The Gastronomist Manifesto

Chefs of the World Unite!

Iberian Pulled Pork

The other day I made bigos, the national dish of the Polish people (pierogi be damned.) And I had this nice big steak of pork shoulder leftover that I wanted to use as soon as possible. The resulting creation…

Pork shoulder roasted/confit over yellow split/green peas and a spicy tomato sauce. A dish I think would be loved by the old comrades of the Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo.

For the Pork:

1 pork shoulder steak, bone in
seasoned vigorously with: salt, pepper, paprika (the real kind), garlic powder, fennel seed and a bay leaf or two.

1 Roma tomato, sliced
a few slices of onion
1 jalapeno, sliced

1. Preheat an oven to 250 degrees.

2. Rub pork generously with seasonings. Transfer to a sheet of tinfoil. Place tomato, onion and chili over top and fold the foil over to seal. Lay on a baking sheet and place in the oven.

3. After about 4 hours remove the package, open carefully! (steam burns!) and remove vegetables and juices from the foil packet (don’t spill!) Re-fold the foil over the pork and return to the oven for another 40 minutes. Meanwhile…

4. Add the contents of the the vegetables and juice to a small sauce pan and begin to reduce while breaking up the large pieces (the tines of a fork work perfectly.) Stop when you get to a “sauce” consistency.

5. When the time is up on the pork, remove it from the oven and let it rest AT LEAST 15-20 minutes. Once it’s rested, transfer to a plate or cutting board and begin pulling the meat into shreds (two forks, hand in hand, do this perfectly.)

THE LEGUMES

1. Cooking yellow peas, lentils or rice according to their nature. For simplicity and the health benefits of steaming, toss the green peas over the mix 10 minutes prior to the other thing being finished.

2. Season with salt, pepper and olive oil.

PRESENTATION

1. Bed of legumes/rice, shredded pork, sauce. Done.

The real great thing about this dish is it utilizes simple, cheap ingredients for the proletarian budget. Pork shoulder is one of the cheapest cuts of meat there is. Lentils and peas are pennies. Add a tomato, onion and a pepper, plus a few spices you’re likely to have, and you’re set. Did I mention this is also really easy to make?

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Bigos: My Easter Tradition

Well, technically, bigos was a tradition at my holidays on my Polish side. This year I just needed that comfort of home, so I whipped up a huge batch of it today for Easter.

After Mass I came home and started right into the preparations. I was so excited that I forgot to make any notes about quantity or time with the ingredients! Well, that’s going to make for a shitty recipe. But nonetheless I am going to at least explain the process. Bigos is one of those things that has almost unlimited variations. Technically, it is a soup made with a variety of meats and cabbage/sauerkraut. Legend is Polish hunters would make this and throw whatever they caught/killed/carried while on hunting trips. They would just keep the stew on a low simmer and continually add to it, which leads to another trait–very long cooking time.

For meats, I used pork shoulder, kielbasa and beef (beef is uncommon, but worked with my budget.) Pork belly, bacon, veal are more traditional inclusions. They were given a quick browning (not to cook!) and added to a pot with sauteeing onion, lots of sauerkraut and seasonings: garlic powder, caraway seed, juniper berries and bay leaves. Immediately the heat went down to low, a dull simmer, with 60-40 chicken broth and apple juice, plus a can of tomato paste.

Then comes the Herculean effort to just let it sit. After a few hours of low simmer I added sliced kielbasa. Another hour I added sliced mushrooms. Over-all I let it go for over six hours, and it’s still simmering now, seven hours later.  But the wait is worth it…

 

 

NOTE: I used a large wok-like pan to make mine. That is not a good way. Use a large soup pot or a slow cooker. But to my horror this morning that was all I had that was large enough so I had to make do.

 

My (Famous) Spicy Coconut Hash

I used to make this all the time for people I’ve lived with. At least once a week. It was rather popular, not to mention cheap for us college students.

For a single serving breakfast for myself I am taking:

1/2 russet potato, diced (I hate using half because they store poorly, but so it goes)
1/2 white onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 Roma tomato, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
1/4 cup of black beans (not pictured, but when I make this for more people it’s worth adding for color, taste and good health)
cumin, mustard and fenugreek seeds
half a handful of shredded coconut
1 tbsp lemon juice

1. Dice your vegetables.

2. On a medium heat add oil in a thin layer to a wide frying pan. When hot add your onions and your spices. I recommend whole seeds if you have them–cumin is almost essential; mustard, coriander, fenugreek also add a nice “pop,” but you can substitute powder or even just curry powder. Either way, add them right away so they have time to open up and develop. Give it about 2-3 minutes.

