Archive | May, 2017

Cajun. Ah Gha-rawn-tee!

11 May

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Like a ghost from the past, Cajun chef Justin Wilson lives on, laughing and wandering the endless hallways of YouTube. His 1980s Cookin’ Cajun episodes from PBS are well worth squandering your free time.

As kids, we thought he was pretty hilarious. The New Orleans patois: Awn-yawn! That red string tie! Those matching suspenders. What a kook.

Gumbo. Jambalaya. Red beans and rice. Dirty rice. Hush puppies. Pralines. It was all so exotic compared to our WASPy facsimile of cut up hot dogs sauteed with onion and crushed tomato sauce, Worchestershire and scant red pepper flakes, served over steamed white rice.

More refined was chef Paul Prudhomme, clad in his head-to-corpulent-toe chef whites. His Cajun blackening craze was everywhere by this point. Blackened red snapper, anyone? Get that pan smoking hot, flip the hood fan and for god’s sake, don’t breathe in!

Decoding blackening spice pre-internet era was a labour. Long before Emeril was hawking his Essence, you had to make your own. It didn’t take long for Cajun chicken Caesar salad to find a home on every chain restaurant menu. Even our beloved 1980s-era Seventeen Magazine took a crack at jambalaya. Cajun- and Creole- inspired cuisine limped along throughout the 2000s with chicken pasta dishes that were creamy, spicy and loaded with veggies.

Cajun refuses to go away. We can’t think of anything more fitting than a sophisticated Louisana remoulade to enjoy with some shrimp or crab cakes while relaxing on deck with something cool.

Just yesterday, we spotted this:

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Earls restaurant chain has steadfastly kept Cajun blackened chicken breasts on its menu for decades.

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You can see by the amount of paprika in their recipe, they’ve toned down the pepper’s kick. Paul Prudhomme would never stand for it. And you just know Justin eschewed black pepper for his love of the scorching cayenne: “That’s much more better. Ah gah-rawn-tee!”

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

12 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon cayenne

34 teaspoon white pepper

34  teaspoon black pepper

12 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

12 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

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Behold: al Pastor

8 May

Thank you Cinco de Mayo for being the perfect excuse to tinker with tacos.

We’ve been researching al pastor since gorging on them from a charming beach cantina. There is no shortage of sad online recipes (mostly involving slow cookers) but this winner is the closest to mimicking what makes al pastor so amazing minus the enormous rotisserie.

The trick is slicing the meat thinly into pieces about 3-inches-by-3-inches, and ¼-inch thick. Thread onto two parallel skewers to hold in place, packing tightly so there are no gaps (you’ll have enough to make three rows using six skewers.) Then it goes into a 250 degree oven for two to three hours.

And then you get this: succulent, chili-coated pork with crunchy bits and roasted pineapple to sweeten the deal.

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Start two days before by whizzing up this amazing marinade of guajillo chilies, garlic, avocado leaves, achiote paste, cumin, thyme, cinnamon, black pepper, kosher salt, apple cider vinegar and chicken stock.

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It makes enough to thickly coat 3 lbs of sliced pork shoulder.

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Perfect for threading onto these fantastic double-prong skewers from Lee Valley. We let these marinate for 48 hours.

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Then it’s time to set them on thick slices of pineapple and slow roast for two to three hours. The pineapple juices do their part to make this unforgettable.

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Don’t forget to flip these a few times to make sure everything gets covered in the juices while cooking.

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We scored some adorable mini flour tortillas to go with our favourite handmade mini corn tortillas from the Latin market. Bonus: they were selling queso fresco, so we grated some of that to go with chopped white onion.

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And here’s the spread, along with a molcajete brimming with guacamole and our favourite desert rose tortilla chip and refried bean dip (thank you Phoenix circa 1982).

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We are happy to report this recipe is another bulletproof keeper, just like our favourite carnitas recipe.

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder
2 dried guajillo chilies, stems and seeds removed
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 dried avocado leaves (found at Latin market but still not sure they’re necessary)
1/4 cup achiote paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (will try a smidge less)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 pineapple
12 corn tortillas, warmed (or a stockpile of mini corn and flour tortillas)