Cedar-Wrapped Grilled Fish, with Grilled Scalloped Potatoes

Cedar Wrap, Seafood, Fish, Bluefish, Salmon

Cedar Wraps


I just discovered these cedar wraps at my local Whole Wallet, and they sounded like a good idea.  You get eight per pack, and a long length of twine.  They work like cedar planks on your grilled fish, but seem to be more cost-effective — oh, yes, you get more cedar with the planks, but you really don’t need all that cedar, now, do you?  Also, you don’t have to soak them as long before use, so if you are hungry, you can get going all the sooner.

Most planks say soak two hours.  The cedar planks say at least five minutes.  I soaked these for about half an hour or so (while I was prepping the fire, the potatoes and the fish).

Traditionally, salmon (or another salmonid fish, such as Arctic char, steelhead trout, or regular trout)  is used on cedar planks.  I decided to experiment with both salmon and bluefish fillets.  And I cooked up some scalloped gold potatoes at the same time.  NOTE:  the potatoes should go on the grill BEFORE the fish, if you are using them.  The grilled potato recipe is at the latter portion of this post, even though both ideas ended up thrilling my taste buds to no end.


Bluefish to the left, Salmon to the right


Cedar-Wrapped Fish

* Cedar Wraps — one each for each 1/4 to 1/3 pound fish fillet (A note for larger fillets below…)
* 1 fish fillet, 1/4 to 1/3 pound, per wrap.  I used a 1/4 pound bluefish fillet and a 1/3 pound salmon fillet.
* Ground white pepper
* Other seasonings of your choice (I kept this very simple because I wanted to see what flavors the cedar added to this, but lemon, lemon pepper, Italian herbs, etc. could be options.)

A note about bluefish:  I find the smaller fillets are the most tasty.  The older, bigger ones have been around the pond a bit too much.

Soak the cedar wraps in water.  Ignition of the wrap is not a good idea…  Five minutes minimum, but I’d probably still do at least twenty.

Get your grill going.  I have a charcoal grill and I start it with a charcoal chimney using  Royal Oak lump charcoal, not the self-igniting stuff.  I find myself feeling sickened when I inhale charcoal starter fluid — get the charcoal chimney and some newspaper — those ubiquitous fliers that land in your mailbox do wonders, and are free — some kitchen matches or one of those squeeze the trigger lighter things.  If you have another type of grill, get that going.  I don’t have expertise on other grill types, so use what you’ve probably already learned.  But keep in mind the distinction between indirect and direct fire, as it still applies.

Wrap your (seasoned) fillet with the wrap, and tie.  Lay the fish skin side down (or outer side down if it happens to be skinless).  If you run out of the supplied twine, be sure not to use nylon!

One of the benefits of being able to wrap around the fish is that you get the benefit of both sides receiving a cedar infusion throughout the process of cooking.  If you have  a larger fillet, either 1) tie it to the wrap leaving the top side exposed, and not flip it into cooking, 2) place it on the wrap without tying it, so you can (carefully) flip it half way through, or 3) put one wrap on the bottom and another on top, before tying.

When your charcoal is nice and hot, red and fiery, pour it onto one side of your grill, add the grilling grate, and let it cook there for a bit.  Clean down with a little oil and a grill scrubber.

Add the fish, off to the side (indirect heat).  Cover.  I leave the grill lid holes about half-open (all the time, actually — at this point they are probably frozen in place!)

In about 8-10  minutes, check.  You can flip for 3 or 4 minutes, if you like.  This will depend on the heat in your grill, your fish thickness, and your preferred level of done-ness.  The exposed portions of the fish should appear flakey and (if salmon) no longer that salmon-pink.

Grilled Salmon, Cedar Wrap

Remove and serve.

