Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cochinita Pibil - Pork Drunk in the Yucatan

Cochinita Pibil is a Mexican pork dish that originated from the Yucatan peninsula. It is traditionally made incorporating a suckling pig, cochinita literally meaning whole suckling pig. Pibil translates to pit which is how the food was originally prepared, baby pig roasted underneath the ground. Tacos de cochinita pibil are found in Yucatan from los calles to los playas.
This dish features achiote seasoning and citrus juices.

The achiote used here is a paste. It is made from ground annatto seeds. The paste lends a brick-red color to the pork. It is mixed with other seasonings such as Mexican oregano, thyme, and pepper.

A citrus blend is added to the spices. Traditionally, the juice from Seville Oranges are used to marinate the pork. It has a bitter taste to it. You can mimic the flavor of Seville oranges by combining the juice of grapefruits, the rind of grapefruit, and orange juice. You can also combine lemon or lime juice to also achieve similar bitterness. The acid helps break down the pork while cooking.

Blend the citrus juices and the seasonings together to achieve a nice consistency.

Marinate the pork for 12 hours to overnight. I used an syringe to inject the blend into the pork to spread the marinade. You can also cut the pork into two inch chunks to allow the marinade to penetrate the meat.

Another key ingredient to Cochinita Pibil is the use of banana leaves. The banana leaves keep the pork moist and adds a sweet aroma to it. It also provides a visual presentation to the dish.

I used a slow cooker to roast the pibil. Place banana leaves and completely cover the interior of the slow cooker.

Place the pork inside and pour the marinade around and on top of the pork.

Hot yellow peppers are also widely used with this dish in the Yucatan. Hungarian Wax or Banana Peppers work well. Simply split, devein, and seed the peppers and place cut side down.

After 8-9 hours of slow-roasting, it should be done. It is hard to wait that long since the Pibil’s cooking aromas drive the mind crazy. Look at it, isn’t is Beautiful? Mas bonita!

The juices can be reserved and cooked into a gravy or sauce to accompany the pork.

Serve with pickled red onions and habanero salsa. The pickled red onions give it that much-loved vinegar kick and bite and a small pinch of the fiery hot habanero salsa really adds a jolt to the pork. A must add component.

Cochinita Pibil, Achoite Pork, Puerco Pibil, whichever name you use, is a fantastic dish to create. There are many ways to prepare it and many different versions but all lead to the final destination of big flavors.

Buen Provecho!

Comer, Beber, y ser Feliz!

Monday, December 14, 2009

"..but please bring back my Kishka."

Lyrics from a song titled “Who Stole the Kishka” a traditional polka tune.

Kishka is a blood sausage made with pig’s blood, buckwheat grouts, and a mashing of pork products like skin, intestines, etc.

The sausage is popular here in the Midwest where a lot of the Polish people emigrated.

Blood sausage is usually messy prep work. Not one for the faint of heart.

A quick pan fry will break down the kishka coins into a ground meat consistency. It isn’t the most appealing-looking but the taste makes up for its suggested appearence.

Served with fried potatoes garnished with Rosemary.

The salty potato forked with the mashed Kishka is a pleasing bite. It tastes similar to Liver Sausage.

Pan-Fried whole, the kishka softens up but once cut, the blood sausage oozes onto the plate. Served here with quick-fried sauerkraut.

The power bite combination of potato-kishka-sauerkraut was most satisfying. Only if I had a quality Polish beer like Zywiec, it would have completed my lunch.

Beer, Polka, and Kishka, the trifecta of Midwestern heritage!

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Vera Cruz sandwich


This type of sandwich or torta can be found on the streets or in restaurants in Vera Cruz and in Puebla. It can be used as a antijito, a mexican snack to satisfy a craving, or a main dish.

The Pambazo is made from using Bollilo bread, dipped in a red guajillo pepper sauce, and filled with a guiso (a filling). The guiso can be shredded chicken, pulled pork, or grilled vegatables. The guiso I used is papas con chorizo or Potatoes and Chorizo.

