primal

You probably don’t have any reindeer sitting around at your house (unless you do – hello, Canadians and Scandinavians, thanks for visiting my site!). Luckily, this simple recipe can also be used with venison if you or a loved one had an eventful hunting trip this year, or even with bison or beef steaks if you didn’t have a good hunting trip.

This dish hails from Finland, but is enjoyed in Sweden, Norway and Russia as well. What I like about this recipe is that it makes no assumptions – the key to this delicious meal is slicing it thinly, seasoning it sparingly, and nudging it gently towards tenderness with a combination of light braising and some crisping at the end. The whole process takes about two hours from start to finish, but it’s totally worth it.

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Nearly seven years ago, I developed my recipe for Sukuma Wiki, a Kenyan braised collard greens and ground beef recipe, and it’s been a favorite ever since. I put it in my first book, The Ancestral Table, and it’s often the dish I point to in the book when someone asks where they should start cooking. It takes about 30 minutes to prepare, and uses very affordable ingredients — and tastes great, too.

When writing The Heritage Cookbook, I knew that I wanted to include this dish to represent Eastern African cookery, but wanted to go back to the drawing board in terms of honoring the traditional preparation of this dish. What I came up with is a flavor provide very similar to my original recipe, but meat-free, and with nice meaty hunks of tomatoes to replicate those missing chunks of ground beef. Red onion also mellowed out the dish some compared to a white or yellow onion, which helped to balance everything just right.

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The signature flavor of Aji de Gallina (“hen chili”) comes from aji amarillo peppers (Capsicum baccatum), which are prevalent in Peruvian and Bolivian cuisine. Fiercely spicy and naturally yellow, this pepper is eaten fresh (or in paste form) in Peru, like in today’s recipe, but they are often dried in Bolivia. Aji amarillo pastes can be found online or in your local Latin grocery, but can also be (somewhat) replicated using more conventional ingredients (more on that in the notes below).

This dish uses a unique mixture of New World and Old World ingredients. The aji amarillo paste and potatoes are native to the Americas, while the others — chicken, walnuts (to thicken the sauce), olives, milk, and parmesan cheese are all Old World staples introduced after the 15th century.

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Does butter really make everything better? I think so. Julia Child also once said, “With enough butter, anything is good.” This week’s recipe proves her right.

Often, I will buy a small head of cabbage at the grocery store, with no concrete plans for it. They’re just so dang cheap, and they keep in the vegetable bin for a long time. Typically I will just sauté the cabbage in some butter, seasoned plainly with salt and pepper (a splash of apple cider vinegar also adds a bit of depth). But when I’m feeling very fancy, I’ll throw in some complementary flavors, like in this recipe, which includes radish and woodsy mushrooms. The trick is to pull the cabbage from the heat right as it starts to soften, or maybe a bit before — it’s always better to be undercooked than overcooked.

Other uses for cabbage:
Fårikål (Norwegian Lamb and Cabbage Stew)
Roasted Cabbage Steaks
Vietnamese Chicken and Cabbage Salad
Lazy Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Pressure-Cooked Corned Beef and Cabbage

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When most people think of cured pork, they think of the two champions of the cured-pork world: bacon and ham. But the Cajun dish Tasso (sometimes referred to as Tasso Ham) beats these two famous counterparts in another way — you can’t beat its affordability and ease. Because Tasso is made with shoulder or loin, it’s much cheaper to prepare than bacon (pork belly) or ham (pork leg), because the former is much more expensive, and the latter is hard to find in its unprocessed state.

This is a two-step process: first, you cure the pork to remove its moisture and to impart its characteristic pink hue. Next, you smoke it at a low heat (under 180F if possible). The process is a little involved, but the end product is super versatile; I use it in my gumbo, jambalaya, or any dish that calls for bacon or salt pork.

You’ll want to cut the shoulder into smaller pieces — my rule of thumb is that each piece should be the size of a baseball. This gives you more surface area to work with, so that you can imbue it with all of that cajuny goodness.

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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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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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