Category Archives: Cook

A snack for champs: Homemade Fried Pork Skins (Flashback)

Homemade Pork Cracklins (Fried Pork Skins)

How did I end up making homemade fried pork skins?

I recently made a trip to one of the most inspiring institutions created by modern man: The butcher. Living abroad adds another special dimension to such visits, since there is no uniform way to butcher meat… as the saying goes ‘there’s more than one way to skin a cat’ well multiply that assumption when it comes to butchering a cow. (Unless you’re in some parts of India, then there is only one way to butcher a cow… more on that another day :)

 

I now live in a land where good old rib-eye is called entrecote and wrapped up small and boneless… a pleasant cut, but some days I need to go back to my roots and get a nice thick dry aged cut- bones included, just as nature intended.

 

That’s when I go to Taylors & Jones… it’s a British butcher shop on Kungsholmen , here in Stockholm.  Great product and service to match. This visit I went with some lovely pork chops, and of course a few of their popular house made sausages.

fried pork skins step 1

Pork chops and skin

 

Once I got home, I realized I had been gifted another treat I often forget about: a large strip of skin was left on the chops…. I had a flash-

Pork Cracklins were now on the agenda!

 

(If I was going to bake the chops I may have left the skin on to crisp up nice and flavor the meat: but homemade fried pork skins was too tempting.)

 

Fried Pork Skins may not sound so fantastic if you are not already well acquainted (but if you eat bacon you ought not judge), but for those who know- it’s a snack you grew up with… salty, savory and crunchy.

and to top it all off- I feel a lot better not throwing parts out to waste.

 

You find this snack all over the world, but from an American perspective its very southern. Back in the day, people cooked down the skins to render out the fat to make cooking lard, and fried pork skin was a byproduct of this process.

 

This is how I made my little bunch at home:

(If you are making a lot, I suggest cooking outside in a large pot over a fire, this can be a fire hazard.)

 

fried pork skins

Slicing Pork skins

1: I sliced the skin into strips and then chopped into rectangles… but you can cut as you like.

Gammalt Hällakakor? Gör Rostat Hällakaka till middag

Ber om ursäkt för min Svenska, jag är Amerikansk och nya till språket :) men nu kör vi, i alla fall!

Hällakaka från Polarbröd

Jag hade flera Hällakakor kvar som höll på att bli dåliga… så jag gjorde ett ’experiment’ för att få användning för brödet. Hällakakor är inte så dyr men jag försöker att alltid undvika att slänga mat, och jag gillar utmaningar att utnyttja mat… även Hällakakor.

Rostat Hällakakor

Rostat Hällakakor

 

Det vår enkelt: gör en krispgare rostat Hällakaka att ha till maten som sopa eller någon matträtt med sas. Jag också tycker om Hällakakor med jordnötssmör och sylt.

 

Hällakakor

Hällakakor

Gör så har:

Tända ugn till 175°C

Breda ut oliv olja över hela Hällakaka (båda framsida och backsida). Strö ut havssalt (även speciellt smaksätta havssalt!) Då hugga Hällakakor i fjärde och placera på bakplåten. Baka ända tills de vänder brun.

Hällakakor

 

Rostat Hällakakor

Rostat Hällakakor

It’s Cinco De Mayo! Let’s make some (mild) Hot Sauce!

Mexico to Sweden: “It’s Cinco De Mayo!”

My own pictures were erased: but this will work.

My own pictures were erased: but this will work.

 

Since I grew up in California, I know first hand the kind of fiestas that go down when Cinco De Mayo comes around. In honor of this year’s holiday, I decided I would be contrary to what’s popular and try cooking something non-traditionally Mexican since I’ve been on the “authentic” and “from scratch” wagon for awhile. I want to be a rebel.

So I decided to try making a homemade version of the mild hot sauce that comes in those little packets at Taco Bell: say what you will about Taco Bell, that sauce is golden. I know all my Slow Food friends will be knocked off their high horse right about now, but I have a conflict in my beliefs when it comes to Taco Bell, sorry.

After doing a little research online I decided to try out a recipe from Todd Wilbur as retold by the blog “cooking with Jack” and I have to say it was really close to the real thing! Pretty good either way- and easy. I think I will tweak the recipe a bit next time and use an different kind of vinegar and add a smoked chilli pepper of some sort for a little more complexity.

