Tapas: Pinchos Morunos | Moorish Skewers

Pincho, or pinchito, means “little thorn” or “little skewer,” so pincho moruno roughly translates as Moorish kabobs and is a typical tapa of the Spanish autonomous communities of Andalusia and Extremadura. Being Muslims, the Moors made similar dishes with lamb. Christian Spain took their traditional spice mixes and applied them to preferred chicken and pork. During the summer, pinchitos are often served with bread, wedges of lemon, and wine. Usually, these skewers are made during the barbecue season. Steps 5 nd 6 of this recipe show how to make this delicious appetizer using the convenience of your indoor kitchen, rain or shine.

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Ramen: Pork Belly for Ramen | Chāshū | チャーシュー

Rolled Pork Belly Chashu

Chāshū is my favorite meat ingredient for ramen. Just like ramen, it came to Japanese cuisine from China and transformed into a very different dish. Originally, char siu 叉燒 is a kind of barbecued pork in Cantonese cuisine. In Japan, it is meaty pork belly slowly cooked in a flavorful broth. At the end of cooking, pork belly loses a lot of fat and becomes very tender and soft. Every bite of chashu melts in the mouth. For ramen, chashu os served thinly sliced. A very similar Japanese recipe for cooking pork belly to serve it with cooked rice, hot mustard sauce, and pickled vegetables is called Buta no Kakuni (豚の角煮, “pork cut square and simmered”). For both recipes, pork belly can be skinless or with pigskin, based on personal preferences and availability.

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Salo #3 | Cured in Hot Brine and Smoked Pork Belly

Pork belly cooked 60C sous vide for hot smoking

As I mentioned earlier, Salo in a Jar (сало в банке) is a highly popular way of wet curing salo at home, and there are recipes with cold and hot brine. But where the idea hot brine comes from? Can I speculate that someone impatient decided to try it hot? The result was somewhat in between cured and cooked salo, which is another widely used cooking method for pork belly in Ukraine. Cured with hot brine salo was so pleasing that the recipe quickly became popular. Using sous vide allows full time and temperature control in this recipe.

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Salo #1 | Dry Salted Pork Belly

Pork Belly with Skin

Even though true salo comes from the back of the pig, a thick pork belly with one or two thin layers of meat is what most of Ukrainians consider a treat as well. In any case, it’s a good start for homemade salo in Texas. There are different ways to make salo: dry and wet salting, using cold and hot brine, making it cold or hot smoked. Adding other ingredients to salt rub or brine changes the recipe from region to region. In Kharkov and Poltava region, I’ve seen salo made with salt and garlic only. In Western regions, black pepper and paprika are added to salt. The recipe below is my first experiment with local pork belly and dry salt rub and covers both variations.

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Red Pozole

Pozole

Toppings are my favorite part of this soup. I think they are what makes this traditional Mexican soup exceptional from the taste and texture point of view as well as its serving and eating experience. I like how some recipe authors refer to pozole as a “soup-salad,” because so many raw ingredients are added to a hot bowl of soup right before eating it.

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Cachucha Peppers Stuffed with Green Mexican Chorizo

Cachucha Peppers Stuffed with Green  Chorizo

To compare cachucha peppers to other green chili peppers I know, I’d say they are close to Spanish padron or Japanese shishito peppers in terms of texture. They are not meaty and slightly crunchy when cooked. To my taste, cachucha peppers are very flavorful and complex with clean and fresh grassy note. There is no heat in them at all. Thus their other name is sweet chili, Ají dulce, though there is no sweetness in them at all, at least when they are green.

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Green Mexican Chorizo

Green Chorizo Ingredients

Two years ago a horrible thought came to my mind. What if I have to move from Texas somewhere north, and there is no Mexican chorizo there, and I have no idea how to make it myself. I looked for recipes and discovered that in addition to regular red chorizo there is a specialty of the Toluca region of Mexico, green chorizo. It is colored green because dry red chilies in it are replaced by fresh Poblano and Serrano chilies along with cilantro and other seasonings. In my recipe below, I use only Poblanos. If you like it with more chili peppers heat, replace part of Poblanos with Serranos.

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Flammkuchen | Tarte flambée

Flammkuchen (leeks, uncured smoked bacon, creme frache, cheese)

It is known as Tarte Flambée in France and as Flammkuchen in Germany. The dish is popular in both countries and there are many variations for the dough as well as for the toppings. Traditional basic version is made with thinly rolled rectangle of dough, which is covered with a generous layer of schmand/crème fraîche/20-30% butterfat sour cream, topped with onions and speck/lardons/small strips of lightly smoked uncured meaty bacon, seasoned with pepper and salt, and baked in a wood-fire oven. Flammkuchen was the first thing I wanted to recreate at home after my trip to Germany and France. The goal was to find the right recipe for the dough and the best local ingredients for the toppings. This recipe of flammkuchen is not final yet, it’s version 1.0, the closest to my favorite so far.

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Carnitas

Carnitas

To cook 4 pounds of pork using traditional method, we need 4 pounds of fat. For people who count calories, it sounds really, really scary! Since so many people swear old school carnitas are the best and I call my kitchen a lab, I tried different cooking methods to see for myself. I slowly cooked larger and smaller pieces of pork in the oven, in croc pot, in a pot of lard, etc. Then I found Chef Roberto Santibañez’s recipe and that was the end of my search. I am a big fan of slow cooking and I am not afraid of fat, but for my taste these carnitas are the best.

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