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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

You know me, I don't make meat all that often, so when I do I like to make it great.

Special, delicious, and a 'treat' to have (and to make!)

So this is no different.

Pulled Pork is actually remarkably simple to make.  The trick is to just make sure you use the right cut of meat, and that you give it the right amount of time to cook, and that you cook low and slow.

Other than those considerations, it's basically just: sear, roast, and then pull it apart.

One caveat here, technically pulled pork is only really authentically pulled pork if it is cooked low and slow and by itself in a BBQ smoker.  And that shit is amaze-balls.

But, there is a 'trashy' version which in fact should really be called braised pulled pork.

The Interwebs are replete with recipes and 'easy' and 'quick' tricks, and there you'll find some disgusting trashy suggestions such as using ketchup or barbeque sauce.  Ugh.

I mean, for it to be traditional pulled pork, it should be some sort of tomato- and red pepper-based sauce that is both tangy and a little sweet, which is a sort of BBQ sauce, but please don't use processed sauces or condiments people.  Please?

Anyway... down to it.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, ensure you select the proper cut of meat.  

A shoulder cut is typical for pulled pork.  I've also seen butt used.

You don't want a very fatty piece, but also not too lean either.  After all, slow cooking the fat is what makes the meat fall apart nicely when it's done.

Because I don't buy that much meat, I like to get good meat, so enter my favourite local butcher, Roast Fine Foods.

I can't say enough good things about this place.  I feel very lucky indeed to have it in my neighbourhood.  

Anyway, this shoulder was gorgeous.

I did need to do a little work to it, though.  Just a little, mind you.

For one thing, I was grossed out by the fact that some of the blood vessel tubules were visible, right on the outside, so I had to perform a bit of surgery on that.  

Cause it was gross.  


I'm sure it would have cooked down nicely and unnoticed, but I'm not so much of a meat fan that I felt comfortable leaving it there, so I cut it out.

And, secondly, the other side of the cut had some of the bone still attached in places. 

If you look in this photo there are a few large chunks of bone right in the centre of that large-ish chunk of fat in the middle.

It's good to 'rub' your meat by hand before you cook it, not the least of reasons is that you can literally feel for imperfections.  In this case, it was that I felt the bone chunks there.

Anyway, it was extremely minor to just excise a couple pieces, and then we were good to go!

I rubbed the whole cut with a tiny little bit of avocado oil and then a generous dash of sea salt and black pepper, and then let her rest on the counter for a little while, in a small roasting pan.

The hardest (most time-consuming) aspect of my pulled pork today, was the sauce.  And only because I insist on making all my sauces from scratch.

So, the first thing I did, actually, was to roast some veggies.

I don't like adding sugar, but this sauce needs to be a little sweet, so I figured if I roasted all the veggies, the caramelization that happens naturally should be enough to sweeten the whole sauce.

And it was.

Anyway, the sauce consisted of roasted red pepper, 

roasted tomatoes, 

local grocers have taken to labeling EVERY fruit and vegetable these days... <sigh>

roasted onion, 

roasted shallot, 

a fair bit of garlic, 

So pretty!

and then a dried spice blend, consisting of:

mustard seed, 


freshly grated nutmeg, 

and some sea salt.

Anyway, after everything got roasted, and then cooled, and the red peppers got skinned, I threw EVERYTHING into my food processor.

So that's the sauce.

When it was blended up all nicely, I put it into my slow cooker, ready to receive the pork.

Which just needs to be seared a little bit on all sides, and then is ready to join the sauce.

I don't like making my entire house smell of fried meat so I often use the broiler for searing.

It's also quite quick, which is nice... My gas oven does not take long to heat up to super-sear temps.

I flipped the pork to make sure all the sides got browned, but after only about 5 minutes under the broiler it was nice and golden.

So, into the slow cooker she goes!

For at least four hours. But no more than six, I'd say.

You have to cook it long enough for the connective tissues to break apart, but don't overcook it either.

Mine was about 4.5 hours.

At that point I just grabbed two forks and starting gnashing it apart.

It 'pulled' apart beautifully.

I like a lot of sauce for my pulled pork, partly because I intended to just sandwich the whole thing as-is.  Of course, you can use less sauce, or cook the pork in a runnier sauce and serve it separately, if you want...


