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Oven Roasted Pernil (Puerto Rican Pork Shoulder)

7 Oct


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Lately I’ve been in the mood to catch up on all of the recipes that didn’t quite make it into The Ancestral Table. Like last week’s Chicken Tikka Masala, I had initially considered putting Pernil in my book. But once I put everything together and realized that there were already two pulled pork shoulder recipes in there (Kalua Pig and BBQ Pulled Pork), plus a Puerto Rican roast pork (Lechon Asado), I knew that it would be more appropriate to put my Pernil recipe here on the blog.

Pernil is a roasted pork shoulder popular in Puerto Rico, often served during holidays. It is derived from the Spanish word pierno (leg), likely because it was originally made with the hind end, but since most hind quarters are used to make ham nowadays it makes sense that the cheaper shoulder is the cut of choice today. One particular trait of Pernil is the use of an adobo mojado, or wet marinade, which is created by using bitter orange juice (I used orange and lime juices) and a little vinegar to add moisture and tenderize the meat.

Although roasting a pork shoulder in the oven would be considered cheating here in the US, Pernil is surprisingly roasted in an oven on an almost exclusive basis. I can see why, since oven-roasting makes this dish dead-simple to make. I did add a smidge of liquid smoke to boost the roast’s flavor, but otherwise I kept the recipe true to what I found in most Puerto Rican cookbooks.

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Nakkikastike (Finnish Hot Dogs in Sauce)

16 Sep


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

So, I don’t really know anything about this recipe. I just happened to stumble upon it when looking at funny Finnish recipes. If there are any kind Finns who would love to enlighten me on the history of this dish, I’m all ears.

Essentially, the dish calls for simmering hot dogs (or mild sausages) in a tomato-based sauce, which based on my research often consists of ketchup and a few spices. It basically looked like a Chef Boyardee creation to me at first glance. Intrigued, I decided to deconstruct the sauce using more nutritious ingredients – from uncured German weiners to a sauce made with tomato paste, onion, carrot, and broth.

In the end, it didn’t quite capture the canned goodness (or lack thereof) that is Chef Boyardee, but what resulted was a tasty combination of warm tomato flavors that paired perfectly with some comforting boiled potatoes. At the end of the day, this is an easy, interesting dish that’s fun for the whole family.

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Soft-Boiled Scotch Eggs

2 Sep


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Scotch eggs are a common picnic and party dish in the UK, and have been around for over 200 years. I first had one at the local Maryland Renaissance Festival some years back. Several restaurants and markets claim to have started the craze, but it’s likely that the dish was originally inspired by a North Indian and Pakistani dish called Nargisi Kofta, which encases a hard-boiled egg in spicy ground meat.

We make Scotch Eggs at home from time to time, basically any time we have some loose sausage on hand. But lately we’ve been soft boiling the eggs, which has shifted this dish from something comforting to something exquisite (and still comforting). Typical Scotch Egg recipes call for breading the sausage before frying, which gives them a nice crunch and helps the sausage stay in place; over the years we’ve come to prefer the ease and simplicity of not breading the eggs.

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Mofongo

12 Aug


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Mofongo is a Puerto Rican dish made with fried and smashed plantains. It is related to the West African staple starch dish called Fufu, originally made with yuca; slaves sent to the Caribbean originally brought this dish across the Atlantic.

Fufu made it into several Caribbean cuisines, with varying levels of alteration. In Cuba, it is known as Fufu de Platano, and in the Dominican Republic it carries the name MangĂș. In Puerto Rico, it is almost always made with plantains, but yuca and breadfruit variations exist. The plantains are typically smashed using a wooden mortar and pestle called a pilon, and sometimes served directly in the pilon. My stone mortar and pestle gets the job done nicely.

There are many ways to enjoy Mofongo. It is often dipped in chicken broth or a sauce made with mayonnaise and ketchup (aptly called “mayoketchup”), or served with a tomato-based sauce and grilled or sautĂ©ed shrimp. Personally, I enjoy it plain, as a simple starchy side dish, which is what you’ll find in this week’s recipe.