Here’s what you’ll need (be warned: this makes a lot of mild hot sauce):

3 cups (6 dl) water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 6-ounce can (175 ml. tube) tomato paste
3 tablespoons white vinegar
4 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

(Watch his video for instructions: but basically, dissolve cornstarch into water in a pot. Turn on the heat and add all the dry stuff, then add the rest, bring to a boil then down to a simmer for 5 minutes- done)

I stored the sauce in jars and used it on tacos (of course), but also made a good enchirito (enchilada + burrito) with it… and anyone who knows me knows the trouble I’ve gone through to make enchilada sauce from scratch in Sweden. The sauce is a little thick for a hot sauce, so it works well. You could also use a bit in chili con carne or in a soup base. It is totally worth the effort…

 

 

 

Freak a Leek: (Redux) Time to get your LEEK on!

Okay okay, Ill stop trying to make leeks sound sexier then they are, but right now is the season to ‘get your leek on’ (okay last one). I know these guys can be a bit of a pain to store in your kitchen (size does matter in this case) and cleaning takes a careful eye, but my oh my leeks really punch up a simple dish. It is hearty enough to withstand long cooking but its flavors do not over power dishes like onion or garlic. What a charmer.

 

Ready to get my Leek on

Cooked in any style with potatoes alone is enough. Toss in with a white cream sauce and some pasta and you’re on the road to midweek mischief. I for one absolutely love green onion/scallion/salladlök , but I rely on leeks to give me that green onion freshness during the winter/early spring as it can stand up to simmering in stews and other dishes.

I really suggest making a nice rustic take on Vichyssoise, (yes, I just threw in some fancy talk for good measure) AKA what I like to call ‘Creamy Potato Soup with leeks’ top with some bacon (plus chive and cheddar) and enjoy.

Potato & Leek Soup w/ Bacon, Chive and Cheddar

 

I will (probably) never buy Thai Red Curry Take-Out again!

Thai Red Curry with Chicken (Röd curry)

Thai Red Curry with Chicken (Röd curry)

 

Thai red curry might be the easiest and fastest dish I’ve ever cooked. Seriously. I was furious I never tried to do this before, and instead thought I needed secret wok skills to pull this off with ease- I was wrong. You don’t even need salt and pepper to finish it! All you need is Thai red curry paste (in supermarket as well as Asian market) and a can of coconut milk. The dish you see above includes:

Chicken breast meat

Green beans (haricot verts)

Coconut milk

Thai red curry paste

Some cilantro (or coriander- see my blog header!)

That’s it my friends. Just stir-fry your meat of choice until done, add about 2 tablespoons of Thai red curry paste, then stir in a can of coconut milk. Boil down then add a vegetable or two you like. Prepare some rice for the side while you do that, and BOOM dinner for two is served.

Coconut Milk (Kokos Mjölk)

Coconut Milk (Kokos Mjölk)

Thai Red Curry Paste

Thai Red Curry Paste

Happy Birthday Mac and Cheese! (Big-Kid-friendly recipe)

This kid loves mac and cheese

This kid loves Mac and Cheese! photo: Claes Helander

This is a special post for my little brother, who is now officially a teenager! Unfortunately I can’t be in the US to celebrate with him, but I figured, since he is now of age, I’d share a starter recipe with him to learn to make an easy version of my mac and cheese: as you can see above he is a big fan.

This mac and cheese recipe is written to be a kid friendly version of my homemade baked mac and cheese: no powder cheese packets allowed! And  it can be adjusted to what you have… the ingredients are:

Cheese: around 1 cup (2 dl.) shredded or chopped (Any you like! I would go for any mix of Cheddar/Jack/Parmesan… add a little Feta for some bite if you have it!)

Macaroni: see box for 2 servings (Any macaroni pasta will do: Classic elbows/Shells/Cavatappi/Ziti) If you are unsure how much to cook, take a hand and grab 4 handfuls of pasta.

Butter: about 2 tablespoons (You can use a real tablespoon to measure)

Flour: about 1 tablespoon

Milk: about 1 cup (2 dl.) (just water will work too, but go for the milk)

GET ALL YOUR INGREDIENTS OUT AND READY BEFORE YOU START!

