Monday, March 10, 2014

Pork Belly? Yes, please!

As I sit here, I'll be honest. I don't even know where to start on pork belly. It is so delicious. In case you are unaware, bacon comes from the belly of the hog... ta da! Pork belly! A few years ago I bought pork belly for the first time. I was unaware of what to do with it, because I'd only ever had it as bacon. Fast forward to more recent times, pork belly has become widely sought after. I bought my second pork belly EVER last fall. I decided I would prepare it very simply-- fry it in pieces. But this kind of thing needs to be shared. There's only so much pork fat one can eat. Trust me on this... I love fat, but really, there's only so much one person can eat. We hosted what we later dubbed "Meat Fest" shortly thereafter, and that seemed like the perfect time to break out the pork belly and fry it up. Of course it was a big hit in its very simplistic form and I was ready to buy another one and venture out from my simple preparation.

This is where I'm going to side-track ever so slightly. When you are buying a cut of meat like this, especially a fatty piece of pork, sourcing is of the utmost importance. Hogs aren't treated very well commercially, and many undesirable toxins are stored in fat. You can see where this headed... if you eat the fat of a commercially grown hog, you are going to get a large and unneeded dose of toxins. So if you are going to indulge in this delicious cut of meat, and you're going to want to, source it responsibly. If you can't source it through a local CSA, US Wellness Meats is another good option. But I'd try to to find a local pasture centered hog farmer first.

Back to the BELLY! I saw a recipe for pork belly in Nom Nom Paleo's Food for Humans and knew I had to try it. So this recipe is an adapted version of hers. This is not the exact recipe.

I started out with a simple pork belly, around 1 pound. Prick holes in the skin. You can use a sharp knife, or in my case, I used my meat tenderizer. Just try your best NOT to prick holes into the actual meat. Then you want to score it. (I didn't take pictures at this point, I'm going to say because I was so excited. But I think the more accurate statement would be that it was late and I was tired.) I did 3 parallel lines down the length of the belly, though I've also seen folks who do a criss-cross score. Whatever floats your boat. While you're doing this, boil about 1 quart of water. After it comes to a boil, dissolve about 1 tablespoon of baking soda into the water. Put the pork belly onto a rack in the sink, and pour the water over the skin side of the belly. Then dry it off with a paper towel. Dry it off really, really well. I've even read of some folks using a hair dryer. Yes, it sounds silly and you might even wonder why this is necessary. Scalding and drying the pork skin helps to draw it together, resulting in a crispier skin.

Ok, so that was the hard part. Then you're going to throw together this marinade really fast:
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon mayple syrup
1 tablespoon fish sauce

Mix that together and rub it into the meat side of the belly. Then place the belly in a container, skin side UP, cover and marinate over night.

When you are ready to cook it, take it out and let it rest at room temp for a few minutes. Preheat the oven to 375. Roast the belly at 375. Mine took about 45 minutes, the larger the belly, the longer it will take. You want to make sure it comes to 160. When it reaches temp, turn on the broiler and broil for about 5 or 10 minutes, or until the skin is nice and crispy. Cause nothing is worse than an undercooked flabby piece of skin. YIKES!

Have you seen those cooking shows where the chef always says to let the meat rest! This is nothing to skimp on. If you cut into it too early, you lose all those delicious juices. It's worth the 10 or 15 minute wait. Get everything else ready. That usually takes up the time you need.You'll be glad you waited. I promise.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tostones and green sauce and steak, oh my!

Any of my friends know that I love, and I mean L O V E Central/South American food. I don't know that I have a true preference; if it's south of the border (or from a Hispanic island) I want it. It doesn't matter if it's bougie food, street food or all points in between, I like and I want it. Recently, we've discovered a Dominican/Puerto Rican restaurant not too far from us. I'm ashamed to admit my addiction to this place; well, only slightly ashamed.

