Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pernil (Puerto Rican Roasted Pork Shoulder)

I took a lot of flack over my non-smoker beef brisket recipe. The smoker cognoscenti descended upon me and gave me the literary equivalent of 40 lashes. So let me clarify: I am not an anti-smoker kind of guy. Meat roasted over a low and slow smoker fire is extraordinary. I love it. I used to be one of those smoker guys.

I got my first smoker nearly 30 years ago. Clarence Jones was my next-door neighbor at the time and he was out there working his smoker almost every weekend. He was an artist and master at it. I picked up a lot of tips and eventually bought my own smoker...a Weber Smokey Mountain...just like Clarence had.

In the beginning I smoked a lot. But then it got to be six times a year...then three times...then twice a year. Then in 2010 I got rid of my Weber Smokey Mountain. Life got in the way and I just did not want to devote my time to smoking meat.

As I mentioned in my beef brisket recipe, I started looking for ways to use my oven to get the same kind of meals I used to cook up in the smoker. This Mark Bittman recipe from The New York Times precisely fits that bill. First, it's unbelievably easy to prepare. A first grader with mediocre reading skills (which is on par with your typical smoker cognoscenti) can execute this recipe to perfection. Secondly, the flavor of this dish will astound well as six to eight of your friends.

When you are done cooking, the meat will be falling off of the bone. See that photo above? That's what you will get. It will be crisp, dark and a roast of consummate beauteousness. And you don't need no stinkin' can achieve a little piece of roasted pork shoulder heaven right in your very own oven...proof positive to the cognoscenti that evolution is working better for some of us than for others.

1 pork shoulder (4 pounds)
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1 large onion, quartered
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano*
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder**
1 tablespoon of salt
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil (or more as necessary)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Lime wedges for serving


  1. Pre-heat oven to 300º. Score meat's skin with a sharp knife, making a cross-hatch pattern.  Pulse onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, chile, salt, and pepper together in a food processor, adding oil in a drizzle and scraping down sides as necessary, until mixture is pasty. Blend in the vinegar.
  2. Rub this mixture well into pork, getting it into every nook and cranny. Put pork in a roasting pan and add just enough water to thinly coat the bottom of the pan. 
  3. Roast pork, uncovered, for three hours, turning every hour and adding more water as necessary, until meat is very tender. Finish roasting with the skin-side up until crisp, raising heat at end of cooking, if necessary.
  4. Remove from oven and let meat rest for 15 minutes. Meat should be so tender that cutting it into uniform slices is almost impossible. So just whack it up into chunks. Serve with lime wedges.

*There are two types of oregano, Turkish and Mexican. Turkish oregano is used in Mediterranean dishes like Italian sauces, Greek salads and Turkish kebobs. It has a sweet, strong flavor. What you want for this recipe is Mexican oregano. It is stronger and less sweet and goes perfect with spicy, hot, cumin-flavored dishes of Mexico. Any cook worth their weight will have both types in their pantry. If you don't have both, you can buy them here: .

**Regular chile powder can be substituted if you do not have ancho chile powder.

Wine pairing: For red, pick an Oregon Pinot Noir. For white, pick an Alsace Riesling.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Oven-Roasted Beef Brisket, Texas Style

I got rid of my smoker several years back. I found I was only using it a couple of times a year and I was simply not a fan of devoting twelve hours to tending a fire and checking water levels. While I miss the wood smoke flavor in some of the dishes, I found I could come really close to smoker-cooked food by just using my oven. If you've tried my recipe for Oven-Roasted Baby-Back Ribs, you know that they don't give much up in the flavor department:

The same holds true for this recipe from Tom Perini. His combination of a fabulous dry rub with a slow braise yields an incredibly delicious brisket. And it doesn't take twelve hours of tending a smoker. Just four hours in the oven gives you one spectacular beef brisket to serve your guests.

When it's done, just slice it up and serve it with some of the delicious juice spooned over the top. My favorite way to serve it is on some fresh wheat buns, again spooning the juice over the meat. You could certainly add your favorite BBQ sauce, but I find that the rub and the cooking juices have more than enough flavor to satisfy my taste buds. Add a little corn on the cob and some really cold beer....and you have the makings of one great meal. This recipe serves ten.

Dry Rub Ingredients
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 bay leaf, crushed

Beef Brisket Ingredients
4 pounds beef brisket, trimmed
4 cups beef stock

  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. Combine dry rub ingredients. Season brisket on both sides with the rub.
  3. Place brisket on the bottom of a roasting pan. Roast uncovered for one hour.
  4. Add enough beef stock to yield 1/2" of liquid in the bottom of the pan.
  5. Lower oven temperature to 300º, cover pan tightly and continue cooking for 3 more hours.
  6. When done cooking, slice and serve.

Pairing: If you must have wine, choose a fruity Zinfandel. However, I strongly recommend you pick an ice cold pilsner beer!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

All Hail the Discovery of the Holy Grail: The EJ Dale Wine Preservation Method

This is it. The best and simplest way to preserve wine when you only want a glass or two from the bottle. I have been in search of this Holy Grail for decades. I have tried them all. Vacuum pumps. Argon gas. Nitrogen gas. Re-cork and refrigerate. I have been lusting for a skybar system for over a year...just $999 to preserve my precious bottles of wine! But it's expensive and needs too much real estate on my kitchen counters.

