How to Make the Best Barbecued Pork

June 11, 2016

Most of the recipes on Cook’s Illustrated are full blown recipes; everything you need contained on a few pages. As I was looking for a new rib recipe I stumbled upon this article that gives overall guidelines; no list of ingredients. While I’ve seen most of the advice over the years throughout many of Chris Kimball’s recipes, I haven’t seen a recipe that adhered to all the steps. So today I made ribs according to these “how-to” instructions. The ribs came out delicious and finishing the ribs in the oven provides much more control and then my kids favorite rib recipe. Overall 5-stars; worth updating your favorite recipe to reflect.

Fall-of-the-bone tender

Fall-of-the-bone tender



  1. Step 7: Baking instead of barbecuing the sauced-ribs is an insurance policy against the sauce burning. If you add too many coals when rebuilding the fire the sauce will over caramelize and burn. A properly-calibrated, low, 300-degree oven will give the ribs plenty of time to cook.
  2. The trade-off of baking the ribs is that you can’t cook your beans down in the coals so that the juices from the ribs flavor your beans. You can use the any juices left in the foil and the end of Step 11.

Rating: 5-star.
Cost: $16.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 12 Noon. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

Cook’s Country original recipe is here. I used the spice rub and barbecue sauce recipe from here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

  1. Use a paring knife to loosen the membrane of the back of each rack of ribs. It is chewy and prevents the spices from fully flavoring the ribs.
  2. Using paper towel for added grip, pull off and fully remove the member. Cook’s Country says it should come off in one piece; not true, but it use your paring knife to restart the pulling process.
  3. Season the ribs with a spice mixture, wrap them in plastic wrap and allow to the sit in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. Steeply bank your coals on one side of the grill. This will cook low and slow, while giving plenty to grill space.
  5. Soak your wood chips and wrap them in a foil packet, with slits to allow the smoke to escape. Let them smoke for 5 minutes before beginning to cook the ribs. Starting to cook the ribs immediately can give to harsh of a flavor.
  6. Clean and oil the grill grate, and set the ribs on the cool side of the grill. Away from the direct heat, the ribs can cook for a long time without their exterior burning.
  7. Cover the ribs loosely with a large piece of aluminum foil. Set the foil directly on top of ribs which will help trap steam and keep the ribs tender. Cook f0r 2 hours until the ribs are deeply red. The vents should be 1/2 open.
  8. After 2 hours on the grill the charcoal will be spent. Remove the ribs from the grill and brush both sides with a total of 1 cup of barbecue sauce. Tightly wrap in aluminum foil.
  9. Set the foil-wrapped ribs on to a rimmed baking sheet. Put into low a preheated 250-to-275 degree oven and bake for a few more hours. Baking the sauced-ribs will reduce the chance that the sauce will burn. Also because they are wrapped in foil there is no advantage to rebuilding the charcoal fire.
  10. Test the ribs by inserting a fork into the ribs and lift up ribs. If the fork easily pulls out then the ribs are done. Otherwise, the ribs need to cook longer.
  11. Allow the ribs to rest for 30 minutes, still wrapped in their foil. The juices will redistribute and the ribs will be very moist.
  12. Finally, brush the ribs with more barbecue sauce, slice them between the bones and serve.

Skillet-Barbecued Pork Chops

February 21, 2016

My two sons love barbecue so I wanted to make these indoor, skillet-based pork chops. The recipe is very straight-forward the biggest problem is finding the rib chops that are between 3/4-and-1″ thick.  My supermarket always sells chops cut very thin. Fortunately, I was able to buy a beautiful roast and cut the chops myself. Due to my mid-week schedule, I changed the brine from a 30-minute brine (using 1/2-cup of salt) to a all day brine (using 3 tablespoons of salt), which let me cook them in about 45 minutes; otherwise add 30 minutes to the overall preparation time. The results perfectly cooked and very flavorful, A delicious 4-star meal.

Delicious indoor BBQ pork chops

Delicious indoor BBQ pork chops


  1. If you cannot find natural pork, you can still used enhanced pork, which is injected with a salt solution. But skip the brining in step 1 and add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the spice rub.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $10.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 6:00 PM. Dinner time 6:45 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared them today are given below:

Pork Chops Ingredients:
1/2 cup table salt
4 bone-in pork rib chops between 3/4-and-1″ thick (8-to-10-oz each)
4 teaspoons vegetable oil

  1. Trim the chops of any excess fat and make slits , sides slit according to illustration below (see note above)
  2. Dissolve salt in 2 quarts water in large bowl or container. Submerge chops in brine, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Spice Rub Ingredients:
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, measure out 2 teaspoons mixture into medium bowl and set aside for sauce.
  2. Transfer remaining spice rub to pie plate or large plate.

Sauce Ingredients:
1/2 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons light molasses
2 tablespoons grated onion
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon liquid smoke

  1. Grate 1/2 an onion on the large holes of a box grater.
  2. Whisk together all ingredients in the bowl with reserved spice mixture; setting aside until after the chops have cooked.

