Recipe: Sous vide cola carnitas

This is going to be quick mainly because I didn’t take photos and think the recipe still needs refining.

But, this came out good enough that I really wanted to share it. It doesn’t taste like most of the carnitas you’ve had in your local taqueria, but I’m assured it has a very authentic taste. The coriander and cola give it an interesting flavor, and if you take the time to give it fried edges, I think you’ll be very happy.

I used a sous vide technique, but did it with stuff you should have around the house. All you really need is a way of heating water and a freezer-safe Ziplock bag. I heated the water on the stove top and then added it to a cooler. This basically worked from a pure cooking standpoint, but I had to continually rotate in hot water to make sure the temperature didn’t drop too far. The cooler lost about 1 degree every 10-15 minutes, so every hour or so, I’d have to take water out and add hotter water. This was kind of a pain and kind of defeats part of the purpose of sous vide cooking. I’d actually suggest just leaving a large pot on the stove top and monitoring the water’s temperature.

The results were great, though. We made tacos the first night, tortas with guacamole the second night. The final meal consisted of throwing the meat on a pizza along with barbecue sauce, pineapples, bell peppers, cheese and cilantro. All three meals were really good.

Ingredients

  • 2.5-3 lbs cubed pork shoulder with fat trimmed off and saved
  • 1 12oz can sugar-cane cola (don’t use American Coke, in other words)
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp pepper corns
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 6 chopped celery stalks
  • 2 tbsp crushed red pepper

Instructions

Toast the coriander and cumin seeds just enough so that they are fragrant. Crush them either by hand or in a blender along with the pepper corns. Add all the ingredients to the Ziplock bag, making sure to squeeze out as much air as possible.

Heat a large pot of water to about 165 degrees. Add the ziplock bag. The temperature of the water should drop 5-10 degrees. Continue to monitor the water’s temperature, trying to keep it as close to 155 degrees as possible. A few degrees here and there might not make a huge difference, but if you let it get too hot the meat will get overdone and defeat the point of cooking this way. If you let it get too cool, the temperature of the meat won’t get high enough to make it safe for eating. This should take 4-5 hours. After about 4 hours, randomly pull out chunks of meat and measure their temperatures. If they aren’t at least 150 degrees, you need to let them cook longer. Most of them should be as close to 155 as possible.

While the meat is cooking, begin rendering the fat. Basically, just put it on a baking sheet and throw it in the oven at a temp of about 250 degrees or cook it on a very low temp on the stove top. After about an hour, you should have rendered off as much fat as you’re going to get. Set that aside and refrigerate.

Once the meat is cooked, separate it from the braising liquid. Put the braising liquid in a blender and puree. Return braising liquid to a pan and reduce by about half. Remove the braising liquid. Using the cooled and rendered fat, coat the pan. Put the meat in the pan and place in a 450-degree oven. After about 10 minutes, flip the meat. After another 10 minutes, the meat should have a nice crust. Return meat to the stove top along with the pureed braising liquid and simmer for about 40 more minutes.

Remove meat and shred, using two forks.

Serve in tacos, as a torta or whatever else suits your fancy. I highly suggest using the braising liquid as a sauce. Guacamole also worked as a great condiment.

Costs: Pork shoulder (3.99/lb); assorted spices ($.50); can of cola ($.75). Total: $13.25 (less than $2 per serving).

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Anthony Bourdain shows off acting chops

Apparently, Mr. Bourdain has a 2-year-old daughter. I give him props for the effort, but methinks he is not bound for scripted television.

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Maybe my Mobile Chowdown ideas aren’t so crazy

Maybe you heard, but L.A. hosted its version of Mobile Chowdown — L.A. Street Food Fest — last weekend and lo-and-behold it sounded like some of the ideas I had to retrofit our little street food festival were actually incorporated there.

Mainly, they went with the tasting-size menus that I thought would be such a hit and encourage customers to try multiple offerings.

They also charged $5 a head in addition to whatever customers spent at the actual trucks, but vendors were allotted a set number of tickets to give away to their regulars.

And how did it all go? Well, supposedly about 10,000 people attended before event coordinators had to stop admitting people, turning away an estimated 10,000 more.

That’s obviously too many people, but are you telling me that Seattle’s vendors wouldn’t kill for that kind of exposure?

I seriously don’t think it’s too late to incorporate some of these ideas into Mobile Chowdown 3, but time is certainly running short.

Just for good measure, here’s a link to pictures of some of the food.

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Recipe: I guess it’s called Tamale Pie

Once upon a time, I worked for a newspaper. At said newspaper, one of my coworkers used to rave about a dish he called “Tamale Pie.”

From best I can tell, this is a pretty decent approximation. If not, hopefully Daniel will forgive me.

That said, I’m not sure that this recipe from Cooks Illustrated bears that much resemblance to an actual tamale. Really, it’s more like chili with cornbread baked on top. Whatever you call it, though, it’s really good and not too difficult (although not very photogenic, I must admit).