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Kuy Teav – Cambodian Pork and Seafood Noodle Soup

15 Jul


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Kuy Teav is a Cambodian pork and seafood noodle soup, much like the Vietnamese Pho; in fact this dish is enjoyed in Vietnam, under the name Hu Tieu Nom Vang (“Phnom Penh Noodle Soup”). While I’m a huge fan of Pho (it’s in my cookbook), sometimes it’s a little too beefy for my tastes; Kuy Teav serves as an excellent break from the norm.

It’s believed that this dish originated among Chinese immigrants living in Cambodia, and later spread to the rest of the country. It’s also a popular breakfast meal. Like many Asian soups, there is no one way to prepare this dish. Feel free to experiment with all sorts of add-ins, including meat balls or any leftover meat you may have.

This dish sits firmly in the Perfect Health Diet spectrum of Paleo since it uses rice noodles, but feel free to use sweet potato noodles (or even zucchini noodles) instead. One of these days, I’ll help convince the Paleo world that rice is indeed Paleo, but until then, I’ll continue to use my favorite little hashtag: #teamwhiterice.

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Ham and Pea Soup

17 Jun


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

PNW friends! I’ll be appearing in Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver BC next month, signing books with Sarah Ballantyne and Mickey Trescott! More info on my events page.

Peas are an ancient food, eaten seasonally during the Paleolithic era. They were also one of the first cultivated plants, first grown in Western Asia about 8,000 years ago, and spreading to nearly every major culture from there. Today, there are many reasons to enjoy peas. They are very economical, and frozen sweet peas are one of the cleanest vegetables even when raised conventionally. They’re also very practical, since grabbing a handful of frozen peas from the freezer couldn’t be simpler. This soup is a great example of how convenient the little green guys are; start to finish, you can be enjoying this delicious and deeply flavorful meal in 25 minutes.

The word pea has an interesting origin; it was originally written as pease in English (taken from the ancient Greek pisum), which referred to both the singular and plural forms of peas. People confused the word pease with peas, incorrectly thinking it was plural, and later formed the singular word pea, which eventually became the norm around the 1650s. Pease still exists in some contexts, such as in pease pudding, or the children’s song “Pease Porridge Hot”.

Referring to thick fog as “pea soup” has been around for about 200 years, first used to describe the fog in London.

There is some controversy as to whether peas are “Paleo” since they are legumes. Like green beans, peas are the result of cultivation, and were selectively bred to reduce their toxicity, to the point where they can be eaten (and enjoyed) in their raw state. Theoretically legumes should be avoided, but I’m not one to follow food rules based solely on theory (see: my support of one of those pesky “grain” things, white rice). Personally, until the science definitively proves otherwise, my personal take is that they’re fine. Obviously, if you react poorly to them (or any other food, for that matter), you may want to rethink this approach.

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Kare Kare (Philippine Oxtail and Tripe Stew)

10 Jun


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Let me tell you a quick story. I first visited Singapore about 10 years ago, flying solo to the city-state for a work trip. I loved this tiny country from the very start, most especially their melting pot of cultures and languages (the country has four official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin, and Tamil). I also happened to be visiting during Chinese New Year, and the whole downtown area was filled with celebrations and fireworks – quite a welcoming sight for this young and starry-eyed traveler.

My first morning in the city I awoke starving (and a little hungover), and decided to scout out some local restaurants for a late breakfast. I quickly learned an important lesson: during the daytime, Singapore basically shuts down for Chinese New Year. After miles of walking, I finally found a shopping center that was open, and headed for the first restaurant I could find, a small, cramped Filipino restaurant.

The menu was written in Tagalog, and I was too hungry and grumpy to ask for an English menu, so I just worked my way through the list of dishes on my own. I settled on Kare Kare, mostly because it sounded like “curry”, and based on its description I figured the word karne meant meat (I was right). Meat curry sounded like a perfect fit for my empty stomach. I couldn’t translate the rest of the dish’s description but I figured I was good to go.

The dish that arrived held little similarity to curry, and was more like a thick, mild stew that tasted like peanuts. I also found little in the way of meat in the dish, mostly attached to weird-looking bones (oxtails) or some strange looking chewy substance (tripe). But you know what? It was delicious, and I ate every bit of it, even if I had no idea what it was.

