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Day Thirty Four: Pupusas de Chicharrones

19 Aug

Normally, I wouldn’t be into anything labeled “chicharrones”. Even though I love pork, I’m not particularly fond of pork skin. Sin, I know. But lucky for me, in El Salvador, chicharrones means something different, and something way better in my opinion. It is essentially pork that has been boiled, then fried in it’s own fat, then minced or pureed into pure deliciousness with a tomato-based sauce. What isn’t to like about that?

Latin American food is heaven sent when it comes to eating a gluten-free diet. Take for instance the pupusa, basically El Salvador’s answer to a real gordita (not Taco Bell’s pathetic rendition) or an arepa. A homemade corn tortilla stuffed with fillings like meat, beans, cheese, etc, with a traditional offering being the Pupusa de Chicharrones. That brings us to day 33.

I was super excited to make these. Fresh tortillas are fantastic, but a filled one is even better. And really, it is quite easy. Time consuming, maybe, but a lot of it is unattended since you have to cook that pork down real good before frying it. The recipe below is an adaptation of one I found on Food Network here.

I served these with the traditional accompaniment, cortido – a simple slaw you serve on top of the pupusa. It is a bit fermented, as you are supposed to leave it out for a while at room temperature. It is tangy, crunchy goodness that pairs very well with the pupusa. You really can’t skip this part if you want the real deal. I also fried up some yuca that I bought at the store yesterday, and grilled up some corn from the farmer’s market.

Overall, this was good, but not great. The dough dries out pretty quickly, which made some of the last ones a bit dry. But the filling, which is the most important part of course, was very tasty. The recipe below makes WAY more than you’ll need, unless you plan on making 800 pupusas. Christian ended up piling extra filling on top of the pupusa, whereas I used it for a pork sandwich the following day for lunch. Delish.

I have to apologize (yet again) for the crappy pictures here. Our “good” camera was out and about with Christian, so I was stuck without it. I promise you, they taste better than they look!

Pupusas de Chicharrones

  • 1 1/2 lbs pork shoulder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 jalepeno, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp Mexican oregano
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup cotija cheese or feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 3/4 cups masa harina
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp warm water
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Place the pork in a crockpot with garlic, onion, water and 1/2 of the chopped jalepeno. Cook on low for 6 hours, until tender.

When done, transfer pork and juices to a large heavy pot (enameled cast iron, for example); cook over high heat so that the pork starts to fry in the juices and fat. Cook until most liquid is gone. Add the tomatoes, rest of the jalepeno, oregano, cinnamon, and salt/pepper to taste. Cook over medium low, covered, until thick and very little liquid is remaining. You’ll want to stir a lot in order to break up the meat – you want it to really incorporate with the sauce. Set aside to cool, then stir in the cheese.

To make the dough, combine the masa harina with water and salt until you have a dough; let stand for about 20 minutes. Add more water so the dough becomes very soft, like Play-Doh, but not sticky. Divide into 8 balls and cover with a moist paper towel.

Take each ball and press your thumb into the middle to form an indentation, then turn the dough to begin to flatten it into a disk. Add some filling to the center and bring the edges together over the filling; squeeze to form a seal. Gently press each dough ball into a flattened disk that resembles a thick pancake. Repeat with remaining dough.

Brush each pupusa with oil and place them on a heated and greased griddle. Cook until puffy, about 4 minutes on each side. Serve with the cortido on top.


Day Thirty One: Pork Tostadas with Pickled Farmer’s Market Vegetables

10 Jul

And we’re back! Oh how I’ve missed pork shoulder! Still feeling good, albeit with some minor setbacks along the way. I’m very excited to pick up where I left off back in May (I can’t believe it has been that long).

Summer brings us one of my favorite things – the Farmer’s Market. I get so excited on Thursdays to see what great, beautiful, fresh vegetables, fruits and flowers the vendors have. So far, it has yet to disappoint. I’m currently obsessed with bright purple spring onions one stand has been having – they are amazing on the grill. Sweet, charred deliciousness.

For the newest recipe here, I added some Asian flavors to the tostada concept. The result? Pork tostadas with pickled farmer’s market vegetables. The pickled veggies consisted of kohlrabi, cucumbers and radishes that I picked up at the market. And “pickled” is used here loosely – they are more like veggies that have been marinated in a vinegar-sugar solution, long enough for flavor them but while staying a bit crunchy. Whatever you call them, they are good.

If you’ve never had kohrabi, I suggest trying it at least once. The taste is sort of like a combination of a radish, celery root and a turnip, while the texture is almost jicama-ish. I love it, and it is surprisingly versatile. I’ve made it into slaws, and more recently, made a salad with raw diced kohlrabi, steamed chard and red lentils. I had 1/2 of a bulb left over and figured this “pickling” method would be a good way to use it up.