3. Add the potato and jalapeno (if using.) I would lower the heat. My electric stove has a 1-10 heat level and I cooked this on level 3. You have two basic choices with hash, low and slow or hot and with lots of oil. I prefer the first. Takes a long time, but doesn’t come out slippery. Stir frequently to prevent the potatoes from sticking.

4. Cooking time is going to vary by the size of your dice on the potato. After about 15 minutes I start testing pieces. When you are satisfied, crank the heat up to medium high and add the coconut, green pepper, lemon, tomato and black beans. Here, it’s like wok cooking, you want to bring those flavors out fast, but keep stirring or you’ll have potato crust on your pan. Just a couple minutes is all.

5. Season with salt and pepper. The red drizzle in my picture is sriracha sauce. If you like heat it adds a nice brightness too.

It’s been years and years since I made this but it is just as amazing as I remember. Sort of like hash browns you’d expect in the Caribbean. Now I remember why people were always begging me to make this.

Also, this is a totally original dish. I’m afraid that if I Google it I’ll find other people have done the same; but, this is one of my prouder inventions.

Also, also, I need to get a camera that is able to focus on an inanimate object  in plain daylight. All my pictures look like crap here.

Weatherbeaten: Sunshine Soup

It’s known to rain in Portland, Oregon. A lot, perhaps. Today I got caught in what is probably the worst torrential I’ve seen in my 1+ year here. A metal “Park Here” sign, with about two feet long feet holding it up, was blown half the way across the street. My umbrella is broken, the metal of the stem snapped right at the base of the parasol–I mean bent and then ripped open. Figuring I know have pneumonia I better start the hot soup and tea fast.

Sunshine Soup

1 golden beet, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1/2 an onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/3 cup of green peas
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon of curry powder
1 teaspoon of ginger powder
1 dash of cinnamon
water (see below for amount)

1. Prepare all your vegetables ahead and have them ready except for the peas. In a pot on low-med heat add oil or melt butter to gently coat the bottom. Add the onions, garlic and carrot. Cook for about 8 minutes, lowering the heat if browning starts to occur. Next add the beet, and stir for two more minutes.

2. Pour in water, enough to just submerge everything, and turn the heat to high. At this point you can add all the seasonings right in, plus honey and lemon. When the water comes to a boil, lower it to a simmering temperature.

3. After about 30 minutes you can start testing pieces of beet for doneness (just pull one out, blow on it and bite.) Continue cooking until the vegetables are soft and tender. Then add the peas and continue cooking until they are done as well.

4. The soup is done, but an optional step is to use a thickener, which I did. I pulled the soup off the heat until it was steaming but off boiling temperature. I think started sprinkling a little bit of one tablespoon of flour off the edge of the spoon in a thin layer, then stirring quickly; repeating slowly until all the flour is in. If you just dump the flour in, or do when there is a boil, it will just thicken into lumps.

Pretty easy recipe to make. And the bloody irony of it all is, as you can see by the picture, by the time it was done the sun was shining. Damn you! Weather gods!

Off Hiatus: Hippie Salad

Eating Lenten

I have a forthcoming post about what I made, ate and proposed everlasting love to on Fat Tuesday (steak and potatoes, but better!) So it feels odd to start talking about Lent before the last hurrah before Lent, but chronology is out of my hands at this moment.

Lent is mostly a time when Cradle Catholics and non-Catholics alike make a declaration to “give something up for Lent.” This is sort of keeping within the spirit of the season, but I think there’s always one fatal flaw people make that causes them to miss the point entirely. The idea of Lent is not to take something you like and stop doing it for 40 days, the point is to take something you like BUT! that you feel you over-indulge in, and give it up for 40 days, WITH! the understanding that you intend to moderate or separate yourself from that indulgence from then on out.

Maybe you want to give up Coke for Lent because you drink 10 a day. Great! But the point is not to prove come Eastertide that you *could* do without, but to come to the hopeful realization that you can live happily without it for a substantial period of time, and thereafter put the indulgence into check. If your plan is to slam three 2 liters the moment Lent ends, then you’ve done nothing. The indulgence is what Fat Tuesday is for.

I’ve moved away from the “give one thing up” tradition and taken to a much older tradition of merely cutting back on all indulgences. I am not going to deprive myself of chocolate or meat or ice cream during this season, I’m just going to make myself more aware (hopefully) of what I am doing when I eat, speak, enjoy, fuck and such. To me, the Muslims keep it legit with Ramadan, Ramadan is closer to my ideal for Lent than most of what goes for Lent. Another way of looking at it, is I am putting my hedonism under scrutiny. Hedonism sounds nicer than penance, but done to excess both can be a loss of control.

Baked Cheese with Double Salsa.

