16 October 2014

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork Sandwich / www.delightfulrepast.com

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork is the only way to go when it's hot. My Oven-Barbecued Pulled Pork recipe is wonderful, but it calls for running the oven for three hours or so, not something I want to do on a hot day! Or on a day I don't have time to monitor it.

Until recently, I had been without a slow cooker for many years, since the days of the tall round slow cookers that did not have a removable cooking pot. Remember those? You had to struggle to keep the cord dry when you washed it. Ridiculous. Anyway ...

Because of that, I never used it much and eventually donated it. So I never dreamed I'd be using my new slow cooker, Cuisinart MSC-600 Cook Central 3-in-1 Multicooker, this much! At least twice a week I use it to make soups, stews, desserts and now Slow Cooker Pulled Pork. 

Pulled Pork Sandwich / www.delightfulrepast.com

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

(Serves 10 to 12)

The Braised Pork

2 teaspoons organic canola oil
4 to 4 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, divided
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
2 large carrots, peeled
2 large stalks celery
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon thyme
3/4 cup dry red wine

The Sauce

(Makes about 1 1/3 cups)

1 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
4 teaspoons country Dijon mustard
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) cayenne

Note: Cook the pork shoulder one or two days before you need it. Besides saving work on the day you serve it, it allows you to easily remove the fat from the sauce.

1 Heat the cooking pot of the Multicooker set to Brown/Saute at 400 degrees. Trim away the large pieces of visible fat on the pork shoulder and cut it into 4 pieces. Season the pork with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Add the oil to the pot and brown the pork on both sides. 

Note: If your slow cooker does not have this capability, brown the pork well in a large skillet on the stove.

2 Add the onion, carrot and celery to the pot. Sprinkle on remaining salt and pepper, marjoram and thyme. Add the wine. Cover and switch unit to Slow Cook on Low for 8 hours.

3 Transfer pork to large bowl. With two forks, shred pork, removing any large pieces of fat. Remove onion, carrots and celery (I always eat them because I hate to waste food, but I won't judge you if you don't!) and strain braising liquid into 1-quart glass measure. Put pulled pork back into the cooking pot (now turned off).

4 In small bowl, whisk together sauce ingredients. Stir sauce into the pulled pork. Or you can hold out 1/3 cup, if you like, and spoon a little on top of the pork in each sandwich.

5 If serving another day, refrigerate braising liquid until fat solidifies on top; remove the fat. If serving right away, skim liquid from top with a small ladle. You will probably have about 3 cups of defatted braising liquid. In small saucepan, boil liquid down to 2 cups. Stir 1 cup of it into the pulled pork; reserve the rest to add when reheating pulled pork.

6 Serve immediately on warm rolls or cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to reheat and serve. It's really extra special on my Homemade Buns!

Disclosure: Cuisinart provided the product mentioned above. I only work with brands I love, and all opinions are always my own. I will never recommend a product that I haven’t used myself and liked! This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission (at no cost to you) on items purchased via these links. 

09 October 2014

Steamed Pumpkin Pudding - Slow Cooker or Stovetop

Steamed Pumpkin Pudding / www.delightfulrepast.com

Steamed pumpkin pudding makes a sweet addition to the autumn table, especially if you're looking for a change from the usual pumpkin pie. But, really, why not have both? Making it in the slow cooker frees up the oven and stovetop for other things.

Steamed puddings are something I've always done in the oven, though they're probably more often made on top of the stove. Since getting a 6-quart oval slow cooker, I've been having fun developing new recipes and adapting some of my old recipes for it.

Steamed puddings and their traditional accompaniments, hard sauce and custard sauce, are part of my British heritage; and I like to trot them out during the fall and winter months especially. If I were using a deep basin or mould as my mother did, I'd have to steam the pudding in a deep pot on the stove. But a 2-inch deep 7-inch cake tin fits nicely in my slow cooker.

What desserts are you trotting out for autumn and winter?

Steamed Pumpkin Pudding / www.delightfulrepast.com

Steamed Pumpkin Pudding

(Makes 6 servings)

1/2 cup raisins
3 tablespoons brandy, rum or hot tea
1 dip-and-sweep cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

1 In small bowl, soak raisins in brandy, rum or hot tea for 30 minutes to plump them.

2 Butter well and lightly flour a 2-inch deep 7-inch round cake tin. In small bowl, whisk together flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

3 In medium bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg, then pumpkin puree, followed by the vanilla and milk. Stir in the flour mixture followed by the nuts and raisins. Turn into buttered tin and cover tightly with foil.

4 Place rack in bottom of cooker, and add water to just below the rack (that's about 2 1/2 cups in the Cuisinart MSC-600 Multicooker). Set the pudding on the rack. Put the lid on the slow cooker. Set to Slow Cook on High for 2 1/2 hours; do not lift lid. 

Note: Your slow cooker might cook slower or faster, so you might want to check the pudding for doneness after 2 hours the first time you make this. Don't remove the foil, just make a little hole in the center of the foil with toothpick or skewer. 

