Fresh Pork Belly

 

Friends in a nearby community own a piggery. Check out my post on that before you continue reading this recipe.

During this past year, I had one of their pigs butchered and placed in my freezer. There is not much that compares with home-grown local pork. The meat cutter included quite a few packages of pork belly. In the South, it was called “sow belly.” Another term is “green bacon,” because it’s really bacon that hasn’t been cured yet.

Whatever you want to call it, I’ve used pieces of it in greens or dried beans, but when I happened to read of another way to cook pork belly, I knew I had to try it.

The picture above is not very clear because I find it difficult to get a picture of a hot dish without the steam clouding over my camera. But I think you can still see (and maybe even smell) how wonderful it turned out.

The recipe I found called for rubbing down the pork belly with ¼ cup kosher salt and ¼ cup sugar. I used half that amount of salt (sea salt), but when we ate it, it was still too salty for our tastes. Next time I want to try even less salt (it does need a little), and use brown sugar instead of white.

After rubbing the sugar-salt mixture all over the pork belly, put it in a big bowl, cover it tightly, and place in the refrigerator overnight – at least 6 hours but no more than 24.

When ready to bake, discard the liquid that has accumulated in the bowl. Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

My suggestion is to line your pan with foil and coat it with a canola spray. I forgot to do that, but I won’t forget again!

Bake with fat side up for an hour, basting it periodically during the cooking time.

Turn the oven down to 250 degrees F. and cook for another hour or a little more. Lift the belly onto a platter and let it cool.

The recipe I read said to wrap it in foil and put it in the refrigerator until it was chilled and firm, but I didn’t do that. I cut it in half and dished it directly onto two plates with steamed fingerling potatoes and Brussels sprouts.

I discarded the juice, but people who aren’t watching their fat intake could make a gravy out of it. This is a meat dish I plan on making over and over, as long as my packages of pork belly last.

Now if I can just find a recipe for a pig’s head….!

A hui hou!

Chipotle Shrimp Chowder

 

I suspect I’m like most cooks. When I see a recipe that looks good, I copy it to try later with my own substitutions or additions. I subscribe to many (too many) cooking blogs where I drool and gather ideas.

One blog that I particularly enjoy includes recipes from everyone in the family. When I saw this on their blog recently, I knew I had to make it. Here is my rendition of their recipe.

Chipotle Shrimp Chowder

 

In a large heavy pan, I sautéed ½ rasher of thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces.

Once lightly browned, I added 1 cup of diced onion and 3 diced cloves of garlic.

After this had browned 1-2 minutes, I added 2 tablespoons flour.

Their recipe called for ¼ cup sherry to deglaze the pan, but I rarely cook with any kind of alcohol and don’t keep any on hand. I used ½ cup cranberry juice, which I always do have handy.

I added:
2 cans fat free chicken broth
2 cans of whole kernel corn, drained
2 cups diced potatoes – I used a mix of fingerlings and reds
2 cups milk – I used nonfat that I always have on hand
2 canned chipotle peppers, diced, plus a bit of the adobo sauce to taste

I let this simmer on low for about 20-30 minutes, then added 1 pound of shrimp and ½ cup half & half cream.

Note: The shrimp I used were Kirkland brand (Costco), 31-40 per pound, peeled and deveined. The tails were still on, so I thawed the shrimp just enough to slip off the tails before adding to the chowder. Also, be sure to chop the chipotle peppers into very small pieces, unless you don’t mind getting a big chunk of hot pepper in your mouth. I imagine this would be delicious using a variety of fish, clams, shrimp, and other seafoods.

Thanks to the folks at Food o’ del Mundo for this recipe. It’s one I’ll make often!

A hui hou!

Shrimp Creole

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My accumulation of cookbooks started early, and I’m sure that is true of most cooks. One of my favorite cookbooks dates back to when I was a girl traveling in New Orleans with my parents. One that I didn’t mention in my post about my cookbook addiction is New Orleans Creole Recipes, by Mary Moore Bremer. It was first published in 1932. If you are interested in a copy, you can click on the picture above and order one.

I’ve used her recipe for Shrimp Creole with variations ever since I was a new young wife living in Mississippi. I like the way she gives her recipes in narrative form and I’ve always tended to do that, as well. What follows is my own version that I’ve developed over the years.

First, you make a good, rich roux, using one large tablespoon of lard and one of flour. Lard is actually less toxic than margarine or shortening.

