Sunday, September 20, 2015

Slow Cooker Pozole (pork and hominy stew)

Pozole, also spelled sometimes as posole, is a wonderful mix of Mexican flavors all wrapped up in a bowl of comfort food. This is a super easy "cheater" version done in a slow cooker. The flavors of the spices and the pork are easily enhanced by the slow cooker process and it takes a ton of energy from creating the broth and braising the pork for hours. I had not been a fan of many pork dishes for years until I started tasting some of the Mexican dishes that made the pork practically melt in your mouth. Combine that with the fact that I fell in love with hominy the first time I tried it and this has easily become one of my go to dishes for a lazy rainy Sunday. In Oregon, there are typically about 22 of those each year! If you don't know what hominy is, you're in for a treat. You might check out this fun quick read article, "What the Hell is Hominy, Anyway" to get you started.

3 pounds pork shoulder or butt
1 white onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 poblano chili pepper, seeds removed cut into large pieces
3 bay leaves
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
6 cups water
1 can hominy (25 oz)

Trim fat from pork and cut into 1 inch pieces.

Place cubed pork into bottom of crock pot. Add onion, garlic, chili, herbs and spices.

Pour water over ingredients.

Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours or until pork is very tender.  Add hominy in the last hour of cooking. Remove and discard bay leaves.

Serve with toppings: sliced radish, cilantro, sliced avocado and a squeeze of lime.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Chilean Bean Soup (Porotos Granados)

Porotos Granados is a very typical Chilean dish. In honor the "el dieciocho" the biggest holiday in Chile (the 18th of September), traditional Chilean foods are cooked for about a week long "Fiestas Patrias." While Chile's Independence Day is on February 12, this September holiday commemorates the beginning of the independence process. Because I am in the Northern hemisphere and this is a late summer bean, I will honor my Chilean family and friends with this wonderful dish from beans harvested out of my own garden. 

The first time I was introduced to this dish, I was in Chile and we were sitting around the dining table late in the evening and a huge bowl of these beans were placed in the center of the table and everyone starting grabbing a handful to shell. It became a family event. 

This bright red-speckled bean looked like pole beans, or shell beans, but the fantastic red coloring was new to me.  These are cranberry beans and not easy to find in the Pacific Northwest. I first found them at Seattle's Pike Street Market and we must have brought home about 6 pounds worth because my husband was so excited to see them. Since then, I found a local produce stand that has a small quantity. The owner usually harvests them for her own consumption and only puts a few out a year. Since then, I was able to find some dried beans to plant in our own garden. I have also seen the dried variety packages by Bob's Red Mill.

3 tablespoons oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoon cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 cup butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 ears corn, sliced off the cob
6 cups water
2 cups fresh cranberry beans
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

Heat oil in large stock pot and add onion and garlic. Sauté until translucent and the aroma from the garlic begins to release. Add squash cubes, paprika, cumin and chili powder and saute together.

Add beans and water. Cover and cook for 45 minutes or until beans are softened.

Add corn and basil and cook for another 10 minutes until softened.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Seco de Carne (Cilantro Beef Stew)

This is not your grandmother's beef stew. Well, not unless your grandmother is from South America. This Peruvian (or Ecuadorian) beef stew called "seco de carne" is a very traditional dish in much of South America.  I've read differing origins between Ecuador and Peru, but that makes sense because the border between those two countries has moved a couple of different times due to occupational disputes and a resulting war almost 200 years ago.  The more common dish is served with the plentiful goat of that region, but you will also see this recipe with other meats such as chicken or cow stomach. I'll stick to beef for this recipe. I'm not sure why it's called seco de carne or "dried beef" as it's not dry at all. The cilantro sauce that it cooks in for hours makes it super moist and soft.

2 T cooking oil
2 pounds beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 2 inch squares
2 medium red onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large bunch cilantro
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1 cup water
2 tsp cumin
1 T aji amarillo (yellow aji pepper paste)*
6 cups water
6 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and cut in half
1 bag frozen peas and carrots (or 1 cup each fresh)
Salt and pepper to taste

*aji amarillo is a very distinct ingredient and I haven't found it in any local grocery stores. I had to order it. I've cooked this dish without it and it's still very good; just not a traditional version. If you can't find the paste, be sure to kick up this dish with a little chili or cayenne pepper.

Heat oil in large stock pot. Add beef pieces and brown on all sides.

Add chopped onion and garlic and cook until translucent.

Chop stems off cilantro. Place cilantro, spinach and 1 cup water in blender or food processor. Blend until liquified.

Pour cilantro liquid over beef and onions. Cook on high until half of the water dissipates.

Add aji paste, cumin, salt and pepper. 
Add 4-6 cups water until meat is just submerged and cook on medium boil, with lid for approximately 2 hours. Check periodically to prevent boil overs or to add water if it dries out too quickly. 

Remove lid and add potatoes. Cook for additional 30-45 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through and liquid reduces.

Add peas and carrots and cook for additional 10 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

Stir all together, add salt and pepper. This is usually served with white rice.

For Whole30 compliant, skip the peas.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Brazilian Feijoada-Black Bean and Meat Stew

If you like meat, I mean a lot of meat, and beans and get amused saying fun words, then this dish is for you: Feijoada. Say it with me, "fay-zhwa-dah." See? Feijoada comes from the Portuguese word for "beans" which is really the staple that pulls the consistency together in this dish. But it's the combination of meats that will make your taste buds sing. 

This reminded me a lot of the French Beef Bourguignon; the meat cooks long enough to become so tender that it practically melts in your mouth. The addition of black beans is very typical Brazilian and makes this signature dish of any Brazilian restaurant the common staple. Beyond the beans, the meat can be any combination of things, although it typically includes pork or a combination of several types of pork and beef. 

I had never made this dish before but had always loved the name and today I just couldn't get the idea of trying this dish out of my head. So, I began researching recipes. I found that the only common factor each recipe had was the black beans and served with white rice. Some used pork, others used beef. Some used chorizo and pork, or beef and bacon. One used several different meats, so that's what I decided to do. This is the result of my afternoon's efforts. The family all gave it a thumbs up.

Cooking spray
6 slices center cut bacon, cut into small pieces
1/2 pound dry Spanish chorizo or linguica, cut into thin slices
2 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 large white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/5 pounds beef stew meat
1 medium tomato, diced
6-8 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp red chili powder
2 cans black beans

Coat the bottom of a large stew pot with cooking spray. Add bacon pieces and saute until slightly crisp. Add sliced sausage and saute together for an additional 3-4 minutes. Push the bacon and sausage to the side of the pot and add pork. Continue to cook until pork is browned.

Once pork is browned, remove all meat from the pan and set aside in a large bowl. Leave the drippings in the pan.  Add chopped onion and garlic and saut√©.

Once onion and garlic become translucent, add the meat mixture back to the pot. Add beef cubes and stir all ingredients together.

Add enough water to just cover all the meat. Add chopped tomato, bay leaves, cumin and chili powder. Stir all together. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cover. Let simmer for 2 hours.

Remove lid and add black beans, stirring all together. Leave lid off and cook for an additional 45-60 minutes or until liquid is reduced by 1/3 to 1/2 and becomes thickened.

Serve over white rice. It is also typical to serve with cooked collard greens and fresh slices of oranges.