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Just a reminder for those with an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker – you can make a nice stock out of those chicken bones you are saving.I set it for an hour and that seems sufficient.  The Food Lab has much more!

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Pork Belly with Pickled Mustard Greens

Most days we watch cooking shows while having lunch or dinner.  I DVR shows so I can skip the commercials during playback.  This dish caught my eye so I grabbed a notepad to scribble down the ingredients:

  • pork belly
  • brown sugar
  • mushroom soy sauce
  • black bean sauce
  • oyster sauce
  • sliced ginger root
  • chopped green onions
  • chopped white onion
  • minced garlic
  • fermented black beans
  • sesame oil
  • pickled mustard greens

There will be no measurements.  I used about 1-1/2 pounds of pork belly cut into one inch cubes and pretty much eye-balled the rest of it,  I started the video from the top and added the ingredients in the same order as the TV chef, a Jamaican with Chinese ancestry.  His answers, when prompted for amounts by the host, were either “this much” or “that much there”.

The chef was asked how long will this simmer on your stove-top, but I couldn’t make out his reply.  I think he said “till it’s done”.I was going to be making it in the Instapot pressure cooker so I set it for an hour.

The mustard green were added after the pork belly had cooked down.These came from the International Grocery, a store in a nearby college town.  I was pretty sure they would have them, but I looked in the canned veggie section to no avail.  I asked for help.  The store clerk went right to them, they are in sealed plastic bags, he mentioned that they were very sour and needed a good soaking with changes of water so I started the soak the first thing. I also picked up the mushroom soy sauce and the black bean ingredients while there.  Handy store!Chop the greens and add them to the pot after it cools down enough to open.  I also thickened this the same way as the chef – a slurry of corn starch.  When I make this again I will back off on the on the added water.

The TV show was “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on the food network.  The info for the episode said it was from season 4, episode 6, first aired 09/05/08.  Alas, a search of the Food Network’s web page didn’t yield agreement, it says the the episode “A Taste of Everywhere” was from season 4, episode 7.  Clicking on that episode link was no help in finding the recipe.

A  Google search for recipes turned up numerous variations, most of them mentioned par-boiling the pork belly.  There wasn’t any mention of that on the show but it may have been edited out.  I went ahead and did it before cubing the belly:

Next time I’ll cube it first and boil it a little longer, that should reduce the fat a little in the end result.

Tidbits

Whoo Boy!  We got some rain last night, the thunder seemed constant all night long.  Bitsy just crawled out from underneath the sofa a few minutes ago.Here’s Gabe and Homer Kitteh messing about by the pond a couple of days ago.  It’s been down a little all winter long, several inches below the overflow pipe.  I haven’t looked this morning yet but it has to be up close, now.I’ve found that using a can of refried beans in my chili recipe really adds some body to it.  I used refried black beans in this but the regular refries from pinto beans should work fine.I’ve been making gravy from the chicken fat captured when I roast a chicken beer-butt style:I pour off the fat (and the water I’ve added to the pan) and refrigerate it to make separating the fat easy.  Make a roux of the fat and flour then add stock to make gravy.  You can also add milk to make it creamy but I don’t except when making it for a pot pie.  We eat half the chicken the first go, then bone the rest for later.  The carcass goes into the pressure cooker to make a stock, takes an hour at pressure rather than all day on the stove-top.Kittehs!  There are a couple of brand new momma cats at the shelter, they were brought in pregnant.  The shelter will eventually spay her but the kittehs have to be weaned first.  Mrs J says 6 to 8 weeks is normal.Rib steaks!  Sous vide is the killer app for steaks.  These spend the afternoon at 138 degrees in their vacuum sealed bags.  Kroger sells whole slabs of these, I slice and bag them with salt and pepper and then freeze.  They go right into the hot bath frozen.Another batch of cuties!  Mrs J says they had to open the overflow kitten room because they have too many right now for the dedicated kitteh nursery.

Leg of Lamb

20160410_132001I brought up a leg of lamb from the basement freezer and decided to go the pressure cooker route.  It was a little over 4 pounds and fit nicely in the Instapot.  I added 2 cups of broth and dusted the leg with a spice mix made up of garlic powder, onion powder, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, salt and pepper, and set the timer for 65 minutes per the table in Bob Warden’s cookbook (45 minutes plus 20 for frozen).  Needing thin slices for a gyro, I cut them from the cooked roast and browned them in oil in a skillet, dusting them with more of the spice mix.20160410_133147_HDRThat HDR software works pretty well on gyros, too!  I used fresh dill in the tzatziki this time, and a squeeze of honey, otherwise it’s the basic Alton Brown recipe (sans mint).

