Pork Burnt Ends

You know when you make smoked ribs and those outer portions are super charred and smokey?  With all the rub and bark on them?  Those are the best parts.  Crispy and porky and decidedly a long-smoked delicacy.

  Sadly, there just aren’t that many of those bites on ribs.
  But what if ALL the bites were like that?  Can it be done?  Yes.  Yes it can.  Smoked pork burnt ends to save the day.  They are dead easy (even easier than my usual rib recipe) and make the perfect party food to feed a crowd.  If I was having a Super Bowl party this year, these would definitely be on the menu.
  There are two good methods to make these and I’ve tried both.  You’ll need to either get a pork shoulder if you are in the mood to spend a decent amount of time cutting it into slices or, if you are in a hurry, track down “boneless country style ribs” at your grocery store.  Then the butcher will do all the work for you.  You will, however, pay for their time in the price difference.  The method couldn’t be easier.  Rub the slices all over with rub and smoke them for a few hours.  You can use any rub you like but my favorite is from Myron Mixon’s book.  It makes a great bark and it is nice and spicy with two entire tablespoons of cayenne in it.  I have routinely done half this amount when we have guests (hi Mom!) that don’t like as much spice and it is still delicious.

 

Then remove them, let them cool enough to handle, dice them, and finish them in the oven.  They’ve gotten all the smoke they can, so it is an easy shortcut to take.
  After a few hours, voila.  burnt ends.  Use them to make a sandwich or just gobble them up with a fork.  Or burn your fingers and mouth eating them right as they come out of the oven.  Not that I would ever do something like that.

Pork Burnt Ends

  • 1 Pork shoulder, cut into chunky slices OR a few packages of boneless country style ribs.
  • 1 recipe rub
  • barbecue sauce of your choice (we like sweet baby ray’s)

The Rub:

  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons dry mustard
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne powder
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

stir it all up until it is well blended.  I use almost an entire recipe of the mix for pork burnt ends but I sometimes have a little leftover.  It is fabulous on chicken as well!

Prepare your smoker while you prep your pork.  All you need to do is liberally spread the rub on your pork slices.  Smoke them for a few hours, after which they will be cooked but not tender.  Allow them to cool enough to handle and then dice them into bite size pieces.  Toss them with some barbecue sauce and put them in your oven at 250.  How long will depend on your pork and how charred you like them.  I usually leave mine in for at least 2 hours until they are super dark and barky.

 

Moorish Roast Chicken

I roast a chicken or two almost every week. It’s super easy, super delicious, and gives us leftovers for another meal. That’s a lot of delivery for a pretty cheap ingredient.  

  

Often, I roast two chickens since it doesn’t take any more time to do so and then we get a couple of meals out of them. Plus soup!  Because, man, homemade stock is just the best. More on that later though!

This is one of my favorite “recipes” for roasting. It’s just a butter and spice mix but it’s really flavorful and I’ll bet you have these spices in your kitchen right now. 

    

After mushing the spices under the skin, roast for about an hour to an hour and a half in a hot oven. 
  

Bam. Roast chicken. Perfect every time. 

 

Moorish Roast Chicken

Adapted from A Bird in the Oven by Mindy Fox

4 ish pound chicken

3 tablespoons of butter

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

More salt for the skin 

Preheat oven to 425. Place a 12 inch cast iron skillet in the oven to preheat.
Combine the butter (zap it in the microwave for 10 seconds to get it workable) with the spices (except the salt for the skin). Make a paste and set aside somewhere you can get with gross chicken hands. 

Prep your chicken by patting the skin dry with paper towels then sliding your fingers between the skin and meat in as many places as you can on the breast and legs. Smoosh the butter mixture between the skin and meat.  Truss the chicken (or just tie the legs together. Sprinkle the surface with about a tablespoon of salt. 

Place the chicken breast side up in the preheated pan in the oven.  Cook for 15 minutes, then turn and reduce the heat to 350. Cook until the chicken reaches 165. Allow the chicken to rest 15 minutes before carving. 

