food

Everybody loves Pupusas. These corn cakes can be found in most cities across the US today, at locations known as Pupuserías. They’re one of the best street foods around, warming the belly with its signature combination of hearty corn/beans/cheese, tangy Curtido slaw, and spicy tomato salsa.

The story of this dish is surprisingly complex. Pupusas were first developed in El Salvador or Honduras as far back as 2,000 years ago, and traditionally stuffed with squash blossoms or herbs. The introduction of Old World foods (mainly beef, chicken, and dairy) resulted in more elaborate preparations of this humble dish. By the mid 20th century, pupusas had spread throughout El Salvador and neighboring Honduras and Guatemala. When civil war in the 1980s displaced huge portions of the population, many Salvadorans relocated to the US, and pupusas followed.

The type of corn flour used to make this dish is masa harina — ground nixtamalized corn. This is the same process that creates hominy, and masa harina can be used to make tamales, tortillas, and gorditas. Bear in mind that this is not the same as cornmeal, which is ground dried maize (i.e. hasn’t undergone the nixtamalization process) — cornmeal is what you would use to make cornbread or fried fish. Finally, masa harina is often confused with masarepa, which is the pre-cooked cornmeal that is used in making Arepas.

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Shrimp recipes generally fall into one of two categories: dead simple and fast, or elaborate and slow (with the shrimp thrown in at the end). This dish falls into both categories – you can whip it up in just a few minutes, or you could marinate it up to overnight for more flavor. Sky’s the limit. Not to be undone, there are also two variations of this dish you can prepare (Camarones a la Criollo and Mexican-style Camarones al Ajillo) if you’re up for the challenge — both variations add even more fun to this weeknight dish.

Clarified butter (or its toastier-tasting cousin, ghee) will allow you to cook the shrimp at a high heat without burning the butter. To make clarified butter, warm 3 tbsp of butter in a small saucepan over low heat for 15 minutes, skimming off any milk solids that accumulate at the surface. Alternatively, combine 2 tbsp butter with 1 tbsp olive oil to increase the butter’s smoke point.

Some of my other favorite shrimp recipes:
Bobó de Camarão (Brazilian Shrimp Stew)
Carolina Shrimp Bog
Bam Bam Shrimp
New Orleans-Style Barbecue Shrimp
Pad Priew Wan Goong (Thai Sweet and Sour Stir-Fry with Shrimp)
Hawaii-Style Garlic Shrimp

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Some news: we’re moving back to Hawaii this week. I lived there from 2001 to 2008, and met my wife Janey there in 2002. Even though it’s been over 11 years since we left, and I spent my first 20 years in Washington state, I still consider Hawaii home. I wrote a little about what this state means to me a few years ago, in my Hawaii Oxtail Soup recipe. Janey is especially excited to get back to her hometown, and to spend time with friends and relatives we’ve only seen a precious few times during our years away. The boys will be going to the same schools their mother attended as a child, and they’re pretty stoked, too.

So to celebrate this return to home, I’m sharing my mother-in-law’s Nishime (vegetable stew) recipe. To be honest, when we lived there, my wife and I weren’t huge fans of this dish — its earthy and subdued flavors are a far cry from the savory, sweet, and crunchy delights you can find out in town. But since moving away we’ve come to appreciate the comforting warmth that Nishime can impart.

Note that this recipe is difficult to make without access to a local Japanese grocery store. For example, nishime kombu is a softer version of the more popular dashi kombu seaweed you can find in most asian markets, but is not sold online. Similarly, fresh burdock root (gobo) can only be found in person. And finally, you’ll want to find a block of konnyaku (the same material used to make shirataki noodles), which is not easy to find online either. All this is not meant to dissuade you from trying this recipe — far from it — but to let you know that this is a hard recipe to replicate if you don’t have access to a Japanese grocer. And because of its simple seasoning (just a bit of dashi, tamari, and honey), each of the ingredients are pretty important to get that signature nishime flavor (although there is a bit of wiggle room here — losing an ingredient or two won’t break the dish).

I’ll be taking the next two weeks off from posting while we move everything from Virginia to Hawaii. Hope you have a happy holidays and see you after the New Year.

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Around the holidays, there are three dishes I like to prepare on certain days: turkey (smoked or roasted) for Thanksgiving, ham (citrus and honey glazed) for Christmas, and a rib roast for New Years Day. My traditional rib roast recipe is featured in The Heritage Cookbook, but last weekend I wanted to try out a smoked version of this classic dish, which I’m sharing today.

I tested this recipe on my new pellet smoker (full review here), but it would work well on a charcoal or gas smoker setup, too, which I detail at the bottom of this post. Don’t have a smoker? No worries, this is the exact method I make for an oven roast, and I simply put it in the oven at 180F for Step #2. It comes out great that way, too.