Then you chop up two onions, two cloves of garlic, one large bell pepper, two teaspoons of parsley. Add all of that to the roux and stir until the onion browns slightly, then add a large can of tomatoes. I add a small can of tomato paste and an equal can of water.

Season with ½ teaspoon red pepper, salt, bay leaves, 1/3 teaspoon celery seeds and ¼ teaspoon powdered thyme.

You can either add two pounds of raw, shelled shrimp, or several cans of shrimp if fresh is not available to you.

Cover and let it cook slowly for an hour in an old-fashioned iron heavy Dutch oven. Any heavy pot will do. If you are using canned shrimp, you don’t have to cook it as long, and you would add the shrimp at the end, just long enough to get them hot.

Half an hour before serving, add two teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce. Serve over brown rice for a healthy meal.

I usually make a big loaf of sour dough bread to share. Add a salad and it makes a total meal, fit for any company.

A hui hou!

Spaghetti Squash

 

I’m trying to keep calories and carbs low, but I get starved for a good Italian marinara. One of the best solutions I know is to use spaghetti squash. You might have seen it in the store, but you weren’t quite sure what to do with it. If you’ve never tried it, you’re in for a treat.

I get two to four meals out of a squash, depending on the size. Cut it in half first, then if it’s a large squash, into quarters. Scoop out the seeds first, or you’ll be sorry! Trying to pick them out of the squash when it’s cooked is not something you would want to do twice! Yeah, I did it once by mistake!

Once the seeds are out, place the cut side down in a glass dish with a little water (about ½ inch) in the dish. Some might bake it in the oven, but I find the easiest way to prepare it is to cover it with plastic wrap (punch a couple holes in it) and nuke it for 8-10 minutes. You might want to check it because time depends on the size of the piece.

In the meantime, open a jar of the best marinara you can buy and heat it, or make your own if you have time and prefer your own. I’m usually in too much of a hurry!

When the squash is done, hold it carefully with a good potholder, because it’s HOT. With a fork, scrape out the insides. If you’ve never done this before, you’ll be amazed at the spaghetti-like strands coming out. Keep scraping until you get all you can out of it.

Cut up the rind and put in your compost or feed to your chickens!

Pour the hot marinara over it, mix slightly, and eat! Sometimes I skip the marinara and use a lot of freshly shredded Romano Pecarino. It’s absolutely delicious – and light on calories! Experiment with spaghetti squash and let me know what you create.

A hui hou!

Jambalaya With Black-Eyed Peas

 

Yesterday was Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday, more commonly known as Mardi Gras. I’m not from New Orleans, but I spent enough years in the Deep South to have this celebration in my soul.

Being able to toss beads or join in the festivities on Bourbon Street this year, I knew I had to do something to feel like I’d truly honored the day. I dug around in my kitchen and came up with the basic ingredients of a traditional Jambalaya.

Usually, this dish contains ham and/or shrimp, and/or chicken, and/or sausage. The only thing I could come up with this time was one lone sausage, so that’s what I used. Fortunately, when I added about a cup of black-eyed peas leftover from New Year’s Day, I found pieces of ham.

You can add the seasoning for your own taste, but I like spicy!

 

My Version of Jambalaya

Into a slow cooker, I put:
1 can non-fat chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1 large sliced spicy sausage
1 cup Jasmine Brown Rice blended with Wild Rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 diced garlic cloves
2 diced baby bell peppers (from my garden)
½ large onion, diced
A handful of chopped parsley (from my garden)
2 broken bay leaves
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin

All of this cooked for 4-5 hours on high. The last 30 minutes, I put in the pre-cooked black-eyed peas. I think you could put it on low for 8-9 hours if you wanted to leave it all day. Any bean can be added, but somehow the black-eyed peas seemed more in keeping with New Orleans.

“Laissez les bon temps rouler” (let the good times roll), as any good New Orleanian would say, until the beginning of Lent.

My Cookbook Addiction

 

I confess! I’m addicted to books! But I have read all the books I own and continue to use them all as reference and/or for teaching.

My addiction carries over into cookbooks, and I doubt if there is even one of these books that hasn’t been used for at least one recipe. Like many cooks, I use recipes for mostly for guidance to come up with my own variation. My cooking has never been an exact science.

The shelves of cookbooks shown above are in my kitchen/dining area, and I have another shelf of cookbooks in another bookcase, because there wasn’t room for them all here. I even borrow cookbooks from the library to read!