Rainbow Cake–A food color review.

My son loves rainbows–in the sky, in My Little Pony form, but most of all in cake form.

He has asked me for a rainbow cake for a long time now.  I thought I had it covered when I made him a chocolate cake with rainbow frosting but, apparently, that wasn’t enough.  The other day, he asked again and I folded like a lawn chair.  Ok, kid.  We will make a real rainbow cake. I’ll even try to not complain about dirtying six bowls and spoon mixing all the colors.

I used the Vanilla Cake recipe from Cake Simple.  I changed it in a few ways to suit what I had on hand (why were all my vanilla beans so dry and sad??) so, despite this cake being seriously delicious, I want to make the recipe again before really going into the details.

Instead, I want to talk about the amazingness of these food colors I tried out.  They were just ok in the bowl while I mixed them up; the colors were solid but I still expected them to fade significantly while they baked.  The top layer of the cake was purple, so I couldn’t tell what the outcome was until I unmolded the bundt.

WHAT THE WHAT?  All hail Ateco gel food color, bringer of rainbows!  These colors were amazing! Red is always a problematic color and, even though I could have added a little more to the batter, this was leaps and bounds above any other color I’ve ever used.

I’m a convert.  Rainbow cakes forever.  Ateco food colors forever.  If you are the type that likes fun colored food, I cannot recommend these enough.

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breasts

What? Something savory? Other than pizza? Its crazy, I know but I do actually both make and eat things that do not contain sugar.  Sometimes.  Usually every day.

The problem is that I find a lot of savory food kind of boring.  Skinless boneless chicken breasts?  Again? Ugh.  I’d rather have a muffin.  I’m always up for a more interesting way to prepare those things I make for dinner; adding bacon is almost always a no brainer way to accomplish this.

 

 

 

This chicken recipe uses a basic rub–brown sugar, spices, salt, etc on brined chicken breasts.  Then, you wrap them in a few slices of bacon and cook them up!  I had every intention of putting these on my smoker but ran out of time in the day and ended up putting them in the oven.

 

Even with this cop out, they were still delicious!  Dinner guest worthy even!   The chicken was moist and flavorful thanks to the brine and spice rub (and being basted in rendering bacon fat doesn’t hurt!).  I served them with green beans and some garlic toast made from my favorite easy sourdough loaf.

 

The Brine:

4 cups of cold water

1/4 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup brown sugar

 

The Rub (makes enough for 4 chicken breasts but make a double or triple batch while you have everything out.  It stores well):

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons brown sugar

The Assembly:

regular sliced bacon (3-4 slices per breast)

toothpicks

 

Brine the chicken for at least 1 hour but preferably closer to 4.  Remove from brine and rub with the spice mixture.  Lay 3-4 strips of bacon next to each other (depending on the side of your chicken breasts).  Roll the chicken, wrapping the bacon strips around as you go.  Secure with toothpicks if necessary.

Arrange on a metal rack on a sheet pan and roast at 350 until the chicken registers 165 and the bacon is crisp.

 

The search for sourdough part 2

My first attempt at sourdough was less than amazing.  It was flat and not as sourdough-y as I wanted.  This time, I wanted a nice crusty loaf with a soft interior that could be used for a solid sandwich bread.  Packaged along with my replacement sourdough starter was a small pamphlet with feeding instructions and a few basic recipes.  The first one was Rustic Sourdough Bread and looked like a super basic loaf and a good place to start.

One of my biggest problems with I first started baking bread was adding too much flour to the dough in order to make it “workable”–whatever that meant.  I’ve since learned that dough will become less sticky as it is kneaded and adding more flour at the beginning will only lead to sadness and a dry loaf.


I added only a touch of flour to this dough and it came together despite being a fairly wet dough.  Just keep working on the dough and trust in the gluten development.  And commit to having nasty dough covered hands by the end of the experience.  Your hands are washable.

