Posts Tagged ‘pork’

Breakfast Sausage

Sausage, I think, is one of those foods that very few people ever attempt to make at home, partially because it seems a bit daunting and because there are lots of decent options readily available. We do not eat a lot of sausage because we tend to try to eat a pretty healthy diet, but who doesn’t like some sausage every now and again? Once again, my Good Eats project pushed me to make something at home that I may otherwise not have tried, and it let me finally put to use the KitchenAid sausage attachment that has been sitting in the basement for five years.

A classic bulk breakfast sausage was Alton’s first project in this episode, and the only special equipment you really need for this is a meat grinder. Alton emphasizes that a food processor is not ideal for grinding fresh sausage because it results in sausage with a very dense texture. A food processor is suitable, however, for cured sausages. To make Alton’s breakfast sausage, begin by cubing two pounds of boneless pork butt and a half pound of pork fat back in to 1-inch pieces. I had to go to the local butcher shop to get my fat back.

Add the following to the cubed meat:  2 t Kosher salt, 1 1/2 t black pepper, 2 t chopped fresh sage, 2 t chopped fresh thyme, 1/2 t chopped fresh rosemary, 1 T light brown sugar, 1/2 t red pepper flakes, 1/2 t cayenne pepper, and 1/2 t nutmeg.

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Herbs/spices for sausage, clockwise from upper left: Kosher salt, black pepper, fresh sage, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, light brown sugar, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg.

Mix the meat and spices thoroughly with your hands and chill the mixture for at least an hour; you want the fat to be cold prior to grinding, so it stays evenly dispersed in the sausage.

Once your meat has chilled, run it through your meat grinder of choice (using a fine die), one handful at a time.

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Bulk breakfast sausage.

Wrap the sausage in butcher paper, if you have it, and refrigerate it for up to a week, or freeze it for several months. I vacuum-sealed my sausage, freezing it for later use. When ready to cook your sausage, form the sausage into patties of desired size, and cook them in a pan over medium-low heat until they are no longer pink in the center.

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Breakfast sausage patties, cooking over medium-low heat until no longer pink.

Oh, and to clean the meat grinder, Alton suggests running stale bread through the grinder prior to washing it. We tried this sausage for breakfast one morning, eating it alongside English muffins.

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Alton’s breakfast sausage.

I found this sausage to really resemble the spicy bulk Jimmy Dean sausage my dad always ate when I was a kid. This sausage has lots of flavor from the variety of spices it contains, and is moderately spicy. The hardest part of making this bulk sausage is cubing the meat, which really is not much effort. All in all, this recipe taught me that bulk sausage is super easy to make and worth the effort.

Italian Sausage

The second recipe in this episode is for Italian sausage, which means you will need to have collagen sausage casings and a sausage-stuffing attachment. I bought my casings on Amazon.

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Collagen sausage casing.

The process for this sausage is very similar to that of the breakfast sausage above until you get to the stuffing portion. Fennel is a prominent spice in Italian sausage, so you first need to toast 1 1/2 t of fennel seeds in a pan over medium heat until fragrant.

Grind the fennel in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and add 2 t Kosher salt, 1 1/2 t pepper, 1 T chopped parsley, and 2 pounds of cubed pork shoulder.

Toss the spices with the meat and refrigerate the mixture for at least an hour to chill the fat.IMG_5235 Once chilled, grind the meat, one handful at a time, into a chilled bowl.

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Ground sausage.

Next, install the stuffing nozzle on your mixer, loading sausage into the hopper. Turn the mixer on, allowing it to run until sausage starts to come out of the nozzle.

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Ground sausage, loaded into the hopper.

Using a wooden spoon handle as a guide, load the collagen casing onto the nozzle (all the way to the far end of the casing), twisting the far end and clamping it with a clothes pin.

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Collagen sausage casing, loaded onto nozzle. Casing needs to be pushed all the way on. Excuse the somewhat phallic photograph.

Turn the mixer on at medium speed, using the plunger to push the sausage through while holding the casing with your other hand. This process is a lot easier with an additional set of hands. Once your casing is sufficiently stuffed, tie the end of the casing with twine.

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Filled casing.

It is now time to form links by twisting your desired width of sausage away from you (Alton did a hand-width portion). Form the second link by twisting the long part of the sausage the opposite direction. Be careful not to twist the links too much or the casing will tear; I found this out the hard way. Once your links are formed, twist them all into an accordion shape, keeping them all attached.

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Links formed.

Age the links in the refrigerator for at least two hours, and up to three days, before cooking or freezing. I will tell you that Alton makes the sausage stuffing/forming look really easy in the episode, while I found there to be a substantial learning curve. To cook Alton’s sausage, place your links in a lidded pan with 1/4-inch of water, and bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, cover the pan and set a timer for 10 minutes. When the 10 minutes have passed, remove the lid from the pan and continue cooking your links, turning them every couple minutes until they are golden brown and have an internal temperature of at least 150 degrees.

As far as serving the sausages, Alton suggests serving them on buns with mustard.

