Sweet Pepper Braised Pork Butt Tacos

Summer harvest means an array of sweet and spicy peppers just perfect for flavoring braised pork butt. All a good hunk of meat needs is a few aromatics, quality stock, and time to turn into tender braised shreds just askin’ to be layered into a tortilla with a squeeze of lime. (Add some raw veggies for crunch and top with fresh herbs for best results.)

Let’s take a look at what makes this chunk of meat so special!

What is Pork Butt?

My boyfriend and I received a hunk of pork labeled “pork butt” in our most recent Butcher Box. I stood over the freezer with the massive chunk of meat in my hands, staring at the sticker on the plastic as somewhere in the catalogue of my cooking knowledge, dim recollections started bubbling towards my consciousness. Somewhere, somehow, at some point along my foodie journey, I remembered that pork butt is not in fact a pig’s butt.

We’ve all had ham, right? Well isn’t ham from the hindquarters of a pig? A quick Google search confirmed this.

where does ham come from?

Boom. Confirmed. Ham = rump. So why didn’t the massive slab of meat in my hands (which looked nothing like a ham, by the way) say “ham” if it was, in fact, from a pig’s butt?

Deep in the recesses of my brain, memories continued to stir, leading me to ask:

Are pork butt and pork shoulder the same thing?

I googled diagrams of pork cuts. Let’s just say humans have certainly figured out how to get the very most out of the animal.

pork cuts

There it is: Boston butt, clearly distinct from ham!

But to make matters even more confusing, continued Googling revealed that Boston butt is also sometimes called Boston shoulder. Naturally, this lead to further questioning…

are pork butt and pork shoulder the same thing?

As you can see in this diagram from The Spruce, the Boston butt sits just above the picnic shoulder on the pig.

 

Why is the Boston Butt Called the Boston Butt?

So, if the Boston butt doesn’t come from anywhere near the animal’s rump, why is it called a “butt”?!

As is true of many mysteries, the answer is rooted in history. In colonial New England during America’s fledgling years, butchers used to pack inexpensive cuts of shoulder meat into barrels, called “butts.” Used for transporting their wares across New England, the contents of these barrels became known as “pork butts,” the name we still call some shoulder meat today.

So yes, pork butt and pork shoulder, Boston butt and Boston shoulder, are all referring to the same cut of meat.

Primal Cuts of Pork

As you saw in the second diagram above (which is not even a complete breakdown of every cut of pork), we parse out many pieces of meat from a single pig.

First, however, a butcher must make several initial cuts, called primal cuts. These are shoulder, loin, belly, and hind leg cuts.

From there, an experienced butcher will continue to cut out pieces we know and love, like spare ribs, tenderloin, and bacon.

What Makes Certain Cuts of Meat More Expensive Than Others?

There are several factors in play when determining the value of a price of meat. These include but are not limited to:

  • flavor
  • tenderness of cut
  • fat marbeling
  • animal diet
  • USDA certifications, like organic or grass-fed and finished

Another influential factor is supply and demand. For example, Bacon is rich in fat marbling, inherently tender because of its cut, and also happens to be extremely flavorful. It is also simple to prepare because of these positive characteristics. I don’t think I’m breaking any new ground here when I say that these are the reasons why bacon is so popular. In short, it’s truly delicious.

What this means for the market, however, is that bacon prices range from $6.99 for 16 ounces to $17.50 for the same weight. Bacon quality ranges from the cheapest money to buy to the most luxuriously-seasoned, thick-cut bacon available. Unless we collectively undergo a radical cultural shift around the cuts of meat we love, there will always be a market for bacon.

Less favorable cuts from the pig, like pig feet, can go for as little as $2.00 per pound. Typically, people purchase pig feet for traditional recipes or for dog food, but still others work to break ground on new ways to use these less sought-after cuts. (For the curious, check out Serious Eats’ recipe for crispy grilled pig feet here.)

Cultural Shifts Affect the Price of Meat

Flank steak is an example of a cut of meat that has had its reputation revamped. Years ago, flank steak was dirt cheap. Flank steak is a very lean cut on the cow that generally has little fat marbling. If handled poorly, this cut of meat can be tough and flavorless.

