Meat and Beer and Cupcakes, OH MY!

23 Mar

I’ve been home on Spring break for a few days now.  Am I starting to feel all partied out yet?  Not really, in my less than wild, less than tequila-soaked home town in New Jersey.  I think, however, that my kitchen is one feeling the effects of my Spring break.  Upon arriving home, I tried to relax, tried to spend a decent amount of time at the mawl, got my hai’ done, and did the Jersey thing for a while…but naturally, I soon found myself back at my post, to the right of our kitchen sink, at a large wooden cutting board, preparing meals and treats for the fam.

One of the most exciting things about being home is having access to more proteins.  After a good shop at the grocery store, I came home with a whole red snapper, some pork belly, a rabbit, and a pork shoulder.  Our freezer is currently stocked with beef short ribs, oxtail, and chicken thighs.  So far, I have prepared the meats I picked up at the store, in dishes that are keeping us warm against the more wintry “Spring” we are…enjoying.

First, I made seared red snapper with a Thai fish broth and toasts with lardons.  After filleting the whole red snapper, I made a fumet with the body, a pork rib I cut from the belly I bought, green peppers, onion, carrots, some lime, parsley, and a puree of ancho peppers.  After I made the stock, I reduced it by about half and added some cream for richness.  After making lardons to go with the fish, I brushed some sliced baguette with the pork fat and toasted them to crispy goodness.  A perfect sear on the red snapper left it crisp on the outside and flaky-tender on the inside.  It was an aromatic, tasty, and balanced dish.

red snapper with Thai fish broth

The next night, I continued the cooking fest with a rabbit stew.  I was afraid my sometimes picky/sometimes surprisingly adventurous siblings would balk at the idea of eating a lil’ bunny, but no one really gave me any shit about it.  I braised the rabbit with chunks of pig foot (to provide body for the braise), onion, mushrooms, carrots, thyme, and cinnamon sticks.  The result was fragrant, sumptuous, and light enough to enjoy on a Spring day.  Served over homemade pasta with a side of sliced zuchini and spinach salad with anchovies, the rabbit was damn good!

Finally, yesterday, I made a slow roasted pork shoulder with polenta and dandelion greens.  After scoring the pork shoulder, I seasoned it and rubbed it with pureed ancho peppers.  After about five hours in the oven at 300 degrees F, the small pork shoulder was tender and delicious.  Over some stone ground polenta I picked up in Ithaca a while ago, how could anyone say “no?”  I stirred sauteed Chanterelles into the polenta, adding another layer of meatiness to the mix.

pork shoulder, in all its glory, exuding lovely marrow deliciousness

served over polenta and dandelion greens!

Last but not least, after a huge movie-watching fail (I tried hard  to sit through Public Enemies but really, really couldn’t), I wandered into my kitchen and dumped some stuff in a bowl and gave it a good whisking.  Remnants of a black IPA I recently tried and loved, eggs, Greek yogurt, melted butter, brown sugar, flour, baking powder, salt.  Twenty-two minutes later, I had some pretty badass looking (and smelling) cupcakes emerge from the oven.  What goes well with a yeasty, slightly hoppy cake???  I looked aroung my kitchen.  Orange?  why not?  Fruity, delicious.  After beating together some butter, cream cheese, and confectioners sugar, I squeezed in a half an orange and grated the zest of two blood oranges into the mix.  Result: yum.  Result on top of the beer cake?  Some would say I’m “winning.”



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