Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pork Fried Rice

Summer is over, but each change in season brings a much welcomed adjustment to the meal planning, and fall is a tasty one.  The transition to Autumn has been smooth with warm sunny days, cool nights, and a continued lack of any decent rain.  BLT season is certainly over, and I’m actually okay with that as we’ve eaten them for lunch or dinner at least 20 times in the past 6 weeks.  Too much of something brings a lack of appreciation.  No more BLT’s or cucumber tomato salads with garden produce until 2014, let us get back into the kitchen (been grilling BLT’s all summer, it’s a great method) and use that oven again.  Or the stovetop, so you can quickly prepare this pork fried rice.  The opportunity to tuck into some casseroles and potato gratins will soon be here.  We'll be stirring up plenty of risottos soon, here is one of my faves.  This roasted tomato soup with cheddar crouton is the perfect shift from summer to fall, using up the very last tomatoes still clinging to the withered vines next to my garage, with a chiffonade of basil that hasn’t yellowed yet thanks to plenty of September sunshine.  

The Oktoberfest beers (current choice) and pumpkin ales (current choice) are populating the shelves.  Football is on, NHL hockey is back, (it's only preseason?) and very soon I won’t have to suffer through any more Cubs games this season.  Even though summer is over, there is much to like about fall.  Especially with the current NFC North rankings.  Sausage.  Ditka.  Bears.

 My preferred grocer sells pork cutlets which dice up easy for this meal.  You could probably find the same, or break down a small loin, and as a last resort ground pork would do the job.  If you don't like the spice, then certainly don't use hot peppers.  I substituted edamame for frozen peas, as the kid wouldn't eat them.  She gobbled them up the day before, so why would I even think about serving them again so soon?  Mushrooms are optional, the addition of bok choy would be great for some green Asian flair.  We prefer brown rice vs. white, that's your choice.  Just be sure it's leftover or cooked a few hours in advance and then chilled- it makes a difference, I've tried fresh hot rice and it is not the same.  

The trick to this quick cooking one-skillet meal?  Mis en place!  
Pork Fried Rice
4-6 servings

3 TB soy sauce
5 TB rice wine vinegar
1 TB sesame oil
1/4 ts white sugar
3/4 lb thin pork cutlets, 1/2" dice
1/2 C frozen peas
1 C sliced bella/cremini mushrooms
1 medium carrot, small dice
1 medium red or green bell pepper, diced
1/2 small white or red onion, diced
2 medium garlic cloves, halved and thinly sliced
3/4 C broccoli florets
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 C cold cooked brown rice
2 green onion, thinly sliced
chow mein noodles, optional
jalapeno/serrano peppers optional 

In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar, and sesame oil.  Set aside.  

In a large heavy skillet, heat a couple TB of canola oil over medium high heat.  Once hot, cook the pork, stirring often, for about 2-3 minutes until no longer pink.  Remove to a bowl and set aside.

In the same skillet, add the vegetables (except green onion) and cook for 2-3 minutes until crisp-tender.  Season with a touch of S&P while cooking.

Turn down the heat to medium and add the lightly beaten eggs, scramble until just set.

Add the rice, pork, and soy sauce mixture.  Turn down the heat to medium low for a couple minutes while stirring occasionally, until everything is heated through.  Taste and season with S&P if needed.

Serve in bowls topped with green onion and crunchy chow mein noodles,  add thinly sliced jalapeno or serrano if you like.  I like.  You like? Xiǎngshòu!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Grilled Chorizo Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers

When I made these many years ago for a party, I almost killed people.  I didn't clean out the pith and seeds thoroughly before stuffing them, just got the big chunk out of the way to make room for the chorizo and cheese.  Now I like hot food, but they were almost inedible.  I used to have a good selection of hot sauces like Dave's Insanity, the kind you stick a toothpick in and use the smallest amount possible- the tiny jar lasts years.  Then there was one time in the lab where another chemist decided to blend habaneros with ethanol and distill it several times to extract the pure capsaicin a fume hood, safety first.  That would have placed quite high on the Scoville chart.  If you ever find your mouth on fire don't reach for your beer or even water, that will just spread the heat around your mouth and make it worse.  A better option is dairy- milk, sour cream, yogurt.  Casein is a protein in dairy that will bind with the capsaicin oil and get it out of your mouth.  The best option has been scientifically proven as the quickest way to cool off your burning taste buds-rinse your mouth with hydrogen peroxide- don't swallow, of course.

