Post holiday leftovers (repost)

Pot Pie

One of the challenges we have after a holiday is a lot of leftovers. I get bored with eating the same thing over and over again. Having a way to change up those leftovers keeps things fresh and avoids waste.

An approach I take to deal with the leftovers is to make pot pies. This works great for just about any type of roast whether its roast beef, a roasted turkey etc. The one pictured above uses ham. This is also a great way to use up leftover veggies, like those from crudité platter or even roasted vegetables.

If I’m really feeling like taking the easy road, I’ll use canned cream of chicken soup that I’ll dilute with chicken or vegetable stock as the binder for the filling, more often than not I’ll use a mornay sauce. Once you’ve heated up the binder, add the raw vegetables to the binder and cook until softened. Roasted veggies and meat will warm through in the oven. I try to have about ½ cup of meat and ¾ cup of veggies per person. You can then spoon everything into a casserole dish or into a deep dish pie plate. Top with the crust then bake until the crust is cooked. Though I prefer to use individual ramekins for pot pies rather than large casseroles. I’ll place the pot pies in a 375ºF oven for about 15 minutes so the filling is warmed through.

I’ll top the warmed up pot pies with biscuit dough. I’ll split the raw biscuit dough in half, place on top of the ramekins. I’ll butter and season the top of the biscuit and return them to the oven. Bake until the biscuit is fully cooked and has a nice golden top. It usually takes about 10 to 12 minutes.

Secrets to a stress free Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s hard to believe but Thanksgiving is this Thursday. There is not going to be an actual recipe this week as I’m planning and prepping for T-day. But I thought I’d share with you how I plan for a stress and drama-free Friendsgiving.

The best advise I can share is plan plan and plan ahead. I start deciding on what I’m going to prepare in late September. Now this may seem odd, because you may assume that the menu is already decided with it being Thanksgiving after all. Well not so fast. I actually don’t care for Thanksgiving food it’s not something I grew up eating and as I’ve mentioned in past posts on the subject, I’m not a fan of turkey. In fact I just cooked my first whole turkey in 30+ years of cooking this past summer.

Ok so back to the planning. I decide my menu, Then I start to send out reminders to my friends and co-workers via the social medias letting them know if they don’t have other plans they’re welcome to come over. I also set the expectation if they’re unfamiliar with how Thanksgiving works here that I don’t serve typical Thanksgiving food. That way if they have visions of that perfect Rockwellian Thanksgiving dinner they’re not gonna find it here. The other reason we prefer a more casual non-traditional menu and meal is our dining room only sits about 8 comfortably we just don’t have the room for a large formal sit down dinner.

So now that I’ve got people thinking ahead about what their plans may be I start making a shopping list. I frequently have vegan and vegetarian friends over so I start to think about what menu items I can make vegan as well as entree ideas that are fully vegan.  This year we’re going to have BBQ. I’m going to smoke a pork shoulder and a couple of turkey breasts and grill a couple of sides of salmon. For vegan options I’m going to make a dish with butternut squash, corn and black beans in the style of bbq baked beans.

When I grocery shop starting back when I first plan my menu through the weekend before Thanksgiving, I will buy bits and pieces for the meal and store them in the pantry and freezer and cross the items off my list as I go. This prevents us from blowing our entire grocery budget for the month on a single meal and allows me to spread out purchasing the more expensive items. The week leading up to Thanksgiving I will try to grocery shop in the early morning just as the grocery store opens or late at night just before closing. This allows me to avoid the crazy lines. Alternately, try home-delivery its a bit more expensive but if you don’t want to deal with the crowds its a life saver.

If you are planning to roast a large cut of beef or pork or a turkey and have purchased it frozen or been storing it in the freezer like I have, remember that to properly defrost a bird or large roast it takes 4 hours per pound in the refrigerator. so if you have a 20lbs bird thats almost 5 full days to defrost, which means you have to start thawing that bird the Friday or Saturday before turkey-day. So make sure you’ve cleaned out the fridge and have enough space to properly thaw a large bird or roast.

