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pork

Southern Comfort for Strength

Southern Comfort for Strength

My absolute winter favorite is collard greens. I love eating them for their flavor but I love them even more for the irony that I associate with it. You see, for me, collard green is a distinctive Southern comfort. I don't get it often because I want to perpetuate the myth of its luxury that I have created for myself.  When I do, I inevitably slow cook it, overall hours, or even days, drawing out the flavors into the dish and building up the anticipation of that climactic first taste.

This dish here I cooked for 24 hours. No, that is not an exaggeration. My sincere gratitude to whoever invented the slow cooker. It is a cook's best companion any time of the year, but, particularly in winter. It is cheap, energy efficient and versatile. And, it is perfect for cooking collard greens. Your southern mama may not approve of this new fangled device but give her a taste of this Ham Hock Cured Collard Greens and I'll bet she will be wanting one of them cookers herself!

Read more and find out the story of this dish.

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Lets talk Bacon

Brunch

Hello Saturday! What a glorious day you are looking to be. Even in my barely slept state of mind (all play, no work), I singularly appreciate the beauty of a sharp ray of sun piercing my eyes and trying to nudge me along to make the most of the day. I will. But I need a bit of sustenance to start. Tea.

Sip. Drain. Settle. Ok. Now we can start.

Since, it is such a beautiful day, I am going to talk about something that most people on this side of the world adore, nay, possibly lust after... Bacon. Streaky bacon. And, because I don't want you or me wasting too much of this gorgeous day looking at a screen, I'll keep my chatter short and sweet - Make bacon at home.

Can I leave it there? Will you be convinced? No? Man!

Pork Belly to smoke

Ok. Here is the thing. Curing is silly easy. I am not one of those Nazi make everything at home locavores (no, but I am) and so, believe me when I say, it is so much worth the very little effort you'll put into it. Awhile ago, I had

cured fish

and I was stupefied by how easy that was but I figured fish doesn't take long to cook anyway. But, meat. My mental images of curing meat ran to those specimens of hefty thighs of pigs, I had once spied, hanging for months in a dry, temperature controlled cellar somewhere in Italy. That is not a process easily attempted at home, although I do hear, now and again, of those passionate enough to do just that. Not me. (reinforces the non-Nazi bit. #justsaying)

And yet, there was a book that claimed otherwise. I recently laid hands on a lovely book authored by a London deli owner and it is filled with nuggets. One such was the making of the bacon and lo and behold, it only takes 5 days! You are kidding me. And guess what, it literally takes about 15 minutes of my collective effort from start to finish. Did I not say, curing is silly easy!

Biscuit egg bacon

Off I went and got myself a lovely chunk of pork belly, pottered around my cabinet and settled on making apple cured bacon. I used apple syrup that I had made earlier in the year for the bar. It gave a subtle flavor of apple but in my opinion too mellow. I think without really smoking with wood chips, it may be harder to pack in the apple flavor more. Curing bacon is a two staged process, the wet cure and then the dry one. You can simply use air drying for the second bit or use a smoker with chips to add more smokiness and flavor.

Another learning from this process was that since the belly is really fatty, the crisped bacon strips shrank significantly, to almost have their uncooked length. So, don't be surprised if that happens. You could choose a less fatty cut but you do trade off a bit of flavor then.

So, why make it at home. Because, well it is super easy but more importantly, it tastes distinctly amazing and quite unlike the insipid strips of streaky flesh you most often in grocery stores. Of course you can always buy from a good butcher as well but, hey, go try it, even if for the fun of it!

I also have some bad news on the photos. I seem to have misplaced the "after" shots and cannot find them. So, you'll have to take my word for it having been awesome!

Well, then, without much ado. Here is a recipe. Make it quick and get out to play!


Apple Cured Bacon

{adapted from this book. I can see so many variations to this like adding herbs, different sweeteners, flavored salts etc. Endless!}

1 lb of boneless pork belly

2-1/2 T sea salt (I used Maldon)

1 T smoked sea salt (also Maldon)

1 T honey

2 T apple syrup

Pat the pork belly dry. You can remove the rind if you like. I did not. It crusts up even more after curing but I recommend leaving it as it keeps the fat and flesh beneath suppler.

