Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chopped at Home: Beets, Endive, pork and sweet chili sauce

A round of Chopped at Home happend this past weekend at the Kitchen Witches' home.  Good friend and cooking buddy Eric brought the ingredients for our challenge.  This time we had the following to work with:

Pork Loin roasts (2 of them, rolled and tied from the butcher)
4 bunches of fresh beets
Sweet Chili Sauce

Our rules were simple:  Make something for dinner using the secret ingredients and any pantry items I had on hand and the meal needed to be as low carb as possible.

The beets were easy.  We decided to roast them with some olive oil, salt & pepper.  When they were half way done we drizzled them with the sweet chili sauce.  The sweetness of the beets was maximized by the roasting and the sweet chili sauce was a nice glaze.  The heat in the chili sauce wasn't very prominent, it really cooked out, but ever now & then you'd get a hint of spice and it was a nice contrast to the beets.  We decided to throw the endive into the roasting pan with the beets when they were 3/4 of the way done.  The bitterness of the endive was tempered by the sweet beet and chili sauce glaze.   I am a tried & true beet hater.  I even grew some a few years ago to see if homegrown beets would be better than store bought ones (turns out nope, beets taste like beets regardless of where they're grown LOL!).  But you know what???  These beets, they were amazing!!  Really really good.  Sweet, earthy and delicious.  They will definitely be made again!

Now, onto the pork!  A wet paste of dijon mustard, thyme, extra hot horseradish, garlic and S&P was made from my pantry ingredients.  I also had fresh parsley and rosemary on hand so I minced up a lot of that, too.  We decided to half the roasts, slather them with the mustard sauce and herbs then re-roll the pork into a nice bundle.  More mustard on the outside covered with the fresh herbs and the pork went into the oven.  It LOOKED good, the mustard paste tasted good, sure hope it is good!  Verdict:  Success!!  The strong flavors of the mustard rub accented and seasoned the pork perfectly.  The fresh herbs added a great spring time flavor, as well as color, and really lightened things up.  When the pork was paried with the beets, well it was divine!  Sweet beets, savory pork laden with herbs and mustard.  Yeah it was good stuff!!!  The pork is defiantly another hit and one I'll be making again!

This round of Chopped at Home was incredibly successful in this Witches' opinion.  Eric, I'm pretty sure that we'd hear Ted Allen telling us that we are indeed the Chopped (at home!) CHAMPIONS!  Now where's our check for $10,000??  Ha ha ha!

Beets and endive with sweet chili glaze
Makes 4 servings
4 bunches beets, washed and peeled
6-8 heads endive, trimmed and halved
about 4-6T olive oil
kosher salt and pepper
1 jar sweet chili sauce (or make your own, awesome recipe here!)

Herb and Mustard Roasted Pork
makes 4 servings
1 pork loin roast, about 1.5 lbs
2T dijon mustard
1/2 t dried thyme
1/8 t white pepper
1/2 t kosher salt
1 t extra hot prepared horseradish
4 springs rosemary
1/4 head parsley minced
Butches twine for tying roast

Prepare beets and endive:
Preheat oven to 450F.  Peel the beets and trim the tops & root end.  Put them into a roasting pan and drizzle with 2-3T oil, kosher salt & pepper.  Reduce oven to 375F after putting the beets in.  Roast beets for about 45 min, stirring twice during that time, then add about 1/2 bottle (or 1/2 c) sweet chili sauce.  Stir well to coat beets evenly.  Continue roasting for another 30 minutes.  Add trimmed endive to roasting pan, drizzle with the remaining oil and sweet chili sauce.  Stir well to coat endive in the reduced sauce glaze and roast for 30 min longer.  Bottoms of beets will be deeply browned and caramelized.

Prepare pork:
Mix the wet rub by combining mustard, thyme, salt & white pepper and horseradish into a small bowl.  Stir well to combine.  Finely mince the parsley and rosemary.

Unwrap pork and remove the butcher twine/wrap.  Slice pork roast in half long wise.  Slather the inside cuts of the pork with the mustard mixture, about 1T for the inside.  Sprinkle herbs on the mustard and press both halves of the pork together.