Stovetop: Place a rack in bottom of pot large enough to hold the pudding tin. Pour enough boiling water into pot to almost touch bottom of rack. Place pudding mold on rack. Bring to boil over high heat, cover pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Steam pudding, adding more boiling water as needed, until pudding is browned and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 2 hours.

5 Remove the pudding to wire rack, remove foil and let pudding stand 15 minutes before unmolding onto a small platter. Slice and serve warm with whipped cream, hard sauce or, my favorite, Custard Sauce.

6 While pudding is steaming, make Custard Sauce. If you prefer your Custard Sauce cold, make it several hours or up to 2 or 3 days ahead.

02 October 2014

Afternoon Tea Review - Hotel Bel-Air

Afternoon tea, as my regular readers know, is a way of life for me. Whether hosting afternoon tea parties in my home or garden or going out for afternoon tea, it does something for me that no other dining experience can.

Spending time with a friend in the Los Angeles area (a friend I introduced to tea more than twenty years ago) happened to coincide with an invitation to try the afternoon tea at the legendary Hotel Bel-Air. My first visit to the Bel-Air was for a friend's wedding 24 years ago. Now, as then, I was surprised and delighted by the illusion of being miles from the city.

Hotel Bel-Air is not so much a hotel landscaped with gardens as it is lush gardens that include a hotel. Part of the Dorchester Collection, it is a luxury hotel but somehow manages to evoke laid-back-California-casual in a way you wouldn't expect from a big-city hotel.

On this comfortably warm early autumn day, tea was served on the open-air, but sheltered, "alfresco" terrace. We enjoyed a glass of mineral water (still or sparkling) while our chosen loose leaf black teas, Darjeeling and Assam, were brewed and decanted, eliminating that problem of the last cups from the pot being "stewed."

First up was a delightful assortment of sandwiches: a crab roll on a brioche bun, cucumber and herbed cream cheese on toasted pain de mie, organic chicken salad on walnut bread, wild mushroom duxelle and goat cheese en croute and two fabulous Gruyere and caramelized onion "grilled cheese" on sourdough.

I'm sure the house cured smoked salmon with dill cream and micro arugula on brioche sandwich is superb, but neither of us really like smoked salmon and so, on our server's recommendation, replaced it with the grilled cheese. In a word, fabulous!

Then the warm sour cherry, blueberry and buttermilk almond scones were served with quite an assortment of accompaniments: housemade raspberry jam, strawberry jam and apple butter; Echire butter and Devonshire cream. If you're a stickler for traditional scones, brace yourself; these "scones" are more like a puff pastry, perhaps not a "true" scone but delicious nevertheless.

More pots of tea got us through the final dessert course: chocolate dipped cream puff, coconut macaroon, French macaron, pistachio financier and huckleberry cheesecake. I'm not really one for sweets but must say I especially enjoyed the pistachio financier and gorgeous little cheesecake. I always save a sandwich, in this case my "extra" grilled cheese, to have at the end; I like to think it balances out the sugar. 

Good news for those with special dietary requirements: you can order their recently launched "healthy" afternoon tea with gluten-free and sugar-free options.

For reservations, call Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air at 310-909-1644. For tea at home, see: How to Make a Proper Cup of Tea and Tea and Scones. Look under Teatime on my Recipes index page for other teatime recipes.

Disclosure: Though I attended the afternoon tea as a guest of Hotel Bel-Air, I assure you that does not alter my opinions or affect my review.

25 September 2014

Sticky Toffee Pudding - A British Classic

Sticky Toffee Pudding / www.delightfulrepast.com

Sticky Toffee Pudding seems just the sort of thing to have been around for centuries, right? It is a British classic all right, but a modern British classic. There are those who will tell you it originated in Cumbria, others Lancashire, and still others Scotland or Canada. 

Despite some talk of it having been brought to Britain by a Canadian soldier during World War Two, the earliest publication date of a recipe seems to be 1971 in Britain. Since I have grandparents from both Cumbria and Lancashire, I'd be tempted to claim that connection, but they emigrated to Canada long before then and likely never had sticky toffee pudding. 

It can be baked in a cake tin and cut into squares or wedges for serving, but I prefer to make individual puddings. Since it is a very rich and sweet dessert (though my version might be less sweet than most), the standard-muffin-tin-size pudding makes a very satisfying portion. 

I love that it is something you can make a day or two ahead (probably even longer). Just place as many warm puddings as you will be serving in a baking dish; you can fit as many as 15 in a 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Spoon a tablespoon or two (depending on how thick you make it) of warm toffee sauce over each warm pudding. Cover the dish with foil. 

If you've just made them a few hours ahead, you can leave the dish on the counter. Otherwise, refrigerate until you're ready to reheat the puddings. Reheat for about 20 minutes in oven preheated to 350 degrees. I rarely serve dessert to 18 people, so it's a good thing the puddings freeze well. 

