Tag Archives: food blogger

Dry Rubbed Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

It’s funny how things come full circle. Just over a year ago, I was starting to discover and connect with the DC foodie scene. My cooking posts were tossed in with the other things I wrote about in DC and if you’d mentioned a “food blog” to me, I would have laughed in your face. And well… here we are!

When I got my first crock pot, my inbox and IM windows were flooded with recipes to try and one that worked out well for me was a pulled meat style barbecue. It was ridiculously simple, put meat in the crock pot with a bottle of your chosen barbecue sauce and set on Low for six hours, shredding it at the seventh hour and simmering in the developed sauce. I shared the technique with a friend and ended up getting a mention as a “foodie friend” in her post on Pulled Pork. After looking back at that recipe, I decided to give it a try with a pork shoulder I recently picked up at the supermarket. Instead of a wet sauce, it uses a dry rub and relies on a bit of water and the pork’s fat to develop a sauce as it slowly cooks.

The dry-rub recipe is a “classic” from Cook’s Illustrated and the method is pure crock-pot with just a little bit of fiddling. You normally can leave things in the crock pot and walk away, but this requires some turning early on and obviously some shredding in the later hours:

  • one 6 to 8 lb. pork shoulder
  • 1/4 cup water (optional, depending on how much sauce you want to form)
  • spice rub
    • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
    • 1 tablespoon ground white pepper
    • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
      (2 tsp if you like it spicy, I substituted chipotle pepper to trade heat for smokiness)
    • 1 tablespoon chili powder
    • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
    • 4 tablespoons paprika
    • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
    • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon white sugar
    • 2 tablespoons salt

  1. Mix together the spice rub in a large ziploc/oven bag, shaking it to combine the spices thoroughly.
  2. Add the pork shoulder and vigorously shake the bag until the pork is fully covered in the spice rub.
  3. Place the sealed bag in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours/overnight. The longer the pork is allowed to marinate, the stronger the flavor will be.

Crammed into the crock!

On cooking day, remove the pork shoulder from the bag and place it in the crock pot. Discard any leftover spice that didn’t “cling” to the meat.

  1. Add the 1/4 cup of water, if desired, and place the pot on low.
  2. Cover the pot with the lid and allow to cook for 1 hour.
  3. After an hour, turn the pork shoulder over and continue to cook for 1 more hour.
  4. Turn the pork shoulder over one more time and let it continue to cook for another 4 hours.
  5. Check to see if the pork is starting to tenderize. If it is, shred the pork using a fork (or tongs–or bear paws!) and stir the shredded meat around in the sauce created during cooking.
  6. Cook for another 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your crock pot and the desired flavor/texture.

Shredded and ready to serve

If your pork shoulder is closer to 8 pounds, you may need a longer cooking time and vice versa for smaller cuts of meat. Because of the fattiness of pork, it’s hard to mess this one up. Please note, this recipe makes a lot. It would be great made in advance of a picnic or party, but if you’re making this for just yourself, plan on a lot of leftovers!

To appease the BBQ purists out there, I admit that this isn’t barbecue. It was slow cooked using a steamed/simmering method, not slow-roasted over low heat on a grill/smoker. Some people like the charred bits that barbecue brings and if you feel that’s missing from this recipe, I advise that you remove the pork shoulder at about hour 5 or 6, place it on a baking or roasting pan and set it under the broiler for a few minutes per side to crisp up the edges before returning it to the crock pot for shredding. Just be careful moving the pork shoulder around at this stage as it’s quite ready to fall apart.

Even if it isn’t traditional barbecue, it will do for me in a pinch. Especially if I see that a planned cookout might be rained out, this wouldn’t be bad to have in the fridge as a backup dish. And while a sandwich is certainly the most satisfying serving method for the pork, I could also see it going over couscous or steamed rice, rolled up in a wrap with chopped veggies or even tossed with some cheese into an omelette for brunch. As I said, you’re going to have a lot of it, so if you and your guests aren’t feeling piggy–pun intended–when it’s first served up, plan ahead to freeze some or make some unique dishes with the leftovers. Enjoy!

Cochon 555

5 Chefs, 5 Pigs, 5 Winemakers, one cause: to raise awareness for heritage breeds and family owned farms. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you may wish to look away now…

I don’t really have the words to describe it. Some people call the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner the Nerd Prom, well Cochon 555 is the Pork Prom, no doubt about it. Pork based dishes, desserts and drinks, some amazing wineries, a demonstration where Butcher Ryan Farr completely… butchered a 216-pound pig. I was lucky enough to attend with Adventures in Shaw, One Bite at a Time and Not Derby Pie. We also ran into food bloggers The Bitten Word.