Using butchers twine tie the roast back together, using 3-4 knots.  Coat the outside of the roast in remaining mustard mixture and then encrust it with the remaining herbs.  Place crusted roast on a sheet pan and bake for 60 minutes, or until a thermometer reads 145F minimum for medium-med well cooked pork, up to 160F.  Do not let it cook longer than 160F.  Remove roast and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes before slicing.  Remove and discarding strings as you slice the roast.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie

 Is there anything that ranks higher on the comfort food meter than a pot pie?  I didn't think so.  Pot pie is really one of my favorite dishes of all time.  Sure it's basically a chicken soup or beef stew in a crust, but man, something happens to that soup or stew when you add pastry.  It changes from ho hum, albeit delicious, to holy hell that's GOOD stuff!  Just ask anyone, I can pretty much guarantee you that pot pie is a comfort king amongst your friends and families.  Now imagine what a rock star you'll appear to be to those pot pie lovers when you present this fresh baked, home cooked, pure deliciousness of a pie.  And best of all, it's really not that hard to do!

Being a Kitchen Witch, I make my own pie dough.  The food processor makes quick work of it and it's always tasty and delicious.  If you aren't a pastry maker feel free to use refrigerated pie crust, it comes in a red box and you unfold the sheets of pastry and put it into your own pie pan.  If you don't have a pie pan (and that's OK!) get a frozen pie shell for the bottom and use the boxed pastry for the top crust.  Pie plate problem solved!   Look for refrigerated pie crust by the eggs & cheese, that's where it is in my store.

The Witch uses chicken thighs in her pot pie, it makes a richer more flavorful gravy and I like the flavor of dark meat better.  If you like white meat you can use breast meat, however the flavor won't be as rich.  Breast meat is also a lot harder to shred, so you may have to cut it into cubes.  No matter, it'll still be delicious, regardless of the type of chicken you choose to use.  I added a few green beans to this pot pie, they were on sale this week and their bright green pop of color was nice in an otherwise golden pie.  Frozen or fresh peas could be used instead.  As always, add or subtract the veggies based on what your family likes, but a mix of carrots, celery, onion, potato and either bean or peas can't be beat!

Chicken Pot Pie
makes 8 servings, 1 slice each
For Chicken stew filling
1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts (thighs will be a LOT more flavorful)
2 carrots, sliced into rounds
2 ribs celery, sliced
1/2 medium onion fine mince
2 cloves garlic, diced fine
1 russet potato, peeled and diced into 1/4 in chunks
about 10 green beans sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 t dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 T butter
kosher salt & pepper to taste (about 1.5t salt and 1/4 t pepper)
EITHER 1 t Better than Bullion chicken flavor OR 1 chicken bullion cube OR 1 can chicken broth
6 cups water * if using chicken broth then reduce to 4 cups water
2T corn starch
1 egg for eggwash

For Crust:
4T very cold butter cut into cubes
4T vegetable shortening
2.5 cups flour
1.5 t kosher salt
1/2 c (give or take 2T) ice water

Make crust first by combining flour, salt and fats into a food processor bowl.  Pulse 4 times to cut fat into flour.  Add 1/3 c water, pulse 2-3 times and test to see if it can form a ball by squeezing dough together.  If not add more water, 1T at a time, until dough will stay together when squeezed.

Divide dough into 2 sections, one slightly larger than the other.  Form dough into a disc about 3/4 inch thick and wrap both in plastic wrap.  Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour before rolling out.

Make chicken stew next.  Heat a medium size pan over medium high heat and melt butter.  Once it stops foaming add the onions, celery, carrots and garlic.  Sautee for about 5 minutes until the onions are translucent and other veggies are starting to soften slightly.  Add the chicken, herbs, salt & pepper and water.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a low simmer, cover and cook for 25-30 minutes.

Remove the chicken and the bay leaf from the cooking liquid and allow to cool (discard bay leaf).  Add the potatoes to the cooking liquid and cook for 10 minutes.  Potatoes will not be fully cooked.  Thicken the sauce with the cornstarch dissolved into 2T water, making a slurry, add the slurry to the stew stirring well.  Increase heat to a rapid simmer and gravy will begin to thicken considerably.  You want this pretty thick, a lot thicker than normal gravy, so it doesn't just run out of your pot pie.   Once chicken is cool shred it and remove any fat and gristle.  Add chicken and cut green beans to the stew and stir to coat everything.  Turn heat off and set aside.

