Saturday, June 27, 2015

WTF do I do with this: kohlrabi edition

Friends, I am back! We've had a very busy spring around Chez One Girl - moving apartments is some majorly time-consuming shit. Thankfully, we're all settled into the new Chez O.G. now and really enjoying it. We're in a very pretty spot with lots of nice quiet road for walking the our small canine overlord, plus there's woods and a brook in our back yard so I can go out and get my hippy Earth Mama thing on if I want...assuming I douse myself with plenty of bug spray, anyway. I'm just never going to be crunchy enough to be ok with bugs, and that's all there is to it. Fuck bugs. Not even sorry.

Anywho.

So, one of the super exciting things in my little world this spring has been participating in my first-ever CSA program! We live in rural Vermont and there are lots of farm stands around, but I liked the idea of a CSA in terms of basically being forced to use new and different veggies every week, rather than just going to the farmer's market and buying the same thing week after week. I looked into a few different local CSA options and ended up deciding to go with Root 5 Farm - partially because they offer a pay-by-the-month option (which is way easier for me than coming up with a big wedge of money all in one go), and partially because they're the closest farm to us - they're literally three driveways up from the house I grew up in, and just a couple miles from where we live now. In other words, they're as local as it gets!

We're a month into the CSA now and I'm a total convert. I love, love, love it. We've had everything from purple potatoes to a giant bag of storage carrots to arugula, pea shoots, dill, scallions, lettuces, chard, plus all kinds of other stuff...and it's only June! We get a weekly share until December! By the time the CSA is done, I'm going to be SO fucking spoiled veg-wise. I'm totally going to spend all winter grumbling about the sucky produce at the local grocery store, I know it.

In last week's and this week's share, there was an extra special happy-making prize that made me dance with glee: kohlrabi. Kohlrabi is a totally weird looking cat:

This is not my picture. Credit to www.georgeweigel.net

You can't quite see in the picture because it's kind of mounded up with dirt, but there's a stalk down at the bottom that the kohlrabi grows on, and it grows up into these weird purple or green balls with crazy random leaves shooting up from them. It's a brassica, related to broccoli, kale, etc, but it usually tastes much milder. It also has a long shelf-life - once the greens are removed, the bulb will easily keep in your crisper drawer for a couple of weeks. It will actually keep much longer, but the longer it's stored, the more tendency it has to get kind of woody and dried out.

Kohlrabi looks pretty intimidating but seriously, friends...it's well worth your time. It's very versatile - you can do everything from grate it and make it into fritters, to cube it up and roast it, to throw it into curry, to just eat it raw. It's also a great two-fer veggie, because the greens are just as edible as the bulb. It's also packed with vitamin C, B6, and potassium, along with the cancer-preventing indoles that brassicas are known for.

One of my favorite ways to prepare kohlrabi is to grill it. Seeing as how Mom and Pop O.G. were so kind as to give me and Hubs a brand spankin' new grill as a housewarming gift, I thought perhaps I'd make y'all a little photo odyssey of how I prep and grill kohlrabi.

So, here goes!

First things first: you're going to need a good sharp paring knife. Cut off the greens right up where the leaves start. You can throw them away if you want, but you'd be wasting a good thing, believe me. If you want to keep them and deal with them another day, all you have to do is stash them in a ziplock bag with a damp paper towel. They'll easily keep at least a week.

Once you've cut the leaves off, you'll want to cut the stems off as close to the bulb as possible. If you pull down on the stems, you can sometimes partially peel the bulb. Once you've cut the stems off, you'll have something like this:

Sorry for the blurry. Sometimes my phone pictures come out great, sometimes...not so much.  
Peeling the bulb is the most complicated part of dealing with kohlrabi...and it's seriously not that complicated. The bulb has a thin outer skin (the purple or green layer), and then a thin kind of woody layer under that:

See how right under the purple layer there's a striated layer that kind of looks like an onion layer? That needs to go.
You'll be able to see the woody layer under the skin, and you can just pare it right off. For that matter, you CAN just leave it on there...it's not going to do anything terrible to you. It's just not a texture most people really dig. But hey...I don't judge.