It was hard to pick a favorite, but I managed to cast my vote–and then maybe have a few more nibbles. Of the competing chefs: R.J. Cooper of Vidalia, Joe Palma of Westend Bistro, Daniel Singhofen of Eola, Nicholas Stefanelli of Bibiana, and David Varley of Bourbon Steak, it was Varley of Bourbon Steak who was declared the winner. Honestly though, all of us in attendance were the winners. I’m sort of glad I’m fasting for a hospital visit today because I still don’t have any room after last night!

AGAINN Spring Menu

Spring Luncheon Menu from AGAINN

Earlier this month, I was invited along with other local food bloggers and writers to AGAINN–pronounced ‘aguinn’ [a-g-uin]–to sample their Spring Menu. As I am a blogger and this is more or less going to be a review, let me make some things clear up front:

  1. I have been to AGAINN before, for happy hour with friends and a food blogger happy hour, so I am familiar with their food and drink. The promise of new menu items was the main draw.
  2. So that there are no misunderstandings, this lunch was free. There has been a lot of buzz about full disclosure on the part of bloggers to allay any suspicions of bias. As I said, I have been to AGAINN before and paid for food and drink, just not this time.

Head Bartender Rachel Sergi

That said, it was a wonderful time. They took us on a menu tour, for lack of a better term. Beverage Director Caterina Abbruzzetti allowed us to sample amazing cocktails and some unique and hard-to-find libations–wine, beer and scotch–unless you visit AGAINN, of course.

Lady MacBeth cocktail Head Bartender Rachel Sergi served up one of my favorite cocktails from their bar, the Lady MacBeth. Made with vodka or gin, it has lemon, elderflower liqueur, rosewater and egg white. The latter ingredient giving it an amazing cloud-like quality on the tongue while the former conspire to give it an intense floral bouquet, pun intended. It’s a foamy, flowery delight that is as much a joy to watch being made as it is to drink. If you’re a one-drink limit sort of person, consider this one for happy hour or as an apéritif.

My only amendment to that recommendation is if it’s near a holiday or other special event as their bartenders love to experiment. We also got a taste of a cocktail called The Saint created after the Superbowl in honor of the New Orleans Saints. Containing dark lager, gin and sweet vermouth, it was layered perfectly to appear black and gold, naturally. During my previous visits, I’ve been offered a taste of something that the bartenders were working on. Not everything was to my liking, but that’s the fun of playing around with cocktails and they’re willing to work at it to zero in on worthy drink menu additions.

Vichyssoise with Goat Cheese on Toast

Following the warm-up cocktail, our lunch started with a chilled Vichyssoise accompanied by goat cheese on toast. Aside from the occasional Gazpacho, I don’t normally enjoy cold soups, but this one was very yummy. It had a drizzle of just barely fragrant olive oil on top and with the toast made for a great starter. Though I’ll say that they could just offer the goat cheese on toast as an option on its own and I’d love it.

Pan-Seared Scottish Salmon

Next up was Pan-Seared Scottish Salmon atop a mix of peas, bacon and lemon. Executive Chef Wes Morton was on-hand to walk us through the dishes and answer our questions including being able to tell us about the salmon farm where AGAINN buys their fish.

A little taste of scotch The salmon entrée was delicious, but there isn’t anything mysterious about the method of preparation. Simple is always good, but as someone that cooks, you don’t always want to go out to eat for something you could easily prepare at home. The peas tasted very fresh, like shelling them yourself after harvest fresh and mixed well with the house made bacon but they were firm. Some of my dining companions thought they could have used a little more cooking to achieve a more tender texture.

Palette cleanser, Radishes and Butter After the salmon, they brought out trays with radishes and what looked like cheese sprinkled with chives. This was a palette cleanser and the “cheese” was actually butter, unsalted and very thick. I was dubious, but not only did the two go very well together, it really did completely wipe out the taste of the salmon and we were quite ready to enjoy dessert.

Pastry Chef Genevieve So walked us through the dessert, a Rhubarb Syllabub specifically designed to counteract the usual concept of overly-sweet British desserts. The bitterness of the rhubarb seemed enhanced by Campari and made an interesting contrast to the creamy-pillowy base.

Rhubarb Syllabub with Black Pepper Shortbread Cookies

Did I mention the Black Pepper Shortbread Cookies? Amazing, and while the Syllabub wasn’t really to my taste, I would swiped the cookies from the plates of those seated next to me had they not already vanished. If you’re a rhubarb purist, however, you’ll love this dessert as it doesn’t try to overpower the plant’s less-sweet taste as most recipes do.

