Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Cuban Mojo Marinated Pork Roast

This dish is so completely tied into my culinary reawakening. I first heard of Cuban Mojo Marinated Pork Roast from the 2014 film Chef, which was written, directed and starred Jon Favreau. It told the story of a chef whose abilities had languished due to his creativity being hampered by the restaurant’s owner. The dish that started his path to redemption was the Cuban sandwich. The base for that sandwich was Cuban style mojo marinated pork roast. The roast is made by the main character’s sous chef. This film had parallels with my experience. I was limited to what and how I could cook by my ex. I had become stagnant and too reliant of pre-packaged foods.

                         Whole mojo marinated pork shoulder roasts

In the second month of my culinary reawakening, June 2015, I went looking for mojo recipes online. I found one by Roy Choi. That is an important detail. Choi had a small role in Chef, but he also was a Co-Producer as well as Culinary Consultant on the film. This was the recipe I wanted to make. I made a few mistakes making this the first time on June 28, 2016. First I used a 6-7 lbs bone in pork shoulder roast, not the 3 ½ lbs boneless the recipe called for. Second, I paired the dish with Zatarain’s Caribbean rice, a rice dish with coconut and pineapple. Third, I discarded the marinade and re-made the sauce without olive oil or mint.

                                                 Cuban style yellow rice

The roast was moist, but I did not take picture. I was bad and ate too much of the fatty bark. I ate it, because the roast took longer to cook due to the doubled sized of it and I was so hungry. The rice and the sauce were too close in flavor profile, so it felt one note. They both had sweet and sour notes to them. I decided next time to make classic Cuban side dishes to go with the roast. Cuban style yellow rice and Cuban style black beans were at the top of my list.

                                            Puerto Rican chayote hash

At the beginning of 2016, I decided to go back and make dishes I made prior, but did not take photos of. I also started taking photos of dishes that were my staples that I had not photographed before. Mojo Marinated Pork Roast and Enchiladas Suizas were at the top of the list. For March 2016, I decided to make the Mojo Marinated Pork Roast. I found boneless roast, but not in one piece. Instead I had two 1 ½ lbs small pork roasts. I also had a huge pot of beans at the end of February 2016, so making the black beans seemed like too much beans too soon. I decided to make Cuban style yellow rice (from The Frugal Gourmet On Our Immigrant Ancestors by Jeff Smith) and Puerto Rican chayote hash (from A Taste of Puerto Rico by Yvonne Ortiz) as my sides. The hash was because I wanted to try chayote, a squash found in Mexican and Caribbean cuisines. I also wanted the chayote to aid in my increasing of vegetable dishes in my diet.

                                    Sliced mojo marinated pork roast

On March 17, 2016, I made the planned Caribbean meal. Yes, I know that was St. Patrick’s Day. Since I am neither regular Irish nor Catholic, I did not really care. I staggered the sides while the roast was cooking and resting. The roast was flavored beautifully, but I think it may have been slightly overcooked. The yellow rice, which included onions, garlic, red bell peppers, and peas, came out the best of the rice dishes I made so far without rice cooker. The chayote hash was originally a breakfast dish that included eggs. I removed the eggs from the recipe. Next time I am going to double the amount of seasonings. I used the marinade with the roasts’ pan drippings and cornstarch to make a sauce. Due to my mom still being at the house, I used parsley instead of cilantro. She is allergic to cilantro. The sauce was great. I was very pleased how this meal came out. Next time I will shop around for a single 3 ½ lbs boneless pork shoulder roast.

Mojo sauce

This dish will always have fond memories for me. It is most assuredly in my menu rotation. The new side dishes paired so much better with the meal than the Caribbean rice. I am always game to try new foods, recipes, and ingredients. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Grandma Mac’s Hamburger Hash

My mom was staying with me while she got some business done in 2016. For March I asked her what she wanted to have. First March is her birth month and second I have been cooking for both of us. She wanted her mother’s hamburger hash. This was a situation where we had to recreate it from scratch. It is hamburger, onions, mushrooms, frozen corn, shredded potatoes, green bell peppers, sage, poultry seasoning, half & half, and salt. I have never made it before. Mom bought me an electric kettle/fryer/steamer from Goodwill. We used that device to do the last of the simmering of the dish.

