Thursday, April 30, 2015

Orange & Milk Braised Pork Carnitas – Apparently for Cinco de Mayo

It must have been the subliminal beer and liquor advertising that got me, because I wasn’t even thinking about Cinco de Mayo when I decided to film this milk-braised pork carnitas recipe. 

It’s pretty hard to make a bad batch of oven-fried pork chunks, no matter what method you use, but the milk braising beforehand seems to give the meat a little extra succulence.

The subtle sweetness from the orange is also very nice, but I wanted more, so upped the amount below. As I mentioned in the video, you always want to use these ingredient amounts, and not necessarily what you see in the video. Especially when I’m trying something for the first time, I’ll go kind of light on the ingredients and then adjust here if I think it needs little more or less of something.

By the way, proper carnitas are much “richer,” and by that I mean much fattier. The chunks of meat are crisped in a caldron of pork fat, and copious amounts of this insanely delicious stuff sticks to the meat as it’s chopped or smashed. So, feel free to use more than I did during the oven step, and enjoy something even more flavorful.

You’ll probably use these for tacos, but rumor has it, if you smash them up, and mix in some of your favorite barbecue sauce, they make incredible pulled pork style sandwich.  And don’t even get me started on how amazing these are fried up with some eggs in the morning. I hope you give this carnitas recipe a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 8 portions Orange & Milk Braised Pork Carnitas:
3 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2  cup freshly squeezed orange juice
zest peeled from 1 large orange
2 cups whole milk

Note: You can strain and reduce the cooking liquid if you want, and do "wet" tacos by adding some of the juice to chopped meat.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Cheese Blintzes – In a New York State of Mind

If you’re ever talking to someone who’s been to, or used to live in New York City, and the subject of cheese blintzes comes up, you will almost always see their face light up, like they just found a 20-dollar bill on the subway.

After they tell you where they’d get them, and how great they were, they usually turn a little melancholy, and tell you how much they miss them, and why can’t they get them around here. They’re not usually something someone thinks of to make at home, which is too bad, since they are pretty easy.

While there are several steps, they're fairly simple, and so totally worth the effort. In fact, you can prep everything ahead of time, and cook when you’re ready to serve. They also hold pretty well in a warm oven, so exact timing isn’t crucial, which is always nice when trying to serve a brunch.

I cook mine in clarified butter, which is simply melted butter with the white, foamy milk solids skimmed off the top. This prevents it from getting that nutty, toasted flavor, which some of you may actually prefer.

I also don’t like overly sweet blintzes, and use less sugar than many recipes, so taste and adjust. I hope you give these delicious cheese blintzes a try soon. Enjoy!

Makes between 10 and 12 Blintzes:
(depending on the size, and how much filling you use)
For the batter:
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup cold water
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling:
1 1/2 cup ricotta cheese (drained in a strainer if wet)
1/2 cup cream cheese
zest from one lemon
pinch salt
2 tablespoons powdered sugar, or more to taste
1 large egg
After stuffing and rolling, brown in butter, and bake at 325 F. for 12 minutes.

Serve with this raspberry sauce, and fresh berries.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

There’s No Such Thing as Too Many Rice and Beans Recipes

Rice and beans is one of the world’s great comfort foods, and no matter where you travel, there will be some amazing local variation to enjoy. Except, Iceland. I heard it’s hard to get a great plate of rice and beans in Iceland, but pretty much anywhere else, not a problem.

To help me prove this, here is a great collection put together by my friend, Carl Hanson, from Follow this link for “How The World Does Beans and Rice…in 24 Recipes,” and you could theoretically make a new version every day for two-weeks. Enjoy!

What's my favorite rice and beans dish? 

It changes with my mood, but this Brazilian Feijoada is hard to beat. Enjoy the video, and click here if you'd like to read the full blog post.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Whole-Grain Blueberry Scones – Because a “Muffsconut” Isn’t a Thing

I was brainstorming some ideas for using up a cup of nearly perfect blueberries, and was waffling between muffins, donuts, and biscuits. I finally decided on a biscuit-like triangle, spiced subtly with essence of old-fashioned donut.

I’m calling it a scone because I cut it into a triangle. There’s just something un-American about a triangular biscuit, so you Brits will just have to keep a stiff upper lip about this not being an actual scone.

I used my new favorite, sprouted spelt flour, but I’m guessing this will work with whatever you roll with. You’ll also want to keep an eye on them in the oven, as the baking times will vary depending on the exact shape and thickness. They’re done when they’re well browned, and you see blueberry juices bubbling out through the top and sides.