Mix together all the curing ingredients in a non-metallic bowl and rub the mixture on all sides of the pork.

Place the meat in a ziplock bag and press to release as much air as you can and seal. Place a bag on a plate to prop up one end, so any juices released will collect on one side. Place in the refrigerator and leave there for 3 days, each day pouring off any liquid that has pooled and resealing.

After 3 days, rinse off the marinade and pat it dry. To make sure the bacon is not too salty, cut and fry a small piece of it. If it is soak the meat in warm water for an hour or so and then pat dry.

Now, for the second cure. I did the air cure method. So this recipe follows that.

Place a wire rack inside a deep baking dish (non-metal or silicone). Place the pork on the rack, cover with cheese cloth and leave in a cool, well-ventilated place for 2 days.

And, now it is ready. Wrap in parchment and store in refrigeration.

This short cure will keep the bacon for a month in the fridge and up to 3 months in the freezer.


Super Bowl Tacos

Coffee & Spice Pork Butt Tacos

I have been in India for the past week and one thing always amazes me about the country - the incredible quality of food that one can get at amazingly low prices. I am not even talking about street food. An average meal in an upscale restaurant (in Mumbai or Chennai) would set one back $25 without alcohol. A bowl of fruit would be $4. Oh and fresh fruit juices! I drink them by the gallon, for two reasons. One, they are pure fruit with no added water and so there is no risk of getting a

Delhi belly

. Two, they are a super cheap way of hydration and nutrients! A large glass of fresh squeezed juice would be about $6 in NYC and here it is $2. So, what I would spend on a whole breakfast here is the cost of a glass of juice in NYC. Bliss, I say!

With that preface let me delve into today's post. It is about eating well without breaking the bank wherever you are. I firmly believe that if you plan well and choose ingredients appropriately, you can not only eat well but also exciting at home. It is honestly, super easy to dine on restaurant quality meals at home at a fraction of the price one would pay outside.

Coffee & Spice Pork Butt Wraps with drink

You don't believe me? Well, I am hoping to build just that credibility with today's recipe. As part of their

Cook More, Save More

campaign,

Whole Foods Market

challenged me to create an original recipe that would make it interesting to cook at home. The clincher - it has to cost no more than $4 per serving!

My answer to that challenge is

Mayan Spice and Coffee Pulled Pork Tacos with Pomegranate Salsa and Avocado

. Before I get down to the cents and dollars, let me tell you the virtues of this dish.

1. It is perfect for a party (read: Super Bowl). The recipe is easily scalable and can be made for a family meal or a gathering.

2. It can be made ahead of upto 3 days. In fact, it only gets better with age!

3. It is no fuss! Either to cook or to serve. It can be made in an oven or a slow cooker and so you don't have to watch over it much . Plus, everyone can assemble their own per preference.

4. It is one of those all hands into bowl kinda meals that brings everyone together at eating time.

5. The clincher - It is less than $4 per person.

Coffee & Spice Pork Butt Wraps

Now, that is done, lets get dirty on the pricing. My recipe serves 10 persons and the costing is based on Whole Foods in NYC (which, is costlier than any other place in US)

1. Pork - $22

2. Onion - $0.25

3. Tomato - $0.50

4. Pomegranate - $1

5. Cilantro - $1

6. Mayan Spice and Coffee Rub - $3.98

7. Honey - ~0.25

8. Flour for tacos - ~$0.25

9. Avocado - $4

10. Creme Fraiche or Sour Cream - ~$2

11. Homemade Vegetable stock - ~$0.1 or store bought - $2

12. Lime - $0.20

Total = ~$38 or

$3.80 per person!

Now, that is cheap! As you can see the meat is heaviest hitter here and for good reason. The dish is all about the meat and it has to be of great quality, so you can really enjoy the meal. Do not skimp on quality here. I used pork butt with a little bit of fat for flavor. You can also use beef brisket instead of pork. As to the rest of the ingredient list, you can easily substitute per your taste and seasonal availability. For example, mango would be great in the summer. Besides, you can barbecue the meat instead of braising it as well. So, without further ado, let me get to the recipe. As promised, in the title, there is also a giveaway sponsored by Whole Foods, details of which are at the end of the post!