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Italian sausage on a bun with mustard.

Though these sausages were a bit of a pain to form, we were really happy with their flavor. The toasted fennel flavor is prominent in these sausages and they taste as good as any Italian sausage you can buy.

Pulled Pork

Some of my favorite Good Eats episodes have been those where Alton creates his own cooking contraptions, such as the cardboard smokers in the smoked salmon and bacon episodes. Since Alton can never do anything in plain fashion, he had to create another version of a smoker to make his pulled pork in episode 86. This time, the smoker is Alton’s version of a Big Green Egg; more on the smoker later.

Meat-wise, Alton says an untrimmed pork shoulder or Boston butt is ideal because it has enough fat to “baste” the meat as it cooks. It also has enough connective tissue to convert to gelatin, making for tender and flavorful pulled pork. The first step of this recipe is making a brine for the pork by weighing 12 ounces of pickling salt, 8 ounces of molasses, and 4 pounds (or 2 quarts) of water. Whisk the brine in a large container (Alton used a small plastic cooler) until the salt has dissolved.

Place your pork into the brine, fat side up, ensuring that it is fully submerged in the brine – I had to weigh mine down. Refrigerate the brining pork for 8-12 hours.

Meanwhile, you can build your smoker by following these steps:

  1. Place a large terra cotta planter (mine was 16 inches in diameter at the top) on some bricks, elevating it slightly.
  2. Place an electric hot plate in the bottom of your planter, allowing the cord to come out of the hole in the base of the planter. Connect the cord of the hot plate to an extension cord.

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    Hot plate placed in the bottom of a large terra cotta pot that has been elevated on some bricks.

  3. Fill a heavy cake pan with wood chunks, placing it on the hot plate.

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    Wood chunks in cake pan, placed on hot plate.

  4. Place a round grill grate in the pot, letting it nestle where it sits. My grill grate was 13-14″ in diameter.

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    Grill grate placed in the top of the planter.

  5. Place an inverted terra cotta dome on top of your planter. I could not find a dome that was large enough, so ended up using a 16″ terra cotta saucer.
  6. Finally, place a replacement grill thermometer in the hole of the dome. Or, if you have a nice husband like mine, he can drill a hole in the saucer for the thermometer and add a handle to the lid.

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    Completed smoker.

When your pork has completed its bath in the brine, it’s time to make the dry rub.

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Ingredients for dry rub: fennel seed, coriander seed, cumin seed, chili powder, onion powder, and paprika.

In a spice grinder combine 1 t fennel seed, 1 t coriander seed, 1 t cumin seed, 1 T chili powder, 1 T onion powder, and 1 T paprika.

Apply the rub to the meat after removing it from the brine, patting the spices into the meat’s surface with your hands.

You’re now ready to start the smoking process.

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Pork, ready to go into smoker.

Turn on your hot plate and place your pork on the grill grate in your smoker.

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Meat placed on grill grate.

I put some foil around the seam of my smoker, to keep as much smoke/heat inside as possible. Ideally, you will want to keep the temperature of your smoker between 210-220 degrees, smoking it for 8-12 hours.

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Smoker at work.

Alton says you want to change your wood chunks whenever the smoking ceases, and your meat should be done when you have used three batches of wood chunks.

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Pork after smoking for a few hours.

My meat ended up taking longer than 12 hours, but I also probably should have changed my wood earlier/more often. You will know your meat is done when it shreds easily with a fork. When your meat is done, remove it from the smoker, cover it with foil, and let it rest for an hour.

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Pork, after smoking for 13 hours.

Shred the meat with two forks, and serve it on rolls with coleslaw. For extra flavor, you can make Alton’s sauce by combining sweet pickle juice, mustard, and hot sauce to your taste.

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Shredded pork mixed with some of Alton’s sauce.

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Pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw, sauce, and a slice of cheddar.

We thought this pork was really tasty, and it was absolutely loaded with smokey flavor. The pork was tender, juicy, and had a nice sweetness to it. I did like it best with some of Alton’s sauce, as I liked that additional tang/heat. Overall, Alton’s terra cotta smoker worked great, and I plan to use it to smoke many more things. If you don’t have a smoker (we don’t), Alton’s version is an inexpensive option, and his pulled pork is an excellent recipe.

I have never been the biggest fan of pork chops. I remember sitting at the kitchen table when I was little, staring down a seemingly gray hunk of pork my mom had cooked for dinner, and dreaming of dessert; looking across the round oak table, my brother’s face mirrored my own. To this day, my mom says she has never understood why neither of her kids liked pork chops. My mom has always been a great cook, so I doubt she cooked pork chops poorly. Still, my impression of pork chops was summed up perfectly by Lorelai Gilmore when she said that eating pork chops is like sucking on a Pottery Barn catalog. I mean, really… tell me that you have never had that exact experience. So, last night for dinner, I set out to see if I could finally find a pork chop I liked.

