Category Archives: Pork

Kids in the Kitchen: Smoked Pork Ribs

brandan bbq ribs 034

Ever since the Texas BBQ “Extravaganza”, Brandan has desperately wanted to make ribs for his turn in the kitchen. Can’t say I blame him. Having the opportunity to play with fire and enjoy a tasty, carnivorous barbecued meal? Sounds like a great time to me!

However, when he made this decision, I forgot to ask him what he wanted to prepare to accompany the ribs. So this week, I called him on the phone to discuss it.

Me: Brandan, what would you like to serve with your ribs?

Brandan: Ummm…..shrimp! No, grilled catfish! Noo….shrimp.

Me: Sweetie, let’s choose something that’s not meat or fish. We need some sort of vegetable…

Brandan: Corn. Grilled corn.

Me: Okay, sounds good. What about something like potatoes, or rice, or potato salad, or beans…

Brandan: What about that egg dish? You know, the one with the creamy stuff and kinda sour. Like we had at the BBQ.

Me: Do you mean potato salad? Your Grandma Chambers made a potato salad with mayonnaise and mustard and lots of hard-boiled eggs…

Brandan: Yeah. Why can’t we have shrimp too?

As you can see, the boy likes his protein. While we didn’t have shrimp (trying to keep costs down), we did have quite an enjoyable meal. Trying to improve upon my pork ribs from the Texas BBQ, we opted to put a rub on them an hour before smoking, rather than the previous night, and wrapped them in foil for the final two hours of smoking. Both changes were in an attempt to make the ribs even more moist and tender. In fact, they were. My favorite aspect of their flavor, however, was the smokiness. A beautiful layer of pink penetrated the exterior of the rib meat, providing that smoky, succulent flavor I was after. Delicious.

Brandan taking ribs off of smoker to wrap in foil

Brandan taking ribs off of smoker to wrap in foil

We also prepared a version of my mother’s potato salad. Creamy, with just enough mustardy tang, it’s a delicious, comforting, simple accompaniment to any barbecue. (I had two helpings.) The corn was simple as well – we shucked the ears and broke each in half. Placed each ear onto a piece of aluminum foil, along with a pat of butter and a bit of salt and pepper. We then wrapped each half-ear in the foil and grilled for a few minutes.

The verdict? Over dinner, the kids were having a discussion, trying to rank each component of the meal, from most to least favorite. Since everyone had seconds, (and there were a few thirds!) I figure we can consider this a win for Brandan.


For the ribs:

5 lbs pork spare ribs

approximately 1/4 c barbecue rub

Aluminum foil

About an hour before smoking, sprinkle rub on ribs and press into meat. Set up smoker for indirect heat with water pan. Smoke ribs for 3 hours, keeping the temperature of the smoker at around 250 degrees. Pull ribs from smoker and cover with aluminum foil. Place ribs back in smoker, and smoke for another 2 hours. Remove from heat and tent with foil for 5 minutes. Cut ribs apart and serve with your favorite barbecue sauce, or ancho barbecue sauce. Serves 6-8, depending on the meatiness of your ribs.


For the potato salad:

5 medium red potatoes

5 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

1 c mayonnaise

2 T yellow mustard

1/2 red onion, diced

2 T dill relish

salt and pepper to taste

pinch of paprika

Boil potatoes until tender, about 20-25 minutes. Drain water and allow potatoes to cool. Peel and cut potatoes into 1-inch dice. Add potatoes, eggs, mayonnaise, mustard, onion, and dill relish. Gently mix until incorporated. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika, and mix until incorporated. Serves 6.


Filed under Gluten-Free, Main Dishes, Pork, Salads

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Exploring Texas BBQ

When you talk about Texas food, one of the first things that comes to mind is barbecue, specifically, barbecue beef. After all, Texas is the place of long cattle drives, of cowboys, of chuck wagon cooking on a campfire. But ask a native Texan to define barbecue, and you’ll receive as many answers as there are miles of wide open spaces in Texas. Folks from the east will tell you barbecue means pork shoulder and pork ribs, with a healthy helping of sauce. From the south and along the border? Barbacoa (head of the cow) is popular, served in corn tortillas. In Central Texas, at famed places such as Kreuz Market in Lockhart, pork was smoked simply, with post oak to flavor, never with sauce. German-style sausages were also smoked and enjoyed. And of course, beef brisket was king in West Texas, as it is all over the state. Obviously, Texas barbecue can mean many things, depending on the Texan.

