Monday, January 25, 2010

Carnitas meets Cuban Sandwich - Pulled Pork and Annatto Paste

The other day I picked up some Annatto (Achiote) paste from the expanded Hispanic offerings at the nearby Food Lion.  Many of us consume annatto without being aware of it.  Annatto gives many cheeses their orange hue, some cheddars, Muenster, etc.  Since it is a natural ingredient it is not often listed on contents labels.  When used more heavily, it not only adds an orangy-red color but the slightly peppery-sweet flavor often gracing enchilada sauces and the like.  There are some lovely pictures of the annatto seed, pods, and flower on The Perfect Pantry blog.

Well, as followers of this site know, we now have a freezer-full of pulled pork and I've been ad lib-ing  no-knead bread varieties. We had Swiss cheese and some bread-and-butter pickles in the fridge. So supper the other night was pulled pork and swiss cheese on no-knead french bread, a paean to the Cuban sandwiches I used to get in New York.

Ingredients for two large sub-shaped sandwiches:
  • 8 oz. pulled pork
  • 2 tsp. annatto paste
  • 2-3 Tbl. catsup
  • 1-2 Tbl. tomato paste
  • 1-2 Tbl. chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 1-2 Tbl. cider vinegar
  • salt & pepper
  • 8-12 slices bread-and-butter or dill pickles
  • 2-4 slices Swiss cheese
  • 2 submarine rolls or french bread
  1. Preheat the broiler
  2. In a medium skillet, mix and quickly sauté the first seven ingredients
  3. Slice the rolls lengthwise
  4. Spread the meat mixture on the bottom half of each roll
  5. Top meat with pickle slices
  6. Cover with Swiss cheese slices
  7. Place the four roll pieces (two with the meat, pickles & cheese, two bare) face-up on the broiling pan
  8. Broil on a middle rack just long enough for the cheese to melt and the bare roll parts to toast
  9. Place the bare tops on the filled bottoms
  10. Optionally, flatten the sandwiches with a rolling pin for a bit of authenticity
  11. Serve while still hot

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Absolutely Easiest Pulled Pork, Or What to Do When Pork Shoulders are BOGO

A pork explosion has happened at our house!  Fresh butts (shoulders) were buy-one-get-one this week and since we were all out in the freezer, I took two home.  Now, wrestling two of them meant it was going to be tricky trying to turn them over every 45 minutes like I usually do without eventually burning myself by splashing the hot brine.  So, I decided to experiment and it worked great!  No rub this time.  Just brown sugar, sea salt, a splash of cider vinegar, and beef broth.

  • pork butt(s)
  • sea salt (2-3 teaspoons per butt)
  • brown sugar (1 Tablespoon per butt)
  • cider vinegar (1/4 to 1/2 cup per butt)
  • beef or chicken broth sufficient to fill each roaster to 1 inch deep
  1. Preheat oven to 275°F
  2. Wash any bone dust off each butt and place each, fat side down, in covered roasting pan(s)
  3. Spread salt and sugar on top of each butt
  4. Pour in the vinegar and broth, making sure not to wash the salt and sugar off the top.
  5. Cover and roast 5 hours.
  6. Remove butts from the brine and let cool.
  7. When cool enough to handle, shred the pork discarding any fat.
  8. Divide into meal-sized portions and freeze.
Later use can be as simple as thawing in the microwave and slathering with barbecue sauce.  That and a frozen veggie makes a very simple meal for a busy night.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Difference an Experienced (Jaded?) Palette Makes

My sister sent us 4 fillets mignon from a famous mail-order steak place for Christmas. Bill and I had two of them Christmas weekend and were, frankly, unimpressed. Yes, they were well aged and tender but didn't taste like much. Is it because they really didn't taste like much or because we are used to eating tougher cuts which develop more flavor like flank steak? Anyway, we had two more steaks to eat this weekend so I decided to pull out a recipe I had fond memories of from long ago.

The recipe for tournedos Renata is from The International Color Guide to World Cookery, a 1970s hodge podge of what were to me then, exotic, vaguely European recipes. The steaks are seasoned with salt, pepper, marjoram, and thyme. The mushrooms are cooked in brandy and cream. Thirty-plus-years-ago, I was WOWed -- or so it says in my handwriting all over the recipe.

Last night, I was bored. Looking back, I think I was wowed then and bored now because it was different from the food I grew up with. Cooking mushrooms with butter not margarine, real garlic, cream, and brandy would have been a new taste sensation for me. Not now. Now, this is pretty basic.

I've got to give that book credit. It taught me to make a tower of profiteroles aux chocolat and that pasta could be made from scratch -- although its cannelloni filling tasted like really high quality Alpo. It started me on the cooking adventure that continues to this day.

So, I will keep my well-worn copy of The International Color Guide to World Cookery, not so much for its recipes but for its memories.

Imprecise & Inexpensive

Two themes predominate in my approach to cooking. 1. Daily cooking of flavorful food need not be a precise art. 2. You can be an adventurous cook on a budget. Cooking and eating should be fun for both cookers and eaters.