Monday, August 31, 2009
It's a bountiful month for vegetable harvests, but here in central Alabama, it's a transitional time for fruits. Gone are the blueberries and blackberries of the hot summer sun. Enter muscadines, the untouted, undervalued American grape. Perusing the farmer's market Saturday with dessert on my mind, I saw only cardboard pints of lonely muscadines.
Fortunately, for last month's birthday I received an ice cream maker, and I've been dying to crank it up for a few weeks. I walked away with two pints of muscadines in my hands, dreaming of their transformation into icy refreshment.
Eating a muscadine is fun. First you bite a hole in the thick skin, then you suck out the pulp while extracting the seeds with your tongue. Eating muscadine sorbet, a much simpler prospect, is divine. Once blended, the muscadine skin lends a neon pink-purple hue to the sorbet, thanks to their dark skins. It's actually fairly breathtaking. And the taste is like pure, freezing-cold muscadine essence, which you actually miss a bit when you're managing the skin and seeds and pulp all at once.
I'm sure this will be just one of many future ice cream posts, but it may well end up as my favorite.
2 pints of muscadines, halved and seeded
1 c water
1 c sugar
Heat water and sugar together, stirring occasionally, until clear. Cool.
Blend muscadines in blender for a few minutes at high speed, until totally liquefied. Pass through a fine-mesh strainer.
Whisk half the simple syrup (that's the sugar water) into the muscadine juice. Taste for sweetness, adding more simple syrup if desired.
Spin in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Probably everyone's favorite meal from our vacation was puerco pibil (one of the dinners I prepared). Of course, that is an unofficial statement that I pretty much made up, but this tender, deeply spiced pork really stole the show without requiring much effort.
If you can muster up the energy to grab a couple new spices from the store, cube some pork butt, and use your blender, then you can easily prepare an amazing meal for dozens of people at a time. Ever since Chip showed me the special features on Once Upon a Time in Mexico, which include a cooking class on puerco pibil with director Robert Rodriguez, this dish has been a never-fail staple.
It's easy. It will never let you down. And it gracefully accepts whatever you choose to pair with it. This time I prepared some refried black beans, by sauteeing some peppers, onion and garlic with black beans and smashing them. Then I threw some red onions and corn on the grill, whipped out a batch of homemade salsa, and heated up some tortillas.
It was incredible.
5tbsp whole annato seeds
2t whole cumin seeds
1 tbsp peppercorns
8 whole allspice seeds
1/2 tsp whole cloves
Grind the above in a spice mill/coffee grinder.
2 habanero chiles, stems and seeds removed, chopped
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 tbsp salt
8 cloves garlic
Juice of 5 lemons
Combine the above with the spice mix in a blender, and puree.
5 pounds pork butt, cut into 2-inch cubes
Combine all ingredients in a zip-top bag and mix well. Line a 9x13 pan with banana leaves; add the pork mixture; fold over the leaves to cover, then cover tightly with foil. Alternatively, just wrap the whole thing in a foil packet. Bake 4 hours at 325.
adapted from Robert Rodriguez