Slow-cooker Pulled Pork Tacos with Sweet Apple Slaw

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

I realize that I should probably be writing an obligatory post in honor of the most Irish of Holidays, but I just didn’t want to. Believe me, I’m a fan of Irish food, or at least the American interpretation thereof; I love a good Irish breakfast, I have a great shepherd’s pie recipe (made with both bacon and Guinness, no less), and at the very least, bangers and mash is a lot of fun to say. I am also fully aware that if I pulled out a platter of corned beef and cabbage for dinner tonight, my wife would probably never speak to me again. After all, Irish people don’t actually eat corned beef, Irish-Americans do. So when you break out that “traditional Irish” dish, you’re actually celebrating the emigration of a people and the necessary culinary adaptations they undertook as a result of the availability of different resources. In short, in Ireland they ate mostly pork and sheep (hence sausages and shepherd’s pie), and in America the Irish ate beef… like AMERICANS. For a more comprehensive explanation – and a delicious looking recipe – check out this blog post from the Ranting Chef.

In lieu of a banger’s and mash recipe, or some other such creation, I’d like to share a recipe for pulled pork tacos that I made up off the top of my head on Saturday morning.

The final product: a delicious amalgamation of pork, chilis, sweet apples and crunchy slaw.

The final product: a delicious amalgamation of pork, chilies, sweet apples and crunchy slaw.

This recipes is – as always – inspired by a number of other recipes that I’ve made, although I aimed for a few specifics in designing this one. First, I tried to cater to my wife’s general aversion to lasting spice (you know, when it burns on the back of the tongue well after the bite is swallowed) by cutting back on the general amount of chili pepper that I included. I also aimed for a more robust sauce, which I then filled out with tomatoes and chilies, in order to appease the palate of a friend who’s partially averse to Mexican flavors. As a final move, I created a simple apple, cabbage, cilantro slaw in an attempt to balance the rich and juicy pork with something tangy and crunchy.

And it was a success… just ask our guests.

Ingredients (for the pork):

  • 1 Pork Loin
  • 4 Dried Pasillo Chiles
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with chiles
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • ½ tbsp cumin
  • ½ tbsp dried cilantro
  • 1  tsp mexican oregano
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ¾ cup vegetable broth

Ingredients (for slaw):

  • 1/2 head green cabbage – shredded
  • 2 fuji apples – grated
  • 2 carrots – grated
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro – chopped
  • 1 tbsp agave
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Juice of 1.5 limes

Directions (for pork):

Place dried pasillos in a bowl and cover with water. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Remove from microwave and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Allow the peppers to steam as you prep the remaining pork ingredients.

Cut pork loin into quarters and place them in the bottom of the slow cooker.

Place all of the other ingredients in the food processor, and blend until smooth. Remove the peppers from the water, remove the stems and seeds (they should pour right out), and place them in the blender/food processor, and blend until smooth.

Pour the mixture over the pork, which should be just covered.

Cook the pork and mixture on high for five hours, or until the pork can be pulled apart easily with a pair of forks.

Directions (for slaw):

Shred that shit and mix it all together.

Serve:

Shred the pork and serve on tortillas with slaw, cilantro and a wedge of lime.

One-Pot Meal: Spicy Rice and Beans with Pulled Chicken

This is a crazy easy one-pot meal that you can make after work and have it ready in time for dinner. It’s also a difficult meal to ruin, as the main ingredients spend most of their time cooking in stock, which allows the flavors to combine and deepen. This recipe also makes A LOT of food, which means that you’ll have lunches planned for the following week.

My wife, who will periodically request a large pot of this for dinner claims that – like chili – it’s even better as leftovers.

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Ingredients:

  • 1.5 tbs vegetable oil
  • 2.5 lbs chicken breast
  • 1 medium onion – diced
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 2 cups (or more) chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can corn kernels
  • 2 cups 10 minute brown rice
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • lime wedges for serving

Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large pan or stock pot. You want something with a wide bottom for the initial frying, and high sides for cooking the added liquid.

Dice the onion, and add it to the pan after the oil gets hot. Cook the onion until it gets translucent (about 3-4 minutes).

Remove the onions from the pan and scrape them into a small bowl, and set them aside.