 An important lesson was learned that evening- trying out new recipes for a party can be risky.  It might pay off and everyone raves about how delicious it is and you've got a great new dish, or you might injure people and they are afraid to put a utensil near anything you ever make again.

Sort of like beer-can chicken, jalapeno poppers certainly aren't pushing the culinary envelope.  They are damn tasty though, and if prepared properly only mildly spicy.  The trick of course is to ensure you scrape out the pith and seeds with a paring knife.  The grilling rack I bought for $10 at Menards came with a double-sided serrated knife that is perfect for the task, but a small paring knife does the job too.  The pith, or white part, has the most capsaicin which contains the heat, the seeds have some and the actual flesh of the vegetable has the least, so that's the part you want to eat.  But first let's stuff it with cheese and sausage.

You can find Mexican chorizo loose or in encased sausage form.  If the latter, simply squeeze out of the casing and break up while browning with a wooden spoon.

The amount below will yield enough for about 15 medium to large jalapenos, I only had a dozen and had some leftover sausage cheese mixture which turned into a tasty breakfast with some eggs scrambled in.  You might have the same 'problem' depending on pepper quantity and size.  Just in time for Sunday football appetizer season!  

Grilled Chorizo Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers

12 jalapeno peppers, washed, tops cut off, cored and seeded thoroughly
4 oz cream cheese, room temp
4 oz pepper jack, shredded or small dice
3/4 C Mexican chorizo sausage
4 green onion, green parts only, sliced thin

Cook the chorizo in a small skillet over medium heat for about 6-8 minutes, stirring often until cooked through and the fat is rendered.  Remove to a plate lined with paper towel and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, add the cheeses and scallion.  Toss in the sausage and mix well.  Using your fingers, stuff each pepper well- cram the mix in there with your finger.  Fill just to the top and place on a popper rack, on a rib rack, or some other modified piece of grill-proof metal if you want to MacGyver it. 

Fire up the grill for medium direct heat.  Grill for about 10 minutes, until nice and bubbly and lightly browned.  Let cool for 2-3 minutes before enjoying. 

A simple recipe post such as this deserves a more serious contemplation on food and food writing, from one of the best. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Grilled Lamb Meatballs with Tzatziki

Was August 2013 only two weeks long?  Sure felt like it, and now another summer is complete.  I hope yours was enjoyable.  Mine was busy, a good mix of fun and manual labor.  But there was plenty of time for pizza and beer, two essential components for summertime.  Actually, those are necessary year round.

Prosciutto and asparagus early in the summer, Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale

Mushroom, green pepper, onion, pepperoni and fresh basil, Stella Artois

It might technically be fall now that we're in September, but there are some warm days ahead and the grill is still used more than the oven.  These grilled lamb meatballs are a nice change up from all the lamb burgers we've had the past few months, and is similar to these lamb meatballs.  They are quick to throw together and cook up in less than 10 minutes. 

Grilled Lamb Meatballs with Tzatziki
3-4 servings

1 lb lamb
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 small cloves garlic, minced
2 TB finely chopped fresh mint
1 TB finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

6-8 oz plain greek yogurt
2 TB finely chopped fresh mint
1 TB fresh lemon juice
1/4 C diced seedless cucumber
1 small clove garlic, minced
pinch S&P

For the tzatziki-
combine yogurt, mint, lemon juice, cucumber, garlic, season to taste with S&P.  Chill for at least 30 minutes. 

For the lamb balls-
In a large mixing bowl, add lamb, onion, garlic, mint, parsley and season with S&P- about 1 ts salt and as much pepper as you like.  Mix thoroughly and gently form into golf ball size meatballs.  Thread onto metal skewers or pre-soaked wood skewers. 

Fire up the grill to just under high heat.  When it's heated up properly, grill the meatballs for about 6-8 minutes, turning every minute or so until cooked through. 


Serve with grilled pitas, tzatziki, cucumber, red onion, tomatoes, green onion, etc.  Preferably eaten out of doors with slightly chilled syrah.