Monday, July 29, 2013

Avocado and Shrimp Salad

I was rootling around on the Internet looking for an avocado-shrimp recipe and not only did this one sound the best, I found the exact same recipe on several sites: it looks like Taste of first posted it in 2007. (Just wanting to give proper credit here. :-) )

The original recipe calls for cooked medium size shrimps, coarsely chopped. I used bay shrimps because I didn't have a lot of extra time and I hate cleaning shrimps. Just be sure you buy a brand like this one: wild caught, not farmed, that does NOT have "natural flavors" in the ingredients. That is nothing but glutamic acid, which causes seizures & migraines just like MSG, monosodium glutamate. The only ingredient should be shrimp!

Next, if you're using cooked, frozen shrimps, thaw them out completely in a strainer over a bowl, then dump on a clean dry dish towel and gently squeeze to make sure you get all excess water out. The dressing is not thick to begin with, so extra water will make it runny and bland-tasting.

The original recipe also calls for seasoned salt. Any brand I've seen includes either MSG or "natural flavor",  so I used kosher salt and Old Bay Seasoning. Perfect!! I also cut back the capers, it was a little too briny for my taste. If at all possible, let the shrimp salad chill for an hour to let all the flavors, especially the Old Bay,  fully develop before combining with the avocado for serving.

Ok, I will finally shut up and give you the recipe! Serves 4 if on avocado halves, or 3-4 if mixed together on lettuce.

1/2 lb cooked/thawed bay shrimps, or cooked medium shrimps, peeled and de-veined & coarsely chopped
1/2 c celery, finely diced
1/4 c yellow onion, finely diced
3 TB + 1/2 tsp GARD-Paleo mayonnaise
1 TB capers, drained
1 TB fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1.5 tsp lemon juice
3/4 tsp dried tarragon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 healthy pinches Old Bay Seasoning
6 grinds black pepper

1 or 2 medium ripe avocados, halved and pitted right before you're ready to serve

Optional: Bibb, butter or red leaf lettuce, washed & spun dry

In a medium size glass mixing bowl,  thoroughly combine everything except the avocados.  Click on the picture for a closer look at the onion and celery sizes:

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.  Taste again and correct seasonings.

Halve and pit the avocados. You can either spoon the shrimp salad into the avocado half (prettier presentation but messier eating), in which case you'll need two avocados, one half per person:

or scoop out and dice the avocado, gently tossing with the shrimp mixture, and mound on lettuce. We like it better this way, and one avocado is plenty:

Chile Verde con Cerdo (Green Chili with Pork)

Guy Fieri made this on his FN show (the one where he actually cooks) several years ago, and dang is it good! I made a few small changes here and there using what I've learned from Rick Bayless. This chile is proof you can have lots of flavor without burning the taste buds off your tongue with hot peppers, LOL. If you want it hotter, substitute the jalapeno with serrano peppers. It also freezes well and is crock pot friendly. Serves 6.

2 lb pasture raised pork shoulder (also known as pork butt) all fat trimmed off, cut in 1" cubes
3 TB EVOO or coconut oil
2 large Anaheim chiles, diced
2 medium white onions, chopped
5 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced (seeds removed for milder heat; substitute 1 or 2 serrano peppers for more heat)
1/2 lb (about 5) tomatillos, husks removed and stickiness rinsed off skins
1/4 c white wine, aged in aluminum barrel
3 TB apple cider vinegar
1/2 c homemade chicken stock
1 TB dried oregano
1 TB ground cumin
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425*

Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil (I use the one from our toaster oven, it's just the right size) and roast the tomatillos, turning a couple of times to brown the skins and soften them. I didn't watch the clock, it probably took about 20 minutes; they were ready before the pork was finished browning.

While you're roasting the tomatillos, heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat and saute the onions, chiles, peppers and garlic until softened and translucent but not brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

Raise the heat to med-high, add a little more oil if you need it, and brown the pork in the Dutch oven, working in batches so you don't overcrowd (that will cause the pieces to braise and turn grey instead of get brown and crispy). Put all the pork, the onion-pepper mixture and the roasted tomatillos back in the pot. Add the wine and vinegar, using the flat edge of a wooden spatula to scrape up the browned bits. Don't worry, you won't taste the vinegar at all; it just helps tenderize the meat. Add the chicken stock, oregano, cumin, and about 1.5 tsp ea salt & pepper.

Bring to a boil, reduce to low, cover and simmer for 2-3 hrs (or in a crock pot on low for 6 hrs) until the pork is falling-apart tender. Taste for salt & pepper.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Braised Pork Chops with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Do you remember that ancient comfort food recipe for pork chops baked with rice and Campbell's cream of mushroom soup, meat so tender it would fall apart on your fork? Jimmy Bannos, Jr., chef at The Purple Pig in Chicago, put a healthy, modern spin on it, and I spun it some more.  Yes, there's a lot of gravy in the picture, orange from all the carrots. You can never have too much gravy. Serves 4-6

Braised Pork Chops
2 TB EVOO or coconut oil
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
6 boneless range fed pork chops, all fat trimmed off, dried with paper towels and seasoned on both sides with salt & pepper
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 large celery ribs, roughly chopped
3 large or 4 medium carrots, peeled & roughly chopped
5 large cloves garlic, peeled & smashed
2 c chicken stock, preferably roasted for deeper flavor
5 6" sprigs thyme
5 California bay leaves (6 if the smaller Turkish ones)
2 c whole organic coconut milk

Mashed Potatoes
2+ lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled & 3/4" diced
1/3 c whole coconut milk, scalded
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

2 TB EVOO or coconut oil
2-3 TB potato flour
2 TB white wine (aged in aluminum barrels, not oak)

In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Brown the pork chops about 3 minutes on each side, working in batches to avoid overcrowding or lowering the temperature too much. Remove to a plate.

Add the onion, celery, carrots & garlic to the pot, stirring occasionally until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the stock, thyme, bay leaves and coconut milk; bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Add the pork chops back in, cover and braise on Low until the chops are falling-apart-tender, about 2 hrs.

During the last half hour of the pork chop cooking time, boil the potatoes in well-salted water till tender, 15-20 min. Drain, mash, and add enough coconut milk & EVOO to suit you (lumpy mashed = less, smooth & creamy = more). Salt & pepper to taste & keep warm.

Back to the chops & gravy:  remove the chops to a platter & over with foil. Remove & discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Ladle 3 cups of the braising liquid and as many of the vegetables as you can into a blender and puree.

In a medium saucier or saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the oil and potato flour. When it's nice and bubbling, whisk in the pureed vegetable sauce one ladle full at a time, continually whisking until the gravy is thickened. Ladle in more of the braising liquid in the Dutch oven if you need to thin it out. Whisk in the white wine and then add salt & pepper to taste. Make a bed of the mashed potatoes, top with the chops and drown in gravy.