Stuffed Grilled Pork Chops

After watching this episode of Good Eats, I determined that I needed to head to the local butcher shop to get my pork chops. See, according to Alton Brown, all pork chops are not created equal. While all pork chops come from the back of the pig, shoulder and sirloin chops are particularly tough and require wet cooking methods. Center-cut pork chops are the best, and Alton’s favorite center-cut chops are rib cut chops because they are composed of one muscle, making them the best choice for stuffed pork chops. My butcher shop cut two chops for me, making them about two inches thick, which is perfect for Alton’s recipe. For these chops, Alton insists that you make a brine, as pork is inherently dry, and a brine will serve to impart both flavor and moisture. To make the brine, combine in a lidded container 1 C Kosher salt, 1 C dark brown sugar, 1 T black peppercorns, and 1 T dry mustard. Add 2 C of hot cider vinegar and shake the container to dissolve everything.

Set the brine aside for 5-10 minutes to let the flavors fully develop. Next, add a pound of ice to the brine, and shake the container again until the ice is almost melted.

Now you are ready to place your chops into the brine, ensuring that they are completely covered. Though I only had two pork chops, I needed the full amount of brine to cover my chops, so if you are cooking four large chops, you may need to double the brine. Refrigerate the chops for two hours in the brine.

Toward the end of your brining period, you can make your pork chop stuffing. For four pork chops, combine 1 1/2 C crumbled cornbread, 1/4 C halved dried cherries, 2 T golden raisins, 1/4 C chopped walnuts, 2 t sliced fresh sage, 1/2 t pepper, 1/2 t Kosher salt, and 1/4 C buttermilk.

Set the stuffing aside while you prep your brined chops. The online recipe tells you to rinse your brined chops, but Alton did not do this in the episode. I did pat my chops with paper towels to remove excess moisture.

Next it is time to cut stuffing pockets in your pork chops. To do this, Alton placed his pork chops in a bagel slicer, but I just held mine with one hand and cut with the other. Either way, place your chops fat-side up and insert a long, thin knife (preferably a boning knife) straight down until you hit bone. Angle the blade up toward the surface, creating a cavity in one direction. Turn the knife around and cut in the other direction. You can check to see that your cavity is large enough by feeling with your finger. There is a video of Alton cutting his pockets, which you can access from the recipe link above.

In the episode, Alton used a large plastic syringe, with the tip cut off, to fill his pork chop pockets with stuffing. I used a plastic bag that I cut the corner out of, creating a makeshift piping bag. Still, I found that I had to use my fingers to push the filling down into the pocket. I filled my pork chops with as much filling as I could, and I used all of it.

To grill your pork chops, you will want to preheat your grill to high heat for at least 10 minutes. Brush your chops with oil and place them on the middle burner for 2 minutes.

Rotate the chops 90 degrees and leave them for 2 more minutes; this will create nice criss-cross grill marks.

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Pork chops, turned 90 degrees and left for 2 more minutes.

Flip your chops, leaving them for 2 minutes.

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Pork chops, flipped after 4 minutes of cooking. Left to cook 2 more minutes.

Finally, rotate the chops 90 degrees for a final 2 minutes.

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Pork chops, rotated 90 degrees to cook for 2 final minutes.

You want to cook your chops to an internal temperature of 140 degrees. If your chops are not done, place them over indirect heat and cook them until they reach 140. My chops took quite a lot (20-30 minutes) of additional grilling to reach 140.

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Pork chop after cooking to internal temperature of 140.

So, how did Alton’s stuffed pork chops taste? These were the best pork chops I had ever had. The pork was tender and moist, and just slightly pink in the middle, and you could taste the seasoning from the brine. The filling was a delicious accompaniment, with tartness from the cherries, sweetness from the raisins, occasional bursts of sage, and crunch from the walnuts.

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Pocket of filling inside pork chop.

This is a must-do recipe, especially if you are a pork fan. I guess I need to call my mom to tell her I finally met a pork chop I liked.

P.S. A bonus tip from Alton:  If you ever need to know how much propane you have in your tank, you can check the level by pouring ~a cup of boiling water down the side of your propane tank. You can tell where the propane level is by feeling where the metal switches from hot to cold.

Now seemed like a good time for me to do another Good Eats special episode. The second special episode, “Down and Out in Paradise,” has a tropical theme, so I wanted to prep all of its recipes while it is still summer. This is an episode that I clearly remember watching when it originally aired, watching it along with my dad. With a whopping eight recipes, this episode took a little time to complete, but it was a fun one.

Coconut Shrimp with Peanut Sauce

First up, a shipwrecked Alton prepared coconut shrimp in his island abode. While you could use shredded coconut from the grocery store for this recipe, if you really want to make it Alton’s way, you will roast and shred your own fresh coconut. To do this, place a whole coconut in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes, which should cause the shell to crack. Wrap the cooked coconut in a towel and whack it on a hard surface to fully crack the shell.

Using a sharp knife, score the coconut flesh in quarters and remove it from the shell; it is okay if the brown membrane remains. I found that it was difficult to remove the coconut from the shell, while Alton made it look super easy. Once you have all of your fresh coconut meat, you can grate it by hand or in a food processor, or you can store the meat for a week in the refrigerator, covered with cold water.

