Sunday, July 31, 2016

Cucumber-Lime Margarita

I hardly ever post drink recipes so it's a sign of my love of cucumbers that one of the few others was a Cucumber Collins.
We had a version of this drink at a great Seattle restaurant called Fonda La Catrina. I failed to completely replicate their drink, but I came up with something that I really like. While I can appreciate a "traditional" margarita (if such a thing exists), I find that I really love a longer drink. I want a pint glass of goodness without getting hammered. That's where the cucumber juice comes in. I blend up cucumbers with a bit of water and then strain it. Mixed with lime juice, simple syrup and tequila it's a refreshing, not-too-sweet drink.

2 oz tequila of your choice (Fonda La Catrina uses a blanco but we only have reposado and it was fine)
2 oz freshly-squeezed lime juice (you can do that ahead but don't use RealLime or the like)
4 oz cucumber juice
1 to 1 1/2 oz simple syrup

Cucumber Juice
2 cucumbers
1/2 to 1 c water
Liquefy in a blender then strain


  1. Fill a cocktail shaker about 1/2 with ice (or more if you like it super cold)
  2. Add all other ingredients
  3. Shake and pour (without straining) into a pint glass

Instant Pot Carnitas and Beans

This is a bit of a cheat since it just translates the carnitas section of the Chile Verde Stew recipe to the Instant Pot, but I know I wanted a dedicated Instant Pot version to return to again and again and, after all, this blog is really for me, and so there is no such thing as cheating.
The Instant Pot shaves a bunch of time from this recipe because, although you have to wait for it to come up to pressure, the original calls for you to heat to simmering on the stove before 2 hours in the oven.
My inspiration since getting the Instant Pot is to take half the cooking liquid from the pork and then use it to cook beans. Oh, is it good! And you stretch your meat because you can use a bunch of the meaty-tasting beans in your tacos.

3 1/2-4 lb boneless pork butt, well trimmed and cut into 2 inch chunks
Salt and pepper to taste (at least 2 tsp kosher salt)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander (Cook's didn't call for coriander, but I love it)
1 small onion halved and peeled
A few cloves garlic, peeled, optional
2 bay leaves
2 TBSP juice from one lime
1 medium orange halved and juiced (keep the halves)
2 c. water

2 c dry beans (pinto or black beans)
Cooking liquid from pork plus 1-2 c water as needed
1 tsp kosher salt or to taste


  1. Place all the braised pork ingredients into the Instant Pot. Make sure the vent is closed and use the Meat setting, adjusting so that the time is 60 minutes
  2. When the meat is done, let the pressure release naturally. Hip Pressure Cooking says you should do this with the keep warm setting off, but I had it on and it caused no issues
  3. Put a large colander over a large bowl and strain the meat
  4. Clean out your Instant Pot insert a bit
  5. Take half of the cooking liquid and put in a large saucepan. Reduce over medium-high until it becomes a syrupy glaze. Hold tight, you'll use it in a second
  6. Take the other half of the liquid and put it in the Instant Pot insert
  7. Rinse and pick over 2 c beans and add to the Instant Pot with the kosher salt, make sure the liquid level looks right (about an inch over the beans). Top up with water as needed
  8. Making sure the valve is closed, use the Bean/Chili setting and adjust so that the beans cook for 45 to 50 minutes
  9. Now shred your pork with two forks and once you're done, pour over the syrupy glaze. When I tasted the carnitas pre-glaze and they were fine, if a bit pot-roast-like, but post-glaze they are a thing of glory
  10. If you like, you can then fry up your carnitas or broil them to make them crispy. Our family has decided we like them soft to put into tacos with the beans
  11. When the beans are done, let the pressure release naturally (at least 10 minutes). Taste them and if you need to, cook them an additional 5-10 minutes. I like to mash half the beans to get a very thick liquid but you do it as you prefer