Once you've peeled your kohlrabi, you'll have juicy white balls (yes I do that on purpose. I am secretly 12), all ready for cooking. At this point you want to slice them up - I do mine about a quarter inch thick, give or take. I usually lose at least a slice or two to snacking during the slicing process as well:

Maybe she's born with it. Maybe it's ADHD! It's...it's definitely ADHD...

Now, you may have noticed at the start that I had one big kohlrabi, and one little one. The little one was like golf ball sized, so the slices of that one were going to be too small to try and cook directly on the grill (for me, anyway. I'm not super dexterous with the tongs. Or anything else for that matter, really). For these smaller slices, I decided to cook them in a foil packet on the grill instead. I just drizzled the slices with a little olive oil, added a little kosher salt, and folded the foil over to make a packet. Heavy-duty foil works better for this, but I didn't have any, so I chanced it with regular and no harm befell me OR the kohlrabi.

Here's my packet, along with the oiled and salted slices of the bigger bulb on the grill, plus bonus pork chops, which I flipped after about five minutes over medium heat:

Inch-thick pork chops for the win!



It's hard to see it there, but the foil packet is puffed up with steam from the kohlrabi cooking, which is a good thing. Also, my crappy phone picture doesn't do the browning on the slices justice. They were less black-on-white and more golden-brown-delicious, trust me.

The kohlrabi is done when it's tender. The longer you cook it, the more tender it will get - you can actually cook it to the point where you can mash it, if you so desire...but that wasn't what I was going for this time. I ended up cooking mine for about 8 minutes total, and that was plenty for both the slices in the packet and the ones directly on the grill.

The ones in the packet looked like this when they were done:





While I let my grilled chops rest, I steam-sauteed the rinsed and chopped kohlrabi leaves (along with a handful of salad turnip greens I had hanging around) with some grated garlic. Keep in mind that the bigger the leaves, the tougher the center stem will be and the longer it will take to break down during cooking. If you're planning on a quick cooking method like steaming or sauteeing, you probably want to slice the center stems out beforehand, like you'd do with collards or kale. Also, don't forget to salt your greens. Please, oh please. It makes a world of difference taste-wise.

Here's my finished plate:

I know this post is about kohlrabi, but come on. Look how sexy that pork chop is. Unf.

So, there you go - two ways to grill kohlrabi, and plenty of reasons why you shouldn't be skeered of it even though it kind of looks like some sort of alien kale hybrid thing. Trying new things is fun! Don't be intimidated by vegetables that look like they're going to be a lot of work to prepare - most of the time they're not nearly as much of an ass-ache as you're imagining them to be, and who knows what kind of deliciousness you might be missing just in the name of being lazy!

As always, feel free to comment or email any questions, and you can also find me on Facebook and Instagram (warning: the Instagram is my personal account and also has lots of nerdy selfies, crafting pictures, and pictures of the tiny canine overlord). I'd love to hear from you about your kohlrabi experiences, what your favorite weird-looking veggies are, what types of things you like to grill, what your favorite color is...talk to me!








Tuesday, March 17, 2015

carnitas

Carnitas are, essentially, chunks of braised pork butt. As the braising liquid slowly evaporates from the pot, the fat renders out of the pork and collects in the bottom of the pot (because fat is more dense than water. SCIENCE!). Eventually the water all cooks out and you're left with succulent spiced pieces of pork that crisp up in their own fat. It takes several hours and is all very torturous in that it fills the house with amazing pork aromas long before the meat is actually ready - but I assure you, it's totally worth doing.

It looks totally unappetizing at the beginning. I posted this picture on Facebook and had people guessing it was everything from bean soup to vomit (I'm not sure about that person, honestly...but we won't go there):

Not winning any beauty contests.