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Shredded fresh coconut.

Additionally, for this recipe you will need 15-20 count shrimp (cleaned and de-veined), cornstarch, Kosher salt, white pepper, cayenne pepper, egg whites, and peanut oil. Begin by combining 1/2 C cornstarch, 1/4t Kosher salt, 1/4 t white pepper, and 1/4 t cayenne pepper in a bowl.

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Cornstarch, Kosher salt, white pepper, and cayenne.

In a separate container, lightly beat 4 egg whites. While you heat peanut oil to 350 degrees on the stove, you can prep your shrimp for frying by coating them in the cornstarch mix, dipping them in egg whites, and subsequently dipping them in your shredded coconut.

Fry the shrimp in the peanut oil for about three minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve the shrimp with Alton’s peanut sauce and lime wedges.

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Coconut shrimp with peanut dipping sauce.

Alton did not prepare the peanut sauce in the episode, but the recipe can be found with the shrimp recipe. To make the peanut sauce, combine in a food processor 1/4 c chicken stock, 3 ounces coconut milk, 1 ounce lime juice, 1 ounce soy sauce, 1 T fish sauce, 1 T hot sauce, 2 T chopped garlic, 1 T chopped ginger, 1 1/2 C peanut butter, and 1/4 C chopped cilantro.

I am not the biggest shrimp fan, but I thought this recipe was pretty fantastic. The coconut coating was super crispy and light, while the shrimp were tender, and the peanut sauce was spicy, tangy, and a great accompaniment. I plan to make this one again for sure.

Chocolate Coconut Balls

Keeping with the coconut theme, the second recipe in this special episode was for chocolate coconut balls. Coconut-wise, Alton did not specify that you use fresh coconut in this recipe. I happened to have some leftover fresh coconut from the coconut shrimp recipe, so I used the rest of that, along with some store bought shredded coconut. You will also need toasted macadamia nuts, which you can toast in a 325-degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown. In case you do not already know, macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs, so be sure to keep these away from your pups.

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Macadamia nuts, after toasting in the oven.

Dump 1/2 pound shredded coconut in a bowl, along with 1 C toasted macadamia nuts, chopped. Add 1 C sweetened condensed milk and 1 1/2 t almond extract. Using your hands, mix everything really well and form the coconut mixture into 3/4″ balls, setting them on a foil-lined baking sheet. This mixture is quite sticky and you really need to compress it to form it into balls.

Let the formed coconut balls sit at room temperature for four hours to dry out.

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Coconut formed into balls.

Once dry, dip the balls in 12 ounces of semisweet morsels melted with 1 T shortening.

Let the balls sit until the chocolate has set up.

These are quite a tasty treat, tasting a lot like a Mounds candy bar. The macadamia nuts add a nice crunch, though I don’t know that I could discern what type of nut is in these. The coconut stays fairly moist and the chocolate sets up fairly well. My mom has a huge sweet tooth and recently had back surgery, so I took a couple of these balls to her yesterday to cheer her up. She dove right in and seemed to like them quite a lot. This is an easy recipe for a fun treat.

Island Ceviche with Pickled Onions

Of all the recipes in this episode, the ceviche recipe was definitely the one I was most excited to try. I absolutely love ceviche, first having it years ago with my dad at a restaurant called Aqua in San Francisco; I was amazed at the light, bright flavors in ceviche, instantly becoming a fan. We are very lucky now because we have an excellent ceviche restaurant in our town, which was opened just a few months ago by Chad White, a chef who competed on the last season of Top Chef. I was seriously excited to try my own hand at ceviche in my own kitchen, and Alton’s recipe seemed like a good place to start. To start, cut 1/2 pound of firm white fish into bite-sized pieces. Place the fish, along with 1/2 pound of bay scallops into a bowl with 6 ounces of fresh lime juice. Toss the fish to coat and refrigerate overnight. The online recipe tells you to sear the fish in a pan, but Alton did not do that in the episode.

When I went to finish prepping my ceviche, some of my scallops still looked raw in the middle, so I left my fish in the lime juice longer. Once your fish is ready, drain the lime juice from the fish and add 1 medium papaya, peeled, seeded, and diced. Also add 2 seeded and diced plum tomatoes, 4 seeded and diced serrano peppers, 1 C diced sweet onion, 1/2 C chopped cilantro, and 1 seeded and diced jalapeno. Toss to combine.

Add 1 T white wine Worcestershire (this is now sold as a marinade for chicken), 1 T Mexican hot sauce, and 2 oz tomato juice.

Serve the ceviche in empty papaya skins, along with pickled red onions. Though Alton did not make the pickled onions in the episode, his recipe is included with the fish recipe. For his onions, bring 8 oz champagne vinegar to a boil, along with 1/2 C sugar and 2 seeded serrano peppers.

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Serranos, sugar, and champagne vinegar.

Pour the hot vinegar over 2 sliced red onions.

