Welcome to the new and improved Carano's Cucina. I make a lot of kick ass food and go out to some amazing restaurants. Take a look around and make yourself at home :)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tortellini Salad Not Your Everday Pasta Salad

I think it's a very good possibility that I like tortellini better cold than I do hot.  Maybe that's because whenever I buy it, my mind doesn't go directly towards thinking of what kind of sauce I can use on it for a dinner creation.  My mind goes more in the direction of... what can I put with this to make a delicious salad?  Do I want a vinaigrette?   Do I want a creamy Caesar type dressing?  What kind of vegetables would be good with it?

I decided that tomatoes, broccoli and loads and loads of mint from my ever abundant mint patch in my yard with a lemon vinaigrette sounded good.  So, cook your tortellini according to package instructions.  You do not want to overcook it or let it get mushy.   It should be al dente.  And be sure to salt your water liberally.

While the tortellini are cooking, cut up your veggies.  For one pound of tortellini, I used one container of grape tomatoes, cut in quarters.

For the broccoli, I used half of one whole head.  I cut it up pretty small, using only the florets.  The stems and other half of the broccoli you can keep and use for something else.  Or hell, load it up!  It's not going to hurt anything.

And then the mint.  Now I have a huge mint patch in my yard.  But if you don't, and would rather use something like basil, by all means, go for it.  I used a lot.  And I do mean a lot!!!

After washing it and pulling the leaves off the stems, I cut it into ribbons, more commonly referred to as chiffonade.  It probably ended up being close to a cup of fresh mint after all was said and done.  Do you think that sounds overpowering?  It wasn't!

Now for the dressing.  I decided that a lemon vinaigrette would be perfect.  It's not heavy and lemon brings out the best in everything I think.  It's very simple to make too.  You need 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice.  DO NOT listen to Sandra Lee and use that bottled stuff.  It's not the same, it's not good and just blech.  You also need 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.  Whisk this together and mix it with your drained and cooled tortellini and veggies.  If you want to finely chopped shallots or garlic to the dressing, that's an excellent addition.  Stir the salad gently, so as not to break up the pasta.  And if you want even more lemon, add the zest too!   Play with it, have fun with and enjoy it! 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Vinegar Slaw the Perfect Companion to Pulled Pork

If you've ever been to the Carolina's, or if you watch a lot of BBQ shows on TV, then you know that with pulled pork comes a vinegar sauce or a vinegar slaw. It's truly the perfect companion to the deliciousness of pulled pork. I kind of improvised mine and was quite pleased with the result. In fact, my husband Nick went wild for it. He's not a creamy slaw kind of guy. He doesn't grove on mayo or sour cream. So this slaw was right up his alley.

I went for the convenience factor and bought a bag of pre-shredded green cabbage with carrots and pre-shredded red cabbage. I used the whole bag of green but only about half the bag of red and mixed them together.

To make the dressing I used:

3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 t. kosher salt
2 T. celery seed
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup oil (canola or vegetable, but not olive)

Whisk together until all the sugar is melted and then pour over the cabbage. Mix well and then let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

I had mine in the fridge overnight and as you can see, the purple cabbage turned the whole slaw a lovely shade of pink!

It's delish! The apple cider vinegar and celery seed give it that something a little extra. We loved it so much, I've made it again already, just to have, without more pork!

Porky Goodness

Ahhh it's that time again... time for smokin! I had planned on making a brisket for Memorial Day weekend, but those plans changed when I was shopping and BJ's (that's a wholesale club like Sam's or Costco, in case you didn't know that or don't have them in your area). They did not have any brisket at all the day I was there. So looking around I thought I'd go with ribs, but then like a light shining down from the heavens, the pork shoulder revealed itself to me. And at $1.59 a lb. it was meant to be!

Isn't that a thing of beauty! Oh yes. It was technically called a Pork Shoulder Butt Roast. Shoulder Butt... not sure how that works, but whatever.

So, the night before this baby is to go on the smoker, it needs to be rubbed. When I make a dry rub, I basically just look around at what I have in the house and toss it together. This was no exception.

3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup kosher salt, 1 T. dried oregano, 1 T. lemon pepper, 2 T. paprika and about 2 T. of Penzy's Northwoods seasoning (which contains salt, paprika, black pepper, thyme, rosemary, garlic and chipotle).

Once it's all mixed together, the shoulder butt gets a massage and then gets put in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, and you better believe it needs to be early because this shoulder butt is going to take a LONG time to cook, get your fire going. I use regular charcoal and when it turns an ashy gray, it's ready. This should take about 20-30 minutes. And while the coals are getting ready, have your wood chips soaking. Generally I use hickory, but this time I tried apple wood. Make sure you have your water tray in place and with water in it (this fits in in the middle of the smoker).

As soon as you put your soaked wood chips on the hot coals, the smoke starts and you want to get the smoker closed and as sealed as you can, as fast as you can. Losing smoke is bad!

My smoker does not have as good a seal on it as I would like it to have so I usually end up needing foil to wrap around the lid and try and keep in as much smoke as possible. This time I got to thinking that if I make a foil lip and put it all around the lip of the smoker, then put the lid on, maybe it would fit more snugly. And it worked! It took a little longer than I would have liked, but it worked

Now, the shoulder butt is on and all we have to do is wait. This is where you have to learn to trust. Trust that the smoker is doing what it should be doing. And after 5-6 hours, add more coals to the bottom. But DO NOT open the lid, ever.

And unfortunately my friends, things did not work out well this time. After about 3 hours of smoking time, we got a huge downpour. I kept my trust in the smoker, that it was doing what it was supposed to, thinking it was pretty sealed up and therefore, still cooking. I added more coals (I used a charcoal chimney to get them ready) and I thought all was well. It wasn't. It was a very very sad day when, after 10 hours, I opened that lid.

Looks nice and all, but it was not even close to being done. So at 7:00 pm on Memorial Day, we had no pulled pork :(

The next day, the shoulder butt went into a 300 degree oven for 6 hours. And then, the heavens parted!! The angels sang!!! Harps were played!!! Porky goodness was achieved!!!

Oh yeah, that is a thing of beauty! It didn't work out exactly how I planned, but the end result was damn tasty. Take a look at this bark!

I served it on some nice Kaiser rolls, with vinegar slaw.

And we lived in porky heaven for close to a week! Yeah that was one big shoulder butt!