These have that someone loves me look, especially if you do the recommended sugar-crust top, which is why I’m thinking these would be nice for Mother’s Day, or any other brunch/breakfast-in-bed type situations. I hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 8 Whole-Grain Blueberry Scones:
2 cups spelt flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp fine salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tbsp white sugar, optional
4 ounces ice cold butter (1/2 cup aka 1 stick) 
1 cup blueberries
3/4 cup cold buttermilk
- 425F.for about 20-25 minutes, or until well-browned and blueberry juices start bubbling out through the top and sides.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Greek Lemon Chicken and Potatoes – Both Homers Would Love This

I don’t have the energy or courage to cater for a living, but if I did, this Greek lemon chicken and potatoes would be one of my go-to entrees, and not just for big, fat weddings. It’s a proven crowd-pleaser, simple to make, and easy on the wallet.

I had a whole chicken to use, but I really like to do this with all leg/thigh sections, which can roast longer, and that means even more caramelized goodness. If you do use a whole chicken, you can remove the breast sections from the roasting pan before the thighs, and cook the dark meat longer, but I couldn’t be bothered, and the results were delicious.

The extra potato crusting is an optional step, as is turning the drippings into a quick sauce, but both only take a few minutes, and really elevate the dish. Like I said at the end of the clip, this is something I could easily make once a week, and the leftovers are extremely picnic friendly. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 Portions Greek Lemon Chicken and Potatoes:
1 whole chicken, about 4 pound, cut in sections,
OR 4 pounds chicken thighs bone-in, skin-on
3 russet potatoes, cut in quarters
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 rounded tablespoon dried oregano
pinch of cayenne
6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
2/3 cup chicken broth for the pan, plus a splash to deglaze after roasting
fresh chopped oregano to garnish
Roast at 425 for about 45 minutes, or until the chicken is well browned and cooked through.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Spring Vegetable Frittata for Mother

It always feels a little wrong making a frittata with freshly cooked vegetables, since the whole point of the dish is to use up leftovers, but seeing as we’re branding this as a Mother’s Day brunch special, we’ll make an exception.

If you want to play it safe, you can cook each vegetable separately, but that takes longer than the one-after-the-other method shown here. Like I said in the video, this is a great practice recipe for new cooks, since you really have to pay attention to what’s happening in the pan. I said to use medium heat, but you may want to adjust that up and down, depending on what you see happening.

Make sure all your vegetables are tender, hot, and well seasoned before adding your eggs, and not a lot can go wrong. Once those, and hopefully some cheese, get stirred in, turn off the heat, and pop the pan into the oven until the eggs are set. If your mom likes golden-brown, you can use the optional broiling step seen herein.

If you decide to garnish with edible flowers, make sure you’re actually using edible flowers. Nothing puts a damper on a Mother’s Day brunch like a trip to the emergency room. If you use nasturtium you’ll be safe, otherwise, do some research. I really hope you give this delicious vegetable frittata a try soon. Enjoy!

Makes 6 large portions:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded, diced
1 1/2 cups sliced asparagus
1 1/2 cups sliced zucchini
handful baby spinach
1 1/2 cups sliced cooked potatoes
12 large eggs
1 tsp salt, plus more as needed to taste while cooking veggies
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch cayenne
4 ounces goat milk feta, or your favorite cheese
350 F. for about 15 minutes, or until just set, then broil on high for 1-2 minutes for some color

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Asparagus Season is the Reason

Is there any more representative image of Spring than a couple ladybugs making love on a spear of asparagus?

This great photo by Flickr user Benimoto inspired me to
post a few links to some previously published asparagus recipes.

One of my biggest vegetable pet-peeves is undercooked asparagus. Many cooks are so afraid to overcook it, they tend to not cook it long enoug
h, and this results in a still bitter stalk. There's a perfect degree of doneness where the spears are just tender, and the natural sweetness shines through. So, go buy a couple bunches of fresh asparagus, and give one of these recipes a try. Enjoy!

Asparagus and Chicken Noodle Casserole

Creamy Fresh Asparagus Pizza (note: uses old, original pizza dough recipe)

Pan-seared Spring Asparagus with Lemon, Balsamic and Parmesan

Pasta Primavera with Fresh Asparagus


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Spring Pea Green Curry with Black Cod and Strawberry – Channeling My Inner Spa Chef

I’ve always loved green curries, but until a recent visit to Al’s Place, I’d never thought of using fresh, sweet peas as the base. It was amazing, and after only a few bites I knew I'd steal this idea and make it my own. Sorry, Al.

Their version featured pickled strawberries, but I decided to try a different approach, and used diced, fresh berries instead. I didn’t use any palm sugar or coconut milk, so the sweetness they provided paired perfectly with the brightly seasoned sauce.