 

Little Brother’s Birthday Mac and Cheese:

Phase I: Make your pasta (in a BIG pot)

Follow the instructions on the box for 2 people/servings.

Tips:

Use a larger pot then you need… should fill the pot with water only a little more then halfway. The pasta should have a lot of space and water above it. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons full of salt to the water (doesn’t have to be exact).

Let the water come to a boil before adding the pasta. The pasta will become bigger when it cooks, so you will end up with more pasta then it looks like at the start.

Set your colander/strainer in a clean sink to be ready.

Wait for the number of minutes it says on the box. To know if it is done, take a piece out, blow on it to cool it off, and eat it. If it’s easy to chew, then its done. Don’t wait until its mushy… it will cook more after you take it out. Turn off the stove.

Take the pot carefully with a dish towel or pot holders to the sink and pour SLOWLY into the strainer. Don’t forget the water is HOT and you can get burned. Use both hands to pour, then set the pot back onto the stove (The pot will also be very hot, even without stuff inside).

Shake the water out of the pasta in the strainer, and set aside somewhere near the sink that is okay to get wet. Don’t worry about the pasta getting cold.

Phase II: The sauce

In the same pot, put in about 2 tablespoons butter, and 1 tablespoon flour (it doesn’t have to be exact). Then turn on the stove to medium/low. Don’t leave. Wait until the butter starts to melt, then use a whisk to mix the butter and flour until it is all melted and mixed in.(Trivia: This is called a roux and is the first step to many sauces) Try to use a plastic whisk so you don’t scratch the pot, if you have one.

Once that is bubbling, slowly pour in 1 cup (or 2 dl.) of milk or water. Turn up the heat a little to medium and stir with the whisk. You want to get everything mixed together, and cooking with a slow bubble bubble gentle boil, Stir until the mixture is thicker. It should take about 1 min. Then turn down the heat to low.

Add your cheese… this is the fun part! I recommend about 1 cup (2 dl.) of cheese, but its up to you! Use a little less or a little more if you want. Mix in the cheese slowly with a big spoon until it melts. Turn off the stove.

Add in your cooked macaroni and mix together with a big spoon.

And then your done! You will never want to eat mac and cheese from a box again!

Happy Birthday Brother! A subscription to Popular Science magazine is on it’s way :)

Green Olive: How’d you get that pimento?

This week, to my disappointment, I accidentally came home with a jar of green olives WITHOUT pimento… but why was I disappointed? The pimento barely does anything for the taste in average quality olives… was it the color? The feel? And actually, how the hell did they even get the pimento into the olive? It doesn’t give enough to the general experience to be worth a lot of trouble. Not in the supermarket olive variety.

Obviously, I could conjecture that the pimento was stuffed into the olive- I’m not that dense. But how? The pimento tends to be the perfect size in each olive, fitting like a plug- not like a little piece of pepper placed inside.

So, naturally, I looked it up…

The story is, although pimento (mild red cherry pepper) was stuffed by hand into olives back in the day, as of  1962 The Sadrym company of Seville, Spain introduced the first automatic olive-stuffing machine. Modern day machines usually make a mixture of minced pimento and gelatin, that is formed into long thin strips which are fed into the stuffer.

As each olive is pitted (with a x- shaped punch… so that’s where the X mark comes from!) a tiny bit of the pimento gelatin is pushed inside of the olive, fitting snug into it’s new little home.  I tried to find a video of this, but instead came across a sea of ‘hand stuffed olive’ demonstrations from artisan food makers trying to strut their ‘stuff’ (pun intended, as always.)

One VERY interesting tidbit: Most pimento-stuffing machines are still made in Spain to this day, even though the favorite olive insert in Spain is actually anchovy… I can attest to this from experience: There’s a taste-bud surprise every time I eat a green olive in Spain.

If you’d like an idea for making an impressive little stuffed olive treat at home, check out this recipe for Fried Green Olives Stuffed with Blue Cheese, from Bon Appetite magazine.

The Bookstore of my Dreams: Omnivore Books on Food

 

Kendra checking out the selection

Right now, I’m in the throws of working on an exciting children’s book project… yes that’s right! True to form, the book has a cooking theme and hopefully will be the beginning of a great adventure, combining all things I love: Cooking, kids, and media.  A few recent remarks from my illustrator reminded me of my great pilgrimage a couple years ago to the foodie capital of the world: San Francisco. I was sent there to research food and entrepreneurship, and one of the highlights of my stay was visiting the extraordinary bookstore: Omnivore Books on Food.