Cook the Pork Chops:

  1. Remove pork from the brine and use paper towels to pat dry. Dredge pork in pie plate with spice rub; coating both sides with spices. Gently press so that rub adheres to meat. Pat chops to remove loose/excess rub.
  2. Set 12″ heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet over medium burner. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and pre-heat until just begins to smoke. Arrange chops in skillet in pinwheel formation. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes until charred in spots.
  3. Flip chops and continue to cook until second side for 4 to 8 minutes. Remove chops when an instant-read thermometer reads registers 130 degrees; setting on a clean plate or baking sheet.
  4. Wipe out pan using paper towels . Lightly brush top side of each chop with 2 teaspoons bbq sauce.
  5. Return skillet over medium burner. Add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil and pre-heat until begins to smoke.
  6. Set chops in pre-heated pan with the sauce-side down. Cook for 1 minute without moving until the sauce has caramelized and charred in spots. While cooking, lightly brush the other side of each chop with 2 teaspoons sauce. Flip chops and cook the second side for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes until they registers 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
  7. Remove chops from skillet and put back to plate or baking sheet, tenting with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 5 minutes, during which time the internal temperature should rise to about 145 degrees.
  8. Meanwhile, add remaining sauce to pan and cook for 3 minutes until thickened to a ketchup-like consistency. Brush each pork chop with 1 tablespoon of sauce and serve immediately, passing remaining sauce separately.
Slow brine instead of the fast brine called for in the original recipe

Slow brine instead of the fast brine called for in the original recipe

Tuscan Roast Pork with Garlic and Rosemary (Arista)

January 30, 2016

This roast is perfect for mid-winter when its cold (and rainy) outside. As the roast slowly warns the kitchen, the anticipation slowly build and the delicious aromas permeate the house. That’s why this is my favorite time of year to spend the entire day cooking. Today’s Roast Pork is good; stuffed with pancetta, garlic and rosemary; but I thought that the flavors could have had more depth. The dominant flavor was rosemary; with only a hint of garlic. The lemon-oil helped to brighten the flavors a little; but didn’t go far enough. Good, solid weekend meal. 4-stars.

Well cooked, but a little unbalanced

Well cooked, but a little unbalanced

I did have a few minor technical issues with the recipe, which I’ve described below.


  1. When I got to my supermarket on Saturday afternoon, there was only 1 roast to “choose” from. It was 3.1-pounds, which I thought was close enough (recipe calls for 2-1/2 lbs). However, the consequence was that the roast did not fit into my 10″ skillet. Instead I used a 12″ skillet, but because of all the extra space I had a little trouble browning the fat cap on all sides, as the roast rolled around. I should have either trimmed down the roast to fit in the 10″ skillet’ or stood over the pan as I cooked it in step 13.
  2. I had an issue with my paste not spreading evenly (see photo below). It clumped together and was not nearly as manageable as in the Cook’s Illustrated video. I am not sure if it is because I used 3-oz of pancetta (the recipe called for 2 ounces; but my roast was a little over-sized). Also I am not sure if it is because my slices were very thin (and pre-packaged, shrink-wrapped). Not how I imagined that I was going to buy the pancetta; but that’s all that was available.
  3. Chris Kimball gives one final warning; if you are only able to find enhanced pork (injected with a salt solution), then your should reduce the salt to 1 teaspoon per side in Step 7.
Paste clumped' I had trouble getting even layer

Paste clumped; I had trouble getting even layer


Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $14.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time 3:00 PM. Ready at 6:15 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe for is here. My descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

1 lemon
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 ounces pancetta slices
2-1/2-pound boneless center-cut pork loin roast
Kosher salt

  1. Chopped fresh rosemary, but be careful not to include any woody stems.
  2. Grate zest from one lemon, and add to a 10-inch non-stick skillet. Add 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 8 minced garlic cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Set over medium-low burner and cook for 3 minutes; stirring often; until garlic sizzles.
  3. Add in chopped rosemary and cook for just 30 seconds. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a small bowl, press down on solids to extract as much oil as possible. Set both oil and rosemary-garlic aside to cool. Wipe out skillet with a paper towel.
  4. Cut pancetta slices into 1/2″ pieces and add to food processor. Process for 30 seconds until it forms into a paste. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in cooled rosemary-garlic mixture  and process another 30 seconds.
  5. Set roast on cutting board with the fat side up. You will double-butterfly the roast. Begin by cutting horizontally one-third of the way up (just where the fat-cap begins) and cut along the entire length of the long-side of the roast; stopping 1/2-inch before you cut all the way through. Open up the flap.
  6. Again, keep your knife level with the first cut, cut through the thicker side of the roast again stopping 1/2-inch before you cut all the way through. Open up the flap and lay your roast flat. If portions are uneven, cover with plastic wrap and even out with a meat pounder.
  7. Sprinkle each side with 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt and rub into the meat.
  8. Evenly spread the inside of the roast with pancetta-garlic paste from Step 4; but leave 1/4-inch border on all sides.
  9. Cut seven or eight 12-inch lengths of kitchen twine. Roll up roast; keep the fat cap on the outside’ and tie with kitchen twine.
  10. Put a wire rack over a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Spray with vegetable oil spray, placing roast (with fat cap upward) onto rack and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  11. With 15 minutes to go, set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 275-degrees. After an hour in the refrigerator, move roast (already set up on rack) oven and bake for 1-1/2 to 2 hours; until the internal temperature of the pork is 135-degrees. Remove from oven and tent with aluminum foil for 20 minutes; during which time the temperature will continue to increase another 10-to-12-degrees.
  12. While the roast rests, set your skillet over high-burner; at 1 teaspoon of oil (from Step 3) and pre-heat until the oil just begins to smoke. Cut lemons in half and set into skillet with the cut-side down. Cook for 3-to-4 minutes until browned and softened; remove to a small plate.
  13. Use paper towels to pat the roast dry. Pre-heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil in the skillet until it just begins to smoke, then brown the roast on the fat-cap side and the sides for a total of 5-to-6-minutes (but don’t brown the bottom of the roast). Remove to a cutting board and remove the twine.
  14. When lemons have cooled slightly, squeeze them through a fine-meshed strainer over a small bowl. Use a rubber spatula to press down on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Add 2 tablespoons of the juice into the reserve oil and whisk together. Cut the roast into 1/4″-thick slices and serve passing the vinaigrette separately.