But when certain diet trends suggested ways of preparing the lean cut of meat, like the South Beach Diet in the mid-1990s, it gained popularity. The price of flank steak last year according to the USDA was $8.25 per pound. This month, it’s $9.16.

From this example, we can see that cuts of meat we value culturally can shift. So who knows: maybe someday we will be inviting neighbors over for grilled pig’s feet!

How to Prepare Lean Cuts of Meat

There are several things to consider when you work with a lean cut of meat. When a cut of meat has little marbling, that means it will tend towards toughness and may be low on flavor.

Fortunately, there are certain tricks you can employ in order to make the most out of your lean cut of meat. Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Marinate your meat. Marinating your meat in acid or vinaigrette helps to tenderize it before the cooking process. Lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and apple cider vinegar are all great bases for marinades. Don’t forget to add a little honey to balance your flavors–honey is also acidic!
  2. Use a meat mallet. Physically tenderizing your tough cuts with a meat mallet or rolling pin helps to break down thick muscle fibers.
  3. Allow your meat to come to room temperature before cooking. This will help the meat to cook more evenly, especially for bone-in cuts. More control over your meat temperature means more control over moisture and overall “done-ness”.
  4. Rest your meat after you cook it. This helps restore the natural juices in the meat by allowing them to redistribute around the whole cut, rather than spilling out under your knife once you start cutting. A general rule is, rest for five minutes per inch of thickness.
  5. Cook lean cuts low and slow. Slow-roasting lean cuts can reduce the risk of “shocking” the meat or causing unnecessary loss of moisture. This is especially true for braising, during which process the meat is completely submerged in tasty cooking liquid like broth or wine.
  6. Cook meat to the right internal temperature. It may seem obvious, but overcooking your meat highlights any negative characteristics, like toughness and dryness, which can be avoided by cooking it on the rarer side.
  7. Cut against the grain. Cutting against the grain of long muscle fibers makes for tender bites that are easy to chew. You might be amazed at what a difference this simple step can make!

Sweet Pepper Braised Pork Butt Tacos

Perhaps the best part about this recipe is how simple it is. The primary flavor comes from whatever peppers you have in abundance, onion, and aromatic herbs. The soft, flavorful peppers make an excellent addition to your tacos as well as the meat from the braised pork butt.

sweet and hot peppers, candle, olive oil

Brush olive oil on your peppers and broil on high until the skin is blistered. I used red bell peppers, sweet mini peppers, and spicy Fresno peppers.

braised pork butt ingredients

After your peppers are blistered, allow them to rest in their own flavorful juices while you brown the meat. No need to get fussy over peeling garlic or mincing onion–big chunks here are great!

browned pork butt

Sear your pork butt, fatty side first, and save the rendered oil! Set meat aside while you sear your onion and garlic.

seared onion and garlic in pork fat

Once you’ve browned your meat on all sides, sear the garlic and onion to flavor rendered pork fat. Settle your meat, herbs, peppers, vinegar, and stock into the dutch oven and bring to a boil.

braising pork butt

Ideally, your meat will be completely submerged. My pork butt was MASSIVE, however, and would barely fit in the dutch oven. I compensated by leaving the dutch oven covered for the entirety of the cooking process and by rotating the meat halfway through.

After about four hours have elapsed, shred the pork butt into bite-sized chunks, cutting any particularly long muscle fibers against the grain for maximum tenderness. Spoon braised pork butt and sweet peppers into warm tortillas with some fresh vegetables and herbs, and top with a squeeze of lime!

sweet pepper braised pork butt tacos

For more braised meat recipes, check out this recipe for miso-braised au jus sandwiches, or for garlic and wine-braised short ribs!

welcome, Crumbs on Crumbs, Marion Bright, braised pork butt tacos, intuitive eating, Marion Bright, Crumbs on Crumbs

