Posts Tagged ‘meat


arroz con pollo

I decided to try an unorthodox method for arroz con pollo last night. I baked it in the oven instead of cooking it on the stove. I’ve said it before, but I’ve heard it a million times, so I don’t see why you shouldn’t, too: the only proper way to cook Mexican rice is to toast it, add the broth, stir once, and then leave it absolutely alone, uncovered and on the stovetop, until it is done. Never mind that this method has always left me with both burnt spots (that’s okay, those are yummy) and undercooked spots (not okay). It is the only way to do it, and all other ways are doomed to failure.

Not true. Not that I didn’t run into snags, but the finished product was nearly perfect. Check this out:

finished arroz con pollo
Isn’t that beautiful?

First snag: as the clerk at Drewe’s went to ring up my chicken thighs, I grabbed the bag and realized something was wrong. It was too squishy. “Um, are these boneless?” I asked. They were, but the clerk had the good grace to look a little abashed that he had assumed. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any bone-in, so I paid up and walked home, fretting about how I was sure to overcook the boneless meat.

I set that worry aside as I put Thanksgiving’s frozen turkey carcass in a pot to simmer into stock and the freezer’s supply of leaf lard into a skillet to render. An hour or so later, those two products were put away to chill, and I was on to other things for a bit.

The lard froze in unexpectedly pretty patterns:
frozen lard

Come time to cook dinner, snag number two: I got the onion going in the cast iron skillet before I remembered I was supposed to sear the outside of the chicken. So out came another skillet, sear, sear, spatter, spatter, stick, stick. Which gave me the opportunity to deglaze that pan with stock and add the tasty browned bits to the main pan.

But first I added the garlic, then the 1.5 cups of rinsed and drained rice (to get rid of excess starch; another innovation) along with 1 tablespoon of chili powder, 1 teaspoon of comino, .25 teaspoon of cayenne, and a generous pinch of salt. When everything was toasty, I added 2.5 cups of stock (then a little more, in consideration of the boneless chicken’s tendency to dry out), and a generous squeeze of tomato paste. I stirred until the tomato paste dissolved, then nestled the chicken down in the liquid. When everything started to bubble, I threw on a lid and slid the skillet into the middle of a 350 F oven for 30 minutes.

arroz con pollo ready for the oven
Ready for the oven

Third snag: About 10 minutes into the baking, I was seized by an urgent desire to peek and see how it was doing. I resisted. J-P says good thing, because if I had done that, the spirits from the Ark of the Covenant would have flown out and melted my face off. Obviously that’s what happens when you give the rice the ojo.

I occupied myself instead by making some of the best tortillas I’ve ever made. Thinner than usual and still soft, even this morning. I’m not sure what I did, but I think I upped the baking powder (about a teaspoon for the two cups of flour; the same amount of salt would have been good, but I put in only half a teaspoon), and added what felt like a little too much water. The masa was a little stickier than I wanted to work with, but apparently that was a good thing. I also made the portions much too big at first, as evidenced by the way this one fills the pan:

tortilla como australia

It also reminds me of a poem I read once and want to track down again. I think it was in a South End Press anthology. It’s called “Tortillas como Africa” and is about, among other things, the difficulties of making round tortillas. I think mine looks like Australia, if you squint.

For some reason, everything was a little lacking in salt. I think I could have doubled all of the seasonings in the rice and it would have been fine. Next time, I also want to rub the chicken with spices before I cook it, and make sure to get a better brown on it (I was scared of overcooking, remember). And I will finish the dish on the stovetop, to make sure the bottom gets burnt for raspas. The trick is making sure everything else is cooked first, and the oven did a fine job of that.


buffalo slim jim and more surprisingly savory kale

We recently thawed and tried out the buffalo-cheddar sausages we got from the Prather Ranch stall at the farmers’ market a few weeks ago. We decided that there’s always delight in sausages filled with cheese, and the slight gaminess was pleasant, but the texture of these was a little too Slim Jim.

My side dish was more successful: a couple of bunches of dino kale, sauteed in olive oil with garlic, salt, black pepper, and king trumpet mushrooms. J-P brought out the chili garlic paste, but he never ended up using it, declaring the kale “surprisingly savory” as it was. I credit the mushrooms–those things are awesome.


our pescatarian friends go complexitarian

Pescatarians Paulie and Jessamin made it through airport security a while back with 20 pounds of venison backstrap that Paulie cut out of a deer in Texas. Pan-frying part of it as steaks turned their diet what Scott Thomson calls “complexitarian.” (I love that term.)

Here’s Paulie and Jessamin’s cat Dude with the second part of the stash to be consumed:

Dude and venison backstrap

(Dude would like you to know that Jessamin forced him up there for size comparison and that he wants nothing to do with that slab of raw meat, thank you very much.)