Plus, it’s pretty cheap. Six servings will set you back less than $10.

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Mobile Chowdown 3: SEA vs. PDX

Apparently not satisfied with proving to its own residents that Seattle serves up some pretty awesome street food, the organizers of Mobile Chowdown are upping the ante by inviting several Portland vendors to the newest incarnation.

The event will also have a new location to go along with its new format. Instead of a nondescript parking lot in the Interbay neighborhood, the March 13 event will take place across the street from Safeco Field, coinciding with the first day single-game tickets will go on sale for the Mariners.

Seattle vendors include standbys: Marination Mobile (winner of GMA Weekend’s best street food in the country contest), El Camion, Dante’s Inferno Dogs, Anita’s Crepes, Kaosamai Thai, Gert’s BBQ, Skillet Street Food (returning after missing the last one), Top Pot Doughnuts, Here & There Grill, and Veraci Pizza along with newcomer to the event Hallava Falafel (someplace I’ve been meaning the try). Portland vendors include: Burgerville (who I recently reviewed), Koi Fusion, Potato Champion, and Whiffies.

The event will once again be free, taking place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Recipe: White bean and chicken chili

I’m on a bit of a slow cooker kick right now, so if you’re looking for something that you’re going to have to slave over the stove for, this ain’t for you. If you used canned beans (I did), premade salsa (I’m embarrassed to say I did) and buy a pre-roasted chicken (well, I roasted my own), there’s a a shocking lack of work that goes into a dish that will feed your entire Super Bowl party and barely cost you $10 to do it.

The way I did mine, it came out a little brothy. If you’re someone that likes a thicker chili, I’d cut out about a cup of water. This came out almost like a pazole and really needed to be served with rice, which suited me just fine.

Note: I’m going to say “chili powder” in the ingredients. By all means, feel free to use whatever you want. I absolutely love Alton Brown’s chili powder, and that’s what I used here.

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Recipe: Spicy pork and potato tacos

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ve probably surmised that few things excite me more than good Mexican food. When it comes to home-cooking, my go-to recipes are almost always those of the very un-Mexican Rick Bayless.

The reason is simple: He very rarely steers me wrong, and while his skin may be more pale than mine, his recipes almost always are praised for their authenticity.

So, it should come as no surprise that my newest discovery was due in no small part to Mr. Bayless’ “Mexican Everyday.”

Not only was the pork fall-apart-in-your-mouth tender, but the spiciness was heavy on flavor, while staying easy on your stomach. The potatoes provide a next textural accompaniment. I topped mine off with a mustard-based slaw I adapted from the “Silver Palate Cookbook.”

Making this dish a real winner, though, was how easy it was to make. Literally four steps if you don’t include dicing and chopping. Total prep time is maybe 15 minutes, with the bulk of the work being done in either the slow cooker or dutch oven.

To top it all off, it makes between six and eight healthy servings, which pencils out to about $2 a person.

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Paseo’s Travel Channel appearance airs tonight

At least that’s what the good people at Fremont Universe are reporting.

If you’ll recall, back in August a camera crew from the Travel Channel visited the Fremont location of Paseo’s. At the time, they said the footage we be part of some kind of montage show, and would likely air around Thanksgiving. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

The show ultimately ended being named “101 Tastiest Places to Chowdown,” with Paseo settling in on the 40-21 episode.

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Recipe: Brasilliant Red Beans and Rice

Inspired by Brasilliant’s posting about making red beans and rice and the other night, I felt compelled to ask her for the recipe she used. I figured she’s a Southern girl, so if anyone knows how to make this dish, it would be her.

The recipe didn’t disappoint. While I doubt mine came out as authentic as her’s does, I found it a perfectly satisfying and balanced dish. The veggies practically melt in your mouth. The sausage reaches a near-perfect consistency. And adding a little Tapatio to the plated dish gives it just the right amount of spice.

Like any dish made from dried beans, making red beans and rice takes some time. Erring on the safe side, I’d put aside four hours of total cooking and prep time, but most of that requires very little attention.

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How To Make French Onion Soup | Working Class Foodies

Their recipe differs from the one I’ve shared here, but it still looks awesome. And anytime I can share a good how-to video on French onion soup, I’m happy to do it.

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Cultivating Myopism

via operationkids

About a year before we moved to Seattle, my wife wrote a letter to the Campbell (Calif.) school district, suggesting it add a garden program to their curriculum. She did this as part of school project from a nutrition class.

As part of the proposal, she heavily referenced Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard program. It seemed like a good idea to me, and we were shocked to actually get a response from the school district. Long story short, they were very interested in the program, but essentially asked us to get it off the ground for them. Lacking any kind of expertise and being short on available time, the best we could do was point them in the direction of programs like Waters’.

