About sa.fifer

Lover of good, wholesome food and wine. Cooks for one and the cat. Likes to paint-- a frustrated botanical illustrator and amateur (photographer) and fledgling birdwatcher, beekeeper, and Kindle addict. Works as a freelance indexer.

Beets, more beets, and vegetable confit

Yes I love beets, and I think they are underappreciated, so I’m always looking for more things to do with beets. From Cook’s Illustrated the article on “Turn the Beet Around” has some suggestions: Charred beet salad among some others. If you search Kitchn for beets you get lots of recipes. Some look good, others, maybe not so good. I have found beet hummus in the grocery store (a reputable brand that does do good humus) and, explorer and beet lover than I am, I did try it. It’s good, and should I find it again (it’s since disappeared) I would buy it again, but make it? I don’t think so. Just as I’m unlikely to make pickled beets. However, chocolate beet bundt cake, might just be a possibility. I mean we do eat carrot cake, so why not?

I do have a beet liqueur that I love, too.

However, cold beet soup is still a summer favorite, and easier now that it is possible to buy already cooked beets or frozen sliced beets. I’ve griddled beet slices and the caramelization that takes is a whole new level of flavor from them

Stahlbush Island Farms

My latest discovery of beets is poached beets. Yes, no kidding. I was reading my email from Mark Bittman’s eponymous website just a day or two ago and found an article titled “Charred Olive-Oil-Poached Beets. I don’t know why that struck me as so startling. I didn’t fire up the grill, but I did pitch some of these on my cast-iron griddle and they were really good!

While it may be controversial, I’m familiar with making vegetable confit and even vegan rillettes. After some thought this really didn’t seems so strange–maybe just that beets are underappreciated vegetables. So, beet confit! The recipes I’ve reviewed on vegetable confit suggest that if covered with oil they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three–yes, 3 months.

This seems like a great way to handle extra veggies when you’re doing single-serving cooking. So, controversial or not, I’ll likely be trying some more vegetable confit when the summer bounty is in the farmers’ market.

A son gôut!

†

From Mark Bittman, Charred Olive-Oil-Poached Beets

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A pork rillettes addendum

I got just a little hasty clicking buttons while saving and trying to schedule that post on rillettes, so here is a final report:

final seasoning, after the “sizzle”
  • This didn’t require much “hands in” work at all. The meat was so tender that it shredded as I was mixing with the spatula while adjusting the seasoning.
  • I love my Calphalon “everyday” pan, but it was a not a good choice for doing the evaporate and “sizzle” part of the recipe: just not quite heavy enough so that I had some brown stuff (fond) right over the burner (nothing burned, just browned) and around the sides of the pan where there was a little spatter while the evaporating was going on. (Maybe just a bit lower flarm next time?) The evaporation was good since it’s a broad surface, but I needed a heavier pan or a “flame tamer” or use the induction cooktop since that might spread the heat better.
  • Since I didn’t want to lose all the flavor of the fond on the bottom of the pan and around the sides, I deglazed the pan first with just enough water water to cover the bottom of the pan, reduced that a bit, then added a hefty splash of dry sherry and reduced this to about 3 or 4 tablespoons that was mixed with the meat.
  • If you really want to add to the “porky” flavor, you could add just a bit of bacon fat instead of all lard. (I know this because I tasted it with a bit from the jar that lives by my stove, but this time just lots of fresh-ground black pepper,) I can think of lots of interesting ways to season this. It’s just a son gôut!
cooling, waiting for the fridge

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Pork rillettes

from David Libovitz website

Summer weather is here. Hot, humid weather is here; that means that I’m terribly picky about what I eat. I don’t want hot food but I want more to eat than salads and cottage cheese, or even bean and/or pasta salads. As I’m sure you know from previous posts, I am easily bored with the same foods too many times in a week, and I don’t deal well with leftovers.

I’m a facultative, rather than obligate, carnivore but even in hot weather I do want something meaty (and not necessarily steak or ‘burgers). Ubiquitous chicken doesn’t fill the bill either; I wanted something special.

Finding myself with a surplus of pork spare ribs that were so incredibly tender, and having some excellent broth as well as the fat (yes, the fat) I thought that rillettes might be the answer to my finickey summer appetite for meaty stuff that could be enjoyed cold–and since I’m still trying to do the low carb thing, I thought rillettes might be quite palatable with crunchy green stuff (belgian endive leaves, or the heart leaves from romain (cos) lettuce.

My search for recipes lead me to some interesting web sites: The New York Times, Bon Appetite, Food & Wine, David Lebovitz, and serious eats, to mention some of them. There are lots of variations in the seasonings but the basic ingredients are simple: pork and pork fat. Most recipes called for shoulder or boston butt, but that’s not practical when cooking for one. All very interesting, but I do have a reasonable library of charcuterie books (both hard-copy and on my Kindle) so I thought I should also check closer to home before I made a decision. Plugging “rillettes” into the search function on my Kindle I found lots of other recipes as well. I was amazed at how many references I found.

