Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

Food Horoscope: Aries

Happy birth-month, Aries folks!

Aries
Aries, the Ram (March 20 - April 19)

Now, I'm merely a cook, and not an astrologer, but here's my advice for your foodcast:

You've heard the old cliches and expressions regarding patience? Of course you have. I'd bet that just every culture on the planet has one (or more).

I think it might be a good year to meditate on whichever patience mantra speaks to you. And you won't have to wait long. I think you'll quickly find you can practice patience every day, in all kinds of situations.

Rude coworkers. Apathetic counter staff. Rough commutes. Sneaky fees. Reckless drivers. Poor craftsmanship. Run-down roadways, elevators, ATMs, escalators, subway trains and electronic equipment. Redundant paperwork. Insurance claims. Tax forms.

Think of these situations as teaching moments, and you'll find there's really no end to the daily opportunities life offers us to practice patience.

That's why it's such an excellent virtue to cultivate. And you can practice with the recipe I'm going to offer you here. It's not hard, and it's not expensive, but it does require... oh yes... patience.
Ten-Hour Pulled Pork (Serves 6-8)

1 5-7 lb Boston butt pork roast, bone-in
3/4 cup pork rub (use your favorite or see recipe below)

1. Heat your oven (or smoker) to 225°F.

2. With a paring knife, cut a series of diagonal slashes in the fat of the pork, then cut diagonally in the opposite direction to make a cross-hatch design across the fat. Rub in the spice blend liberally, spreading it across the entire roast.

3. Put the pork butt, fat side up, in a roasting pan and roast in middle of oven or smoker for 8-10 hours. Monitor the heat, and when an instant-read thermometer reaches 175°F, remove the roast from the heat and allow it to cool to a temperature that's comfortable to touch. (Check it after 45 minutes.)

4. Using latex gloves to shield your hands, pull the meat from the bone and shred it with hands or with forks, transferring the shredded meat to a serving bowl. Serve with barbecue sauce and coleslaw. Offer buns or slices of potato bread if you want sandwiches.

Spice Rub for Pork (Makes 3/4 cup)
3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp smoked paprika
2 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp onion powder

Mix well and use immediately or store in an airtight container or lidded jar.

Enjoy your birthday and happy eating!

Miss Ginsu

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

4.06.2009

Smoked Chops & Apple-Kissed Kraut

I had grand plans for a gorgeous autumnal Choucroute Garni, but life interfered (I'm certain you're well aware of know how life tends to do that) and I realized that a long-cooking dish in the Dutch oven simply wouldn't do.

Food needed to appear on the table STAT.

Luckily, a deconstructed Choucroute Garni happens to make for one of the quickest meals out there. And a darn tasty one at that.

Chops & Kraut

Enter... Smoked Chops and Apple-Kissed Kraut.

Easy! Fast! Tasty! Seasonally appropriate! Exactly the kind of thing you want in your weeknight dinner arsenal, no?

I've configured this recipe for two, but if you want to serve more, just double the chops and kraut.

If you can't find smoked pork chops, you can use the standard ones, but the smoked ones (a German specialty) are really quite tasty, so I'd recommend you try to track them down.
Smoked Chops and Apple-Kissed Kraut (Serves 2)
1 apple
1 onion
2 tsp vegetable oil or bacon fat
2 smoked pork chops
1 cinnamon stick
3 cups sauerkraut
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp honey (or a little more, to taste)

1. Chop the apple into 1/2" cubes and slice the onion.
2. Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil or bacon fat in a medium-sized saucepan and the remaining teaspoon of oil in a skillet.
3. Saute the chopped apple and sliced onion in the saucepan for 5-10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, begin searing the pork chops over medium-high heat in the skillet.
5. Add the cinnamon stick, sauerkraut and cider vinegar into the apple-onion mixture. Let the kraut mixture simmer for 10-15 minutes.
6. When the pork chops have a little color on each side, remove from the heat and allow them to rest. (Smoked pork chops are already fully cooked. If you're cooking raw pork chops, make they reach an internal temperature of 160°.)
7. Season the apple-kraut mixture (to taste) with a little honey, divide it between two plates and serve each of the cooked pork chops on its own little bed of kraut.

Around here, this is the kind of meal that's typically served alongside a crisp green salad (maybe with apples, walnuts, goat cheese and a cider vinaigrette?) or steamed Brussels sprouts, but you'll have to gauge your own tastes.

In any case, it certainly makes an excellent autumnal meal (those apples! that cabbage!) for not a whole lot of money or time investment. And who couldn't use a few more of those?

Happy Eating!
Miss Ginsu

Labels: , , , , , ,

11.19.2008

Not the Lunchlady's Goulash

At the tender age of six or seven, I had a clear moment of decision in the school lunchroom.

As most epiphanies are, this revelation was heartfelt and simple. Though I'd traditionally devoured nearly anything that crossed my path — poisonous or not — I discovered a newfound hatred for goulash.

