37 cooks, coffee marinated pork, cold weather comfort food, comfort food, lock-n-load java, pork

Task Force Zulu: Operation Cochon

The latest sponsor for 37 Cooks was Lock-n-Load Java, a veteran owned coffee company that was more than generous with sending us out our choice of samples. Before I made the ‘Charlie Don’t Surf’ cupcakes, I brined a lovely pork roast with some of their single origin Costa Rican ‘Task Force Zulu’ roast for over 24 hours and it paid off with a richly flavored, tender roast. Saddled up with some all day braised collards and a batch of mac-n-cheese and it was a smile worthy meal.  

Task Force Zulu: Operation Cochon
by Shannon T

1 cup strong brewed Lock-n-Load Java’s Task Force Zulu—Single Origin Costa Rica coffee, cooled
½ cup molasses

¼ cup maple syrup
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 ¾ pound pork loin roast, twine removed

Combine the coffee, molasses, vinegar, mustard, garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, the ginger, thyme and pork chops in a 1-gallon zip-top bag; seal and shake to combine. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours (I kept it in for 24).

Preheat the oven to 350F. Remove the pork from the bag. Strain the marinade into a saucepan; boil gently over medium-high heat, stirring, until reduced to 1/2 cup, 12 to 15 minutes.

Dry the pork loin with paper towels. Heat olive oil in an oven-proof pan until just under smoking. Season the outside of the pork with salt and pepper and sear the pork loin on all sides. Place the pan in the oven and cook until the internal temperature is 150, approximately 50 minutes. Remove the pork from the pan, place on a plate, tented with foil, and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Slice and drizzle the reduced sauce onto the pork. Enjoy.

*Served with garlic and onion sauteed kale and homemade mac ‘n cheese
cold weather comfort food, comfort food, curing what ails you, ME, Pho, Saigon Restuarant Portland, Vietnamese

Seeking Saigon

From the West End to the Eastern Prom and from Commerical Street to Park Avenue, the best of Portland’s dining scene can be found in a condensed space. But, there are some hidden gems that you actually have venture out a bit for, mostly to Forrest Ave. I’m talking Po’ Boys and Pickles, Susan’s Fish and Chips and Saigon Restaurant. They’re all their own representation of comfort food and are all restaurants that The Missus and I love not only for their charm, but for their delicious, and ridiculously inexpensive food.

A recent trip to Saigon was purely for the comfort factor. After an exceedingly stressful ending to the day, I wanted nothing more than to hunker over one of their sizable bowls of Pho (make no mistake, they are serving up the best in Portland) and be soothed by the warming blends of spices in their broth.

I can only make a guess as to what it contains: cinnamon? Star anise? clove? Black pepper? Unicorn Tears? It honestly doesn’t matter–you don’t always need to look behind the curtain to see how the magic is made–all I know is that it did it’s trick. My dish was ‘E7,’ a combination of rare beef and beef meatball, while The Missus, who is always a bit more adventurous when it comes to Pho consumption, ordered the ‘E8’ or Pho Special with tripe, nape, rare beef and well done beef. Her only sadness was that there was no meatball. Not that there was much room, even at a medium sized ordering, we were both struggling to finish the majority of the bowl.

Both were served with the traditional accompaniments of Thai basil, sawtooth herb, bean sprouts, sliced chiles hot chili paste and limes.

Surely, that would have been plenty for anyone, but this actually proceeded three other dishes like
the tofu soup that seems to be complimentary with every order.  We’ve been to Saigon three time and neither one of us has any idea what it actually is (aside from being a wonderfully sweet tofu soup that always only seems to have one pea in it).

The Missus always has to have her prerequisite Crab Rangoon. I wouldn’t say that there’s a whole lot of crab happening in these, but at least they don’t taste like the artificial crab that fills many a rangoon in town. To me, they came off more like extremely crunchy cream cheese dumplings.

