Cider vinegar & maple syrup glazed pork

cider-pork-plate-and-serving-dishWhen did we get so sniffy about leftovers? Gone are the days of the big roasts, the huge casserole dishes of cheesy, melted, layered things. Instead we cook a single chicken breast or one steak with a baked potato and just enough salad so there’s nothing left once we put the fork down. If the CSI team popped round and snooped in our fridge (this is purely hypothetical, granted) they’d be hard pressed to know we even eat.

I get the waste bit – we don’t want to store food in plastic containers only to unearth it weeks/months/you-get-the-idea later to discover we’ve created a new form of penicillin. No one wants to throw away food but on the other hand, aren’t we missing out on the joy of food? Food is messy. Food is communal. Food isn’t shovelling something into our mouths while we check our twitter feed. And leftovers are the delicious evidence of a meal enjoyed, a meal savored. Heck, a lot of food is better the next day (or the day after).

cider-pork-ingredient-shotIt’s like this pork shoulder…It’s glazed with a reduction of cider vinegar, maple syrup, some spices and chile. Yep, chile, the lifeblood, mother’s milk and all-round most awesome thing on this earth. Then you cook it for a long time (this is when you can check Facebook) and then – and then what? Then you call round every friend you can think of and you eat. And you eat. And you eat some more. When you can’t eat anymore you hug your friends goodnight, stow any leftovers in the fridge and go to bed, smug that you’ve got breakfast, lunch and dinner(s) sorted.

If you get sick of it before you finish it (this can happen) then pop the l.o.’s into the freezer. You’ll feel even more smug when you remember that you’ve got the fixings for a sandwich right there, just waiting for you.

So kiss the chicken breast goodbye (figuratively, my friend) and go big. You’ll thank me. Hopefully you’ll do better than that – you’ll invite me over. I’ll even bring my own plastic container for leftovers.

cider-pork-plate-shotCider vinegar & maple syrup glazed pork

Feeds a small army

For the glaze:

½ tsp fennel seeds

½ tsp coriander seeds

½ tsp cumin seeds

1 dried Chile mulato

1 dried Chipotle chile

1 bay leaf

½ stick cinnamon

1 cup apple cider vinegar

¼ cup maple syrup

1 Tbsp honey

For the pork:

Pork shoulder, about 5lbs

Olive oil

Salt

Chile pequin

Preheat oven to 425°

Place the pork into a large casserole dish that has an oven proof cover. Rub some olive oil and salt onto the pork. Put in the hot oven and cook for 15 minutes.

While it’s cooking, make the glaze. Place all the dry ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium high heat for a few minutes until they’re nicely toasted. Then add the vinegar, maple syrup and honey. Cook for another 5 minutes, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Strain.

Baste the pork with the glaze and cook for another 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 240° and cover. Cook for 4 hours or more – until the meat is tender and flakes off easily. (You could also do this in a slow cooker.) Remove from the oven and take the pork out of the pan and place it on a plate. Put the pan with the cooking juices back in the oven and turn the temperature to high to reduce the cooking liquid. While the juices are reducing, flake the meat and then return to the pan and stir to coat. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until nicely glazed then serve, with chile pequin on the side.

Slow cooked lamb with chipotle, lime & honey

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Plated lamb

Turkey is a lot like house guests. The first day, you’re thrilled to see them and can’t believe it’s been so long since their last visit. Day two, you’re cordial. Day three, you offer to help them pack and call a taxi.

Don’t get me wrong – turkey at Thanksgiving is a treat, a tradition and literally the gift that keeps on giving. But that’s where the problem lies; at some point you get tired of leftovers. You’ve made turkey pie, tetrazzini, tacos and of course endless sandwiches. Eventually, you’re ready to see the back of turkey and can barely muster the energy to dump the carcass in a pot to make stock.

It’s exacerbated by the fact that many of us are going to whip up another bird in less than a month’s time. You do a frantic google search for ‘turkey leftover recipes’ and sigh deeply.

So what’s the answer? It’s time for something new. Pop the rest of the bird in the freezer and change culinary directions. At Los Chileros HQ, we fancy a slow cooked lamb shoulder with a spiky, zesty lime, honey, chipotle marinade. It’s the perfect way to wake up dulled taste buds and ideal for winter weather.

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You marinade the lamb overnight then cook it at high heat for about 20 minutes before turning the temperature right down and letting it go nice and slow until the meat falls off the bone. It’s even better if you eat it the next day when the flavors have really had a change to mingle and marry.

