Tag Archives: BBQ

Slow Cooked Cuban Pork

16 Sep

Yesterday started off like any other in crock pot land. I placed it lovingly on top of my kitchen counter in preparation of a 10-hour interlude with a delicious Cuban roast pork, until suddenly, at the 67-min mark… it died! To add insult to injury, it didn’t even beep or give any other sign of distress, it just went into full ‘crockiac arrest’. It was but a little over a year old, so I can only surmise that a three pound pork shoulder with 30 cloves of garlic was just… too.. much! Since I can’t afford to replace it right now, its tragic death leaves a void in my family and it leaves behind a plethora of kitchen cabinet friends, such as a humongous roasting pan capable of roasting a whole farm animal and a dainty row of 8 stoneware ramekins, in crisp white, for the more elegant affair.

Since I was on a Facebook binge fest enjoying a quiet morning with a cup of coffee, I hadn’t even noticed my crock pot’s ill-fated destiny at first. It was the fact that my living room stopped smelling of citrus- & garlic-infused porky deliciousness, that prompted me to go check the kitchen to see what was going on. My first reaction was a slue of un-Christian and/or inappropriate words, but then that quick wit kicked in and I feverishly pushed all of my slow cooker’s buttons in an attempt to revive it. When my frantic appliance-CPR failed, I created a mess of epic proportion poured everything into my largest Dutch oven and finished braising the pork in the oven. As the pork was cooking, I subsequently spent hours obsessing over what went wrong with my machine, and then ate a handful of milk chocolate chips… for baking… to help me cope with the drama of it all. Shut up.

I thought I wasn’t a big fan of pork, but this recipe has me convinced that I am. My beef with pork (see what I did there?) is that it has a tendency to be too dry when roasted, or you have to marinate it overnight and even then it’s like walking a tight-rope with juiciness. I loved that the recipe below doesn’t require elaborate brining or marinating, and it still came out so incredibly tender & moist, that I almost feel like I should apologize for snarfling down a portion that could have fed a small African village for a week. I made my own ‘mojo criollo’ braising marinade, but you could totally use the bottled kind if you find it in your store… and if you want, you can absolute marinate this pork overnight, you just don’t have to.

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SLOW-COOKED CUBAN PORK
For the mojo criollo
– 3 cups of fresh Valencia orange juice, which is a more tart or somewhat bitter orange. If you can’t find Valencia oranges, use regular oranges and ‘up’ the lime juice to 3 limes.
– 1 cup of yellow grapefruit juice (the pink & red varieties are too sweet)
– Juice of 1 lemon
– Juice of 2 limes
– 30 cloves of garlic
– 1/4 cup of good quality dried oregano
– Pinch of cayenne pepper
– Salt & pepper, to taste
(*) instead of a combination of orange juice, grapefruit juice, lemon & lime juice, you can also use 4.5 cups of bottled ‘bitter orange’ juice or ‘Naranja Agria’. There’s several brands out there, but my store clerk recommended Goya.

Combine everything together, and give it a quick blend with a handheld mixer, or blend everything together in a food processor.

For the pork
– 3lbs of pork shoulder or pork butt
– Adobo seasoning (or your favorite pork seasoning)
– 6-8 medium sized onions, sliced into rings

Slice onions into rings. Place a layer of onion on the bottom of your slow cooker or Dutch oven. Reserve the rest to place on top of the meat.

Cut the pork so that it fits into your slow cooker or pot, then stab it all over so the juices can penetrate the meat. Season it all over with the adobo or pork seasoning, and give it a quick sear so all sides are browned. Transfer browned pieces to your slow cooker or a Dutch oven.

If you’re cooking this in a slow cooker, turn your machine on ‘low’ and cook for 10 hours. If you’re cooking this in your oven, preheat your oven to 325F and cook the meat in a lidded Dutch oven for approx. 4 hours.

When the meat is fork-tender, take it out of the braising liquid and pull it just a bit into a large bite-size chunks. Reserve some of the braising liquid. You can eat it ‘as is’, but for more Cuban tastiness, add the pulled pork to a buttered baking sheet and pour about 1/2 cup of the reserved braising liquid over it. Roast in a 350F oven for about 30 min… or give it a quick sear in a cast iron skillet!

