Pork and beans

I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t pork and beans something Yogi steals from overweight campers?” Maybe, but what if you want to relive the teenager experience of eating whatever you want, but want to do it in a way that fits in with your current gourmet tastes? After all, what is cassoulet but high class pork and beans? Let’s make some classy pork and beans!

Preheat oven to 300-ish F. Sauté onion, carrots, celery, whatever you’ve got around in bacon fat. Even better, start by rendering some chopped bacon or lardons and soften the vegetables in that. Add about four sausages. Add a can of diced tomatoes or a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste. Add a regular-sized can of beans, cannellini preferred. Add spices like Dijon mustard, cumin, thyme, etc. Once it’s bubbling, cover and bake an hour-ish. Cut up the sausages into bite-sized chunks and serve.

Update! It’s not exactly pretty, but here’s a photo of a bowl of it:

Pork and beans.

Grilled-braised beef short ribs

Braised short ribs

Ingredients: beef short ribs, onion, carrot, celery, red wine, rub spices, salt.

Short ribs are great grilled, but they’ve got some connective tissue that really wants to be braised. So, why not do both? First, your ribs should be big and chunky. If you’ve got thin-sliced ribs you should probably just grill them.

Start by getting your grill set up for indirect cooking. On my Weber, that means getting a smallish batch of coals going in the charcoal chimney and dumping those off to one side of the grill when they’re red-hot. If there’s greasy residue in your grill wait until that burns off – otherwise you’ll end up with a gross layer of black stuff on your meat.

Put some rub on your ribs. I like a mixture of salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, coriander, and allspice plus some fresh thyme or rosemary. Once the grill is hot and clean place the ribs on the side opposite the coals. Put the lid on. Turn them over after 10 or 15 minutes. Close the vent on the grill a bit if it’s too hot – you don’t want the ribs to cook too quickly. Check on the ribs every 15 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, heat up your oven to about 275F. Get out a braising dish the ribs will fit in. Pretty much any non-reactive (glass, enamel, stainless steel) dish or pot with a lid will work for braising. I like to throw some chopped onion, carrot, and celery in the bottom of the pot and soften that up a bit in some bacon drippings. This also gets the braising pot nice and hot for the ribs.

The ribs could be ready to braise after 30 minutes, but I like to let them go about an hour for more smoky flavor. When you’re ready, move them to the braising pot and pour some red wine in with them. Use enough wine to come about halfway up the ribs – not enough to cover them up completely. Bring the pot to a boil then cover and place in the oven. Check for tenderness after an hour, but it usually takes about 2 to achieve that desirable “falling off the bone” texture.

They’re good immediately, and even better reheated the next day. If you chill them you can easily separate out the layer of fat and harvest the gelatinous stuff for an excellent sauce.

Turkey soup

Turkey soup

We got a turkey a whole week before Thanksgiving for some reason, so I brined and roasted it as practice for doing it again at a friend’s house next week. It turns out even a 15 pound turkey has quite a bit of meat on it, so I’ve been making turkey dishes all week.

Turkey soup is really easy to make if you can manage to make some turkey stock after carving the bird. To make stock, just simmer the carcass in water a while. You can add things like peppercorns, allspice, onion, celery, carrot, etc. if you want to and are not completely burned out on cooking. I cool the stock a while then strain it into something for the fridge. You can remove the fat from the top the next day.

For the soup, soften some vegetables like onions, celery, cabbage, and so on in butter over medium-low heat. Add some chunks of turkey and some stock and simmer a little while. I serve it with grated cheese and homemade Worcestershire sauce.

Tequila chicken

Tequila chicken Tequila wings

I have most of a bottle of tequila in the cupboard, probably left over from making margaritas a long time ago. Clearly it’s not getting consumed as a beverage, so I decided to try some in a marinade for chicken. It’s excellent mixed with lime juice, salt, pepper, hot sauce, oregano, and cumin. Let the chicken marinate for as long as you can, up to overnight. I’m not sure what it really does, but the chicken seems to take on a nicer golden brown color, and maybe there’s a little of that desert-cactus flavor from the tequila. I first tried it with wings, but it’s great on all bird parts.

Eggplant dip

Eggplant dip isn’t very pretty, so no photo…it is delicious and easy to make though!

Ingredients:

  • 1 big eggplant
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • basil
  • about 2 T olive oil
  • about 1/4 cup goat cheese
  • about 2 T lemon juice
  • salt, pepper, maybe hot sauce

One big eggplant makes plenty of dip for two. Peel and slice it into about 1/2 inch thick discs. Salt lightly and grill or roast until brown outside and soft inside. Put the ‘plant in a sealed container for at least a few minutes to steep.

Put the garlic and eggplant in a food processor and whiz a bit then scrape down the sides. Add some olive oil and lemon juice, whiz and scrape. Add the basil and goat cheese, whiz and scrape. It should look like dip – whiz more and maybe add olive oil, lemon juice, and/or goat cheese if it’s not smooth. Taste and season. Serve with celery sticks, pork rinds, or your favorite dip deliverer.

Lots of the ingredients can be substituted: crème fraîche for goat cheese, lime juice for lemon, different herbs.

Changed my mind, here’s a photo:

Eggplant dip