They turned this one into “something vaguely carne guisada-esque, with quinoa, corn, and black beans, and avocado on the side.”

venison carne guisada-ish

I really need to convince my dad to send me home with some venison. I’m not killing it or cleaning it, though. That’s still his job.


busy kitchen

Several projects going on at once: 1. marinating pork shoulder with sesame oil, cayenne, cinnamon, allspice, black pepper, and salt, per J-P’s orders; 2. rendering fat from said pork shoulder; 3. parceling out fresh masa from La Palma “Mexicatessen” to see if it freezes well; 4. eating a few tortillas from said masa. Also note that we will never want for read chili flakes again:


That was the smallest bag I could find. It smells fruity and hot and delicious. I think John might be in for another housewarming present…


my good friend protein

Chris Sturr, with whom I’ve shared many a fondue pot (so you know this is not too serious), recently suggested through J-P that I try the Zone Diet concept to make sure I get enough protein to prevent the cranky shakes. Basically, you think of foods as “blocks,” with 7 grams of protein equaling a block of protein, 9 grams (not counting dietary fiber) for a block of carbs, and 3 grams for a block of fats. You try to keep those blocks in a 1:1:1 ratio, and eat totals that bring you up to daily intakes recommended based on your lean body mass and activity level. Fair enough.

My biggest beef is not with the pseudoscience crufted around the basic idea (unavoidable in nutrition writing), but with the books’ inherent bias toward meat eating. To make it easy for you–so that you don’t have to “gram it out”–the books call certain amounts of meat or dairy “protein blocks,” with all greens and all beans except soy classed as “carb blocks.” What about spinach? It’s 1 protein to 0.4 carbs. Or broccoli and cauliflower, each about 1:1 (slightly in favor of carbs). Lentils and split peas, the same. And the rest of the beans aren’t so bad: 1:1.3 for black beans, 1:1.75 for chickpeas. Not that I’m going to go hippie, but Dr. Sears would have me eat three quarters of a pound of boneless, skinless chicken breast each day–and I’m not about to do that, either.

Speaking of skinless: I also routinely go way over my daily allotment of fat. But my cholesterol is fine, and my estimated body fat percentage is a couple of points below their “ideal woman.” It doesn’t seem to be hurting me.

Complaints aside, I will keep a food diary for a little while, to see what tweaks I can make, and whether coming closer to 1:1:1 has any noticeable effects. If I find anything interesting, I’ll let you know.


efficiency in farming

California seems to be affecting me–I flaked out on the book club meeting on Sunday. The cookie party started late, it was raining fiercely, and the party was still in full swing when I should have been leaving…

One thing that stuck with me from Righteous Porkchop is the connection that Hahn Niman never quite makes between two arguments in her chapter “Answering Obstacles to Reform.” The first is that factory farms have only one area of greater efficiency over traditional farms in producing animal products: labor. It takes fewer people to raise more animals in a CAFO than it takes to raise fewer animals on a traditional farm. Every other advantage that factory farms have is about power: the power to dictate the terms of their contracts with smaller farmers, the power to make the pollution from their vast concentrations of manure a public problem, rather than one that they have to pay to deal with, the power to have impunity in contaminating our food supply with antibiotic-resistant microbes that they have helped create. And, given their efficiency in labor, their claims to create lots of jobs are pure bunk.

The second argument is that hunger is a distribution problem, not a supply problem. Producing more food over the world’s current surplus will not feed one single person more who doesn’t already have the money to buy that surplus food. And many of the people who don’t have the money are people who have been pushed off their land by the market and political power of industrialized agricultural producers. These people, who used to grow food for themselves and make a living by selling their surplus to others, end up migrating to cities to become the urban poor, the favela-dwellers, the colonia-dwellers.

The connection that Hahn Niman doesn’t make is that from there, especially if they’re in Central America or Mexico, they migrate to the United States, many of them to work our fields with disease-causing chemicals or in our slaughterhouses, where the risk of injury is astronomical. Our dominant method of producing food has devalued the work so much, both there and here, that this seems to make sense. We’ve devalued the work of producing food so much that it sounds plausible to say that no one (who matters) wants to be a farmer anymore, even though there are plenty of people who do–as long as the job involves the traditional benefits of caring for plants and animals and spending time outdoors, rather than monitoring spreadsheets in metal warehouses full of miserable meat-producing machines. And most of the people would like to do traditional farm work would prefer not to have to migrate to do it, but our food production system is one of the things that compels their migration.

That connection, as much as anything that Hahn Niman said directly in her book, has me thinking hard about my food choices again.


18 Reasons Food Lit Club

Rainbow cheesemonger Gordonzola turned me on to the 18 Reasons Food Lit Club today, so I’ll be attending three meetings between now and the end of the year. In October, we’ll discuss The Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms by Nicolette Niman, with the author and her husband in attendance. In November, it’s Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg (a hard look at the effects of world fish consumption on cod, salmon, sea bass, and tuna). And in December, it’s Gordon Edgar’s own Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge, with Gordon in attendance.

If you’re free from 4-6 on Sundays October 24, November 21, and December 19, you can also join in! Tickets available for $30 (without books) or $70 (books included, pick up at Omnivore at Church and Cesar Chavez).

18 Reasons is a non-profit engaging the community through food and art. They offer a year-round calendar of wine tastings, art shows, community dinners, food classes, interactive workshops, and more in an intimate community space.

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