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.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

ridiculous key-word searches, and a meatloaf dissertation

This afternoon, I made a post on Ravelry about one of the more ridiculous key-word searches that showed up on my StatCounter for this blog lately:

I have a blog, and because I am a nerdy nerdy data nerd, I use StatCounter to see how much traffic I get on my posts (when I actually post regularly, anyway. Ahem). One of the functions on StatCounter is a report that shows you recent keyword searches that people have used to get to your website. My blog is mostly cooking and food related, so there are completely reasonable things people have searched on that led to me, such as:

chicken thigh recipe
tortilla-less fajitas
pork rib roast
adding seaweed to soup
paleo meatloaf

However, today I logged in, looked at the keyword search thingy, and one came up that had me simultaneously snorting with laughter and WTF’ing:

one girl one meatloaf

Now…I know how my blog ended up in their search with this, because the blog is titled “One Girl Cooks”, and I’ve posted a lot about meatloaf. BUT STILL. I really have to wonder what the person who did a Google search on “one girl one meatloaf” was REALLY looking for. I’d like to believe that it was a single woman looking for an individual-portion meatloaf recipe maybe, buuuuuuut…yeah.

/cool story, meatloaf

The conversation quickly turned to meatloaf, of course, and at one point I was asked for my meatloaf recipe. I tried to explain that I don't really do recipes because I lack the attention span to, you know, measure things and take notes, but then I ended up writing what I am calling a stream-of-consciousness meatloaf dissertation. I thought readers might find it helpful, or at least entertaining, so here you go:

I make a few different versions - one that uses spinach for filler, one that uses minced mushrooms for filler, and my regular one that can be done with normal bread crumbs or gluten-free ones. If you want to use spinach, get frozen chopped spinach, thaw it out, squeeze as much liquid as you can out of it, and add it directly to your mix. If you want to use mushrooms, I would suggest either button mushrooms or baby bella. Mince them up very fine, toss them in a hot pan with a little fat to lubricate, a little salt, and some garlic and/or herbs if you want (thyme and rosemary are nice). Cook until mushrooms have released their liquid, then let cool for a few minutes and add to your meat mix. My bread-crumb version just involves soaking some bread crumbs (I use GF ones) in a little milk (I use almond milk, but whatevs) and adding that to the mix. I also add a beaten egg or two to my mix as a binder.

Onions, I feel, need their own paragraph, because I have FEELINGS about them. I hate big chunks of onion in meatloaf. I actually grate my onion (food processor for the win) so that it’s pulp and juice, because a) it gets the onion flavor more thoroughly incorporated, and b) you aren’t crunching on pieces of onion as you eat. Not everyone is as picky about this as I am. Do what you feel is right.

For meat, I like to use a mix of ground pork, beef and veal (at my grocery store, you can get 
“meatloaf mix”, which has all three in it). You want a mix with a fair amount of fat in, otherwise your meatloaf is going to be dry. Meatloaf is really not the time or place to be worried about calories.

Seasoning-wise, I like the afore-mentioned HP sauce immensely, but if I don’t have it on hand, I will usually spice my meatloaf with salt, pepper, a little bit of allspice, garlic, and thyme. Rosemary is good, too. Sage is good if you’re using mostly pork - gives you a kind of sausage-y flavor.

You want to cook the meatloaf until it registers 170-ish in the middle, whether you’re cooking a big one or mini ones. I say “ish”, because you can pull them at like low to mid 160’s and let carry-over cooking do the rest if you’re going to be working on sides for another 10 minutes or so…but that’s up to you, and that’s something that makes some people really twitchy.

If you’re making mini meatloaves, what I like to do is form the mini-loaves and sear the tops and bottoms in a ripping-hot pan, then transfer them to a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake at 400 degree for about 20 minutes or so. If you’re making one big meatloaf, it’s going to take a lot longer to cook - like an hour probably, depending on how much mix you have. Even when I’m doing a big loaf, I still cook it on a cookie sheet rather than in a loaf pan, because it lets some of the grease escape and it gives the whole thing a nice crust.

You can glaze your loaf as it’s cooking (barbecue sauce is good, HP sauce is awesome, please god don’t use ketchup and ruin all your hard work), or you can get super meat-porny and lay bacon strips over the top (do them width-wise, not end to end, otherwise you end up with bacon bits when you cut into it to serve).