The Functional Hermit

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NFL Week 9 Menu: It’s carnitas time

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Bow down and worship the insane deliciousness that is carnitas. Salty. Spicy. Juicy. Citrusy. With a butter-knife-tender consistency that melts in your mouth and falls apart easier than Wade Phillips’ Dallas Cowboys. I’ve been tweaking this recipe since first trying it but this time I cut out an entire step that saved a huge amount of time and effort with zero downside. The list of ingredients was surprisingly short. Here’s what went into it this time:

3.75 pound pork butt, with fat trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons of seasoned salt

2 medium onions, quartered.

2 jalapeno peppers

1 bulb’s worth of garlic – about 8 cloves

1 cup of orange juice

1 teaspoon of liquid smoke

handful of cilantro

flour tortillas, lime wedges, diced red onion for serving

I started by cubing the pork. The bone of a boston butt is always a pain to trim around. One day I’m going to slice a finger open doing it but this time I didn’t draw any blood. There was more fat than usual on this butt so it took some effort. Once cubed, season the pork with the seasoned salt and mix well.

Previously, at this point I would heat some oil in my workhorse of a dutch oven and brown/sear the pork in batches. Then I’d deglaze the pan with the orange juice and go from there. I started wondering if this was really necessary so this time I held back, though sizzling meat in oil is always a fun way to kill some time.

So this time around I just went ahead and added the orange juice, jalapeno peppers, onions, liquid smoke, garlic and cilantro into the dutch oven and mixed well. Then just mixed in my raw, seasoned pork.

Then I put on the cover and stuck it into my preheated oven. I originally planned on cooking it for 4 hours at 300 degrees. But I got a bit gun shy and kicked it up to 325 degrees for the first 90 minutes. That ended up being unnecessary. Next time we’ll be keeping it at a steady 300. Here’s what it looked like at the four-hour mark.

My wife steamed up some flour tortillas so they were nice and soft. We just spooned a healthy amount into a tortilla, gave it a squeeze of lime and some red onions for texture. My tacos got a healthy dose of hot sauce, but my wife doesn’t roll that way. Sometimes she can be lame like that.

This dish never disappoints. If you ever make it for someone and they don’t like it I suggest seriously reconsidering your association with them.


Written by the bee dub

November 8, 2010 at 12:21 pm

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NFL Week 7 Menu: Thirty Dollar Chili

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I have said previously that pork and football is the king of all combinations. Chili and football would be a close second. Chili with pork in it and football would be even closer to the throne.

It’s getting a bit chilly around these parts – finally – so it’s time for chili. This recipe is pretty easy. Here’s what I used:

2 pounds cubed beef (any cut is fine, here I used chuck)

3/4 pound pork chorizo with casing removed

1/2 pound ground sirloin

2 onions, sliced

1 green pepper, cut

5 garlic cloves, minced

28 ounce can whole tomatoes

28 ounce can beef broth (I used reduced sodium here and did not miss it)

1/4 cup chili powder

1 tablespoon garlic salt

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal

1 cup of fresh cilantro

Dash of salt and fresh, ground pepper

Hot sauce

In the past I’ve thrown in a cinnamon stick as well. Start by browning the beef. You know the routine; heat oil and sizzle the suckers in batches.

Once that’s done, throw in your onions, garlic and pepper. There will be a fair amount of stuff stuck to the pan that will loosen up and flavor the veggies. Cook until the onions soften, stirring often.

Now add the chorizo and ground beef to your pan. Mix well with the onion, pepper and garlic and make sure to break up all the pieces of sausage and meat.

Now return the browned beef to the pot and add all your remaining ingredients: broth, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, herbs, spices and a little hot sauce.

Give it all a good stir and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Simmer for at least two hours. This time around I gave it over three.

Garnish with sour cream, shredded cheddar and some scallions if you’re into that kind of thing. We serve this chili with warm tortillas. It never disappoints…

Written by the bee dub

October 27, 2010 at 10:27 am

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NFL Week 5 Menu: BBQ Boston Butt

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I tried. I really did. This year I made an honest effort to cook things other than pork on football Sundays. Basically, I made it one whole month before the perfection that is the combination of pork, football and beer commandeered the voluntary part of my brain and made any further resistance futile. Some things are simply made to be enjoyed together. Pork, football and beer just may be the Big Kahuna on this list.