Sweet Pepper Braised Pork Butt Tacos

Using a few choice ingredients like garlic, onion, and aromatics, this dead-simple recipe is big on flavor and low on effort!
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs 30 mins
Total Time 4 hrs 35 mins
Course dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, Intuitive, Mexican, Seasonal, traditional
Servings 8 people

Equipment

  • heavy bottomed dutch oven

Ingredients
  

  • 4 Tbs olive oil, divided
  • 5-7 lb pork butt or pork shoulder, at room temperature
  • 2 red, orange, or yellow bell peppers, whole
  • 4-6 sweet mini peppers, whole
  • 2-6 spicy peppers of your choice (I used Fresnos)
  • 1 white onion, skinned and cut into quarters
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 6-8 cups chicken or pork broth, or enough to completely submerge the pork
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • corn tortillas, warmed
  • 2 ears raw corn, kernels cut from the cob
  • cilantro, for serving
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges

Instructions
 

  • Turn the broiler on high. Brush your peppers in olive oil on all sides and arrange on a rimmed cookie sheet. Roast under the heat until the skin begins to blister, turning peppers as necessary so they roast evenly. This should take between 4-7 minutes per side. Once your pepper skins have blistered, place in a bowl and set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 275°F. Generously season the pork on all sides with salt. Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat until drops of water quickly evaporate. Add pork shoulder, fattiest side down, and sear 5-8 minutes per side, or until deeply golden brown. Turn heat to medium-low and set the browned pork butt aside.
  • Cut the head of garlic in half horizontally and sear the exposed garlic cloves in the rendered pork fat until a nice caramel color, lowering heat if necessary. Remove from heat and add the onions. Sear undisturbed until the onion quarters take on some color, about 3 minutes.
  • Add stock and vinegar to the pan, scraping up any flavorful browned bits from the bottom of the dutch oven. Season the liquid with salt and pepper. Settle the pork butt into the liquid, fat side up, and add the two halves of the seared garlic head, bay leaf, rosemary, and thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn off the heat. Cover, then place in the oven for 3.5-4 hours, or until pork is falling off the shoulder bone.
  • Pull pork out of the liquid using tongs and, once it has cooled slightly, break apart using a fork or gloved hands. If necessary, cut any long muscle fibers against the grain to enhance tenderness.
  • Gently pull peppers from the cooking liquid and remove seeds and stems. If desired, roughly chop into bite sized chunks. Using tongs, place pork, peppers, corn, and cilantro into a warm tortilla and squeeze lime over the top. Serve immediately. Pork keeps up to 5 days in the fridge.
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From Hummus Origins…to Aquafaba!

Have you ever wondered who first loved chickpeas enough to blitz them into a creamy, spoonable purée? Because it has been beloved by so many, the origins of hummus are somewhat disputed. Greek and Arab cultures both lay claim to the delightful spread–so, where did hummus come from? And what on earth is aquafaba!?

Is Hummus Greek or Arabic?

If you’ve ever shopped for hummus at the grocery store, you’ve probably noticed packaging with Greek names or inspiration. Yet the word “hummus” actually means “chickpea” in Arabic. Are you confused yet?

Regardless of where hummus comes from, Greeks and Arabs historically traded many goods, sharing ideas, music, and food for a very long time. Both cultures also happen to enjoy stuffed grape leaves and baklava, no doubt reaching back to their intermingling during the Ottoman Empire. It’s no wonder they both claim to be the inventors of hummus! We may never know its true origins.

What we know for sure is that the earliest mention of hummus dates back to 13th century Egypt. Since the 1200s, however, hummus has come in many different forms. A quick Google search yields recipes for “Egyptian hummus,” “Greek hummus,” “Israeli hummus,” “Lebanese hummus“…the list goes on. The basics of these recipes are all fundamentally the same, however; blend cooked chickpeas with lemon juice, tahini, and seasonings together and enjoy!

The happy additions of tahini, lemon, and raw garlic make this simple dish enjoyable as an appetizer or first course–or as part of an epic charcuterie platter! So, what makes my recipe different? For this version of hummus, I include a no-cost secret ingredient: aquafaba!