When I served our ceviche, I skipped using the papaya skins as bowls, and served tortilla chips on the side.

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A bowl of Alton’s ceviche with pickled onions and tortilla chips.

We really liked the overall flavors in this ceviche, though we should have purchased higher quality fish. While the scallops were nice and mild, our fish was slightly “fishy.” I would like to try this again with high quality fish. Definitely do not skimp on the quality of fish if you choose to make this. I liked the inclusion of the papaya in this recipe and the pickled onions are a great garnish. With all of the peppers in this, it does have a decent amount of heat, but it is not overpowering. I think this recipe is probably amazing, but I just couldn’t get past my fishy fish.

Papaya Soup

You can’t really have an island-themed episode without including some recipes that center around tropical fruit. Enter:  papaya soup. When watching Alton prepare this recipe, I was not quite sure what I would think of it. I opted to prep it as a side dish for us. When purchasing papayas, look for fruit that is about 80% yellow and without large discolorations or bruises. If you plan to let your papayas ripen on the counter at home, set them stem side down for even ripening. For this soup, you will need 4 papayas (I opted for two since I was only prepping two servings), fresh mint, 3 limes, 2 lemons, fresh berries, fresh ginger, sugar, and water.

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Ingredients for papaya soup: papayas, lemons, limes, fresh mint, berries, and ginger. Not pictured: sugar and water.

Begin by peeling, seeding, and dicing your papayas, dividing the fruit evenly in your serving dishes. Add 2 T chopped mint.

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Fresh papaya.

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Fresh papaya and mint.

Meanwhile, dissolve 1 C sugar in 1 C boiling water. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the juice of 3 limes and 2 lemons.

Pour the hot sugar/citrus liquid over the fruit and mint; I opted not to use all of the liquid, as it just seemed like too much for the amount of fruit I had. Add some fresh berries and chopped ginger for garnish, and serve.

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Alton’s papaya soup, garnished with berries and fresh ginger.

We both were pleasantly surprised by this dish. Though this was sweet, the sweetness was nicely balanced with the tang from the lemons and limes. The fresh ginger also really helped to cut the sweetness. Having not cooked much with papaya, I really liked the fruit in this dish. Honestly, you could serve this as a light dessert in the summer also. This is definitely an unusual dish that is pretty, interesting, and comes together in a matter of minutes.

Mango Salad

There is no online link for this next recipe, but I’ll write it up as Alton made it in the episode. I am an absolute mango freak, so I knew I’d really like this one. Toss together 2 diced mangoes, 1 sliced red onion, the juice of 1-2 Key limes (I used bottled juice), 1 T fresh mint or basil (basil for me), black pepper (a fair amount), and some feta cheese.

Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before serving. This was a great salad, which we ate alongside the coconut shrimp.

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Completed salad with feta.

This salad has the sweetness of mango, the bite of red onion, the tang of lime, the saltiness of feta, and the spice from pepper. In a nutshell, it has a little bit of everything. Super tasty.

Mango Chutney

I grew up eating chutney, as a condiment on my grandma’s curry. Though I never knew my grandmother, my parents served her curry recipe to me from an early age, and it has been a favorite meal of mine for years. A blend of spices, onions, raisins, and apples, this wonderful curry is served over rice with bacon, hard-boiled egg, banana, peanuts, bean sprouts, and chutney as condiments. I do not recall ever eating homemade chutney when having curry, so I was really stoked to see how homemade chutney would pair with Grandma’s classic. So, last week I whipped up a batch of Alton’s chutney. The ingredients needed for Alton’s chutney are vegetable oil, chile flakes, red bell pepper, red onion, mangoes, fresh ginger, brown sugar, curry powder, mango juice, cider vinegar, macadamia nuts, golden raisins, white pepper, and Kosher salt.

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Ingredients for chutney: Kosher salt, golden raisins, ginger, brown sugar, red bell pepper, cider vinegar, red onion, macadamia nuts, chile flakes, mango juice, curry powder, pepper, and mangoes.

First, heat 3 T vegetable oil in a pan and add 1/2 t chile flakes, cooking until fragrant.

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Chile flakes heating in oil.

Add 1 C diced red bell pepper and 2 C diced red onion, and sweat over low heat for about 5 minutes.

Next, add 4 pounds mangoes, diced, along with 1/4 C minced ginger. Cover the chutney and allow it to cook for three minutes, or until the mangoes soften.

Stir in 1/2 C brown sugar, 1 T curry powder, 8 ounces mango juice (I used a mango lemonade), and 4 ounces cider vinegar. Simmer the chutney for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Finally, add 1/2 C golden raisins and 1/2 C toasted/chopped macadamia nuts (you can toast them at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes). Season the chutney to taste with white pepper and Kosher salt.

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Raisins and macadamia nuts stirred into chutney.

This recipe makes a fairly large batch of chutney, so I opted to divide mine among small jars to freeze. Of course, I had to try the chutney over Grandma’s curry.

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Alton’s chutney over my grandma’s curry.