As I just recently purchased a smoker, it seemed only natural, as a native Texas foodie, that I attempt to prepare a sampling of the various barbecued meats from the Lone Star State. In addition, I recently read through Robb Walsh’s “Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook”, which excited me with the thoughts of beautifully smoked meats. However, once Foodbuzz contacted to me and let me know I was selected for this month’s 24, 24, 24, a slight panic set in. I had limited experience with the smoker…what had I gotten myself into? In an effort to gain confidence,I immediately re-read Robb Walsh’s book, researched the best ways to smoke the various cuts of meat, requested the advice of several friends, and made a game plan. I organized recipes, did some shopping, sent out invitations to family, and made a schedule, and of course, a menu.

The Menu:

West Texas Brisket

East Texas Pork Shoulder

East Texas Pork Spare Ribs

Central Texas Smoked Bratwurst

Barbacoa (with tortillas, salsa, cilantro, onions and lime)

Mom’s Texas Potato Salad

Texas Coleslaw

Ancho Barbecue Sauce

Pineapple Barbecue Sauce

East Texas Blackeyed Peas


Pork shoulder and ribs smoking

Pork shoulder and ribs smoking

The cooking started Friday evening, and continued almost nonstop until 5 PM Saturday. (Friday night was more passive cooking than anything. I say passive…the barbacoa was in the oven. I should have been able to sleep through the night. But instead, I woke up several times, thinking “Is the oven on? I don’t smell the barbacoa. Oh no, what if I woke up in the morning and it’s been sitting cold in the oven? I’m screwed! Must get up and check.” I’d walk into the kitchen, check on the oven…still on. Peek inside. Looks good. Go back to bed. Repeat several times until 7am.) I started the smoker at about 9am, so I’d have plenty of time to get a good fire going. I had decided to smoke with oak only. Getting the temperature to stay around 250 degrees was a bit tricky at first, but after a while, I learned to combine larger logs with smaller ones at varying times with success. During the day, while babysitting the smoker, I prepared the sauces and side dishes. (My Mom graciously prepared the potato salad and brought it to my house, saving me some considerable time and kitchen space. Her potato salad is a deliciously creamy, mustard and mayo combination that goes with any barbecue.) I was pleased when the meats were coming to temperature on schedule, and everything was just finishing as everyone started to arrive.

We were expecting about 24 people, so we had extra tables and folding chairs all over the house. (I have a lot of tables and chairs – Thanksgiving and Christmas are often celebrated at our house, so I’m prepared.) It was all pretty casual (the norm for our family), so everyone just found a spot to sit and chat until time to eat.

And eat we did! The brisket was flavorful, with a good 1/2 inch ring of smoke around the outside of the meat. The pork shoulder and ribs had a succulent smoke flavor, and the ribs fell away from the bone. The sausages were slightly smoky, but not so much that the smoke covered up the seasonings. Of course, the sauces were enjoyed on every kind of meat. But the barbacoa was the talk of the night. Most had never eaten barbacoa, and a few decided not to try it (I suppose the idea of eating cow head was a bit much for some!), but everyone had questions. “Were there eyeballs?” “Can I see a picture?” “How did you cook it?” And of course, we ate our fill of potato salad, coleslaw, blackeyed peas, and a “Sock It To Me” cake that my sister-in-law brought. My niece brought some strawberry cupcakes, complete with M&Ms on top, that the kids thoroughly enjoyed.  

All in all, I felt it was a successful party. I was glad that my family was so willing to act as guinea pigs in my first big barbecue with the smoker. (But then again, who will turn down free food?) I would have liked for the brisket and pork shoulder to be a bit more moist, so this will be my goal for the next barbecue. My idea to remedy that? More frequent use of a mop – one with a higher oil content. We also prepared way too much potato salad and blackeyed peas – next time, we’ll cut those recipes down by half. (I did share with you a recipe for the blackeyed peas for a smaller crowd.) But after everyone had their fill, I think the conclusion was clear. No matter what kind of Texas barbecue is being served, we love it all. Every last bite.

Barbecue Rub (adapted from Saveur magazine, June/July 2009) – I used this on the brisket, ribs, and pork shoulder.