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Lucette’s Calvados Apple Butter

12 Sep

Just last week, my colleague Alex asked me if I could figure out the recipe for Lucille’s famous apple butter. If you’ve had the pleasure of dining at ‘Lucille’s Smokehouse’, you know what I’m talking about. It’s that gooey, buttery sweetness you spread entirely too thick over those soft warm biscuits… of which they only give you two! Good Christian women are not greedy!

Until a friend treated me to a BBQ lunch at Lucille’s one time, I had never heard of apple butter. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I had ever tasted freshly baked warm biscuits either. Biscuits were non-existent when I lived in Belgium. The whole idea of serving a semi-sweet pastry with something even sweeter to smear on top… for dinner!…. is an abstract concept that was entirely foreign to me. Baked goods and sweetness belong with breakfast or way after dinner, not during dinner. The preposterous absurdity of eating something sweet with dinner, prompts my mother to give me her best ‘get this away from me!’ face every time she visits. To place this blatant snubbing of a Southern staple into perspective, Cecilia’s idea of a delectable dessert is a smelly plate of French cheeses with crackers… which is entirely an appetizer in my book, but whatever. She usually passes on a ‘real’ dessert altogether. Evidently, she is sweet enough ‘as is’. ZING! POW!

The smooth, tasty apple lover of Lucille’s is a compound butter that is made with real butter, unlike the typical delicious fruit butters you see appearing on grocery shelves around Fall. I figured I did not want a regular compound butter with big chunks of apple in it, I wanted the smooth bluesy James Brown kind the restaurant chain itself offers. I found several recipes online but ‘powdered apple’, really? I don’t know about you, but a dehydrator is not something that collects dust on my kitchen counter. I also do not per se want to plan my apple butter-making adventure 7 days in advance so I can then order my ‘powdered apples’ online some place, nor do I want to spend 8-10 hours tediously watching apples dehydrate in my oven to see if they are dried enough already but not turning brown! I read somewhere online that reportedly Lucille’s blends its butter with the fruity canned apple butters you find jarred in various supermarkets, and an undisclosed amount of Karo corn syrup. I opted for using plain old dried apples. They’re readily available everywhere, and you can also buy them in bulk in farmers market-type stores like ‘Sprouts’ here in Southern California.

In the end, I took the best of what I read online and ran with it… I think this delicious apple butter comes very close to Lucille’s in flavor, but can perfection really be… well… perfected? Let’s just consider my butter to be Lucille’s more sophisticated twin sister, and as such, I’m naming her Lucette. There.

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LUCETTE’S CALVADOS APPLE BUTTER
– 1 cup of unsalted butter, softened
– 2 Tbsp of light brown sugar
– 3 Tbsp of good quality honey (preferably orange blossom, but any kind will work!)
– 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
– 1/2 Tbsp of vanilla extract
– 6 oz of dried apple slices (not candied!)
– 1/4 cup of Calvados (French apple liquor)
(*) This is a sweet butter. If you want the butter to only be mildly sweet, reduce sugar & honey, to your liking.

In a food processor, soak the dried apples in the Calvados for about 20-30 min, then blend apples until you achieve a fairly smooth paste-like substance. Add in the butter, and blend until well combined. Then add the cinnamon, honey & sugar, and keep blending until you get a gorgeous and fragrant butter-like substance. Place in an airtight glass jar, and store in the fridge for a few weeks… as if this would even last a few weeks!

Bangkok Chicken Satay with Coconut-Peanut Sauce

7 Sep

Football season is here! And with it, so is finger food season.

I confess that I know nothing about American football. Whenever a game comes on, I root for the team wearing the prettiest colors get lost in trying to figure out who actually has possession of the ball and when flags and penalties are dished out, all bets are off. I vaguely grasp the concept of a ‘first down and 8 yards to go’, but I guess football is one of those sports you must have either played yourself or grown up with, in order to fully comprehend the intricate detail of grown men throwing themselves on top of one another for… an oblong-shaped ball?! And why is that ball oblong shaped to begin with?! And who on earth understands what that referee is saying in that echoing microphone?

The first time I was graciously invited to someone’s house for an American cook-out and football BBQ party, I actually managed to silence an entire room by loudly jumping up from my comfy chair and belting out a cheer, complete with arms fully extended and the required high-pitched “WOOHOO!!!!”, when the referee threw a flag… against the team we were all supposed to be rooting for. Whoopsie!