This is a dish I made a couple days ago after getting the craving for a homemade salsa. I don’t like to go too far out of my way for food, so when I saw a good price on some tomaillos at the nearest market to me, which specializes in Mexican food I got them, and made a simple salsa verde (literally, “green sauce” in Spanish.) Because cheese and verdant, tart foods don’t generally mix I also got some chipotle peppers that went into a rich red salsa. These were layered into queso fresco and baked in a tortilla as brie is so often done. The results were colorful and delicious. Wish I’d had this written before the “Big Game.”

Salsa Verde:

1/3 onion chopped
3 cloves of garlic chopped
chilis to taste, I used two entire jalapenos but you can tone it down or up as you like
about 7 tomatillos chopped, about 2-3 cups worth
1 lime, juiced
salt

Start by sauteeing your onions, garlic and chilis in a bit of oil until they start getting soft. Maybe 8 minutes? Add the tomatillos and lime juice, plus about a teaspoon of sugar (tomatillos and lime are both sour, but you don’t want this salsa to pucker your mouth.) Cook until the ingredients are soft, that is when you can basically mash any of it with the gentile pressure of a spoon. Take it off the heat, LET IT COOL, and throw it into a blender or food processor until liquified. Why do I CAPS LOCK “let it cool?” Never put near-boiling liquid into a blender; even if you feel sure the lid is on tight, that whirlwind of liquid pain will find a way out and onto your arm.

Salsa Chipotle:

1 7oz can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (adobo is just a basic marinating sauce; if you use dried chipotle peppers just soak them and keep all their moisture, don’t drain them) diced up
1/4-1/8 cup of minced onion
a splursh of liquid; either white wine, dark beer, tomato/marinara sauce, stock, water…
1 pinch of oregano

Add all the ingredients straight to one sauce pan. When I say a “splursh” of liquid, basically it is to give a bit of something to break up the absolute power of the chipotle flavor, like 8oz or so, the approximate of a “shot.” Chipotle is hella smoky, so if you don’t cut it then you’re basically just applying smoke to the dish. I borrowed a bit of ale from a half used bottle of beer a roommate left in our fridge to nice result. Wine and tomatoes will add a tartness; beer or stock will add richness; or add juice or what you have on hand. Let it simmer until it’s reduced, thickened and the peppers are broken down.

Last preparations:

Prep your oven to 400 degrees. Take a cylinder of queso fresco and cut it into thirds against the width of the cheese (12 oz and you’ll have more than enough salsa for this  if you wanted to make two or three of these, or reserve the salsas for chips.) Place one layer of the cheese onto a large tortilla, add one of the layers of salsa, then a layer of cheese, another of the second salsa and the last cheese layer. Flip it over while tucking the tortilla over the cheese. Place on a baking tray covered with parchement paper or foil. Break and mix an egg and give the tortilla surface a wash. Place this into the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes.

*Actually, the tortilla thing is for show. If I ever do this again I think I might omit it.

Serve warm with tortilla chips or your standard crudite. Also, you might want to really pile on the salsa. I thought I had but as you can see in the second photo the layered effect was kind of lost in the end. So I spooned over the excess salsas. In fact, you might want to just make it easier and skip baking the salsas in layers of the cheese and just skip to serving them alongside. Maybe meat or vegetables instead of the salsa in layers?

Que es queso fresco?! Queso fresco is an unaged cheese–like cottage cheese, paneer or feta–that is indigenous to Spain and popular in Mexican cooking. I would describe it best as being like feta without the salt or a less chewy paneer. The great reason to look for it and use it here is that queso fresco practically does not melt. Meaning you can bake it and wont form a gooey pool as a Monterrey or Cheddar will. This is due both to the type of milk used and also the process that makes it curdle. I thought I saw a bit off spillage with mine, but it turned out to be run-off from the egg wash. Queso fresco will not melt.

The Reggie Sandwich: Pine State Biscuits

I try to keep a sharp eye on restaurant reviews here in the great city of Portland. And if you’ve watched episodes of shows on the Travel Channel or Food Network that featured Portland then Pine State Biscuits was probably mentioned. And it wasn’t hard for me to find this place as it’s literally four houses away from me. Their most famous offering is the Reggie sandwich, a mix of fried chicken, bacon, cheese and gravy laid between biscuits.

I felt like I was right to treat myself so I laid down for a take-out Reggie. This this is indeed super awesome. For starters, the bacon is perfect–neither crunchy or greasy–just bacon as it ought to be. The chicken is good, the biscuit is golden and tender. The gravy, just this perfect hint of cayenne. So hard to be financially responsible when this place can be walked toward quicker than it takes to tie my shoes.

Broccoli Romanesco Con Besciamella Arancio

No idea if I got the Italian even remotely right there, nor is this an Italian dish in any sense. But mmmmmmmm… did I enjoy this. This maybe the best broccoli of my life. And as I said in my last post, features the unique and mathematically beautiful features of broccoli romanesco–more or less just your average broccoli with only a slight passing for cauliflower too. And as promised, I made it totally vegan.