I plan to brine my pork and turkey and cook them the day before Thanksgiving so I actually need to push my thawing schedule ahead by 2 days. This will make sure that the pork and bird are thawed on Tuesday so I can brine them for at least 24 hours before I go to roast and smoke them.

Another area that becomes a problem when cooking for the holidays is leveraging limited cooking space and oven access. One way I avoid the fight for the oven is that I don’t usually make a Thanksgiving dessert. I will take advantage of store bought options or ask my guests to bring desserts. The other advantage of this is I don’t have to have those items compete for fridge storage. I also invested in a turkey roaster and take advantage of my grill and smoker for additional cooking options. Granted the fact I live in Southern California does make that option easy. But the turkey roaster is pretty inexpensive and big box stores often have them on sale this time year. You should be able to pick one up for under $50. Also some models have an insert for warming trays so you can use them like chaffing dishes.

Since we’re doing bbq, I decided that I will do cold sides like salad, Cole slaw and elote. This way I don’t have to worry about reheating  a bunch of dishes for service. I also plan to use the turkey roaster and smoker to cook my pork and turkey. This will leave my stove top and oven free for other uses. I plan to smoke the pork shoulder the day before. Then I’ll heat it with bbq sauce just before service.

Well that’s my $.02. I hope ya’ll have a great holiday surrounded by your loved ones and good food.

All Purpose BBQ Rub

  • 1 ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup coarse sea salt
  • 3 TBS Spanish Paprika
  • 3 TBS Ground Cayenne
  • ¼ garlic powder
  • ¼ onion powder
  • 3 TBS dry mustard
  • 3 TBS freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and store in an airtight container

Its the most wonderful time of the year….Tamale Season

Freshly steamed pork tamale with salsa verde

It’s hard to believe its November already and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. One of my favorite things about this time of year and into December is the abundance of tamales. Its not uncommon here in Southern California to be approached in a grocery store parking lot or along the streets by someone selling home-made tamales. I have no qualms about buying these tamales and hopefully soon the city of LA and all of LA County will make it easier for street vendors to get permitted and be able to vend legally.

If you ever had a chance to watch tamales being made by hand you know that its a labor intensive process. Which is why people tend to only make them once a year.  Its definitely something that requires some planning and prep and you can’t reasonably expect to be done in a couple of hours. Heck, just soaking the corn husks takes a couple of hours.

The first stage of making the tamales is to prepare the filling.I’m partial to pork filling with a nice tomatillo salsa. You’ll find my Chili Verde recipe here. Its important to save the cooking liquid from the pork but strain the solids out and season it well with salt. You’ll want to use this as the broth for your masa.To make my filling,  I shred the pork from the Chile verde and then add chicharrone molido (cooked pork belly that’s been ground) and my green salsa and test for seasoning adding salt and pepper as needed then I set the filling aside while I prepare my corn husks and masa.

The masa is in my mind the most important part of the tamale. I blandly seasoned masa means bland boring tamales even if you have a really flavorful filling. So its really important to season your stock well and season your masa. The ratio for masa is 3 parts Maseca, 2 parts stock and 1 part fat, then a good amount of salt and 11/2 TBS baking powder. I prefer lard or bacon fat over shortening because I feel its more flavorful and since a tamale is only as good as its masa we want to take advantage of any opportunity to add flavor.  If you have a butcher or a really good Latin market, you should be able to buy unfiltered pork lard (aka manteca de cerdo).

Consequently, if you live near a really good Latin market you can also find pre-made masa for tamales. I feel no shame in using Northgate Gonzalez‘* prepared masa. Its well seasoned and consistent and no matter how you may try homemade masa isn’t. Northgate sells masa by the pound so you need to have an idea of how many tamales you hope to make and the size. The downside is that its definitely more expensive to buy the pre-made. It’s on sale this time of year and I think I paid $.99 per pound. You can buy a 5lbs bag of maseca for a couple of bucks and you can use it for other things.