What is Aquafaba?

Aquafaba is the water reserved from the process of cooking chickpeas. This water is rich in starches and, when whipped, makes a colloidal foam not dissimilar to egg whites. This is why aquafaba is popular among vegans and egg-intolerant individuals. The liquid from a can of chickpeas is so reliably fluffy when whipped, it can even be used to make vegan meringue cookies!

Other Ways to Use Aquafaba

Because of its fluffy characteristics when whipped, aquafaba affords bakers and home cooks many options in the kitchen. Here are some of the primary ways chefs use aquafaba:

With aquafaba, the only limit in the kitchen is your imagination! Use it in lieu of egg whites in sweet or savory recipes.

Not Everyone Loves Aquafaba…

While vegans and egg-intolerant people shared a lot of excitement since aquafaba hit the food scene in recent years, some nutritionists remain skeptical. Despite its fluffy characteristics, there’s more to “bean water” (“faba” and “aqua” in Latin) than meets the eye.

Some think consuming the liquid from canned beans can have a deleterious effect due to the BPAs in canned food. (However, the FDA maintains that trace amounts of BPAs do not have harmful effects.) However, you can make your own aquafaba using dried chickpeas if you are concerned about the BPAs in canned food.

Others think the starchy water from the beans causes undue gastrointestinal distress because of its oligosaccharide content. This can cause gas and bloating in folks with a sensitive digestive system, and some claim it can even lead to leaky gut syndrome.

However, due to aquafaba’s recent arrival in the culinary world, there’s not much research to dispute or confirm any potential health benefits (from avoiding eggs) or harmful effects (from BPAs and starches). Cultures have long consumed stews containing the cooking liquid from pre-soaked dried chickpeas, so as is usually the case with intuitive eating, listen to your gut here (literally)! Everything in moderation, right?

Why I Use Aquafaba in This Recipe

The addition of some of the starchy water whips together with the chickpeas to create a truly fluffy, creamy texture without adding excess oil. I personally don’t eat a lot of canned food, am not pregnant, and am not overly concerned about–erm–passing wind. I’m pretty sure my dog doesn’t love me any less if I fart…so I’ll take the cut in unnecessary fat and the boost in texture, please! 🙂

Basic Hummus Recipe

Here is the basic skeleton of the recipe for hummus, which you can “dress up” any way you like. I doctored mine with extra raw garlic for a little punch.

ingredients for aquafaba hummus

I crushed the two heads of garlic and left them to soak in the lemon juice for around 15 minutes. The lemon juice takes some of the pungent bite and tempers garlic’s “rougher” edges. For maximum “garlic taming,” mince or press the garlic into the lemon juice.

Blitz everything in a food processor, gradually adding aquafaba until the hummus is of the desired thickness. Garnish with chopped toasted nuts, pomegranite seeds, sesame seeds, fresh herbs…I topped mine with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of sumac.

finished aquafaba hummus
What a good day to treat yourself!

Serve with your desired dip-able foods! Keeps well covered in the fridge up to 1 week.

sweet peppers, crackers, celery, aquafaba hummus

Basic Oil-Free Hummus (With Aquafaba!)

The addition of aquafaba eliminates the need to use olive oil as a binder and makes for a fluffy, addicting dip!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 0 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine greek, middle eastern, traditional, vegan
Servings 4 people

Equipment

  • food processor or blender

Ingredients
  

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained, with liquid reserved
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • aquafaba from chickpeas, about 3/4 cup
  • juice from 1 large lemon, about 1/4 cup
  • salt, to taste

Instructions
 

  • Juice the lemon. Peel and chop garlic, then add to the lemon juice to macerate, about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, drain chickpeas using a fine strainer over a bowl or large measuring cup. You should have about 3/4 cup of aquafaba. Add chickpeas to a food processor or blender along with tahini, a pinch of salt, and the lemon juice with garlic. Pulverize in pulses, gradually adding aquafaba until the hummus is of a desirable consistency.
  • Taste, and season for salt. Garnish with chopped toasted nuts, pomegranate seeds, sumac, olive oil, sesame seeds, pine nuts, and/or fresh herbs and serve. Keeps well in the fridge about 1 week.
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For other ideas on how to use chickpeas, check out this my recipe for simple chickpea ricotta pasta, or this recipe for butternut squash and chickpea tahini salad!

