Flour Tortillas with bacon fat

Flour tortillas 1

Sunday dinner.  Warm, fresh tortillas. Life is good.

Yes, that’s right.  BACON FAT.  So good, you will wonder why you haven’t done it before.  In Mexico pork is featured in so many ways, all good.  (Ever had carnitas??). Well, these tortillas are so darn good Stella told me that I needed to get them on the blog right away, as this is the 2nd time (in her 6 L O N G years) that she has been instrumental in the whole rolling/cooking process and if a 6 year old can do this – so can you!  Effort vs reward is huge.  Stella gets the rolling going and Sloan (at 9) is in charge of the stove and cooking them.  They both know just when to turn the tortillas with the right amount of bubbling and browning going on.

SO EASY!

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup bacon fat (cold)\
  • 1 cup warm water

Stir flour and salt together, then work in the cold bacon fat with your fingers.  Slowly add the water and work until a cohesive dough forms.  Not sticking together?  Add a bit more water.  Too sticky?  Add a bit more flour …. You get it.  Knead until you have a soft but firm dough – cover and allow to rest for 30-60 minutes.  (or as long as you need it to)

Divide this into 12-14 pieces and roll into balls.  Let sit for a few minutes to allow the dough to rest – this makes it much easier to roll.  (keep covered)

Roll until super thin – and cook on a dry hot skillet.  Every stovetop is different and you may sacrifice the first couple to the frypan, but thats okay, once you realize your perfect temperature you are good to go.

Cook for approximately 1 minute on the first side and you will see bubbles form.  Only flip when you peek underneath and see brown spots appearing.  Flip it over and continue cooking until you get more of those lovely brown spots.  On my stovetop (flat ceramic) I can’t cook it higher than 5 (or medium) otherwise things burn before cooking through but experiment with your own surface.

Keep warm in a covered container as the steaming also helps with the cooking process.

This recipe serves 6.  If you aren’t feeding 6, then just keep the dough in the fridge and pinch off enough to make yourself a couple tortillas a day!

Flour tortillas 3

Stella is 6 and she’s already done this a couple of times, at her insistence this recipe is going on the blog so we all remember it.  Big sister Sloan is making the guacamole in the background before stepping over to the stove to keep the cooking going.

Flour tortillas 4

Just look at those bubbles forming – we all get excited!  (yes, I know, kitchen geeks)

Flour tortillas 2

This is exactly what you are looking for.  Heaven in a wrap.

Tonight we served carne asada with these tortillas, and it was amazing.

Honestly …. you really don’t like pork?  (sorry Meg & Amy). Use store bought lard or shortening.

Empanadas

Most cultures have a pastry/hand pie like this one ….. empanadas are famous in many countries, but I’ve only had the pleasure of eating them in Mexico so that is what I have fashioned these after.  They can be deep fried, but I prefer baking them for fluffy, flaky pastry and creamy filling.  Extra bonus points for the way your house smells while they are baking!

Empanada 1

In today’s version I used chicken, onion & red pepper, topped with a chunk of jalapeño havarti.  The tomatillo salsa was delicious for dipping!

Empanadas are such a treat.  These will give you flaky pastry, and a creamy tasty filling.

Make sure when you roll out your dough that you do it a little thinner than you would for a pie – you want to make sure you have a good ratio of filling to crust.

Empanada 2

Saute onions and garlic until softened, then add red pepper and cook for only a couple more minutes.  Stir in cooked shredded chicken and season to taste.  In this version, I added a couple of tablespoons of tomatillo salsa, and then topped with jalapeño havarti cheese for an extra bit of kick and creaminess.

Other suggestions for empanada filling:

  • ground meat seasoned with taco spices, topped with Oaxaca string cheese
  • leftover pulled pork and pickled red onions
  • wilted spinach, sautéed mushrooms and feta cheese
  • go sweet with fruit, cinnamon and a bit of vanilla

I’ve included my pastry recipe here, but if you aren’t into making your own pastry go ahead and use a prepared frozen pie shell.  Just take it out and roll it a bit thinner.