It was a great lunch and their other lunch and dinner offerings should not disappoint. I enjoyed how knowledgeable the chefs and bartenders were about their wares and if you’re a diner that needs to know exactly where your food came from, this is the place to go. Based on their menu, our 3-course lunch would have cost around $30 or so not including drinks. Depending on your job, a leisurely lunch isn’t always an option, so most are more likely to spend less for lunch on food, at least.

Strawberry Rhubarb Preserves from Againn As things were coming to a close, Pastry Chef So sent us off with some homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Preserve including the recipe!

Strawberry Rhubarb Preserve

  • 2 lbs. (fresh local) strawberries, quartered
  • 2 lbs. rhubarb
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 packet natural pectin
  1. Cut rhubarb into half-inch pieces and combine with 3 cups sugar. Let marinate for 1-2 hours.
  2. Mix remaining sugar with pectin and vanilla bean, and reserve.
  3. Cook marinated rhubarb over stove until pieces are soft and broken, about 15 minutes.
  4. Add strawberries and sugar/pectin/vanilla mix into pot and continue to cook down and reduce, constantly stirring for about 15 minutes.
  5. Deposit hot jam into sterilized hot jars, seal and turn upside down to cool.

I’m not much of a jam maker, but even I could be convinced with a tasty result like this one! AGAINN does right by the term Gastropub with a warm atmosphere, accessible menu and great food!

Links
AGAINN (DC): Twitter & Facebook
OpenTable
Yelp
Urbanspoon
Againn Gastropub on Urbanspoon

Bake Sale for Haiti

It’s that time again! The DC Food Bloggers are bringing their yummy wares to you for a bake sale. All the proceeds from this bake sale will go towards Doctors Without Borders’ relief efforts in Haiti.

We will be selling our wares on Sunday, March 28th from 9-11am on the patio at Zorba’s Cafe. It’s just two blocks north of the Dupont Circle metro exit (Q St) and one block north of the Dupont Circle Farmers’ Market.

The market opens at 10, so why not stop by and see us before your Sunday morning shopping? You can pick up something to go with your morning Starbucks and tuck away a few more goodies for later! It should be a lovely morning and you’ll get to meet some of your favorite food bloggers–it’s ok, I won’t be jealous if I’m not one of them. Our last bake sale had a great turn out (and sell out!) and we’d love to see you again. And to let you in on a little secret: having access to food bloggers with a nearby farmers’ market is a great way to get helpful tips and ideas for your meals and answers to your food questions and/or dilemmas.

If you’re interested in volunteering, please contact Adventures in Shaw, Thrifty DC Cook, Not Derby Pie or One Bite At A Time. We need everything from bakers to sellers, set up & clean up.

Even if you’re not baking-inclined, we can still use your reach. Please feel free to grab a copy of the flyer and post it on your own blog or Facebook page. Print it out and hang it up at your office, e-mail your friends with a sweet-tooth and let them know about it. Since we’re only going to have around a 2-hour window this time around, the more people we can let know about it, the better.

I hope you’ll come out to see us on the 28th. There’s going to be some great eats for a great cause.

Knife Skills with Olga Berman (Mango & Tomato)

I don’t often blog about cooking tips or techniques because most of the dishes I make don’t require any special kitchen moves to get the job done. Most of the time, people aren’t standing over your shoulder as you cook, and depending on what you make no one will ever know how adept or clumsy you are. That said, I am now an extremely dangerous man with a chef’s knife.

Knife Skills class, in potentia. Olga Berman of Mango & Tomato taught an amazing knife skills class this weekend for a few local food bloggers. It was hosted by Adventures in Shaw with myself, Thrifty DC Cook, adventures of a florida girl in dc and One Bite At A Time in attendance. We all have varying levels of experience in the kitchen, but I think most of us either ignored our chef’s knives, or weren’t using them to their fullest potential. I personally love my Santoku-bladed knife, but I admit that it isn’t the best tool for every job. I mostly reach for it because it’s a slightly smaller blade than my chef’s knife and the handle suits my grip better than that of my Sabatier set. And sometimes when your kitchen surface area is reduced, you just want the one tool to have at the ready. Still, after this past Saturday’s class, I have newfound respect for the chef’s knife.

This is definitely a “100 level” class, as she went through the basics on how to prepare your knife before each use, the best type of cutting board–we both love Epicurean boards, and how to hold the knife. Of course, I’d been doing it all wrong thereby robbing myself of the naturally rhythmic cutting motion that a chef’s knife affords the wielder. After we had the proper grip and cutting motion, we moved to to food, starting with segmenting an orange. It isn’t a necessary technique for when the slices won’t be featured, but it’s an amazing effect for when they’re center stage. My technique wasn’t quite perfect with this as I couldn’t quite get the roundness I was looking for, but I was able to get a few pretty segments before my orange fell apart. Still, in this class, even your mistakes are yummy.

