Coffee-Chipotle Pulled Pork

I have a love hate relationship with my apartment. Love: This weekend we explored some tide pools, biked around the bay, and did a little shopping – all within 5 miles of our little apartment. It’s hard to beat the location. Hate: My kitchen has been a complete and total disaster since the weekend we got home from China. It’s so tiny it’s nearly impossible to keep up with mess. You would think a smaller space would mean a smaller mess. But no. It means there are lots of dishes, baking supplies, food items, and other kitchen goods that have to be kept in places other than the kitchen. Also, things kept in the kitchen can have only one very specific place where it can be stored. Pots and pans have to be stacked in a very specific order and turned in a very specific direction so as to leave room for the very specifically stacked colanders to be placed in front of them.

What’s that have to do with a messy kitchen? Welllll, I guess it comes down to laziness – no wait that sounds bad, busyness. I’ve been so busy and going right from one project to the next that things just don’t have time to be put back in their proper and specific place. There is no sense in walking the spare mixer bowl to the bedroom closet just to have to pull it back out later. Just in the time that I’ve been home I’ve made Lasagna, Lemon Greek Chicken, Black and Tan Brownies, Banana Oat Muffins , Whole Wheat Bread, my birthday cake (talk about a mess!), this Chipotle Pulled Pork, and of course a few other favorites. That makes for one messy kitchen.

It’s been worth it, though. Especially for this meal. This pulled pork was awesome, even better when paired with cheesy grits with roasted corn. Don’t be scared off by the coffee in the rub. It doesn’t taste like coffee. It just adds depth to the flavor.

Coffee-Chipotle Pulled Pork

(adapted from Homesick Texan)

Ingredients

1 3-lb pork shoulder
3/4 cup water
Coffee-Chipotle Rub (recipe below)
BBQ Sauce (recipe below)

Directions

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Rub the Coffee-Chipotle rub all over the pork roast. Place the roast in 5-quart dutch oven (or other oven proof pot/pan with a lid) and pour the water around the roast. Cover with a lid and roast for 4 hours.

At 4 hours remove the pan from the oven and pour most of the liquid off into heat proof measuring cup and set aside. Stick a fork in the middle of the roast and give it a jiggle. If the meat is still tough (doesn’t start to fall apart when you stick the fork in the middle) return the pan to the oven and roast for another hour. Check again with a fork and continue roasting until it’s ready (mine took 5 and half hours). When the pork starts to fall apart increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Shred the pork with 2 knives and pour 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce over it. Return to the oven for 15 minutes until the BBQ sauce starts to glaze over the pork.

Serve on buns with cole slaw or over cheesy grits.

Coffee-Chipotle Rub

1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp black pepper
1/8 cup of finely ground dark coffee (or one VIA instant coffee packet)
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp paprika
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon chipotle powder (or 1 pulverized chipotle pepper)
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin

Combine all ingredients together until it is thoroughly combined with no lumps. If you’re using the chipotle pepper instead of the powder, rub it into the other ingredients with your fingers (and make sure to SCRUB your hands when you’re done!).

Chipotle-Honey BBQ sauce

1 tsp canola oil
1/2 half a medium onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups ketchup
1/8 cup yellow, ball-park style mustard
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup reserved cooking liquids from pork
2 canned chipotle pepper (not full cans, but 2 peppers from a can)
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Salt and black pepper to taste

Place all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Pour into a saucepan and simmer over low-heat for 30 minutes before serving.
 

Lemon Greek Chicken

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I am a jet-lag fighter. I like to think that I can go from one time zone to another with out missing a wink. I fully expected to come back from China and need about a day or two to adjust and then be fine. HA! I think the fact that I fell asleep on the couch by 8 pm 4 out of 5 nights this week proves otherwise.

I was exhausted this week, which was a huge bummer because I had a lot of plans to jump right back into my kitchen and make dinner every night. The night I made lasagna was a huge personal accomplishment and utterly wore me out. To the point that the next night we just had sushi. By Thursday I needed something simple. This one-dish meal (well one dish and a measuring cup) was just what the doctor ordered.

Besides being fast and easy to throw together, this meal is light but filling at the same time. The lemon really brightens the potatoes and chicken. Jesse liked to take each bite and rub it into his lemon slice. Flavor wise this is the perfect summer meal and in San Diego, where there is a breeze and the temperature is in the mid-70’s, I don’t mind turning my oven to 400 degrees. But, if you’re in the part of the country that is over 100 degrees you may want to wait until it cools down a little!

Lemon Greek Chicken
(Adapted from The Pampered Chef Stoneware Inspirations)

Ingredients
2 lemons, divided
1/4 olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 lbs chicken breast (I used boneless, but it originally called for bone-in split breast)
8 small potatoes cut into fourths *
1 medium onion, cut into 1 inch wedges
1 medium bell pepper, cut into strips **
8 ounces whole mushrooms **

*I found a package of red, yukon gold, and purple potatoes at Trader Joes
**Your eyes are not playing tricks on you, there are no peppers or mushrooms in the picture. 15 minutes into roasting I realized I had forgotten to add these, but I’m including them in the ingredients because I know they will be great.

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Zest then juice one lemon into a 2 cup measuring cup. Add oil, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper to the cup and mix well. Slice the second lemon into thin slices

In a large oval baking dish, or a bar pan with at least 1 inch tall sides, lay out the onions, potatoes, peppers, mushrooms. Pour 1/2 of the lemon juice over the vegetables and use (clean) hands to evenly coat. Add the chicken and lemon slices to the dish and arrange so the vegetables are surrounding the chicken. Pour the remaining lemon juice mixture over the chicken and use a pastry brush to evenly coat. Cover the dish tightly with a lid or aluminum foil.