But, the surprise of the meal, though was an appetizer special of steamed rice pancake, ground pork, pork skin, onions, pickled daikon and carrot, basil, lettuce, cucumber and fish sauce. It looked like a deconstructed Banh Mi, minus the baguette and mayonnaise. The hardest part was figuring exactly out how to eat it, but much of that didn’t matter once I took a bite of the pork. I didn’t care how messy this affair was going to get, everything on the plate, particularly the pate-esque hunk of pork, was delicious and I was going to clear it all. So, we finagled a few overstuffed rolls, that fell apart with every bite.

By the time we left, I had managed to drown a craptastic day in a giant bowl of Pho and fish sauce. Mai and her staff at Saigon are definitely serving up the cures to what may ail you and it’s more than worth the trip out Forest Ave. to pay them a visit. 

comfort food, lasagne, ooey gooey cheesy crunchy

Cure the Uncommon Cold with Comfort

Last week the Missus was beaten down pretty hard by a harsh cold. On the third day into it I received a text that asked, “Can you make me chicken soup?” I, instead made the more filling, and hot sauce worthy, Chicken and Dumplings.

Feeling the need to stay on the comfort food trail, after all my goal was to feed the cold, I did something I haven’t done in about five years… I made lasagna. I’m honestly not sure why I don’t make it more often as it never turns out to be the laborious pain in the ass I seem convinced it is. And it was pretty labor intensive, but only because I made it so. Making the Mario Batali Ragu Bolognese recipe, but I did. But, in the end, it was well worth the time and effort put in. The Ragu was the only recipe I was working from, so here’s my interpretation in pictures.

The Trinity: Maplebrook Ricotta, Maplebrook Mozzarella and Grated Piave and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Egg yolk folded in

fresh grated nutmeg

coarse black pepper, piave/parm, nutmeg and ricotta for the cheese layer

Layer with cooked noodles

Top with Ragu

Add the cheeses and repeat

End with cheese layer and bake, covered with foil, for 1 hour at 400 degrees. Remove foil, increase heat to 450 and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until

Top layer is bubbly and golden

Let cool for 15 minutes and serve, topping with more Piave and Parmigiano .

comfort food, new orleans, red beans and rice

New Orleans Red Beans and Rice

I found myself chuckling when I read Erik, of PortlandFoodHeads, had made a tasty looking Jambalaya this past Sunday. On the other side of town, around the same time, I was surrounding myself with three different pork products(smoked hock, ham and Andouille sausage) trying to channel my own bit of southern comfort food.

My choice, red beans and rice, was definitely a far cry from what I was making a decade ago as I tried to stretch an overly meager paycheck. Back then there was no glorious smoked pork bits and I was notorious for under cooking beans, mostly out of impatience towards soaking them overnight. Thankfully, I’ve gotten a bit better at the patience part.

A quick Google search sent me to a recipe from Emeril, from the FoodNetwork.com. I have to say that I usually steer clear of anything with either his or Rachel Ray’s name on it, but I do hold a bit of optimism towards his recipes from his adopted hometown of New Orleans. And, to be honest, it was a pretty damn tasty pot of beans and mashing them at the end of the recipe was a bit enjoyable.

The Andouille Sausage was from Niman Ranch and both the smoked ham hock and ham were from Whole Foods. These three, especially the Andouille, made the dish. The heat from the cayenne in the sausage was more than enough to keep the Franks in the fridge. The long simmering time melted the smoked hock meat, which had some nice ‘bark’ on it, off of the bone and were my favorite bites.

Red Beans and Rice
* 1 pound dried red beans, rinsed and sorted over
* 3 tablespoons bacon grease
* 1/4 cup chopped tasso, or chopped ham
* 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
* 3/4 cup chopped celery
* 3/4 cup chopped green bell peppers
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* Pinch cayenne
* 3 bay leaves
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
* 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
* 1/2 pound smoked sausage, split in half lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
* 1 pound smoked ham hocks
* 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
* 10 cups chicken stock, or water
* 4 cups cooked white rice
* 1/4 cup chopped green onions, garnish


Place the beans in a large bowl or pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Let soak for 8 hours or overnight. Drain and set aside.

