Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Domestic Sluttery: Improv Apricot & I’m-Going-To-Hell Tagine

Among myriad other things I am well aware I should and should not do, I have a terrible horrible no good very bad habit of using pork in recipes that really should not include pork.  I could say it’s not really my fault that the flavor profiles of a lot of these recipes lend themselves spectacularly well to the inclusion of pork.  I could say that Costco tempts me mercilessly with their high-quality low-priced bulk trays of country-style ribs* which freeze beautifully and are an absolute treasure in slow-cooked dishes.  I could say a lot of things.  All of which are to say, yeah, pretty sure I’m going to hell.

Having accepted this eventual doom and the freedom to be found therein, I decided to make Domestic Sluttery’s Slow Cooked Chicken & Apricot Tagine with a couple of big chunks of pork shoulder.

The sweet spicy rich delectable damnation that followed is well worth any pesky eternal hellfire, I assure you.

I made a ton of changes to this recipe, starting with not using my slow cooker** and opting for a stovetop preparation, which worked quite well and had the added benefit of making the whole house smell a lot more delicious than it would have had all this yum been relegated to the sealed confines of a crock pot.

I didn’t have any squash handy (hurry UP already, garden) so I increased the pepper from one red to a whole bunch, i.e. all that were left in the bag from the previous week’s Costco excursion because it was Friday and that’s what I do on Fridays.

I also didn’t have celery, which I don’t keep in the house because I have a mild sensitivity to it, so I substituted celery salt for regular, and the harrisa paste was swapped for half a teaspoon of crushed red pepper in canola oil.

I left my dried apricots whole because I love big chunky stews, and in lieu of the sliced almonds the original recipe suggested be sprinkled over the finished dish at serving, I threw in a cup of whole almonds.  They cooked down to just soft enough to not be annoying but still crunchy enough to add textural wow.

All of this was put in a stew pot, with an extra tomato-canful of water to compensate for stovetop vs. crock pot cooking, and left to become magical.

Which it did.

I intended to make chapati to go with this*** but ever since my excursion at the beginning of the week into the wonderful realm of cooking spaghetti in wine, I have been haunted by the question, “What other starches can I cook in what other alcohol?”  The answer that came to me was, “I can cook brown rice in brandy”.

And by “can” I mean “should”.

And by “I” I mean “everyone”.

I started small since I had no real idea how this would work, just a few tablespoons of brandy in the cooking water with a good dash of salt.  The result was the rice having a nice little bite to it, which was needed to balance the richness of all the pork and apricots and almonds.  Next time, there will be more brandy.****

Unlike the labels of most packaged foods which seem to be written by people who have never actually eaten, this recipe is not kidding when it says it serves 4.  Which comes in really handy on Sunday night, when a weekend of manual labor started at 7:00 on Saturday morning and you barely had the mental acuity necessary to order a pizza online Saturday night and knew you couldn’t get away with that two nights in a row but by the time another dinner was required you would happily have just thrown yourself to a pack of rabid wolves rather than have to figure out and prepare another meal, just throw the leftovers in the microwave and slice some bread to go with it.  Super delish and requiring no significant brain power.

*Which actually aren’t ribs at all, unless they’re farming some bizarre mutant pigs with really oddly-shaped rib cages that finish in their shoulders, which I doubt.  Or which could explain the consistently low prices.  I think I’m going to not think about that anymore now, just in case.

**I was going to use my slow cooker.  But it’s been so long that when I took it out of the cupboard and tried to remember how to take it apart to wash it, I… couldn’t.  It’s either fused permanently as revenge for my neglect, or I’m dumb.  We’ll call that another thing I’m not going to think about anymore now.

***Chapati is my new favorite thing.  It’s naan for people who are too lazy to make naan.  Things for people who are too lazy to make other things very often become my favorite things.

****If this makes no sense to you, I am now sad for your childhood.

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