Let me tell you, this chutney is fantastic. It is sweet, tangy, tart, and bright, with a faint hint of heat. Honestly, I think it makes my grandma’s curry better than ever. I am anxious to share it with my parents to see what they think. You really could use this curry in a variety of ways – using it anywhere you would use other condiments. I will absolutely make this again.

Spicy Pineapple Slices

Recipes don’t come much easier than this one. Simply peel, core, and slice pineapple, sprinkling it evenly with Kosher salt, pepper, and chili powder.

Grill the slices until tender and warm.

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Pineapple slices on the grill.

We ate this as a side dish, alongside sandwiches, and we both thought it was great.

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Delicious grilled pineapple.

The heat of the chili powder is fantastic with the sweetness of the fruit. What are Alton’s tips for selecting pineapples?  First, pick fruit that sounds solid when you thump it. Also, look for large fruit that is about 50% yellow and 50% green, as pineapples do not ripen further post-harvest. Small crowns are desirable because large crowns indicate that a pineapple has used up its sugars.

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Large pineapple, small crown. About 50/50 yellow/green.

Sweet and Sour Pork

Last, but not least, Alton’s sweet and sour pork finished out this episode. Note that there is another recipe online for coconut macaroons, but Alton did not make those in the episode, so I did not make them either. You will have to start Alton’s sweet and sour pork the night before you plan to serve it. Start by making a marinade of 2 t minced garlic, 1 T minced ginger, 2/3 C soy sauce, 1/4 C flour, and 1/4 C cornstarch.

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Garlic, ginger, soy sauce, flour, and cornstarch combined for marinade.

To the marinade, add 1 pound of cubed pork that has been seasoned with Kosher salt, and allow the meat to marinade overnight.

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Pork in marinade overnight.

The following day, drain the marinade from the pork and dredge the pork cubes in flour that has been seasoned with salt and pepper.

Fry the pork in 375-degree peanut oil until golden brown, and set aside.

In a skillet, heat 1 T peanut oil with 2 t sesame oil. Add 1/3 C each of diagonally sliced carrot, diced onion, and diced celery.

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Celery, onion, carrot, red bell pepper, and green bell pepper.

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Onion, celery, and carrot, sauteeing in oil.

Cook the vegetables until they are translucent. Add 1/3 C diced red bell pepper, 1/3 C diced green bell pepper, and 1 C chopped pineapple.

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Bell peppers and pineapple added to pan.

Next, add the fried pork to the pan, along with a mixture of 1 C ketchup, 1/4 C red wine vinegar, 1/4 C sugar, and 1 1/2 ounces honey.

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Sauce and pork added to pan.

Cook over low heat until the pork is tender and heated through.

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Cooked until pork was heated through.

I served Alton’s sweet and sour pork over rice and we thought it was really good.

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Alton’s sweet and sour pork over rice.

The pork was tender inside and slightly crispy on the outside, but far from greasy. The sauce was a perfect blend of sweet and sour flavors. Alton’s version of this classic is a good one.

Scrap Iron Chef’s Bacon

I was super excited for the 59th episode of Good Eats. Who wouldn’t be excited at the prospects of making homemade bacon? This episode was a play on the TLC show Junkyard Wars, which I recall seeing several times. I don’t know that this episode would make much sense if you had not seen the original show, but I’m not here to judge production value… I just judge the food!

For Alton’s bacon, you will need a slab of pork belly, preferably from the back end of the pig (it has more fat). How much pork belly will you need? Alton appeared to prep about 10 pounds of pork belly in the episode, while the online recipe calls for five pounds. I, on the other hand, wound up with a 13.5 pound slab of belly. Basically, you can prep as little or as much bacon as you would like; you will just need to adjust the amount of brine you make accordingly. My pork belly was frozen, so I had to allow a couple extra days for it to thaw in the refrigerator. Even if your pork is not frozen, you will need to brine your pork belly for three days before smoking it.

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Ingredients for bacon brine: Kosher salt, sugar, molasses, black pepper, & apple cider. Not pictured: water.

To make enough brine for 10 pounds of pork belly, combine 2 C Kosher salt, 2 C sugar, 8 oz blackstrap molasses, 2 T ground black pepper, 2 quarts apple cider, and 2 quarts water in a large pot.

Bring the brine to a simmer and allow it to cool to room temperature. Once the brine is cool enough to use, portion your pork belly into chunks that can be stored in ziplock bags; I cut my pork belly into six sections.

Divide the brine evenly among the bags and refrigerate the pork for three days, turning the bags once per day to ensure even brining.

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Pork belly and brine in bags for three days.

When smoking day has arrived, remove your pork belly chunks from their brine and dry them on a rack over a sheet pan. A fan can help to expedite this process. Dry the pork for ~30 minutes per side. The purpose of drying the pork is to form a pellicle, or a protein layer, to which the smoke particles can adhere.

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Pork belly drying on racks to form pellicle before smoking.