The end product is much more attractive, though - well, if you're into crispy pork bits, anyway...and if you're not, you've probably come to the wrong place:

Mmm, looking better!
The carnitas are very tasty just like that, honestly. I like them with eggs for a hearty weekend breakfast, or you could easily toss some into sauteed greens for a bit of flavoring. They are excellent on top of a baked sweet potato as well.

Or, you could use them in the more traditional way. No, not rubbing them all over your naked body while you groan happily (wow, that got weird) - rather, piling them on tortillas with lots of fixings:

Winner winner, carnitas for dinner.
My favorite combination of toppings for carnitas is raw shredded cabbage and radish, because they offer a nice crunchy fresh counterpoint to the rich pork. A little bit of avocado on top makes it even more pretty and acts as a built-in dressing. I don't usually go for salsa on carnitas because they already have a lot of acid in them, but don't let that stop you if you want to try it.

Also, a note about tortillas - I use corn tortillas, and I warm them up one at a time in a ripping-hot pan so that they blister a little and get a bit black in places. You could just warm the tortillas up in the oven or microwave, but I really like the smokey note that the toasted bits of tortilla add.

Here's the recipe for the carnitas themselves:

3lbs pork butt, cut into large-ish pieces - mine are like 3" square-ish chunks, usually
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
 crushed garlic cloves to taste - I usually use 4 or 5 good sized ones
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1.5 tsp salt (I use kosher salt - if you're using regular salt, adjust the amount down by 1/4 tsp or so)

Put everything in a big pot, bring it to a boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer, uncovered, for about 2 - 2.5 hours. No stirring, no poking, no nothing. Leave it alone! After a couple hours, you can turn the heat up a little and let it cook more briskly for another 45 minutes or so. Again, don't mess with the meat at all. The water will cook out completely and the pork will start to sizzle in its own fat - this is when you want to really pay close attention. When you notice the edges starting to get crisp / brown, you can carefully start turning the pieces of pork over to crisp up on the other sides. It will be very loose and want to fall apart at this point - that's ok, just be gentle with it and don't worry if it comes apart some. As the pieces get browned and crisped to your liking, remove them to a bowl for serving. I like to aggressively scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon once all the main chunks of meat are out of it in order to make sure I'm getting up all the really crisp bits off the bottom, as well. Those are, in my opinion, the best bits!

Serve on warm tortillas with preferred toppings, or throw into any number of other dishes for happy-making porky goodness. This also freezes very well.

This recipe is gluten-free, and assuming you skip the corn tortillas, would be Paleo- and Primal-compliant.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

pork all the things - a stir-fry odyssey

This past week, boneless pork loin was on sale at the grocery store, so I bought a huge one and we've been having pork for dinner every night this week. I did pan-fried chops one night, I did a roast another night, we had the leftovers from the roast with some braised cabbage the following night, and last night I used the last of the loin to make stir-fry:


I like stir-fry, because not only is it a good way to get in plenty of vegetables and protein, but it's also a pretty high culinary pay-out for a small amount of effort. Also, anything that I can cook with the burner cranked up to high is automatically exciting in my book.

Pork loin is nice in a stir-fry because it's got a little extra fat as compared to tenderloin, so it offers more porky flavor and stays a bit more moist. I like to give mine a bath in a combination of tamari, sesame oil, honey, grated fresh ginger and a splash of water:


The meat sits in the marinade while I chop up my veggies. This is my go-to combination of broccoli, red bell pepper, onion and mushroom:


When the veg is all chopped, it's time to fry! I crank the heat up under my favorite heavy-bottomed saute pan and after a minute or so, I add some coconut oil. Once the coconut oil is melted, I throw my veg in, starting with the ones that take the most time to cook. In this case, broccoli goes in for about a minute, then I dump everything else in because the onions, peppers and mushrooms all basically cook at the same speed. I swear by tongs for stir-frying - I have a pair with silicone tips on the ends so that they don't scrape my pan up, and they're great.