As I mentioned in the video, I used a jarred curry paste, Thai Kitchen Green Curry Paste, to be exact, and it works just fine. It contains green chili, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, salt, shallot, pepper, coriander, cumin, and kaffir lime, which is pretty much what you’d grind up to make a fresh green curry.

Next time I’ll make the paste from scratch just to see how much better it is, but I have to admit, the trade-off in time and effort is pretty attractive. Speaking of attractive, this lovely bowl of spring goodness sure would look good on your table, so I hope you give this spring pea green curry a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 appetizer-sized portions:
1 yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
3 tablespoons green curry paste, plus more to taste
2 cups chicken broth
1 pound trimmed sugar snap peas, snow peas, or English peas
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 pound boneless black cod (aka butterfish or sablefish), but into eight 2-oz pieces, skin scored 1/8th inch deep
4 tablespoons diced strawberry
2 teaspoons mint chiffonade

Monday, April 13, 2015

Tonnato Sauce – Not Just for Cold Veal Anymore

Some things sound really amazing the first time you hear about them, and other things, like this tonnato sauce, really don’t. I was probably in my early twenties when this first appeared on my culinary radar as, “vitello tonnato.” At the time, a plate of cold, thinly-sliced poached veal dressed with a chilled, runny tuna sauce didn’t make a lot of sense, but I tried it anyway, and have been a fan ever since.

I don’t often serve it with the traditional veal, as in never, but ironically that’s the only thing I don’t serve it with. It’s tremendous as a spread, and equally impressive as an all-purpose, all-world dip. You can also turn any basic potato salad into the stuff of legends...well, at least picnic legends.

I have to give credit where credit's due, and admit I stole the idea for my "tonnato tartare tartine" from one of my favorite San Francisco restaurants, Bar Tartine. They do it much better, but even my primitive version was incredible, so if you're into that kind of thing, I highly recommend it.

As I said in the clip, there are only a few ingredients, and they're all “to taste,” so you should expect to adjust. I like mine with lots of everything, plus some garlic and cayenne, but that’s just me. By the way, in keeping with the spirit of the original dish, if you do happen to have some cold, leftover roast chicken, turkey, or pork, slice it thin, and slather this stuff all over it, and enjoy one of the best cold plates ever. I really hope you give this tonnato sauce a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 2 cups tonnato sauce:
1 (7-ounce) jar olive oil-packed tuna, plus reserved olive oil
6 olive oil-packed anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons capers, drained
3 tablespoons lemon juice, or more to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 or 2 cloves minced garlic
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne

For the spring vegetable topping:
equal parts shaved raw carrot and thinly sliced raw sugar snap peas or snow peas, tossed with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Topped with arugula sprouts or thinly-sliced arugula leaves.

For the raw beef topping:
ice cold diced lean beef (I used eye of round), tossed with salt, pepper, olive oil, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Topped with arugula sprouts or thinly-sliced arugula leaves.

Next Up: Tuna Smoothie

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Chef John is on Vacation

Just wanted to let everyone know that I’ll be on vacation this week. I'm looking forward to a great Spring break, where I plan on doing absolutely nothing. 

We’ll continue to publish your comments and questions, but fortunately I won’t be around to respond to them, so that means you’ll have to rely on your fellow foodwishers for the answers. I’m sure everything will be fine. Thank you, and we’ll see you next week!


Friday, April 3, 2015

Spelt Pizza – Read All About It

I could go into detail about all the great reasons you should maybe consider including some organic sprouted spelt flour in your pantry, but since I’m just about to head out for a little Easter break, it would be a lot easier for me if you could just Google it. 

Very briefly, this “ancient grain” is related to modern wheat, but it’s actually an entirely different species. From what I hear, it's easier to digest, higher in protein and fiber, and to me at least, has a much better flavor and texture than other whole-wheat flours.

Besides the simple and effective dough recipe, I’m also showing off a cast-iron pan technique that does a heck of a job getting the same type of browned, crispy crust you enjoy at your favorite pizzeria. Just keep it on the flame until the bottom starts to brown, and then finish in a hot oven, and/or under a broiler until your toppings are done.  

If you make it ahead, simply take it out of the fridge a few hours before you want pizza, and let it warm up on the counter. It actually gets an even better texture. I hope you give this delicious alternative a try soon. Enjoy!

Makes 4 eight-inch pizzas:
1 package dry active yeast
2 teaspoons honey
1 cup warm water (105 degrees F)
about 3 cups organic sprouted spelt flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
toppings of your choice