Grilled Scalloped Potatoes

Before putting the fish on the grill:  Prep and start cooking the potatoes.  I prefer the gold potatoes over ANY other style.  Russets are, to my taste buds, bland and starchy, and regular blue potatoes are bland and dry.  There’s a certain creaminess gold potatoes have, especially when I source them super fresh at farmers’ markets.  I like Yukon golds, red golds and blue golds, and probably anything else that has that rich yellow flesh inside.

Gold Potatoes

Gold-interior Potatoes

 * 2 or 3 medium potatoes.
* Olive or avocado oil, about a teaspoon or so
* 1/3 teaspoon ground ancho chili pepper — if you are feeling more adventurous, ground chipotle pepper would be wonderful.  (Pensey’s sells good varieties.)
* Salt and pepper to taste

Scrub down the potatoes, cutting off any bad spots.  (There are two schools of thought on potatoes:  some say leave the skins on for nutrition, others say remove due to phytotoxins that concentrate in the skin.  I’m not sure which is the best, health-wise, so I generally opt to leave skins on (they’re thinner on gold potatoes than russets, anyway), cutting off buds, bad spots and anything that looks green.  I don’t eat potatoes often enough that it matters to me one way or the other (potatoes, like most starchy foods, apply themselves directly to my hips and midsection, and I SOoooo did not lose 40 pounds to return to any sort of “high carb” plan), and yes, I’m lazy, and the skins don’t taste bad.  At any rate, peeling is at your discretion.)

Using a mandoline, or some good knife skills, scallop the potatoes.  On the mandoline, the setting was at 3/8ths of an inch, this thing’s largest size, and perfectly good for the purpose.

Place in the grill pan (use a grill pan/basket with holes in the bottom), spreading them out.  Wipe down with olive oil, using a paper towel as you put them there.  Add the seasonings, mixing gently with fingers or a large spoon.

When the grill is ready for food, put the grilling pan/basket on the grill, not directly under the flames.

Grilled scalloped Gold Potatoes

Grilled Scalloped Potatoes with Ancho Chili Powder

Now go in and prep and tie up your cedar wraps around your fish.  After about fifteen or twenty  minutes, add the fish to the grill — if the fire is not too flaming, you can move the potatoes more over the direct heat — be sure to use a good spatula to mix the potatoes gently around a bit.  I use a silicon spatula with a long handle for safety.

Every few minutes I mix the potatoes some more.

Finished Dinner & Verdict

When done, the potatoes are just slightly au dente (if you like them less so, cook longer before adding the fish wraps).   I think Russets might crumple up faster than golds, so keep that in mind if you really must have russets.

Remove everything from the grill and let rest about five minutes.  Serve with a leafy green salad; and I think guests would probably enjoy unwrapping their own personal fillets.  As for me, I ate both fillets for dinner (nobly, I needed to do a taste comparison — well, no — I was hungry; I’m never much noble about food…) and about half the scalloped potatoes.

Grilled Ceder Wraps, Grilled Fish, Grilled Scalloped Potatoes

Removing stuff from the grill — in the center are some lamb sliders which I’d simply thrown on the grill for a future meal. Just not wasting the charcoal!

The cedar taste came through very well and was complementary with both bluefish and salmon.  Because of the cedar pretty much enclosing both the skin side and the flesh side of the fish throughout the grilling process, the cedar taste was more pronounced — in a pleasing way — than when done on a plank.  To be honest, sometimes when cooked on a plank, I’m hard pressed to discern much cedar flavor at all.

I will be experimenting with other types of fish.

The potatoes were excellent this way — in the past when I’ve done the foil-covered whole potato grilled thing, I always got impatient to add the meat, seafood, and other veggies well before the potatoes had time to get cooked long enough.  The same has been true when I’ve tried to grill them quartered.  Perhaps this is because most recipes call for Russets, which as noted, I dislike, or maybe it is because of my innate impatience to get everything going and cooking when I am at the grill.

I will stock up on cedar wraps, in case Whole Wallet only intends to sell these seasonally.  I don’t mind grilling outside so long as the temps are above at least 40 degrees F.



