Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cola BBQ Pulled Pork

Drop everything!!! Did someone say Cola BBQ Pulled Pork? Whoa.

I was immediately all over this recipe. I had thought about making pulled pork before, but all the recipes I found at the time called for at least 15 ingredients. I don't know about you, but I don't want to spend 2 hours in the kitchen preparing a meal that's going to take 8 hours in a slow cooker anyway.

While scouring my favorite food websites (which I do routinely each week, since I'm a food dork) I stumbled across a post on Tastespotting which depicted a beautiful plate of pulled pork. After wiping the drool from my mouth, I clicked on it and discovered Iowa Girl Eats' recipe for pulled pork. Kristin clued me in to a well-kept secret. So well-kept, in fact, that I had never heard of it before.

This pulled pork was made with less than 5 ingredients. AND one of those ingredients was cola.

Huh? This is something I had to try.

I looked over the recipe that Kristen had posted. It seemed pretty simple, but just to make sure, I also headed on over to the Sweet & Savory blog, where Ally had posted a similar recipe. In the end, I came up with more of a guideline than a recipe. Screw measurements for just one day. You'll get the idea:

Cola BBQ Pulled Pork
slightly adapted from recipes on the Iowa Girl Eats & Sweet & Savory blogs
  • Pork Butt (I used ~3lb but you can upgrade or downgrade as you see fit)
  • Lawry's Seasoning Salt
  • Adobo All-Purpose Seasoning
  • Coke or Diet Coke or any cola that you like to drink
  • 1/2 bottle Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce
1) Generously coat the pork butt with a mixture of the Lawry's Seasoning Salt & Adobo All-Purpose Seasoning. I used these seasonings just because I like both of them and didn't feel like choosing. You can be liberal with your own choice of seasonings.

2) Place the pork butt in a crock pot and pour in enough soda to almost cover the meat.

3) Add the BBQ sauce to the meat/soda mixture.

4) Cover and cook on low for ~6.5 hours. If you have a larger piece of meat, it will probably take longer.

5) After ~5 hours, begin to shred the meat into pieces with 2 forks. Let it continue to cook sit in the juice to soak up all the flavor for the next 1.5 hours. In my case, the center of the meat was tougher to shred so I completed the shredding job in several batches.

6) The meat can stay on warm in the crock pot while serving, and can easily be reheated the next day. I personally enjoy eating the pulled pork on a wrap with extra barbecue sauce and shredded cheddar cheese. But you can serve on a roll if you want to be more traditional.

Did you blink and miss the recipe? Yeah, I thought so. It's that short.

The hardest part for me (other than waiting 6.5 hrs to eat the darn thing) was shredding the meat. Once the cooking and shredding was done though, it was time to dig in. And dig in, I did. The meat was tender and tasty. If I hadn't made it, I wouldn't have guessed the ingredients at all. The meat was flavored perfectly, thanks to the salt rub. The cola provided a syrup-y, liquid marinade in which to slow-cook the pork. And let's face it, BBQ sauce is just awesomeness in a jar. I'll admit that I sort of indulged in a few extra dollops of the Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce, which by the way, is my new favorite 'cue sauce. I won't be buying anything else in the future. I could eat it with a spoon. Or my fingers. Not that I've done that or anything.

Try leaving the pork in the refrigerator overnight. (I would suggest extracting the pork from the marinade, because the cola-BBQ sauce mixture tends to be a little fatty after the slow-cooking process. Fat and cold temperatures are not friends. But if you're adventurous, feel free to do what you prefer.) The next day, the pork will be one thousand times better than it was the first day, if that's even possible.

Mmmmm I'm hungry. Let's see if I have any pulled pork left over.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Leek Goat Cheese Quiche

Hoboken's St. Patrick's Day is always celebrated on the first Saturday in March each year. This year, my roommate Kimmy and I decided to host the "morning party". (Read: We don't want drunk random people spilling beer in our apartment and falling through our doors in the afternoon.) Of course, to hold a proper breakfast party you have to have bacon and eggs. Of course. So what did Kimmy and I do? We went out and purchased 4 dozen eggs and several packages of bacon for the event. I mean, who's going to resist all these goodies first thing in the morning?

Hmmmm....let's cut to approximately 1 hour before herding everyone to the 1pm Hoboken St. Patrick's Day Parade. (Read: "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.") For some reason, we STILL have 2 dozen eggs left over and no one seems interested in eating anymore. This may have had something to do with the "liquid diet" that most people seemed to be sticking to.

OK fine. The point of this story is: we had ~2 dozen eggs left over from our party and I really really hate throwing food away. This only means one thing: Quiche! I love quiches. I guess because I grew up eating quiches as a kid (mostly Broccoli & Cheddar Cheese). Coincidentally, they are also a great way to use up a stash of eggs that you have lying around the apartment.

My friend Anjelika started a blog in January and one of her first cooking-related posts was a Leek & Goat Cheese Quiche. That was the post that made me recall the good old days of quiche dinners.

Only this time, the quiche is Leek & Goat Cheese. I already know that I love goat cheese. I don't think I've met a cheese I haven't liked yet. Note that this is not a challenge...only an observation! But I'd never tasted a leek before. I knew that it was somehow, remotely, or not-so-remotely related to an onion. And ta-da, that's it. That's the extent of what I knew about leeks.