As long as you’ve got some time and plenty of gas for your grill, this is actually a pretty easy thing to make. The reward far outweighs the effort you put in. I started with a three and three-quarter pound boston butt. I seasoned it with a dry rub that I often use made with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chili powder, cumin, salt, cayenne pepper and brown sugar. Rub it in over every side and surface area. You can season your meat the night before but I never taste any difference when I do. This is my way of telling you to feel free rubbing your meat anytime you damn well please. Frankly, this time I did the night before simply for convenience.

Before you start cooking, track down some hickory chips. I get a small bag at the hardware place around the corner. It’s easy to find. Arrange a generous helping of chips onto a piece of aluminum foil and drizzle the chips with some water. Then wrap and seal the foil around the chips. My grill has three rows of burners that go across horizontally. So I shape my hickory chip packet so it can sit over the single burner that I use.I like to punch some small holes or slits into the foil to help it burn.

The idea is to get the chips to a slow burn so they release a long and steady amount of smoke. Just a little bit of smoke adds a lot of flavor. I often make boston butts without using the chips however. It’s really optional but I like what it adds to the dish. I have to lift the grates of my grill and put the chip packet down underneath. You can see the chip packet sitting over the rear burner which is the only one I use for this dish.

Then I put the pork in, close the lid and get the temperature to around 225 degrees. 225 to 250 is a good range but the lower and slower the cook, the more tender the pork becomes. I also like to spray down the surface of the pork with a apple cider/cider vinegar every couple of hours. This helps bring out more flavor from the rub and to carmelize the outer bark of pork. Here it is about halfway.

In the past, I have pulled the pork off the heat after it reaches 190 degrees. But I think that the closer you get to 210 degrees the better everything turns out. This time out I pulled it when it hit 208 degrees and had been on the grill somewhere between 10 and 11 hours. Once it’s off, I moved it to a cutting board and let it cool awhile. A boston butt has a weirdly shaped bone in it and you know you’re in good shape when you can pull that bone out of the meat pretty easily. The outer portion of pork should transform itself into a chewy, seasoned bliss of bark that is not only delicious but also helps protect the juicy, meaty interior.

I like to use my hands to pull the pork. Sometimes I use a knife or a large blade to chop it up. If you’re going to use your hands, be careful because it can be pretty hot to handle.

On this particular day, I strayed from my regular barbecue sauce. We were running low and all the store had when I went on my “Oh shit, I forgot bbq sauce” grocery run was something called Williamson Bros. and plenty of other choices produced by America’s finest agri-business conglomerates. I opted for the Williams Bros. This was a tomato-based sauce that was a little too sweet but not so much that it ruined the end product. Normally though, I have to hand it to Johnny Harris. They make themselves one hell of a vinegar-based bbq sauce with just enough twang in each bite to remind you you’re alive. On this round, we missed you Johnny. We really did.

The final touch is to mix in the amount of sauce you like, then decide. You want straight pulled pork or you want yourself a pulled pork sandwich. If you go with the sandwich, don’t be afraid to add cole slaw on top because that is some good shit. Either way, you can’t lose.

Fucking delicious.

I want to close this entry by backtracking on one of my earlier positions. Previously, I had written in this space that I was so sick of Brettt Favre that I refuse to write about him any more. Well, that is still true, with the exception of anything related to Brett sending pictures of his manhood to a female Jets employee while he was the QB there. That story, I just cannot get enough of.

Written by the bee dub

October 11, 2010 at 3:33 pm

NFL Week 2 Menu: Ultimate Turkey Meatballs

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I made these a few months back and thought at the time I had discovered the ultimate turkey meatball recipe. I’m glad to report that after making these a second time, they were even better.

A lot of turkey meatballs I’ve had have been bland, dry and unsatisfying. These are moist, tender and slap-yourself-delicious. I’m glad to report that this isn’t because of some exotic or expensive ingredient either, rather just the right ingredients at the right amounts.

In a bowl I combined 1 1/4 pounds of ground turkey (93% lean), one finely chopped onion, two beaten eggs, 1 1/4 cup of bread crumbs, 1 cup of whole milk, a bit of hot sauce (sorry honey), 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of salt and plenty of ground pepper. Then I stick both hands in and mix together by hand. Around this time comes the one challenge that comes with this recipe: the consistency.