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Figs and Omnivorous Dining – A snack (Figs Wrapped in Prosciutto) and a main (Whole Fish Stuffed with Figs)

I just love these figs!  The fresher, the better!  Before fig season leaves us in the dust, I figure I better post these two!

For our snack, we have figs wrapped with prosciutto.  For our main, we have striped black bass stuffed with figs and onion.

1:  Figs wrapped with prosciutto, simple appetizer:

Figs, prosciutto, appetizer

Figs wrapped with prosciutto. Yum.

The joy of this putative appetizer is that it cuts the sweetness of the fig (for me, at least, this is a major plus) and it cuts the saltiness of the prosciutto — also a plus.  And can provide a nutritious blast, depending on the source of your prosciutto.  I’ve made this as an addition to a personal work lunch box.

Fresh figs, stems pinched or cut off.
Thin-sliced prosciutto, preferably sourced from some place like Applegate.

It is easiest to use kitchen scissors — just cut the prosciutto to widths that accommodate your figs without overhanging much.  Wrap lengths around the figs.  They should adhere without toothpicks.  Refrigerate until served.

2:  Fig-stuffed Fish:

Use red snapper or striped black (or other) sea bass, you want the whole fish.  This should be a mid-sized whole fish — you want it fitting on your serving platter.  Have the fish monger scale and gut the fish for you, but leave the head, tail and fins on, unless you are truly skeeved out about where your food comes from.  In that case, go ahead and have him do the whole nine yards.  (Personally, I eat the cheek meat…  And I reserve bones and heads for fish stock.)

Figs, Whole Fish

Whole Fish, but not on a serving platter…

You can also do this on the grill, my original game plan, but I got home too late that night to futz around with the grill.

Whole fish (as discussed above)
8-10 figs, de-stemmed and chopped up
1/4 small onion, finely diced

1 teaspoon olive oil, avocado oil, ghee, butter, or coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Ground black pepper

Figs, stuffed fish

Figs, chopped up and ready for sauteing

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

In a skillet, cook the figs and onion and spices with each other, in the oil.

When the onion is translucent, perhaps even slightly carmalized, remove from heat and allow to cool until you can handle it.

Stuff your fish with the dates and onion mixture, reserving any that won’t fit.

Bake fish for 20-25 minutes, depending on size.

Just before fish is done, re-heat the remaining stuffing, and upon pulling your fish from the oven and putting it on a serving platter, use it as a topping for your dinner.

Figs, fish, sea bass, red snapper

Dinner is Served!

Serves two or three.  I simply saved leftovers for later in the week, and as you notice, since it was just serving me, I skipped the serving platter…





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Figgy Stardust! Vegetarian Fig Ideas! (NO spiders from Mars…)

(Okay, how many of you got the David Bowie reference??)

I love figs.  I love fresh figs; the dehydrated variety leaves me cold, alas.  I think this is because I am SO not a sweet-tooth, that the dehydrated figs just don’t work here in my tummy.  Dehydration concentrates any predominant flavors in the food you are so treating, which means the only fruit I like dehydrating (and eating afterwards, balanced out in salads with a lot of vinegar in the dressing) turn out to be tart things like cranberries and strawberries.  And tomatoes, which are technically fruits even if they get listed as vegetables.  Your mileage probably differs.  But I did add in thoughts for dehydrating these guys down below, if that’s your venue.

Figs fresh vegetarian

Fresh figs! Seriously, I don’t like the usual dried manifestations.

Anyhow, I just got some fresh (as in FRESH) figs from my local Whole Foods.  I think there are two or three varieties of figs, but what I did for these should work for all varieties.

So, in honor, here are a few recipes for figs, vegetarian style (I’ll make an omnivorian post for these l’l guys, later on.)

1.  Fresh Figs, by themselves.  Just remove stem.  Eat raw.  A great snack!  They taste pretty mild alone, maybe a slight bit too sweet (to me).