IMG_0744 From there we moved onto onions, learning two methods for dicing them: making perpendicular cuts into the onion–which is the method you’re mostly likely to see TV cooks use, and cutting with the natural grain of the onion. The latter being a more natural and faster technique, but for either one, you have to have good control of the knife and the food on the cutting surface. Both gave us nicely even diced onion pieces which were swiftly collected in a bowl and whisked away by our host… As it turned out, she was reaping the benefits of the class by planning to use our chopped veggies for dishes this week.

Working with potatoes, we learned basic cutting methods for strips, matchsticks and cubes which can be applied to many foods. We also learned a new way of cutting carrots to give more triangular cuts than the standard round chunks. I’ll be using that next time I roast something as more surface area is a good thing. After applying the same basic cutting method to garlic and learning how to mince parsley–also discussing the chiffonade method for leafy herbs, she ended the class with a bang: peppers. I know, it doesn’t sound that exciting until she showed us the following method:

It may take me a while before I’m able to do that, but it was certainly impressive and none of us had ever thought to avoid the ribs and seeds that way. Over the course of the class, I realized that my biggest problem is timing. When I cook for myself, I often lose track of what needs to be done when and I end up rushing through my prep. This usually leaves me with shoddily chopped veggies–though that doesn’t always matter–and the occasionally-nicked fingernail. With Olga’s instruction and surrounded by friends, I realized that it wasn’t (and isn’t) a race. Taking my time produced superior results, and learning the appropriate techniques still had me finishing quickly. I will also note that there were six of us dicing onions in close proximity, but with the right methods and sharp knives, none of us cried.

The class was a lot of fun, very hands on and Olga is a wonderful teacher. As we were wrapping things up, she made sure we asked questions, and using pen & paper was able to sketch out cutting techniques for other types of food that we didn’t have on-hand. If you and some friends are looking for a fun (and educational) foodie event, get in touch with Olga through her blog and ask about the class.

We all took some great photos of the class and our efforts. There’s a flickr group with fantastic shots by Shaw Girl and the rest of us. I suppose I shouldn’t be, but I was surprised at how much fun it actually was. I’m not really into classroom type situations, but this was non-competitive, non-judgmental and we had a lot of laughs.

If you want to hear more about the class or our other foodie exploits, look us up on twitter: @urbanbohemian, @MangoTomato, @Shaw_Girl, @ThriftyDCCook, @floridagirlindc & @frijolita. (Note: Some of us have protected accounts, and some of us may not follow back right away, if at all. But an @-reply will be seen if you have a specific question.)

Chopper’s Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

We all have our standby recipes that are, first and foremost, easy. They may also be impressive, but like a well-known commercial illustrates, they really aren’t any trouble at all. And then there are those recipes that may happen to be easy, but are also chosen clearly to knock people’s socks off.

Parchment off, ready to travel

I first made this cake nearly 4 years ago when some friends were getting together for a cooking night. I’d never tried making any sort of mousse before, let alone into a cake, so I was pretty nervous about it. Mostly I was nervous about dealing with egg whites as I’d heard so many horror stories about how easy it is to screw up trying to whip them! Armed with that experience though, I was able to triumph this time around with no problems at all. I even decided to add a little snowflake effect to the top of the cake as a symbolic way to say goodbye to DCs snowy season–one hopes.

The recipe is not mine, but comes from Belly Timber, where Chef “Chopper Dave” adapted some recipes to develop a chocolate/hazelnut cake base, a chocolate mousse center layer and a chocolate ganache top. Since this is proper baking, a scale is best, but I was able to make adequate conversions to survive without one. And as the recipe is in three distinct parts, you’re not rushed to make sure everything is happening at once and I had time to make and eat dinner between the mousse setting in the freezer for a while and whipping together the ganache.

I wouldn’t say this is easy for the absolute beginner, but if you’re looking for a recipe with impressive results that draws on basic techniques, this is a great recipe for you. Plus, if you’re serving it to chocolate lovers, it won’t have to be perfect anyway!

DC Food Blogger Happy Hour at Againn

DC Food Blogger Happy Hour of 2010 will be at Againn on Wednesday, February 3rd.

It’s that time again, the DC Food Bloggers are having their first Happy Hour of 2010 at Againn this Weds, Feb 3rd from 6-8p. Thrifty DC Cook puts it best:

Are you looking for another opportunity to drink specialty beers, eat delicious bar food, and slur recipes to one another? Well here it is.

