Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sticky Thai BBQ pulled pork sandwiches with slaw

On any given day, I have about 100 different cravings. Chocolate, something spicy, pizza, pickles!
Thus, around and around goes my mind. This makes deciding what to cook for dinner a difficult task. Usually I have to consult Blake, which goes a little something like this:

Me, "Pizza with figs, blue cheese, and prosciutto for dinner or burgers with goat cheese, roasted peppers, and date spread?" (Yes, the options are almost always this healthy.)

Blake, "Both. With a side of broccoli." (Broccoli always balances out the other poor decisions.)

So I'm back to not knowing what to cook for dinner and then inevitably throughout the day a third option comes to mind. No decision can ever be made. This also means I find myself at the grocery store at a minimum of every other day to meet whatever cravings may come. Luckily I love my grocery store. Mostly because of the samples. The more samples the merrier. Especially cheese samples.

On the day I made this meal, I was craving a sandwich and pork. Easy enough to combine with endless possibilities. The original recipe that inspired this Thai BBQ sauce, slathered ribs with the sauce. Also, a good option. I love the sweet and slightly spicy balance of this sauce. I love the thick stickiness. The slaw provides the perfect counterpart to the sweetness. I also love throwing pork in the crock pot in the morning and having my meal almost ready when I return home from work. This is the beauty of the slow cooker. This sandwich is hearty and assuredly will fill many a craving on a cold winter's day.

Sticky BBQ Thai pulled pork sandwiches with slaw 
Serves 4, Thai BBQ sauce adapted from Half Baked Harvest

1 1/2 pounds boneless pork chops
1 1/2 cups sweet Thai chili sauce
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste (in the Asian aisle of most grocery stores)
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Medium head of cabbage, shredded
2 medium carrots, grated
1/4 onion, grated
1/4 cup mayo
3 tablespoons mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Thai BBQ Sauce 
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup sweet Thai chili sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
Juice of one lime
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
4 ciabatta rolls
Bread and butter pickles (optional)

Whisk together sweet Thai chili sauce, soy sauce, red curry paste, garlic, and pepper. In a crock pot, pour sauce over pork chops. Cook in slow cooker on medium for 4-6 hours. Once pork is done pull into strip using two forks.

While the pork is cooking, prepare the slaw. Mix together shredded cabbage, carrots, and onion. Whisk mayo, dijon, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper. Pour over the top of the cabbage mixture and mix until coated. This is best done at least one hour before you plan to use it. Can be made the day before and stored in the fridge. 

About 10 minutes before you plan to eat, make your BBQ sauce. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add you jalapenos and cook strirring occasionally until softened, 3-4 minutes. Add the soy sauce, ketchup, peanut butter, sweet Thai chili sauce, rice wine vinegar, and lime. Stir until just combined. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro.

Pour BBQ sauce over your pulled pork. Toast rolls. Layer pork, slaw, and pickles over the roll. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lemon Thyme Creme Fraiche Potato Soup

Today I'm going to tell you a love story. Who doesn't enjoy a good love story? It has to do with potato soup. Oh the possibilities when potato soup is involved. Alright it's about more than potato soup. Really it's about a love that came together over a mutually shared admiration of food (and the outdoors) and the food that continues to sustain that relationship. Because if it's about love, of course it's about food and Blake. Don't worry I didn't forget my husband.

When Blake and I began dating we got to know one another over shared meals, which included dates at restaurants, cooking together, and watching the food network. This is not different then most relationships begin. Whether we are cooking or eating out, food gives us the opportunity to put the brakes on all the noise and chaos that fills our everyday. Sharing meals allows us to have conversations, in a world where conversations have become fewer and further between. Over each meal Blake and I learned more about the other's vision of life and learned that our visions were much the same. Those meals began everything.

Those meals and weekend adventures in the great outdoors still sustain everything. With Blake at law school and me at work, time is limited. Twice a week we drop everything to hang out. Date night and hiking Sundays are sacred in this house. For date night this week, we went to a wine/beer paired walking dinner. Six courses each paired with a wine or beer from a different place. We had conversations. As it does every week, it reminded me how much I like talking to Blake, especially over an excellent meal. Yes, I still like talking to him. This is good news.

During this meal we had velvety potato soup with a dollop of lemon thyme creme fraiche. I loved it so much I immediately went home and attempted to recreate it. This soup is thick and hearty. Perfect for a cold night. The lemon creme fraiche brightens it up. The chard adds some texture. It's a way to eat a bowl of mashed potatoes for dinner and call it a meal. This soup is just one part of my favorite love story.

Lemon Thyme Creme Fraiche Potato Soup
Serves 6

1 head of garlic, roasted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 sweet onion, sliced
6 medium sized yukon gold potatoes, diced
4 cups chicken broth
8 ounces creme fraiche (sour cream can be subbed)
Zest of one lemon + 3 tablespoons juice
2 teaspoons thyme
1 bunch swiss chard, chopped
1 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Chop off the top of the garlic to expose the cloves and wrap the garlic in foil. Roast for 40 minutes. If you don't have the extra 40 minutes, you can mince the garlic and cook it with the onion and potatoes. Roasted garlic has a caramelized sweet flavor that's pretty magical so I recommend it.

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat. Add your potatoes and onion and cook stirring occasionally until the onion has softened, 7-8 minutes. Add your chicken broth and increase heat to high to bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce heat to medium. Simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, about 10 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, in a small bowl whisk together creme fraiche, lemon zest and juice, and thyme.