Photo: Claes Helander

Omnivore Books is a bookstore located in the mission district (The best part of S.F, period) tucked away on the corner’s of Cesar Chavez and Church Street. The bookstore offers “centuries of knowledge on growing, raising, and cooking food” both new and vintage and is the first bookstore of it’s kind I have ever had the pleasure of visiting: And to date, the last.

As soon as I stepped into this little shop, I knew I would be awhile… on my right there was a stack of Alice Water’s “The Art of Simple Food” all SIGNED and ready to take home. This being S.F, I’m sure many a food lover has snagged Waters’ (the Queen of California cuisine) autograph, but for a me this was amazing.

 

 

I perused the shelves and shelves of cookbookery (just seems like the right term), and suddenly saw this little vintage treasure: “Modern Swedish Cookbook” by Anna Olsson Coombs printed in 1947! It’s a Swedish woman who moved to the U.S and decided to write a Swedish cookbook adapted for “American women.”

Photo: Claes Helander

 

Me, being an American woman living in Sweden, thought is was just the right kind of quirky addition to my random cookbook collection. The recipes themselves weren’t the highlight for me, but rather her snappy commentary. I put back the Water’s cookbook and took this book instead (A move I hope not to regret!) Even though it was priced $37.50 more then it was originally priced ($2.50) I still thought it was a good buy.

I look forward to once again visiting my beloved bookstore… and dream of one day having the honor of inviting little food lovers to grab a copy of my book from the shelves. What dreams may come…

Its a New Year…

… and with that I have been prompted to think long and hard about my work, and consequently what it is I feel has been lacking in this blog. It has increasingly been difficult for me to really zero in on what content I should make, and it wasn’t because I lacked ideas or experiences but because I didn’t really explicitly connect my blog with the greater principles I champion in my life to make it more fulfilling and not to mention more frequent.

So I took a cue from my former entrepreneurship school professor @GVanourek (Twitter) and co-author of “Triple Crown Leadership” and decided to set forth my values for all to see.

 

  1. This is not a recipe blog: Sure I might write some up but in real life I don’t like recipes very much. I love cookbooks- but for inspiration. You need to know the techniques so you have room to innovate. If you don’t know why each step of a recipe exists then you should take a moment, dial it back, and learn why. Robots follow instructions without question.
  2. Waste not, want not: I learned this as a kid, and really it was more annoying then anything since it usually coincided with a bunch of cold brussel sprouts on my plate that I didn’t want to eat. But really, we throw away so much food because we don’t think to ourselves “is there anything I could possibly do with this _____?” Being a real cook means creating and “creativity loves constraints.” So fing try harder.
  3. No unitaskers: I got this one from Alton Brown years ago and have probably applied it far more liberally then it was intended. I avoid buying anything I can only use for one purpose. Whether it’s an appliance or a sauce.

 

 

 

 

For example, salad dressing…

Pumpkin Pulp… to use or not to use? That is the question…

The best pumkin ever!

Okay, I’m a little too excited about the pumpkin but it was perfect!

It’s Halloween time!

This year my wonderful boyfriend came home with the best looking pumpkin I have ever had the opportunity to gut! I almost didn’t want to cut it. Even though Halloween seems to be a confusing holiday to the Swedes, who haven’t decided to stick to a single day to trick or treat (so kids can pop up any weekend night around Halloween… random) I wanted to keep it classic with a good old fashioned Jack ‘O Latern.

My Halloween jack ‘o latern pumpkin after carving

When it was all said and done I was left with a lot of pulp and seeds. Just as my mom used to do when I was growing up, I salted and toasted the pumpkin seeds, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw out that stringy pulp. It is food afterall and I like a challenge. So, the plan is to make a puree using the pulp (removing as much of the stringy part as I can), and to make a cheesecake with it using and extra egg. Hopefully the egg will help set the cheesecake, since the pumpkin puree will likely make it a bit more loose then a cheesecake need be. Any other tips are welcome!

Toasted pumpkin seeds right out the oven