Pressure Cooker Corned Beef

20160317_131753[1] (1600x1060)In a slow cooker it’s an 8 hour project.  It takes several hours to boil one atop the stove.  In my Instapot pressure cooker it took 90 minutes for the meat, and the veggies just a few minutes.  There is additional time involved reaching temperature, and some spent winding down but this corned beef was so good I ran back to Kroger’s for two more that I’ll cook today to chill and slice for sandwiches.

Pressure Cooker Pork Mole

DSC_1677 (1600x1060)Valued commenter donnah mentioned in the pressure cooker gadget post that she found this cookbook to be worth purchasing.  I ordered it and it came yesterday.  The pork mole recipe caught my eye, we did it today.  I hoped to find the recipe online so I could link to it.  This one appears to be the same one but it doesn’t have any attribution.  I don’t know who stole from who!  Well, you can’t copyright a recipe, so no harm no foul.

I probably used too much broth and didn’t let it reduce far enough so the sauce is a tad thin, but it tasted great.  I’ll reduce it farther before I put it away today.

Beef Stew in Wine: Slow Cooker or Pressure Cooker Methods

We had a bit of snow last night and there’s a chill in the air. When I was at the market I found a nice cut of chuck and decided I wanted to make stew for dinner. It was about 4 pm, so it was time to break out the pressure cooker. In 30 minutes I had a great stew that tasted like it was cooked all day in the slow-cooker. Below is the recipe, you can use in with both.

Originally posted 1/2012

Temperature is supposed to drop by 50 degrees between today’s high and tomorrow’s high. Seemed like a good time to break out the slow-cooker.  I’ve also included a variation of the instructions for a pressure cooker, in case my gadget post made you decide to dig yours out of storage.

We’ve done beef stew before here, this is just a variation on the basic recipe.

The thing to know about beef stew is the flavors really come from the meat and vegetables.  Seasoning is better if kept light for the best experience.

Beef Stew in Wine

  • 1 lb lean stew meat
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 4-6 small potatoes, quartered
  • 8 oz baby carrots, halved
  • 1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 4 button mushrooms, washed and quartered
  • pinch of rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves (remove before serving)
  • ½ tsp ea. salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup of dry red wine
  • 3 tbsp flour as needed

slowcooker, skillet

In skillet, heat oil.  Add salt and pepper to flour, dredge meat in flour and add to hot oil.  Cook until evenly brown.

Place meat, onion, vegetables & spices into the slowcooker, add 5 cups water and wine,  cook according to slowcooker directions, (usually 8 to 10 hours on low).

I like my stew thick, so about 2o minutes before serving, I turn the slow-cooker heat to high, bringing stew to a boil, mix 1 cup water and flour completely, add to stew, stirring constantly (works best with a fork), and cook until thickened, reduce heat and let simmer additional 20 minutes.

For Pressure Cooker:

Heat oil in pressure cooker.  Dredge meat in flour, salt & pepper mixture and cook in oil until evenly brown.  Add onions and sweat for a minute.  Add vegetables, spices, 5 cups of water and wine to pressure cooker, cover and bring to pressure.  Reduce heat and cook for 20 minutes.  Turn heat off and let depressurize naturally (as opposed to the cold water method).  For a thicker stew follow directions above.

Tuscan Bean Soup

Winter is all about soups and stews for me.  There is nothing like a kitchen filled with the smells of a simmering pot of goodness. Who cares about the gloomy day outside when you can serve a steaming hot bowl of soup or stew with a nice loaf of  bread or biscuits.

Bean soups are high on my list of favorite soups.  And since discovering the joys of cooking with a pressure cooker, using dried beans are snap.  I know many people are purists and say that dried beans are the only way to go, but honestly I have never found canned beans to be lacking.  They are quick and easy and I like the flavor just fine.  So by all means, if you want to make life easier, use canned beans.

And to get us started, here is a nice bean soup.  I’m not a big kale fan, so I only added 2 cups and added spinach as well.  You can easily add as much kale as you like, the original recipe called for 2 whole heads.

Serves 6 easily.  Serve with a nice garlic bread.

Tuscan Bean Soup

  • 14 oz canned kidney beans, or 1/2 cup dried, soaked overnight*
  • 14 oz canned cannellini beans, or 1/2 cup dried, soaked overnight*
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound diced pancetta, or bacon
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • Salt and pepper
  • 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken stock (low-sodium)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 sprig rosemary (remove before serving)
  • 1 tsp dried basil, or 1 tbsp chopped fresh
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf (remove before serving)
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 2 cups kale, chopped
  • 2 cups baby spinach, chopped
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated, for serving

Place the beans in a medium pot, add water to cover by 2-inches and bring to a boil. (If using canned kidney beans, skip this step.) Turn the heat down, let simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until just-tender.

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta, rendering the fat and cooking until slightly crispy about 3 minutes. Sauté the onion, celery, carrot and garlic for 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Add the diced tomatoes, the cooked and drained beans and the chicken stock and water. Add spices, salt and pepper. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, then add the kale and spinach. Continue cooking until the beans are completely tender.