Little did I know that the bland hamburger-macaroni combo they'd scooped onto my plastic tray and billed as goulash was actually a low-rent impostor.

After what was essentially a simplified Hamburger Helper, imagine my shock upon learning that goulash was actually supposed to be full of meat chunks, vegetables... flavor!

Spicy Pork Goulash

True gulyás was something entirely different — a beloved, often spicy dish that had a long heritage with the cattlemen of Hungary.

In keeping with any traditional dish, it seems there's a million ways to make a goulash. You'll find that the Wikipedia page on the topic is robust.

I've enjoyed goulash with beef stew meat and chicken, but at the moment I'm particularly in love with a take on the dish that Ryn brought into work for us to sample last week.

She found this spicy pork version in the superb Staff Meals from Chanterelle — a cookbook I recommend highly.

Unlike many of the products of haute restaurants, the recipes in Staff Meals are varied and delicious, but because they're from the back rooms of Chanterelle and not the fancy front tables, they're actually easy for the home cook to reproduce. Yay!

Spicy Pork Goulash

But on to the reformation of goulash...

Despite the whole chunks of meat in this dish, I think it still qualifies as a Recession-Proof Recipe. The meat in question is all about cheaper cuts, and the rest of the dish is filled up with spices and sauerkraut — about as cheap as it gets.

You can, of course, serve this entrée with hearty dark-grained bread or buttered noodles and/or mashed potatoes, if you like, but I really love the fact that the dish itself is high-flavor and low-carb. We're a bit mindful about how and when we're carbing it up around this household, so that's an important consideration.

And, like any stew, this goulash improves with a bit of mellowing in the fridge... thus, the leftovers are dynamite.
Spicy Pork Goulash (Based on the Staff Meals recipe)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 lb pork stew meat (shoulder is best), cut into 1"-2" cubes
2 large onions, halved and sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chopped bacon
4 cups flavorful stock (vegetable, chicken or beef)
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup sweet Hungarian paprika
1 Tbsp Aleppo pepper (or hot Hungarian paprika)
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
2 lb fresh sauerkraut (avoid the canned stuff)
Salt, to taste
Chopped parsley (Optional, for garnish)
Sour cream (Optional, for garnish)

1. Heat the first portion of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven. In several batches, brown the pork cubes on all sides, moving the seared cubes to a dish while you work.
2. When all the pork is browned, use the same pot to cook the bacon. Add the onions and garlic and cook about 10 minutes.
3. Add the pork (and any juices it releases) back to the pot along with the stock, wine, paprika, caraway and bay. Bring to a boil and then either cover the pot and reduce to a simmer on the stove or move the covered pot to a 375°F oven. Either way, you'll let it cook for one hour.
4. Stir the sauerkraut into the pork mixture and either return it to the oven or keep it cooking on the stove-top for another 20-30 minutes or until the pork is very tender.
5. Carefully remove the stew from the heat and pluck out the bay leaves. Season to taste with salt and more paprika. Garnish (if desired) and serve.

I still find it amazing that this delicious dish and that junk that the lunchlady served with an ice-cream scoop go by the same name.

The sour cream is an optional — but really delicious — accompaniment. It does something magical with the flavors that's hard to describe. I recommend it.

Bon appetit!
Miss Ginsu

Labels: , , , , ,

11.06.2008

Food Quote Friday: Paul Reyes

coffee cup

"The crowd swelled and ebbed with regulars dedicated to this brave motherland diet, in a tiny room packed with the odors of hot oil and coffee and sugar and warm bread. And sure, pork skins for breakfast might mean fewer days in the long run, but they added a weird rigor to the morning. If anything, the grease is sentimental."

— Paul Reyes in Harpers, October, 2008

Need seconds? More food quotes can be found within the food quote archive.

Labels: , , , ,

9.19.2008

FoodLink Roundup: 06.23.08

Link Roundup
Last week, that globe-trotting Cupcake was hangin' at the trés cool Marche d'Aligre in Paris. Where in the world is cupcake this week? Think you know? Post it in the comments.

Yes, We Will Have No Bananas
Enjoy that smoothie while you can. The end of cheap bananas seems nigh.

Can Lifestyle Changes Bring Out the Best in Genes?
Once again, diet and exercise seem good for health. It's like a mantra. Eat well and exercise. Eat well and exercise...

Girl, 12, Chases Lemonade Stand Robber
Robbing a kid's lemonade stand has gotta be the very definition of lame...

How to nap
Yay! An awesome infographic on one of my favorite topics...

Homemade Guanciale
Home-cured pork jowl done up in a small urban apartment.

On Kimchi
“kimchi is truth, truth kimchi; that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” Holla.

Labels: , , , , ,

6.23.2008

Cassou-lazy

In some book somewhere, Julia Child has a fantastic quote about cassoulet. I can't locate it at the moment, but it's something about cassoulet being a food ideally suited for a lumberjack. In Manitoba. In January.

