Thursday, July 15, 2010

Crock pot pulled pork

Some of the grad students and postdocs at work are major foodies of the meat 'n barbeque type.  They're always talking about what they're cooking for dinner or what kind of meat is on sale, the merits of different types of barbeque sauce, etc. This week they were talking about cooking meat in the crock pot, and they also started talking about how they get good deals at the local Smart and Final type store, Mainesource.
So anyway, I went to Mainesource after work.  They had boneless pork roasts for cheap.  I bought one since it looked like it was the right size for my crock pot, and I remembered hearing that you could make pulled pork that way. (I don't have a gas grill yet, although I do have my trusty charcoal grill.) I found a recipe on the internet for North Carolina style pulled pork a la Crockpot, and then proceeded to take liberties with it, since I didn't have any barbeque sauce.*  (Besides, that would blur the line in barbeque sauce styles, not like I'm the least bit authentic, a Californian living in upstate New York, cooking it in a crock pot)  I rubbed the roast with an applewood spice rub, put it in the crock pot, and then put about half a can of diet coke in there since some of the other recipes called for coke or ginger ale. I also added a few drops of liquid smoke for good measure.  Better living through chemistry, baby!  I set the crockpot on low and let it cook overnight.  The house smelled deliciously of fake barbeque.  I also made the sauce, so that it would have time for the flavors to develop.  The smell of barbeque permeated my dreams, and I dreamt that I was grilling.  It also made Rugrat wake up extra early and start pestering me.  I got up and examined the contents of the crock pot.  The meat was falling apart. I plopped it into a bowl and pulled off the fatty bits, and shredded the rest.  I have enough for about 8 or nine portions, plus some for the cats.
It didn't have that nice mix of tender inner bits and slightly dried out but flavorful outer bits, but it had a nice clean, mildly smoky flavor and good texture. I could only taste the slightest hint of the cola flavor.  There was very little fat.  With the vinegar sauce, it tasted pretty authentic.  Even though I'm planning on getting a grill, I'm sure I'll make the crockpot pulled pork again, especially in winter when I don't want to go outside.

*NC style barbeque doesn't use tomatoes at all.  Instead, the pulled pork is served with a sauce made of vinegar, black and red pepper, hot sauce, and a bit of sugar.  I'm not really crazy about traditional barbeque sauce, so I like NC barbeque a lot.

Monday, July 12, 2010

No shopping experiment, the flip side

Once I got to Ithaca and got my kitchen set up, it was time to stock my cupboards..and my fridge..and my freezer..and my liquor cabinet.  Yes, I'm in the process of replacing many of those things that I systematically ate up a few months ago.  I spend a lot more than I'm used to spending at the grocery store, due to all those random supplies.
Part of me wonders if it would be cheaper to just never cook, and just grab ready made stuff at Wegman's, microwave dinners, and/or eat in the restaurants/dorms* around campus.  I did this in grad school, aided by the presence of the MIT food trucks and the 24 hour coffee house, and I sort of did this as a postdoc and in the early years at the startup company, since they fed us. And I'm sure there will be times when I revert to that when things are super busy.  But to make that work, you have to commit to it 100%, like I did when I was a grad student with no kitchen.  Going half and half gets pricy and time consuming- I ended up buying stuff I didn't use, and spending too much time going out to find food.

*  As a perk, faculty and staff can go to the all-you-can eat dorm lunches for $6.  Even when I was a young undergraduate biddy working in the dorm cafeteria, some 20+ years ago, it cost at least that much.  As a result, we didn't see many non-students.  The postdocs in the group are big fans of this, and they bring along some of the grad students. These are some big eaters, too. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Garlic Scapes, part 2: Pesto

I continued my experimentation with the garlic scapes tonight, and made pesto. I had some basil, so I made basil/scapes pesto rather than the scape-only version.

Garlic Scape Pesto
1 cup garlic scapes (about 8 or 9 scapes), top flowery part removed, cut into ¼-inch slices
1 cup basil leaves, chopped
1 cup walnuts
appx 1 cup olive oil
1 cup grated parmigiano
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
Place scapes and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and whiz until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in oil and process until integrated. Add more oil if mixture is too dense. With a rubber spatula, scoop pesto out of bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add cheese; add salt and pepper. Makes about 12 ounces of pesto. Keeps for up to one week in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
For ½ pound short pasta such as penne, add about 2-4 tablespoons of pesto to cooked pasta and stir until pasta is well coated.
OM NOM NOM NOM!  OMFG this is so damned good, and I'm not even a big pesto fan.  I have a wimpy little food processor attachment, so I wasn't able to get it as smooth as I wanted, but it didn't matter.  I put some in pasta and mixed a little bit into some yogurt for a salad dressing.
The garlic scape flavor is much stronger than the basil flavor.  You could adjust the proportions to suit your preferences.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Garlic Scapes, part 1

I went to the Ithaca farmers' market today.  I'll blog more about the farmers' market later, but for now I want to report on my introduction to garlic scapes.
Garlic scapes are the stems that grow from certain varieties of garlic.  They curl up into big curliques.  The flower bud is at the end.  Apparently the bulbs get bigger if you cut off the stems so they don't sap the plant's energy.
This is all news to me - I don't know if California garlic is the same type.  A lot of people at the farmer's market were selling them.  I was curious so I bought some.
The woman who was selling them told me that they were good in pesto, roasted, or in scrambled eggs.  A quick survey of the internet confirmed those suggestions.  Tonight I roasted a few alongside some asparagus.  I cut them into 4" pieces.  When raw, the texture is like a green bean and the flavor is a mix of garlic and pepper.  When roasted, the flavor mellows a lot and they get kind of chewy, like a roasted green bean.  They went well with the asparagus and the roast beef.
I am looking forward to trying them in pesto and scrambled eggs.