The succulent pork was marinated in a cilantro, lime and soy mixture, then slow cooked to pull-apart perfection – it was a great accompaniment to the vegetables.  For the tortilla, I used brown rice tortillas in lieu of traditional corn, and rather than frying them, I brushed them with oil and crisped them in the oven (this was a staple item on the cleanse). This method is not only a bit healthier, but at least with the rice tortillas, they get really crispy. They also hold up well to the topping, without getting soggy from the juices and sauce.

We really enjoyed this recipe. I served it as an appetizer/first course with some friends we had over for an impromptu bbq at our house. Definitely think this is a great entertaining recipe since the serving size can be so adaptable – larger tortilla portions for main course, or really small bite size for appetizers. I opted to serve the tortillas in quarters, with each person having 2 pieces. There was leftover pork that would have made 2 more, but I wanted it the next day for a sandwich (which was great, by the way).

The bright flavors of the vegetables really matched well with the rich but fresh, juicy pork. And by topping it off with a bit of fresh cilantro and black sesame seeds made this a pretty dish.  I think it needs to be stressed how important the vegetables are to pull the dish together. Our friend, Steph, doesn’t particularly like vinegary stuff, so she had one first without them. For her second, she had one with the veggies and definitely agreed it was much better. It is amazing how something so simple can make a dish just taste right. Highly recommend this one!

Pork Tostadas with Pickled Farmer’s Market Veggies

(Serves about 6 as a first course/appetizer, more for hors d’oeuvres and less for main course)

For Pork and Marinade:

  • 1 1/2 lbs pork shoulder, cut into 3 equal pieces
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup sherry
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 4 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ginger (you can add more or less)
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
For Pickled Veggies:
  • 3/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 radishes
  • 1 small cucumber, or 1/2 regular
  • 1/2 bulb kohlrabi
  • Brown rice tortillas (or corn tortillas)
  • Olive oil
  • chopped cilantro
  • black sesame seeds (optional)

Mix together all the marinade ingredients with a whisk. Set aside 1/2 cup of marinade for later (keep this in the refrigerator). Pour the rest of the marinade in a dish and add the pork, turning to coat both sides. Cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours. Add the contents of the dish to the crockpot and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, until falling apart. When done, shred into large pieces.

While the pork is cooking, make the veggies. Using a mandoline on the thinnest setting, slice the vegetables. For the kohlrabi, once sliced, julienne the pieces so they are thin sticks. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Pour into a glass bowl and add the vegetables; cover and refrigerate at least one hour.

When ready to serve, cut the brown rice tortillas in 1/4’s (if using small corn, don’t worry about doing this). Brush top side with olive oil and broil until crisp and brown, about 3 minutes. To each tortilla quarter, add pork and drizzle with a spoonful of the marinade that you set aside. Top with some of the vegetables and sprinkle with black sesame seeds and extra cilantro. Serve and eat.

Day Twenty Six: BBQ Pork Stuffed Mini Corn Muffins

4 Apr

On Saturday night we all convened at another friend’s house to watch the Final Four games. UCONN won, which was nice. Amidst the game watching there were babies bouncing (and scooting across the floor at high speeds), wine drinking, and of course, food eating.

My contribution to the event was mini corn muffins stuffed with bbq pork. I had a smaller chunk of the shoulder left, which I figured I could use up for some snacks to bring along. I almost feel like this dish is kind of cheating, not really following the rules of my challenge – it is just too easy. But I’m still counting it – 100 different recipes will require me to get pretty inventive real soon.

I’m not including a recipe with this, since it is quite simple. Just throw your pork shoulder (mine was about 1/2 lb) in the crockpot with some onions and a splash of stock/broth for a few hours on low. Meanwhile, make up some bbq sauce if you aren’t using your favorite bottled kind. When the pork is done, chop it up and mix it with the bbq sauce. Whip up some cornbread (I made a gf version with cornmeal and white rice flour), and you’re almost done. Using a mini muffin pan, spoon a small amount of batter into each cup, then add some of the chopped pork, and cover with more batter. I did three variations – one with just pork, one with pork and sharp cheddar, and one with jalepenos and pork. Serve with some bbq sauce on the side to dip the little muffins in, and that is it. Pretty easy, huh?

These were all eaten up – great finger food for a party. I think they’d be great using a normal size muffin tin, which would yield a more substantial sandwich-like muffin. The larger ones could work well as a part of a light lunch with a salad. It seems like it would be a great thing to take along for a picnic or a beach day.

Day Thirteen: Pizza with Pulled Pork, Taleggio Cheese and Arugula

9 Dec

I wish I could take credit for this recipe, but I can’t. This is a dish that Jamie Oliver crafted. Playing around with pizza is fun – the possibilities are really rather limitless.  Upon finding this, I loved the idea of creamy taleggio cheese melted with the pulled pork, and spiced up with some lemony arugula.  I just had to try it.

Overall, this pizza was good. I definitely thought it was better than Christian did, and that probably has to do with the fact we’re eating gluten-free crust. I suspect this would be way better with regular crust, but whatever. The flavors were great, and I was happy with the result. Admittedly, not the best dish and nothing special, but good nonetheless.