The veg comes out when it's crisp-tender:


...and in goes the meat, working in batches so as not to over-crowd it and end up with steamed chewy pork bits of sadness:


The remainder of the marinade goes into the pan with the last of the pork and I let it cook down to a glaze consistency, then add all the pork back in and toss it to coat. It gets quite dark because the sugars in the honey caramelize with the soy, but that's exactly what makes it taste awesome. Don't fear the caramelization!

When the meat is cooked through, toss it on top of your dished-up veg and voila, Paleo-friendly stir-fry, no rice needed!

Friday, March 6, 2015

glazing my thighs

No, I will never tire of post-title innuendo (in YOUR end-o!). Not even sorry.

Anywho.

I've been kind of obsessed with the half-stove-top, half-oven method of cooking chicken thighs lately. It's an easy and reliable way of getting super crisp skin on the thighs without having to coat them in something like panko or cornmeal. I'll admit, it's kind of messy if you don't have a splatter shield, but even so, it's totally worth an extra wipe-down of the stove-top, in my opinion.

When I was making up my menu last weekend and saw chicken thighs on sale again, I thought to myself, "Self...why couldn't we use the stove-top-then-oven method to make some super crisp chicken thighs, then stir up a little batch of the glaze we use on chicken wings and dump it over the thighs instead? Doesn't that seem like a good idea?" It DID seem like a good idea, so I rolled with it, and this is what I ended up with:

So crispy. Much nom.


For the glaze, I used a mixture of fresh grated garlic and ginger, some tamari, some honey, toasted sesame oil, and a splash of water. I always add the water thinking that the glaze needs to be thinned out, and I always regret having added the water when I go to taste the glaze and it tastes...watered down. Welcome to my life. In retrospect, I could have reduced the glaze down in a pan to cook some of the water back out, but that sounds like a lot of work.

I started the chicken thighs out in a hot pan with a little coconut oil in it (skin-side down, duh), and let them fizzle and splatter happily for about 8 minutes until the skin was good and crispy and brown. Then I flipped the thighs over in the pan, turned off the heat, and spooned my glaze mixture over the meat. The pan then went directly into a 425 degree oven (use an oven-proof pan, friends...I will not be held responsible for you melting the handles off your pans) for about 15 minutes until the thighs read 165-170 degrees, at which point they were done. Huzzah!

The veggies were very simple: I cut up carrots, onion, radishes (I had some hanging around I wanted to use up), and two broccoli crowns, and quickly stir-fried them in a very hot pan with a little coconut oil. The broccoli was being slightly uncooperative and didn't want to cook through as fast as everything else did, so I threw a lid on the pan and let it steam for a few minutes to finish it off.

This dish is gluten-free (as long as you use tamari rather than soy sauce), and if you wanted to be super-strict Paleo you could sub the tamari for coconut aminos and get extra, uhh...dinosaur points.

Get it? Paleo? Dinosaur? Nevermind...



Monday, March 2, 2015

spice-crusted pork tenderloin

You all know of my deep and abiding love of all things pork, but I have been keeping a dirty little secret from you: I am not a fan of pork tenderloin. I love the texture of it, but similar to beef tenderloin, it has very little flavor in and of itself, and to a card-carrying meat lover, that's kind of sad-making. That, along with the fact that tenderloin is super lean and easy to over-cook have led me to just basically avoid buying it for many years.

Until this past weekend.

Sexy meat.
I found a recipe for spice-crusted pork tenderloin in a Cooks Illustrated collection of "skillet dinners". They showed medallions of rosy moist pork heavily crusted with spice and served with a sexy golden-brown potato roesti (which, for the unintiated, is basically a giant pan-fried hash brown and is one of the best things you can make with potatoes. Which is saying a lot, in my book, because I love me some potatoes). I was sold. I needed to try it. I tried to talk myself out of it, but it just wasn't working. The hook was firmly set and I surrendered to the pull.

