Thursday, January 14, 2016

Giving Love To My Christmas Pot

I always wanted a Le Creuset Dutch oven.  I really couldn't imagine a nicer pot.  It has the heating power of cast iron, it's covered with a surface that won't rust or be sticky, and has no need for seasoning.  Best of all, the pots come in pretty colors.

This Christmas Mom found one at a reasonable price somewhere tucked in amongs the constant barrages of Rachael Ray hawking her crappy cookware on QVC.  Now that's a great present.  Mothers know best!

I have been finding as many excuses as possible to cook dinner in it.  I find it's a versatile pot that works for any number of foods.

I thought I would showcase the meals I made in it this week.  Neither of these dishes is particularly original.  They are adaptions of similar recipes I found online, but I'm sharing my versions, and my pot.

The first dish I made was pork chops with pears in a whiskey cider sauce.  There are only a handful of ingredients here.  It's all about simple combinations handled correctly.  It takes some time to make, but the steps are simple.

Those little potatoes off to the left just might have been coated with goose fat before roasting.

Pork Chops with Pears, Cider, and Whiskey

  • 2 Tbl olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 boneless loin chops, about 1" thick
  • 4 bosc pears, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup whiskey

Heat olive oil over low heat and add the onions.  Cook at least 20 minutes or until soft and golden.  Remove from pot.

Sprinkle pork chops with salt and pepper.  Increase the heat in the pan and brown chops well on both sides (about 5 minutes).  Remove from pan and keep warm.

Pour cider and whiskey into the pan and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom.  Add the pears and bring to a boil.  Cook until pears begin to soften.

Reduce to a simmer and stir in the caramelized onions.  Adjust seasoning for the sauce.  Return pork chops to the pan and simmer another 20 minutes or until cooked through.

My next dish was chicken tinga.

I wanted to try something new with chicken that would be spicy and versatile.  Chicken tinga seems trendy right now.  It's usually served in tacos, but I made it like a regular stew and served it over rice.  I'm sure it would be great in tortillas too.

Chicken Tinga

2-3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, skins removed
2 tsp cumin, divided
1 tsp oregano
4 tsp salt (or to taste), divided
1 tsp ancho chili powder
2 whole cloves garlic lightly smashed
2 Tbl olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 quart water
1 onion, finely chopped
1 28 oz can chopped tomatoes
6 tomatillos, diced
4 chipotles in adobo, coursely chopped
Rice or corn tortillas.

Bring the water, 1 tsp cumin, 2 tsp salt, oregano, whole smashed garlic cloves, and chili powder to a boil.  Add chicken and reduce simmer.  Cook 20 minutes.

Remove chicken from pot.  Set aside.  If you are making this with rice, reserve 2 cups of water to cook the rice in.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil.  Cook the onion until soft.  Add the minced garlic and remaining teaspoon of cumin and cook another 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, tomatoes, and chipotles, and bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile shred the chicken.  Add to to the pot.  Cook another 20 minutes and serve over rice or in tortillas for tacos. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A New Breakfast Porridge (Or Dessert Pudding) for 2016

Rice pudding:  Yay or nay?

They say no one is indifferent to rice pudding. Either you love it or you hate it.  I believe I am the exception to that rule.  The concept is not terribly appealing to me.  What's so great about a bowl of rice and sugar?  A simple bowl of rice pudding truly is just a bowl of sweet, lumpy, starch.  I'm not into it.  On the other hand, when it comes to rice pudding, execution is everything.  There is plenty of bad rice pudding out there, but if it's well done, I can change my tune.  If it's made with arborio rice so it has a creamy texture the way pudding is supposed to, or if it is flavored perfectly with just the right notes of spice and vanilla, I'm willing to give that pudding a second taste.

I began rethinking rice pudding further when I first made a dish with Forbidden (black) rice as a side dish.  I loved the intense flavor of it and couldn't wait to us it again.  Sir Pickypants felt differently.  He wasn't even sure what he was eating ("That was rice?") and was not interested in eating it again.  I hate it when stuff like this happens.  I had to find recipes to make with my black rice that were only for me.

I came up with this rice pudding that I could make for myself and enjoy as a breakfast food.  Sweet black rice is pretty common in Thai cuisine and I found many recipes online for it.  I wanted my rice pudding to not be too sweet, but be substantial enough to carry me through my morning.  I used the traditional  Thai flavor of coconut to cook it with, but added the more American touches of cinnamon and vanilla.  I added coconut oil to the cooking water just as you might do with butter when cooking traditional rice.  It intensifies the coconut flavor a bit.  I researched several methods online, and eventually decided to use a blend of classic rice cooking techniques and risotto techniques to make my rice.   I used a traditional topping of mangoes to finish it off.

Is it rice pudding, or is it more like a rice porridge?  Since I think it's good warm or cold, you could call it either one I think.  I also think it will be nice as dessert if you make it sweeter. 

If you prefer it sweeter, prefer to add more honey.  It's a new year and I'm trying to be good with my sugar intake.

Forbidden Rice Pudding

  • 1 cup black rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1.5 cups coconut milk, warmed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbl honey
  • Additional coconut milk and mango chunks for garnish
Place rice, coconut oil, and water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Cook 20 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed.  Let stand another 5 minutes.

Return the pan to low heat and keep the rice at a simmer.  Begin to stir in the coconut milk about a half cup at a time until the milk is well integrated and the pudding has a thick consistency.  Stir in vanilla, cinnamon, and honey.

Serve warm or cold, garnished with additional coconut milk and chopped mangoes.