Richer Berry Ice Cream

I still love and use the Fruit Gelato recipe I posted back in 2011, but for today's family dinner I wanted something a little richer. My lovely aunt went blackberry picking and generous gifted us two gallon-sized bags of blackberries. With such a (free) bounty, it didn't feel extravagant at all to use a bunch of it for ice cream. I thought that a more supple texture would be nice, since I feared the berries could make the ice cream quite icy. That means more eggs. Many recipes call for five egg yolks and I just won't do that, but, having a bunch of phenomenal Green Bow Farm eggs in the house, I figured I spare four.
I mashed up (as it were) two recipes, taking the sugar amount, cooking and straining from The Pioneer Woman and the fewer egg yolks from White on Rice Couple. Of my own volition, I used 2 c heavy cream to 1 cup 2% milk because I never have half and half or whole milk around. This worked just fine.
I'm so glad I strained out the seeds from the blackberries! The girls loved eating the leftover mash, and the ice cream is silky smooth yet full of blackberry flavor. It will be paired up with Nectarine Upside Down Cake to finish up an all Instant-Pot meal of carnitas, black beans and corn on the cob (the rest of the family is bringing other sides). Mmmmmm.

Makes 1 quart ice cream

1 lb blackberries
1 1/4 c sugar, divided
Juice of a lemon
2 c heavy cream
1 c milk (any kind)
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Put the blackberries in a medium to large saucepan with 1/4 c of the sugar and the juice of a lemon. Cook over medium heat until the berries have popped and it looks and smells great (15-20 minutes)
  2. Purée the berries in a food processor or blender and then pour through a fine mesh strainer. Set the liquid aside. You can save the mash and use it for another purpose (folded into Greek-style yogurt or as a surprise for the middle of a muffin, perhaps). You're looking for about 2 cups liquid, so if you have extra just use it for something else. I suspect you'd be fine if you had a bit less, as well
  3. Rinse out your fine mesh strainer. Put the heavy cream in a bowl (I set that bowl in my ice bath at that time just for convenience) and set the strainer over it (so you can strain your custard into it later)
  4. Rinse out your pan and use it for the milk and remaining 1 c sugar. Heat over medium until around 180 degrees
  5. While it is heating, whisk the egg yolk in yet another bowl (sorry about that). Once the milk and sugar is the right temperature, temper the egg yolks by putting a spoonful of the hot milk/sugar mixture into the bowl of yolks and stirring well. Do this a few times
  6. Now add that yolk mixture to the saucepan of milk and sugar. Heat over medium, stirring constantly, until your custard thickens. Because I only used 1 c of milk as opposed to the 1 1/2 cups liquid in the original recipes, my custard got very thick. Not to worry. It took about 5-8 minutes for my custard to thicken
  7. Strain the custard into your bowl of heavy cream over its ice bath, then stir in 1 tsp vanilla extract. The fun part is stirring in the strained blackberry juice until it's all a gorgeous purple
  8. Let chill in fridge for several hours or overnight, then churn according to your ice cream maker's instructions

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Simplest Everyday Pan Sauce

My family loves pan sauce and gravy. I think they're good, but the rest of the family is passionate about them.
I've read all sorts of ways to approach them, but this is the one I use almost exclusively. Why, you ask? Because it is easy and I don't have to think about it.
I always add a little bit of water to my roasting pan to ensure that my drippings don't burn. Though that puts me at risk of steaming the meat, I haven't yet had a negative result.
This pan sauce assumes that you have a roasting pan that you can use on the stove. We have an induction stove top and I now have a small and a large roasting pan that work with it.
All I do is put the roasting pan over two burners, crank the heat up to high and throw in 1 cup each of chicken stock and dry vermouth (or dry white wine). I let that reduce and then add a scant teaspoon of cornstarch mixed with cold water. There are many cooks out there who would reject the cornstarch in favor or butter or beurre manié or some other thickener or no thickener, but I find that just a touch of cornstarch makes the sauce coat the spoon without turning it into jello and it's been more reliable for me than butter. Of course, if I taste it and think the sauce needs something, I never hesitate to add a knob of butter, too...

Drippings from some kind of roasted meat (chicken, pork, beef)
1 c. chicken stock
1 c. dry vermouth or dry white wine
1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tsp cold water
1 TBSP butter, optional
Salt, pepper and herbs to taste


  1. Take meat out of roasting pan and set on a cutting board. Cover it with foil
  2. Set the now-empty roasting pan over two burners, turn heat to high on both
  3. Add the wine or vermouth and stock and whisk constantly
  4. Let reduce until it's somewhat syrupy and starts to coat the back of a spoon
  5. Add the cornstarch/water mixture, whisking vigorously
  6. Add butter if needed. Taste and adjust seasoning
  7. Remove from heat and strain into a serving dish (if there are bits in there that you don't think would be tasty, if not, then don't bother straining it)
  8. Serve