To make the Red Guajillo Pepper Sauce, use:

Boil the tomatoes, spices, and chiles until soft while you are cooking the potatoes for the guiso. When potatoes are done, set aside and let cool.

Meanwhile, grate a medium-sized onion and mix with crushed garlic.

Liquefy the tomato mixture in a blender and strain through a colander or food mill.

To finish off sauce, saute onion and garlic in corn oil for a few minutes and add to the sauce, cook for about 15 minutes to marry the flavors.

In another pan, cook the chorizo and fresh-cut onions together. Remove any extra fat from the bottom of the pan. If the chorizo is lean, add a little oil. After a few minutes, add the potatoes. Saute for a few minutes.

To assemble the Pambazo, cut open the bolillo but not all the way. Dip the bread into the Red Guajillo Pepper sauce. At this point, you can quick fry the bread in a skillet to seal in the flavors of the sauce.

Garnish the Pambazo with fresh avocado, lettuce, and cheese.

The Pambazo is packed with flavor and is definitely a delectable sight. It goes well with a Mexican cerveza.

You can skip using the sauce if you like and still have a tasty torta. It is an easy and quick dish to cook and not too spicy so it is kid-friendly.

Gracious Vera Cruz!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Wrapped Pork Tenderloins

Pork on Pork, pig on pig, wrapping up tenderloins is a gluttonous adventure. Simple to prepare and cook while the results are mind-blowingly amazing and pleasing. I’ve always wanted to wrap up cuts of meat to add extra flavor and another dynamic to the dish. No better way then with Bacon & Proscuitto!

Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Fennel and Apricots

The Tenderloin is lightly salted and peppered while fresh thyme and rosemary round out the earthy tones. Center Cut Bacon is wrapped around the tenderloin which holds all the herbs in. It also adds amazing flavoring for the rendering bacon fat.

The Apricots become carmalized during the roasting process and turn out less sweet than anticipated. This creates a wonderful combination of sweet & savory.

Using a cast iron skillet added another dimension to the dish. It creates a flavorful crust on the bacon, fennel, and apricots.

Reserve the cooking liquid at the bottom of the skillet. That is all the flavor from the caramalizing apricots, fennel juices, rendered bacon fat. It would be a great addition to pan frying eggs or potatoes another day.

Overall, a very satisfying dish and an easy, quick one to cook. You can’t go wrong with Bacon.

Proscuitto-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Bartlett Pears and Sweet Potatoes

Another ode to Sweet & Savory.

I wrapped the tenderloin with Black Forest Proscuitto and drizzled it with honey. I did not salt the tenderloin as the proscuitto has a strong salty flavor. Also, proscuitto can dry up when cooking at a lengthy time, so be aware of your cook time and temp.

Before the tenderloin was added to the roasting pan, the Bartlett pears and Sweet Potatos were salt and peppered, mixed with olive oil, and partnered with a bouquet of thyme sprigs. It was roasted for about 15 minutes. The pork was added and roasted for another 20-23 minutes.

The result was definitely satisfying though not as tasty as the Bacon-Wrapped Tenderloin. Pears pair well sweet potatoes. The roasting process tenderizes the fruit and vegatable and it all comes together in a power bite with the proscuitto and pork.

Both version of Wrapped Pork are spectacular and just one of many ways to execute the wrapped method. Side it with appropriate flavors and wash them down with a quality libation. You can do no Wrong!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Kimchi Pork with Shiitakes and Scallions

Kimchi is a Korean dish consisting of pickled vegetables with varying spices. There are many forms of kimchi but this recipe features spicy napa cabbage. The most popular type of kimchi, it is called baechu in its native land.

Kimchi consists of:

•Napa cabbage

•daikon, a Chinese radish

•green onion

•red pepper





•crushed shrimp


•sweet rice flour


Kimchi is a quite healthy food, packed with a load of Vitamin C and dietary fiber.