Sweet and Tangy Grilled Country-Style Pork Ribs

September 14, 2015

Usually ribs take all day to make properly; a long relaxing process that I love. I once tried Chris Kimball’s One Hour Rib recipe; the flavor was good (if somewhat nontraditional).  Today’s recipe speeds the process using a different cut of meat; Country-Style Pork Ribs. I looked forever to find country-style pork ribs in all my local supermarkets; and finally discovered they we not labelled as such; they were called “Pork Loin Rib End Bone-in for BBQ”. I updated some pictures.”. The browning time as prescribed by Chris Kimball in Step 7 of 2 to 3-1/2 minutes per side was completely insufficient; mine took over 5 minutes per side. But because the ribs also spend time cooking on the cool side of the grill, be sure to brown them sufficiently (assuming you have a meat thermometer, it’s no big deal to adjust the timing). My only other complaint is that the ribs were too slimy when coming off the grill; so I gave the sauce a quick char on the hot side of the grill. Overall, 4-stars.

Delicious BBQ pork with itty bitty ribs

Delicious BBQ pork with itty bitty ribs


  1. While Chris Kimball’s original recipe say that you can apply the dry rub as little as 1 hour beforehand, its much better if you apply it the night before.
  2. As mentioned above; the cooking times were nowhere near correct. The original recipe calls for as little as 15 minutes on the grill; mine took almost 30 minutes to come to the correct temperature. I use their same chimney starter, their same Weber grill, and their same Kingsford charcoal. I’m not sure why there was such a big discrepancy.
  3. Be sure to use the small holes of a box grater; the sauce spends so little time cooking that otherwise the onion will not break down.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $20.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time 5:00 PM. Ready at 6:15 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe for the ribs are here. And the recipe for the sauce is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:

On Evening Before Dinner:
4 teaspoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 pounds bone-in country-style pork ribs
1/2 cup barbecue sauce, plus extra for serving (See recipe below)

  1. Trim away any excess fat from the ribs. In a small bowl, combine 4 teaspoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper.
  2. Rub the spice mixture all over the ribs, and tightly wrap is plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight (or for as little as 1 hour, if necessary)

On Day of the Meal:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup grated onion (1 small onion)
1 garlic clove
1 cup ketchup
5 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  1. Open your bottom vent halfway, and ignite a chimney starter filled with charcoal (6 quarts). When the top-most coals become partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill, leaving the other-side empty. Replace the cooking grate, cover grill, and set the lid vent open halfway. Pre-heat for 5 minutes, then clean and oil the grill grate.
  2. While the charcoal ignites, make your sauce. In a medium bowl, add together ketchup, molasses, vinegar, Worcestershire, mustard, and pepper; whisk to combine. Set aside until Step 5 (only about 5 minutes).
  3. Use the small holes of a box grater to grate the onion, and mince your garlic clove. Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add grated onion and minced garlic; cooking for between 2 to 4 minutes until the onion is softened.
  4. Add chili powder and cayenne and cook for 30 seconds to bloom the spices.
  5. Whisk ketchup mixture into pan and bring up to boil. Turn down burner to medium-low; allow to gently simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Add 1/2 cup of bbq sauce to a small bowl, which you will use to baste the ribs. Bring an additional 1/4 to 1/2 cup to the table for serving. The remaining cup of bbq sauce can be refrigerated for a week.
  7. Arrange ribs on the hot-side of grill. Cover and cook ribs cook the first side for 3 to 5 minutes until they become well browned. Flip the ribs and cook (covering again) for 3 to 5 minutes until they become brown. (My ribs took longer to become nicely browned, but wait because you can always reduce the cooking time on the cooler side of the grill, as necessary).
  8. Once browned, move ribs to cooler side of grill without flipping. Brush the tops with 1/4 cup of bbq sauce. Again, cover and cook for 6 minutes. Flip ribs and brush another 1/4 cup bbq sauce. Cover and continue to cook for 5 to 10 minutes until internal temperature of the pork reaches 150-degrees,
  9. Remove the ribs to serving platter, tent with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  10. Serve, passing 1/4 to 1/2 cup extra sauce separately.

Italian Sausage with Grapes and Balsamic Vinegar

June 14, 2015

The sweet Italian sausage and the grapes yielded a delicious, unique flavor; but not immediately recognizable as grapes. While delicious, the flavor profile was a bit monotone in its sweetness; I would have liked a little bit of heat or something else to offset the sweetness. Perhaps it might be interesting to try them with Hot Italian Sausages; but that may be too much heat; Perhaps just a little cayenne or paprika. The recipe as written is good; especially for kids who love sweet things. 4-stars.

Good; but a little monotone.

Good; but a little monotone.


  1. While Chris Kimball says that this serves 4 to 6 people, the 1-1/2 lbs of sausage was only 6 sausages. I think this recipe realistically serves 3 people as a main course.
  2. Later in the week I made a variation of this recipe that is serves two; but I used a full pound of sausage instead of the 3/4-lb called for in that recipe. I think the bottom line of the number of servings is this; allocate 2 sausage for each diner.