After  a couple of rises and a bake, the bread was perfect.  I made these two freeformish loaves but I’ve since made this a few times and am now usually baking it in a 8×4 loaf pan to give myself nice sandwich slices for lunches.

I’ve also been halving the recipe since this bread does not keep for long.  Its kind of a shame but its so delicious we usually end up finishing a loaf in the few days we have with it.  This is also a super easy dough and has become a standard twice a week bake here the last few weeks.

bread

 

The One Loaf Sourdough Option

1/2 cup fed sourdough.  You’ll probably end up discarding another 1/2 cup from your feeding but I find its easier to dump 1/2 cup of starter than an entire loaf of bread.

3/4 cups lukewarm water

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1 1/2 teaspoon sugar

generous 1 teaspoon salt

300 grams AP flour

Combine all ingredients and knead until the dough comes together and forms a smooth ball.  Place in an oiled bowl to rise until doubled (about 90 minutes).  Turn out and fold a few times to gently deflate.  Shape into a loaf and place in an 8×4 loaf pan.  Cover and allow to rise for about an hour (it won’t double but it will rise a bit). Preheat oven to 425 near the end of the second rise.  Slash tops and bake for 20-25 minutes until nicely golden brown.  Remove from oven and turn out of loaf pan and allow to fully cool.

Sourdough Pretzels

  
My sourdough starter met an unfortunate fate during our recent move across the country. At first, I thought maybe I didn’t need to get another one since my other sandwich bread and basic loaves were coming along. hahahahahahahaha. yeah. That feeling didn’t last long. After we were settled, it didn’t take long for me to order a new batch of starter from King Arthur Flour.

I’ve kept my starter on the counter for a while to get it chugging along before it goes to its usual home in the fridge. Since a room temperature starter needs to be fed twice a day, I’ve had a lot of starter to use up. Technically, what I have is fed starter since it has been recently fed with flour and water but I used it in the Sourdough Pretzels recipe from King Arthur Flour anyway.

The dough itself came together easily without a lot of kneading. It took just a couple of minutes to go from this pile of junk:

  
 

to this beauty:

 

  
After a rise, it was time to shape the pretzels. All those years of play doh work have really paid off, no?

 

  
 

These were completely delicious. Soft and chewy with just a little bit of that nice crust on the exterior. They are soft enough that I’m considering using them for an amazing hamburger bun next time I make a batch. These were met with rave reviews by everyone and will definitely make a regular appearance around here to use up all the extra starter I have. I may try to par bake a few next time and freeze them. Sourdough pretzels from the freezer? Could it happen??

Sourdough Pretzels
From King Arthur Flour

3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 cup unfed sourdough starter, straight from the refrigerator
3 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Baker’s Special Dry Milk
2 tablespoons (1/2 ounce) non-diastatic malt powder
1 tablespoon butter or vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Topping:
1 tablespoon non-diastatic malt powder or sugar
2 tablespoons water
pretzel salt
2 tablespoons melted butter, optional

Mix and knead the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a cohesive, fairly smooth dough. It should be slightly sticky; if it seems dry, knead in an additional tablespoon or two of water.

Cover the dough and let it rest for 45 minutes. It will rise minimally. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface, fold it over a few times to gently deflate it, then divide it into 12 pieces, each weighing about 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 ounces.

Roll each piece of dough into an 18″ rope. Shape each rope into a pretzel or any other shape youd like. These would be delicious as long pretzel sticks.

Dissolve the malt in the water. Brush the pretzels with the solution, and sprinkle lightly with coarse pretzel salt.

Bake the pretzels for 25 to 30 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown. Note: This is correct; there’s no need to let the shaped pretzels rise before baking.

Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush with melted butter.

Moving Day Prep!

Moving day is speeding toward us here at Chez Piehole!  Most of my kitchen is packed up and our truck is reserved. I’ll be spending the next few days packing up the last few things left in the house. 

