Sunday, September 25

Carrie Cooks: Recipe #1

Here's the thing about me and cooking.

I really like to do it, though I stay FAR away from recipes that seem too difficult and/or ridiculous, like "roast chicken with rose foam." Please.

I haven't yet attempted a meal that required me to remove anything more serious than one bone from a pot roast - the thought of taking out innards is both gross and scary. Like, what if I miss one? Sorry about that chicken gizzard you just ate! Oops!

Cooks Forest 2008 (aptly named, or not). 21-year-old Carrie tries to learn basic cooking skills, while 24-year-old Kyle looks on and laughs. Here, I attempt to broil steaks on a cookie sheet (I know...) I set off the fire alarm for this particular dinner. Steaks were still good though!

My favorite recipes are things like: buffalo chicken dip, linguine with clam sauce, chicken paprika, black bean corn salad, tortilla soup, and roasted red pepper/feta/walnut dip. I like loads of flavor, especially of the spicy, cheesy, and savory persuasions. Oh, and I love any kind of potato.

Well, the horrific process of dissecting pork butt that I detailed in my last post paid off, big time - we have a new favorite recipe at Casa Stevenson. Two, in fact, since I decided that no meal was ever hurt by the addition of cheesy potatoes. (I will post that recipe next, because they were SO GOOD).

And so, I bring you the first Carrie Cooks post. This is far from a cooking blog, but once in awhile I want to share only my very favorite recipes. This is how I find my best new meals: from people I know, with actual notes on what went right and what went wrong.

Maybe Kyle will share at some point too, because A. he needs to write on this blog at least once, B. His name is so nice and alliteration-y with the word "cooks" as well, and C. He definitely has a few delicious tricks up his sweatshirt sleeves.

This first recipe is from a cookbook Kyle's grandma gave me (thanks Nancy!) at one of my bridal showers. It's called "Welcome to Our Table," and I'd highly recommend it to anyone who lives around Pittsburgh. It's a collection of recipes from my parent's parish, Sts. John and Paul Catholic Church. Friends, these church ladies know how to cook. I'm sure you can order a copy if you contact the church, and you should, because I haven't found a bad recipe yet.

I did make a few intentional and unintentional changes, which are noted in italics.

Pork Goulash - slow cooker recipe, yay!

  • 3 lb pork shoulder/butt (same thing, for reasons I don't quite understand)
  • 4 T. olive oil
  • 3 large onions, chopped *I used 2 lg. onions and a hefty sprinkle of onion powder, as my third onion turned out to be a dud - I also chose 1 Spanish onion and 1 red, which I think turned out well
  • 2 medium green peppers, chopped (because I need things clearly spelled out for me in every recipe, I'm going to note that you shouldn't include the seeds in the core of the pepper - remove them. I didn't make this mistake in this particular recipe, but I've done it before...)
  • 1 T. Hungarian hot paprika *I used a heaping tablespoon, because we like things spicy
  • 1 medium bay leaf
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 14. oz can of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 lb. sauerkraut, drained (you can omit this if you don't like sauerkraut, but I can't speak for the results then... I think the kraut adds a nice zing to it)
  • 1 8-oz container of sour cream (I think this is optional)
Step one: Brown pork in olive oil. 

I'd recommend doing this the night before - I browned the meat, chopped the veggies, and set all the ingredients aside before I went to bed on Thursday evening. Much easier to just throw it all in the pot before work on Friday rather than do lots of prep work at 7 AM.

More importantly, this simple step is where I think I made a mistake - however, it turned out fine and might have even made it better. When I read that first step, I thought "Okay, I'll just throw the entire 3-lb pork into our biggest skillet and try to flip it around with wooden spoons (dodging crackling oil). This was difficult a bit tricky, but I managed. I followed exactly what the instructions said! Then I just stuck the pork into the pot, covered it with aluminum foil, and put it in the fridge.

The next morning, I tossed everything else together and went to work. While reading about pork goulash in free moments, I realized that every single other recipe calls for browning the pork in chunks. Like, cutting it up ahead of time and browning it. Which makes a lot more sense, really, since this is supposed to be a stew with hefty pieces of meat, not shreds of meat. But as I said, I need everything spelled out. So I went home during my lunch break, took the pork out, and cut up the semi-raw meat. It was gross, but I think the meat was more tender than it would have been otherwise - the outside pieces that were browned ahead of time were nice and crispy, but the rest of the meat chunks was perfectly falling apart and delicious. Not rare, not medium rare, just nicely done. I'm going to continue doing it this way from now on, but you can cut it up ahead of time or even see how it turns out cutting it up at the end.

Step two: Put pork and remaining ingredients, except for sour cream, in slow cooker and cook for 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high - or until meat falls apart.

I ended up removing the meat and turning off the cooker after 4 hours to carve it up, putting it back in about half an hour later and turning the cooker to low again, and then turning the heat from low to warm after 10 total hours had passed. It stayed on "warm" for another half hour or so while Kyle got a shower after golfing, and while my potatoes finished cooking. So, mine cooked from 8 AM to 6 PM and then slowly cooled (on the warm setting) until 6:30 PM, with a half hour break around noon for carving. 

Step three: Ladle pork and other goodness, including broth, into bowls. Can add dollop or two of sour cream to make it smooth (Kyle loved this, but I think it's just as good without).

I am no Pioneer Woman with fantastic photography and all that - in fact, perhaps this is unappetizing? I'm just a person with an iPhone, don't judge - but here is the end result, in all its simmering peppery, brothy, meaty, onion-y goodness. EDIT: Kyle says this photo makes it look disgusting, but he assures everyone it's very good.

Please just trust me - if you like slightly spicy, very savory, very flavorful meals, you'll want to try this.

Are all of these asides and details distracting? Let me know and I'll cut down on the cooking play by play. I like to have as much detail as possible when I attempt a new recipe, but as friends and loved ones are always reminding me, what I want isn't necessarily what everyone else wants :)

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