Cut your pastry into rounds, brush beaten egg around the outside and then put about a tablespoon or two of filling in the middle, add some cheese on top.  You will want enough filling so that your ratio of stuffing to pastry is tasty.  Fold edges up together and press to seal.  Set them on a baking sheet and pinch/crimp the top to make sure it is well sealed.

Brush beaten egg over the top of the sealed empanada, and then poke a hole so steam can escape and the pastry doesn’t leak too much of your goods outside the shell.

Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.  You can also freeze them on a cookie sheet at this point and bake later, from frozen.  Just bake a little longer.

Empanada 3

Oh, these were G O O D.  Before baking season the tops with salt and pepper.

Everybody loves flaky pie crust – but people are divided on whether to use shortening, lard or butter.  Through trial and error, I think I have found the best of them all – by combining lard and butter.  Try it ….. so light and flaky – you will love it.

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups white flour
  • 3/4 cup cold vegetable lard or (if you prefer) shortening
  • 3/4 cup cold butter
  • 5 tbsp very cold water
  • Lightly beat egg and vinegar

Whisk flour and salt

Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in lard/butter until pea sized.  Add very cold water to egg and vinegar mixture.  Make a hole in the center of the flour blend and stir in the egg/vinegar/water combination.  Work just until pastry comes together – adding slightly more liquid if it doesn’t, and if it is too wet, add a wee bit more flour.  Work together just until it all comes into a solid mass.  Knead very lightly on floured surface.  Wrap tightly and put in the fridge for at least 40 minutes.

Roll on lightly floured board until just thin enough to use for pie dough.

This recipe makes enough for 1 smaller pie (top and bottom) or a large deep dish pie crust bottom.

Japanese Nabe (Hot Pot)

How to describe this?  It’s really not a recipe – just ingredients and an idea of how to put it all together.  Our friend Tom made this the other day and I was immediately hooked.  How can something that just looks so simple end up feeling immensely satisfying and ever so delicious??

Nabe 1

Looks like a pile in a pot ….. right?  But, oh so good!  I could eat this on a weekly basis!

 

The base of this broth is as simple as the kombu you create it with.  Add about a 6 inch piece to 8 cups of water, let it sit for about 15-30 minutes, and then bring to a boil and allow to simmer until the kombu softens.  Some recipes will say to remove it at this point, but I didn’t, and we ate it – a bit chewy but still good!

Prepare all your vegetables while the kombu softens.  and broth simmers.

Keep the vegetables in groups according to how long it takes them to cook.  i.e., cabbage takes longer than snap peas!

I used:

  • savoy cabbage
  • carrots
  • sweet peppers
  • snap peas
  • bok choy
  • red onion
  • asparagus
  • bean sprouts

For a protein I used chicken breast and tofu.  The sky is the limit here, you can easily use whatever you like – just be aware of how long it will take to cook it, and put it in at the right time.  The last thing you want is soggy veg.

Nabe 3

Prepped and ready to go.

Nabe 2

If you have a pint sized helper like Stella, she will add the vegetables in the right order and keep everything moving.  That is teriyaki chicken beside her, and it was fantastic too.

For serving you need:

  • Ponzu (citrus soy sauce)
  • chili oil
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • thinly sliced green onions
  • cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Goma Shabu Sesame Sauce (I don’t have that one …yet)

Prepare Udon noodles while the sauce simmers.

The main objective here is not calling it a noodle bowl.  They finish off the show.  If you have individual mini bowls then each person can have their little assortment of the above condiments and sauces.  Traditionally you would ladle the veg & protein into your bowl, accepting the small bit of broth that comes with it.  You can either dress your bowl with the above, or dredge each bite in the accompaniments – your choice.  The pure joy in this comes from adding your finishing touches so everybody has it just they way they like.  When everybody is finished, then you add the noodles to the hot broth.  Once again, traditionally this would be on the table with a heating vessel to keep everything hot but I found it was warm enough to stir in the cooked noodles once we had finished eating the first “course”.  Those noodles are such a delightful way to finish slurping up your meal.

Shopping List:

  • assortment of veg
  • protein of choice
  • udon noodles (I like frozen best, if you can’t get fresh – over dried)
  • condiment toppings …… ponzu, sesame sauce, chili oil, sesame seeds, cilantro & green onion
  • kombu
Nabe 5

This is the dried kombu I found – you only need about 1/2 of one piece to go with 8 cups of water.