Roll dough out using the slightly larger disc for the bottom crust.  Place bottom crust into a pie pan and dock (poke with a fork) the bottom and sides slightly to release air while baking.  Fill the crust with the stew.  Roll out remaining disc of dough to make top crust.  Crimp the edges together well.  Brush top with eggwash and cut a few slits in the top dough to release steam.  Place pot pie on a baking sheet (to catch any drips) and bake in a preheated 350F oven for 45-60 minutes, or until pie is golden browned and gravy is bubbling through the vent slits.  Allow pie to cool for 15 minutes before slicing and enjoying!

Nutrition Facts calculated at SparkPeople recipe calculator Amount Per Serving Calories 349.9 Total Fat 16.0 g Saturated Fat 6.8 g Polyunsaturated Fat 3.9 g Monounsaturated Fat 4.1 g Cholesterol 67.5 mg Sodium 787.7 mg Potassium 449.9 mg Total Carbohydrate 37.2 g Dietary Fiber 2.9 g Sugars 1.3 g Protein 13.6 g

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Diva Chocolate Pudding

We were invited to a dinner party at our good friend Staci's house.  The menu was "Kid Food" in honor of the Little Witch, who was joining us.  We had chicken fingers and mac and cheese that night, man it was good too!  I was in charge of dessert.  As soon as I heard our theme of the night was "Kid Food" I knew I had to make pudding.  Ok I didn't know, I was rather clueless.  It wasn't until Staci said what about chocolate pudding that I went DING and sprung into action!  You know that skin that forms on pudding if it's not covered with plastic wrap?  Well that was always my favorite part of the pudding.  It was so dark and chocolaty and really had that great chocolate pudding flavor.  Well, after you peel back the skin you're left with pale lackluster pudding.  The chocolate isn't as intense as the 'skin'.  Actually the whole thing is rather milky, thin and lackluster.  Boo!  This is not the greatness that the skin promised!  I want pudding that tastes like the skin does, rich, thick, chocolate to the max.  So I created it!

This is not a chocolate pudding that someone who's ambivalent about chocolate should embark upon.    No, this pudding is one that only the true chocoholic in your life should try.  Dark, rich, indulgent, velvety and decadent are just a few of the words that Staci offered to me to describe this pudding.  Seeing as how I serve it in fancy antique tea cups, she also deemed them "Diva like", a term I love and named this pudding after!  Only a chocolate diva could appreciate the rich chocolate punch that this pudding pulls.

The chocolate factor is amped up from my traditional chocolate pudding by the addition of 2 cocoa powders, chocolate chips and coffee.  I use Ghiradelli cocoa powder for it's overall intense chocolate flavor and Hershey's Special Dark OR Black Onyx cocoa powder for the deep color and matching flavor.  The chocolate chips that reign supreme in the Witch household are Ghiradelli double chocolate chips, and unlike some other chips, they melt fantastically.  Coffee is a supporting player here.  The coffee flavor doesn't really come through, but rather it makes the chocolate taste more chocolaty, so it's a natural addition here as well.  The result is a chocolate pudding that is thick, velvety, rich and most importantly, CHOCOLATY!  Finally, a pudding who's interior is as dark and flavorful as the skin on top.  Success!

Diva Chocolate Pudding
makes 12 servings - 1/2 c each
3/4 c sugar
1/2 c cocoa powder total (1/4 c ea Hershey's special dark and Ghiradelli cocoa)
1 t kosher salt
1/4 c corn starch
1 c chocolate chips (Ghiradelli double chocolate)
1/2 c hot strong brewed coffee
4 c milk (2%)
3 eggs

In a large pan mix the sugar, cocoa powders, salt and corn starch together.  Whisk well to incorporate, allowing the shards of sugar to help break up the cocoa powders and corn starch.  Slowly add in the milk, whisking well.  The mixture will be very foamy at first, this will clear out as it heats.

Put the chocolate chips into a heat safe bowl.  Pour very hot coffee over top of chips.  The chips will melt from the heat of the coffee, allow to rest for about 5 minutes.  Using a whisk, stir the coffee/chocolate mixture until all chocolate is melted making a form of ganache.

Beat the eggs in a seperate bowl.  Once beaten slowly add eggs to the melted chocolate coffee ganache whisking well.  The mixture will thicken.

Heat milk & cocoa mixture over medium high heat stirring constantly until boiling.  Allow to boil for 1 minute.  After 1 minute slowly whisk in the egg/chocolate mixture.  Cook for 2 minutes longer over medium heat, whisking often to avoid scorch spots.