Coriander-Crusted Tuna Steak With Coconut Rice

If you’ve never had freshly ground coriander, pairing it with tuna is an excellent introduction. Its subtly bitter, floral quality is a delight to the senses and sidles up to tuna’s meaty character with a surprising amount of acidity. If you’re not sure what else do to with whole coriander other than making a coriander-crusted tuna steak, consider using it as a chicken rub or brewing it as tea with a little fennel and cardamom.

This truly is a “treat yo’self” dinner; your plate will be full of fresh herbs and healing whole spices, healthy fats from the coconut milk, and protein from the tuna. Great for a date night or weekend dinner, or post-workout protein binge.

Why is Tuna Good For You?

Tuna is very low in fat and calories, and contains no carbohydrates. This means it is nearly pure protein. In a 3.5 ounce serving, a piece of tuna contains 20 grams of protein. This is good for folks who are trying to watch their weight or cholesterol intake. Tuna also contains antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids as well as several minerals, including magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, and selenium, which helps to counter the deleterious effects of any trace amounts of mercury that may be present. Google recommends eating tuna no more than three times a month, for those of you who might be concerned about mercury. The average tuna can is about five ounces, whereas most steaks are around eight.

Recipe for Coriander-Crusted Tuna Steak

coriander seeds, tuna steaks, coconut cream, lemongrass, rice, quick pickles

After my ingredients were prepped, it was just a matter of cooking the rice, soaking the quick pickles in an air-tight bag with their sugar-vinegar solution, and searing the steak.

lemongrass, cilantro, lime juice, fish sauce, neutral oil, herb chutney

Chopped cilantro, scallions, lemongrass, fish sauce, and lime juice percolate in a bowl while the cucumbers pickle and rice and tuna cook. Slice up your steak, spoon up some of the herb mixture, and enjoy!

coriander-crusted tuna steaks recipe, quick pickles, coconut rice

This will definitely be in my rotation for favorite dinners…

complete coriander-crusted tuna steak, quick pickles, rice, tuna steak recipe

Coriander-Crusted Tuna Steak With Coconut Rice and Quick Pickles

Low-carb, high protein dinner.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Course dinner, healthy, Main Course
Cuisine Healthy, Intuitive
Servings 2 people

Equipment

  • rice cooker (optional)

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup white rice, ideally jasmine or sushi rice
  • 1 cup chicken or veggie stock
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 6 oz tuna steaks, about 1 inch thick
  • 2 Tbs untoasted sesame oil, plus more for brushing
  • salt, to taste
  • 4 Tsp whole coriander seeds, ground in spice mill or mortar and pestle
  • 4 Tsp freshly cracked black peppercorns
  • 3 Tbs sesame seeds, untoasted
  • 3 Tbs black sesame seeds (optional)
  • 1 large lime, juiced
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, with tops removed and tender bulb sliced into thin medallions
  • 2 Tbs fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 2 scallions, sliced halfway up the stalk
  • 1 medium-heat red pepper, such as an Aji or Cayenne, sliced into thin rounds (remove the seeds if you are sensitive to heat)
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, unseasoned
  • 2 Tbs white sugar
  • 1 Persian cucumber, sliced into thin rounds