In a large pot, heat the bacon grease over medium-high heat. Add the tasso and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the onions, celery and bell peppers to the grease in the pot. Season with the salt, pepper, and cayenne, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 4 minutes.

Add the bay leaves, parsley, thyme, sausage, and ham hocks, and cook, stirring, to brown the sausage and ham hocks, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the beans and stock or water, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and starting to thicken, about 2 hours. (Should the beans become too thick and dry, add more water, about 1/4 cup at a time.)

Remove from the heat and with the back of a heavy spoon, mash about 1/4 of the beans against the side of the pot. Continue to cook until the beans are tender and creamy, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and remove the bay leaves.

chicken and dumplings, comfort food, hot sauce, shitty heating system

Last Home Cookin’ of 2009

On a day where the heat never came on in our apartment, and the temps dropped down into the negative, I decided to make a meal that would make up for our shitty landlord: Chicken and Dumplings. Wanting something more than boiled chicken and Bisquick, I came across this recipe:

Chicken and Dumplings from Foodnetwork.com
Roasted Chicken:

* 1 (3-pound) whole chicken
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
* 1 lemon, halved and juiced; halves reserved
* 1/4-cup fresh chopped herbs, such as thyme, parsley and rosemary
* 1 onion, halved
* 4 garlic cloves, smashed
* Fresh whole herbs, such as rosemary, thyme and parsley sprigs


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the neck and giblets from the cavity of the chicken and discard. Rinse the chicken under cold water, inside and out. Pat dry thoroughly with paper towels. Season the body and cavity of the chicken generously with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, mash together the butter, lemon juice, and chopped herbs. Rub the herbed butter all over the chicken, as well as under the skin. Put the lemon halves, onion, garlic, and whole herbs inside the chicken cavity, for added flavor. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine. Place the chicken, breast side up, in a roasting pan fitted with a rack. Roast for 1 hour until the meat is no longer pink. When cool enough to handle, shred the meat, discarding the skin and set aside. Reserve the bones for chicken stock.
Chicken Stock:

* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 2 carrots, cut in large chunks
* 2 celery stalks, cut in large chunks
* 1 onion, halved
* 1 garlic bulb, halved
* Reserved chicken bones
* 2 quarts cold water
* 4 sprigs fresh parsley
* 4 sprigs fresh thyme
* 2 bay leaves

To prepare the stock, coat a large stockpot with olive oil and place over medium heat. Add the vegetables and saute for 3 minutes. Add the reserved chicken bones, water, and herbs; simmer for 1 hour. Strain the stock to remove the solids and set aside.

* 2 cups flour
* 1 tablespoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 eggs
* 3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk

To prepare the dumplings: sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs and milk together; pour the liquid in the dry ingredients and gently fold. Mix just until the dough comes together, the batter should be thick and cake-like.
Supreme Sauce:

* 2 tablespoons butter
* 1 tablespoon oil
* 1 tablespoon flour
* 1/2 cup diced carrot
* 1/2 cup diced celery
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 bay leaves
* 1/4 cup flour
* 6 cups chicken stock
* 1/4 cup heavy cream
* Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish
* Chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

To prepare Supreme Sauce: In a Dutch oven, melt butter and heat oil over medium heat. Add carrot, celery, garlic, and bay leaves. Saute until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour to make a roux. Continue to stir and cook for 2 minutes to coat the flour and remove the starchy taste. Slowly pour in the chicken stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition.

Let sauce simmer until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Stir in heavy cream.

Fold the reserved shredded chicken into the sauce and bring up to a simmer. Using 2 spoons, carefully drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the dumpling batter into the hot mixture. The dumplings should cover the top of the sauce, but should not be touching or crowded. Let the dumplings poach for 10 to 15 minutes until they are firm and puffy. Season with freshly cracked black pepper and garnish with chopped parsley before serving.

It was very reminiscent of chicken pot pie with a biscuit crust, though I would have adjusted the stock and roux to increase the sauce volume. Also, the addition of Franks Red Hot was vital..it needed heat and, as seen above, it got a good dosing of it. Definitely one to be broken out again as we get further into winter.