This mixture is very ‘loose’ and wet. It was a challenge to roll them into meatballs and then for that to maintain its shape. It’s not really hard, just something to keep in mind. I dusted the plate and the meatballs with flour to help them keep from sticking to the plate and each other.

I baked them in a 400-degree oven on a very well greased piece of aluminum foil, placed on a baking sheet. After 12 minutes I took a peek and they didn’t look quite done so I gave them another 3-4 minutes. At this point, they still didn’t have that done ‘look’ but I broke one open and ate it. Bingo. It was perfect.

Then I finished them off in a quick and easy tomato sauce. For that I sauteed a diced onion and some minced garlic over olive oil, then added a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes and half a jar of Newman’s Own tomato sauce I had left over from the other night. I seasoned that with plenty of salt, pepper and a little bit of sugar.

Once the sauce was heated through I put in the meatballs and kept them over a very low heat for about an hour. To serve them I used some wheat sub rolls, spooned the meatballs and some sauce onto the bread and then topped that with some mozzarella cheese.

These were the best meatball subs we’ve ever made, and we’ve made our fair share. The meatballs were so good I had to have another one just because. I hope they’re just as good tonight. We made a good-sized batch…

Written by the bee dub

September 20, 2010 at 3:13 pm

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NFL Kickoff Menu: Beef brisket returns to glory

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What an awesome weekend. It was so awesome, I needed a good day or so to recover. Saturday had quality college football games all day long, the highlight of which was James Madison taking out Virginia Tech. That sick sound you may hear in the distance is the squealing of Boise State fans whining over losing their only quality non-conference win of the entire season. I friggin’ hate Boise State. I have zero respect for any program that schedules the softest schedule possible while playing in the softest conference in the land – and then claiming they deserve a spot in the BCS every year.

Granted, they’ve done well with what they have but there’s no way they’re on par with an SEC, Big 10, Pac 10, Big 12 or any other program with any sack at all. But enough about blue astroturf wannabees. This weekend was glorious because of three of the most beautiful letters ever strung together: NFL.

The opening weekend of pro football is always a special time for me. Last year I went and spent it with a friend in Chicago and he wanted to start making that an annual tradition. Unfortunately, work schedules got in the way this year so I was stuck at home. But what would make the best Sunday of the year even more delicious? Easy. Sweet and sour brisket.

This was our very first go-to dish that we used to try and impress good friends or out of town visitors. Lately, it’s fallen to the wayside in favor of the BBQ pork butt or carnitas. But sometimes it’s best to go back where you started. I also found a little tweak to the recipe that turns the cooking liquid into more of a sauce rather than a gooey, sticky mess.

I got myself a 3.75-pound brisket, trimmed away a bit of the fat – though I’ve learned not to trim it all away – and then seasoned both sides with a generous amount of salt, pepper and three cloves of minced garlic. Then I heated some vegetable oil in Lou Gehrig, my workhorse of a dutch oven, and browned the brisket to a nice, brown headstart. Previously I would add two sliced onions while doing this but this time, I only used one. Usually I’m all about adding way more onions than called for but something told me to hold back a little here.

I browned the brisket on both sides, removed it and then continued cooking the onions until they began to brown.

Once the onions looked right, I added half a cup of red wine and half a cup of beef broth. There was a lot of stuff stuck to the bottom of Lou Gehrig and the liquid sucked all that awesomeness right back in. After a minute or so, I then added a bottle of chili sauce, half a cup of brown sugar and half a cup of cider vinegar. I kept cooking and stirring all that until it combined, then returned the brisket to the pan and used a spoon to cover it with the sauce and onions.

I put the cover on and then put it all into a 325 degree oven for two and a half hours. Afterwards, Lou Gehring revealed that the effort was greatly rewarded.

Cutting back to one onion really let the cooking liquid stay more of a liquid. It was still thick and delicious but it also resembled something more of a sauce. The meat was perfectly cooked and tender. Everything could not have come out better.

Now with the sauce being more of a sauce, it can be spooned over the meat and is thick enough to cover it yet still runny enough to settle into every nook and cranny of meaty goodness.

Couple all this with a NY Giants win and the Sunday couldn’t have gone any better. Actually, I made some serious fantasy football fuckups, so I could have been a little smarter there. But otherwise, it was the kind of NFL opening Sunday that happily keeps me happily planted at home all day and night.

