Sicilian Chick Pea Soup

As smartass Frank pointed out, the soup itself is Sicilian, not the chick peas.  Most Italian soups feature cannellini beans but in Sicily, chick peas are the favored legume. The recipe comes from the Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook, Volume 2.  You can make it in 7 hours in the slow cooker, or in 45 minutes on the stove top.  It’s not very attractive, but it’s yum.  It features fennel, garlic, oregano and red pepper.  It also calls for anchovies, which I did not use, and escarole, which I did not have.

Stove Top Version

  • 2 fennel bulbs, cored and chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 8-oz cans chick peas, dried and rinsed
  • 7 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 head escarole, chopped coarse, or 1/2 bag of frozen spinach

Heat olive oil in soup pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add fennel and saute 7-8 minutes.  I found the soup very savory and kept looking for a sweet note.  I think if you really get the fennel caramelized it will bring that sweetness.

Add garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes, saute another 2-3 minutes.

Add chick peas and chicken broth.  Cover and simmer 20-30 minutes.  Add spinach or escarole and cook until wilted, another 15 minutes.

Serve with a glug of olive oil and a big dollop of parmesan cheese

Slow Cooker Version

  • 2 fennel bulbs, cored and chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced
  • 8 oz dried chick peas
  • 7 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 head escarole, chopped coarse, or 1/2 bag of frozen spinach

Microwave fennel, oil, garlic, oregano, anchovies and papper flakes in bowl, stirring occasionally, until fennel is softened, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to slow cooker.  Stir in chick peas and broth.  Cover and cook until chick peas are tender – 10 to 11 hours on low or 7 to 8 hours on high.

Stir in escarole or spinach, cover and cook another 15 minutes.

Serve with olive oil and parmesan.

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Coffee-Cocoa Rubbed Brisket

So this happened because whenever we go down to Maryland to visit my seester, I end up hanging out with my brother-in-law watching a lot of TV. And one night he let me control the remote and we ended up watching like seven back-to-back episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives which, after Chopped, is like my favorite Food Network show ever. I love me some Guy Fieri, now there’s a man who loves food. I totally want him to come hang out in my kitchen and just make those mouthgasm noises.

My BIL did comment that a lot of the food didn’t look that good, and furthermore, it didn’t seem like food I would eat. I disagreed; I think most of the food looks awesome, and Guy certainly makes it sound amazing, but who knows how it actually is in person.

Anyway, one episode featured the restaurant Momocho in Cleveland, and the chef featured his specialty: coffee-rubbed brisket. It was slow cooked for hours, then shredded and served in a tortilla with onions and peppers.

This definitely had possibilities. Tacos and burritos are a sure thing around here and this meat looked really spectacular; furthermore it could be made in the slow cooker.

I remembered an episode of Chopped where the secret ingredient was ostrich. One chef rolled it in cocoa powder before searing it. I thought about doing this with the brisket because when I make chili, I always throw in a square of baker’s chocolate. Yet the coffee rub sounded interesting, too. Could I do both?

Of course I could.

I scouted around the Internet, compared and contrasted, and in the end, came up with this. And it was crazy.

Coffee-Cocoa Rubbed Brisket

  • 2 tbsp coffee
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt (the brisket, I confess, came out just a tad salty so I’m taking it down to a teaspoon, you can add more later if it needs it)
  • 1 can coconut milk

20130109-185203.jpgMix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut the brisket into two pieces, rub all over with either olive oil or coconut oil and then roll it in the dry rub, really getting it coated. Your hands will be a mess. It’s OK, just keep packing on the rub. Get the brisket into a ziplock bag and let it sit for either 2 hours or overnight.

Pour the can of coconut milk into the slow cooker. Put the brisket in, cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Take the brisket out, skim the fat off the gravy. Shred the meat with two forks and put back into the cooker.

Serve over coconut rice, or in a soft tortilla, with onions and peppers.

Die.

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Arroz con Pollo (y Lágrimas)

I wanted this dish to be great.  This should have been great and it was so not great.

I’m depressed.

I did it for Redman.  He loves Mexican food, he loves rice and beans, he loves chicken.  And I love that little boy to pieces, I don’t need to explain to anyone here, this is not about sons, this is about dinner.  I thought why don’t I make this kid arroz con pollo?  He’ll love it.  And I’ll make it in the slow cooker, this will be a snap.  A slam-dunk.

Hah, it was more like a brick.

It’s my fault.  I didn’t think.  What’s going to happen when you put rice in the slow cooker for six hours, huh, smarty-pants?