I've found even more foods that I love, so of course I have to figure out how to make it myself. One of the things that I've learned to use in a much more versatile way is plantain. We have a group of African friends that introduced us to plantain years ago. Their version is frying a ripe plantain and then lightly salting the delicious sweet nuggets. I was a bit skeptical when I heard that the folks in the islands use plantains in their green form-- yikes! But then I ate it, and how quickly my tune changed. The difference between a green plantain and a black plantain are worlds apart. A green plantain can be seasoned with garlic and salt and so many wonderful things, even fried as a patty and used as a bread replacement! I was so excited when I realized that I could chow down on a burger and use plantain as bread!! For one who is largely trying to avoid grains, this was a revelation.

 I had a great flank steak in my fridge that I needed to use.I had a plan when I bought it, and this preparation wasn't it. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to season it up in my favorite herbs and spices. So that's what I'm going to do! I decided to marinate the meat this afternoon, fry up some tostones, and create my own form of nachos. I hope you gain some inspiration to cook up something delicious!!

For the marinade: 
handful of cilantro (I used probably close to a cup, but what's a measuring cup again?!)
couple chugs of olive oil (maybe 1/2 cup)
3 or 4 cloves of garlic salt to taste
juice of 1 lime
Whir this together in your food processor/magic bullet, etc. It'll be a green saucy beauty, and you'll want to eat it all as is. But don't. Just save a little. Trust me on this, you're going to want to let this sit. It gets better the longer it sits. ;-)
Marinate the meat as long as you can. Mine sat about 4 hours.

If you are interested in making tostones,  I'm going to burst my own bubble and say that I'm not Hispanic,so I can't exactly call myself authentic. But I can read about how to make tostones, so in theory I can make tostones. To do that you simply cut up some green plantain and fry them. I use coconut oil to do this. Fry them until golden, and then smash them. Like this:

As you can see in the background, I flipped around my handy-dandy meat tenderizer and used the flat side to smash them. But word on the street has it that there are legitimate tostone smasher thingies out there... just sayin'. Then you fry them again.

Back to the meat!! I sliced the meat into 1-inch strips and sauteed them off in a cast iron skillet over med-high to high heat, or until the meat is cooked to your preference. In the end I used the tostones as a nacho type base, topping with the amazing steak, chopped tomatoes, avocado, lettuce and some of that green sauce that I kept to the side. See, I told you saving a little was a good idea.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Once a foodie...

Where do you go when you finally decide what you need out of a blog? Every once in a while, I find myself really wanting to share my thoughts. Yes... I do have thoughts. And more recently, I've realized that perhaps after running a small business with my best friend/hubs and being mommy to two awesome kids... maybe I had thoughts, but then I got tired. Oh wait, there's dinner to cook, too. WAIT A MINUTE!!! Does anyone understand that my brain is dead. Shot. GONE.

Oh yeah, so back to what I want/need out of a blog. At the the core of both hubs and I, we are foodies. We love food something fierce. But then there's the day-to-day grind that makes us both brain dead by the end of the day. On top of which I have some pretty crazy food issues. The hubs does, too, but his are a little more easy to work around. I thrive on more of a Paleo diet, while he thrives on a bit less protein and a little more carbs. But what we both agree on whole-heartedly is that what should be served in our house is REAL food. We are both vehemently opposed to the "food-like product" that is rampant. We both understand that quality proteins, fats and vegs are an ever important food source and we want to teach our children the same.

But I'll be honest. I can't afford grass-fed steak every night and as of yet I haven't mastered Weekly Meal Planning 101. Here's what I really want out of a blog: give me some ideas of how to quickly get a meal on the table with simple things, like ground beef or stiry fry meat. I realized this recently after browsing through this awesome book; I came across some great flavor profile ideas. Ways to throw things together easily. But maybe not always for the foodie chef I like to think I am.

Then, my book fearie sent me Nom Nom Paleo's Food for Humans. I must admit I've been slightly obsessed since it arrived. A real food cookbook written by a full-time working mama!?! Yes, thanks. More importantly, I've been re-inspired.

This page will be my random musings and wanderings of getting healthy food on my table. Feel free to jump in wherever you feel moved.