Season the chicken breasts with a pinch of salt and pepper, and place them in the heated pan. Cook them on each side until golden brown (but not cooked through), about 4-5 minutes per side.

Once the chicken has a nice golden hue, return the onions to the pan with the chicken, and add the tomatoes and spices (chipotle chili powder-black pepper). Give all of these ingredients a good stir, which should adequately coat the chicken in the tomatoes, onions and spices.

Add the stock to ensure that the chicken is completely covered. With the pan that I use, this took about 2 cups of stock, but you can obviously add more if need be.

You’ll want to keep track of how much stock you add, because it will directly impact the amount of rice that you need to add as well.

Give it all a good stir, and allow the mixture to boil, cover it up, and then let it simmer on a medium-low setting for 20-30 minutes.

Open the cans of beans and corn and drain them of the excess fluids – you know, that weirdly viscous bean-liquid.

Uncover the pan, stir it up again, and then add the beans and corn to the mix. Again, bring it to a boil and reduce it to a simmer. Let it simmer for another 10 minutes or so, and then add the 10-minute rice. We usually prefer a stickier final mixture, so I tend to use slightly less rice than I should based on the amount of liquid in the mix – but it’s up to you. Experiment with it.

The chicken should also be ready to pull at this point. You may choose to fish out the cooked pieces of chicken and pull them individually (using two forks on a cutting board) at this point, or to wait until the rice is cooked, and pull the chicken as you serve it. This second method is usually the one that I use, as it saves a little time, and a few burnt fingers.

Again, stir it, cover it and let it cook according to the directions on your particular package of instant rice.

Considering mine was ten-minute rice, I let it cook for ten minutes.

Weird.

Stir the final product, and serve a few scoops with a squeeze of line and a pinch of fresh-chopped cilantro.

Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Roasted Garlic and Red Pepper Pasta Dough

Welcome.

You’re joining me midway through what my wife is referring to as “Fit February.” For her, it’s an effort to increase personal health by eating right, exercising more, and forgoing alcohol in order to save calories and money. For me, it’s an exercise in solidarity. Happy wife, happy life!

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To be fair, we have been eating relatively healthy for a little while now. My wife bought me a copy of the Thug Kitchen cookbook, which is a vegan text that approaches food in a simple but hilariously vulgar way. Honestly, I’m fully aware of the fact that I would not have been nearly as receptive to receiving a vegan cookbook as a gift if it didn’t include ingredient measurements like “a shitload” or tell readers to “taste that fucker and adjust spices whatever fucking way you like it.” Finally, people who talk about food the same fucking way I like to.

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But the other night, as I planned out meals for the week, I realized that I had to take a night or two off from the vegan stuff. It’s not that I don’t want to “Eat like I give a fuck.” Actually, I think that I do cook and eat like that. It’s just that I also give a fuck about things besides tofu, cauliflower and chickpeas.

Plus I hadn’t made fresh pasta in a while.

I love fresh pasta.

So I pulled out the pasta maker and started poking around for potential ingredients.

Sure, I found some spinach, but I’ve made green noodles in the past. That’s my go-to dough recipe.

I didn’t have any fresh tomatoes, and though i was tempted to use canned, I wasn’t confident that it would turn out as intended. I then remembered that I had picked up a handful of fresh red peppers on my last Safeway trip. BOOM. Done. roasted peppers and garlic, because – let’s face it – garlic makes stuff taste delicious.

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So I prepped for roasting… but let’s cover ingredients first:

  • 2 red peppers – roasted and skins removed
  • 4 cloves of garlic – roasted and peeled
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour (King Arthur is the easiest to work with for pasta dough)
  • 1 cup white flour (plus a whole bunch more for kneading and rolling
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • olive oil
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds. Slice the tops off half a clove of garlic (about 4 cloves) and place it in a pocket of tinfoil. pour about a teaspoon of olive oil over the exposed cloves, and wrap the tinfoil tightly around the oil-coated garlic. Rub the slices of pepper with olive oil (this will take 1-2 tbsps) inside and out, and season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Place the garlic and pepper slices (skin side down) on the cookie sheet, and roast for 15 minutes. Flip the peppers (to skin side up) and continue roasting for another 15 minutes, until the skins are charred and loose. After the full half hour, remove the pepper slices to a medium bowl, and cover them tightly with plastic wrap for 15 minutes. The steam will loosen the skins and make them super easy to peel, which you should do, because that’s the next step.

