Friday, April 14, 2017

Home Cooking: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

I am a relative newcomer to crock pot/slow cooker cooking. My mother didn't use a cooker when I was growing up, and it's only been in the last 5 - 7 years that I bought myself one. But I definitely appreciate the time advantages to using one, and actually now I have two: a big six quart one and a baby two quart. They are both REAL handy!

My friend Sharon Chen of Delish Plan has written a slow cooker cookbook. Disclosure, she was offering some advance e-copies at a discount to members of our food blogger group (Austin Food Bloggers Alliance) for critique and to review on Amazon, which I provided. I was not monetarily compensated otherwise, and all opinions are my own. This link here will take you to her web page for the cookbook; or click here to go directly to Amazon to purchase either an e-book or paperback copy. There are a lot of creative recipes from meats to vegetarian dishes to dessert.  And one of the beautiful things about using a slow cooker, it doesn't heat up your entire kitchen the way an oven does in the Texas summer! But back to pulled pork!
Delish Plan Slow Cooker Cookbook
Available on Amazon
I bought a small pork shoulder from Whole Foods, that was about a pound and a half; I decided to make half the recipe and use my smaller cooker. While Sharon advocates for using plastic liners for ease of clean up, I don't care to cook in plastic, so I sprayed the cooker well with non-stick spray. An onion, the meat, and a mixture of ketchup, hard cider (I used Crabbie's, which is more of an alcoholic ginger beer than hard apple cider, but the flavors lent well), Dijon mustard, brown sugar, salt + pepper, bay leaf, and chile garlic paste all went in the pot. I cranked the heat all the way to low and let it work it's magic overnight.  My house smelled good in the morning! Here's what it all looked like still in the pot.
Delish Plan Slow Cooker Hard Cider Pulled Pork
And below, with minimal shredding, you can see how the meat just fell off the bone.  One thing I did though was to reduce the remaining liquid from the pot; I poured it all into a skillet and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. It reduced somewhat, but definitely thickened.
Delish Plan Slow Cooker Hard Cider Pulled Pork
One night for dinner, I made some polenta and brussels and had an easy meal, adding some of the reduced juices.
Delish Plan Slow Cooker Hard Cider Pulled Pork
And this was my favorite, the pulled pork with a great pasta, goat cheese, fresh basil and some of that reduction.
Delish Plan Slow Cooker Hard Cider Pulled Pork

Without a doubt, I would make this pulled pork recipe again! In addition to what I made, there's so much you can do with the pork, like make tacos or pulled pork sandwiches. Easy and versatile. I can happily recommend Delish Plan's cookbook!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Snooze: An AM Eatery (South Lamar) -- Caught Napping or Wide Awake?

Snooze: An AM Eatery South Lamar restaurant review
I've been pondering this blog post in my mind for over a month now, and it's just time to put it out there. Maybe you can tell from the title of this blog post of the conflict going through my head. Read on to learn about my first visit to Snooze: An AM Eatery at 1700 South Lamar, which coincided with International Pancake Day on February 28th, where a portion of pancake profits go to help local community gardens.

What started out as lunch with friends M and B became a very leisurely lunch, though not entirely by choice. More on that in a minute. Snooze is in a strip center on South Lamar, just north of the light at W. Mary/Hether Streets; its patio seating with orange accents is visible from Lamar. They are open daily from 6:30 am - 2:30 pm, and feature breakfast foods (heavy on eggs) and some sandwiches, as well as a full bar. The original is in Denver, where I ate several years ago when visiting friends; there are now around 20 Snooze locations from Texas to California.

I arrived a little after 11:30 am and found the parking lot to be mostly full, but fortunately Snooze was not packed. (I have heard stories about two hour waits on weekends which is one of the reasons I have not gone until now.) I was immediately greeted and seated along the back wall; as I waited for my friends, I admired the playful decor. I don't know what you call the little starburst/jacks thingys, but they are fun and nicely incorporated on the walls, on the glasses, etc.

Our waitress was personable and happily made some menu suggestions when asked.  I ordered the Breakfast Pot Pie, which is a big piece of puff pastry, with choice of egg and gravy, along with their very nice and crisp hash browns. The pastry is probably made from vegetable shortening, not butter, but it's still light, flaky and tasty.  This is a good sized plate of food! The food took maybe a little long to come, but nothing egregious.
Snooze South Lamar Breakfast Pot Pie

Snooze South Lamar Breakfast Pot Pie
B had the Benny Goodman, with smoked salmon, cream cheese and capers.
Snooze South Lamar Benny Goodman
M had the Bella! Bella! Benny, which the waitress had mentioned was one of the post popular benedicts, with prosciutto, Taleggio cheese, arugula and balsamic. Both of them enjoyed their food. The menu says you can also order a combo plate of any two benedicts if you can't decide, which is a nice option.
Snooze South Lamar Bella Bella Benny
We all liked our food, and decided to split a couple of the special pancakes for dessert. I can't even remember what we ordered, but I think it was the Acai and Cannoli. So..... 25 minutes go by, and we still haven't received our order, so I asked the waitress when she was nearby. The lunch rush seemed to have peaked and was starting to thin a bit. I saw her go into the kitchen, and another minute or so later, a manager came over. He apologized for the delay and said they should be out in about 5 minutes; he further explained that a lot of his staff was in San Antonio preparing for Snooze's opening down there which was set for the next day or so, and the kitchen was backed up. I told him politely that shouldn't be an excuse for two pancakes.
Snooze pancakes
A few minutes later, the pancakes did arrive; I took a bite of each, and they both seemed a bit dry. But then I saw it: there was a long hair in the batter; I was done eating. We pointed it out to the staff but did not make a scene over it.
Snooze pancakes
Honestly, I think I was more disturbed by the long wait for two pancakes and what seemed like an excuse than I am about the hair. Don't get me wrong, I am not thrilled about the hair, but it can happen at any type of food establishment from fine dining on down. However, I am sure Snooze will be less than thrilled to know that it happened to a local food blogger. I will say the manager comped us a generous portion of the bill after learning of the incident, and I do appreciate his working quickly to try to rectify the situation.

I think I did catch Snooze on a day they were both napping and awake. I will return at some point, though I may still steer clear of the pancakes, but a Dirty Drunken Chai will definitely be in my future.

Addendum: I received a press release earlier this week from their PR agency; the two Austin Snooze locations (1700 South Lamar and 3800 North Lamar) donated $2000 to Becker Elementary and the Sustainable Food Center for their gardens from International Pancake Day. Nicely done.