I hadn’t given that episode much thought until I saw an article today in the Atlantic that basically dismisses such programs as misplaced liberal do-gooderism. The article, headlined Cultivating Failure and written by Caitlin Flanagan, strikes me as much more of a misplaced backlash against people like Waters than an actual takedown of the concept behind the program.

My state is full of semiliterate 14- year-olds. Let their after-school hours be filled with whatever enriching programs the good volunteers and philanthropic organizations of California care to offer them: club sports, choruses, creative-writing workshops, gardens. But until our kids have a decent chance at mastering the essential skills and knowledge that they will need to graduate from high school, we should devote every resource and every moment of their academic day to helping them realize that life-changing goal.

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Review: Mobile Chowdown, Part 2

The line at Marination Mobile

This weekend marked a rather significant milestone for Seattle street food vendors: a second well-attended Mobile Chowdown.

Not only is it important for the simple fact that the first one was deemed a sufficient success that a second one was planned and executed, but this one had the added hurdle of taking place on overcast (and potentially rainy) day in January.

I have no idea about how many people showed up, but judging from the lines (especially those for Marination Mobile and El Camion), I think it’s safe to say that this one was at least as widely attended as the first.

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Mobile Chowdown, Take 2

This isn’t exactly breaking news at this point (in fact, I actually reported on this a while back), but Mobile Chowdown is giving it another go on Saturday in the same Interbay parking lot that it was in last time from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m..

There will be a few changes, however.

Veraci Pizza, Anita’s Crepes and Top Pot Doughnuts are the new additions, joining maiden voyagers Marination Mobile, Dante’s Inferno Dogs, Gert’s BBQ, El Camion and Kaosami Thai.

Although it doesn’t appear that any of my exact suggestions were implemented, they have tweaked the format a bit. The event promises to have more separation between vendors, which will hopefully lead to more clear lines. There will also be more port-a-potties, a dining area and live music.

Otherwise, bring cash, get there early  and be patient.

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The Great Burger War

I’m finally back from my sojourn to the Bay Area (OK, I’ve actually been back for more than a week), and as promised I have what I feel to be the definitive review of three of the West Coast’s most significant micro-chains: In-N-Out, Burgerville and Five Guys.

To be fair, there are only a handful of locales in which any of these three restaurants compete directly. Portland has both Five Guys and Burgerville, and there are several California, Nevada and Arizona cities that feature Five Guys and In-N-Out. Best as I can tell, Burgerville and In-N-Out are separated by several hundred miles. All three are currently expanding, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see all three of these places going head-to-head throughout Washington, Oregon and even Northern California.

In any case, I can’t think of a more apt comparison — at least on the West Coast — than these three. All of them pride themselves on made-to-order, hand-crafted, never frozen patties, selling them at reasonable prices and promising a more-than-fast-food experience. Of course, they achieve these things through different means.

The only nationwide chain of the three is Five Guys — which, according to Wikipedia, boasts more than 450 locations. If it doesn’t seem that way on the West Coast, that’s because there are only two in the Pacific Northwest and a few more in California. This is the only one of the three which offers franchises.

In-N-Out, with about 240 stores, is the next biggest. They’ve recently expanded into Utah, but as of yet, still have not crossed into Oregon or Washington. The company remains family owned.

Burgerville is easily the smallest of the bunch, claiming 39 locations, massed mostly around Portland, Ore. As such, the farthest north the chain has gone is Centralia, Wash., with its southernmost location being Albany, Ore. (This may soon change, however. According to a Tacoma News-Tribune story dated Feb. 13, 2009, Burgerville is planning to expand as far north as Seattle.) Burgerville is also family owned.

I apologize for belaboring my point, which was, of course, to determine which of these three chains offers the best burger. I will detail arguments for each of the three, but may as well tell you now that I still find In-N-Out to be superior. This will come as no shock to those who know me, as I’ve long been a fan of the California-born chain and on several occasions have found myself in the middle of lengthy debates over its merits. Ranking them, I’d put Burgerville a close second and Five Guys a distant third.

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Upcoming: The Great Burger War

If you take burger eating seriously, you won’t want to miss what I have planned in the next week or so.

The other day, I gave Five Guys a try for the first time. I plan on doing a full review, but for now, I’ll just say that I was totally solid. With no Burgerville outlets in Seattle, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to give the much ballyhooed Northwest chain a shot. And, of course, I’ll be hitting up In-N-Out during my time in California.

With all three places fresh in my mind, I figured this would be a perfect opportunity to do a little comparing and contrasting.

When I first heard about Five Guys a few months ago, I was a little skeptical as to whether it provides a fair comparison with In-N-Out. It seemed almost like a classic sit-down restaurant, rather than a burger joint. I’m happy to report, those concerns were unfounded. If anything, you could probably make a pretty fair argument that Five Guys is almost designed to be the East Coast’s answer to In-N-Out. My assumption is Burgerville will provide a similar level of comparability.

I realize I’ve been less than stellar when it comes to making promises, but this promises to be too much fun to pass up.

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