When I moved onto my boat from a large house in the late 70s, I gave a book box of cookbooks to each of my four children. This is what I have left!

I know I could probably find the same recipes online, but there is something deeply soul-satisfying about sitting down and reading through an old book of recipes that my mother, or grandmother used. Tucked into each book are other recipes given to me by friends, or that I have cut out of a magazine.

Yes, I think you can say I’m addicted!

Now, you may think that with all these recipes at my disposal, I’d be cooking delicious dishes every day. The fact is, I usually have only myself to cook for and if I ate the way I’d like to cook, I’d be as wide as the channel between here and Maui!

So this week, instead of sharing a recipe with you, I thought I’d tell you about my favorite books on these shelves, and even tell you about some of the recipes in them that I love.

Probably the oldest book I have is a little booklet from the Metropolitan Insurance Company. Several of my books date back to the 30s, but most of what I have date to the 50s, when I was a young woman. My first Christmas as a married woman, I received the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, a three-ring binder that is barely holding together.

I also love my specialty books, like Mme. Bégué’s Recipes of Old New Orleans Creole Cookery, from 1953. I can’t tell you how many pages are spattered with oil and tomato paste! Someday I’ll post the Shrimp Creole from that book that I make often.

I have quite a few Mexican cookbooks, but my favorite is Elena’s Secrets of Mexican Cooking by Elena Zelayeta, blind, but she kept on cooking. Her “Caserola De Pollo Y Elote” (Chicken and Corn Casserole) is full of green chiles and wonderful!

Farm Journal’s Complete Pie Cookbook is another tattered book on my shelves, also full of messy pages! And Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook probably has most of the comfort foods I make.

The Rodale Cookbook published by the Rodale Press is where I go for breads and other wholesome foods. I have several other of the Rodale books and they are all great.

As I peruse the books, it’s fun to see how many phases and stages of eating I’ve gone through. You will find low-fat books, low-carb books, vegetarian/vegan books, and all sorts of specialized diet books, all of which I still use. Then there are the regional books that show where I’ve lived – Guam, Alaska, Arizona, California, Down East, Deep South, the Orient.

Even though I still buy new cookbooks, like those by Martha Stewart and Mark Bittman, I still go back to my old “tried-and-true” standards when I want to make something special for friends. Maybe someday I’ll stop reading them like novels (which is what I do!) and actually use them for cooking.

Now I’m anxious to go find a new one to try for you!

A hui hou!

Cran-Apple Crumb Pie

Before baking
Before baking

 

It has become a joke among some of my friends that they can always find a huge bag of cranberries in my freezer. It’s true! I find all sorts of uses for them throughout the year. Because it’s such a beautiful red, I’m making one this week for my significant friend for Valentine’s Day. I posted this over a year ago for Christmas, but I have new readers who might be interested, too. The picture above is just before it goes into the oven.

My crust recipe is one I found in a magazine back in the 50s (early marriage) and I have not rolled out a pie crust since then. Everyone wants to know how it’s made because it is so tender and flaky. I’ve shared it before online, and I hate for it to get lost.

No-roll Pie Crust
Place 1 ½ cup flour, 1 ½ teaspoon sugar and ¼ teaspoon salt directly into an ungreased 9” pie pan. Pour out ½ cup canola oil, then add 2 tablespoons cold milk and mix with a fork until milky. Pour into flour mix in the pan and stir it all together. Press the mix into the pan until it resembles a regular pie crust. Leave enough up on the sides to squeeze into a rim.

It’s light and flaky – doesn’t leave a mess and never requires rolling out!

Lucy’s Cran-Apple Crumb Pie

 

1 cup sugar
¼ cup flour
4 cups peeled, sliced and chopped apples ( I use Fuji, but any apple will do)
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
Preheat oven to 425 F. Gently mix berries, apples, sugar, and flour until fruit is coated. Dump into pie crust and top with crumb topping.

Crumb Topping

 

1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup flour
½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter (I use half butter and half yogurt spread).
Mix together until crumbly, and put over top of pie.
Bake about 40 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when it starts to bubble and brown.

Here it is right out of the oven. Needless to say, wherever I take this, I have only an empty dish to bring back home! Imagine this with a scoop of vanilla-caramel swirl ice cream on top. Oh my!

Fresh from the oven
Fresh from the oven

Makes me hungry just to write about it!
A hui hou!