3 T kosher salt

3 T dark brown sugar

2 T paprika

1 T garlic powder

1 T onion powder

1 ½ T mustard powder

3 T black pepper

1 t ground coriander

1 t ground cumin

 Mix in a jar. Store for up to 6 months.


Mop (adapted from Robb Walsh’s Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook)

8 oz brown sugar

16 oz canola oil

1 stick butter

8 oz white vinegar

5 oz Worcestershire sauce

Large dash celery salt

6-7 cloves garlic, smashed

3 onions, cut into large pieces

3 lemons, cut in half

Combine all ingredients in a large soup pot, and add enough water to bring total about halfway up the pot. Bring to a simmer on the stove. Mop onto meat every 30 minutes to an hour with a basting brush or cotton mop.



Sliced brisket (photo courtesy of Rowland Chambers)

Sliced brisket (photo courtesy of Rowland Chambers)

West Texas Brisket

 1 8-10 lb untrimmed beef brisket, cut in half

 Barbecue rub

Barbecue mop

Night before: Rub brisket generously with rub. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate. Day of: Set up smoker for indirect heat with water pan. Smoke brisket, fat side up, mopping every 30 minutes, for 6-7 hours or until temperature of meat reaches 185 degrees. Remove from heat, and tent with foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Slice off the fat cap from top, and slice brisket thinly across the grain. Serve with ancho barbecue sauce.

Serves 8-10 people.


East Texas Pork Shoulder (adapted from Robb Walsh’s Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook)

1 bone-in pork shoulder roast, 4-5 lbs

6 T barbecue rub

Barbecue mop

Night before: Season the pork roast with the rub, and wrap with foil or plastic wrap. Day of: Set up smoker for indirect heat with water pan. Smoke pork, mopping every 30 minutes, and turning, for 4-5 hours or until temperature of meat reaches 170 degrees. Remove from heat, and tent with foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Slice or pull pork from the bone, removing big chunks of fat as you go. Serve on sandwich rolls with pineapple barbecue sauce.

 Serves 6-8 people.



Smoked Pork Spare Ribs

Smoked Pork Spare Ribs

East Texas Pork Spare Ribs

 6-7 lbs pork spare ribs

 Barbecue rub

Barbecue mop

Night before: Sprinkle rub over ribs lightly. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Day of: Set up smoker for indirect heat with water pan. Smoke ribs, mopping every 30 minutes, and turning, for 3 1/2 hours or until meat begins to fall off of bones. Remove from heat and tent with foil for 5 minutes. Cut ribs apart and serve with pineapple barbecue sauce.

 Serves 5-6 people.


Central Texas Smoked Bratwurst

4 lbs of your favorite fresh bratwurst sausage (I got mine at the meat counter at Sprouts)

Set up smoker for indirect heat with a water pan. Sear sausages over direct heat for 30 seconds to 1 minute on each side. Move to indirect heat and smoke for 30 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from heat, and tent with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice on diagonal and serve.

 Serves 6-8 people.


 Barbacoa is traditionally cooked by wrapping in maguey leaves, banana leaves, foil or a canvas bag, and buried in an earthen pit with hot coals. However, as most of us don’t wish to dig a pit in our yard, (and in the restaurant business, the health department forbids it, save a few places that have been grandfathered), there are alternate ways of cooking the barbacoa. Most no longer use smoke at all. The oven makes a good alternate place to cook the barbacoa.

Barbacoa Tacos

Barbacoa Tacos


Barbacoa in the oven

Barbacoa in the oven

Barbacoa (adapted from Robb Walsh’s Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook)

1 cow head, skinned and cleaned

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Garlic powder to taste

Chili powder to taste

2 onions, peeled and cut into quarters

 8 cups water

Sprinkle cow head all over with salt, pepper, garlic powder and chili powder. Rub spices in. Wrap head in aluminum foil (you may need an extra hand for this), and place in large aluminum roaster pans. Place in oven at 250 degrees for 12-24 hours.

barbacoa after cooking

barbacoa after cooking

When barbacoa is done, pull cheek meat off, and remove the jaw bones. You’ll find another large piece of meat inside. Remove any other large chunks of meat you can find. Cut away excess fat and cartilage, but don’t clean the meat too thoroughly. (Some fat in the barbacoa is tasty!) Skin the tongue and break the tongue meat into small pieces as well. Wet the meat with some of the cooking liquid to keep moist. Serve with accompaniments as tacos.