2.  Salad with Figs and Plums.  Remove stems, slice in half, and add to any salad you’d already be eating.  My concept is to have plums (half these guys too, and remove the pit), add pitted olives, and surround with many salad greens, a few slices of hearts of palm, maybe some cuke slivers or bell pepper slivers, with an optional bit of feta or goat cheese.  Top with your favorite home-made salad dressing, or go the simple route with one part EVOO to one part apple cider vinegar.  Cilantro is a nice additive on top of this.

3.  Figs with Yogurt.  See below!

4.  Figs with Egg.  See below!

5.  Figs in Portobello Cup.  See below!

6.  Dehydrated Fig (for salad, trail mix, or whatever).  I seriously still don’t know why someone might want to dehydrate figs and concentrate up their sugar level, but people do.  If you have a dehydrator, set the cooking temp at 135 F, or 57 C.  Remove stems, slice the figs longitudinally into thirds, and lay them out.  I’ve dehydrated strawberries and then headed off to work, and figs are a denser fruit, so I can safely say you can leave the figs un-attended while you go to work or whatever, and still have more time for them to dehydrate while you carry on with the rest of your life.  (For the same reason I have no interest in dehydrating these, I also have no interest in turning them into jellies or jams or other forms of preserves.  This info is only here as a public service for those inquiring minds who wanna know.  And if you do it in your oven at the lowest setting, you’ll want to stick around and watch ‘em.  In a dehydrator, you have the leeway an oven will not provide.)


3: Figs with Yogurt:

figs, yogurt, vegetarian

Figs in goat yogurt. Or find a good plain yogurt without added sugars or other weird things.

My favorite yogurt these days is goat yogurt.  I get either the Trader Joe brand:  or the Redwood Hill brand.  I find Greek yogurt brands to be too “thick” to be of interest.  

figs, yogurt, vegetarian

4:  Figs with Egg:

Fig Egg Vegetarian

A duck egg cooked with fig, for breakfast

I had this for breakfast along side the Portobello cup mentioned below.

1 large duck egg or two regular chicken eggs.  (Duck is depicted.

1 or 2 figs, de-stemmed and sliced any way you like.

1/2 teaspoon avocado oil, or ghee, or butter.  Duck fat would work but as I was making this for Meatless Monday; I used avo oil.

Optional:  sautee a slice of chopped up onion in while cooking the fig.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Heat up your skillet with your cooking oil or fat of choice, medium.  Add the fig and onion, stir around until onion is transluscent.  Reduce heat to medium low and add your egg/s carefully — splattering them and rubberizing the whites does them (nor you) any favor.  Cook however long as you like, but the whites should be, well, white.  Since this was a duck egg, and the yolks on those babies are huge, I flipped it, waiting another minute of cooking time.  

5:  Figs in Portabella Cup:

figs, mushroom

You can’t really tell, but that is indeed a mushroom cap under the toppings!

Per large mushroom cap (one can assume one cap as a side; three caps as a meal per person):

1 large Portobello mushroom cap, stem removed.

2 figs, de-stemmed and sliced longitudinally into three slices

2 or three pitted olives, left whole if small, or sliced in half if large.

Half teaspoon, approximately, of extra virgin olive oil

OPTIONAL:  a couple teaspoons of either feta or goat cheese, crumbled.  Didn’t have so didn’t use, and this is exactly a fine recipe without.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Wipe down the portabella with the olive oil, using  a paper towel or a pastry brush.

Assemble your toppings inside the mushroom.  If using cheese, don’t add this yet.

Put in oven for 20 minutes.

If using the cheese, add it on top  five minutes before the mushroom finishes cooking, OR add it as soon as you pull the mushroom out of the oven.

Serve immediately.

PS:  there are some omnivorous suggestions for fresh figs in an upcoming post!  Both worked out very well.  