I did not remember this dish that well. It did not taste like what I remembered; I realized it was missing black pepper. Mom is allergic to it. White and black pepper, cause an adverse reaction. This allergy was discovered when I was 7 or 8. Grandma’s always had pepper in it. I felt it needed garlic, but mom swore Grandma Mac did not use that much garlic. One thing we both remembered was towards the end Grandma added peas and carrots, the frozen medley variety. We used the more traditional corn as opposed to peas and carrots.

When I started this, I did not make sure I had all the spices needed. I thought I was out of sage and poultry seasoning. I was not out of sage, but still needed poultry seasoning. Mom went on a grocery run for this. I sautéed the mushrooms, onions and bell pepper in olive oil. Then I added the hamburger and sage. The poultry seasoning was added before I added the potatoes and half & half. Then I simmered it for 40 minutes then I added the corn and simmered another 10 minutes.

For a recipe, we were trying to recreate from memory, I think we did well. My mom used to make this when I was a kid. That has been decades ago. It came out wonderfully and creamy. This is not the most colorful dish. Potatoes, mushrooms, onions and hamburger tend to be very brown and grey. Taste wise it was on the spot.

Grandma Mac’s Hamburger Hash

2 lbs Hamburger
6-10 potatoes shredded (8 cups)
1 green bell pepper
1 lb mushrooms
1 cup of frozen corn
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sage
2 cups half & half
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a skillet or pot put the olive oil in the hot pan. Add the onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms. Sauté the vegetables on medium for 10 minutes. Add hamburger. Brown the meat 10-20 minutes. Drain the fat. Add sage, poultry seasoning, and salt simmer for 5 minutes. Add potatoes and half & half. Simmer on low for 40 minutes. Add corn simmer on low for 10 more minutes. Cool down for 10 minutes. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Inarizushi Special and Cucumber Namasu Salad

I discovered Inarizushi when I discovered sushi. It is a fried tofu pocket that is marinated in soy sauce and rice wine vinegar stuffed with sushi rice. Sometimes vegetables, cooked and/or pickled, are added to the rice. For decades it has been and still is a favorite of mine. Fred Meyer, a grocery and department store in the Pacific Northwest, has its own sushi counter in the grocery department. They have an item called Inari Special. It is deep fried tofu pockets stuffed with sushi rice, and then topped off with shrimp, spicy mayo and avocados. The Inari Special is a favorite of mine. It is the inarizushi stepped up a few notches.

                                                      Inarizushi special

During my years of going to various Sushi Bars and Japanese Restaurants, I have grown fond of the cucumber salad that accompanies the meal. It is called a cucumber namasu salad. It is cucumber, sugar, rice wine vinegar, and salt. Sometimes I have had it with shrimp, or octopus (tako), or squid (ika) added to the salad. It also has been known to be garnished with sesame seed and seaweed. One Sushi bar that a frequented knew my preferences and would usually served me the salad with tako (octopus).

                                                 Cucumber namasu salad

I decided to make these dishes in March 2016. I made them on March 7. It was impossible to find unseasoned tofu pockets. I wanted to limit the amount of preservatives. The unseasoned also would allow me to season the tofu pocket how I wished. I used the pre-seasoned ones. This was the first time I made sushi rice. Sushi rice is not just rice. The rice is seasoned with rice wine vinegar, sugar (although I used honey instead), and salt. I had a friend who tried to make homemade sushi.  They did not know that sushi rice was more than just plain white rice. That led to very flavorless sushi. I bought seasoned rice wine vinegar, but it was too salty. The spicy mayo is Kewpie brand, Japanese mayonnaise, and sriracha sauce. I bought frozen salad shrimp and avocados. The then topped the Inarizushi with sesame seeds.

I originally thought about making my Thai cucumber condiment salad using the Veggetti device. The Veggetti device turns vegetables into noodles. I decided to make the Japanese cucumber namasu salad instead using the Veggetti cucumbers. I used the seasoned rice wine vinegar, but it left the dish a little saltier than I had wished. Next time I will use plain rice wine vinegar. Overall this was an enjoyable meal, and I will definitely make this again.