But, why?

I mean, look at these photos and tell me you don't want to eat copious amounts of it:


Anyway, I bought some really nice white buns and served them open-faced, just on their own.

The sauce was actually quite sweet, from the roasted veggies, and the spice blend really made this sauce deliciously savoury.

So freaking good!  Perfect comfort food on a cold winter's night!


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Mâche Salad.

So, what the eff is mâche, anyway?

Valerianella locusta.

Also known as corn salad or 'lamb's lettuce'.

It's a hardy winter green and is actually quite tasty.

Velvety smooth and crisp, it's great as a garnish, added to a salad, or even just on its own.

I made a large salad of just mâche the other day, and it was delicious.  I didn't want to complicate the flavours, or do much to take away from the subtleties of the mâche, so it was just the lettuce and some minced shallot and sheep's milk cheese, and a healthy spattering of a red wine vinaigrette and some freshly ground black pepper.

That's it.

And it was delicious!


I find it didn't even need a 'crunch' addition either, like nuts or anything, as the texture of the mâche itself is quite delightful.


Knife Roll

I'm not a professional chef, of course, but there are times when I do need to carry my knives to other kitchens.

I used to wrap them up in a towel, and then throw an elastic band around the whole thing.

It worked, but I felt pretty stupid.  :)

Well, I finally got a knife roll for Christmas this year, so I don't have to feel stupid any more.

It's nice!  Durable, simple to use, and spacious yet compact.

There's even room for my sharpening stone and steel!

Which is awesome.

Not much else to say I guess, but it's already proved to be quite handy!

And now I get to be super pretentious, and be like, 'no, no... don't worry, I've got my own knives'.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Very Vanilla Cake

The wife loves vanilla.

Like bordering on unhealthy obsessive love.

I can't even count how many vanilla-scented things like candles and oils and such that we have in our house.

Not to mention the fact that my pantry has—at any given time—at least three or four bottles, jars, and tubes of various vanilla extracts, pure or otherwise, pods and beans.  Why?  Because whenever she is out grocery shopping she has a panic attack that this day, today, might be THE DAY.  The day we ran out of vanilla.  So she buys more.

She's gone on 10-minute-long monologues about how vanilla is treated unfairly, and why, oh why, has vanilla become synonymous in our society with 'plain'?  "IT ISN'T PLAIN AT ALL, IT TASTES LIKE VANILLA!!!"

Anyway... she likes vanilla.


So, it shouldn't come as any surprise that one of her favourite desserts is good ol' vanilla cake.

So, for her birthday, and dessert for her birthday dinner, I whipped up my signature very vanilla cake with extra vanilla.

It's essentially a classic yellow sheet cake, with extra vanilla.

You don't even need to alter the recipe, really.

Just when it calls for like a tablespoon of vanilla, use four. Yup.

If you need to add a splash more flour, go ahead, but you probably won't.

My stupid spring-form bake pan broke.  DURING baking.  Sigh.

A large amount of batter dripped out and fell to the bottom of the oven before I could catch it and fix it.  It was swell.

So, even though this was only two-thirds of a vanilla cake, it was still enough for the two of us for a week.

The fix for a broken spring form bake pan, you ask?  Well, I didn't really fix it entirely, but for the baking process, I hastily placed a baking sheet underneath it so that the leak would shore itself sort of thing, after a minute or two.

And it did.  It sort of created a clot on the leak, which itself got really burnt, but was easy to just rip off after.

All in all, it actually turned out well.

A little on the shallow side, but hey, for two-thirds of one sheet of cake (sheet cake is intended to be layered, in case you didn't know, but that makes for a ginormous cake).

I let that cool for a good hour or so, and then spread on top a generous amount of my home-made butter cream very vanilla icing.

This is easy.

Whip butter, icing sugar, a pinch of salt, and many spoonfuls of vanilla together until frothy!

You can put it in the fridge to harden a bit, but I like to spread it while it's super soft.


After frosting, I let it sit on my windowsill while we ate supper.

To me, the vanilla can be a little strong, but the wife absolutely LURVS this cake.

So it was a success.