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For those of you who remember my Caribbean Sticky Wings recipe from last year, I jumped into the world of pellet grills about 18 months ago. Before then, my longtime grilling setup had been three-fold: a charcoal grill for direct-heat grilling, an electric smoker for low-and-slow BBQ, and a gas grill for consistent temperatures with minimal effort. After getting acquainted with that first pellet grill, I decided to sell my electric smoker and gas grill because the pellet grill provided the consistent temperature I like to rely on during recipe development, as well as low-and-slow temperatures for exceptional BBQ (see: my 3-2-1 Smoked Ribs recipe); I kept the charcoal grill on hand for high-heat direct grilling.

Recently, the team at Camp Chef offered to send me one of their new Woodwind 24 WiFi pellet grills, which seemed to be a significant upgrade to my current grill. So I thought I’d take a moment and run you through my impressions.

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These garlic pickles are a great introduction to fermentation. They’re a familiar flavor, and you can use the brine to marinate chicken breasts for my fan-favorite Gluten, Grain, and Garbage-Free Chick-fil-A Nuggets recipe (which is nearly seven years old – yowza!).

But really, this recipe is just the start of a beautiful relationship with fermented foods. In addition to those you can find in my books, I have a few on the blog. Here are some other fermented or pickled recipes if you’re ready to try out something new:

Kabees el Lift (Pickled Turnips)
Guineitos en Escabeche (Pickled Green Bananas)
Fermented Ketchup
Takuan (Pickled Daikon Radish)
Pickled Watermelon Rinds)

One last note – it’s important to seek out organic (or fresh from the farmer’s market) cucumbers for this recipe, because you want that natural Lactobacillus bacteria that forms on its skin to kickstart the fermentation process. Don’t have access to organic cucumbers? Just add a spoonful of that liquid that forms at the top of yogurt (aka whey) to your brine during step #1.

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Listen, I get it. Thanksgiving is in a couple days, and you already have your mashed potatoes recipe figured out. Or maybe you’re going nuts and trying out some smashed potatoes this year. But hear me out — if you’re preparing your turkey outside of the oven (say, in my Perfect Smoked Turkey recipe, or frying it), maybe think about making these Crispy Roast Potatoes with all of that free oven space.

This British-inspired version is very simple: just potatoes, salt, and a good animal fat like tallow, duck fat, or lard. There’s a bit of work involved, because you par-boil the potatoes, and “chuff” them by jostling them in a colander when draining. But it really shines by leaving them alone after that — you don’t want to turn them often, so that a nice crust forms. And these crispy chunks of deliciousness pair really well with gravy, if you’re interested.

I won’t hold it against you if you choose to cook your turkey the traditional way, which you can find here. And really, today’s recipe isn’t a holiday-specific endeavor (although now is a great time to share it, since potatoes are likely on your mind right now). Have a happy holiday, and see you next week.

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This week is a big cooking week for most Americans, so you’ll be getting two recipes from me — this one for gluten-free stuffing, and another surprise tomorrow.

We’re headed to our friends Matt and Stacy’s house for Thanksgiving this week and so I used this past weekend as an opportunity to test and photograph this stuffing recipe ahead of the big day. (Also, I wanted to try out my new blue carbon steel roaster from Made In Cookware.)

This stuffing (technically a “bread dressing” since it’s not going inside a turkey) is pure classic style; think of it like a supersized version of that boxed stuffing you may or may not have grown up eating. One trick to this recipe is to chop up celery leaves to go with your traditional herbs of sage and parsley; they add a bit of zing. Looking for something a little more unconventional? Try this New Brunswick-style potato stuffing.

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Hi everyone, starting today I’m reducing the price of The Heritage Cookbook from $14.99 to $9.99 — consider this my early Black Friday gift to you. This will be the new price point from here on out, so don’t worry about this discount expiring. This price reduction applies to all three electronic versions of the book: PDF, Kindle, and Apple Books formats should all now reflect the new price point.

I’ve also made some adjustments to each format — the PDF version is now an exact copy of the limited edition print version that I shipped last month, and all versions also sport the watercolor painting cover you see above.

If you’re having trouble deciding which format to buy, consider where you’re going to use the book. If you plan on using it on your home computer, the PDF is definitely the version to get (this version can also be ported to your phone or tablet if you’re tech savvy). If you primarily use Kindle or Apple Books to read your eBooks, then I would get one of those formats. The Kindle version has adaptive text, so you can adjust the text size on the fly; the formatting isn’t very pretty but it’s a very useful feature. The PDF and Apple Books formats are fixed, which means they reflect my intended page layouts.

Here is a link to the eBook’s landing page, where you can read more about it (and gaze at some tantalizing photos). Or you can use the buttons below if you want to just buy the darn thing already. Let me know if you have any questions, and happy reading!

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Hi, remember last week’s recipe, for Preserved Lemons? Let’s make good use of it with today’s recipe. We’re going to use some of the juice to make Chermoula, a relish used in Algerian, Libyan, Moroccan and Tunisian cooking (primarily with seafood), and then use one lemon to build a base tagine sauce and to garnish the end product. Combining those slices of lemon with a bite of fish…boom.

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