Monday, May 21, 2012

Tater Tot Heaven

You know those days where everything just seems way too hard. You’re hungry but you’re also kinda broke so ordering pizza for the third night in a row just aint gonna happen. Cooking an elaborate meal is out of the question as well. Times like these I usually just end up eating a bag of taco flavored Doritos (even though they kind of smell like vomit) and then clutch my stomach in disgust for the rest of the night.

Whether it be a hangover, lady pains, manic depression, post outpatient surgery, or you’re just a lazy person, some days you need something comfortable and simple to eat. You know, one of those dishes made of crushed tater tots, canned soup, and lots of cheese that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

When I was a kid my mother and father worked a lot so sometimes it was up to me to figure out my own dinner situation. I loved to cook. I would gather an armful of delicious ingredients that seemed like they would be even more delicious all piled together. 

Sometimes things would work out nicely such as the first time I inadvertently made tater tot casserole. Tasty! However, once in a while things would go really, really wrong. Once I dumped a frozen box of egg rolls on a microwave pizza and smothered and covered it with a can of chili and Velveeta cheese.

I know what you’re saying: “But Violet, that sounds amazingly delicious!” I know right, I thought so too. However, after a few minutes in the microwave the moisture from the ‘who knows how old’ freezer burned egg rolls leaked all over the place and turned the chili and cheese into a pinkish brown sludge that covered the entire microwave. Even still I ate some, unhappily scraping the crud out with a big spoon.

Aside from going hungry that night my mother was pretty unhappy about the fact that pizza-egg roll surprise was covering the majority of her kitchen. Still, much to her credit, she urged me to keep on cooking my little heart out.

Here's my version of Tater Tot Casserole. It's so delicious and I promise that you don't even need to be high to enjoy it. 

Tater Tot Casserole

1 lb ground beef
1/4 lb of bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 celery rib, diced
2 scallions, sliced
2 Tsp Cajun seasoning
salt and pepper
1 bag of tater tots (or 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and grated)
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
a few dashes of hot sauce
1 can of cream of mushroom (or celery) soup (or 1/2 lb diced shiitake mushrooms
simmered in 1 cup of heavy cream for 20 minutes, plus 2 Tbsp sour cream)

For this recipe I give you the down and dirty version with an option to make it more classy and refined (as refined as tater tot casserole can be). I myself prefer the classic white trash version. That’s how I roll.

1. Preheat oven to 375F. In a sauté pan over medium high heat cook the bacon until the fat renders. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towel.

2. Cook the onion, celery, and garlic in the bacon fat (about 3-4 minutes until soft). In the same pan, brown the ground beef.

3. Add the scallion, Cajun seasoning, cream of mushroom soup (or the shiitake mushrooms with cream and sour cream. Add a little corn starch slurry if it’s too watery). Season with salt and pepper (careful the canned soup has a lot of salt so taste before adding more). Stir to combine.

4. In a 2 quart baking dish, add the soup and meat layer. Then top it off with a layer of tater tots.

5. Cook uncovered in the oven for 30 minutes. Pull the dish out and sprinkle cheddar cheese over the top. Cook for another 15 minutes. Serve outside with no shoes on and a nice cold Bud light. Dang that’s tasty! xoxo

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Like a Fine Swine.

There's nothing like getting a series of serious sinus infections to make you dislike food for a while.  Well, I'm on some sort of beginning of a mend and thankfully food seems appealing once again. No more cans of chemically enhanced soup and cough drops for dinner. Nope, I'll be using my teeth to chew things from here on in.

So I don't know about you but when I get better from a cold or whatever I get a serious craving for meat. My inner carnivore monster comes crawling up with a thirst for blood. Not in a creepy I crave human flesh, zombie kind of way but in a "I sure would like a giant chunk of meat to go all cavewoman on" sort of way. You know, I want a brontosaurus steak that I can hold like a barbarian with meaty juiciness dripping off my chin. Don't you get that way? No, it's just me? 

Anyways, one of the first things I crave after a meatless streak is pork. Must be the Cubano in me. One of the first meals that I've actually had the pleasure of cooking in quite a while is Cuban Roast Pork. Marinated in mojo (garlic, citrus, cumin, oregano, pepper, etc) for at least 12 hours and roasted low and slow for half the day. This chunk of meat will quiver and threaten to fall apart just by glancing at it. Served up with a side of arroz con frijoles negroes (vinegary Cuban black beans and steamed white rice) and a ensalada de aquacate (avocado sliced with sherry wine vinegar and Spanish olive oil tossed gently with red onion and cilantro).

After eating this meal I actually started to feel sort of human again. As human as I ever felt being a creature from the depths of the darkness. Hahahahahaha! Okay, enjoy my super secret pork recipe that I'm just going to tell you. Don't tell anyone else. It'll be our secret.

Cuban Roast Pork

(mojo marinade)
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 tsp oregano oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 cup sour orange juice, or 1/2 cup orange juice plus 1/4 cup each fresh lemon and lime juice

Put of the mojo ingredients in a blender and pulse until the garlic is minced up.

(for the pork)
4-6 lbs. pork shoulder roast
Pour the mojo over the pork shoulder and marinate overnight. The following day preheat the oven to 250F degrees. Transfer the pork (fat side up) and marinade to a roasting pan and cook for 4 hours basting every 1/2 hour. Add a little water to the pan when it starts to dry out. Pull the pork out and let it rest for 15 minutes. It should be so meltingly tender that it falls apart just by touching it. Enjoy.

Oh and you wanna know the best thing about making Cuban roast pork? The next day (or that same night even) you can have Cuban sandwiches. Yum to the tenth degree. Make sure you have sliced ham, swiss cheese, Cuban bread (or a soft baguette), dill pickles, and mustard.

Just talking about it has made me hungry. I would kill for one right now. No really, I would kill you and take your Cuban sandwich if you were nearby and happened to be holding a Cuban sandwich. You should be glad that that is not that case. Anywho, I need to go find someone with a Cuban sandwich. Hmmm, or maybe I'll just make one. Less jail time that way. Yeah, that's what I'm gonna do. You should make one too. xoxo