I remember this incident greatly embarrassed my then boyfriend to the point where he felt compelled to formally apologize on my behalf to everybody in the room, and explained that I was from Belgium! I learned three things from that unfortunate moment: a) football is a serious thing over here, b) a man who-we-shall-not-name is an asshole and c) Thai chicken skewers are delicious!

Fast forward 10 years, and my football expertise hasn’t much improved since then. I grew up playing a lot of sports and I love watching sports, but when it comes to American football, I stick with my tried & true routine of picking the team with the snazziest outfit… And I do so from the comfort of my kitchen, where the magic of football parties really happens!

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BANGKOK CHICKEN SATAY WITH COCONUT-PEANUT SAUCE
(Adapted from a recipe by Bobby Flay)
For the chicken satay:
– 3 lbs of skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch pieces
– 1/4 cup of soy sauce
– 3 Tbsp of dark brown sugar, firmly packed
– 2 Tbsp of fresh lime juice
– 2 tbsp of peanut oil
– 1 Tbsp of curry powder
– 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
– 1 tsp of fresh ginger, grated
– 1/2 tsp of ground cardamom
– 24 wooden skewers, soaked in cold water for 20 min

Cut chicken into 1 inch cubes or bite-size pieces and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine all other ingredients and whisk to make a marinade. Pour marinade over the chicken, cover with plastic foil and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Thread 6-8 pieces of chicken on each skewer. Heat a grill pan or griddle over medium high heat, and cook chicken skewers for 8-10 min, turning once half way through… or cook skewers on the BBQ. Serve warm alongside peanut sauce below.

For the coconut-peanut sauce:
– 1 13.5oz can of coconut milk
– 1/4 cup of creamy peanut butter
– 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar, packed
– 1 Tbsp of soy sauce
– 1 1/2 tsp of red curry paste

Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 3-5 minutes. Pour sauce in the a small bowl and serve alongside chicken skewers.

Bacon Wrapped Trout

27 Aug

Like many Belgian families, we counted a pastor and nun amongst our immediate relatives. Having a clerical family member is practically a right of passage in Catholic Flanders, and we certainly nailed it. Not only did we have a ‘tante nonneke’ (auntie nun) and ‘nonkel pater’ (uncle pastor) in our bloodline, we also had my mom’s great-aunt Angèle, who had been a nun at some point in her life, but the details of that affair remain vague. Angèle lived somewhere around Ghent, which was considered far away with its 30-min drive, and she would make the rounds of the entire family whenever she happened to be in town. Angèle was a whiskered old hag staunch Catholic volunteer for an obscure African Mission, who’d shamelessly guilt me into giving up my doll’s play clothing for the children in Africa who did not have clothing (!) whenever she’d visit us. Neither of us really liked Angèle, but she was family. When elbowed and prodded by my mom to oblige Angèle in her blatant demands for my doll’s terry cloth onesies, her wrinkled old hands would curtly snatch whatever offering my 6-year old self reluctantly presented, as though to imply I would burn in hell for even having a doll with clothing to begin with. To add insult to injury, her prickly upper lip would be presented for a smooch, to seal the transaction.

My mom’s ‘uncle pastor’ was much nicer, albeit as obstinate as they made them in the early 1900’s. He was my grandpa’s older brother, and a terrible driver who’d have us white-knuckled in the passenger seat each time we’d go somewhere. Truth is, is that I don’t even remember his ‘real’ name, as we always referred to him as ‘Nonkel Pater’. Decades prior to my birth, the Roman-Catholic Arch Diocese had assigned him to the very rural town of Foy-Notre-Dame in the French-speaking Ardennes, about 1-hr drive South from Brussels.

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With only a few hundred inhabitants, the village center consisted out of a handful of houses & farms, a bistro restaurant and a small country church, its bells you could hear echoing over the fields twice daily. Reportedly, it is in this solemn country church that my 4-year old self made her mark on society. I won’t go into the horrid detail, but rumor has it, that I pushed open the heavy wooden church doors and cycled my creaky tripod through the center aisle in the buff… You should know that this happened during full Catholic Mass (!), and that I subsequently clambered onto the stage and proceeded with ‘picking’ the prettiest flowers out of the altar’s floral arrangements. Let’s collectively appreciate my resourcefulness in finding mom the finest daisies, and say a deep word of thanks that all of this took place prior to You Tube, smart phones and/or Facebook.

