Homemade pulled pork salad

I bought a four pound pork shoulder at Central Market for $11.41, and, adapting several recipes from the old Internet, came up with this one.  I used a lot of spices (cumin, chili powder, paprika), garlic, and Texas oranges that were on sale.  I cooked that sucker for about twelve hours.

Slow cooked pork (especially a tough cut like shoulder) may be the perfect meat for me.  I tend to be paranoid, and thus overcook meat.  However, pulled pork just gets better and better the longer you cook it!  Twelve hours resulted in a tender, falling apart hunk of meat.  I had this salad for dinner–chopped lettuce, pulled pork, red bell peppers, orange slices, and a drizzle of Hal’s Hot Love.  And I have four more portions of same for lunch this week!

I will definitely make this again.


Shanita’s Arroz Verde con Puerco

One of the first things I did when we got back to Austin after the New Year was email Shanita with an order for two jars of Hal’s Hot Love!  The fridge was near-empty, and so I subsequently made a run to Wheatsville to stock up on all the basics (for us: coffee, butter, eggs, and grits!).  I noticed some moderately priced, pre-sliced pork, so I grabbed a portion, having no idea what I would do with it.  I’m not really a big pork eater; I don’t really enjoy pork chops or ham–just bacon!

When Shanita dropped off our salsita order, we started talking about recipes, and she suggested I use some Hal’s to spice up the rice I was considering cooking.  Thus a brilliant idea was born–I will be having Shanita’s Arroz Verde regularly!  I decided to throw the quickly pan-cooked pork in there, along with some sliced green bell pepper and a garnish of homegrown jalapeños.  So easy! This one was a surefire, spicy winner.

2 cups white rice
1 Tbsp butter
1 lb. sliced pork (I used boneless chops)
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced lengthwise
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup Hal’s Hot Love jalapeño and roasted garlic salsa
1 raw jalapeño, finely sliced

1. Combine rice, a dash of salt, and about 4 cups of water in a medium stock pot and bring to a boil. Stir; reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding more water if necessary.

2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add pork, bell peppers, cumin, and half the black pepper. Sauté until pork is just cooked through (you do not want to see any pink meat), about ten minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Drain rice and return to stock pot. Away from the heat source, drizzle in the cream, salsa, salt, and the rest of the black pepper and mix thoroughly with a large spoon.

4. Spoon portions of rice out into bowls, and top with pork and pepper mixture; garnish with jalapeño slices and serve immediately.

Makes four servings.

Stella’s Frijoles Negros Refritos

Special double shout-out to Shanita in this post! Both for the delicious salsa seen here, and for the motivation to properly cook my own pot of beans!

For the crock pot
1 lb. dried black beans
1 heaping tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow or white onion, roughly chopped
~1 Tbsp Cholula hot sauce
room temperature water

For the skillet
2 Tbsp bacon fat or lard
2 Tbsp olive oil, halved
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
fresh cilantro, for garnish

I didn’t soak these beans. There are varying opinions on this, and most cooks claim that soaking the beans for eight hours or longer will make them easier to digest (e.g. less gassy). I honestly cannot tell the difference, and even the eminent Diana Kennedy, in From My Mexican Kitchen: Techniques and Ingredients, says soaking is generally a waste of time. I leave it up to you.

1. Pour dried beans into a colander in the sink and rinse thoroughly with cool water, removing any stones, debris, or damaged beans.

2. Put the beans into the crock pot, pour in room temperature water just high enough to cover, and turn heat to high. Cook for about one hour, adding more water if necessary.

3. Reduce heat to low. Add all other crock pot ingredients, stir, re-cover, and cook for six to eight hours, stirring occasionally and adding more water as necessary. Try the beans after about four hours to see if they are done. Allow the water to be absorbed in the final couple of hours of cooking time, or drain off excess before continuing. Here you can either freeze, refrigerate, or re-fry the beans (as below).

4. Over medium heat, melt bacon fat or lard in a large, flat skillet. Add olive oil, then stir in beans. Using a potato masher or table fork (I find the latter works much better), smash all of the beans in the pan, stirring in the oil as you go. Add salt and garlic powder, to taste. You can leave your beans chunky, or smash them to a smooth consistency; I prefer the latter.

5. Scoop out beans and serve garnished with cilantro, cheese, and/or sour cream.

You can also freeze or refrigerate refried beans. Try to use them within one week if refrigerated. To reheat, sprinkle with water and microwave; or, re-fry a second time.

Shown here with breakfast tacos and Hal’s Hot Love, a creamy garlic jalapeño from Shanita’s Salsitas.

Travis High Tamales

I was recently on the hunt for some fresh, locally-made tamales (’tis the season!), and a friend got me in touch with the fine folks at the Travis High School Culinary Arts Institute. Last year, Relish Austin‘s Addie Broyles covered the students’ tamalada for the Austin-American Statesman; read her excellent piece here.

For the past two years, culinary arts instructor Rob McDonald has invited parents to help students in his three classes to put on a weeklong tamalada, a tamal-making party that features an assembly line of people helping prepare the Christmas tradition popular in many Latin American countries.