Rating: 4 stars.
Cost: $8.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 5:30 PM. Ready at 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. My descriptions of how I prepare it are given below:

1-lb seedless red grapes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1-1/2 lbs sweet Italian sausage
1 onion
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

  1. Prepare your grapes by cutting them in half lengthwise (through where their stem attached); which should measure about 3 cups. Cut onion in half, peel, and slice thin. Set aside until Step 3.
  2. Pre-heat 1 tablespoon vegetable in a 12″-skillet over medium burner until shimmering. Put sausage into pan and cook for a total of 5 minutes; turning once half way through. Tilt skillet, and use paper towel to remove excess fat from the pan.
  3. Add grapes and onions to pan; over and around the sausages. Then add 1/4 cup water and cover immediately with lid. Cook for about 10 more minutes; turning once; until the sausages reach between 160-and-165-degrees. Remove sausage to a plate lines with paper-towels, and tent with aluminum foil.
  4. Increase burner to medium-high; add salt and pepper to grape/onions. Spread out into an even layer and cook for 3 to 5 minutes without stirring; until browned.
  5. Stir and continue to cook for 3 to 5 more minutes; stirring often. The mixture should be well browned, but the grapes should still retain their shape.
  6. Turn down burner to medium and mix in 1/4 cup wine and 1 tablespoon fresh oregano. Use the liquid to deglaze the pan and cook for 30 to 60 seconds; just until the wine has reduced by half. Remove pan from burner and mix in 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar.
  7. Put sausages on serving platter and spoon grape/onion mixture on top. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint.

Grilled Pork Kebabs with Sweet Sriracha Glaze

April 25, 2015

I was a little premature in my plans to grill these Pork Kebabs last night, as it was quite cold and was accompanied by few snow flakes. I was extremely excited to give this new recipe a try, as the kebabs can be ready in just 1 hour from start-to-finish; perfect for a weeknight summer meal. My older son loved the kebabs and ate 2 full skewers (he rated them highly; 4-stars). While the technique resulted in perfectly cooked pork, I was disappointed that the promise of the hot/sweet/salty flavors was not, in the end, well-balanced. The pork was too sweet, lacking heat and salt.  Overall, an easy 1 hour meal. Worth making, but I can rate it only 3-stars.

Flavors slightly out-of-balance

Flavors slightly out-of-balance

The recipe was not clear as to when to ignite the charcoal. If you are pressed for time, I would recommend lighting it right after salting the pork. The recipe will take a total of 45 minutes. Last night I followed the order of the recipe and ignited after the preparing the skewers, which may have allowed the flavors to be absorbed by the pork; and added about 25 minutes.


  1. The ingredients call for a total of 1-1/2 pounds of pork tenderloin, and the in-package weight of mine was 2-1/2 pounds. I didn’t check the final trimmed weight, and am not sure if that was the cause of lack of salt.
  2. Also, the balance of flavors was overly sweet. It lacked a little heat from the Sriracha and salt.
  3. I minced 1/4 cup of cilantro, but didn’t use all.
  4. If using a gas grill, pre-heat for 15-minutes with all burners to high before cleaning and oiling the grill. When cooking, just leave the primary burner on high. All other burners should be turn off.
  5. Check to see if your pork is enhanced (i.e. injected with a salt solution), and if so do not sprinkle with salt in step 1.

Rating: 3 stars.
Cost: $10.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 5:15 PM. Ready at 6:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  My descriptions of how I prepare it today are given below:

2 (12-ounce) pork tenderloin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Vegetable oil spray
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

  1. Trim away the silverskin and any extra fat from the tenderloin. Cut into 1″-cubes. Add to a large bowl and  sprinkle with 1 teaspoon kosher. Toss until combined and allow to stand for 20 minutes at room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together brown sugar, Sriracha, and cornstarch together. Measure out 1-1/2 tablespoons of the Sriracha mixture and set aside from brushing the meat on the grill.
  3. After the 20 minutes has passes, add the remaining Sriracha mixture to pork and toss until evenly coated.
  4. Thread the pork cubes onto four-to-five 12″ skewers; leave 1/4″ between the pieces of pork. Generously spray both sides of meat skewers with vegetable oil spray.
  5. Open the bottom and top vents completely, and ignite a chimney starter filled with charcoal; about 6 quarts. After 20 minutes and the top coals become partially covered with ash, empty over half the grill leaving the other half empty. Replace cooking grate, cover and pre-heat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil cooking grate.
  6. Put pork on hot side of the grill for about 4 minutes until well charred. If it’s a cold day I recommend covering; otherwise leave uncovered. Flip over and brush the tops with reserved Sriracha mixture. Cook the second side for about 4 more minutes; take the internal temperature of the meat and remove when it registers 140-degrees.
  7. Remove to a serving platter, loosely tent with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with minced cilantro and serve.

Mu Shu Pork

March 16, 2015

For me a big Sunday dinner has become an important part of my life (a tradition I adopted during my year living in Buenos Aires), and I always pull out all the stops. So it was with much anticipation that I shopped for the ingredients for this Mu Shu Pork. Unfortunately, the recipe was a huge disappointment. When cooking the pork in Step 6, the pork was too wet and just steamed; not caramelizing at all. Overall this Mu Shu Pork was bland. None of the ingredients brought much flavor; tenderloin, cabbage, bamboo shoot are all very mild. While not bad; it simply lacked flavor to set it apart. Just 3-stars; and not worth the 2 hours of preparation.