Oh, PS:  this truly is an irritant, the correct spelling of the mushroom used in one of the recipes above:  Portobello or Portabella… this link may or may not shed light or something on the matter.  I went back in and edited this post to tweak both ways… Grrr.  (The WordPress spell checker likes Portobello…)

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Restaurant Review: The Causeway, Glouchester, MA (with a farmers’ market digression…)

First off, I haven’t gotten to a farmer’s market in about three weeks, which bites, but here I am, showing off my wares from THREE of them — one from my own town on Friday (not much selection, but the grape tomatoes and the special “value added” Tuscan olive oil came from there).

FM aug30 -

The rest of the stuff came from one town immediately east and one town immediately north of me, today, Saturday.  We don’t sell wine at farmers’ markets hereabouts, but those bottles came from a really nice and friendly small wine shop near one of the markets.

The Haul:

Tomatoes:  Those grape tomatoes, plus regular “field” tomatoes, plus heirloom fancies.  Duck eggs.  Okra!  Tuscany-infused herbs into an olive oil bottle. Nice tart Gravenstein apples.  Salad greens.  White cuke. Whole chicken.  Chicken giblets.  White eggplant.  Sugar snap peas.  Chorizo pork sausage, and this one is now in the freezer for later.  That center dish however, is a mushroom/spinach/smoked Gouda strata, and unfortunately not gluten-free. The wine, as noted, came from a local wine shop, and the background plant came from — well somewhere nearby a month or so ago.  Frankly, I don’t remember.

Having eaten the strata, I am now about to embark on a few weeks of truly gluten-free eating.  I don’t have serious problems with gluten, but I don’t think it is a healthy component of food, and I am glad to have the chance to eliminate it for a while.


But NOW, to get onto our Massachusetts Restaurant Review!!!

Fine dining, clam-shack style!

4.5 stars (out of Five) — but the seafood itself is awesome!

Okay, definitely NOT fine dining, as in candlelit, private, linen table cloths.  And I did not have the handy dandy camera at the ready, alas.

It was very noisy on a Sunday afternoon a week ago; and that is the main reason the restaurant rates a 4.5 out of 5 star review.  There is enough room at tables to dine without feeling cramped, but it is really nice to be able to converse without shouting.  Or, just intermittently nodding…

There were four of us, and we four consulted on the review value before I posted this.

I ordered:  steamed mussels in a wine, butter  and herb sauce (appetizer);  and a main of Florentine seafood, which may have been on the “specials” menu.  This consisted of baked haddock, scallops, and shrimp, in a spinach-cheese sauce. Apparently gluten-free.  Sides that came with the main were a baked potato (I am not fond of Russets, so I took this home for later, and eventually tossed that part out) and steamed asparagus (which all got et.)  The mussels were extremely fresh, local and tasty.  The sauce was awesome.  The asparagus was good, but a little over-cooked, but hey if you are here, you are here for the SEAFOOD!  Some of the mussels and some of the asparagus became the next day’s lunch at work.

Compatriots ordered:  Scallop Greek Salad — excellent except that some lettuce other than bland  iceberg lettuce would have been appreciated.

Fried Oysters:  the batter was very light, and the oyster flavor predominated.  Excellent.  They were cooked but not over-cooked!

Haddock au gratin:  Haddock baked with a cheese sauce, and again served with potato and asparagus — this diner was very satisfied.

Fried clams:  Again, the batter was light.  Unlike at most establishments, where the clams are little tiny tidbits without flavor, surrounded by deadly breading, these were large and just somewhat surrounded by breading, and you could taste fresh clam.

If you are gluten-free, you can find things on the menu to eat and enjoy.  Obviously, fried and breaded menu items will be out for you.

On the specials menu were steamed clams — if I hadn’t gotten the mussel appetizer, I’d have sprung for those.  There are also a couple of lobster dishes, untried by our party.

If you like seafood, and you are in the Gloucester, Massachusetts area, check this un-sung and little-advertised (except by word of mouth) dining place out.  On weekends, at least in the summer, the place has a waiting line — I don’t think they take reservations — but I understand the ambiance is better on weekdays.  As in, quieter, for conversations.