Like I said, it's awesome. And it's hidden deep inside some text that apparently isn't part of Project Gutenberg.

In the readily indexed Larousse Gastronomique, we find that cassoulet is "A dish, originally from Languedoc, which consists of haricot (navy) beans cooked in a stewpot with pork rinds and seasonings." Simple as that.

But then they go into a discussion of longstanding ingredient disagreements and cassoulet rivalries in a variety of provencal French towns. The cassoulet section also includes recipes that insist pretty strongly that cassoulet must contain such-and-such a thing or must be made such-and-such a way.

I've seen the dish served at high prices in plenty of fancy restaurants, but here's the thing: at its core, cassoulet simply just what Julia and Larousse initially said. It's a beautiful, economical peasant food.

cassoulet
The finished cassoulet: ducky, porky, bean-y and tasty

Now, if you've ever made a cassoulet, you might balk at my use of the word "economical," above, but in truth, the French farmhouse wives that created the first cassoulets weren't going for haute cuisine... they were using up what was stored around the farm.

They kept ducks, and preserving the duck legs in a fat just happens to be pretty practical for those wondering what to do with a bunch of duck legs. They had cured bacon at hand. They had pork sausages, which were a frugal way of using up random pig bits. They had dried beans in the larder and root vegetables stocked in the root cellar. All the things that went into a cassoulet recipe were part of their everyday lives.

clove-studded onion
A clove-studded onion gives this dish a hint of the exotic.

Most cassoulet recipes are going to ask you to start with dry beans, soak them, simmer them with spices, etc. etc.

Now, I've made cassoulet from the bottom up, preparing the sausages myself, making the duck confit from scratch, soaking and simmering the beans... the whole nine yards. I'm here to tell you that yes, you can do all that, but that means you'll only have the time and energy to make cassoulet once (or maybe twice) in your lifetime, and that'd be a darn shame. Because it's really, really tasty.

If you make cassoulet the lazy way, you're more likely to make it a bit more often, and regardless of what Larousse might say, the end result of the lazy method is not so different from the "took me three weeks to do everything myself" method.

For most of us here in the States, duck confit is a bit challenging to come by, but if you happen to live in a large city (or in close proximity to a duck farm) you may, like me, have some on hand. I get mine from FrescoDirecto, where you can find them in the deli Tongue & More area (a title that always makes me giggle).

No duck legs? No problem. Skip the confit and make your cassoulet with beans, sausages and bacon. You could probably even get away with veg stock, veggie bacon and veggie sausage to make it vegan. Whatever. It's all good. Just make it soon. This is food best suited for chilly stay-inside evenings, and those cool nights will soon give way to sweltering summer.

cassoulet in progress
I used two clove-studded onions. They were small.
Cassoulazy (Serves 6-8)
1 medium-sized onion, peeled
8 whole cloves
1 1/2 cups good stock (chicken, duck or vegetable)
1-2 bay leaves
3 carrots, washed and sliced in 1" segments
3 cloves garlic, peeled
4 strips thick-cut bacon, sliced in half
1 pound garlicky pork sausages (I use sweet Italian sausages if I can find 'em)
A little bundle of fresh herbs, if you have 'em*
3 duck legs, confit (if you can locate duck confit, if not, skip 'em)
3 14oz cans navy beans (or cannellini beans), drained & rinsed
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the crusty top (if desired)
2 cups breadcrumbs
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat oven to 325° F.
2. Poke the cloves into the flesh of the onion. Place the onion in an ovenproof heavy-bottomed pot or a Dutch oven.
3. Pour the stock into the pan and add the bay leaves, carrots, garlic, bacon pieces, pork sausages and the bundle of herbs (if using).
4. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and allow to simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
5. Add duck legs (if using), beans and tomatoes to the pot. Grind black pepper over the mixture. (Do not add salt. The cured meats will make this dish plenty salty.)
6. Cover the Dutch oven or stockpot, carefully place in the center of the oven and let the mixture cook for 1 1/2 hours. When done, carefully remove the pot from the oven and pluck out the bay leaves, herbs and leg bones (the meat should fall away easily).
7. If you'd like a crispy top crust, combine the breadcrumbs with the parsley and olive oil and sprinkle this mixture atop the hot cassoulet at the end of the cooking process. Turn the oven up to about 400° F and bake the cassoulet, uncovered, for an additional 10-15 minutes to brown the breadcrumbs.
8. Serve hot with a crisp green salad and a nice lager, an ale or a rich red wine with moderate tannins.

*This is sometimes referred to as a bouquet garni. Parsley stems tied with a sprig each of rosemary, sage and thyme are nice. Enclose the herbs between two celery stalks, if you're so inclined.

This dish makes very tasty leftovers for lunch, so don't be afraid to make a batch that's far larger than you need.

Bon appétit!

Labels: , , , , ,

4.15.2008