I finally settled on a recipe was from Essential Pepin): simple and and it’s easy to pick up from where I left my pork spare ribs from the instant pot.

Recipe adapted from Essential Pepin (Kindle location 13172-13197). The instructions are extensive and I’ve merely abstracted the main points. If you’re going to do this, I’d recommend checking the source–even via a trip to the library.

Rillettes

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds boneless pork chuck or neck (you should have about 75% lean and 25% fat, cut into 2- to 3-inch cubes.
  • 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Preparation

  1. In a large heavy saucepan, add salt, pepper, and enough water to cover by 1 inch.
  2. Simmer very slowly over low heat for about 5 hours, adding more water as necessary.
  3. After poaching, when the water is almost all evaporated and the liquid has started to sizzle, let it sizzle for about 30 minutes to give a roasted taste to the meat.
  4. Transfer to a bowl and cool. Refrigerate overnight.
  5. Crush the pieces of meat (with your hands, between thumbs and fingers recommended by Pepin) or use a flat beater on a stand mixer.
  6. Put mean and fat in a saucepan and heat over medium-low heat; taste for seasoning. Overseason slightly since seasonings are muted when cold.
  7. After the mixture is set, pack into small crocks and refrigerate.
  8. Well sealed these will keep for a couple weeks in the refrigerator or can be frozen.

I had about 2-1/4 pounds of pork left from my spare ribs. Since my pork was cooked in the Instant Pot using the pot-in-pot method, I started at step 3 by pouring off the broth and fat, then reducing those over medium-high heat until the sizzling started, when the broth was evaporate (as well as the splash of sherry that I decided to add).

I returned the meat to the pan and allowed a bit more evaporation, and did the 30 minutes of sizzling, and then followed the rest of the instructions. The sizzling part is really important for the best flavor. The pork flavor is good before this, but afterwards it’s really great. (Be sure to use a really heavy pan or you’ll have pork stuck to the bottom where the heat from the burner was. (This Calphalon pan wasn’t quite heavy enough so I had to do a little scraping to get all the browned pork to mix in.)

I did some extra fresh-ground black pepper (my favorite extra bold from Penzeys) since I wanted a bit more spice.

evaporating liquid and sizzling the pork

(While the sizzling was going on I use my Instant Pot to sterilize some mason jars to pack the rillettes in, even though it will be refrigerated. I did do a little crushing while this process was going on–easy with a wooden spoon since the meat was so tender.

sterilizing containers

After cooling it again, I used the hands-on method to crush the meat since I had seen comments on the texture you would bet if using the flat-flat beater method–OK, messy but texture is important here. I didn’t have quite the ratio of lean to fat recommended so I did a bit more of my own home-rendered lard. After a final check on the seasoning, the rillettes were packed into the jars, and stashed in the refrigerator.

Now I have something meaty for hot weather meals. Yes, it takes time, but it’s really not a lot of effort and the reward is so good. All you need now is some good bread, or if you’re trying the low carb thing some crispy green stuff like belgian endive or romaine leaves.

Pork spare ribs

Cooking pork spare ribs to that point where they are extremely luscious and tender is usually a long process, usually involving the oven (at least for me). Even in the cooler weather this didn’t seem to be an option even with windows and doors open; however it occurred to me that I had another option: the Instant Pot. So despite the rather humid (even if cool) weather and the prospect of hotter weather imminent, that package of spare ribs went home with me.

I’ve cooked other meat (e.g. beef short ribs) in my Instant Pot with wonderful results so that was my plan. Realizing that i was going to have an abundance of pork I started thinking of ways to deal with it: some for the freezer perhaps since there are lots of things to do with good cooked pork.

My favorite way of cooking many things in the Instant Pot (IP) is the pot-in-pot method*–a container with a lid inside the Instant Pot. My reason for using this method so often is that in cooking for one I’m often using rather small quantities in a six-quart IP. Often I don’t want to add as much liquid as would be necessary cooking directly in the container of the pot itself.

I like this method especially for meats. The broth that you collect is undiluted by water so you have broth that is flavorful and will gel nicely. So that is how the spare ribs were cooked. The only “disadvantage” to this method is that you may need to increase the cooking times but since I use the IP mainly because of hands-off method and flavor I don’t find that to be a problem.

It really isn’t possible to give quantities for things like the peppercorns or precisely for the salt–you’ll have to judge by your taste.

Ingredients

  • about 2 to 2-1/2 pounds boneless pork spare ribs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • whole black peppercorns (a lot–about a generous teaspoon or more if you like pepper
  • 4 or 5 cloves of garlic
  • salt (more than you would think)–about 2 or 3 teaspoons

Preparation

  • The day before or at least three or four hours ahead of cooking, sprinkle the spare ribs generously with kosher salt.
  • When ready to cook, rinse if there is still salt visible and pat the meat dry.
  • Cut the strips into 2- or 3-inch chunks (to fit into your bowl).
  • Add 1 cup of water to the IP container, place the trivet, and set the covered bowl on the trivet.
  • Close the IP and set to “meat”. These took about 90 minutes at high pressure.

