Category Archives: Zesty Seasonings and Crazy Condiments

Mmmmm… Pulled Pork Tacos

Because I’m a red-blooded American, I have no choice but to barbecue on Memorial Day weekend. And because I’m a red-blooded American, I love tacos. So I figured this was a great opportunity to combine those two elements, and make pulled-pork tacos. With a delighted resolve to break out the smoker, I chose the recipe for “East L.A. Pork Tacos” from Cheryl and Bill Jamison’s Smoke & Spice cookbook.

The recipe starts with a “Borracho Marinade”, which of course should be followed with a hearty chorus of “Citizens of Borracho!” or “Now can you give a man some fightin’ room” (assuming you’ve seen The Great Race as many times as we have). This marinade is made up of:

2 cups of orange juice
2/3 cup of tequila
Juice of 2 limes
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 medium onion, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1 teaspoon achiote paste
1 teaspoon cumin
Several dashes of hot sauce (the recipe stipulates “fiery habanero hot sauce”)

For the record, I didn’t have any achiote paste, nor did I have any hot sauce, so I just tossed in a teaspoon of adobo instead. Then I combined all that in the food processor, then poured it over the pork (the recipe calls for 6 shoulder pork chops, 12-14 oz each, but I went with two 4-pound Boston butts) in a plastic bag and let it marinate in the fridge overnight.

In my experience with the standard Mr. Brown’s Pulled Pork (or whatever it’s called), I’ve learned the rule of thumb to give 1 1/2 hours for every pound of pork you’re smoking. That meant I needed my smoker warmed up (to somewhere between 200 and 220 degrees F) and ready for these bad boys to do the whole “slow and low” thing for six hours. What a welcome change from the previous smoked items I’ve made, where I’ve been looking at a nine-pound butt that needs to be ready for a lunchtime crowd. Suddenly I was combining my love of tacos with my love of sleeping in — this was becoming the best meal ever!

When the meat was done, it looked like something that would dress the sets of a caveman movie or something. It seems like meatstuffs that get roasted on sticks over fires in the movies always end up with this dark color and sheen. Frankly, they looked fake to me.

They tasted, however, amazing. The marinade gave the edges a nice citrusy zing, and the meat in the center was moist and lightly imbued with the bright flavors of the citrus and garlic and spices. It was just fantastic. And more than that, it was deliciously aromatic while smoking, so I can only hope our neighbors were really jealous.

The recipe then suggested you serve the shredded pork in tacos with all the standard taco fixings, along with a “Sauce Ole”.

The Sauce Ole is made as follows:

3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
2 small tomatoes, chopped
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped roasted green chiles (preferably New Mexican, Anaheim, or poblano, fresh or frozen)
2-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients with 1/2 cup water in a saucepan and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the sauce has thickened a little, but so the vegetables are still crisp-tender. Refrigerate for at least one hour to allow the flavor to develop.

And just because I was feeling all kinds of gung-ho, I did roast and peel the poblano peppers fresh.

The other sides/fixings I made to go with this were some frijoles, some red rice, and some guacamole. And when it all came together, this dinner was insanely good. The Sauce Ole is out of this world, and paired with the pork, it tasted like something you’d get at a restaurant. I have rarely been as proud of a meal as I was of this one. And after laboring over it for two days, I ate it, of course, in about 35 seconds. I can’t wait to have this again!


Filed under BBQ, Hearty Meals, Meats Meats Meats, Zesty Seasonings and Crazy Condiments

Girding For The Lettuce Onslaught

The farm is starting up again next week, and I’ve heard that there will be lettuce included in the first week’s pick-up. This isn’t surprising, because lettuce is the silent building-block of my farm share. I talk a big game about all the tomatoes we get, but I think the thing we get the most of over the course of six months is lettuce. Gazillions of heads of it, bazillions of varieties of it — way more lettuce than I ever remember from the previous season. This year, just the way I do every year, I’m vowing to be better about eating more of it. Normally it serves mainly as a stalwart component of our composting, but it shouldn’t be, because it’s crazy delicious. And more than that, salads are a fantastic vessel for two of my favorite things on Earth: croutons and salad dressing.

Of course, the crux of my problem with keeping up on eating lettuce is that my grocery store doesn’t seem to carry the croutons I love anymore, and I keep buying expensive bottles of salad dressing, doling out one serving, and then leaving the bottles to languish on the inside of the fridge door for months and months before being thrown out. My solution this summer is to make my own dressing and croutons. With Farm Opening Day looming, I decided to ready my croutons today.

I would never have thought of doing this if I hadn’t made this garlic bread soup a few months ago. That recipe made me realize something shocking: croutons are just dried-out bread with seasoning on them! Who knew? (Okay, everyone knew. But it made me comfortable with the notion of drying out bread with seasoning on it.) Armed with this new knowledge, today I cubed up a crusty baguette into small pieces…

…tossed them with olive oil and garlic powder, and then set in a 300-degree (F) oven…

…and about 35 minutes later, I had an aromatic tray of garlicky croutons.

They look like croutons, taste like croutons, and crunch like croutons — only a few more days before I get to see if they perform like croutons under salad dressing! (In the meantime, I guess I should start looking at some recipes for dressing…)


Filed under Baked Goods, Zesty Seasonings and Crazy Condiments

IPB Caliente!

Chili Powder!

Originally uploaded by interchangeableparts

We are creatures of habit at stately IPB Manor, and one of our regular meals is chili. Once a week I make up a huge-assed pot of the stuff, and after gorging on bowls of it atop brown rice and buried under mountains of cheese, the copious quantities of leftovers get packaged up for lunches for the remainder of the week. After several years of tinkering with the big parts of the recipe (the meat, the vegetables, the liquids), I finally decided there was one building block left that would be a lot of fun to play with — the chili powder. After watching an episode of Good Eats about dried chiles, I took Alton Brown’s recipe and ran with it. I use guajillo, arbol, cascabel and chipotles, and liberally apply all of them (Penzey’s Spices is a fantastic source for all the elements of this). I also make boatloads of chili powder at a time; the finished product you see here is being stored in a four-cup spice jar. The process of seeding and cutting up the chiles is brutal — it’s almost as if there are elements to these peppers that could be used as weapons or something… But suffering the burning eyes and nasal passages, the spine-rattling fits of sneezing, the coughing so hard you think a lung is going to come up, is all worth it, because this chili powder makes the stuff from the grocery store taste like mildly spicy sand. My homemade chili powder is fresh, fruity and flowery, with a kicky, lemony edge of cumin and a complexity from the four chiles that is deep, smoky and robust. If you’ve got a spice grinder you’re not afraid to use for something spicy and you’re not particularly attached to the mucous membranes in your head, this is a project well worth undertaking.


Filed under "You Make Your Own WHAT?", Zesty Seasonings and Crazy Condiments