Discard the skins and place the flesh of the peppers, a dash (maybe a tsp) of olive oil, and the roasted cloves of garlic (popped from their skins), and a pinch of salt and pepper, in the food processor, and blend it all down until it’s nice and smooth. Technically you should then allow the mixture to cool, but I didn’t, and it turned out fine.

Slowly mix the pepper-sludge into the flour and eggs, adding water by the tablespoon as necessary. I use a Cuisinart with a dough-hook for this whole process, but you can mix it by hand if you want/ need to.

Roll out the dough (again, I use the Cuisinart with the pasta-roller attachment) to your desired thickness, and cut it into your desired shape. Now that I’m thinking about it, this would make for a wonderful ravioli dough as well given the savory hints of garlic and bell pepper in the final product.

Fresh pasta only takes two or three minutes to cook, so watch it closely.

I usually cook half and dry the other half to enjoy later.

I served this pasta with bird balls and my meat sauce, and of course a little parmesan and a pinch of fresh basil and parsley.

Cheers, and enjoy!

Korean Pulled Chicken Tacos

I don’t always enjoy sharing food, especially when I’m intending to eat it. I’m the person who tries to stab you with my fork when you attempt to sneak fries off my plate.

Those are my fucking fries. If you want fries, get your own. Jackal.

But yesterday, as I was assembling my third of these delicious tacos while sitting at the lunch table, I was just on the verge of full. I wasn’t about to waste a good meal, so I proceeded to layer my last tortilla with the ssam, slaw and chicken. It smelled and tasted excellent, and – as you can imagine – when given the choice of consuming something delicious or listening to my body’s warning impulses (“I’m full, stop eating”), I choose to ignore nature and gorge on goodness. It must have smelled and looked good, since at one point my vegan colleague leaned in, pointed at my assembled tupperware, and said “I don’t eat those things, but if I did, I would eat that.”

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It was then that I noticed a few more of my colleagues staring at my assembled taco.

As I’ve said before, one of the few things I like more than enjoying the food I make is sharing it with others (assuming I’m already full) so that they might enjoy it as well.

So when Carolyn (the style and food genius of heyprettything.com) asked for half, I graciously sought out a knife. Another interested party then jumped on board the “I want a bite” train, and before long the last of my lunch had been divided into thirds and was being handed around the table.

A few moment later I sat back, satisfied, as three other (hopefully) happy teachers munched away on my savory, spicy and sweet creation of the previous night.

Each part of this dish rings it’s own special character to the whole. The deep richness of the chicken is balanced by the light, crunchy and sweet kimchi slaw, and both are punctuated by the spice and earthy saltiness of the miso-dominant ssam sauce. The tortilla is simply a convenient delivery system.

Per Carolyn’s request, I’ve attempted to recreate and record the recipe that I made up this past Tuesday.

Chicken:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh garlic – minced
  • 1 medium white onion – diced
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp gochujang
  • 2 tbsp hoisin
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root – peeled and chopped
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 bunch (7-8) green onions – diced
  • tortillas – for serving

Slaw:

  • 3 cups green cabbage – shredded
  • 1 large carrot – peeled and grated
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 3/4 cup fresh cilantro – chopped
  • 3/4 cup kimchi – diced
  • 2 tbsp – rice wine vinegar

Simple ssam Sauce:

  • 2/3 cup miso
  • 1/3 cup gochujang
  • 1 small shallot – diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno pepper – seeded and diced

The Ssam sauce and the slaw are easy – for each simply mix together the listed ingredients. This can be done while the chicken mixture is cooking.

For the chicken, begin by heating the oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium to medium-high heat.

When the oil is hot, add the white onion and garlic, and saute for 2-3 minutes, until the onions are translucent and the garlic is just slightly browning. Remove the onion and garlic to a bowl.

Add the chicken thighs and breasts (I slice the breasts in half for more even cooking) to the same pan, and brown them on each side. This takes about 6 minutes, turning once.