Attendance is free–of course–but if your RSVP for the food blogger happy hour is in the affirmative, you must leave a comment over at ThriftyDC’s so they’ll have an idea of what kind of turnout to expect in addition to their regular happy hour crowd.

If you have a DC food blog, this is a great way to meet your fellow foodies and share ideas, recipes & techniques. If you’re just a fan of local food blogs or have been thinking of starting one of your own, it’s a good opportunity for a meet and greet. While I don’t look forward to braving the cold, I am looking forward to some good company and good food!

Ping Pong Dim Sum

One thing I’ve been hearing since moving to a city with a–more or less–proper Chinatown is “Where can you go for good dim sum?” And as it was well before my out and about knowledge, I had no idea, but I knew what people were talking about was the classic concept of the on-cart, a la carte dim sum, pointing and ordering on the fly. I’ve been to places in the area that served dim sum in the area, meaning either small plates or many types of dumplings but not on the carts.

Ping Pong Dim Sum DC - exterior

Ping Pong Dim Sum is one of DC’s latest international imports, with restaurants already in London, Brazil and Dubai. Their impending presence had been known for a while, but a fellow foodie friend and I walked past a week or so before their opening and spoke to the manager about the place. My friend reported seeing them training their staff each night as she headed home from work, so after our conversation, we were looking forward to giving them a try.

This is a restaurant with an active social media presence: @PingPongDC, so they had already been responding to a few of us on twitter. Those in attendance were @Shaw_Girl, @floridagirlindc, @MangoTomato & @urbanbohemian (me).

Ping Pong Dim Sum - 08

It’s a wonderfully designed restaurant, definitely striking notes of “asian modern”. You’ll want to check your coat as the chairs have no backs! A nice combination of oblong and round tables in the dining room seemed to give the servers an easier time making it around the restaurant. We were there for a 12:30 lunch and the place was busy, not crowded. Not too noisy, or at least not so much that we couldn’t hear our own party and the server–though she did have to speak up and lean in a few times.

Their menu is a good balance of dumplings (baked, steamed, grilled and fried) and other options including salads and signature dishes. Definitely some non-salad options here for vegetarians. Our table went with the three set menu options, Seafood, Vegetarian and the “Dumpling Fix” containing a nice sampling. Similar to sushi, you have a piece of paper with the menu options and you mark how many of each that your table is ordering. As the servers come round with your dishes, they confirm it and drop it off. That is primarily because the items may come out in any order and they most certainly did–at times confusing our servers!

I’ll preface this by mentioning that they had been open for just over a week when we had our lunch. I say that because while the food was good, they still have a bit of work to do to get into their groove. Three dishes were brought to our table that we didn’t order, the first of which was described so lovingly by the server that we thought it was an amuse-bouche! Thankfully none of us tucked into it before he returned and admitted his mistake. After the third mistaken item arrived, we’d pretty much resolved that whatever hit the table next would be claimed regardless.

When we did get our items, there was a little confusion–since we’d all ordered set meals–as to which dish belonged to which diner. We did sort it out, more or less, but it turns out that we may not have been 100% certain about what we were eating. I say this, not as a foodie but as an ignorant American: I could have used a legend similar to the ones appearing in Whitman Samplers. Even though we suspected while eating, that we might have been served the wrong dumpling platters, a second look today at the menu and my photos seems to indicate that we got the right items.

I don’t have any physical or ethical food allergies, so it didn’t bother me except from the consumer’s standpoint of getting what you ordered. Obviously the restaurant and servers are still a little green, but as many of the dumpling items look the same, a little education as to what filling was in what dumpling would have immediately made it clear whether we had the correct dishes or not. The more I think about it now, I believe it was strength of flavors that gave us that thought more than anything else. As delicious as everything was, there was very little distinction of flavor from one dumpling to the next and anything with seafood (prawn or scallop) in it, overpowered the entire dumpling.

Even so, I will visit again, but I’ll be more careful about what I order and ask more questions when it arrives. Once they start having a happy hour, I suspect the place will be very popular. The options on their drinks menu are quite varied. The ones we had showed a great command of mixology with fresh ingredients and creativity. If they combine those drinks with some happy hour food/drink special prices, it will make the perfect after-work spot. They told us there are plans for both after-work and late-night happy hours in 2010, so I’ll keep an eye out, but for now I’ll give them another month or two to get settled into their new home.

Links
Ping Pong Dim Sum (US): Twitter & Facebook
OpenTable
Yelp
Urbanspoon
Ping Pong Dim Sum on Urbanspoon