I spent many childhood Summer vacations in the Ardennes. The heavily forested region is a quick weekend getaway for many Flemish families foraging for walnuts & chestnuts in Fall, and it’s a popular outing on school field days. The area’s natural springs & cobbling creeks are renowned for trout fishing, and the wooded fields are home to wild boar, rabbit, pheasant & quail, as well as thorny bramble bushes and black berries. It’s this natural abundance that fuels the Ardennes gastronomic fame, which is complemented by old medieval castles that have been converted into stately boutique-style hotels or Michelin-prized restaurants.

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Combined with dozens of outdoor activities as well as picturesque cobblestone towns, the Ardennes culinary tour de force forms an unmatched trifecta in tourism revenue. You can find some of the finest dry-cured meats, game, pâtés and cheeses in the Ardennes, but for me it’s all about trout. The ponds & rivers in the Ardennes are this deliciously flakey fish’ natural habitat, and you can’t beat the flavor of a fresh wild caught grilled trout!

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BACON WRAPPED TROUT
(A classic out of Ardennes cuisine)
– 4 whole trout
– 1 bunch of thyme
– 1 lemon, halved and sliced very thin
– 2 cloves of garlic, minced
– 4 tsp of good quality butter
– a handful of sliced blanched almonds, toasted
– 1 package of bacon (*)
– salt & pepper to taste
(*) Traditionally, the trout are wrapped in authentic ‘Jambon d’Ardennes’, which is Belgium’s answer to prosciutto, but to keep things a bit more budget-friendly, I used bacon.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Scrub & wash trout under cold running water. Remove fins, then pat the inside and outside dry.

Stuff fish cavity with a few sprigs of thyme, lemon and a bit of the minced garlic. Season inside with salt & pepper, then wrap whole fish in bacon.

Roast trout in the oven (or grill on the BBQ) for approx. 20-25 min until crispy on the outside and done.

Serve fish with a sprinkling of toasted almonds and parsley, and a side of hearty potato.

Bon appétit!

Rub with Love.

9 Jul

It’s people like Tom Douglas that make me want to move to Seattle.  And then there’s also Berry & Glynis and the kids in their cute little ‘Twin Peaks’ town, crisp fresh air, mysterious deep blue waters, Pike Place Market, majestic pine trees, wild caught seafood, crabs galore, romantic ferries to gorgeous Puget Sound islands, creaky wooden boardwalks that line pebble beaches, wild blackberries for the picking (Glynis, I know. ‘Weeds’. Gah!)… but I digress.

If you haven’t tried Tom Douglas’ ‘Rub with Love’ line of spiced rubs, you simply must do it now. You’re missing the grilling soul train if you don’t, really. They’re a bit harder to find outside of the Pacific Northwest, but you can easily order any of the 16 flavors (SIXTEEN, y’all!) directly on Tom’s website.

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Omoe Jozefa’s homemade mustard

5 Jul

Since I posted a recipe for homemade ketchup yesterday, it’s only befitting that I would post one for mustard today. After all, ketchup & mustard belong together like Siegfried & Roy. Seperate them, and – well – things are just not right.

While it’s not a Belgian invention, mustard is another one of those Belgian staples. It’s served alongside everything. If you hail from a small Flemish country town like I do, you surely remember the annual Summer ‘Breugel Feesten’ where you are traditionally presented with a plate of diced gouda & paté of pheasant or wild boar, served alongside a bowl of zesty ‘cornichons & ajuintjes’, tiny little pickled dill gerkins & onions… all to be washed down with a nice dark Leffe ‘van ‘t vat’ (Leffe beer on tap).

Mustard is ridiculously easy to make, albeit a bit time consuming as it requires some planning ahead. You’ll find many mustard recipes online, but the basic recipe below comes from my very own grandma Jozefa, bless her soul. She made sure that I understood the importance of using non-reactive utensils and unsuccesfully taught me the virtue of being patient. Mustard is really nothing more than a combination of ground (or powdered) mustard seed and some sort of liquid, blended together with any flavorings you fancy.