Makes about 4-5 lbs of meat. 


Accompaniments (photo courtesy of Rowland Chambers)

Accompaniments (photo courtesy of Rowland Chambers)


Corn tortillas

Lime quarters

Diced onion

Cilantro, chopped

Salsa pequin (recipe follows)


Salsa pequin (adapted from )

1 28 oz can whole tomatoes

2 t garlic powder

1 t kosher salt

4 T dried crushed chile pequin

1 medium onion, quartered

 Add all ingredients together in food processor. Blend until desired consistency. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes before serving. (I let it sit overnight.)


potato salad

Mom’s Potato Salad (adapted from, well…my Mom!)

30 medium potatoes

30 hard-boiled eggs, 26 diced, 4 sliced

2 c Miracle Whip or mayonnaise

1 c yellow mustard

1 large red onion, diced

2 c diced dill pickles

salt and pepper to taste

A few dashes of paprika

Boil potatoes until tender. Drain water and allow potatoes to cool. Peel and cut into 1-inch chunks. Add potatoes, diced egg, Miracle Whip, mustard, onion, and pickles into a large bowl and gently mix. Salt and pepper to taste and mix. Lay slices of egg on top of potato salad as decoration. Sprinkle with paprika.

Serves about 30.


Texas Coleslaw

½ c extra-virgin olive oil

½ c white vinegar

1 t salt

1 t ground black pepper

1 t celery seed

1 t sugar

1 t coarse ground mustard

¼ t cayenne pepper

1 medium head of green cabbage, shredded

3 large carrots, shredded or julienned (I used my julienne peeler)

1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced

½ red onion, thinly sliced

Combine oil,vinegar, salt, pepper, celery seed, sugar, mustard and cayenne. Toss with the cabbage, carrots, apple and onion until well mixed. Allow to mellow in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Makes about 8 cups.


Ancho Barbecue Sauce (adapted from Robb Walsh’s Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook)

4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded

1 T olive oil

2 c chopped onion

7 cloves garlic, chopped

1 c ketchup

½ c Worcestershire sauce

1/3 c brown sugar

¼ c cider vinegar

¼ c lemon juice

1 ½ T coarse ground mustard

Salt to taste

 Soak the anchos in water for 30 minutes or until soft. Reserve water. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and add onion and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes or until wilted. Add ketchup and anchos and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients plus about ½ cup of ancho soaking water, and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the mixture from heat and allow to cool. Place in food processor and puree. Before serving, add up to 1 cup of meat drippings and reheat. (do not store sauce with meat drippings)

 Makes about 4 cups.


Pineapple Barbecue Sauce (adapted from Robb Walsh’s Legends of Texas Barbecue Cookbook)

2 c pineapple juice

¼ c cider vinegar

¼ c Worcestershire sauce

1/3 c wheat-free soy sauce

½ t salt

1 ¼ c ketchup

1 T coarse ground mustard

1 c chopped onion

½ t Chinese five-spice powder

1 ½ T Tabasco sauce

3 T molasses

1 lemon, sliced thin and seeded

 Combine all ingredients in saucepan and simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until onion and lemon are soft. Remove lemon, and remove sauce from heat. Allow to cool. Puree sauce in food processor. Reheat before serving.

 Makes about 4 cups.


East Texas Blackeyed Peas

4 slices bacon, diced

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

1 lb fresh or frozen blackeyed peas

2 c chicken broth

water to cover

Heat large saucepan to medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook for 5 minutes or until bacon starts to render fat and crisp a little. Add onions, garlic, and jalapeno. Saute for another 5 minutes or until vegetables are soft and bacon is cooked through. Add blackeyed peas, chicken broth, and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes or until peas are tender. Serves 6-8.


Filed under Beans, Beef, Gluten-Free, Main Dishes, Pork

Pork Lettuce Wraps

Food 1813Rarely do I buy iceberg lettuce. In fact, I can’t think of the last time I did. Two years ago, maybe? I prefer darker leafy greens, such as romaine, green leaf, or even spinach and arugula. Besides, iceberg is the true “anti-gourmet” lettuce, right? Well, an article in Saveur magazine last month made me think outside of my little “I’m-too-good-for-iceberg-lettuce” box. Although iceberg may not pack as much nutrition as some of the other lettuces available, it does have its merits. It’s amazingly crisp, for one, making it an ideal textural contrast for your sandwich or tacos. Unlike other (sometimes bitter) greens, it’s very mild. And it’s not like iceberg is unhealthy –  with zero grams of fat, and about 15 calories per serving, it’s hardly anything to worry about. But it’s iceberg’s cool, crunchy texture that made it the ideal choice for these wraps.  