The recipe calls for rolling the tenderloins in a mixture of spices (caraway seeds, ground coriander, nutmeg, allspice, salt and black pepper), then searing the meat off on all sides in a hot pan with a bit of melted butter. The meat then goes in a baking dish in a 425 degree oven for 12-15 minutes until it hits 140 degrees. You take the meat out at that point, tent it with foil, and let it rest until it hits 150. I ended up having to leave mine in the oven for about 22 minutes to get it to 140 degrees, but that was entirely my own fault because I didn't pull the meat out of the fridge until like 20 minutes before I wanted to cook, which is a rookie move.

Even with the added cooking time, the meat stayed super juicy and tender, though. And when I say tender, I mean like...you could cut it with the side of your fork. No knives necessary. Redonkulous. I think next time I make this, I'm going to pre-rub the meat (hurrrr) with the spice mixture and let it sit for a while before I cook it, just to see if the flavors sink in more. I suppose you could brine the tenderloin ahead of time if you were feeling really fucking ambitious about it, but a) I'm never that ambitious and b) I'd be a little worried that brining might turn the meat mushy rather than impart more flavor. I don't know. If you try it, tell me what you think.

The roesti was a little more work - I opted to shred my potatoes by hand rather than using my small and finicky food processor, so I got a good triceps workout holding the box grater at a weird angle in the bowl. You then have to rinse the excess starch off the shredded potato, then scoop it into a clean dish towel and wring as much water as you can out of it. You season the potato with salt and pepper, add a little corn starch to help bind the potato together better (there was a reason for this given in the write-up about the recipe but I was skimming so...yeah. No science today, sorry!), then plunk it all into a hot pan with some melted butter and keep squishing it down until it's a nice compact disc. It gets all GBD (golden brown delicious) on one side, then you flip it (which is a delicate operation, I tell you what), and let it get GBD on the other side. BOOM. Giant hash brown heaven. I will say, with regard to the roesti, that I should have had my heat turned up higher when I started, so it ended up kind of greasy. EVEN SO. Giant hash brown. So crunchy, much nom.



I steamed up some green beans with almonds to complete the plate. In retrospect, I could have made them more fancy with like some orange zest and cranberries, but...eh. I'm the weirdo who likes green beans even raw, so they don't need much fancying up for me to shove them in my nom-hole.

God, nom-hole sounds dirty. I'm keeping it. I love it. Heeeeee.

Anyway - this dinner is gloriously gluten-free (assuming you're doing your own due diligence on your spices). If you're going the Paleo or Primal route, you'd want to omit the corn starch and white potatoes, depending on how strict you're being.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

take your sweet potatoes and stuff them.

The meat-department gods saw fit to put pork butt on sale this week, my friends. You know what that means: another installment in the "what do I do with all this leftover pulled pork" files! Today the answer happens to be, "Stuff it in your sweet potatoes", which sounds like not only an awesome euphemism but also a good culinary idea.

Everything is better with cheese. FACT.

Obviously, this project starts with the assumption that you have some leftover shredded pork butt. Mine was just plain, not sauced, but I'm sure that sauced-up pork would be just as delightful in this application.

You're also going to need some sweet potatoes, obvs. I used two medium-sized ones to feed myself and the Ginger Beast, and honestly, it was a lot. Next time I'd either just serve half a potato each, or use smaller potatoes.

Anyway - you can bake the sweet potatoes ahead in the oven if you're fancy, but I'm personally really fucking lazy about shit like that, so I just cut a slit in each of mine and throw them in the microwave on the "potato" setting until they're done. These two took about 12 minutes total, and I flipped them over halfway through.