Nothing attractive, I’ll tell you that.  It tasted all right, and Jeeps and I ate it, but the kids couldn’t get past the look of it.  Panda managed a few polite bites.  Redman looked at the dish and asked where the rice was.  And he was right to.  It tasted fine, but it looked like puke, there’s no nice way to say it, and when your dish looks like that, there’s no way to rescue it.  Even today I dissolved some of it in a lot of chicken broth and tarted it up with lime juice and cilantro, thinking it could pass for a Mexican soup.

It didn’t pass.

So live and learn, y’all:  NO RICE IN THE SLOW COOKER!!!  Let me beat myself with a wire hanger and repeat that.  NO!  RICE!  IN!  THE!  SLOW-COOKER!  EVER!!!!

I will give you the recipe now, verbatim, but note well that you should make yellow rice and peas separately, on the side, and then serve the slow-cooked chicken over the rice and it will be beautiful.  A slam-dunk.

Pollo Sin Arroz

      • 1 pinch saffron threads
      • 2 tablespoons boiling water
      • 1 large red onion, chopped
      • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
      • 2 bell peppers, any color, chopped (I used red and yellow)
      • 1 1/2 cups rice
      • 2 bay leaves
      • 2 tsp dried oregano
      • 1 tsp paprika
      • 1 tbsp dried parsley
      • 1 28-oz can tomatoes, drained
      • 3 cups chicken broth
      • 8 skinless chicken thighs
      • Salt and pepper
      • Frozen peas
      • Chopped cilantro or scallions

Put the saffron in a small dish and pour the boiling water over.  Set aside.

Season chicken with salt and pepper, set aside.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Saute the onon, garlic, pepper for five minutes.  Add the rice and stir until well coated.  Add the herbs and tomatoes (if using whole tomatoes, break them up).  Empty all the vegetables and rice into the slow cooker.

Working in batches, brown the chicken on both sides and add to the slow cooker.

Pour the broth and reserved saffron over all.  Cover and cook 6 hours on high heat.  For the last 30 minutes, stir in the frozen peas.

Garnish with cilantro or scallions if desired.

Serve.

Sigh.

And no, I’m not going to show you what it looked like.  Let’s just pretend it looked like this:

Pulled Pork: A Novel

Not really, I’ve just always wondered why so many book titles have “: A Novel” added on.  What exactly does it signifiy?   Have you ever seen “: A Movie” after a movie title?

But where was I.  Oh yes, pulled pork.  Yum.  My sïster-in-law (I have two – my brother’s wife who is my sister-in-law, and my husband’s sister who is my seester-in-law, hence the umlaut) has turned me on to slow-cooking in general and pulled pork in particular.  I mean, to quote the Contessa, how easy is this:  one pork butt, sauce of your choice, cover, leave for 8 hours, come back to indescribable yumminess.

I still don’t have one.  See after this grandiose kitchen renovation and the Wolf Stove of my dreams (yes, I love you darling, you complete me) I feel guilty getting a slow-cooker (no, no, Wolfie, not yet, I promise).  I’m sure the slow cooker is much more energy efficient BUT ANYWAY, back to the novel…

JP took the kids skiing the other day, and pork butt (can anyone write that with a straight face?) was on sale at Hannaford’s so I’d picked one up, in keeping with this horrible cold weather and snow and all the comfort food I’ve been making to conquer it.  Pulled pork seemed the perfect thing for après-ski.

So I Googled around for conventional oven techniques and sauce, mixed and matched a little, and came up with this:

Pulled Pork à la Wolfie

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 C ketchup
  • 1/3 C cider vinegar
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 C tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp worcestershire sauce (my favorite condiment to say)
  • 1 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 325.  Throw pork butt into Le Creuset dutch oven (Wolfie is my man but Madame Le Creuset is my bitch).  Mix all ingredients, slather all over butt (the pork, not yours).  Cover, put into oven.  Go away for at least 3 hours and soon the house will become permeated with the most awesome, tangy, barbecue-y smell in creation.  My son came in the door after skiing and said “Mommy, I want to eat the AIR!”

Ideally a longer, slower cooking time for pulled pork is best because you essentially want the meat to fall off the bone and you should be able to shred it with two plastic forks.  3 hours at 325 was totally adequate.  I needed regular forks to shred it but it tasted awesome.  But after you take it out and get rid of the bone, spoon as much fat as you can off the sauce, and cut the real fatty bits off the meat before you shred it.  Then mix it all back in with the sauce and let it sit back in the cooker or on the stovetop for about 10 minutes.  I added a splash of apple cider for no reason, it just seemed like a good idea.

I’m sure everyone has their own idea of fixins for pulled pork.  I like to serve it with potato rolls, cole slaw and sweet potato fries.  I also like a few bread-and-butter pickles on my sammich.  And beer of course is great with this meal, although a Dr. Pepper would be a treat as well.  I’m quite partial to Dr. Pepper.