Chinese Mu Shu Pork

Chinese Mu Shu Pork


  1. While the pancakes took a full hour to prepare, Chris Kimball warns against using tortillas.
  2. Because this was my first time making this recipe, I didn’t realize that I should have started the prep while making pancakes. It’s best to use that half hour at the end of Step 2 to prepare the meat, cabbage and bamboo shoots.
  3. When first cooking the pork in Step 6, the pork was both too wet and the pans was too crowded. The pork steamed instead of browning; even after cooking for longer than the 2 minute maximum called for in the recipe.

Rating: 3 stars.
Cost: $10.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 4 PM. Finish time: 6:10 PM.

The Cook’s Illustrated link to the original recipe is here. The recipe as I prepared it today is given below:

Pancakes Ingredients (1 hour):
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (7-1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

  1. Put a small pot with about 1 cup of water over high burner and bring to a boil (you will late measure out 3/4 cup of water).
  2. To make the pancakes, weight flour in a medium bowl, add boiling water and mix using a wooden spoon until forms a rough dough. Allow to cool then empty onto a lightly floured counter and knead for about 4 minutes until the ball is tacky, but no longer sticky. The dough does not need to be completely smooth. Use plastic wrap to loosely cover and allow to sit for 30 minutes. (Meanwhile you can to the prep work under Stir Fry, Step 2).
  3. Lightly flour your surface and use your hands to roll out dough into 12″ log. Cut into 12 equal-sized pieces. Arrange so that the cut side is up and pat into 3″ disks. Brush one side of 6 disks with toasted sesame oil, and set one of the un-oiled disks on-top of the oiled-side. Lightly press down to form 6 pairs. Lightly flour the counter and use a rolling-pin to form 7″ disks.
  4. Add 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil to 12″ non-stick skillet. Set over medium burner and pre-heat until the oil is shimmering. Wipe out with a paper towel, and cook one pancake at a time without moving for 40 to 60 seconds per side; until air pocket begins to form between the two layers and a few light brown spots appear of the second side. Remove pancake from skillet and allow to cool on a plate until cool enough to handle, then peel the two pancakes apart. Stack pancakes with the moist-side-upward and loosely cover using plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining pancakes.
  5. If you are going to use them today, cover pancakes tightly with aluminum foil to keep them warm. If you are using them another day, you should wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, and then with aluminum foil. They can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 2 months. You should thaw the wrapped pancakes at room temperature, when unwrap and set on a plate. Cover with a second, inverted plate and microwave for 60 to 90 seconds until warm and soft.

Stir-Fry Ingredients:
1-oz dried shiitake mushrooms
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
12-oz pork tenderloin
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
6 scallions, white and green parts separated and sliced thin on bias
8-oz can bamboo shoots, rinsed and sliced into matchsticks
3 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
1/4 cup hoisin sauce

  1.  Rinse the shittake mushrooms, and put into a small bowl (or two cup Pyrex measuring cup); cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave for 1 minutes until steaming. Allow to soften for 5 minutes, before draining through a fine-mesh strainer, reserving 1/3 cup of the liquid. Trim away and discard the stems, and slice the caps thinly.
  2. Meanwhile, trim away the silver-skin from the tenderloin and slice in half horizontally. Slice each half thinly against the grain of the meat. Thinly slice your scallions, keeping the white and green parts separate. Rinse your bamboo shoots under the tap, the slice them into match sticks. Thinly slice 3 cups of cabbage.
  3. In a large bowl, add 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sherry, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the thinly sliced pork and toss together until evenly combined.
  4. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the 1/3 cup mushroom liquid, 2 more tablespoons soy sauce, 1 more tablespoon sherry, and 2 teaspoons cornstarch; setting aside.
  5. Wipe out skillet from pancakes with paper towel. Set over medium-high burner and pre-heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Beat together the two eggs, and quickly scramble for 15 seconds until set (but not until dry). Empty eggs to serving bowl and use a fork to break into 1/4″-to-1/2″ pieces.
  6. Put the skillet back over medium-high burner and pre-heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil until it begins to shimmer. Saute scallion whites for 1 to 1-2/12 minutes until evenly browned. Add the pork mixture and spread into an even layer. Allow to cook without moving for 1 to 2 minutes until well browned. Site and continue to cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes until all the pork is opaque. Empty into serving bowl with eggs.
  7. Return now-empty skillet to medium-high heat and heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Whisk mushroom liquid mixture to recombine. Add mushrooms and bamboo shoots to skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until heated through, about 1 minute. Add cabbage, all but 2 tablespoons scallion greens, and mushroom liquid mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until liquid has evaporated and cabbage is wilted but retains some crunch, 2 to 3 minutes. Add pork and eggs and stir to combine. Transfer to platter and top with scallion greens.
  8. Spread about 1/2 teaspoon hoisin in center of each warm pancake. Spoon stir-fry over hoisin and serve.

Pork Taquitos

February 3, 2015

When in college a person eats Ramen noodles because they are inexpensive. But there was a time in college that frozen taquitos comprised a significant part of my weekly menu, not because they were inexpensive, but because I thought they were delicious. At the time it never occurred to me that I could make them for myself; they were beyond my young culinary capabilities. Fast forward 20 years, when I tried them again, all that I could taste was their flaws; leathery tortillas, dry meat, lackluster spices (plus a bunch of chemicals and preservatives). I felt the same way when I went back to my hometown in my 30’s. It had been the focus of my life; I had known every nook and cranny of the sleepy little town. Or when I see my ex-wife; a woman who I loved just 3 years ago; but to whom I now feel nothing (opps, a little too revealing; but she never reads my blog). The bottom line is this: Life only moves forward; just as I outgrew my home town, nothing can make eating frozen taquitos appealing again. No amount of horses and men can make Humpty Dumpty whole again. If taquitos are to ever be part of my future, so that I can share them with my kids, it is up to me to figure out how.