Once the potatoes are cooked, split them in half and scoop out all but a little bit of the flesh from the skin (that sounds totally sinister, sorry). You want to leave a little rim around the edges so that the skins keep their general shape. The scooped-out flesh should go into a bowl big enough to mix some other stuff into. Also, side-note between you and me? This whole flesh-scooping thing is WAY fucking easier to do if you let the potato COOL DOWN a little first, says she who now sports steam-burns on her left. hand. Yes, that type of thing is probably obvious to most people, but a) I am the queen of impatient and b) I am not most people. So I'm just throwing it out there.

Where was I? Oh, yes, potato flesh in the bowl. To that, you're going to add the pulled pork. I used like two cups or so of pork because we are hungry, hungry hippos. Use less if you're on a diet or you hate the world or something. I also added a pinch of kosher salt, a shake of black pepper, a teaspoon-ish of ground cumin and a half a teaspoon-ish of ground coriander seed. Also, and this is KEY, the juice of one fresh lime. It's really good, trust me on this.

So, mix all that stuff up in the bowl until it's well-combined. At some point you should have pre-heated your oven to like 450 degrees - I should have mentioned that earlier, sorry. You also need a baking dish. Surprise! This is how my ADHD-addled brain actually works when I cook, by the way. All these recipes I post where I have measured nothing, timed nothing, and can only remember half of what I put in the pan? Welcome to my life, pumpkins. This is how I roll.

Side-tracked again, sorry. So, yes. We're stuffing the pork-mash mixture into the hollowed-out potato skins. It's probably best to do this once you've placed the skins IN the baking dish, otherwise you might end up with one falling apart, pork and sweet potato all over your floor, and the happiest dog in the history of life (assuming you have a dog. We do. He would have been ecstatic, trust me). Once you've stuffed the skins, you can sprinkle some shredded cheddar on top for extra tastiness. Put that whole mess in the oven and let it fester for...oh...I don't know, like 15 or 20 minutes? Long enough for the cheese to reach golden-brown deliciousness status. When you've achieved said crispy cheese enlightenment, BOOM...you're done. Well, the potatoes are done, anyway.

If you want to experience the delight of the side-dish as pictured, that's super simple as well. It's just a baby mixed greens blend (I like the Olivia's Organic saute blend, personally) that has been sauteed with some onion and chopped radish (JUST TRY IT, OK?! Stop making faces. I would not lead you astray. Much...). I use a dab of bacon fat as my saute medium for this, and I add the onions and radishes first to let them caramelize a little before adding the greens in, because those cook really quickly. Oh, and a pinch of kosher salt. Unsalted greens are sad greens, yo. The better your bacon fat, the better the greens will be, as well. Mmm, smokey!

AND, for anyone playing the Paleo / Primal game at home, this meal would easily be considered Paleo if you left off the cheese, and is Primal-compliant as-is. It's also gluten-free, cha-cha-cha!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

pork chops with mushroom gravy

Mmmm. Graaaaavy.



My Nana's mushroom gravy is the gravy yardstick I measure all others by. Any time I've ever asked her how to make it, she has just smiled and said, "Well, it's just gravy with mushrooms in it". I've been trying to re-create her gravy for YEARS, and I think this is about the closest I'll ever come. It IS very simple, but it's certainly not just gravy with mushrooms in it!

I started by searing seasoned pork chops in a pan with a bit of bacon fat, about three minutes per side. I had five pretty big rib and sirloin chops to do, so the pan built up a nice fond. Once the chops were seared and set aside, I added some chopped shallot to the pan and let it soften. To that, I added some chopped cremini mushrooms. A few minutes later, I sprinkled the whole thing with a tablespoon of flour (normally we avoid gluten, but sometimes you just want old-school gravy. Don't judge.), gave it a stir, and let it cook for about a minute or so. I slowly added beef stock, stirring and scraping up the bits of good stuff from the bottom of the pan. After adding the beef stock, I added black pepper and rosemary, and let the gravy come to a boil and cook for 3-4 minutes. It needed just a pinch of salt at the end, then we were ready to eat. Sides were steamed broccoli and sweet potato mashed with butter.