Kimchi goes well with stir-fried pork. Plus it is a meal that can be prepared in under 30 minutes.

Thin-cut strips of pork tenderloin are quickly marinated in soy sauce and pan-fried on high heat.

Shiitake mushrooms and scallions are sauted until tender. Mirin, a sweetened Japanese Sake, is combined with the kimchi, Shittakes, and scallions, where the flavors are mixed and married together.

It is garnished with Asian sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, and sided by steamed short-grain rice.

This satisfying plate from the East will remedy your Asian hunger and impress your Asian Girlfriend.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Smokin' Shoulder

I took advantage of an unusual warm day in Midwestern November to sit next to Weber and quick smoke a pork shoulder. It is a fun and somewhat simple process but it takes attention and practice to master smoking on a charcoal grill.

First off, you must select the right charcoal. For the long, slow cooking, charcoal briquettes are a good choice. They maintain a low fire and a steadier temperature then lump charcoal.

A quick way to start the coals is to use a Chimney Starter. Place crumbled newspaper under the chimney and fill the chimney with the briquettes. Once lit, the coals could take anywhere between 10-20 minutes to ready for the grill.

A three-zone split fire is the method to properly cook the shoulder. Coals are separated to both sides of the grill leaving the middle zone for indirect cooking. By spliting the coals to each side, it creates even cooking.

A foil pan half filled with water also improves the cooking process. Not only does the pan save your grill from messy, fatty drippings, the water absorbs and releases heat.

What type of wood chips to use? Chips burn faster than wood chunks so they are ideal for quick smoking, 30 minutes or less. By soaking the chips in water for a minimum of 30 minutes, it prolongs the burn and smolders instead of burning up.

Pecan, cherry, or applewood chips are typically used for smoking pork. In this case, however, I used hickory wood chips.

Spread the chips on top of the coals and when they start to smoke, its ready.

Place the pork shoulder over the pan and close the lid, prevent yourself from removing the lid to keep all the heat and smoke inside.

The recipe called for a smoking process of 30 minutes. During that time, hickory-scented fumes with hints of chile powder, garlic spice seaped out of the grill vent and sides.

The smoke created a nice, tasty outer crust. This is called “bark.”

After many attempts and trials, you’ll get a feeling for how many chips to use to achieve a desired smoky flavor. The recipe required three more hours of cooking the shoulder, replentishing coals ever 45 minutes to maintain a live fire, covering the pork in a foil pan, but the smoke portion of the grill time really came out in the finished product. While flavored by a spice rub and sauce, the smoke flavor made its presence known. It elevated the dish to more satisfying results.

Coming this spring/summer, the lo and slow smoke approach, 8-10 hours of charcoal grilling, wood chunk smoking, bark-eatin’ Carolina-style pulled pork.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Rack of Ribs Roast with Chunky Applesauce

It is late Fall, leaves are being swept up in front yards, trees are looking bare, the wind is whispy. Hot Spicy Apple Cider is a great option to toast up after raking leaves for ahwhile. So why not toss it in a roasting pan with a huge hunk of Pork. The results are sweet, savory, Porky, seasonal goodness.

Visit your local butcher or meat market and ask for a 6-chop Rack of Rib Roast. They’ll be happy to run it through the saw for you and give you a nice cut. I have found the rack to be between $2.99-$3.99/lb.

To prepare the Rack of Rib Roast, lets start with the Rub.

Sage, Rosemary, Garlic, crushed Red Pepper, salt, is combined with olive oil to make a paste.

Puree the rub to a pasty consistency and paint it all over the Rack of Rib Roast.

The Rosemary and Sage and Garlic gives the Rack a terrific aroma while the crushed Red Pepper with give it a little spicy heat.