I removed a healthy serving of the cooked spare ribs for my supper on that cool, rainy evening (with sides of cabbage and some rice) and then cooled the remaining in the broth (and the fat) for another use.

Cooks notes: *This is a rather long video but it introduces the pot-in-pot method and containers suitable for this. I almost always use a cover on the inner pot so that additional liquid doesn’t collect in it. For more on containers see this link, this link, or here.

A throw-together chicken salad

Faced with hunger, laziness at the end of a long workday, and the start of warm-weather don’t want anything heavy to eat feeling, I was foraging in the refrigerator. I discovered that I had just enough of the dark chicken meat that I had cooked in the Instant Pot to make something like chicken salad, but a bit different.

Add to the shredded dark meat a drizzle of garlic-infused olive oil , a drizzle of  baklouti green chili fused oil, just a few drops of honey-ginger white balsamic vinegar, and some cilantro. Add some diced radishes for crunch. Toss and eat.

(I will admit to cheating on the cilantro: I used Dorot frozen cilantro instead of fresh since I didn’t go to the store to get fresh. It’s not a good looking as fresh, but the flavor is good. (Cilantro and celery are major frustrations for me in cooking for one; I always end up composting a bunch of it.)

…and no, I don’t have any affiliation with Dorot Gardens except that I like the quality and the convenience of having the herbs in the freezer.

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Cabbage rolls deconstructed

Despite the Always Hungry? diet now being a memory of things past this one recipe (and the blue cheese dressing) has stayed around the kitchen. Somehow with the rather chilly, grey days that seem to be endless, this seemed appropriate now, so I thought I’d share the recipe. Sometimes good things come from strange places. I never have thought I’d be keeping recipes from a diet book!

The recipe calls for using a food processor, and for blanching the cabbage. Since I cook for one, I really consider using a food processor a lot more work than simply getting out my knife, even if the recipe calls for “finely diced”. It’s so simple to clean a knife and a cutting board.

Here is the recipe (adapted from pp.236-237) from Always Hungry?

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 (or more) cloves of garlic
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded
  • 1-1/4 pounds ground beef (the recipe calls for lean, but not in this cook’s kitchen)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3-1/2 cups diced tomatoes (about two 14.5 ounce cans
  • 2-4 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 apple, finely diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 5-6 cups shredded cabbage (about 1/2 small head)

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. In a food processor (if you’re using it, otherwise chop and use an immersion blender, or finely dice) the onion, bell pepper and garlic. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Stir the beef into the beef, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper (personally, I like more), into the onion mixture.
  4. Combine the tomatoes, vinegar, apple, cinnamon, remaining salt and pepper. If you have an immersion blender, use it here to complete the sauce–otherwise you can go rustic and have chunky sauce; it still tastes good.
  5. Blanch the cabbage for about 30 seconds and drain. (Not this lazy cook; it goes in the microwave briefly).
  6. Cover the bottom of a 9 x 12-inch baking dish with 1 cup of the tomato mixture. Layer with half the cabbage, then half the beef mixture; alternate tomato mixture, cabbage, and beef mixture, ending with beef and then tomato mixture.
  7. Cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes; remove the foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes (or a bit longer if it’s still too juicy).

This is another of my cabbage “things” that gets better the day after, or even after that. It freezes well, so I don’t try to alter the recipe to cut it from 4 servings to one or two.

A son gôut!

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Cabbage and pork

Ready for the oven

I guess it’s the cold weather, but seem to be craving simple, warm meat and vegetable dishes. Not very long ago I was making fårikål–lamb and cabbage stew because I found lovely shoulder chops in the meat case.

This week on my stroll around the meat case looking for bargains I found a lovely package of pork butt steaks–perfect for making another of my favorite winter dishes: braised pork and cabbage with an unusual twist to the seasoning, thanks to Jacques Pepin (and his wife).

A whole pork butt is just not in the picture when you are cooking for one! Even when you freeze part of what you make–and this does freeze well, and I do want some in the freezer for quick meals, I still really prefer making most things in quantities NOT for eight people. This recipe is one that is SO easy to adapt for cooking for one. Chops or steaks are a good alternative to a whole pork butt.

I almost made this recipe just as it was posted in the original–except I browned only one side of the pork since it was going to finish in the oven. My other modification, was to add just a touch of coriander seed to the spice mixture. For chops or steaks like this, about 30 to 45 minutes with the rub is enough.

This is a great mix of a little spicy, a little sweet, a little sour–not what you usually expect when you hear pork and cabbage!

Not photogenic, but very tasty


In cold weather–or even just chilly, grey, rainy weather–I love making braises in the oven. I’m heating the house, so the added heat is fine. The aromas of a good oven-braised dish warm the soul too.

A son gôut!

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