 

 

 

Tom’s Teriyaki Chicken

teriyaki chicken 6

This teriyaki chicken hits all the notes, crispy bits of carmelized chicken, sweet and salty,  tender and juicy – give it a try, you will love it.

Thanks go to our friend Tom for this simple teriyaki marinade that is as perfect as it is easy.  Works well with any protein, just to make it even simpler for you.

Marinade:

  • 1 cup soy sauce (reduced sodium)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 golf ball size knob of ginger, grated or finely minced.

Combine and stir until sugar has dissolved.

2 pounds of bonelesss, skinless chicken thighs – cut into bite size pieces

Garnish:

  • green onions, thinly sliced
  • sesame seeds, toasted until golden brown

Marinate the chicken in the teriyaki sauce for at least an hour and up to overnight.  Remove from marinade and place in hot saute pan.  Do not overcrowd the pan or the chicken will just steam rather than get nice crusty bits of caramelization.  Allow to cook, without disturbing, until you see the colour start to change on top of the chicken and the chicken releases easily from the pan to turn over.

Serve with rice and your favourite greens.

Teriyaki chicken 1

See the marinade bubbling up beneath the chicken?  That’s going to get all glossy and give the chicken nice little bits of delicious caramelization – don’t disturb it while this is happening.

teriyaki chicken 2

You can see some of the browned bits – that is pure gold.

Teriyaki 3

If you’d like a little extra to drizzle over, make a little sauce without the ginger and allow it to thicken.  Adds a fantastic bit of sweet and salty flavour.

Drizzle:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup soya sauce
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbsp corn starch

Combine the water, soya sauce and sugar, stir until sugar has dissolved.  Add in the corn starch and cook over medium heat until sauce has come to a boil and allow it to reduce slightly.  (Corn starch as a thickener has to boil or you will still taste the corn starch!)

Teriyaki 2

Tonight’s dish was a teriyaki bowl – utilizing a combination of chicken thigh and chicken breast with a little shredded carrot for crunch and cilantro for brightness.

Realistically you could use this recipe for any protein you like, or make it with a large assortment of vegetables for a vegetarian dish.  The teriyaki sauce is the star!

Swedish Meatballs

Oh man, these meatballs are just the ticket for a cool evening – they are so tender and moist – like maybe the best meatballs ever??

Swedish meatballs 2

These meatballs are moist, tender and so delicious – you won’t miss Ikea at all.

Meatballs

  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  • 2 tbsp butter unsalted
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp pepper or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • vegetable oil for frying meatballs

Gravy

  • 6 tbsp butter unsalted
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth low sodium, or beef broth
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp pepper or to taste
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • Melt the butter in a skillet, then add the onions and a bit of salt. Cook the onions until soft, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the ground pork, ground beef, onions, egg yolks, salt, pepper, nutmeg and allspice to the bowl with the panic. Mix the meat mixture well using your clean hands. Shape the meat into 1 inch meatballs.
  • In a skillet heat some vegetable oil. Add the meatballs and fry until golden all around, about 7 minutes, but not cooked all the way through. Repeat with all meatballs.
  • To make the gravy melt the butter in a clean skillet. Add the flour to the pan and whisk well. Add the broth with the Worcestershire sauce and continue whisking. Season with salt and pepper and other spices if preferred. As the flour cooks the gravy should thicken. Whisk in the sour cream. Bring the gravy to a boil then add the meatballs to it and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure meatballs don’t stick to bottom of pan.
  • Garnish with parsley. Serve warm over mashed potatoes, buttered noodles or rice.
swedish meatballs 4

Brown on all sides, but don’t cook all the way through, let the gravy simmer do that job.

Swedish meatballs 3

Gently stir in the sour cream and then return the meatballs to the sauce.

swedish meatballs 5

Simmer the meatballs gently until cooked through, then garnish with parsley.

Swedish meatballs 1

 

 

 

Hot & Sour Soup

Nothing like a steaming bowl of hot and sour soup to fight off the cold season!  This soup is surprisingly easy to make and can be as versatile as the ingredients in your fridge.  You won’t be calling for take out after you give this a try.