As the chicken is cooking, mix the onions and garlic with the remaining ingredients (not including the tortillas) in a bowl. Add this mixture to the browned chicken, and mix to coat.

Cover the pan and continue to cook the chicken mixture over medium to medium-low heat for about an hour, or until the meat can be easily shredded/pulled apart with two forks. Make sure to stir the mixture and flip the pieces every 5-10 minutes as the sauce reduces in order to ensure that it doesn’t burn.

Shred the chicken, stir it into the sauce, and continue to cook – uncovered – over low heat until you’re ready to eat.

Layer the tortillas with a smear of ssam sauce, a portion of chicken, and a dollop of slaw, and serve with a squeeze of fresh lime.

Enjoy!

Simple, Sugar-crusted Salmon Tacos

Here’s the situation: It’s Wednesday afternoon, and I’ve arrived home with the intention of thawing and preparing a container of homemade soup for dinner. As I reach behind a half-empty bag of frozen sweet potato fries for the solid mass of vegetables and broth tucked in the back, I realize that this will be the fourth time I’ve eaten soup for dinner in the past week. The thought of slurping down yet another bowl is wholly unappealing. I consider the contents of the fridge, and realize that it’s not properly stocked. There’s no more fresh protein on the top shelf. I’ve used half of the veggies that I bough on Sunday. The baguette is gone, as is the basil, tomatoes and roast beef that I bought last week, and braving the mean streets to make a run to the store is as appealing as falling down the stairs.

So I take another look. I have tortillas, cilantro, and all the fixin’s for a healthy bowl of guacamole. That’t green enough to be considered a vegetable! I also find two small fillets of salmon which had somehow slipped behind a tray of lasagna (jackpot! there’s dinner for tomorrow!). Annnndddd I’ve found my protein.

This is going to be easy!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3/4 lb salmon fillet
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp dried cilantro
  • salt and pepper
  • Guacamole ingredients
  • fresh cilantro
  • fresh lime for serving
  • tortillas of your choice

Clean the piece(s) of salmon and pat them dry.

Mix the spices (brown sugar, chili, garlic, cumin, coriander, dried cilantro) in a bowl, and rub a generous amount of the spice mixture on the flesh side of the salmon.

Allow the spice rub to sit on and soak into the fillet(s) as you prepare the remainder of the ingredients, which should take about 10-15 minutes.

Prepare the guacamole (check out the link above).

Chop the cilantro, slice the lime, and prepare the tortillas.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan set over medium heat. Make sure that the pan is large enough to fit the piece(s) of salmon.

Place the fillets flesh side down, and cook for four minutes. The sugar mixture will cook into a nice, crispy crust, which gives this dish not only a nice flavor, but an interesting texture.

Flip the fish onto the skin side, and cook for no more than 1-2 minutes. This evens out the cook, and makes the skin very easy to remove.

Remove the fish from the heat, peel the skin off, and chop or flake the fillets.

Layer the guac, a handful of fish, a sprinkle of cilantro, and a squeeze of lime onto each tortilla.

As always, enjoy with beer.

Enjoy!

Where’s the Love? – or – Watch me over-analyze a simple picture

My blog is called Love, Food & Beer, but most of my posts are about Food and Beer.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and as much as I do LOVE food and beer, I started asking myself the question that the Black Eyed Peas asked us back in 2003:

Where is the Love?

So, in an effort to answer this question, I’ve decided to do a little show and tell by sharing the following a picture, and showing you the love.

"That's mine, right?"

“That’s mine, right?”

Let’s begin with the mug. We’ve all seen The Lion King. We all know the song – sung affectionately to a lost lion cub by a rat and a pig – and most of us could probably sing the refrain on cue. I know I can. That being said, I don’t want to spread the perception that I’m such a big fan as to have purchased myself a mug. It was actually given to me a few years ago by one of my graduating seniors who I had taught during both her junior and senior years of high school. It came with a heartfelt note explaining her appreciation for my support, and her rationale behind this gift. She explained it was an approximation of the way that I had taught her to approach her life. She assured me that it was not in the carefree, bug-eating, literal “no worries” mentality explained in the film, but in an interpretation thereof. As she explained it (or at least as I understood it), the version of ‘Hakuna Matata’ that I had imparted upon her was not that there wasn’t anything to worry about, but that if there was, she should do something to change that; that she needed to take control of and influence her own ‘worries’ and her own happiness. It was wonderful, and I keep the mug around as a reminder of that.