There’s a few tips I can pass along to you:

  • For a spicy and flavorful mustard, always use a combination of yellow, brown and/or black mustard seed. Yellow seed is fairly mild and – when used alone – typically yield a ‘flat’ or very mild mustard. For a bolder flavor, you need to add some black mustard seed.
  • To change the flavor, experiment by swapping liquids (beer, champagne, white wine…) and adding additional flavorings (tarragon leaves, honey…)
  • When adding the liquids to the ground mustard seed, the temperature of the liquid makes a difference too: hot liquids yield a more mild mustard whereas cold liquids give it more kick or bite.
  • The longer mustard ‘sits’, the milder it gets. Don’t be alarmed if your mustard tastes too spicy right after you made it, it’ll definitely ‘calm down’ in a few days to a week.

HOMEMADE MUSTARD – THE BASICS  (yields approx. 5oz of mustard)
– 2oz of mustard seed (I use even quantities of yellow, black & red or brown mustard seed)
– 3.5 fl oz of white wine vinegar (or champagne vinegar)
– 3.5 fl oz of water
– pinch of salt, to your liking
– pinch of sugar or 1 tsp of honey, if you like your mustard a bit sweet

Place the mustard seed in an airtight glass (or non-reactive) jar with the water and vinegar. Shake well and let sit for 24-48 hours.
In a food processor (or with mortar & pestle), pulverize the soaked seeds until you get a nice creamy paste. This takes a bit of time, so be patient. For a more grainy mustard, blend less. For a creamier mustard, keep on blending until you achieve the desired creaminess. Add a bit more water one tbsp at a time if it all turns out a bit too grainy and dry. Also, homemade mustard is not quite as ‘yellow’ in color as store-bought mustard. If you fancy that yellow color, add a dash of kurkuma for color.

BEER-THYME MUSTARD
Use basic recipe above, but replace water & vinegar with 4.5oz of full-bodied red or amber ale (or stout), and 2.5oz of champagne vinegar. Once blended, add 1-2 tsp of finely chopped fresh thyme leaves.

HONEY-DILL MUSTARD
Use basic recipe above. When the mustard is blended to your desired creaminess, add a 1-2 tbsp of honey and a whopping tbsp of chopped dill.

LEMON-TARRAGON MUSTARD
Use basic recipe above. When blended, add 1-2 tsp of fresh lemon zest and 1 tbsp of finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves

ROSEMARY MUSTARD
Use basic recipe above. When blended, add 2 tbsp of very finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

Homemade mustard lasts approx. 1 month in an airtight container in your refrigerator. Before using, allow it to sit for approx. 5 days so the ‘fire’ dies down a bit and the flavors have a chance to blend together.

Homemade Curry Ketchup

4 Jul

With grilling season wide open, I can’t thank my foodie friend Debi at Life Currents enough for posting her delicious homemade ketchup recipe. Debi, seriously girlfriend, I bow to your culinary genius.

Now, I wouldn’t be a full-blooded Belgian, if I didn’t turn this saucy deliciousness into an authentic Belgian staple: curry ketchup. It’s one of those things that I was forced to abandon when I came to America… Or so I thought. Nothing screams Belgium more than a good old paper cone baggie of crispy hot fries, accompanied by a zesty curry wurst (frikandel) with freshly diced onions and curry ketchup. It’s how we roll in Belgium.

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HOMEMADE CURRY KETCHUP
(adapted from a recipe by Life Currents)

– 1 6oz can of tomato paste
– 1/4 cup of water
– 1/4 cup of white vinegar
– 1/4 cup of blue agave syrup (or honey)
– 1/2 tsp of brown sugar
– 1 tsp of sweet curry powder
– 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper
– 1/4 tsp of onion powder
– 1/8 tsp of garlic powder
– 1/4 tsp of salt

In a medium sauce pan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer for 10-15 min. Let cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
For regular ketchup, omit the curry and cayenne pepper, an “up” the brown sugar to 1tsp, instead of 1/2 tsp… or head on over to Life Currents!

Planet Barbecue

4 Jul

Happy Independence Day, y’all! If you’re planning on firing up the BBQ, you must try these grilling spice pastes from ‘Planet Barbecue’ by Steven Raichlen. They come directly from the gods above, I swear…

I bought them whilst browsing my local ‘Sur La Table’ store, and have been stocking up ever since!

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