Price is reasonable, and the seafood is FRESH!!  Service was informal, yet swift.  The “facilities” (toilet) is unisex, one at a time, but clean.  At least one of my weekend compatriots said I shouldn’t write this place up because she didn’t want this place KNOWN and more crowded than it is, but… hey.  It’s not like I’m anywhere near the NY Times in viewers.

For further information, directions, and menu:








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Root Greens – in the Skillet

Yes, root greens — you go to the farmer’s market, and you see these lovely beets, or turnips, or radishes, with their greens still attached.  Sometimes they look pathetic (the greens) or sometimes they look sharp and radiantly green.  And healthy, even if they aren’t always entirely green (purple beet greens come to mind here).

In the supermarket, these greens usually look limp, on their last legs, or the shop keeper has removed them.  The greens don’t last as long as the beets, turnips or radishes, themselves.  Hitting up a farmers’ market has plenty of bennies!!

Beet greens

Most of a bunch of beet greens.  Note the hand “selfie”

Just eat the greens within a few days.  The beets themselves have staying power.

As an interesting aside, a mother at the market was noting her son was crazy about the greens; about the beets – not so much.  So she was bent on finding the best greens she could, and ignoring the beet quality entirely.

Root Greens (Beet Greens in this case, but you can use turnip or radish greens, or kale or chard)

* 1 bunch greens (ie, golden beet greens, as depicted here).
* 1 heaping teaspoon of duck fat (if available); ghee or butter (if not available) or sesame oil (if you are looking for a vegan dish).  You want an oil with intrinsic flavor as most of these root greens come with flavor of their own, and a balance is nice.
* 1-2 cloves garlic, depending on size and predilection.  Smash finely.
* Lemon pepper, ground, to taste.

Cut off and wash the leaf greens, individually if needed.  I know my mother’s saying was that you have to eat a pound of dirt before you die, but I’d rather not up the ante before its time.  Nor am I interested in random insect protein in this dish, although I’m interested in trying cricket, grasshopper and a few other things; and I’ve eaten my share of kamikaze gnats on picnics.

Shred it up; I do it by hand.  If you choose to eat the stems, which are good from beets, but can be a little hard if the greens are older, separate them from the leaves.  You’ll want to toss them in the skillet before the greens proper.

Beets, Beet greens

Yep, that’s them. Fresh!

Heat the skillet to medium high, add the fat, let it melt but not smoke.  Add the stems, if using, mix around and follow a couple minutes later with the leaves.  Give the heat a little time — say a minute or two — to heat up and begin to cook the bottom leaves.  Then flip them with a spatula.  Gently continue this every half minute or so — you don’t need to watch the clock — until the leaves loosen enough that you can stir them.  Add the garlic and lemon pepper.

When the veggies are done to your liking — say about 5-8 minutes, but it will really depend on the age and type of greens you are cooking — you are ready to serve.  The healthy fat included in your cooking will help fat-soluble nutrients become more readily absorbed through your gut.  Besides, it tastes good.   And as for the water soluble nutrients — eat along side a glass of water or cup of tea.

Beet greens

Most of a bunch of beet greens, cooked to the above recipe


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Breakfast: Eggs, Liver and Asparagus

I had this two mornings in a row; the first day it was two hen eggs and a little more onion than shown here.

Liver for breakfast, eh?  Well, I noticed they were selling it in strips at Whole Foods — I wasn’t going to have to get a pound or so of it, and it was from a pastured animal.

Eggs, Liver, Asparagus

Breakfast is energizing!

At any rate, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with liver.  In my youth I was to go in for surgery but was sent home to Iron Up on liver, iron tablets, and whatever metallic shavings my parents could force down me before returning a month later for the surgery.  (I made that up about the metallic shavings.)