Hot and Sour Sop

  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp sambal oelek (or any Chinese hot sauce)
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 4-5 tbsp rice vinegar (start with 4 and see how it tastes to you)
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • shitake mushrooms
  • thinly sliced red peppers
  • thinly sliced cauliflower
  • slivered snap peas
  • 6 ounces extra firm tofu, cut in small pieces
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • green onions, thinly sliced

For a little extra protein, stir in some cooked chicken or pork.

Combine chicken broth, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, hot sauce and white pepper.  Bring to a boil, then simmer.

Stir in vegetables.  Be as liberal with the vegetables as you like, I like to pack the soup with a variety.

Mix rice vinegar with corn starch and stir while pouring the mixture into the pot.  Allow to gently boil and thicken.  If you need more thickening, add a mixture of 2 tbsp vinegar and 1 tbsp corn starch.

This is the point where you really need to taste …. how hot do you like it?  How sour?  Work with the white pepper and vinegar if you need a little more punch in your soup.  Once you like the flavour it is time to work in the eggs.

Whisk egg until creamy, then pour into the soup in a very slow, thin trickle, stirring the pot as the egg goes in to create those little streams that help give you that true hot and sour soup texture.

Garnish with the sesame oil and green onions.  Best served with these amazing scallion pancakes.

Scallion Pancake 9.jpg

Portugese Stew With Pork and Clams

I haven’t been to Portugal, but I sure do want to!  This aromatic braise melds fields, land and sea, in the most satisfying way.  Grab some crusty bread and you’ve got a fantastic meal.

Portugese stew 2

I had a few of these adorable baby Yukon golds at hand, along with some bell peppers that went in also ….. after all, a stew is intended to help you clean out the fridge!

  • 2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 6 garlic cloves, divided
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon Pimentón de la Vera dulce (or your favourite paprika)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium-size (9-ounce) yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and crushed by hand
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock or lower-sodium chicken broth, divided
  • 2 pounds baby Yukon Gold potatoes, halved
  • 2 pounds Manila clams or cockles, scrubbed
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Lemon wedges and crusty bread, for serving

How to Make It

Step 1

Season pork all over with 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and place in a large ziplock plastic bag. Smash 3 garlic cloves, and add to bag with wine, bay leaves, and Pimentón. Seal and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Step 2

Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove pork from marinade, and pat dry. Remove and discard garlic and bay leaves; reserve remaining marinade. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Add half of pork, and cook, stirring once or twice, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer pork to a plate. Repeat with remaining half of pork. Chop remaining 3 garlic cloves, and add to Dutch oven with onion and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil; cook, stirring often, until golden, about 6 minutes. Stir in crushed tomatoes, red pepper, and reserved marinade

Step 3

Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring often, 3 minutes. Return cooked pork to Dutch oven; stir in 1 cup stock until pork is mostly submerged. Cover and bake in preheated oven until pork is fork-tender, 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Step 4

Stir in potatoes and remaining 1 cup stock. Cover and bake until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.

Step 5

Transfer Dutch oven to stovetop over high, and add clams. Cover and cook until clams open, 3 to 5 minutes. (Remove and discard any unopened clams.) Season with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with lemon wedges and crusty bread.

bread

My “no knead” bread was a gift with this stew, the perfect combo!

Make Ahead

Pork may be prepared through step 3 and refrigerated overnight. Reheat before proceeding with step 4.

Suggested Pairing

Robust Portuguese red.
Portugese stew 3

If you should be lucky enough, you will have friends with an amazing bonfire pit to sit around and enjoy your stew, dunking the crusty bread and sipping your beverage of choice.

I spotted this recipe just as we finished making our own Paprika – grilling or smoking, then drying a variety of peppers before grinding them up to enjoy all winter.  This was featured in Food and Wine Magazine, and I’ve copied it exactly as written.  On this particular day we were eating it the same day, so I had to skip the lengthy marinade, and just carried on as it is written, stirring the onions and garlic together after browning the pork.  Everything went into the oven and it wasn’t long before the most magical aroma was filling the house.  We then carted it off, with the bread, to enjoy at our friend’s house with a bonfire.