What is youfavorite classic comfort food dessert? 

Sticky Toffee Pudding 

The Puddings 

(Makes 18) 

1 8-ounce package pitted dates
1 1/3 cups water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 dip-and-sweep cups (8.75 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 

The Sauce 

(Makes 2 cups) 

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsulphured molasses (black treacle in the UK)
1 tablespoon brandy, optional
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1 In 1-quart saucepan, bring dates and water to a boil. Boil gently for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in baking soda and set aside. 

2 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup standard muffin tin and a 6-cup standard muffin tin. Place them on a half-sheet pan. 

3 In small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, by hand or with electric mixer, cream together butter and brown sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and vanilla extract. Add flour mixture and beat on low speed until well combined. 

4 In food processor fitted with chopping blade, process dates in their liquid to a smooth puree. Add date mixture to batter and stir until combined. 

5 Using a 1/4-cup measuring cup, divide batter evenly between the 18 muffin cups. Bake at 350 degrees for about 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Turn out onto wire racks, top sides down. 

6 While puddings are baking, make the sauce. (Or make it ahead and leave it at room temperature for a few hours before gently rewarming it at serving time.) In 2-quart saucepan, combine dark brown sugar, butter, cream, salt and molasses. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the consistency* you prefer. Remove from heat and stir in brandy, if using, and vanilla extract. 

* I like to stop at 5 minutes and spoon a little of the thinner sauce over the warm-from-the-oven puddings, then continue cooking the remaining sauce until it is thicker, about 5 minutes longer. Not necessary, but I like the way the thinner sauce kind of soaks into the puddings a bit. 

7 Place puddings on individual serving plates. Spoon sauce over the puddings. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or barely sweetened whipped cream on the side. And, of course, Custard Sauce - Creme Anglaise takes this dessert completely over the top!

18 September 2014

Slow Cooker Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake

Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake / www.delightfulrepast.com

As I said two weeks ago, Slow Cooker Cheesecake is the only way to go! Not only is it so very easy, it doesn't heat up the kitchen while it slowly bakes and, most important of all, it comes out with a superb texture and no cracking.

This week I thought I'd do a version for chocolate lovers. Since I'm not one, I didn't want to make it completely chocolate. So I decided on a Slow Cooker Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake with a chocolate crust. Not wanting to run out to the store to buy chocolate wafers, I developed my own version of chocolate crumb crust using regular graham crackers and a little cocoa.

Of course, you don't have to use organic ingredients, but I always do. I figure it's one way I can take care of our health and do my bit for the planet. Just 5 simple ingredients for the crust and 6 for the filling. I have a 6-quart oval slow cooker with a wire rack. If yours is round, that's okay, too. If yours doesn't have a wire rack, make a ring of aluminum foil to set the pan on. There's always a way!

What kind of cheesecake do you like, and is there a kind you would like a recipe for? I take requests! 

Slow Cooker Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake

(Makes one 7-inch cheesecake, 8 servings) 

The Crust

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature (for pan)
1 cup crushed graham cracker crumbs (6 whole crackers, 3.2 ounces)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon natural unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

The Filling

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, each cut into 8 squares, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled

1 Butter bottom and sides of a 7-inch springform pan with the softened butter. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit the pan, press it in the buttered pan, then turn it over and press it into place. Combine crumbs, sugar, cocoa and melted butter until the mixture comes together. If you used a food processor to make the crumbs, you can mix the crust in it as well. If you used your fingers or the rolling pin/plastic bag method to make the crumbs, you can mix the crust with a fork in a small bowl. Press the crumb mixture evenly and firmly over the bottom of the pan.

2 With electric mixer on medium speed, mix cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until perfectly smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl and beaters/paddle. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. On low speed, mix in sour cream just until well combined. Remove 3/4 cup of the cheesecake batter; set aside. Pour half the remaining batter into the prepared pan.

3 Stir together the reserved 3/4 cup of cheesecake batter and the melted and cooled chocolate until thoroughly combined. Place spoonfuls of the chocolate batter on top of the filling in the pan; pour the remaining half of the batter into the pan. Place spoonfuls of the remaining chocolate batter on top of the filling in the pan; cut through batter several times with a knife to make swirls (being careful not to disturb the crust). 

4 Place rack in bottom of cooker, and add water to just below the rack (that's about 2 1/2 cups in the Cuisinart MSC-600 Multicooker). Set the cheesecake on the rack. Cover the slow cooker with a triple layer of paper towels and the lid. (The paper towels will prevent condensation falling from the lid onto your cheesecake.) Set to Slow Cook on High for 2 hours; do not lift lid. Turn off the heat and let stand for 1 hour; do not lift lid until the hour is up.

Remove the lid and paper towels, and remove cheesecake to wire rack. Carefully run a knife around the edge of the cheesecake; cool for 1 hour. Run the knife around the edge again and remove the sides of the pan. Cover and chill for at least 6 hours (or up to 3 days) before serving.

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