Mayan Spice and Coffee Pulled Pork Tacos with Pomegranate Salsa and Avocado

For the pork:

4 lbs Pork butt, fat mostly trimmed but leave a bit for flavor

2 packets of Mayan Spice and Coffee Rub

1/2 cup Honey

About 2 cups stock

2 T olive oil

For the salsa:

2 Onions, diced fine

1 Tomato, diced fine

Arils of 1/2 pomegranate

2 T Cilantro, chopped

juice of 1 lime

Other toppings:

2 Avocados, sliced

Creme Fraiche or Sour Cream

 

For the tacos:

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup warm water

2 tsp olive oil

salt to taste

To cook the pork: {Make ahead part}

 

Preheat the oven to 450F.

Season the pork butt with salt. In a small pan warm the honey and mix in the spice mix and oil into it. Spread the marinade all over the pork butt.

Drizzle the bottom of a dutch oven large enough to fit the meat with a little olive oil to prevent sticking. Place the meat into the pan and pour about half cup of stock into the pan. Place in oven and bake at 450F for 3 minutes.

Lower heat to 275F and cook for about 4 hours or approximately an hour per pound until the meat is very tender and pulls apart easily with a fork. Every hour or so, check and add some stock so the meat does not burn. You may or may not use all two cups of the stock. 

When the meat is tender enough, gently lift it onto a plate and let rest covered for about 15 or so minutes until cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, bring the liquid in the pot to a boil and then reduce to simmer until the liquid has reduced in volume to about half the original. 

Using two forks gently shred the meat and toss back with the reduced liquid. This part can be done up to three days ahead. If you are refrigerating at this point, bring to room temperature and then stick it in the fridge. To thaw, warm stove top in a 325F oven adjusting for liquid content.

To make the flour tacos:

Mix all the ingredients and knead to form a soft and tacky dough. Divide the dough into 30 balls. Roll out each ball into a disk of about 6 inches diameter. Cook on a griddle on both sides until little brown spots form on the surface. 

You can spread a touch of butter on each after being cooked if desired. This will keep them softer for longer.

To make salsa:

Toss all the ingredients together, except cilantro and marinate for about thirty minutes. Just before serving, sprinkle the cilantro on top and fold gently.

To assemble:

Lay the table and let people have fun making their wraps!


$50 Whole Foods Market Giveaway

UPDATE: John Forrester wins a $50 from Whole Foods. Thank you for participating!

Whole Foods Market is committed to providing an affordable mix of products and ingredients, along with helpful tools and in-store service to make grocery shopping and cooking more enjoyable. To enable everyone in this mission, they are giving away one $50 gift card to one of my readers.

In order to win this gift card, please leave a comment with what your favorite party meal, to cook, is!

For bonus entries -

1. Like, fork spoon knife FB page

2. Follow me on Twitter

3. Follow me on Instagram

4. Follow me on Pinterest

5. Follow me on Google+

Only new followers. Please leave me a note with your handle when you do any of the above.

Giveaway will run until February 8, 2014 and is open to US residents only.

Happy cooking!

Disclaimer: I was given a $50 voucher by Whole Foods to create this recipe and a $50 gift card to run the giveaway. I received no further remuneration to write this post.


Pickled Pork Belly Steamed Buns

1 DSC_0165-1-2


Some weekends back, I had an epic baking session. I need to revisit that again. In the meantime, I promised a stream of recipes from that foodgasmic 48 hours. I have shared some already, of the Croissants and decadent Chocolate & Chestnut Pavlova.

Now, it time for some bread, but not baked.. Steamed. Chinese variety. With an Indian twist. Something like the Vindaloo but not quite.

Chinense-buns-collage


My fascination with steamed buns stems from my days living in Tokyo. The variety of fillings and flavors and the very convenience of them was thrilling to me. Yet, it has taken me so long to relive it at home.

When I finally decided to make them, I was struck with the sudden dilemma of which Asian inspiration to align with - the Japanese or Chinese. Finally, this mantou post swung the pendulum well in the "C" favor.