Pressure Cooker instructions:

*At this altitude, soaking does nothing, so I skip that step. I rinse them well and then I pressure cook the beans for 30 minutes before starting the soup. It can be done the night before and refrigerate the drained beans. They will be just tender, drain and add to soup as per directions above.

 

Apple Butter Anyone? Updated.

This is how I spent my weekend.  How’d you spend yours?  Do anything fun?

(Updated.  See final tally at end of post)

Adventures in Apple Butter

It all started with a tree:

A tree filled with crab apples.  And a desire to see them not go to waste.  It took me 20 minutes to pick a 5 gallon bucket full.  I grabbed a few green apples from a neighboring tree to top it off.

Then it was home to wash them.  And wash them and wash them.

I washed 4 sinks full and washed them each three times, culling the bad ones each time.  A couple of things about crab apples:

  1. Bad ones float right to the top.
  2. Black spots always go all the way through the apple – took me about 10 to figure this out – so you can’t cut out the bad stuff.
  3. They seem to suffer from blossom rot, if the stems pulled out they had blossom rot and were rotten throughout.
  4. Unlike the green apples next to them, I saw no evidence of worms or bugs in any apple.  Whew!

Once I figured this out, culling them was pretty quick.  But the thing you need to know is that no matter how much you cull a few bad ones are going to slip through.  Just the nature of their size.  So if that is going to make you queasy, cooking with crab apples probably isn’t for you.

I used three tools for the apple butter and without them I don’t think I would have gone to the trouble.  I cooked them (basically steamed them) in my pressure cooker, I pureed them in my Vita-Mix and I cooked the apple butter down in my slow-cooker.  I can’t imagine the amount of work it would have taken without these.

Next step was to pressure cook them.  Whole: peels, seeds, stems and all.   I added about 1 cup of water and the steamer tray to my pressure cooker and then I cooked them for 25 minutes.  Which is probably a bit long, but that made sure they were good and mushy before the blending stage.

After cooling each batch a bit, I ran them through the Vita-Mix – peels, stems, seeds and all.  Keep in mind the seeds are minuscule  and the stems are smaller than grape stems and cooked tender.  To puree this in a hand puree’er would be to lose much of  the texture and flavors of the whole crab apples. You’d also lose a good portion of your tiny apples.

After running it through the Vita-Mix, I added about 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tbsp of pumpkin spice (cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg) for each 6 cups of puree.

This is the smooth mixture from the blender, before cooking down in slow-cooker

Then the mixture was added to the slow-cooker, filled to about 2 inches from the top.  Set the slow-cooker on low and use a wooden spoon to prop the lid open to let the steam escape. Because what you want is for the mixture to cook down by half and caramelize.    This takes 8-12 hours.  After the first batch, when the sides browned a little too much, I stirred the next batches every hour or so to keep it from burning.  After it cooked down and was the consistency I was looking for, I did it all over again.

As you can see, there is still a lot to do.  I am cooking the next batch of apples as I put this blog post together.  I only jarred two pints – these are not canned and will need to be refrigerated – one to use here and one to take to work tomorrow.  The rest I plan to can tomorrow night when all the butter is cooked.  I’m planning on both pints and 1/2 pints, most of which I will give away.  I still don’t have a good idea how much this is going to make, but I’ll wager 6 additional pints and 6  half pints.  I’ll update you when it’s all done.  Oh, and by the way, it tastes amazing.  And all weekend long my house smelled like fall.

UPDATED:  Final tally was 12 pints and 12 half pints.  I canned all but 3 pints and 4 half pints which were given away immediately to friends and neighbors with instructions to keep refrigerated.  I never expected it to make so much.

Spicy Beef and Potato Soup

I was under the weather last week and made a big batch of Chicken Tortilla Soup, filled with veggies and lots of heat.  I’m feeling better this week, but still wanted soup.  Decided to throw together something from the ingredients I had on hand.  This is what I came up with, it’s pretty good, and will be great tomorrow to combat the fall chill in the air.

Spicy Beef and Potato Soup

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb boneless chuck steak
  • 6 green onions, chopped, including greens
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 8 cups water
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup corn
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/4 cup celery leaves
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • 1 chili, chopped (I used jalapeno)
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Dutch oven or pressure cooker

In pan,  heat oil and brown beef, add onions.  When onions are golden, add vinegar by pouring it directly over the beef.  Let simmer 1 minute before adding remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a bubbling simmer, stirring occasionally.  Cook until beef breaks apart easily.  Reduce heat to low, remove beef, shred and stir back into soup.

I use a pressure cooker, which reduces cooking time by 1/2 – after adding water, close pressure cooker, bring to pressure, reduce heat and cook 20 minutes.  Remove beef, shred and stir back into soup.