If you are like me and do not own a smoker, you can build an Alton Brown smoker, much like the one I made for the smoked salmon episode. The difference between the bacon smoker and the salmon smoker is that you want to cold smoke the bacon, while the salmon was smoked with hot smoke. To make a cold smoker a la Alton, you will need a large cardboard box to hold your meat/racks, and a smaller cardboard box to hold your electric burner and wood chips.

You will also need a piece of flexible ductwork to connect the two boxes. Duct tape works great for sealing everything up, and you will want to seal the boxes very tightly.

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My smoker. Two cardboard boxes connected with ductwork.

The smoke will be produced in the smaller box before traveling through the ductwork to the meat box; this keeps the smoke cool. If you have a small fan to push the smoke through the ductwork, that helps too. I used a small personal fan that I taped to the inside of the meat box. Alton recommended inserting a probe thermometer in the meat box to be sure the temperature remains below 80 degrees; my temperature never rose above 63 degrees. You will want to smoke your bacon for about six hours, changing the wood chips about every hour.

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My bacon after drying. Ready to smoke!

Be prepared for some awesome aromas to waft around your home. When your bacon has finished smoking, chill it in the freezer for an hour before slicing. In the episode, Alton did not mention whether his pork belly had the skin on, as my pork belly did. I opted to cut the skin off before slicing the bacon. We have a meat slicer, which made slicing pretty easy, and I honestly cannot imagine slicing it all by hand. Regardless of how you slice your bacon, slice it fat side up.

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My sliced bacon. Freezing the bacon for an hour makes slicing easier.

Alton’s bacon can be stored in the freezer for up to a year. How does Alton recommend that you cook bacon? He recommends that you bake bacon on a rack placed over a sheet pan. Start your bacon in a cold oven that is set to 400 degrees, and check the bacon every three minutes until cooked to your liking. Oh, and save the drippings!

We first tried Alton’s bacon on BLT sandwiches with a slice of cheddar and Alton’s party mayo, and they were delicious sandwiches! The bacon is really quite delicious, though it does not have quite as much smoke flavor as I would have expected. We have a freezer full of delicious bacon that we can eat for months to come. Making bacon is certainly a fun weekend project that is worth a try.

Bacon Vinaigrette with Grilled Radicchio

If you are looking for something to use those delicious bacon drippings for, look no further than Alton’s grilled radicchio. For this recipe you’ll need radicchio lettuce, Kosher salt, black pepper, bacon drippings, brown sugar, coarse mustard, cider vinegar, and olive oil.

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Ingredients for Alton’s grilled radicchio: radicchio lettuce, bacon drippings, Kosher salt, pepper, brown sugar, coarse mustard, cider vinegar, and olive oil.

Cut your radicchio into wedges, leaving some of the core in each wedge. Toss the radicchio wedges in bacon drippings to evenly coat, and sprinkle them with Kosher salt and pepper.

Grill the wedges until they are just starting to brown at the edges. Place the warm wedges on a plate and cover with foil.

Set the radicchio aside and allow the steam to cook the wedges while you make the dressing. For the vinaigrette, combine 1 T brown sugar, 1 T coarse mustard, and 1/4 C cider vinegar in a bowl. Whisk in 1/4 C olive oil and 2 T bacon drippings.

Drizzle the grilled radicchio with the bacon vinaigrette.

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Radicchio wedges served with vinaigrette.

We ate this as a side dish and both thought it was delicious. In fact, we liked it so much that we already plan to have it again. This is an excellent, and different, vegetable side dish that is perfect alongside grilled entrees.

I love pig, so I was excited for the 46th episode of Good Eats. I think of ham as something to be consumed for special occasions or holidays. When your husband has cancer, you begin to view every day as a special occasion. So, a random August day seemed like the perfect occasion to prepare a ham.

Country Ham

I love country hams. For several past holidays, my parents have ordered Waco hams. I relish their dry texture and excessive saltiness, leaving me with rings that fit too tightly on my water-retaining fingers. In the episode, Alton is able to easily find a country ham at his local grocery store, but this was not the case for me. A country ham, by the way, is a ham that is dry cured and hung to age. We ended up finding a smoked ham at a local butcher shop, which is not exactly the same thing as a country ham, but it was the best we could do.

My smoked ham.

My smoked ham.

To make Alton’s country ham, you’ll need to prepare a couple of days in advance. To start, if your ham has a hock, you will want to cut it off. My ham did not have a hock. Stick your ham in a cooler, preferably with a drain, and submerge the ham in water. Your ham will soak for two days, and you will want to change the water twice each day.The purpose of the soak is to pull some of the salt out of the ham. I added some ice to my cooler since we had warm weather.

Soaking the ham in a cooler.

Soaking the ham in a cooler.

Once your two-day soak is done, stick your ham in a disposable roasting pan on a baking sheet. Fill the roasting pan with Dr. Pepper until the liquid comes 1/2 to 2/3 up the side of the pan. Alton said this would only require 3-4 cans of Dr. Pepper, but I needed five 16-ounce bottles to fill my pan.

Dr. Pepper.

Dr. Pepper.

Roasting pan filled 1/2 to 2/3 full with Dr. Pepper.