Eat it on its own, wrapped up in tortillas or on a bun – the choice is yours. It’s heaven with a bit of slaw and some dill pickles. It will make loads but invite some turkey-fatigued friends over or stash some in the freezer to have on hand at Christmas when you’re wishing the leftover turkey would scram. Go ahead and make it, you’ll thank me in a few week’s time.

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Slow cooked lamb shoulder with chipotle, lime & honey

If you can’t find lamb shoulder or don’t like it (heaven forbid), then you can opt for pork or beef – just go for a cut that likes it low and slow. The good news? These are usually cheaper too so you’ll get more taste and keep a bit of cash in your pocket, handy when you’ve got all those Christmas credit card bills to pay. But let’s not dwell on that thought…

Serves 8+

1 lamb shoulder, bone-in about 7lbs

2 Tbsp Los Chileros Chipotle rub & mix

Juice of 1 lime

1 Tbsp honey

Salt

Place the lamb in a roasting pan. Mix the marinade ingredients together and rub over the lamb. Refrigerate overnight if possible. The next day, remove the pan from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 400°F Generously sprinkle some sea salt on the lamb. Place the lamb in the hot oven for 20 minutes.

Turn the oven down to 225°F. Take the lamb out of the oven, cover the roasting pan with a lid or with aluminium foil – you want to make sure you’re keeping the moisture locked inside. Return to the oven and cook at the low temperature for 3-4 hours then check the lamb – it should be falling off the bone – if not cook longer.

When the lamb is done, take it out of the pan and place on a cutting board and cover with aluminium foil. Strain the cooking juices from the pan into a measuring cup or container and place it in the fridge. This will encourage the fat to rise to the top and solidify. Remove the fat and discard then return the juices to the pan. Shred the meat and put it in the pan with the juices. Give a toss to make sure all the meat is coated. Return to the oven to warm before serving with flat bread, rolls, over couscous or rice.

Happy Birthday Honey

3:00 a.m. and you wake up in a cold sweat. A sea of panic rolls over you. Whose idea was it for you to host this birthday party anyway? Of course you then remember you offered to do. I think your exact words were: “It’s no big deal.” And it’s not really a big deal is it? It’s not like you haven’t hosted parties before.

But a birthday party is different. There is an expectation that the day is going to be perfect (whatever that means) and guess whose shoulders that bad boy falls on? You got it champ – you.

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So turn on the bedside lamp, take a deep breath, get a pad of paper and don’t freak out. Make a list – what you’re going to serve, when you’re going to make it and what you’re going to serve it on. And before you start dreaming about baked Alaska and flambéing steaks table-side, think again.

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The key to a birthday party – any part in fact – is to do-ahead as much as you can. No one – your guests or you – wants you stuck in the kitchen. It makes you grumpy and they feel vaguely guilty. You miss all the good gossip and are tuckered out before the first bite of food.

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So for this birthday party I did it all ahead – well practically. Giant couscous salad with artichoke hearts and black olives; roasted sweet potatoes and red onions with a cilantro oil; tossed salad and French bread. But every meal needs a secret weapon and mine was a honey, chile and thyme marinated pork tenderloin. I let it sit in the fridge all day so the flavors were there then popped that puppy on the grill.

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The real secret was the honey. I got it from an amazing woman named Diane Ravens – an incredible beekeeper who lives in Ocoee, Tennessee at foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. This is a woman who loves her bees and has been creating amazing honey for almost 20 years. I used her Sourwood honey which has an incredible taste to it – I’m talking spoon-it-out of-the-jar-and-eat it delicious. Using her Appalachian Bee honey reminded me that food doesn’t need to be fussy when you use the very best ingredients and trust me, her honey is the best. You can find out more about Diane, her bees and even order some super yummy honey at www.honeybeesrock.com.

Honey, chile & thyme pork tenderloin

Serves 8-10

2 ½ pounds pork tenderloin
¼ cup sourwood honey or other honey
¼ cup olive oil
1 Tbsp mild chile molido (or half mild and half hot)
1 ½ Tbsp thyme leaves

Make the marinade by mixing together the honey, olive oil, chile and thyme leaves. Pour over the pork and ensure the pork is evenly coated. Store in a bowl or large plastic baggie. Place in the fridge and marinade for several hours or over night. Remove from the fridge about half an hour before grilling.

Heat the barbecue and remove the pork from the marinade. Sear the pork on all sides, reduce the heat and barbecue until cooked through. I like my pork pink in middle, about 15 minutes total. If you’re unsure, use a meat thermometer (the USDA recommends 145º). But please, please don’t over cook it!

Remove, let rest then slice and serve.