Instructions
 

  • If using, add rice, chicken or veggie stock, and coconut milk to the rice cooker and turn on. Otherwise, combine the three ingredients in a medium sauce pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer undisturbed until rice is tender, about 25 minutes.
  • Using a mandoline or sharp knife, thinly slice cucumbers and red pepper into rounds. Combine rice vinegar and sugar together and stir until completely dissolved. Pour vinegar into a quart sized zip-top bag with cucumber and pepper slices and seal, removing as much of the air as possible so veggies are coated in the solution. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, pat tuna steaks dry with a paper towel. Brush with 2 Tbs sesame oil and lightly season with salt, bearing in mind you will be topping the steaks with fish sauce and lime juice which accentuate salty flavors. Generously pat ground pepper, coriander, and sesame seeds onto the steaks until the surface is completely covered. Set aside.
  • Combine chopped cilantro, lemongrass bulb medallions, scallions, fish sauce, and lime juice in a medium bowl and stir. Set aside.
  • Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat until smoking. Add roughly 3 Tbs of sesame oil to the pan, followed by your steaks. Steaks are cooked after 2 minutes per side, but I prefer my steaks closer to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool. Cut into thin strips and place on a plate with coconut rice and drained quick pickles. Top steak strips with cilantro mixture. Serve immediately.
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One Pot Creamy Coconut Collard Greens

Sometimes, you move across the country and have to coast on very limited funds until your first paycheck. Sometimes, all you can afford is collard greens.

Sometimes, you have to shop at the grocery store with your brain instead of your heart (isn’t that a lucky thing, to be able to say “sometimes” about that?) and choose cheap and abundant over exoticism or quality.

Sometimes, this is a great challenge. Other times, it is a great challenge. Am I being clear?

So when I went to the grocery store wondering how I was going to pick up sustenance for the next month or so while my finances slowly regulate, I had to choose my purchases very carefully.

Already blessed with an abundance of spices, grains, flours, condiments, and dried beans, I chose several things very deliberately such as a can of full fat coconut milk, chicken thighs, and a laughably large bundle of fresh collard greens. (The leaves leapt out of the bag towards my elbow during the way to the car and would not fit in the vegetable drawer in the fridge when I got home, point blank.)

This recipe came together beautifully after a full day at work. Best of all, it all gets thrown into one pot.

I started by flavoring the broth I used to cook the rice.

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big hunks of ginger, lemongrass, smashed garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes flavored this turkey broth, but any mild broth works great too

After this simmered gently for a few moments, in goes the rice, then chicken, coconut milk, soy sauce, sweet chili paste, and mirin.

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if it bothers you to have large, inedible chunks of lemongrass in your rice, feel free to strain them out before adding rice and chicken to your hot broth. i find these chunks continue to season any leftovers you may have as they sit together in the fridge and make for an even better meal the next day.

In go the chopped collards…

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cover with a lid, stir, cover, and wait until chicken reads at least 155°F on a thermometer

One dirty pot later is dinner!

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just what i wanted after a long day
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Creamy Coconut Collard Greens (A One Pot Dinner)

Coconut milk, rice, chicken thighs, and collards come together for this delicious one pot meal.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Healthy, Intuitive
Servings 2 people

Ingredients
  

  • 2 1/4 cups chicken broth, or other mild broth
  • 1 inch ginger root, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 lemongrass stalk, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1 Tbs low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 Tbs sweet chili jelly
  • 1 tsp mirin
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup jasmine white rice
  • 1 14 oz full-fat can of coconut milk
  • 2 bone-in chicken thighs, skinless
  • salt (to taste)
  • 1 small bunch collard greens (or 1/2 of a large bunch)

Instructions
 

  • Combine broth, ginger, lemongrass, lime juice, soy sauce, mirin, red pepper flakes, and sweet chili jelly in a large, heavy bottomed saucepot with a lid and stir. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the ginger and lemongrass release their odor and chili flakes begin to bleed color into the broth.
  • While the broth is developing flavor, salt both sides of the chicken thighs with a pinch or two of salt each. If desired, strain flavored broth using a collander into a large bowl to remove chunks of lemongrass and ginger, then pour broth back into the warm saucepot.
  • Add rice, chicken thighs, and coconut milk, taking care to scrape coconut fat in with the rest of the can. Stir to combine, then cover with a lid. Cook 10 minutes over medium heat.
  • Meanwhile, remove the stalks of the collard greens and roughly chop them into approximately 1" thick pieces. Add chopped collards and cover. Cook another 20 minutes or so, until rice is al dente and chicken thighs register at least 155°F on a thermometer. Serve immediately. Keeps well in the fridge for up to one week.