Ironically, after making this quiche, I still don't know much more about them. Except that they taste fabulous! This may also have something to do with them being smothered in goat cheese, but I'm not complaining.

Leek Goat Cheese Quiche
very slightly adapted from my friend Anjelika's blog
makes 1 9-10" quiche

  • 1 pie crust (homemade or store bought - I opted for store bought)
  • 3 leeks (2 leeks will be fine if they are large)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, approximately
  • 1 tbsp butter, approximately
  • 4 oz. goat cheese, room temperature
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/2 tsp habanero/hot sauce (optional)
First thing: Blind bake the crust. Well. This made me stop and think for a few minutes. I'd never blind baked anything before, so I did a little research on the interweb to figure out how to do it. Since everyone seems that have their own idea as to how to blind bake a pie crust, I finally broke down and called Anjelika. Fortunately, she lives in California and didn't mind that I was calling at 10:30pm EST. So here's how to blind bake a pie crust:

Blind Bake the Pie Crust:

1) Use a fork to prick the bottom and sides of the pie crust.

2) Line the bottom of the pie crust with parchment paper and fill with baking beans or raw rice to keep the crust weighted down. I won't ever have baking beans or raw rice handy so I made this step optional. If you don't use any weights and the crust puffs up on the oven (mine didn't) just push it back down gently while still warm. No one will ever see it.

3) Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

Easy as pie! Get it? OK, the cheesy jokes end right here.

Cut & Clean the Leeks:

1) Discard the thick, dark green, tough parts. You can save/freeze these to make vegetable stock later.

2) Cut the leek cylinders in half, then cut the leeks into half moons.

3) Place leeks in a colander and stick under running water. Swish them around to get rid of the dirt and grime in between the layers.

Assemble the Quiche:

1) Heat the olive oil and butter in a pan.

2) Add the leeks. You can add approximately 2-4 tbsp of water at this point if desired. I didn't because my leeks were pretty well coated by the oil and butter.

3) Add approximately 2 tsp salt.

4) Sautee the leeks at low-medium heat until soft, approximately 10 minutes.

5) Meanwhile, in another bowl, whisk the softened goat cheese, eggs, milk, approximately 2 tsp salt, and the habanero sauce.

6) Mix until blended. The goat cheese will likely be in small bits.

7) Fill the pie crust with leeks, then pour the egg-cheese mixture on top.

8) Grind fresh pepper on top.

9) Bake in a 350 degree oven until the egg has set and the top is golden brown, approximately 30-45 minutes.

I know, I know. Could I have taken any more pictures of this quiche? What can I say? I got very excited about making it and went picture-wild. I wish someone would teach me how to make photo collages...I tried before but, as evidenced by this post, it was kind of a failure. I wish someone would teach me how to make photo collages...If I say it enough times, maybe it'll come true. But I'm digressing again. I hate it when that happens.

Back to the Leek Goat Cheese Quiche.

Amazing! Like I said earlier, I had never tasted leeks before, but I will definitely try to incorporate them into future meals. The leeks tasted like a more fibrous version of an onion. The leeks were already softened from the sautee-ing and they became even softer after the baking process was done. The combination of the leeks with the eggs and goat cheese made for a creamy, tangy consistency. Even though it seems that a lot of the goat cheese stays on top of the quiche, quite a bit of it also dissolves into the egg mixture and ends up throughout the quiche. I'll be keeping this recipe for future use. Since we still have 2 dozen minus 4 eggs in the refrigerator, maybe I'll whip up another one!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lamb Ragu with Mint

I love Giada DeLaurentiis! And the Gratitude Cocktail loves her too, which is good enough for me. I've actually made her Lamb Ragu with Mint dish before, but that was in my pre-blog phase. Since then, I've had numerous cravings for this dish. And finally, in between cupcake baking/blogging and our numerous snow days, I've finally gotten a chance to satisfy those cravings.

Lamb Ragu with Mint
adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis

  • 1 pound rigatoni pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 4 cups marinara sauce, store-bought or home made
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves, torn
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta.

2) Meanwhile, in a large skillet warm the olive oil over high heat. Add the shallots and the garlic and cook until tender, about 3 minutes.

3) Add the ground lamb, salt, and pepper.
4) Cook until the lamb has browned and the juices have evaporated.
5) Add the wine, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan using a wooden spoon. Simmer until the wine has reduced by half.
6) Add the marinara sauce and simmer over low heat until the flavors have blended, about 10 minutes.
7) Add the mint and ricotta and stir until mixed.
8) Add the pasta and stir to coat. Serve immediately.
An advantage of having made this dish before is that I already know what I like and don't like about it. Well, there's really not much I dislike about this recipe. Actually, there's nothing that I dislike about this recipe. All I did was double the shredded mint that was originally called for. Because i'm daring like that.

But seriously, this dish showcases the amazing pairing of lamb and mint. The lamb is seared and has a flavorful, crunchy crust. The aroma of the mint provides the perfect accessory for the lamb. On top of this, the addition of the ricotta makes the tomato sauce really creamy.

Mmmmm...We'll see how long this pasta lasts. Then I'll be making this again.