Good Mexican food takes a lot of time to preprare

Good Mexican food takes a lot of time to prepare

Chris Kimball does not have a recipe for taquitos. Of course I don’t generally trust his yankee-palate when it comes to “Mexican food”. I have been developing this recipe over the course of the past year, and am only just giving it 3-1/2 stars because there is room for improvement. The flavors are rich and delicious, but the flavors are not completely and properly balanced. Infinitely better than frozen taquitos, and represents a good starting point. I post another recipe when this recipe goes above 4-stars. (Please feel free to offer suggestions).


  1. To freeze taquitos, put on a waxed-paper-lined baking sheet and freeze until firm. Transfer to a resealable plastic freezer bag; they can be frozen for up to 3 months.  To use frozen taquitos: put in a single layer on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400-degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
  2. I used flour tortillas tonight, but generally make them using corn tortillas. There is a common (mis)belief that taquitos are made only with corn tortillas, and that flautas are only made with flour tortillas.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $18
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium/High.
Start time 1PM. Ready at 6PM.

5-lb bone-in pork butt
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups (16 ounces) beef broth
2 medium onion
2 jalapenos
2 teaspoon table salt
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
4 garlic cloves
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-cup shredded Mexican cheese blend (4-ounces)
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon lime juice
12 corn tortillas (6 inches)
Serve with: Sour cream, guacamole, salsa and lime slices.

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 300-degrees. Trim away any excess fat from the pork, and remove any skin (especially if you ended up with a pernil).
  2. Pre-heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in Dutch oven set over medium-high burner until oil begins to shimmer. Sear pork for 5 minutes per side; about 20 minutes total.
  3. Add beef broth to Dutch Oven, bring it up to a simmer, cover and bake for 4 hours until the pork is extremely tender. Remove pork to a large bowl and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  4. While the pork cools, strain the braising liquid into a fat separator and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Discard any solids.
  5. Pre-heat oven to 400-degrees.
  6. Pre-heat 1 tablespoon of pork fat (from fat separator) into now-empty dutch oven over medium-high burner. Add onions and jalapenos to pot, sprinkle with 2 teaspoon table salt. Saute until tender; about 5 minutes.
  7. Press garlic into the pot, and add tomato paste, cumin, oregano, chili powder, black pepper and cayenne; cook 1 minute longer.
  8. Pour 3/4 of liquid from the fat separator into the pot, using the liquid to deglaze the pan. Reduce for 5 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  9. Meanwhile, use two forks to shred pork, then pick through with your fingers to discard any clumps of fat or other unappetizing bits. Add pork to pot with sauteed vegetables.
  10. Add grate cheese, and lime juice. Cook and stir until cheese is melted.
  11. chopped cilantro,
  12. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  13. Soften tortillas by wrapping them a paper towel and microwaving them for about 30-45 seconds.
  14. Put 2 tablespoons of filling over lower third of a tortilla. Roll up tightly, using gravity to hold the taquito closed. (You can secure with toothpicks; or mix up your own paste by adding water to flour). Repeat rolling process with remaining tortillas.
  15. Bake at 400° for 8 minutes. Serve with: Sour cream, guacamole and salsa.

Twelfth Day of Christmas Tamales

January 6, 2015

For the past five years I have celebrated today; Epiphany; January 6th; the day when the Three Wise Men visited baby Jesus by making tamales. This year, I ended up in a 3-day-long tamale making marathon (Saturday to Monday). I tried a few new techniques, including incorporating some tricks from this Pernil. I used a bone-in pork shoulder (instead of a boneless butt roast), crisped up the skin afterwards and chopped it up and added it to the pork filling. In the end, this year resulted with 4-1/2 star tamales. Of course, my favorite part of this tradition is to deliver the tamales to my friends’ houses as a small gift (who have no idea that the plate of tamales were 3 days in the making).

The finished tamales were best yet

The finished tamales were best yet

In Mexico, the 12th day of Christmas is commemorated by eating Rosca de Reyes and searching for the hidden muñecitos (little baby Jesus dolls) within the cake. According to tradition, anyone who finds the tiny dolls hidden in their cake slice must make a Tamale dinner on February 2nd. In a slight variation of the Mexican tradition, I have been making and delivering Christmas tamales on the Twelfth Day of Christmas. BTW, my first years of making tamales were a disaster. Again this year, I also made some homemade tomatillo sauce.


  1. These pork tamales take at least 9 hours to make, but can easily started the day before all the way up until you make the dough. You will have to divide the tamales up between two pots, which I made one after the other. I make the second batch of tamales on the next day.
  2. Because I don’t have a steamer basket, I made my own out of Coke cans cut to half-height and collapsible colander (or a flattened disposable aluminum pan with steam holes poked all over, but use bamboo skewers to support the flattened disposable pan so that it wouldn’t collapse under the weight of the tamales).
  3. The spices for the filling are based upon a 4-lb boneless or 6-lb bone-in pork roast. Adjust the seasoning based upon your roast size.
  4. If you have any leftover pork you can use it to make tostadas or taquitos.
  5. In all, the thirsty masa will need 9 cups of broth. 7 cups of pork broth and 2 cups of chicken stock (for softening the grits).
  6. The best way to re-heat tamales in the microwave is to wrap them in a damp paper towel before microwaving for about 1-1/2 minutes per tamale.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $20 for 3 dozen.
How much work? High.
How big of a mess?  High.
Start time: 9:00 AM. Dinner time (First batch): 6:00 PM.