At any rate, I was not over fond of the item, liver and onions, for the longest time…

But I always loved chicken liver pate, and liverwurst.  And liver is supposed to be good for you, if you find the right livers.  So, I decided to have a go at this.

The Recipe

About 3 ounces of beef liver, sliced thin
1 or two eggs
A handful of asparagus, broken up
A few slices of onion (total amount about shallot-sized, roughly chopped
1/4-1/2 teaspoon dried mustard
1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional, I’ve been throwing it into food for its health benefits)
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon of whatever you are using for cooking oil/fat (I had a bit of duck fat in the fridge).

Prep everything and get it into place, including cracking the eggs into a small bowl.

Turn the heat for your skillet to medium high, and get your cooking oil/fat up to temperature.

Cook the onions first, stir them around, until they turn translucent and perhaps even brown slightly.

Add the asparagus for a minute, moving it around, and reducing heat to medium.

Make an area to rest the egg(s) and add.  (If you have an electric oven, you may wish to lift the skillet off the heat source for a moment or so.  Scorched egg whites are Not Pretty.)

Mix the veggies on the other side of the pan again, move them aside and add the meat.  Throw most of your seasonings on everything (I just use the mustard on the liver, though).

Flip the liver after 2-3 minutes, and add more mustard or other seasonings as desired.  (If you wish to flip the egg(s), do so now.)

Cook another two minutes, and plate.

Do NOT over cook your liver!  If your liver is thinner than mine was, cook for less time.  It should be rare/medium rare, and if you are eating quality liver, rare is very tasty.  A medium-done liver is a fair replacement for shoe leather,  and for some reason, really intensifies that livery taste.


Oh, yes, another visit to the farmer’s market!

Once again, hitting up local edibles!

Once again, hitting up local edibles!

Today’s capture:  duck and hen eggs, Asian eggplant, a chicken, salad greens, plums, red gold potatoes, two types of onion, okra, golden beets, purple bell peppers, and squash blossoms.  Already consumed: one potato (scalloped, for lunch) and some of the beet greens.

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Pork Carnitas (for a pot-luck crowd)

I love many varieties of “ethnic” foods, and enjoy attempting to re-create some of these in my own kitchen.  I’ve focused more on Asian and Mediterranean, and less on south of the (my) border, but I love Mexican, Peruvian and Brazilian as well.

So anyhow, for a local pot luck, I signed up to make pork carnitas — which would be one of several things stuffed into, say, soft tacos or taco shells, that other people would provide.  You can also turn this into a lettuce wrap, which would be my preference.  Or, you could eat this straight up if you are so inclined…

Pork carnitas


Warning:  This is NOT going to be quick and easy!!

This is the blog post recipe I more or less followed, from The Yummy Life:


  • 1 approximately 5.25 lb) pastured pork shoulder butt, fat removed, broken down into 8 chunks.  Because this cut has bones, the portion sizes were not identical.  (My source used lean loin meat, but with pastured meat, there is some lean-ness already there, and you do need a little fat for tenderness and flavor.)  After excess fat was removed, and the bone factored out in dinner calculations — although the bone was cooked in — I’d say between 4.5 to 5.o pounds meat. Do cut out any fractured segments of bone your butcher may have missed!  When we are done creating this meal, no one but no one should be looking for sharp edges of bone!
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt.  Ooops, what’s that?  Okay, I pre-seasoned the meat with one teaspoon pink Himalayan salt, 1/4 teaspoon each of Aleppo ground chili (a mild ground chili obtained from Penzey’s), and Trader Joe’s ground Rainbow Peppercorns.
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil, sourced from Costco.  I’d rather do this than canola oil.  Frankly, canola oil appears to be better than corn oil, or generic vegetable oil, but since there’s some discussion there still ongoing, I’ll do the avocado oil thang, if it remains sourceable from the less-expensive Costco.  I probably didn’t do the full 2 tablespoons, but then again, I didn’t measure.  I’m thinking one heaping tablespoon. Ghee also has a high flash point, and would be good for browning meat.
  • 1 cup low sodium, vegetable broth, from the box is fine.
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper.  (I used one teaspoon, roughly speaking,
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 2 cups salsa verde (store-bought or homemade). I ended up using 16 ounces of store-bought, which is a little shy of 2 cups, but next time at any rate it will be home-made.
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed

Rub down your meat with either seasoned salt, or with a mixture of salt, Aleppo ground chili and ground pepper. Let sit a few minutes.