Lettuce wraps are something I’ve never made at home. I never really gave them much thought, honestly. Sure, I enjoy them at restaurants, but usually, I look for something more substantial to prepare for dinner at home. However, it’s nearing summer (they are predicting temperatures in the mid-90s this weekend!), and I’m craving lighter fare. So when I came across the recipe in Saveur for Saang Choy Bao, or Chinese Minced Chicken Wraps, I immediately started scribbling down iceberg lettuce on my grocery list. After all, the recipe sounded so delicious! And then, to find out that Bee Yin Low over at Rasa Malaysia wrote the recipe? Definite bonus, as her blog is amazing, and I’ve made a few of her recipes in the past…they definitely do not disappoint! Another added benefit: this recipe takes almost no time to prepare, making it a perfect weeknight dinner.

And a perfect weeknight dinner it was. I substituted lean ground pork for the ground chicken, as it was what I had on hand, and it worked perfectly. The oyster sauce and shitakes added a nice savory note to the dish, but the sweet Asian chile sauce, in my opinion, was what truly kept you coming back for more. And the iceberg lettuce? It lightened the whole dish, and added that necessary snap! that took this dish from “Pretty Tasty” to “Yum!” My husband (the skeptical one) really enjoyed this dish, and suggested we put it into regular rotation. As Asian fare is not usually his favorite, I consider that to be a great compliment. Iceberg lettuce just might be making a comeback!

As for locating the harder to find ingredients, such as oyster sauce and sweet Asian chile sauce: both can be found in an Asian market, or in the Asian section of most grocery stores.


1 lb lean ground pork

20 cashews, roughly chopped

3 dried shitake mushroom, softened in hot water, stemmed and finely chopped

3 scallions, 2 finely chopped, the green part of 1 finely julienned

4 t soy sauce

1 T oyster sauce

1 T rice wine or dry sherry

1 t cornstarch

1/2 t sugar

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 T peanut oil

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

16 iceberg lettuce leaves

Sweet Asian chile sauce

Put pork, cashews, mushrooms, and chopped scallions in a bowl. Combine soy sauce, oyster sauce, wine, cornstarch, sugar, and pepper in a bowl. Pour over pork and toss. Let marinate for 15 minutes.

Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add garlic, cook for 10 seconds. Add pork mixture, and cook, stirring and crumbling with spatula, until browned, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer pork into a bowl. To serve, spoon a little of the pork into each lettuce leaf. Garnish with julienned scallion and a little chile sauce.

Serves 4 as a first course. Pair with fried rice and steamed veggies for a complete meal.


Filed under Appetizers, Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Pork, Quick and Easy


Alta and Grandpa

Alta and Grandpa

Don’t stand by my grave and weep,
For I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint of snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning, hush.
For I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circle flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand by my grave and cry.
I am not there, I did not die.

~Mary Frye/Hopi Prayer

 When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure. 

~Author Unknown

Alta "doing up" Grandpa's hair

Alta "doing up" Grandpa's hair

Last week, I learned that my Grandfather, Erwin LaVerne “Verne” Chambers, passed away. For the past week, I have spent time reminiscing, sharing memories of him with my family and loved ones. He was an amazing man, always outgoing, always making silly jokes, and he always had a story. He loved geneology, and he and my father spent hours discussing family and doing research, and they were always excited to “find” various relatives. When I was a little girl, I liked to “do up” Grandpa’s hair, putting my barrettes in it and playing with it. I remember his garden. I remember being young and sneaking strawberries when I wasn’t supposed to, and I remember the smell of the dill he had growing. To this day, dill always brings me back to Grandpa’s garden. When my younger sister was a toddler, and we came to visit, it was time for her to choose a cereal to eat for breakfast. She chose “Yucky Charms” (she couldn’t pronounce “Lucky”), so of course, at every subsequent visit, Grandpa would tell her that he bought her “Yucky Charms”, because she loved them so much! He loved to sing, and was likely a large influence in my Dad’s love for music, and mine as well. I could go on and on. He was a great man.