I’m pretty sure that this meal is what started drawing me towards adventurous eating, and so I wanted to share the recipe for the dish with you this week. As you might have figured out, Kare Kare is a Philippine oxtail stew, often served with tripe and pig or cow feet. There’s a bit of variation to this dish, but it is typically includes eggplant, green beans, and Chinese cabbage. The name Kare Kare may have been introduced by Indian immigrants who settled to the east of Manila, while others believe that the dish came from the Pampanga region to the northwest of the Philippine capitol city.

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Savory Slow Cooker Ham

1 Apr


Gluten-Free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet

Ham recipes have always been special to me; they tend to remind me of family gatherings. But recently, they have been especially special. For starters, my other ham recipe marks the first collaboration I did with my friends at US Wellness Meats, when I was their April 2012 Featured Chef. Last year, that same ham recipe was featured in People Magazine. That’s quite a lot of attention from one little cured pig leg!

The other day, US Wellness Meats asked me to try out another ham recipe, this time using a slow cooker. I jumped at the chance. This recipe is simple and not unlike my other recipe, but with the added convenience of simply throwing everything in a pot to cook in a savory broth. Better yet, this recipe works well in two ways: perfectly cooked to 140F and sliced, or slow-cooked to shreddable deliciousness. Instructions for both methods are provided below.

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Pumpkin and Chorizo Soup

14 Jan


I figure it’s safe to post a pumpkin recipe now. For a while there (all of October and November) I thought I was going to drown in pumpkin-flavored products. Is it just me, or are they becoming more and more prominent every year? Regardless, pumpkin soup is a hearty, warming way to enjoy the cold months of fall and winter, and I didn’t want to let spring hit me before sharing this recipe.

Like many foods we enjoy today, pumpkins are a product of the New World, and entered Europe in the 15th century. Most foods introduced during that time took a while to gain momentum in Europe – sometimes hundreds of years – but not the pumpkin. Because they resembled gourds and squashes common in the Old World, pumpkins were readily adopted and prized for their robust flavor and easy cultivation. It was quickly made into various soups, and mixed with honey and spices as early as the 17th century – a precursor to pumpkin pie.

For today’s recipe I wanted to keep pumpkin closer to its place of origin – North America – so I decided to focus on a Mexican soup commonly referred to as Sopa de Calabaza, often flavored with cumin and chorizo sausage. I really like the cyclical nature of this dish. Cumin was first cultivated in India and introduced to the Americas by the Portuguese and Spanish. Chorizo is the best of both worlds: Old World sausage flavored with paprika made by New World peppers, and later re-introduced to the Americas. So this dish is the product of the unique culinary marriage of these two continents and cultures.

While pre-roasting a whole pumpkin inevitably lends more depth of flavor, using canned pumpkin puree drastically cuts down on your cooking time and effectively turns this dish into a 30-minute meal. Continue reading

Smoked Center Cut Pork Chops

31 Dec


Today’s recipe is a combination of two recent events in our house. First, I recently bought a remote grill thermometer, and I was itching to try it out. The thermometer has has two probes: one that goes in the meat and one to gauge the overall grill temperature. It’s an easy way to keep an eye on both the grill temp and your food without having to open the grill lid. Plus, it has a wireless receiver so I can keep an eye on the temperatures from afar, perfect for some wintertime grilling.

Second, we recently came across a beautiful French Rack of Pork at our local market, which is a shoulder pork loin still attached to the ribs; basically, it’s a rack of center cut pork chops. As luck would have it, the rack was on sale; my guess is that it intimidated customers and the store was having a hard time selling it. Either way, we couldn’t turn down the price, so I dragged the big hunk of meat home and the rest is history.

I decided to smoke the rack on my gas grill, which would allow me to give it a flavorful crust without overcooking the tender meat inside. Just to be safe, I brined the pork overnight to keep it from drying out, which was also a good call. The end result was crisp on the outside, and ridiculously juicy and flavorful on the inside.

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