The big family birthday party is this weekend. My brother John loves to cook as much as I do. So, we split the menu and both have a grand time cooking away. My responsibilities this time are pulled pork, strawberry salsa, three bean salad, rhubarb cream pie and strawberry torte. He's doing ribs, cole slaw and a brie appetizer. His mother-in-law will do the potato salad. Since the party got pushed back a week, my strawberries had to be replaced. My red grapes (good for my eyes!) were on their last legs. And, I wanted a rotisserie chicken to make Giada's Chicken Salad. That meant a trip to Costco or Sams. Costco it was. We had a gift certificate to use up.
On the way to Costco I read a recipe for a bourbon pepper bellini. It'd be perfect with the bourbon smoked pepper the kids had given us in our Christmas goodie box. That meant I needed frozen peaches. No dice at Costco. So, Connie'd be heading to the grocery as soon as we got home. Well, I also needed onion powder for the pulled pork rub and raspberries for the duck.
Last time I made the pulled pork I wasn't thrilled with the rub. This time I used a recipe from Smoke and Spice by Cheryl and Bill Jamison. It's probably one of my five favorite cookbooks. It's positively dog-eared. Oh, and by the way, I saw a paperback version at Sams the other day. I also used one of Cheryl's mop recipes. But, I used the method from Heartland. You rub the butt then smoke it for 2-3 hours on the grill then move it to the oven for 8-12 hours at 250. Pretty easy. And, VERY good. The best part is it's doing it's deal in the oven while you're sleeping :-)
Dinner was to be duck breasts with a raspberry port sauce. The recipe was from Food and Wine Fast. I needed a salad or veggie that would go along... Somewhere I'd read a recipe for a gingered iceberg salad. My guess was Rachael Ray's FAST section. I was right. But, it called for chopped iceberg lettuce. I had romaine hearts. And, I really wanted to grill them. The recipe also called for pureeing the dressing ingredients in the blender. But, I love the crunch of toasted sesame seeds. Whisked it was. That worked because my fresh ginger was ginger puree. You'll need to actually puree it if you are working with truly fresh ginger. Oh, and we have about six seed packets of radishes in our garden. They'd be a perfect addition.
The duck was looking good. I put together the salads. Oh, my. I called out to Connie to come look at them. He walked in an whistled. If only they'd taste as good as they looked. Our score? If we gave out sixes, these'd get a six. But, alas, our top score is a five. Absolutely a five. They'd be perfect with shrimp or chicken added to make a meal. Any raw veggies would work. I'll try snow peas soon - like as soon as they're ripe!
You ready for some recipes?
Here we go:
Gingered Iceberg Salad
serves 2 with dressing left over
for the dressing:
1/3 c mayonnaise
1/4 c rice wine vinegar
1 T ginger puree or 3 T chopped fresh ginger
4 t soy sauce
2 t sugar
for the salad:
1/4 c finely chopped carrots
1/4 c finely chopped radishes
1 heart of romaine lettuce
2 T toasted sesame seeds
If you're using ginger puree you can whisk the dressing ingredients together. Otherwise, use your blender or immersion blender. Chop the carrots and radishes and set them aside. Cut the heart of romaine in half
and brush with olive oil or vegetable oil. Grill it for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and put half on each of two plates. Drizzle it with dressing
then top it with the carrots and radishes. Top everything with the toasted sesame seeds.
adapted from Rachael Ray Everyday
The duck breasts were good. But they were only a four. Rarely do we dole out two fives in a meal. The original recipe called for smoked duck breasts so my guess is that might've elevated these to a five...
Duck Breasts with Raspberry Port Sauce
1 T unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
1/4 c port (ruby is preferable)
1/4 c dry white wine
3 T seedless raspberry preserves (we had strawberry so that's what we used...)
1 T raspberry vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 c raspberries
salt and pepper
2 smoked duck breasts
Make the sauce. Melt the butter in a small skillet. Add the shallot and cook until it's softened, about two minutes.
Then, pour in the port and wine and cook until it's reduced to about two tablespoons. Stir in the preserves, vinegar, mustard and raspberries. While the sauce is cooking, prepare the duck breasts. Cut a cross-hatch pattern in the fat and start them cooking skin side down in a large skillet.
When the skin is nicely browned, flip them. It depends on how you like the duck cooked and the thickness of the breasts as to how long you cook each side. We prefer our duck rare so cooked them about 5 minutes a side. When the breasts are cooked to your satisfaction, remove them from the heat and allow them to rest for five minutes. Slice them thinly and serve them drizzled with the sauce.
adapted from Food and Wine Fast
Sweet Sensation Rub
1/4 c ground allspice
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c onion powder
2 T salt
2 t ground nutmeg
2 t ground cinnamon
2 t dried thyme
Basic Beer Mop
12 oz beer (use a lager)
1/2 c cider vinegar
1/2 c water
1/4 c corn oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T Worcestershire
1 T rub
Score the fat on the top of the pork butt. Rub the pork butt liberally with the rub. Allow it to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Heat your grill to medium/low (abot 250F.) Add wood chips to the smoker. Put the pork in a disposable aluminum pan. Put it on the grill. Smoke for 2-3 hours, adding wood chips as necessary. Move the meat to the oven, tenting it with aluminum foil. Bake it for 8-10 hours at 250. The meat should be falling off the bone and extremely tender. Pull the pork.
Rub and mop from Smoke and Spice. Cooking method from Heartland