They are basically all smoke and mirrors. They all worked somewhat, but they were far from perfect. And then at a dinner last Saturday night, I was introduced to perfection: The EJ Dale Wine Preservation Method. Finally, a way to open a bottle of red wine, enjoy a glass or two, and not have the remaining wine taste like crap a few days later.

Chris Budolfson was one of my best friends in high school. Over the course of 40+ years, we have maintained that friendship. A few years back she had the good fortune to marry EJ Dale. EJ is a wine lover, through and through. We share a common affliction of wine collectors everywhere...our wine cellars are full and we have nowhere to put the new cases we keep buying.

We were out to dinner last Saturday night, discussing wine, of course, and EJ began sharing with me his method of wine preservation. I was dumbfounded by the genius of his methodology. It is so incredibly of those "why didn't I think of that?" moments. But I didn't think of that. Fortunately, EJ did and I am here to share his brilliance with you.

First thing you need to do is buy yourself some 375ml bottles. A bottle of wine is 750ml, so one of these 375ml bottles holds a half bottle of wine. You can buy 375ml bottles with corks, but I like screw tops for their ease of use. I bought mine from the restaurant supply company, Wasserstrom. They cost $3.47 each...the cheapest wine preservation tool in the world! You can check them out here:

Once you have a 375ml bottle, the next step is to uncork your wine. Now here is the critical step: immediately fill the 375ml bottle with the freshly opened wine. Do not wait under any must fill the 375ml bottle the minute you open the wine...before air has a chance to interact with the wine. If you wait to do this after the bottle has been open for awhile, it will not work. You must do this immediately upon opening the wine. Fill the 375ml bottle to the very top (see photo above) so that there is absolutely no room for air in the bottle when you put the cap back on. put the cap on and stick the bottle back in your cellar. Then pour yourself a glass of wine from the remaining contents in the big bottle. Enjoy!

Chris and EJ tell me that this method will preserve wine for up to two weeks. I have tried it with wine poured six days ago....and I'm here to tell you that six days later it tastes exactly like it did the minute I uncorked the 750ml bottle. I revel in the simplicity of this and  I am extremely grateful to EJ for discovering The Holy Grail...and then sharing it.

EJ and Chris Dale

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Teriyaki Chicken Wings

It does not get any easier than this. Marinate your wings for four hours and then pop them in the oven for 20 minutes. Done.

These work great as an appetizer. However, I find them so delicious that I make a meal of them. Toss in a side and a salad and you have a quick and easy weeknight dinner.

If you want to make it really easy, buy your Teriyaki sauce at the store. If you're fussy about ingredients, buy an organic Teriyaki sauce. If you're super fussy about ingredients, like I am, make your own Teriyaki sauce from scratch using the recipe below.

Teriyaki Sauce from Scratch
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sweet rice wine
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons minced ginger

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until sugar dissolves.

Teriyaki Chicken Wings
3 pounds fresh chicken wings
2 cups Teriyaki sauce


  1. Place wings in a large 2-gallon Ziploc bag.
  2. Add Teriyaki sauce to bag. Seal bag. Gently roll bag to distribute marinade. Lay flat in refrigerator and let wings marinate for four hours.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 500º.
  4. Line two baking sheets with foil and place wire racks over foil. Put half of wings on one rack and the other half on the other.
  5. Place racks in oven and cook for 20 minutes.
  6. Let wings rest for five minutes then serve.
Wine pairing: Zinfandel for red. Sauvignon Blanc for white.

Harvest News Not So Fab for my Beloved King Crab

Alaskan King Crab is one of my very favorite seafoods and the January harvest just started showing up in stores in the last few weeks. I bought five big legs yesterday at Costco. I never looked at the price until the cashier rang it up. Yikes....$53 for five crab legs!

Last year, the highest price I paid for king crab was $19.99 per pound. When Costco had it on sale, I paid $14.99 per pound. Yesterday at Costco, I paid a jaw-dropping $24.99 per pound. So when I got home I climbed online to see what gives.

The 2012 harvest quota was slashed dramatically compared to was cut by almost half! This year's harvest was limited to 7.8 million pounds. Last year the IFQ allowed a harvest of a little over 13 million pounds. So not only do we have a much smaller allowable harvest, we also have substantially higher fuel costs associated with getting the crab to market.

Last year the wholesale price of crab (what the processor pays the fishing boat) was $7.50 per pound. This year the wholesale price is $9.00 per pound. That is why Costco is getting $24.99 per pound at retail. My guess is that at stores like Byerly's, Lunds and Whole Foods, you will be looking at prices of $30+ per pound.

It's understandable if you forego Alaskan King Crab this year. The prices are ridiculous. If you do buy, buy the biggest legs you can and make sure the leg has a huge knuckle on it (the knuckles contain a lot of meat). Big legs contain more meat and therefore represent a better value. The shell gets thrown away, but you still have to pay for it. Buying big legs means more of your money goes for crab meat than crab shell.