the kids beg me).  This weekend, I made French baguettes.

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The bread was just amazing.   Perfect with the crunchy crust and moist airy inside you expect with the French Baguette.

To make baguettes, use the no-knead recipe mentioned previously.   After mixing all the ingredients, let the dough rise for 12-24 hours and then take it out and place it on a floured surface, just as if you were going to make a loaf.  However, this is where things change a bit.   Once out,  don’t fold it a couple of times like mentioned for the loaf recipe.  You need to minimize the handling of the dough in order to keep it light and airy, so that when it bakes you’ll get the light airy inside and a crusty outside you expect from a baguette.  What you should do instead is cut the dough ball in half with a large knife, then softly separate and stretch each half into loaf shapes.  Be careful, do not manhandle the dough too much!  Next,  gently place them on baguette baking pans, cover with a towel, and let rise another 2 hours.

baguette pan

Make sure to spray the pan with a little bit of cooking spray and place some corn flour on the bottom in order to prevent the dough from sticking to it.   After the 2 hour rise, preheat your oven to 475 degrees and place on the bottom rack a large pan filled with water.  Once the over is hot, place your loaves into the oven and bake for about 20-30 minutes.  The water in the pan will keep the humidity high in your oven, to help form the crusty crust you need.   And voila, you have freshly baked delicious baguettes!    Serve with your favorite meat, cheese, or dipping oil and enjoy!

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Baking bread – the easy way

There is nothing better than fresh bread.

I like crusty European style bread and to make this stuff can be a challenge.

I first tried a bread maker. Easy? yes. Crusty European bread? No, not even close!

Next, my wife tried various “old world” recipes. Oh, that was so good! …but it was so time consuming she stopped baking me bread. Disaster!

Luckily, one of my good neighbor introduced me to “no knead bread” making, as described in Jim Lahey’s book “My Bread: The Revolutionary No-work, No-Knead Method” . It’s so easy, and the results are simply amazing. A miracle!

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What you’ll need (for 1 loaf)
3 cups of flour
1 1/4th teaspoon of salt
1/4th teaspoon of yeast
1 1/3 to 1 1/4th cup of water
A plastic container, roughly 5-6 quart size
Proofing basket (optional)
A dutch oven

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What you’ll need to prepare the bread. Far right is the dough after all ingredients have been mixed together.

I have 2 dutch ovens – one is the “Lodge 5 quart pre-seasoned dutch oven” (roughly $30 on Amazon). The other is from Le Creuset, which runs about $100. They both work equally well and thus I’d recommend purchasing the cheaper (Lodge) pot.
lodge preseasoned dutch oven 5 quart

Recipe:
1. Mix the flour, salt, and yeast together in the plastic container, then add the water. You have added enough water once there is no more dry flour, and the dough is sticky in consistency.

2. Cover the container, and let the dough rise for 18-24 hours at room temperature (about 68-73F)

3. Take the dough out and place it on a cutting board or other clean surface. Use dry flour to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands and the surface you are using.

4. Next, take the “corners” and fold the dough over itself (like you are folding a napkin in 4).

5. Turn the dough upside down (folds on the bottom), cover it with a clean towel and let it rise another hour or two. You can do this in a proofing basket if you’d like, or just keep it on the surface you used to fold it. (again remember to use flour to prevent it from sticking). The advantage of the proofing baskets is that it keeps the shape of the dough in a ball as it rises, but it’s not a necessary item.

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The dough, after it’s been folded and turned upside down

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The dough, after a 2 hour rest period.

5. Place the dutch oven, with the lids on, in the oven, and pre-heat at 475-500F for 15 minutes.

6. Place the dough in the pot
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Ready for baking!

7. pPut the lid back on, and cook for 30 minutes at 475F

8. Remove the lid, cook another 12-15 minutes

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8. Remove the bread from the pot, let it cool 15 minutes, and enjoy!

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With this recipe I now have fresh bread every Sunday evening — I mix the dough Saturday morning and have fresh bread by dinner time on Sunday. It’s now a ritual the kids beg for. We enjoy the bread with good cheese, salami, or dipped into olive oil. I’ve also used this recipe to make pizza (works great). Once you have mastered the recipe, you can start to experiment a little bit. For example, add rosemary to the mix, use whole wheat flour, or make sourdough (with rye flour).

 

Recently, what I’ve liked doing is add a heaping teaspoon of Red Mill’s Sunflower seeds, steel cut oats, and 10 grain mix.  This makes for a little bit heartier and healthier bread.   Note that when you do this, you’ll need to add a little bit more water (just over 1 1/2 cup) and yeast (I do a generously heaping 1/4 teaspoon).

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Which way do you like to make your no-knead bread?