Smooth Salsa Verde

Since I was trying to prepare some foods for this coming Tuesday, I also decided on making some salsa verde. This will be going well with what I plan on doing with my slow cooked pork, so I’m happy that I got the first pieces of the plan in place.

I started by setting the oven to 450. I used 10-12 tomatillos. I removed the skins and then rinsed them down (they were a bit sticky and I wanted to make sure there was no residue on them). I cut them in half and placed them in a roasting pan. I then cut two medium onions into chunks and cut two jalapeño peppers in half (removed the stem and the seeds). I cut the top off of one bulb of garlic. I drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper and then put it in the oven for about 20 minutes.

Once it was ready, it smelled incredible. The juice of the tomatillos got out, but that was okay. The garlic was soft and melty and it was tempting to just it the cloves right then and there.

I was able to resist the temptation and put everything in a blender (minus the garlic skin. I decided to let it go until completely blended, but if you want some chunks, just pulse it for a few seconds.

I added the juice of one lime and 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro, and it was good to go. The jalapeños give it a nice bite, but it still has a coolness to it that doesn’t burn the throat. I snacked on this a little bit, but wanted to save the rest for Tuesday. A great way to finish the weekend!

Slow Cooked Pork

I am getting myself ready for this coming Tuesday. It’s a two for one – Taco Tuesday and Cinco de Mayo. I wanted to do some slow cooked pork in preparation for carnitas on Tuesday, and today was the perfect day to get it done.

I bought a huge bone-in pork butt (the smallest of the ones they had left, but it was more than 9 pounds). Instead of just putting it in the slow cooker as is and then shredding it once done, I cut it into chunks. I tried to get as many meaty chunks set aside for the slow cooker. I set aside the bone and the fattier pieces.

I started by putting 1/2 cup of apple juice in the bottom, then I put in the chunks of meat. I added one tablespoon of paprika, one tablespoon of chili powder, 1 teaspoon of cumin, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. I poured another 1/2 cup of apple juice over the top and then mixed it all together. I let that cook on low for about 7 hours.

While that was cooking, I heated the oven to 450. I put the bone and trimmed fatty pieces in a roasting pan with a drizzle of olive oil, some cracked salt and pepper, and let it cook for about 30 minutes. Once that was done, I set aside the meat and I also saved the drippings (I plan on using the drippings on Tuesday). I then made a broth with the bone and fat, and set it aside for another day.

Once the meat was done, I took it out and let it cool. The pork had really nice flavor, and the chunks were tender and juicy. I saved some of the juice, since I don’t want it to dry out for Tuesday. This was an effective way to spend the day inside, and it was easy to be in a positive frame of mind with the wonderful aromas in the house.

Home Made Kolaches – Sweet and Savory

I have been a fan of an occasional kolache for a number of years. It has not always been easy to find places that serve them, so it’s always a treat when I do. For my last birthday, one of the presents I received was a cookbook – “When Pies Fly” by Cathy Barrow. This has some recipes for foods I enjoy and want to try – Empanadas, Knishes, Kolaches, etc.

Since I like to go the non-traditional route sometimes, I decided to try my hand at kolaches with non-traditional fillings. I started my preparation last week when I purchased some ground venison and some fontina cheese. I bought them with the intent of being the filling for the kolaches, and yesterday I went ahead and made them.

I’ll start with the dough, which comes directly from “When Pies Fly”. The ingredients are 1 packet of active dry yeast, 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 5 cups all purpose flour, 2 large eggs, 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Since I was planning on going the savory route, I only used 1 tablespoon of sugar instead of 1/4 cup.

You start by putting in 1/4 cup of the lukewarm water in the bottom of the mixing bowl and add the yeast packet. Give it a few minutes for the yeast to activate. I didn’t see much of a change, so I just crossed my fingers that my yeast was still good. Next, add the sugar and stir everything together. Then add in the remaining ingredients. If you have a dough hook attachment, use that and beat the mixture for 7-10 minutes, stopping once or twice to scrape the bowl. Depending on the air, you might need a little more flour (or a couple more drops of water). Lightly spray a large glass bowl with cooking spray (or lightly oil). Work the dough a little bit, form a ball, and place in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. You can also try for a slow rise in the refrigerator for up to 16 hours, but it should be at room temperature for an hour before making them.

The instructions above are my somewhat modified version of the instructions. Before I started any of the baking, I had set the oven to 180 and then turned it off. I wanted a warm place for the dough to rise, since my house usually is a bit too cold for that to happen (I prefer keeping it in the low 60s when it’s cold outside). I wasn’t really sure if it was going to work, I was just hoping that the yeast would take.

I let it sit for an hour, and when I checked on it, my baby was all grown up! Since I knew that I would need an hour for it to get at room temperature, I punched down the dough and let it sit while I prepared for the filling.

For the savory filling, I started by chopping up 1 medium onion and 1 shallot. I heated up my pan and added in 1 pound of ground venison. This is not as crumbly as ground beef, so be prepared to use both hands to break this out into smaller pieces. Once there was a light coating of brown on the bottom, I added in the chopped onions and shallots.

I continued to cook them all together until the red meat became more pink. I added in 1/2 teaspoon of thyme and 1/2 teaspoon of rosemary, along with 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke. I had those go for another 3 minutes or so, until the meat was completely cooked through. I turned off the heat and set the mixture aside to cool (about 30 minutes). I then grated 1/2 pound of fontina cheese.

Once it was time to start assembling everything together, I put the oven to 350.

I worked the dough a little on a lightly floured board and then broke it down into 12 pieces. In the future, I think I will probably break them down into 16 or 20, but the 12 worked for today.

Using a rolling pin, I flattened out each of the portions. I made it a little thicker in the middle and thinner on the outer edges.

Next, I placed a large spoonful of the meat mixture and a decent portion of the grated cheese in the middle of the dough.

Holding the dough in the palm of my hand, I worked the edges to the top and then crimped them together to seal.

I then started to mold it together.

Finally, I rolled it into a ball and placed on a cookie sheet.

Since I wanted to go with sweet and savory, I decided to make six of the savory, three that were filled with peanut butter, cinnamon and a chocolate trip trio, and three that were just a chocolate chip trio. When I sealed up the sweet ones, I did not completely roll it into a ball, and I left the crimped side up.

The next step was supposed to be to cover with an egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water and 1/4 teaspoon salt), but I forgot to do it. I placed it in the oven for 15 minutes, and it was about half way in that I remembered. After the 15 minutes, I topped the savory kolaches with butter and put it back in to bake for another 3 minutes. It didn’t get that nice shine on top, so I’ll definitely remember it the next time.

These worked out much better than I anticipated. The bread was nice and soft, easy to bite through. The meat mixture had a lot of good flavor to it, and the melted cheese provided another layer of texture and flavor that enhanced my overall enjoyment of this meal. I’ll get better at putting it together next time, but as long as it tastes as good as this one did, I’ll be happy.

As far as the sweet ones go, I was also pleased. The peanut butter one was nice and gooey. The chocolate chip one was the right melting point – not all combined together, but the insides of the chips were melty as soon as you bit down on them. The bread didn’t have an overpowering flavor, so it was able to work well with the other components. Although the proportions look like there was too much bread, since this is a light and soft bread, it really worked well.

This helped me get my weekend off to a great start. I’m looking forward to doing some more cooking today, but I was definitely able to stay in a positive mindset with food that turned out much better than I was expecting.