When you hear “baby-back ribs” you’ll almost certainly think of smoky slow cooked racks slathered in barbecue sauce or crusted with a spicy rub of powdered chilis and brown sugar. And you would be forgiven for that – barbecue is a true American art form. But that’s not the only way to make a masterpiece of pork.

For today’s piggy canvas, we’ll throw out the standard flavors and work with a palette of cumin, jalapeno, pineapple, and avocado. Cumin, the world’s second most popular spice, finds its way into myriad cuisines from Mexican to Middle Eastern to Indian to Sichuan to Uzbek. In this application, its earthy warmth forms a perfectly complementary crust on rich, juicy ribs. A sweet-spicy glaze of honey, lime, and jalapeno puts it over the top.  And the whole ensemble is crowned with a chunky pineapple-avocado salsa that provides just the right bite to balance out the heavy pork flavors. Now that you’re hungry, let’s get started.

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Posted by: kriscdub | October 16, 2011

Mom’s Apple Pie

Unless your mom doesn’t bake, you probably think your mom’s apple pie is the best apple pie there is. I certainly do. Our mom’s apple pie comes from an old cookbook that she scanned for me, although it’s really more of a guideline. My biggest change is using all brown sugar rather than brown and white sugar. The extra brown sugar brings in more of a caramel taste to the filling and topping, and really, is there a better flavor to add to an apple pie than caramel? I contend that there is not.

Choosing apples for an apple pie is very important. You want apples that have a firm flesh that will stand up after baking, preferably ones that are in season in your area. Mealy apples won’t hold up and will leave the pie with much less texture. In this particular pie, I used half fuji and half granny smith apples. You want a combination of sweetness and tartness, whether it comes from all one type of apple, or from multiple types. If you’re lucky enough to live near a farmer’s market, ask around at stands with fresh apples, particularly if there are types that you don’t recognize. The best pie I’ve ever made was with an apple that I’d never heard of, but which the woman at the apple stand assured me was the perfect pie apple. When such a resource isn’t available, I use the advice on this page for guidance.

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I’m certain that this is the best thing I’ve ever cooked. It dethrones Deer Delicious due to some incredible depth of flavor that is sweet and savory while leaving a low, smoky burn on the tongue. The smell of it is still hanging in the air in my apartment and just that is nearly enough to bring tears to your eyes. It combines three of my favorite foods: apples, sweet potatoes, and slow cooked pork, all of which happen to be reasonably priced, particularly if you use pork shoulder like I did. The entire recipe cost me around $10. It’s also easy to prepare the night before and drop in the slow cooker when you wake up, which I did at 6:30 this morning before heading to South to watch Michigan destroy Minnesota. By the time I got home to watch MSU and OSU fail all over each other, the apartment smelled amazing. I will admit that if you’re looking for a lot of texture, this is not the dish for you. But if you’re up for letting a meal melt away in your mouth, this will certainly satisfy you.

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Posted by: kriscdub | September 26, 2011

My Meatloaf


Meatloaf is not the most glamourous of meals. I’m sure that someone somewhere has created a meatloaf that is somehow classy and elegant, but this is not that meatloaf. In fact, I’m not totally certain that I would want that meatloaf. You see, meatloaf is the epitome of comfort food. It should evoke memories of family meals and childhood, not sophistication. Although if there were a meatloaf that could do both of those things, I might be impressed. In any case, this is not that meatloaf either. This is a combination of a few meatloaf recipes, but mostly my parents’ meatloaf recipes, and it’s covered in ketchup, for god’s sake. It is also an experiment in how many times I can write the word “meatloaf” without getting grossed out. Mostly, though, it is delicious.

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Posted by: kriscdub | September 12, 2011

New Kitchen, New Start

I’ve been busy over my long, unexpected hiatus. I finished two honors theses – one in creative writing and one in psychology, graduated from the University of Michigan, and packed up all my things and moved to Los Angeles. I’ve been in this apartment for less than two weeks, but Jamie and I have settled in pretty well. Our new kitchen is cute and cheerful, and I couldn’t wait to share it with you all.  Read More…

So after all this spicy Mexican food, you could probably use something sweet to cap it off – what better than a rich dessert based on delicious and thematically appropriate Mexican chocolate? Typically used to make a frothy, spicy version of hot chocolate, Mexican chocolate is not your average cocoa confection. It’s grainy in texture, with large sugar crystals and coarse ground cocoa nibs, making it unsuited to eating unmelted. It’s flavored with cinnamon, vanilla, and almonds, lending it a deep, spicy flavor much more molé than Hershey’s kiss.

This particular Mexican chocolate treatment blends it into a custard with dark chocolate to produce a creamy, elegant dessert that’s deeply chocolatey without being too sweet. Make up a batch and enjoy the food of the gods…

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This recipe was lovingly extracted from a Food and Wine article by Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods fame. Andrew, known primarily for scarfing, ahem, exotic world cuisine ranging from swamp rodent stew to sheep eyeballs (and sometimes just … balls), took some of his favorite adventurous eats and made them a bit more refined and approachable to the average palate.