Posts will be scant for ten days or so until I get the new kitchen up and running. Want a peek?

  

Just a few days to go!

Homemade Butter

Want to live out your video game fantasies of riding the Oregon Trail? Without the dysentery and broken wagon axles? Why not try making some butter?

In all honesty, this isn’t something I do often. I usually reserve it for a special occasion or holiday or when I just have a lot of heavy cream that is about to go bad in the fridge. The taste of fresh butter is pretty amazing but I go through so much in this house that I still rely mostly on regular store bought sticks. I made it today because I was out of butter (oh, the humanity!) and had a desperate need for cookies.

If you are in the mood for fresh butter, it is about as easy as it gets. All you need is heavy cream, a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, and a clean dishtowel or cheesecloth. (and salt if you want salted butter)

Add your cream to the bowl of your stand mixer and start it up. Start slowly so you don’t splash it all out of the bowl but as soon as bubbles start to form, you can turn it up to medium.

wheeee

You’ll see it go through all the stages of whipped cream. After it reaches the stiff peaks stage, it will start to look weird–almost like it is drying out which means you are getting close!

dry

I scrape the bowl down fairly regularly during this process. After the “dry” stage, you might notice a little liquid at the bottom. To get to this stage usually takes me maybe 8 minutes of mixing.

liquid

Turn the mixer back on and stand close by–you are about to make butter!

butter!

Voila! Now it is time to drain and wash your butter. I use a spatula to try to stick all the little clumps of butter together into as solid a puck as I can get, then dump out all the liquid. You’ll have lots of butter chunks and some liquid remaining since its impossible to get it all. You might also have some heavily whipped cream that hasn’t quite made it all the way to the butter stage. To get rid of this and to increase the storage life of your butter, you need to wash it. Put a few cups of very cold water into your bowl with the butter and return it to the stand mixer for 30-60 seconds.

washing

Now that the remnants of cream have been washed out, it is time to squeeze your butter dry.

Dump the water/butter mixture onto a clean dishtowel or piece of cheesecloth. Squeeze and wring all the moisture you can out of it, then put the butter into a bowl for storage.

squeezed

I love the reverse texture of my kitchen towel on the butter. Use it up with a week or so since homemade butter doesn’t have a long life.

My quart of heavy cream yielded about 12.5 oz of butter–or about 3 sticks’ worth.

**If you want salted butter instead of unsalted, just add a couple of teaspoons of salt to the cream as you start mixing.

Applesauce

sauce

I’ll admit that I am often on autopilot when I go through the grocery store. I buy the same core fruits each week for us to use as snacks. When I don’t take a stock of what we have on hand before I go shopping, we end up with more of one fruit than we can eat before the pile will start to go south. This week, it is apples. I ended up with 8 extra apples in the fruit basket this week and, with another 7 fresh ones from the store. All signs point toward applesauce.

slicing

We don’t often end up eating the applesauce as a standalone food since it isn’t the most mobile of fruity foods. Instead, I commonly use applesauce as a sweetener in muffins to help increase the healthy factor for the kids. I’ve had good success subbing it for up to 1/3 of the white sugar in almost every quickbread/muffin recipe I’ve tried. This batch of sauce may be destined for pure apple muffins though.

readytocook

If you haven’t ever made applesauce before, it is dead easy! If you are into canning/preserving, this is a good candidate to put up. All of my canning and preserving equipment is packed up right now for the move, so this batch will need to be used up quickly!

mashing

Applesauce

8 Apples. I used mostly fuji with a few honeycrisp.
1 1/2 cups of water
1/2 cup of sugar
2 tsp cinnamon. This can be adjusted to taste–I usually use much more.

Peel and slice your apples. Add to a largeish pot with the other ingredients. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until your apples are soft. This timing will depend on the size of your apple slices, so check often!

Mash with a potato masher (Or a stick blender if you want super smooth applesauce). Add water or continue to simmer to adjust the thickness.

Makes roughly 6-7 cups