Roasting pan filled 1/2 to 2/3 full with Dr. Pepper.

In addition, add some sweet pickle juice to the pan; the online recipe calls for 1 cup, but Alton doesn’t measure the juice in the episode.

Sweet pickle juice.

Sweet pickle juice.

Tent the ham with a large piece of foil (two pieces crimped together), and place the ham in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes.

Into the oven

Into the oven

After 30 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees for 1.5 hours. When the 1.5 hours are up, pull the ham out and flip it over.

Ham pulled out after cooking for 2 hours. Flipped over in the liquid.

Ham pulled out after cooking for 2 hours. Flipped over in the liquid.

Cover the ham again with the foil, insert a probe thermometer, and wait for the ham to reach 140 degrees. My 15-pound ham took about 5 hours to cook. Let the ham rest for a half hour before slicing with an electric knife.

Ham after reaching 140 degrees.

Ham after reaching 140 degrees.

Hounds go nuts for ham.

Hounds go nuts for ham.

The day I cooked the ham, we opted to have ham sandwiches for dinner. The ham was fairly moist and tender. I think it would have been considerably drier in texture if I had used a true country ham. Though the ham had a faint sweetness to it, I would never have guessed that it cooked in Dr. Pepper and sweet pickle juice. My smoked ham was slightly salty before cooking, but I would be curious to see how a super salty country ham would turn out with this preparation. Regardless, this ham was super easy to cook and turned out flawlessly. It was definitely “good eats.” This would be a super easy way to cook a nice holiday meal. After slicing all of the ham, we vacuum sealed it and froze it for later eating.

Country ham sandwich.

Country ham sandwich.

City Ham

A couple of weeks after making the country ham, it was time to make Alton’s city ham. A city ham is partially cured in a brine and cooked to at least 137 degrees. Most hams that you see in the grocery store are city hams. When buying a city ham, choose a bone-in ham that is the shank end, rather than the rump end. Ideally, you also want to choose a ham that says it is in “natural juices,” rather than saying it has “water added.” I purchased an 11 pound ham. When ready to cook your ham, line a roasting pan with an old kitchen towel, and place your ham on top, cut side down.

My city ham, on an old towel in the roasting pan.

My city ham, on an old towel in the roasting pan.

Using a utility knife on the 2nd click, score the ham diagonally from the bottom to the top, all the way around. Then, turning the ham in the opposite direction, score the ham again, forming a diamond pattern all over the outside of the ham.

Ham skin scored in a diamond pattern, and probe thermometer inserted.

Ham skin scored in a diamond pattern, and probe thermometer inserted.

Insert a probe thermometer, tent the ham with foil, and cook the ham at 250 degrees until the thermometer reaches 130 degrees. My ham took 3.5 hours to reach 130 degrees.

Starting temperature of 38 degrees, and goal temperature of 130 degrees.

Starting temperature of 38 degrees, and goal temperature of 130 degrees.

Pull the pan from the oven and use tongs to pull the diamonds of skin off of the outside of the ham. I had to use a paring knife to cut some of the skin off.

Ham after cooking to 130 degrees.

Ham after cooking to 130 degrees.

Ham after pulling diamonds of skin off.

Ham after pulling diamonds of skin off.

Ingredients for Alton's ham crust:  mustard, gingersnaps, bourbon, and dark brown sugar.

Ingredients for Alton’s ham crust: mustard, gingersnaps, bourbon, and dark brown sugar.

Once the skin is all removed, paint a generous layer of mustard (Alton used Gulden’s in the episode) all over the ham.

Mustard brushed all over ham.

Mustard brushed all over ham.

Next, sprinkle/pat dark brown sugar on top of the mustard.

Brown sugar sprinkled on mustard.

Brown sugar sprinkled on mustard.

Spritz the ham all over with some bourbon, and finally sprinkle a thick layer of pulverized gingersnap cookies on top of the bourbon.

Topped with a spritz of bourbon.

Topped with a spritz of bourbon.

A thick crust of pulverized gingersnaps.

A thick crust of pulverized gingersnaps.

Stick the ham, uncovered, back in the oven (now at 350 degrees), and wait for the probe thermometer to reach 140 degrees. My ham’s temperature had risen to 140 degrees while I made the coating, so I opted to just put the ham back in the oven for an hour, as Alton had said his ham took about an hour. Let your ham rest for about a half hour before slicing with an electric knife.

Ham cooked to 140 degrees, rested, and ready to slice.

Ham cooked to 140 degrees, rested, and ready to slice.

We had my parents over for dinner when I made the ham, serving it sliced, and with asparagus and sourdough bread.

Sliced city ham.

Sliced city ham.

We also had a wonderful 2004 Woodward Canyon Cabernet with our ham. Everyone thought this ham was just amazing. While we liked the country ham, we thought Alton’s city ham was phenomenal. The ham was moist and perfectly cooked, and the crust was a perfect combination of sweetness and tang. I will absolutely make this ham again. This one is a sure winner. Don’t miss this one!