Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Nachos with Beer-Braised Carnitas

This is a great way of preparing shredded pork to fufill your wildest Mexican food dreams. Real Mexican food takes patience. It takes soul. It takes love. And it takes meat. Tacos and Nachos are incredible made with beer-braised carnitas. "Braised"...even the word sounds delicious! Enveloping your kitchen in spicy aromas, this recipe ruins you for ever again using those little spice packets in the supermarket. Make it a day ahead for Taco parties or in Nachos for an outstanding appetizer at a SuperBowl party...Originally found and altered from a Bon Appetit.com February 2013 recipe. Yield: 6 cups meat--ennough for two or three huge cookie sheets of Nachos.

Ingredients for Beer-Braised Carnitas:

1 7 oz. can Chipoltle Peppers in Adobo sauce (I used Embasa brand)
4 lbs. pork tenderloin or skinless boneless pork shoulder cut into 2" pieces ( I use half of a HUGE 9 lb plus Costco pork tenderloins for this--saving the remainder for other dishes)
4 naked garlic cloves, smashed
12 oz. beer (such as Modelo Especial or Budweiser)
4 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled and chopped
4 t kosher salt
2 C water


Note: You can make these 3 days ahead or freeze them for later. In fact, it is BETTER made the day before you need them.  Simply eheat them adding 1/2 C water in a covered pot. Add more water as needed.


Remove 2 chilis from the can. Stem chilies (if they aren't already), halve lengthwise and discard seeds. Chop them up. In a large pot bring all ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pork is fork-tender, 60-80 minutes. Uncover pork; simmer until liquid evaporates and pork begins to brown--20-25 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and scraping bottom of the pot until pork is shredded and browned, 10-15 minutes.Add 1 C water to pork; cook, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot, for about 1 minute. Use to fill tacos, enchiladas or as a meat addition for nachos.

Ingredients for Nachos

2 bags (9 oz.) thick, authentic, tortilla chips--salted (if you don't live in the Southwest find the best chips you can)
Beer-Braised Carnitas--sprinkle all over the chips randomly. About 4 cups.
chopped green onions--about 1 1/2 C
shredded sharp cheddar and
Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 pts sour cream (optional)
Sliced olives (optional)
Guacamole (optional)
Salsa (NOT optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 large-rimmed baking sheets with nonstick spray or oil. Divide ingredients evenly between the two sheets, layering ingredients by literally sprinkling them on in the order they are listed above. Bake, one sheet at a time until sheet is melted, 20-25 minutes. Plate as is or with dollops of sour cream and sliced olives on top. Serve with a bowl of salsa and quacamole on the side,

Saturday, July 13, 2013

WOW! Crispy Won-Tons

Catagory: Appetizers
Difficulty: Medium
Not Healthy

Ever had fried won-ton skins at a chinese restaurant? These days, you don't get any meat in them. But back in the day, there was a little splotch of spicy pork in the middle of each won-ton. You would dip those crunchy little guys in red sweet and sour sauce....mmmm yumm. The problem is-- through the years, the restaurant won-ton meat splotch got smaller and smaller until it disappeared completely! No matter, make your own instead using this recipe my mom found long ago on the won-ton skin package. This is a WOW appetizer when served at parties.


1 pkg. 3/4 ground pork
8 water chestnuts, chopped
1/4 C finely chopped green onion
1 T soy sauce
1 t salt
1 t cornstarch
1/2 t grated fresh ginger or 3/4 t ground ginger
2 pkg. won-ton skins, cut into 2-inch squares

Mix ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl. Wrap a splotch of mixture in won-ton skins as directed on package. You CAN put them together like they do in the restaurants by cutting 12  2-inch squares and laying them all out on a cutting board. Brush with a tiny ammount of water around the sides of each square. If you use too much water it will be a soggy won-ton. So don't.  Place a splotch (bout the size of a small gumball) of meat mixture in the middle. Press down a bit so it's no longer round.  Put the same size square of won--ton skin exactly on top of each water-brushed square. Press all the way around the square so each square adheres to the other, except where the meat splotch is. Deep fry no more than 4 at a time in a medium-sized pot of vegetable oil (you can try coconut oil--but I haven't yet) until golden brown. Repeat until you run out of won-ton skins. Serve warm with ready-made sweet and sour sauce (such as Kikkoman).

Chrissie's Hot Crabby Dip

Catagory: Appetizers
Difficulty: Easy
Not Healthy

Chrissie was one of my first bosses...and she was a great cook! She was raised the old-fashioned way like I was. That meant she was taught how to entertain from the time she was a child. As children we had to go around and serve hot appetizers to our parents's guests when they came for dinner. Looking adorable if possible. This was hard when your hair had huge tangles in the back, like mine always did. I did my best to comb over the tangles and smiled a lot.
I don't usually like messy dips at parties--but this is a really good one. Serve with water crackers or those amazing little brioche toasts they have at Trader Joe's. Very elegant and delicious.


1 large cream cheese block
1 or 2 T mayonnaise
1 T chopped onion
1 T chopped parsley
1 T horseradish
6 oz. crabmeat (canned is OK, fresh is always better)
2 T sliced almonds

Mix ingredients together and transfer to an oven-proof bowl or mini-casserole. Heat in a 350 degree oven until bubbly. Serve in the middle of a platter surrounded by crackers.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Coconut Rum Black Bottom Pie

Catagory: Desserts
Difficulty: Hard
Not Healthy At All! Just make it for special occasions!