Cranberry Orange Sables

Any fellow cranberry junkies out there? (It’s okay to raise your hand, this is a safe space…!) If you love the sweet-tart nature of cranberries, you have to try these cranberry orange sables!

Consuming cranberries is my favorite way to maintain basic urinary health while boosting my immune system. Drinking a glass of unsweetened cranberry juice is like absorbing pure vitality; even the shocking taste is bracing, like taking a polar bear plunge or throwing back a shot of fresh ginger juice.

With every passing year, I place more and more cranberry sauce on my plate for Thanksgiving dinner. It becomes a welcome addition to turkey, bacon sprouts, creamy sweet potatoes…I pass it around my dish like a rumor, allowing it to shapeshift and add brightness to every decadent bite.

So this year, when I passed by the cranberries in the grocery store only to discover that they were on sale, I ended up celebrating this fact by buying a lot…as in, over five bags of fresh cranberries…

After making cranberry relish, I still had four bags of cranberries. These are destined to become a cranberry curd tart, cranberry simple syrup, cranberry apple handpies…anything left over will head straight to the freezer for mocktails.

An Ode to Cranberry Orange Sables

Before the holiday was up, I’d made cranberry cookies. The recipe is fresh-tasting, delightfully simple, and can all be combined in one large mixing bowl. (I don’t know about you, but during the holiday season I try to minimize the amount of unnecessary dishes I have to do.)

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sugar, flour, orange zest, pulverized dried cranberries and walnuts…what’s not to love?

Once combined, the dough is shaped into a log, rolled in sugar, and placed in the fridge for at least two hours.

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cookies are cut about 1/2″ thick

With these flavorful, sightly cookies, erring on the side of underbaking, rather than overbaking, is key.

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ever so slightly golden on the bottom with a moist crumb, these simple cookies may end up a seasonal staple!

Cranberry Orange Sablés

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Chill Time 2 hrs
Course Dessert
Cuisine Seasonal

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cold butter, salted
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • zest of one orange
  • 2-3 Tbs fresh squeezed orange juice
  • additional sugar to roll over cookie log

Instructions
 

  • In a food processor or blender, combine cranberries and 1/4 cup sugar and blend until the cranberries are fine and mostly uniform in size. Place in a large bowl.
  • Wipe out the blender or food processor, add walnuts, and cut until they resemble coarse meal. Add to the large bowl with the cranberries.
  • Wipe out the blender or food processor once more. Add the flour and remaining sugar, and pulse. Add the butter and pulse until you have very fine crumbs. Add to the bowl with walnuts and cranberries. Add orange zest, orange juice, and almond extract. Stir to combine.
  • Knead the dough until a ball comes together, adding orange juice as needed to moisten the dough. Form into a log about two inches in diameter, and roll in sugar if desired. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge between two hours and three days.
  • Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Cut cookies using a large knife to about 1/2" thickness. Place cookies on a baking sheet with at least 1" of space between them. Bake 13-15 minutes, being careful not to overbake.
  • Let cookies cool for 10 minutes on the warm baking sheet before removing and placing on a wire rack to continue to cool.
  • Save in an airtight container up to 4 days, or freeze, well-wrapped, for up to 3 months.
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Dorie Greenspan’s Baked Apples

I rarely come across a recipe that I don’t adapt in the kitchen. Few and far between are the chefs I trust implicitly enough to blindly follow a recipe for the first time. Dorie Greenspan is one of those chefs. If you’re looking for a unique, fall-flavored treat, you have to try Dorie Greenspan’s baked apples stuffed with candied ginger and dried apple chips!

My sister recently learned that she is intolerant to gluten. Rather than shower her in gluten-free approximations of traditional sweet treats, I decided to get a little creative (and a little seasonal) and see what the internet had to offer on the happenstantially-gluten-free-dessert front. (Thank you, internet, for always providing me with what I seek!)