Last week, we picked up six dozen (you read that right) tamales, sampling all three of Travis High’s 2011 flavors: traditional pork, chicken (pictured), and queso and jalapeño. And these are some tasty tamales! The medium to large and generously filled husks, stuffed with well-seasoned meat (or cheese and spicy chiles!) rolled in expertly executed, velvety masa are probably my favorite comestible way to get into the holiday spirit.* Though I come from an pretty exclusively Anglo family in East Texas, my great-grandmother Tollie used to make a huge batch of tamales every Christmas, and one of my aunts carries on the tradition. Maybe the fact that Granny grew up in Arizona had something to do with it…?

Every year I mean to try my hand at making tamales (thanks to ye olde job, I can’t make it back to East Texas in time to learn firsthand from family); I even have a tamale pot that my stepmom gave me a few years back! Maybe someday… Anyway, it’s an all-day (or, even, all-weekend) job, and I’m grateful that the culinary students at Travis High have done my work for me. And don’t forget that tamales freeze well, so there’s no reason not to buy several dozen at a time!

Unfortunately the Travis High tamales are all gone for this year, but they will be selling to the public again in February, when the students will be creating chocolate covered strawberries. These treats will be available by the whole and half dozen, and the students will also be selling pretzels – all to support this amazing program for aspiring culinary professionals. The Institute will be taking orders from February 1st through 14th, with pickup on the 13th and 14th, just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Before winding up, I have to note that, of course, no plate of tamales would be complete without Shanita’s Salsita’s award-winning roasted jalapeño and garlic salsa, Hal’s Hot Love.** Shanita’s is having a couple of open house salsita tasting parties this month, on Sunday, December 18, and again on Sunday, December 18. For details, contact Shanita through her web site. You won’t be sorry!

Institute of Hospitality and Culinary Arts
William B. Travis High School

Contact them here.

*Latkes are gaining. Fried foods with sour cream are my madeleine.

**Hal’s is my kryptonite.

Review: Shanita’s Salsitas

I’ve posted about this before, but now that Shanita’s is taking off like a rocket, I wanted to bring her delicious salsitas to your attention again.

You’ve probably noticed that I regularly eat Shanita’s Salsitas, both as your typical snack of chips and salsa and as an ingredient in some of my favorite Tex-Mex recipes; you may also be aware I am obsessed with her creamy garlic jalapeño salsa, Hal’s Hot Love, in particular. So let’s just start there.

This stuff is like salsa crack. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t become a hard core addict after the first bite – it’s that good. I eat it straight up with home-fried El Milagro tortillas (above); I eat it on scrambled eggs for breakfast; I pour it over my grits; I use it to spice up my take-out; and, of course, I slather my enchiladas in the stuff. I gave my mother a jar last time I went home for a visit, and she sat down with a bag of Fritos (hey, it’s East Texas) and consumed half the jar in one sitting (the pepper doesn’t fall far from the plant).

But Hal’s Hot Love is not Shanita’s only contribution to the local salsa scene. She also makes several other, equally delicious varieties. These are currently available for sale on her new web site: Ki’s K.O., a chile arbol and tangy garlic salsa that doubles as a versatile dressing for salads, crudités, and anything grilled (pictured above and on the salad up top); and Seymour Rockin’ Harissa, a North African-inspired fiery garlic pepper paste that delivers a fantastic kick to all kinds of dishes (pictured below). Check out the recipes section of Shanita’s blog for plenty of tasty ideas, including these amazing Tomates Rellenos Tapas featuring Seymour Rockin’ Harissa.

Two other salsitas that we particularly like are her Little Irv’s Honey Fire, a sweet salsa verde made with roasted tomatillos that’s equally wonderful as a snack or drizzled over enchiladas, and Bubbie’s Haba Lava, which is habanero-based and very hot, indeed (it’s also Eric’s favorite, and I like it on my steak and eggs breakfast – see below). Look for these and other unique salsitas to appear in Shanita’s online store soon.

I’m also really excited that Shanita’s Salsitas will be debuting as a Participating Commercial Bottler at this year’s Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival this weekend! That’s right; in Texas we’re so serious about our salsa that we hold our annual hot sauce tasting festival and competition in August, hot on the heels of a record heat wave. What better opportunity to head out, heat up, and meet Shanita and her salsitas? Then you can be a typical Austinite and tell everyone about how you knew about Hal’s Hot Love before it was mainstream, or whatever.

Shanita’s web site says her salsitas are “affectionately made by hand in Austin, Texas,” and I can verify the truth of this statement. I’ve become a fan of Shanita both as a salsa slinger and as a person, and her small, local company packs a punch in more ways than one. Not only is she determined to deliver the freshest, tastiest salsitas directly to your door, but her ethos is one of cultural hybridity and culinary fusion. As she explains on her web site, “Growing up Jewish in a large family on the Texas-Mexico border, cultures blend in strange ways. Bar Mitzvahs become pachangas. Tortillas replace bagels. Jalapenos find their way into falafel.” Shanita’s Salsitas is all about sharing what’s best about Texas culture and food, one bite at a time. This growing company is one of my favorite local food producers, and I’m convinced it will soon be one of yours!

I dare you to try the Hal’s Hot Love. Double dare.

Shanita’s Salsitas
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