I’m not going to include the written recipe here – it isn’t very difficult and is rather simple. In fact, I didn’t even follow it. Pizza isn’t rocket science – having the recipe was good for getting the flavor combination.

For this dish, I threw a pork shoulder in the crockpot this morning, which I’ll also use for the next two dishes after this one. And the tomato sauce I used was an easy one I throw together frequently for pizza – just saute up some garlic (1 large clove) and onion (about 1/4 onion)  in olive oil, add some fennel seeds (a tsp or so) and a bay leaf, then throw in a little wine and some canned tomatoes (I use whole tomatoes that I crush with my hand as I add them). Simmer that for a bit to thicken, puree with an immersion blender, simmer a bit more and season with salt and pepper. One can of tomatoes yields enough sauce for 2 pizzas that are about 10″ to 12″ in diameter.

I cooked these on a pizza stone – first prebaking the crust at a high heat to make it crispy, then topping with the pork, cheese and thyme, and then baking again until it was bubbling; total baking time was maybe 15 minutes, but it will depend on your crust. The dressed arugula gets added when the pizza is done.

I’d recommend trying this, especially if you’ve got some leftover pork that you aren’t sure what to do with, or if you’re sick of the good old “standards”. It is surely something different and quite tasty. Just make sure the leftover pork isn’t highly seasoned with something like barbeque sauce. That wouldn’t be so good.

Recipe for Jamie Oliver’s Pork and Taleggio Pizza with Arugula

Day Eleven: Black Bean and Pork Tacos with Mango Mint Sauce

27 Nov

Yes, there was pork left over from the Coconut Braised Pork – this was my intention all along (a rarity, really). I guess in addition to this general pork challenge, I thought it would be fun to use most of the same ingredients for an entirely different recipe. Makes meal planning and shopping a whole lot easier, that’s for sure. I decided on some tacos, because they are easy on a weeknight. It is my Caribbean take on carnitas –  shredded pork shoulder, black bean mash and cabbage, finished with a minted mango sauce.

Christian wasn’t particularly fond of these, mainly because he doesn’t really care for mango (he didn’t even realize there was mango in the previous post though). Basically, he would have liked them a lot more if there was no mango sauce, just the pork, beans, cabbage and some hot sauce or salsa. I, on the other hand, love mango and thought these were pretty good. Cheese, like feta or queso fresco, would have been a welcome addition but I didn’t have any.

Black Bean and Pork Tacos with Mango Mint Sauce

  • 1/2 can black beans
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • leftover pork, shredded
  • 1 mango, chopped
  • 1/4 c mint, chopped
  • shredded green cabbage, about 1/4 of a head
  • pinch of hot, dried red chili powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 6 corn tortillas
  • oil

Mix the black beans with the onion, salt and pepper, and mash. Set aside.

In a food processor, add the mint, mango and hot pepper. Mix until a puree is formed, adding water if necessary to thin. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large cast iron skillet, heat a few tablespoons of oil. Add two tortillas, resting 1/2 of each tortilla on the side of the skillet so only 1/2 is in the oil. Add some of the bean mixture to each tortilla, then add shredded pork. Cook until browned and crisp, fold, and flip to brown the other side. When done, transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

When all tacos are cooked, carefully open and add the cabbage and mango mint sauce (and cheese, if using).

Day Five: Pork Spring Rolls

25 Oct

After the heavy truffle dinner and lots of celebrating for the Giants win this weekend, something light sounded real good to me. Of course, it was going to involve pork shoulder – who says pork shoulder can’t be associated with something light?! I opted for spring rolls, filled with fresh ingredients to counterbalance the pork, which I had planned to crockpot for this dinner and another for tomorrow.

There’s no recipe with today’s post. Spring rolls are so easy, which is why I love them. Yes, rolling them can be sort of challenging the first time, but once you get the hang of it, it is simple. All you do is soften the rice paper wrappers (I do this one by one) in hot water for a few minutes and then transfer them to a board, fill them, and roll them up like a burrito.

My rolls were a sort of mix between Vietnamese and Thai, with clean and simple flavors. I filled the wrappers with the shredded pork, fresh basil, fresh mint, cilantro, green onions, carrots and shredded green cabbage. I whipped up a dipping sauce made from peanut butter, soy sauce (wheat free), chili garlic sauce, a dash of rice wine vinegar, a little fish sauce, fresh lime juice, minced fresh ginger and some sugar. I don’t know the quantities since I usually just figure my sauces out as I go.

One of my favorite things about spring rolls is that they are not a laborious or complicated thing to prepare. The slow cooked pork in a crockpot makes it so easy because you can do all your prep well ahead of time while that is cooking. Then when you are actually ready to eat, all you have to do is assemble them. The do ahead prep plus the relatively minimal cooking associated with them makes for very easy clean up.

They are also versatile – good for dinner with a big salad, good for a light first course, and really good as a party appetizer. The latter situation is emphasized by the fact that they can be made well in advance (I’d say about 6 to 8 hours) – just put them on a tray or baking sheet, cover them with some damp paper towels so they don’t dry out, and keep them in the refrigerator.