Plus I need something to drink my coffee from.

Going counterclockwise around the picture, you’ll notice that there’s a still of ‘D’ from The Wire on TV in the background. That’s because The Wire is awesome. If you haven’t seen it, you should go watch it. Now.

To the left, you’ll see Attila. Attila is my wonderful, loving, moronic English Springer Spaniel. He’s a master beggar, and – as you can see – has those distinctly expressive, watery eyes that implore you to share your bacon with him. Which I did. Partially because of those eyes, but also because he’s the best. I love my pup.

You know that hypothetical question where you’re asked what you would do if your dog and random person were about to get hit by cars, and you could only save one? I would save my dog every time. Unless the human was my wife, or someone else I love, then I’d use my hypothetical super powers to stop both cars. Hey, It’s hypothetical, I can do whatever I want.

Moving on.

In the foreground, you’ll see waffles and bacon. The waffles are nothing special, in fact, they’re the result of a lazy Sunday morning and an off-brand box of waffle mix. Not that those traits don’t make them delicious. I love waffles, as does my wife, who had requested them, and – at the time of this picture taking – was sitting out of frame, enjoying every morsel.

And finally, there’s the bacon.

The bacon was special. Those crispy strips that my gun-shy pup is eternally eyeballing are actually homemade strips of bacon that my friend cured and smoked. It may have been his first or second attempt at bacon-creation. In fact, I think that this batch may have been the one that he thought was slightly over-salted, but what really matters is that they’re something shared. I’ve ranted about bacon making things better, and you may agree or disagree with me regarding my opinion, but what I think most people would have a hard time disagreeing with is the idea that what makes a better bacon is the addition of the love and care that goes into something homemade. Plus, I remember it being delicious.

So, where’s the love?

I think I’ve found a little bit of it in a strip of bacon, a waffle, a coffee cup, and the dopey face of my dog.

Meatless Monday Meal: Super Fresh Veggie Soup

Whew – after a deliciously sugary, fatty and red meat-filled Christmas break, the wife and I decided that it’s time to cut back. After all, the season of over-indulgence is no longer upon us.

But how to cut back?

Should I cut out red meat entirely? Should I go completely plant-based? Should I stop drinking beer and wine? Should I adhere to the interesting, albeit incredibly expensive looking, Bon Appetit January cleanse?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Although the answer to each of these rhetorical questions should probably be a resounding “yes”, those things will never happen. Ever. Even if there’s a fire.

I will never give up  the things I love, and as you can tell by the title of this blog, I love food and beer.

What will  happen though is a – mostly – smooth return to our basic health philosophy: pay attention to what we eat, make a concerted effort to be healthy, and try to get regular exercise.

So as I try to come down off of a Holiday-induced fat and sugar high, I have to start adding back in the things that have been missing from my diet. Namely, vegetables. Lots of them.

With this in mind, I visited the grocery store last Sunday with a very basic idea for an all veggie meal, and left forty five minutes later with a cart full of produce.

That load of greens turned into a beautiful, bountiful bowl of savory soup.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large leeks – sliced into rounds
  • 2 tbsp garlic – minced
  • 2 cups carrots – sliced into rounds
  • 2 cups celery – chopped
  • 3 cups fresh green beans – trimmed and chopped
  • 1 can corn kernels – drained
  • 2 cans no slat added petite-diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 a head of cabbage – chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup fresh flatleaf parsley – chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil – chopped

Place a large soup on the stove, add the oil, and turn the heat to medium-low. When the oil is heated, add the leeks and garlic, and allow them to sweat for about 6 minutes.

Add the rest of the vegetables, and stir them together before adding the stock.

Season the veggie mixture with the dried oregano, dried basil and salt and pepper, mix it all together, and then add the stock and broth.

Simmer the soup, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are tender – about 30 minutes.

Add the fresh parsley and basil, and season the broth to taste.

Serve and enjoy.

Speaking of enjoying this soup, go ahead and indulge, because – as calculated – each serving of this savory vegan concoction weighs in at a whopping 175 calories.