Bake for 30 minutes then remove the cover and bake for an additional 15-30 minutes, or until the juices of the chicken run clear and the potatoes are fork tender. Occasionally baste the chicken and vegetables with the pan juices.

Classic Lasagna

Some of the things I missed the most while I was in China were cheese, bread, and dessert. I got my fill of good vegetables, meat, and seafood, but nothing quite filled the hole in my heart (or stomach, in this case) that cheese and carbs left. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that my first meals back were loaded. Driving back from the airport we even made an emergency pit stop at In-N-Out Burger. Double double mustard fried with grilled onions and a Neapolitan shake? Yes please! Next up on my must-have-soon list was an over the top cheesy pasta dish, and lasagna fit the bill perfectly.

I’ve posted a vegetable lasagna recipe already, but this craving was for the classic version. So I whipped up a classic lasagna and enjoyed every last bite of the delicious cheesy, carb loaded, meat filled goodness. Then, yesterday I read online that July 29th is National Lasagna Day. Perfect! I bumped this recipe up the line so you’ll be prepared to make your own for the special day.

Classic Lasagna
(Developed over the years by me)
Ingredients
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles

1 15-oz container of Ricotta cheese
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed and excess moisture squeezed out
4-5 fresh basil leaves, julienned (or 1 tsp dry basil but I really recommend finding some fresh!)
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of black pepper

1 lb Italian sausage (I used sweet, but also like spicy)
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dry basil
1 tsp dry oregano
1 tsp dry parsley
1/4 tsp dry rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1/3-1/2 cup dry red wine

1 16-oz ball of fresh mozzarella, shredded (to equal about 2 cups)*
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

*As with many things, I think that real fresh mozzarella is key. Of course it’s really up to you, but I don’t think a block of Kraft mozzarella will cut it! You can find real balls of fresh mozzarella in the specialty cheese section of any well stocked grocery store. If you have trouble shredding it you can cut it into slices. Or do what I do it and hand it to the nearest strong man and make them do it! 🙂

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large skillet, brown and crumble the Italian sausage. When the sausage is cooked through and browned add the tomato paste and garlic. Cook for 30 seconds or until garlic is fragrant. Stir to coat the sausage with the tomato paste. Season with dry basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Add the red wine and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.

While the meat sauce is simmering, combine the ingredients for the ricotta filling in a medium sized bowl.

Spread 1/3 cup of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Then lay out 4 noodles, slightly overlapping. Make 3 sets of layers in the following order:

  1. Noodles
  2. 1/3 of the Ricotta filling
  3. 1/4 of the Meat sauce
  4. 1/4 of the Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese

After the 3rd group of layers, top off the lasagna with another layer of noodles, the last of the sauce, and the rest of the shredded cheese.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes. (I also gave mine 2 minutes under the broiler to make the cheese a deeper golden brown)

Serve with a green salad and garlic bread. (Yes mine is totally Texas Toast, not homemade or gourmet but Jesse loves it and it was fast!)

Asian Style Braised Short Ribs

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In my continuing effort to use my cookbooks more often, I chose this recipe for dinner on my parents last night in San Diego. Yes, I am still posting recipes from my parents visit but I have to tell you, this recipe was another big huge win. The bonus was that most of the cooking for this meal was hands off. I was able to throw everything together in my Dutch oven and forget about it for a few hours. The other great thing about braising is that it gives the meat plenty of time to soften and soak up all of the good flavor from the various spices, resulting in a tender and rich meal.

I hate to say it, but I’m pretty inexperienced when it comes to different cuts of meat. We tend to do a lot of chicken breast, flank steak, sirloin steak, and pork, so when I made my grocery list I just wrote down “short ribs”. Luckily I came across a butcher at Whole Foods that was incredibly helpful and more importantly patient. I told him what I needed and he said, bone in or boneless. One look at my blank stare and he knew I needed help. He asked me what I was making, how it was going to be cooked, etc. In the end I went with both bone-in and boneless, that he cut special for me to be thicker and more meaty. This way I got the best of both worlds, the deep flavor that the marrow from the bone gives and plenty of meat to eat with out picking around bones (something I am even more appreciative of after spending a month in China :)).

Asian Style Braised Short Ribs
(Adapted from Food Network Favorites)

Ingredients

5 pounds beef short ribs, cut into 4-ounce portions
1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (5-inch) stalk lemongrass, halved and smashed*
1 1/2 Tbsp peeled and minced ginger
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 quart (4 cups) water
1/2 cup sliced green onion including whites
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup fresh pineapple or orange juice (originally the recipe called for OJ but I had run out, so I used pineapple and it worked)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

*I could not find fresh lemon grass, but I did find some dried lemon grass at Whole Foods so I used 1 tsp of that and rubbed it between my fingers while adding it to the pot.

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a Dutch oven, combine the short ribs, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, brown sugar, water, green onion, red pepper flakes, and 2 tablespoons of the orange juice. Make sure that the stockpot is deep enough so that the short ribs are submerged in the liquid.

Bake the short ribs, covered, for about 3 hours, or until the meat is tender and falling off the bones. Remove the short ribs from the braising liquid and cover to keep warm. Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees F. Drain the fat off of the cooking liquid and discard.

Place the remaining braising juices in a medium saucepan with 1/4 cup of the hoisin sauce and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the liquid until only about 1 1/4 cups remain. Strain through a fine-meshed strainer (discarding the solids)back in to the dutch oven. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of orange juice and the lemon juice.

Return the short ribs the sauce and Dutch oven. Coat the short ribs with the sauce. Bake for 10 minutes, until the short ribs are heated through and slightly glazed*. Serve hot over rice. Season each portion with the orange zest and garnish with the green onions if desired.

* For the last 2 minutes or so I turned on the broiler.