After reminiscing a bit, I got to thinking of how I can pay tribute to his life and the wonderful, profound effect he had on everyone around him. As I told my Dad, since food is my “thing”, why not find out some of his favorite dishes, and re-create them and blog about it? My Dad and Aunt had some great ideas, but one of the first things mentioned were canned tamales.

Dad's version of canned tamales

Dad's version of canned tamales

Dad's interpretation of nutrition and ingredients for canned tamales

Dad's interpretation of nutrition and ingredients for canned tamales

How to prepare canned tamales

How to prepare canned tamales

Canned tamales? Yuck. As you can see by my Dad’s unique contributions (he created a personalized label for canned tamales, so we could show a *ahem* fair comparison) these are not exactly gourmet. But apparently, when my Grandmother was away, Grandpa ate canned tamales. My Grandmother cooked all the time, of course, but she did not prepare Mexican foods, and especially not anything resembling tamales. Pretty funny, if you ask me, because like most canned, processed products, canned tamales are pretty gross. (Sorry to any of you that actually like these things.) Mushy, greasy stuff, wrapped in parchment paper. Appetizing. So I decided I would make real tamales, in memory of Grandpa.

I have always had it in my mind that tamales were a serious task. Tamales are usually reserved for the holidays, when a large group of people can be gathered to help, and it’s made into a big event. Thankfully, around here (in Texas) there is usually someone around that makes them from scratch (I have regular “suppliers” myself!), so you can buy a few dozen, but again, outside of restaurants, only around the holidays. But they’re so worth it, because there is nothing like a steaming hot, spicy tamale! Except maybe another one…or two…

Honestly, these were not all that difficult to make. Time-consuming, yes, but not difficult. Having a few people to help would, of course, make the time go by more quickly. I had some good music playing, (a little Bob Marley, B.B. King, ZZ Top, Pat Green, too many artists to name on the ipod!) so for me, it was relaxing and therapeutic. You can also opt to break the work up over two days, which is what I did. (I prepared the meat the first day, and prepared the tamales the next.) These tamales are made with pork, but if you choose, you can substitute beef brisket or chicken. I based this recipe loosely off of Diana Kennedy’s recipe, changing up the filling ingredients to suit my taste. (Which also included sending text messages to a friend of mine. Her Grandma makes tamales every year and they are the best I’ve eaten! Had to ask what type of chiles she used. Turns out – just chili powder, and then cascabel chiles as well. If you can’t find cascabel chiles, just use chili powder.)

I also made things easier by using my slow cooker for the meat. If you don’t have a slow cooker, simply add the ingredients for the meat in a large stockpot, and you’ll need a bit of additional broth, bring to a boil, and reduce to low and simmer for 2-3 hours or until the meat is fork-tender. But I strongly suggest the slow cooker if you have one, then you can dump everything together and leave it, saving your energy for the next day!

The amount of chili powder I use here makes the tamales pretty spicy. If you prefer a milder tamale, reduce the chili powder to 1/3 cup.

These turned out pretty tasty! My parents came over to help us eat them, and we all stuffed ourselves with as many tamales as we could. I honestly can’t think of what to change, except to consider making more next time. Certainly, there was no real comparison to the canned stuff! I hope that Grandpa would have enjoyed them as much as we did.

For the filling:

1 triangle of Ibarra or Abuelita chocolate

1 onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 c chili powder (a mix of half chili powder and cascabel chili powder)

1 ½ T cumin

1 t salt

4 c chicken broth

5 lbs pork shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes

Additional chili powder, cumin, and salt (to taste)


For tamales:

2-3 bags (1 lb each) corn husks


For masa:

8 c Masa harina (I used Maseca brand)

2 c Lard or vegetable oil

1/2 t salt

4 ½ c pork broth


Add filling ingredients together in slow cooker and turn on low, cook for 6-8 hours. Refrigerate overnight if desired. When removing from refrigerator, skim fat from top. Reheat gently.

 Soak corn husks in water for at least 30 minutes or until pliable.

 Remove pork from broth and set aside. Strain broth and reserve, you’ll need this for your masa. Shred pork and chop until as fine as desired. Taste and adjust seasonings. (I added another 2 tablespoons of chili powder and about ½ teaspoon of cumin, plus a bit of salt.) Keep warm.

cooked pork, chopped and shredded, ready to go in tamales

cooked pork, chopped and shredded, ready to go in tamales

 Mix masa harina, lard, and salt together, and mix in pork broth, one cup at a time, until dough comes together and resembles cookie dough. (You should be able to roll a ball in your hands and it will stick together.) If it does not hold together, add more broth. If too sticky or thin, add more masa.