Here’s what you need for tamales

  • Masa
  • chile verde filling
  • corn husks or foil to wrap tamales (if you use corn husks you’ll need to soak them in hot water for about 90minutes to soften them up so they’re easier to work with
  • A large deep pot with a lid so you can steam the tamales

Here’s a video to show you how to make masa followed by another video demonstrating how to fill, roll and tie the tamales.

And remember the next time your tia, abuela or co-worker is sharing their tamales know that a lot of time, love and work went into them.

*Northgate also sells sweet masa for sweet tamales as well as Guatemalan style masa. I’m partial to the Anaheim Northgate off of Lincoln and State College. Its huge and I can do all my shopping there as well as finding Latin Caribe spices and brands i.e. Goya.

Editorial comment. I receive no compensation from Northgate…but I love them

Comfort Food……

Braised chuck sitting on top of mascarpone whipped potatoes and garnished with lemon zest and parsley

We were in Denver a few weeks back and happened to be there for their first snow fall of the year, and a really awful game 3 of the 2018 NLDS (and not because it was cold and rainy but because it was just a really bad one-sided baseball game). Having lived in Southern California for the past few years, my body has forgotten what actual weather and cold feels like. So I spent the entire time there shivering (I literally had to buy a blanket and hand-warmers during the game) and craving hot chocolate (spiked of course), soup and hearty rib stickin’ comfort food.

My wife travels to Denver quite a lot for business and she has been talking about  taking me to Steuben’s for years (Steuben’s your Steubie Snacks are pure culinary genius but I’m sure you already know this). They’ve got a great menu and take on American Cuisine (and cocktails). I opted for their pot roast which looked like it was actually braised beef shank versus a roast. It was so good that I will go out on a limb and say that it is one of the best pot roasts I’ve ever had. I’ll go further still and say that it topped a lot of ossobucos and braised short ribs as well. It was so good that even though our hotel room didn’t have a microwave I still took the leftovers and attempted to re-heat them using the iron in the hotel room (unsuccessfully mind you so I ate them cold and they were still good).

I’m now back in perpetually sunny Southern California (we actually had a thunderstorm the night I got back into town.) it’s still warm  and I still have a craving for some comfort food. So I’m going to make pot roast with mashed potatoes. This is going to be scheduled to publish on Election Day so some comfort may be needed (Don’t forget to vote!).

I have a lot of co-workers that are partial to their slow-cookers and Insta-pots and as my wife will surely attest I need more kitchen appliances and gadgets like a hole in the head, I prefer to make things like pot roasts and such in a dutch oven. I like that I can sear and brown all in the same pot. This method works for short ribs, shanks and roasts. I’m going to use a 2 lbs boneless chuck steak today because there’s only going to be 2 of us to eat it and it will cook fairly fast.


2 carrots peeled and diced

1 medium union diced

2 stalks of celery diced

2 cloves of garlic crushed

1 15oz can of fire-roasted crushed tomatoes

2 cups beef stock

1 2-3 lbs beef or pork roast

2 TBS bacon fat or oil

salt and pepper

bouquet garni of rosemary, thyme, sage and parsley

parsley and lemon zest for garnish

½ cup red wine (optional)

Dry beef with a paper towel then season both sides with salt and pepper. In a large oven proof pot or roasting pan over medium heat, heat 1 TBS fat or oil until shimmering. Place the beef in the pan and brown both sides.

Remove the beef from the pan and set aside. Drain and retain the liquids from the pan and set aside. Return the pan to the stove-top and add in the remaining 1 TBS of oil. Add onion, celery, garlic and carrots and sautée until vegetables start to soften and brown.

Add the beef back into the pan along with the juices. Add the can of tomatoes and enough beef stock (or water) to so that the roast is completely covered.

Toss in the bouquet garni, cover the dutch oven with its lid and place in a pre-heated 325F oven. Check for tenderness periodically and add liquid as needed. Roast should be easily shredded. Taste for seasoning and serve over mashed potatoes or grits or along side roasted vegetables.