Tamales Filling:
6-lb bone-in pork shoulder (or 4-lb boneless pork shoulder )
2 onion, quartered
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1 teaspoon salt
6 springs of thyme
Dried corn husks (3 to 4 ounces; about 40 husks)
8 ounces of shredded Monterrey jack cheese

  1. Nine hours before dinner, set a rack to lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 450-degrees. Pour 9 cups of water into a large roasting pan, adding the other ingredients listed under the Tamale Filling. Place pork in pan with the skin-side down in the water. Cover pan tightly with extra-wide aluminum foil and roast at 450-degrees for 90 minutes.
  2. Turn down the oven to 375-degrees. Continue roasting, covered, for 2-1/2 more hours.  Meanwhile, take your dried corn husks out of the package and put them in a large Pyrex casserole dish filled with hot tap water. This will soften them so they are pliable enough to be easily folded. Use a dinner plate set on top to submerge the husks and allow to soak for a minimum of 3 hours.
  3. Prepare a V-rack by spraying it with non-stick vegetable oil spray.
  4. Remove entire pan from oven. Gently slide metal spatula under pork to release skin from pan. Using two clean, folded dish towels (or wads of paper towels) to grasp both ends of pork and put on V-rack with the skin-side up. Use paper towels to wipe the skin dry. Place V-rack with pork in roasting pan. Return to oven and bake for another 1 hour until the pork registers 195-degrees. (If needed, keep adding water to prevent the pan from drying out; you will eventually need 7 cups of broth.)
  5. So that the top of the roast is level with the top of the oven, create a ball of foil to support the narrow end. Return to oven, and broil for 10 minutes; rotating halfway through cooking. It will be done when the skin becomes well browned and crispy, and you can tap it lightly using tongs and it should sound hollow.
  6. Allow pork to rest for 30 minutes on a carving board. Remove frozen corn from freezer and allow to thaw.
  7. Meanwhile, pour broth through a strainer into a large bowl. Allow to settle for 5 minutes and skim off any excess fat. You will need a total of 7 cups of pork broth, so augment with tap water as necessary. Set pork broth aside for making the dough.
  8. Remove crispy skin from pork in large pieces. Chop skin finely into small pieces and set aside.
  9. Trim and discard any excess fat from pork. Remove the pork from the bone and coarsely chop then shred using two forks (or your fingers once it’s cool enough). As you shred the pork you will find bits of extra fat or unappetizing bits to discard. Because I don’t have enough large bowls, I use a Pyrex casserole dish to hold the shredded pork. Mix in 8 ounces of shredded Monterrey jack cheese and chopped pork skin from Step 8. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap to prevent the meat from drying out.

Filling Paste:
1/2 cup corn oil
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 teaspoons black pepper.

  1. While pork cooks, mix the paste ingredients together in a small bowl, then add it to the shredded pork. Mix until incorporated, and allow to marinade until ready to assemble the tamales.

Tamales Dough (Masa):
2 cups chicken stock
1-1/2 cups quick grits (not instant); 9-1/2 ounces
10 ounces frozen corn, thawed
7 cups masa harina (1-lb 15-ounces)
3 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons garlic powder
1-1/2 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon baking powder
5 ounces raisins
2-1/4 cups of corn oil (or vegetable shortening)
7 cups quarts of the pork broth (from filling recipe)

  1. Bring 2 cups of chicken broth to a boil, remove from burner and add quick grits. Allow to soften for 10 minutes, then empty softened grits and corn into food processor and pulse until smooth.
  2. In a separate large bowl, add grits/corn from food processor, 7 cups masa flour and all spices and raisins. Use a wooden spoon to combine.
  3. Add 2-1/4 cups of corn oil (or vegetable shortening) to masa and 7 cups pork broth (1 cup at a time), mixing well after every cup.  It should be the consistency of peanut butter. It is important to evenly distribute the liquid; every year some of my tamales are dry because I am not successful.
  4. Shake the excess water off the corn husks. Separate and place them on a wire rack to allow them to slightly dry.
  5. Lay the husk flat and spread about 3-1/4 oz masa (about 1/3-cup) in a rectangle in the center of the husk to about 1/4″ thickness. Put as much shredded pork in the middle of the masa will fit; for better flavor. Push filling flat and so that it works its way slightly into the masa. Use the corn husks to work dough into a cylindrical shape, with the dough on the outside and the filling is on the inside. Fold and roll your tamale, and set aside in a stack. See some helpful hints on rolling below.
  6. Fill the pot with water; being careful that the water level is below the bottom of steamer basket. I used a colander fitted inside my Dutch oven, and also used soda cans cut in half (with holes punch in bottom) to elevate my collapsible steamer.
  7. Fill the steamer basket with prepared tamales so that gravity will hold their seam closed. Most likely the tamales will not all fit in one pot and will need to be steamed in two batches.
  8. Cover your steamer and bring the water up to a boil. Then turn down the heat down (but maintaining a boil) and steam for about 1-1/2 hours. Cover pot with aluminum foil to better seal the pot, then cover with lid. If you see a lot of steam escaping, add water if necessary so that the pot doesn’t boil dry. The tamales will be done when the masa is firm and easily pulls away from the husks, also try tasting a bit of the masa.
  9. Preparation time is 9 hours. Makes 36 tamales, and use the remaining filling to make tostadas.