The only modification I made to this recipe was the kind of apple I baked. Dorie recommends large baking apples (Rome Beauty, to be precise) but I had these smaller, Opal apples on hand which still tasted beautiful baked–I found the portion size for a smaller apple to be closer to what I could comfortably eat as well. (Sorry Dorie, for the slight deviation…)

Dorie Greenspan’s Baked Apples

Everything else about this recipe I followed to the letter, and was so pleased with the results. I’d never made baked apples (somehow!) and was frankly delighted with the whole process. Coring and stuffing the apples, basting them in high-quality pressed cider and butter, watching them puff and brown in the oven…the whole experience was part of the treat of eating them. To boot, this recipe is grain-free and refined-sugar-free, so flavorful, and feels so perfectly autumnal. The real sense of indulgence comes from the butter and whipped cream, which are beautifully complimented by the sharpness of the apple and the warmth of the candied ginger. I mean it when I tell you this recipe left a profound enough impression on me, it will probably become a yearly staple…and I’m sure I’ll make it again before fall is gone.

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the top right bowl contains raisins

There was definitely a steep learning curve in terms of coring the apples without an apple core-er. I used this cheese knife to pierce concentrically around the core, then used a small spoon to scoop out the flesh I’d serrated–a labor intensive process, but so rewarding. These apples are cute as a button when they’re all hollowed out with little lids for the top!

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dorie recommends peeling away the topmost layer of apple skin and leaving the rest; this has the effect of adding a note of gastronomy to this simple and homey dessert!
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the apples were stuffed with dried apple chunks, unsweetened raisins, and candied ginger, then topped with a generous pat of butter!

Apple cider and honey go into the pie dish and the whole thing bakes for about an hour, until…

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my frankenstiened toothpick apple exploded, but that’s ok! the innards flavored the basting liquid and it still tasted delicious

I basted the apples three times over the course of the hour, spooning buttery cider into the hollowed cavity and over the tops of the apples.

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apple cross section–don’t forget the whipped cream!!
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serve with maple-syrup sweetened whipped cream, a dash of cinnamon, and buttery cider juices from the bottom of the pie dish. YUM.

Dorie Greenspan’s Baked Apples

Serves 4-6

Apples

  • 4 large apples or 6 medium ones
  • ½ lemon, cut into wedges
  • ¼ c dried apple rings, broken into small chunks
  • 4 pieces of crystallized ginger
  • 1/4 c raisins
  • 2 teaspoons honey per apple, + 2 more tsp for basting liquid
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 1 cup pressed apple cider

Topping

  • ½ c heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 Tbs maple syrup
  • Dash of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 and make sure a rack is centered in the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil, and place a 9” pie dish on top.

Cut a small cap off the top of each apple, and keep it close to its mate so they don’t get confused. Use a small paring knife or corer to remove the core from the apples. (Note: sometimes perforating the apple flesh with a fork or cheese knife makes for easier work.) Peel the topmost layer of apple skin underneath the cap of each apple and reserve. Rub the peeled and cored apple flesh with lemon and squeeze some juice into each opening.

In a small bowl, combine equal parts ginger, dried apple chunks, and raisins to make the filling. Press down into the opening of each apple, and drizzle 2 tsp honey into each apple. Cut the butter into as many chunks as you have apples, and place each pat over the top of the cavity. Pop the lid back on the apple, and don’t worry if it feels very full!

Pour cider into the pie dish and mix in 2 tsp honey, two lemon wedges, and reserved apple peelings. (Chef’s note: the honey won’t dissolve evenly into the cider at first, but don’t fret!)

Arrange the apples in the pie dish and bake.

Baste the apples occasionally with the liquid from the pie dish as they bake, at least three times. When you can poke them with a fork and meet minimal resistance, 50-70 minutes, they are done. 

Let them cool for about 15 minutes as you prepare the whipped cream.

Add cream and maple syrup to a medium bowl with high walls, or a large bowl. Beat with an electric beater until fluffy and of desired texture, about 5 minutes.

When the apples have cooled slightly, top with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon. 

These apples keep 2 days in the refrigerator and can be reheated in the microwave.