Masa, ready for tamales

Masa, ready for tamales

Remove corn husks from water and let drain on paper towels. Take a few corn husks and rip into thin strips. These will serve to tie together the tamales. This is an optional step, but it makes the tamales look like a nice little present.

 Now is the time you’ll want to set up your “assembly line”. Set up the corn husks, then masa harina, then meat mixture, and have a place to set the finished tamales.

 Spread masa harina on corn husks about 1/8 inch thick, leaving at least ¾ inch on each side of the corn husk, and about 2 inches from the ends. Add about 2 T pork down the middle of the masa harina. Fold the masa over so the ends meet, and then roll the corn husks up snugly (like a cigar). Fold the narrow end over, and tie with a thin strip of corn husk. Fold the other end over and tie this end with a thin strip of corn husk as well. Repeat with remaining ingredients.


Spreading the masa and topping with pork

Spreading the masa and topping with pork


Folding the rolled-up corn husk

Folding the rolled-up corn husk


Folding the other end

Folding the other end


tamales waiting to be steamed

tamales waiting to be steamed

Once all tamales are done, fill a large steamer with enough water so it just comes below the bottom of the steamer insert. Line the steamer insert with corn husks (this is so the tamales won’t get soggy). Place the tamales on end in the steamer. Place a damp cotton towel over the tamales and cover with the lid.


placing tamales in the steamer

placing tamales in the steamer

Bring water to a boil and reduce to medium-low, and steam for 1 ½ – 2 hours, checking the tamales after 1 ½ hours to see if the masa is firm and no longer mushy. When the tamales are done, remove them with tongs.

 Food 1611

You can serve them now, or you can opt to place them in a Ziploc bag and keep them in the refrigerator for a few days, or freeze for up to 6 months. To reheat, place in a single layer on top of damp paper towels and cover with more damp paper towels. Microwave, rotating the tamales frequently, until warmed through.

 Serve as is, or with whatever condiments you desire. We frequently eat them with hot sauce or salsa.

 Makes about 3-4 dozen tamales.


Filed under Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Main Dishes, Pork

Sausage and Apple Stuffed Pork Loin

food-8241I found a little pork roast the other day at the grocery. I bought it on a whim, not knowing exactly what I wanted to do with it…but I knew I wanted to do something different. I usually will rub down a simple pork roast with garlic, olive oil, and herbs, and roast it. Nothing special. This time, I wanted special. So, I decided to stuff the roast. I searched around a bit for a good stuffing recipe, and finally decided on adapting an Emeril Lagasse recipe, changing it around to utilize what I had on hand. This roast is a wonderful Sunday dinner meal, with yummy, savory sausage and apples. I wanted to expand my use of fruit in savory cooking, so I can mark this recipe down on the list of accomplishments! Feel free to substitute the sausage for an Italian link sausage, or whatever suits your fancy, and substitute the nuts for whatever you have on hand. This stuffing was quite tasty, I even considered using it in a roast chicken in the future! Also, this recipe was made for 3-4 servings (1-2 slices a piece), so if you plan on feeding big eaters, the recipe is easily doubled.

½ lb ground pork sausage

½ c chopped apples (I used Jazz apples)

1 T chopped onion

1/3 c chopped pine nuts, toasted

½ T chopped parsley, plus more for garnish

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 ½ lb boneless pork loin roast

1 T vegetable oil


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.


Brown sausage in a sauté pan on medium-high heat. Add apples and onions and cook for 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and add pine nuts and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool before stuffing.


Split the roast horizontally, forming a pocket. (don’t cut all the way through) Season roast inside and out with salt and pepper. Pack stuffing in the center of the roast and tie roast with butcher’s twine to hold it all together.

 pork roast

Heat oil in large sauté pan. Add roast and sear on all sides until browned. Transfer to a roasting pan with a rack, and roast in oven until thermometer in the center registers 145 to 150 degrees. (About an hour)


Remove and transfer to carving board, cover loosely with foil, and let rest 10 minutes before slicing. Serve slices garnished with parsley.


Leave a comment

Filed under Gluten-Free, Main Dishes, Pork