My mom used to occasionally make black-bottom pie for her parties. A cool vanilla cream pie with a thin layer of rum-laced chocolate on the bottom and whupped cream on the top, it was irrrsistable. If I ever would want to be stuck on a deserted island with one food--that would be it.With a refrigerator too, of course.

Note: Yes, I would plug the refrigerator into the sand. One must be optimistic, don't you think?

Mom had rum in the chocolate of her pie, but I thought "Why not get even more tropical and add coconut to the vanilla cream?" So, after a little experimentation, which included one runny pie and two types of chocolate that didn't taste right, this is the recipe I came up with. I think the mild chocolate "Pot de Creme" that makes for the 'black bottom' balances especially well with the coconut cream on top. The crust has the perfect amount of buttery crispness combined with just a enough of that traditional Crisco flavor to make a good contrast to the sweeter filling. See what 'cha think! Note: the pie shell was adapted from a recipe on Epicurious.com. from an old 1997 "Bon Appetit" recipe. The chocolate Pots De Creme 'black bottom' was altered from an old 1970's "Bon Appetit" recipe. And the Coconut Cream recipe was based on one for Vanilla Cream Pie Filling from "Joy of Cooking".

Pie Crust ( You can buy one. But don't unless you're desperate)


1 1/2 C flour
1 1/4 t sugar
1/2 t salt
1/3 C solid vegetable shortening cut into pieces
1/4 C plus 1 T chilled unsalted butter--cut into pieces
5 T ice water (or a little more if you need it)

Overly Detailed Directions: Combine dry ingredients in food processor. Using on/off turns--cut in shortening and butter until a coarse meal forms. Blend in enough ice water, 2 T at a time, to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball. Flatten into a 5 or 6-inch round disc. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm--at least one hour (can be 24 hrs if you like--or freeze the dough until you need it). Let dough soften slightly before rolling it out on a floured board or clean, flat surface. After rolling out the dough into a large (13") circle, slide it into the pie dish. After cutting off excess dough, crimp the edges. If this process seems too difficult, google "How do I make a pie crust ?". It's all there with pictures...that I am too lazy to take for this blog.

Place a 13- inch square of parchment or wax paper into the uncooked pie shell. Fill pie shell with pie weights or dried beans or raw rice. This weighs down the pie shell so it doesn't lose it's shape while it cooks. Put a foil "collar" over the edges of your pie crust to prevent over-browning. There are new-fangled rubber pie crust collars you can purchase online...but (sigh) I don't have one yet.  Bake shell at 475 degrees for 10 minutes then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Lift paper and beans out of shell.  If the bottom of the pie still looks or feels a little raw.. put it back in the oven until it's crisp to the touch. When it's done, cool it somewhere the cat can't get it... then fill with a short layer of Chocolate Cream Filling and a long layer of Coconut Cream.

Quick Chocolate Rum Cream Filling:


6 oz  semi-sweet gold-bagged Guittard chocolate chips. Semi-sweet NOT bittersweet. ( I tried several types of more expensive chocolate-- but this had the most chocolate flavor with the least bitter aftertaste.)
2 T sugar
1  T rum or 1 t rum extract (I get the little "airplane-sized" bottles at the liquor store)
1 egg
3/4 C milk--heated to just boiling


Place chocolate into blender. Pour hot milk into blender and blend until chocolate melts. Then add other ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour 3/4 of the mixture into the cooled pie crust.  Reserve the rest in  ramikens or bowls to enjoy later with whipped cream as a snack. Refrigerate all until firm--at least 2 hours or overnight. If you are as tired as I am, you will gladly wait 24 hours to make the rest...

Coconut Cream Pie Filling:

1 1/3 C sugar
1 C flour
1 t salt
4 C whole milk
6 egg yolks (slightly beaten in a small mixing bowl)
4 T butter
1 t vanilla
1 t coconut extract
1/4 C flaked, sweetened coconut, packed

1 C heavy cream
1 T powdered sugar
1/2 t vanilla


In the top of a double boiler combine sugar flour and salt. Add 2 C milk and cook over (not in) boiling water 10 minutes or until mixture thickens ( I would do the whole 10 minutes even if you think it's already thick). Remove from heat and pour 1 C of the mixture into the eggs and mix vigorously. When smooth, return eggs to the rest of the hot mixture and cook until thickened to the point that it coats a spoon and no longer falls off the spoon in a steady stream. Remove from heat, add butter and extracts, mixing thoroughly with a spoon. Finally, sprinkle coconut on top and evenly distribute throughout the cream. Cool slightly before adding to crust.

Whip cream until it forms soft peaks, add sugar and vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form. At this point you can either spoon your whupped cream on top of the pie or pipe it on. Yes, I have heard whupped cream is more flavorful when it is served softer, but I like it to stand up and be noticed on top of a pie. It should stand up and say "Hi there! I'm yummy!" Refrigerate until serving.

Note: This is a fantastic, show-off dessert. Hang the calories. Go for a long jog afterwards.