Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Weekend's Worth of Recipes

Perhaps pulled pork and cupcakes are not the types of dishes that should make multiple leftover reappearances (my waistline is groaning as I type this) over the course of two days, but they sure did this past weekend (I'm not the greatest food photographer, but see the pulled pork with fried egg sandwich pic below - breakfast Sunday morning). I'm in store for a Weight Watchers meeting this week - back to a lifestyle of moderation (I think the problem was that I was subscribing to the Mark Bittman theory of recovery, only after a week, it catches up with you). Anyway, if you don't mind the caloric content, both of these recipes kicked butt if I do say so myself.

As I suspect is the case with most home cooks, I draw culinary inspiration from what I read, from what I see, and from what's in my fridge and pantry. I've had a Boston Butt in the freezer I was itching to make some BBQ out of, and I recently saw a Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives that convinced me that I just had to smoke the bloody thing. Well, I tried to find the episode online and couldn't, and I did not have time to buy smoking wood, so long story short, my smoking became roasting. If you are interested in smoking though, check out this guy's post. That said, things worked out just fine with my roast. First, I brined using this tutorial. My brine included star anise, cloves, cumin, nutmeg, mustard seed, and vanilla. After soaking the butt (which is really a shoulder, but the 'butt' makes me go hehehehe like a third-grader) in the brine for 8 hours, I then covered the butt in a rub. You can make your own (basically, it just involves salt, sugar, paprika and a lot of spices), but I prefer a prepared version. I used some Arthur Bryant's that I picked up in KC last year, and added coffee, sea salt, and dried chipotle and ancho peppers.

Next, the butt roasted on low heat (200 degrees) overnight for 8 hours. I thought this would finish off the roast, and while the meat was cooked through, the fat had not cooked off and the roast was rather dry. So, not wanting to waste what I knew could turn out to be some great BBQ, I cut up the meat and put it in the crock pot on low for another eight hours. The fat cooked off perfectly and re-hydrated the meat. I think that one of two things could have happened with the original roasting method, (1) The salt&sugar to water ratio was off in the brine, or the meat should have brined far longer, or (2) I should have left the roast in the oven for several more hours letting the fat cook off and rehydrate the meat. Because of fear of drying out the meat further, I wussed out and went with the crock pot, but these were my alternative thoughts. I also prepared my own BBQ sauce with the following ingredients (simmer pan drippings in vinegar for 5 minutes, then add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer on low to desired thickness (about an hour):

2 tablespoons pan drippings
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup molasses
3/4 cup brown sugar
1-6 oz. can tomato paste
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. hot sauce
4 tbsp. soy sauce
(if the sauce is too strong, cut to your liking with ketchup and/or white vinegar)

Originally, I planned to serve the pork with corn bread and fava beans, a la these mouth-watering NYTimes recipes, but we already had plenty of calories between the pork, BBQ sauce, and soon-to-follow cupcakes, so instead, we just eat the pork on simple whole grain buns. I for one did not feel that anything was missing.

Did someone mention cupcakes? And not just any old cupcakes, but my version of the Velvet Elvis at Hello Cupcake. Frankly, I'm going to go ahead and call this one a success, especially given the number that have already disappeared from the freezer.

Banana Cake
2 medium bananas mashed, and one small banana mashed, reserved
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
OMG forgot to include the 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 cup 2% milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg whites, room temperature

Peanut Butter Frosting 
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1-8 oz. package nuefchatel or cream cheese
Pinch of coarse salt
3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
(note, this makes creamy frosting; for fluffier frosting, substitute one stick of butter for one-half of the nuefchatel cheese)

Yes, these directions are a little more involved:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin and 6-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside. I used my new sil-pat liners that I got at the Williams-Sonoma outlet for $9.99, yup marked down from $25 at the store. I picked up these liners up with my new Calphalon non-stick pans that make life so much easier.

In a small bowl, mix together milk, vanilla, and 1 small mashed banana; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Add two medium mashed bananas and cream together. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended.

With the mixer on low, add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping with a spatula as necessary, until just blended.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups (yields eighteen). Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes. Transfer muffin tin to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, cream together peanut butter and  nuefchatel cheese using the paddle attachment to the standing mixer. Add salt. Add confectioner's sugar 1/4 cup at a time. Because of the creaminess of this frosting, if you add the confectioner's sugar slowly, there is no need to sift. Yields frosting for 18 cupcakes, with some extra.

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