DSC_0208-1


So, I adapted the mantou recipe and filled it with the tangy, sour, sweet pickled pork belly, twisted each bag bag into a gift parcel and steamed it to a perfect lunch!

Filipino Street Food - Pork Barbecue by Trissa Lopez

This week, we taste the native cuisine of one of my favorite bloggers, Trissa Lopez!! My enjoyment of Filipino cuisine has been enhanced over the last couple of years through my participation in Kulinarya Cooking Club. The fusion of Spanish and Chinese cuisine is ever intriguing and some of my favorite creations have been inspired by this cuisinelike these Chipotle Empanadas, Pancit Bihonand Blood Orange Leche Flan.

Trissa, how do I introduce?! She is a sweetheart and a fabulous cook. Her blog, Trissalicious, is a mouthwatering ode to not only Filipino food, including cherished resipes from her home, but also Australian cooking. Her recreations of famous restaurant dishes, like thisand thisand oh!!! this, are not just stunning but really make them approachable for the home cook!

I started reading her blog way back and was instantly captivated not just by her awesome recipes but also her writing. Her posts are witty and really offer a break from the daily routine. Never have I not smiled when I opened her blog and then it was quickly followed by an inhalation in awe at her dish of the post!

So, let's get to the food already, shall we?!:-) 

Filipino Pork Barbeque!!


Filipino%2BPork%2BBarbecue2.jpg

To Filipinos, street food is nothing new. It's in our DNA and I credit my ability to eat anything from years of exposure to 'delicacies' such as Batchoy (noodle soup with pork liver and intestines), 'balut' (duck embryo) and 'sisig' (sizzling pork head). Of course not all Filipino street food requires a stomach of steel.

Some of my favourite Filipino street food also includes empanadas, squid balls and a variety of sweet rice cakes. The appeal of street food is easy to understand. When people ask me what type of food I miss the most - I don't think of fancy restaurants, I think of the food I can get from the street vendors that stretch along the humid and busy streets of Manila. That makes me think of home.

To me, it's interesting to see how street food has suddenly become popular once again. In the last year or so I've seen a number of books and numerous articles devoted to them. I think the answer lies in the changing eating habits we're seeing of people today. People are busier (they can eat street food on the run) and, post financial crisis, looking for cheaper alternatives to eating out. The appeal is certainly easy to understand.

Filipino%2BPork%2BBarbecue1.jpg

My good friend Asha has decided to celebrate her third year anniversary in blogging by offering you a smorgasbord of street food from different bloggers in different parts of the world. I am honored to be among those chosen by Asha, especially since this gives me the opportunity to show you one of my favourite street foods from the Philippines.

Filipino Style Pork Barbecue are skewers of either pork or chicken marinated in garlic, soy, sprite (which acts as a meat tenderizer) and banana catsup (which gives it that distinctive reddish hue). These are then grilled until cooked and slightly charred. The food is humble, can be eaten on the run and delicious!

Filipino%2BPork%2BBarbecue3.jpg

Again, Asha - thank you for giving me the chance to showcase a sample Filipino street food. I hope that your series will encourage your many readers to continue exploring the wonderful and varied world of street food.


Filipino Pork Barbeque

400 g pork fillet, sliced finely into around 1 inch in width and 5 inches in length

500 g pork belly, sliced finely into around 1 inch in width and 5 inches in length

Marinade

4 cloves garlic, sliced

2 tablespoons (30 grams) brown sugar

1/4 cup (60 ml) soy sauce

1 cup (250 ml) sprite or 7-up

1/4 cup (60 ml) banana catsup (or regular catsup)

salt and pepper to taste

 

Soak 20 barbecue sticks in water for an hour to ensure that the sticks do not burn while barbecuing.

Mix all the marinade ingredients along with the strips of pork for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

To skewer the meat, pierce one end of the meat into the pre-soaked barbecue sticks then twist the meat and pierce again.

Continue with the twist and piercing motion on the skewers until all the meat is used up.

Fire up the barbecue and cook the meat, basting occasionally until the meat is thoroughly cooked with some nicely charred bits, around 15 minutes.


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Share your creations tagging @ashafsk on Instagram and hashtag #MadeFromFSK