Ladle hot pudding into cups and allow to cool before serving.  Top with fresh whipped cream and chocolate curls if desired.  If you don't want a 'skin' to form on the pudding simply place a piece of plastic wrap over the surface of the hot pudding.  Remove plastic before serving.

Nutrition Facts calculated at SparkPeople recipe calculator Amount Per Serving Calories 203.5 Total Fat 9.3 g Saturated Fat 5.2 g Polyunsaturated Fat 0.3 g Monounsaturated Fat 1.0 g Cholesterol 52.8 mg Sodium 85.9 mg Potassium 156.0 mg Total Carbohydrate 28.7 g Dietary Fiber 2.0 g Sugars 22.3 g Protein 5.9 g

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Carnitas is a Mexican dish meaning "little meats" but we traditionally know it as braised then fried pork.  This carnitas dish accomplishes exactly that, with 3 ingredients.  The simplicity of the dish is deceptive once you try the pork.  Salty and crispy, almost bacon like in aroma and taste, yet tender and succulent and completely addictive.  All that from 3 ingredients?  You bet it's Witchcraft!  I got this recipe from my friend and cooking buddy Phyllis.  She acquired it from Diana Kennedy when she was working as her soux chef in the '80's.  Knowing that the recipe is a tried and true one from Phyllis - and that she worked directly with the chef creator -  really sealed the deal for this Kitchen Witch.  Carnitas were on the menu!

Here's how these carnitas go down.  Get your pork - butt (shoulder) or country style ribs are great choices.  You want to make sure you have plenty of fat and connective tissues - therein lies the secret to these great carnitas.  Either have your butcher (or yourself if you've got the knife skillz to do that) debone the butt, or find a boneless variety, and slice the meat into 2 inch wide by 5-6 inch long strips.  The Kitchen Witch found a great deal on country style ribs and used those in this recipe with great success, and bonus, the ribs are already cut into the size I needed.  Less prep work = happiness!  Once your meat is deboned and cut into strips place them into your largest skillet.  If you don't have a skillet big enough a dutch oven will work as well, it just takes a bit longer to cook off the liquids.  Sprinkle the meat with kosher salt then cover with water so the meat is covered just barely in liquid.  Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a hard simmer (medium heat, you want bubbles breaking the surface) and allow it to simmer until all the water has cooked off.  Once the water has cooked off you'll hear a distinct difference in the sound of the cooking, it changes from simmer to a sizzle.

As the meat is simmering in the water it is braising, cooking and becoming tender and delicious.  The connective tissues are also breaking down and becoming flavorful while the fats are rendering out of the pork.  The fat sits on top of the water while it's simmering and once that water is gone, the meat begins to sizzle.  Here's the real secret of good carnitas, frying the pork in it's own fat (or confit).  Allow the meat to fry and brown in the rendered fat, it takes about 5-10 minutes per side.  Be sure to flip the chunks to brown evenly.  This will make your cooking pan look like an utter disaster but I promise you all that the extra clean up is totally worth it.  And the crispy parts on the bottom of the pan, well those are just bonus treats for the cook.  Yay!  Once the meat is evenly browned remove it from the pan and either serve as chunks or shred and eat with tortillas.

From start to finish these took about 2 hours and were some of the most amazing pork I've ever made.  Tender and succulent, crispy and indulgent all at once.  I really hope you try and enjoy this dish soon!

makes 8 servings
SOURCE: The Cuisines of Mexico by Diana Kennedy
3-4 lbs of boneless pork shoulder (butt) or country style ribs
2 t kosher salt

Cut pork into strips about 1 inch wide and 4-5 inches long.  If using country style ribs they are precut so no extra work is needed.

In a large skillet or deep pan add the pork. Sprinkle with salt.  Add water to the pan to cover the pork.  Heat the pan over high heat until boiling then reduce the heat to an aggressive simmer (medium heat).  Cook until the water cooks out and only pork and fat are left in the pan.  Continue to cook pork in the fat until browned, turning pieces to brown evenly on all sides.

Serve with your choice of warmed corn or flour tortillas and toppings of your choice.

Nutrition Facts calculated at SparkPeople recipe calculator Amount Per Serving Calories 503.2 Total Fat 36.6 g Saturated Fat 13.6 g Polyunsaturated Fat 3.2 g Monounsaturated Fat 15.8 g Cholesterol 147.9 mg Sodium 580.3 mg Potassium 557.6 mg Total Carbohydrate 0.0 g Dietary Fiber 0.0 g Sugars 0.0 g Protein 40.6 g
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