Written by the bee dub

September 14, 2010 at 10:18 am

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Labor Day Menu: Carnitas

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Due to a family health crisis and camera technology issues, I’m a bit behind on my blogging. But the Functional Hermit must roll on. Thus, a few days late, I bring you the epicurean finale to our long, holiday weekend.

I was going to save the carnitas for the first Sunday of the NFL season, otherwise known as ‘the greatest fucking day to be a man and drink beer,’ but I just couldn’t hold back. I’ll have to come up with something else suitably grandiose and indulgent for this weekend.

I’m at the point with this recipe where I’ve started playing around with it and I already know what else I’m going to change the next time I make it. It all started with a 3.75-pound pork butt. I cut it into one-inch cubes, trimming away whatever fat I could along with the bone and then seasoned the cubes with just under two tablespoons of seasoned salt.

Then I heated up some vegetable oil in Lou Gehrig, the workhorse dutch oven of my kitchen, and browned the pork in two batches. While browning, this was a good time to preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

When all the pork is browned, I drained out the fat and oil and then had a lot of crispy brown deliciousness stuck to the bottom. To this I added just over a cup of orange juice and scraped all that awesomeness so it was no longer stuck and infused itself into the orange juice.

Now it was time to add a handful of chopped cilantro, six garlic cloves, one quartered onion and two sliced jalapeno peppers. The second jalapeno was a new addition and next time I’m definitely adding another onion to cook the pork with.

Then I returned the browned pork into all this and mixed well.

I put the lid back on and then placed this into a 300 degree oven for three and a half hours. Then, it’s Ari Gold time: Boom!

There are a lot of ways to serve carnitas but I just stick with the ‘throw the shit in a tortilla’ method. Last time I served it with some avocado slices, fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Now, I love me some avocado but as crazy as this sounds, I think these ‘carnitas tacos’ are better off without it.

My wife performed her foolproof ‘steam the tortillas in the oven’ trick and we were ready to rock. This time, inside the tortilla I rolled with the carnitas, some diced red onion, a squeeze of lime and some healthy dollops of hot sauce (sorry honey).

It was good eatin’ and a great way to cap off a weekend with the best weather we’ve seen in these parts in a long, long time.

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Written by the bee dub

September 8, 2010 at 3:45 pm

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Sunday Dinner: Vegetarian Enchiladas

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Continuing on our easy, convenient theme from the previous Sunday, this weekend we fired up our vegetarian enchiladas. By vegetarian enchiladas, I’m not talking vegetable enchiladas with a magical blend of seasoned veggies inside. (Though that is something we’re on the hunt for.) These are vegetarian enchiladas in the sense that these are filled with fake meat-like vegetable protein. Mmm, delicious.

Like many great things in life, it starts with two chopped onions, sauteed in a generous amount of olive oil until translucent.

Then, add your fake meat. Mmm, fake meat.

It good to stir this as often as possible. Additional olive oil may be called for. This stuff sticks to a pan with reckless abandon. It’s a good idea to brown this mixture as much as you are comfortable with. The fake meat/veggie protein seems to get more meat-like the more well it is cooked and crisped on the outside.

Now it’s time for seasoning. I added a generous amount of hot sauce (sorry honey), a tablespoon of chili powder, a teaspoon of cumin, plenty of fresh-ground pepper and some salt. The salt, like always, can always be supplemented later if the end product is too bland.

I mixed this well and then added a can of stewed tomatoes and its liquid. (From here you’ll notice that the batteries on my external flash went dead and had to go with the on-camera flash for the next several photos.)

I mixed well again and then I cover it and lower the heat to a simmer. At this point I realized, “Holy shit, I forgot the roasted garlic.”

I added it all in and then stirred well again. Then covered and kept at a low simmer. This thickens up the mixture after fifteen, twenty minutes or so.

Now it’s enchilada assembly time. I warm up some canned enchilada sauce (one day I’ll learn how to make some homemade stuff), dip a flour tortilla in it to make it more pliable, then fill it with however much filling I feel is appropriate. I learned long ago that a little filling goes a long way.

Then I cover the assembled enchiladas in cheese and a little more enchilada sauce. Then they’re ready for the oven.

After 25 or 30 minutes at 350 degrees, they’re ready to be munched.

Top them with some sour cream if you like. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t. That way my wife never really knows what’s going on with me. Like almost everything else I make, this is a great partner for a cold beer. I’ve been cutting back lately so have one or three for me, will ya?

Written by the bee dub

August 17, 2010 at 5:07 pm

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