Next, slice two medium to large onions and place in the deep roasting pan. Pour about 1/2 to 2/3 of a Pure 100%, no additive, U.S. Grown Fresh Apples, Apple Cider into the pan. Tie a bundle of thyme together and include three bay leaves and submerge in the cider.

Place the Rack into a preheated oven of 425 degrees. Roast for about 30 minutes to develop a nice brown crust on the outside. Stir the onion cider to prevent burning. Reduce the temperature to 375 degrees and roast until the internal temp of the pork is 150 degrees.

While the cooking aroma of the roast is dominating your kitchen, it is time to make the applesauce.

• 4 Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2” cubes

•3 tablespoons of butter

•pinch of cinnamon

•heavy cream

•Pure 100%, no additive, U.S. Grown Fresh Apples, Apple Cider

•1 1/2 cup of reserved onion-cider mixture

Melt the butter and add the apples, cook until softened. Add some cider and reserved cider and cook until it has reduced to half. Add 1/4 cup of heavy cream and cinnamon and cook until cream is reduced by half.

Check on that Rack of Ribs Roast.

Serve the Chops with the cider onions and Chunky Applesauce. It is a great finish to a day working in the yard.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Leeks and Loins

Another attempt at an Autumn appetizer. Leeks, a mild, sweet member of the Onion family, are slow-roasted until it reaches its most tender state. It serves well alongside the pork loin. It is braised in dry white wine and water for several hours. The tender leeks are a welcoming flavor on a cold October night.

Basically you want to use the white parts of the leeks. The roots and tough upper leaves are disguarded.

Cut the white part of the leeks anyway you want. I choose to cut it julienne style. Soak in cold water after cutting to loosen dirt from the leeks.

Combine the leeks, 1/2 cup of water, butter, salt, and pepper in a pot and cook until the leeks wilt. About 10 minutes.

After the wilting of the leeks, place in separate bowl and brown the pork loin on all sides.

After browning, add the leek mixture to the pork loin along with 1/2 cup of dry white wine and cover and simmer on a low setting for two hours.

Pan-roasted Pork Loin with Leeks is an easy dish to make. It takes some time but the result is worth the wait. The leeks braised in the wine tenderize the vegatable to an amazing flavor.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fingerlings & Fennel

It is autumn in the Midwest. The leaves have turned to reds and yellows. Playoff baseball is on the set. Temperatures are lowering to the mid-40s. A warm and cozy porky comfort food is the perfect partner for a fall October day.

In this entree, the pork tenderloin takes a back seat to the side dish. Pork tenderloin medallions are paired with Fingerling Potatoes and Fennel, a marriage of flavor that would satisfy any food lover.

We start off prepping the side dish: Fingerling potatoes (about 7-8), one Fennel bulb, medium thinly sliced white onion, 1/2 cup of chicken broth, 3 springs of thyme, and 1/3 cup pitted Nicoise olives.

Cut the Fingerling Potates in half and brown for about 7 minutes in a 1.5 tablespoon of olive oil. When finished, set aside in a bowl.

Place chopped fennel bulb in a pot and brown for about 7 minutes then add the sliced onion for another 2 minutes. Give it a constant stir to prevent burning.

Slowly add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Nestle the Fingerling Potatoes in the pot and add the sprigs of Thyme. Cover, turn to low and let simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Add the Nicoise olives near the end of cooking time, uncover and cook off any remaining broth.

Time to prep the pork tenderloin. Cut medallions and season with salt & pepper.

I pan-fried the medallions for about 2-3 minutes a side on a smoking hot cast iron skillet. The outside will be crispy but the inside of the tenderloin will be slightly pink and tasty.

Garnish the pork with chopped thyme and reserved fennel fronds. And don’t forget to also garnish the meal with a Autumn seasonal Micro Brew.

Roasted Fennel is usually paired with fish but this time of year, Pork and Fennel and Fingerling Potatoes are a perfect combination for any special occasion and it won’t leave you unsatisfied.