Monday, October 11, 2010

Cooking When You're Going To Be Unconscious.

   Every now and then something comes up that absolutely knocks you out. Like a great deal on killer stilettos, a Marc Jacobs purse at half price, seeing Clive Owen in the produce section at the Malibu Market... or surgery.  Obviously I'd prefer any of the former, but sometimes the surgery thing can't be avoided. Take me for instance. Just this last week. I was going to have a couple of dental implants done.
   Now dental implants for those unfamiliar, are permanently implanted fake teeth.  I'd lost a couple of teeth 20 years ago (long story involving chemo) and the idea of getting rid of a pesky bridge was really appealing. Unfortunately the bridge I did have was on it's last legs... ya wanna talk infrastructure I'll show you infasctructure, and visions of George Washingtons' wooden teeth danced in my head.        
   Fortunately my Writers Guild Dental insurance pays for having this work done. So that's what I've been writing all these years for... not glory. Teeth. Except for the part about the bone graft. That they don't pay for. That was going to be out of pocket, and that was what involved being put to sleep.
   My doctor, a Maxilliofacial surgeon who looks more than a little like George C Scott in Dr. Strangelove, told me that he wasn't gonna guarantee I wouldn't get my hair mussed, but I'd better cook ahead since I
wasn't  going to be doing any cooking let alone eating for the next two weeks while I healed.
  Now if I lived alone, painkillers and a diet of ice cream, pudding out of a can, and hot chocolate with whipped cream while watching Hoarders re-runs doesn't sound too bad. But I'm not the only one that lives here, and others needs needed to be met. They need to be fed. So, last week I started cooking simple things that could be popped in the freezer for later, and not for me.
   I cured bacon. I bought eggs, I made soups, I made two containers of slow cooked meat sauce/gravy for pasta. I bought pasta. I stocked up on things that could easily be grilled or defrosted and reheated. Since I didn't know if I was going to make the PFB #4 cut (I didn't) I figured some of this stuff needed to be photographed.  The most likely subject was Chili Verde.
   Since I made a Mole Negro dish for PFB Challenge #2, I'd become intrigued with the idea of doing more dishes from south of the border. Many of the same spices are used in Indian cuisine as in Mexican, and it would be something I could make a lot of, portion out and freeze ahead of time for a fast re-heatable, interesting dinner.
  Also, while surfing the internet in my post-op, drug addled state, I'd stumbled across Salty Seattles' Food Ninja which sounded like a cross between Kill Bill and the Iron Chef. Well I thought, cooking under the threat of the knife and blogging on painkillers... how much more ninja can one get? I was in.
   So here is my Chili Verde for True Ninjas.

Chili Verde

I started off with about 1 and 1/2 pound of pork butt.
Pork butt because it's the only meat that comes wrapped in  its own little hair net, and also because it's a well marbled piece of meat ideal for slow cooking and has lots of flavor. Since you don't want it too fatty, first cut off all the extra fat. Gobs of it. I always wear my butchering gloves because accidents do happen.
The idea is to get all the heaviest fat off the meat. The meat is going to cook slowly and then chill over night so all the fat that you missed can be removed from the dish but still retain its flavor.
   Cut the meat into 1 inch pieces and then set it aside.
 Now for the tomatillos, the basic building block of the Chili Verde. Sure you can buy canned tomatillos already peeled roasted and chopped, but we're talking ninja here right? Plus, tomatillos in their raw state are cheaper than cheap so why not start with fresh.
   You want to cook the tomatillos with their papery skins on. Do NOT peel them yet. Take then and place them in a hot cast iron skillet. Roast them until they char slightly and soften. Ideally, the best tomatillos are the smalllest. Bigger is not necessarily better here. Shake the pan they're roasting in so that it doesn't stick. You want them
slightly charred and roasted not burned.
Tomatillos in the pan
 When the tomatillos are nicely roasted, take them out of the pan.
 They should be slightly charred and almost melty in spots.
     Set them aside to let them cool.
 Now set up either a blender or a food processor.
 Toss in :
 1 peeled chopped white onion.

 1/2 of a seeded large jalapeno pepper
the peeled tomatillos

Plus a handful of chopped fresh cilantro and salt to taste.

Turn on the food processor and take everything for a spin.
 Whirl it around until it's nice and liquid.
 Meanwhile in a large pan or skillet
heat 3 Tbs of corn oil. When the corn
oil is nice and hot, add in the mixture from the food processor.
  Stir it around so that it cooks and darkens in color.

 Cook this mixture down on a low heat for about an hour. Check it every now and then to make sure it doesn't burn. When it is thick and fragrant add in the pork pieces.

   This may take a few hours depending on whether you are cooking in clay as I am, or in a regular metal pan.
  Now here's where the ninja part comes in. The finished Chili Verde was frozen and then nicely reheated without my help, but I did get up to decorate this dish and I think that's where the ninja props come in.
  The Chili Verde is placed in a bowl and decorated with some chopped green onions, thinly sliced radish, Mexican crema, chopped tomatoes, and fresh avocado.
  Despite being pumped full of vicodin, I wielded my knives and  in a blur of steel... then dropped down through the kitchen ceiling!
 I flashed and slashed and then went back to bed. My ninja tasks complete.
      Uma, eat your heart out! And stay away from my pudding in a can!


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