Using an immersion blender or regular blender puree the soup. I wanted mine smooth but you can blend yours to your prefered consistency.

Once pureed, add back to the dutch oven over medium heat. Mix in half the creme fraiche mixture and greens. Stir until the greens have cooked down. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche on top.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sweet potato pie with praline topping and gingersnap crust

Dearest Colorado you still manage to surprise me. Usually in the best possible ways. For example, on Sunday, Blake and I drove up to the mountains and turned on a road we had never been down before. We do this every week. Take to the mountains and hike. We have turned down many roads and been greeted by beautiful things. What still amazes me is how many beautiful places we have yet to see in this state. How many nooks and crannies we have yet to explore.

This road led to a stunning gulch that ended in magnificent James Peak towering 13,000 feet over the valley floor. The temperature was 40 degrees. Warm for that elevation in November. The winds matched the temperature at about 40 miles per hour. Not the most peaceful hiking but we had fun. We saw something new. We got out of the car and were surrounded by nothing but wilderness. Thank you Colorado for these gifts.

Our Sunday adventure 

But of course what Colorado giveth it also taketh away. For example, yesterday morning I ran in shorts in 63 degrees. An hour after my run the temperature dropped 30 degrees and it began to snow. Now I am staring at a few inches of snow of the ground and it continues to fall. Oh Colorado, you are so silly.

I'm learning to embrace snow. Trying my darndest. It's pretty, right? Peaceful. It demands I drink hot chocolate. At the very least I like hot chocolate. It also means Thanksgiving pie season is upon us. This pie is a lot of good things rolled into one. I love the gingersnap crust with the sweet potato. So much more interesting than your average flaky pie dough and so easy. Mix some gingersnap crumbs with butter and you are on your way. The praline topping was a favorite component in our house. A little extra crunch and awesome caramelized flavor. You can double it and spread it all over the top of the pie. I would do this. The more topping the better. Watch out boring Thanksgiving pie! This pie brings some excitement back to dessert.

Sweet potato pie with praline topping and gingersnap
Crust adapted from Joy the Baker, filling and praline adapted from Sunset Magazine

2 pounds sweet potatoes
3 large eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Gingersnap crust
2 1/2 cups gingersnap crumbs
5 tablespoons melted butter

Praline topping 
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon  bourbon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup rough chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pierce sweet potatoes with a knife all over. Bake in a shallow baking dish until for tender, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool and puree flesh (no skins) in a blender.

While the sweet potatoes are baking prepare your crust. In a food processor or blender, pulse about 4 cups of gingersnaps until they are a fine powder. Mix crumbs together with butter. In a 9 inch greased pie dish, press the gingersnap mixture with your fingers or the back of a large serving spoon into the dish and up the sides. The spoon works well for the center and your finger work well for the sides. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.

Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups of the sweet potato puree, eggs, butter, sugar, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, salt, allspice, and nutmeg. Pour into crust and level. Wrap rim of pie dish with 4 strips of aluminum foil. This keeps the exposed crust from burning.

Bake for 30 minutes. While the pie is baking, whisk together all the praline topping ingredients.

After 30 minutes, remove the foil from the pie and spread praline topping around the edges. Bake another 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool completely. About an hour.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Potato "Enchiladas" with Chorizo and Peppers

Initially I was going to talk about a thai brussel sprout salad today but then I realized if I talked about brussel sprouts twice in less than a month, you may all stop reading. So instead I layered some sliced potatoes with chorizo, greens, and peppers, and smothered it with enchilada sauce and cheese. Way more fun than brussel sprouts.

This dish has been on my mind for awhile. I love potatoes. I wanted a way to eat a whole slew of them and call it a meal. I wanted it to have a southwestern feel. The beautiful thing about cooking is that you can make anything you crave a reality. No one is going to tell you no. Dream big dreams.

I dreamed big dreams with this dish and was wholly satisfied. Essentially it's like potatoes gratin without the milk and add in some enchilada sauce and spicy chorizo. We ate half the casserole dish in one night and were simultaneously disgusted with ourselves and delighted. Once again this is one of those recipes you can make your own. Not a fan of chorizo? Do it with chicken or ground beef. Want it a little less spicy? Cut the peppers. Add other vegetables. The world is our oyster.

Potato "enchiladas" with chorizo and peppers 
Serves 6 reasonable people

1 pound chorizo
1 medium red onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 anaheim or bell peppers, chopped (pick your favorite pepper variety)
2 jalapenos, minced (or 1 for something more mild)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 cups spinach
1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, sliced about 1/4" thick
1 (28 oz) can enchilada sauce or you can make your own, I used this recipe
2 cups grated sharp cheddar
Avocado, sliced
Hot sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a nonstick pan over medium high heat, add chorizo and cook stirring occasionally for about 3-4 minutes. Add your onion, garlic, and peppers to the pan and stir occasionally, until vegetables just begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook about 1-2 minutes until just wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat, pour off excess grease, and set aside.

Coat a 9" by 13" baking dish with nonstick spray. Layer the bottom of the dish with a 1/3 of the potato slices. Spread a 1/3 of the enchilada sauce over the potatoes, sprinkle half the sausage and pepper mixture and half the cheese over the potatoes and sauce. Take another 1/3 of the potatoes and layer over this. Spread 1/3 of the enchilada sauce and rest of the sausage mixture over the top. Do your final layer of potato slices and smother with the rest of the sauce and cheese.

Bake covered for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes until the cheese is bubbly. Serve with avocado and hot sauce.