"True wine enthusiasts don’t collect wines.
They collect memories of wines shared with friends and family."

-Dario Zucconi

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pulled Pork Shoulder Slow Cooked in a Balsamic Honey Mustard Glaze with Asian Slaw

I love the feeling I get when I pull into the garage after work, and even before I open the door, I can smell the tantalizing aromas emanating from the slow cooker in my kitchen. At the end of a 12-hour day, that smell instantly relaxes me! But, it also is one of the reasons why I love cooking so much.

Today was one of those days! This morning - before I went to work - I put a pork shoulder in the slow cooker to make pulled pork for dinner tonight. The inspiration for this dish came about this past weekend. We were at our friends Gail and Nadine's house for dinner. We were talking about pulled pork recipes. So, I was inspired to make a pulled pork dish. I was browsing the Internet for a relatively easy (but inviting) pulled pork recipe that I could use and give it my own flavor. I came across this recipe:  http://www.justataste.com/2013/12/easy-slow-cooker-balsamic-honey-pulled-pork-recipe/

I was drawn to the recipe because of the ingredients (balsamic vinegar, blackberry jam, Asian Slaw). So, while I was at the my favorite grocery store (aka my playground) - Berkeley Bowl - I decided to pick up the ingredients that I didn't have at home. I hadn't had a chance to make it earlier this week. But, today was a great day for that dish. We had a pretty hot day today around the Bay Area (some would say a heat wave!). So, it was a perfect day for slow cooking (no oven, but I love the ability to enjoy slow and concentrated flavors).

I modified this dish a little bit. You know me - I rarely follow a recipe to the T! So, here is what I did differently:

The Pulled Pork:
  • I seasoned the pork with Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.
  • Then, I browned the pork shoulder on all sides.
  • For the sauce, I used:
    • Mayan Sweet Onions (instead of regular yellow onions).
    • About a Tablespoon of Soy Sauce.
    • A Tablespoon of Honey Dijon Mustard.
    • 1/2 teaspoon of Mexican Oregano (regular Oregano is fine)
    • Wild Huckleberry Jam (which we bought in Oregon last year) instead of Blackberry. I love the little Huckleberries in the jam.
    • Salt and pepper to taste.

The Asian Slaw:

I did a mixture of purple and green cabbage. I added some chopped cilantro and shredded carrots. I also seasoned the dressing with salt and pepper.

The Composed Sandwich:

We used Ciabatta bread to make the sandwich. When assembling the sandwich, I spread a little bit of Honey Dijon Mustard on the bread, added the pulled pork on one side, and the slaw on the other side. VoilĂ !

Homemade Guacamole:

As a little side/appetizer, I made some guacamole. I had some very ripe avocados around, and thought it would be a great way to use them.

The Wine:

We enjoyed the sandwich with a glass of red wine blend (Merlot and Cabernet Franc) by Ravenswood (2011). This blend was a great compliment to the pork sandwich, which is mildly sweet from the sauce, but slightly tangy from the Asian Slaw.

I hope you all are having a great week. Here's looking forward to the weekend and inspirations!

Until next time . . . Cheers!


Monday, April 21, 2014

The Joy of Cooking: Giada's Chicken Cacciatore with Red Wine Butter

Giada De Laurentiis's Chicken Cacciatore with Red Wine Butter
(Courtesy of Food and Wine Magazine, May 2014)

After I've been cooking for as many years as I can remember, I think I finally realize what the phrase "the joy of cooking" means. It means cooking a meal, and at the end of it, having a feeling of complete joy and total satisfaction. That's how I felt tonight after I finished making this Roast Chicken Cacciatore with Red Wine Butter (courtesy of Chef Giada De Laurentiis and Food and Wine Magazine): http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/roast-chicken-cacciatore-with-red-wine-butter.

I think what made this dish even more special is the fact that my daughter (11) was so eager to help make it (she helped me by cleaning vegetables, measuring the liquids, seasoning the vegetables before roasting). And, as the food was cooking, my 8-year-old son kept asking "what is cooking, Mom? It smells so good!" It's hard to describe the feeling I get when my kids get involved in cooking with me, and they get excited about the food I am making. It's an indescribable feeling of sheer JOY!

I've been traveling for work the past couple of weeks. While I've enjoyed exploring new cities and savoring the incredible dishes of places like Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Orlando, Florida, I've missed my babies. So, it's great to be able to make some yummy dishes that the whole family can enjoy.

If you're interested in making this dish, check out the recipe in the link above. This was a perfect "make-ahead" dish. I finished it tonight, but my family and I will enjoy it for dinner tomorrow. With my work and commute, these recipes have become my best friend! I did a taste test, and it was incredibly delicious. The red wine butter gave it a great taste! The flavors of the fresh basil, oregano, thyme, and garlic just shone through. The peppers and olives just take the dish to a whole new level. The trouble with making a dish like this ahead of time is that it's hard to wait for the next day to eat it.

Here is hoping you all have a wonderful week ahead!

Until next time . . . Cheers!