First thing you need to do is steam the broccoli. That’s just a matter of a pot of  boiling water with a steaming basket. Ask you can see, I quartered a carrot too, mostly for color but why not, right?

That sauce you see on the broccoli and the plate is just a standard bechamel sauce with the addition of the juice of a blood orange. Bechamel and its base of a roux I feel can sound intimidating, I imagine, being so French-y but conceptually it’s very simple. First you need a fat, butter is the standard, but I was going vegan so I used about 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a pan on medium heat (and aim your medium towards low, depending on your stove, burning is the greatest danger here.) When the oil heated I tossed in a heaping tablespoon of regular flour (plus maybe another small half, this wasn’t a good measuring day.) Just as the flour goes in you whisk–with a whisk or a fork–the ever-loving crap out of it. Do this until the oil and flour are mixed into a single substance and you notice some *slight* browning. Then start adding soy milk (or regular milk, either way) a bit at a time, still whisking your ass off, until it coats the back of a spoon nicely.

Comrades! What does it mean “coats the back of a spoon?” This is a common trick for getting sauces to a nice, velvety consistency. As you go you can take an ordinary spoon and run it through your sauce, then pull it up, turning the “bowl” of the spoon upside down. If the spoon is evenly coated–no glaring lumps–good start. Then draw your finger across the spoon, if the sauce holds form, doesn’t run into the gap created where you parted it like the Red Sea. You’re good. Also, as always, just use good instinct and add more milk or keep cooking to reduce liquid content if it seems too dry or too wet. A low heat and lots of stirring will save you.

Finally, at the end, take an orange (I used blood oranges because they’re in season and I love the color, but navel, tangerines, mineolas, etc. are all most exceptable) and juice it it. Add the juice to the sauce, mix to incorporate and serve on your broccoli or other steamed vegetable right away.

I like my work here because the citrus really adds the perfect flavor to the sort of sulphurous and semi-bitter flavor of brassica vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, but without the fat and over-powering taste of cheese. A bechamel sauce also lets you skip on the dairy completely while keeping the texture and much of the taste of a creamy sauce. I give this one an A.

Slow Week Going

Been trying to account for each penny spent this month, which hasn’t lead to a lot of grandoise kitchen experiments. But I made this yesterday and I thought it was worth at least a mention, if only to serve as reminder that I am still eating food

These purple potatoes made an appearance on my Peruvian steak night, and the co-op by me still has them on special so I nabbed a bunch to roast. For the potatoes, it’s just laying them on a baking tray (preferably metal for more even heating) in  a 425 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, depending on the potato size.

For an accompaniment I just made a fast relish out of onions–a yellow onion sliced about the width of a fingernail–which was slathered in olive oil and roasted sitting on top of the potatoes. Chopped it up with dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar and olive oil in mostly equal parts. I also threw a frozen veggie burger in the oven in time to go with this. Was pretty good, but nothing to rock your socks off. But it does reveal my love for one culinary thing: relish.

I have checked dictionaries and seems there really isn’t a very specific term for what counts as a “relish,” but it’s also not just the chopped up pickles as you see in stores or associate with hot dogs. A relish is basically any fruit or vegetable prepared as a condiment to another dish. I have no problems with traditional cucumber pickles in any form, but there are also a lot of relishes that I also adore. Red onions marinated in red wine vinegar and chilis make a great, “cooling” addition to many Mexican dishes. A fast “pickle” of carrot and daikon in vinegar and sugar make the fabulous addition to the classic, Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. Cwikla (my Polish keyboard set up seems non-functional, but it’s pronounced “ch’veek-wah”) is a relish of minced beets and horseradish that I’m also highly partial too and owns the crap out of ketchup on hamburgers.

I think the whole concept of a relish is very neglected. In a country where obesity is a national crisis and everyone wants to talk about eating more plants, why not the relish? It’s not the focal point of a dish, but uses the subtle flavors of plants and seasonings to enhance the protein or whatever main staple of a full meal. Along with a side dish it can double your fruit and vegetable intake even if you’re not a fan of plants. And the varieties are quite endless; tart, savory, sweet… it’s a creative cook’s free form design!

And coming later today, speaking of things that are good for you, I’ve seen these at my co-op regularly and I was finally tempted to buy:

Brassica! Romanesco broccoli! Another thing about me, I am sort of a math geek, so a food that perfectly resembles a fractal cannot help but earn my admiration. I don’t want to chop or break its form though, and the only way I’ve eaten broccoli straight up was when my family slathered it in Velveeta. For reasons of want and necessity, I want to dress it with something vegan without resorting to the stand-by vegan substitutes–should you follow this blog regularly you might note on my vegan entries that I am not a fan of “substitution.” So that is my culinary task for the day.

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