The inspiration for this particular dish was Mexican street tacos. And not the undersized, overpriced finger food variety dished out at the local margarita bar, but actual street cart fare from the heart of Mexico. Like most street food, they were greasy and delicious – but you probably didn’t want to know exactly what was in them. In this case, it was pig small intestines, fried up and served with fresh salsa – a sort of chitterlin’ taco, if you will.

To retain all the rich, greasy, crispy, salty, porky goodness with none of the digestive tract, Andrew subbed in a confit of well-seasoned pork shoulder. Confit, for those of you with a limited (i.e. normal) internal culinary dictionary, is a French (imagine that…) cooking style in which meat is slow-roasted gently in its own (or added) rendered fat. Originally intended as a preserving mechanism (cooked meat packed in fat will keep for a few days without refrigeration), now confit just tastes good. It is, of course, exactly as delicious and rich as something cooked by slow deep frying sounds.

To complement the rich pork confit is an equally enticing grilled pineapple salsa. The smoky, caramelly sweetness of grilled fruit works beautifully with the pork, and the pineapple tartness combined with a touch of fresh mint lend an excellent bright counterpoint to the unctuous shredded pork. Wrap it up in a warm corn tortilla with a touch of queso fresco and a dollop of crema, and you’re in pig heaven (or maybe not heaven for the pig, since you are eating it, after all).

Hopefully that description was sufficient to get you salivating despite the reference to sheep (eye)ball consumption in the opening graph. On with the recipe… Read More…

Posted by: gbdub | May 21, 2011

Taco Salad Taco – Braised Green Tacos

Time for another recipe from Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday. This one’s a quick to prepare change-up to the typical taco. Why limit yourself to just chicken and beef? How about something a little more on the green side?

Greens braised in a bit of broth, mixed with garlic, red pepper, and flavorful red onions make for a delicious and surprisingly satisfying filling for warm corn tortillas, particularly when topped up with fresh cheese, sour cream, and smoky salsa. The best part is you can use just about whatever leafy green you have on hand, from chard to spinach. Don’t worry about the ground beef and taco seasoning packets – you won’t miss ’em.

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Yesterday I turned in my psychology senior honors thesis. Just over a week ago, I turned in my creative writing senior honors thesis. Now, there is one poster, one exam, and 28 days between me and graduation. Needless to say, this was my third batch of cupcakes this week, which has been full of minor hysteria, endless edits, and more real cooking than I’ve had time for in months. You, dear readers, will now reap the benefits. These cupcakes are a major benefit. They may even be the best cupcakes I have ever made.

I realized at about noon yesterday that I absolutely had to celebrate my accomplishments somehow. Writing two honors theses is not an easy feat. While I’m not the best at throwing together impromptu celebrations, I knew that cupcakes had to be involved. I’d already made cream filled chocolate cupcakes earlier in the week (recipe forthcoming) as well as vanilla almond cupcakes (recipe coming when I’ve tweaked it enough to be completely happy with it), so I was running out of ideas. But what’s a celebration without champagne? And what better way to ingest said champagne than in little dinosaur wrapped cakes topped with even more champagne? And when I found champagne from Cupcake Vineyard on sale at the Beer Depot down the street? Well, I knew that the cupcake gods were beaming down upon me, and there could be no more perfect cupcake for this day.

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Here’s something a bit different – a review of someone else’s cooking! As a (very appreciated) birthday gift, I was taken on a food based tour of Old Town Scottsdale (no relation to Frank Miller’s Old Town). The tour was offered by Arizona Food Tours, and made for an interesting and tasty afternoon’s diversion.

Now, Old Town Scottsdale is, at first glance, a typical Old West themed tourist trap: several blocks of gift shops hawking moccasins, Native American jewelry, and t-shirts emblazoned with “Arizona” and/or crude camping related puns. But there are other layers – dozens of interesting (if occasionally a bit snooty) art galleries, high-end fashion shopping a few blocks away, a boisterous  nightlife, and a surprisingly eclectic array of dining establishments. There are more than a few stereotypes surrounding Scottsdale, and most of them are true. The local wildlife comes in many forms, from cougars to old-money bluehairs to $30k millionaires to gold diggers of both the Stetson-hatted-pickaxe-wielding and surgically-enhanced-Prada-toting varieties. This is a city that calls itself “The West’s Most Western Town” and yet has storefronts for Versace and Tiffany & Co. in its massive Fashion Square (that’s a “shopping mall” to you proles). Subtlety is not Scottdale’s strong suit.

Now, this type of town is not my usual cup of tea. But with the right guide and frequent stops for some tasty food, Old Town can make for an undeniably fun day. Arizona Food Tours provide all of that. Based on the reactions of the wide range of locals and visitors from across the country, I wasn’t the only one having a good time. For an out-of-towner, it’s a great  first taste of the area, and for a local it can open your eyes to some places you may have walked right past but never thought to sample. So with all that, let’s start the tour…

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