Heat your skillet or Dutch oven to a medium high, add the oil.  Wait a couple more minutes, then add the meat.  I used the divided portion concept – half of the meat was browned; then the other half.  Brown the meat on each side — including edges — about 4 minutes each side.  As you go along, the meat will more readily brown, due to the residues in the skillet, and so some sides may take less time.  Set aside when done.

Add all the meat to the crock pot,  and use the veggie broth to de-glaze your skillet or Dutch oven, pouring all this over into the crock pot when done.

Top off the crock pot with all the other ingredients except the three spices at the end.  (Sigh when your jar of salsa verde isn’t quite 2 cups worth!)  It will do.

Set the crock pot to cook on HIGH, for 4 hours.  If you have smaller chucks of meat, you can check it at 3.5 hours.  Meat should be tender and fall apart, without shredding up entirely.  (Some of that will happen later…)  At any rate, if you want to run this on LOW, you can use 8 hours, but be forewarned that doing this while you go off to work has to take into account your commute time, your lunch time and your traffic and errands going home time, which for me turns this into about 10 or so hours, rendering the pork obnoxious…  Alas.)

Pork Carnitas

At the end of the crock pot stage, prior to shredding and then de-fatting (in the fridge overnight)

Break and roughly shred up the meat using two forks, and discard any bones. Return to the liquid, and allow to cool to a fridge-friendly temperature.  Refrigerate overnight, and remove and discard that crusty fat which forms at top before proceeding further.

(You CAN take a whole day to make this meal (using a de-greaser) and serve it that night, but since I knew what the day of the pot luck was going to be like in my life, I opted to do the above about three weeks in advance — and yes, there was also out-of-town/vacation time to consider in between.  So, I picked a weekend where I could crock pot, and then refrigerate it overnight, remove and discard the fat, and then freeze the rest.  Obviously, your needs will differ.)

Back to the meat — place it in a baking dish, and to this you want to add about 3 cups of the de-fatted liquid, which appeared to be just about what I had, so I added it all back to the meat.  I also added in the coriander, cumin and paprika, and mixed it up with a spoon.

Bake at 300 F for 30 minutes, pull from oven, and mix it up.  Return to oven and repeat, pulling it back out at 15-20 minute intervals hereafter to mix again.  What you are trying to do is cook off the extra water, concentrating the flavors, but without drying out the meat (hence the mixing).  Do this for as long as it takes to get to a consistency you like.   This may take a couple of hours or so.  I like a little liquid to remain; dry carnitas are not to my liking, although you can certainly find them at restaurants.

Back for seconds... the pork carnitas are at the bottom.  Everything was SOOoooo tasty!

Back for seconds… the pork carnitas are at the bottom. Everything was SOOoooo tasty!

Eat them straight up, make lettuce “taco shells”.  Another attendee at the potluck supplied optional hard and soft taco shells of the traditional corn variety.  There were lots of cooked dishes and various Mexican condiments (and Margaritas), too.

The source websites:

http://www.theyummylife.com/carnitas_shredded_pork — for the bulk of the recipe; I did vary out on the cut of pork to something more nutritionally dense and flavorful, and the oil source, and the broth source; and went with pink Himalayan salt over the ambiguous “seasoned” salt.

http://paleofoodiekitchen.com/2013/04/slow-cooker-carnitas/ — for the three spices added in last in the process.  It just didn’t seem “Mexican” enough without them.















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