Lesson in Tamales Rolling:

Pork Pernil

November 9, 2014

The menu for my big Mexican dinner party (which happened last night) has been planned for a few weeks. Then, two days before the party, I was watching Cook’s Country and heard Chris Kimball declare his latest recipe to be “the best pork recipe he’s ever eaten.” Sure, I hear that every few episodes, but the final pork looked amazing. So I switched my theme from Mexican to Latin. I added ceviche, but left the Mexican Chicken Flautas on the menu. I also made a homemade tomatillo sauce. The pork was absolutely delicious; flavorful, tender. Yet without a doubt, the crispy pig skin was the best part of the entire meal. The recipe softens the skin by soaking it in water while baking at pretty high temperature for 4 hours. It’s as if the entire recipe is crafted towards perfecting the skin; the piece de resistance on an entirely delicious meal. The only flaw in the recipe is that the wonderful flavors of the sofrito do not permeate into the meat; even after 24-hours marinating. Instead of the complexity of the sofrito, the final presentation of the dish relies on a much simpler lime/cilantro jus. 4-1/2 stars. Definitely worth the 6-1/2 hours.

Tender pork topped with crispy pig skin

Tender pork topped with crispy pig skin

To overcome the recipes main flaw, a Latin friend says her sister pokes holes all over the roast with a big knife. Allowing the Sofrito, or Recao as she called it, to flavor the entire roast rather than just the exterior.

Other Comments:

  1. About 4 hours into the recipe I had a near disaster, so I offer this warning. Do not treat the 4 hours of cooking in steps 3 and 4 as virtually unattended cooking time. After you remove the foil, starting with step 4, plan to add 1 to 2 cups per hour. In my case I caught it just in time to save the drippings. Another 15 minutes and I could not have made the Jus.
  2. The 1 hour of cooking in Step 6 only brought my port up to 180-degrees. It took an extra 35-to-40 minutes to attain 195-degrees.
  3. While not described in the original recipe, the step of crisping the skin (step 8) had an added secret, which was very subtly shown on the Cook’s Country episode. You can use balled up aluminum foil to hold your roast in perfect position so that the skin crisps evenly.
  4. I had to buy two bunches of cilantro to yield the requisite 1-1/2 cups. One bunch will give you enough for the night before dinner, but I had to make another trip to the supermarket the next day.
  5. Chris Kimball recommends serving this with plain, white rice.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $15.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 11:30 AM. Ready at: 6:00 PM. (Begin marinating the day prior)

The Cook’s Country original recipe is here.  The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

1-1/2 cups chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems (used in Step 1 and Step 10)
1 onion, chopped coarse
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
10 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
7-pound bone-in pork picnic shoulder
3 to 4 limes (1 tablespoon grated lime zest plus 1/3 cup juice)

  1. The day before you cook the meal, add 1 cup cilantro, onion, salt, oil, garlic, pepper, oregano, and cumin to food processor. Pulse 15 times until finely ground. You may need to scrape down sides of the bowl.
  2. Pat pork dry with paper towels and rub sofrito all over. Wrap pork in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours.
  3. Start cooking 6 hours before dinner. Set a rack to lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 450-degrees. Pour 8 cups water into a large roasting pan. Unwrap pork, place in pan with the skin-side down in the water. Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil and roast at 450-degrees for 90 minutes.
  4. Remove foil, and turn down oven to 375-degrees. Continue roasting uncovered for 2-1/2 more hours.
  5. Prepare a V-rack by spraying it with non-stick vegetable oil spray.
  6. Remove entire pan from oven. Gently slide metal spatula under pork to release skin from pan. Using two clean, folded dish towels (or wads of paper towels) to grasp both ends of pork and put on V-rack with the skin-side up. Use paper towels to wipe the skin dry. Place V-rack with pork in roasting pan. If the pan looks dry, add 1-cup water (I recommend adding it no matter what). Return to oven and bake for another 1 hour (mine took 1-1/2 hours) until the pork registers 195-degrees. (If needed, to add water several times to prevent the pan from drying out.)
  7. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet by lining it with foil (for easy cleanup).
  8. Remove pan from oven, and set V-rack with pork in prepared baking sheet. I saw on the Cook’s Country episode that they make the roast level by creating a ball of foil to support the flatter end. Return to oven, and turn up the oven temperature to 500-degrees. Cook for 15 to 30 minutes; rotating sheet halfway through cooking. It will be done when the skin becomes well browned and crispy., and you can tap it lightly using tongs and it should sound hollow.
  9. Allow pork to rest for 30 minutes on a carving board.
  10. Meanwhile, pour juices from pan into fat separator. Allow to settle for 5 minutes, then pour off 1 cup of the de-fatted juices into large bowl. If you don’t have 1 cup, then make up the shortfall using water. Whisk 1/2-cup cilantro, lime zest, and lime juice into bowl with the de-fatted juices.
  11. Remove crispy skin from pork in large pieces. Chop skin coarsely into bite-size pieces and put in serving bowl.
  12. Trim and discard any excess fat from pork. Remove the pork from the bone and chop it coarsely. Transfer pork to bowl with cilantro-lime sauce and toss to combine. Serve pork, with crispy skin on the side.

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