Sizzling Summer Skewers

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Skewers are fun to eat and simple to construct; however, if you make a large number of them, then you will probably get annoyed with both the assembly and cooking, because it will take forever.  If you’re making skewers in large numbers I suggest making it a team activity.

Start with a marinade.  I had chicken and pork, so I decided on two different marinades.

For the pork: I peeled the membrane off this pork tenderloin and cut it into bite-sized cubes.

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Then I assembled the marinade: buttermilk as a base (and tenderizer), sriracha, teriyaki, pineapple juice, fish sauce, and garlic.

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Mix that sucker up and shove it in the fridge overnight.

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For the chicken: I trimmed the fat off several boneless, skinless chicken thighs (cheaper than breasts) and cut them into chunks.

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This one I cheated and used a store-bought teriyaki marinade that I got from Farm Boy.  It was worth it.

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Pour that over the chicken, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

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I also set a package of bamboo skewers in water and left those to soak overnight as well. This is so they don’t catch fire on the grill.

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Assembly time!  For the pork I used onion chunks, fresh pineapple and some red pepper.

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I always use two skewers to prevent the food from rolling around when I’m trying to rotate the suckers. It’s a bit trickier to put together (I did stab myself with one of the skewers) but worth it in the long run.

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For the chicken I had onion chunks, button mushrooms, and cocktail tomatoes.

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The button mushrooms turned out to be too small and kept breaking off, so I would use a bigger mushroom next time.

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Grill!  I made so many skewers I had to do about four batches.  It took FOREVER.  Make sure to check that the meat is fully cooked before serving.

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Tada!  All lovely and crispy!

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Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese

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Ando made this for Thidz’ birthday last week and it went down so well that he suggested I put it on the blog.  So here it is, adapted to his standards.  While the whole thing takes a little while to prepare, it’s all easy stuff that you can do in stages.  I ended up having most of it ready in the morning and then just chucked it together at the end and baked it.  But we’ll work from the bottom up on this layered casserole.  Also, the recipe says it serves 8, but really it serves 4 because you are going to want seconds.

BOTTOM:

Preheat your oven to 425°F and spray a 9″ springform pan with cooking spray.  My pan was a little wider, but that’s fine.

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In a teeny bowl, mix together 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and some salt and ground black pepper to taste.

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Peel 2 medium sweet potatoes.  I only had large ones, so I opted to just do one, but I could have used both and it would have been fine.

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Use a mandoline to shave off super thin slices.

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Chuck those pieces in a bowl, drizzle with a few tablespoons vegetable oil, and add in your spice mix.  Toss with your hands until the oil and spices evenly coat all the potato pieces.

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Layer the sweet potato slices evenly in the bottom of the pan.

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Bake for 15-20 minutes until they are softened and starting to brown.  Ando wanted to bake them longer to make them more crisp, so I tried that, but I found that once you piled the rest of the ingredients on top they went soft again anyway, so don’t worry too much about that.  The Pie hoped for a thicker layer of sweet potatoes (because I only used the one potato and my pan was wider), so next time I would go for two.

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MIDDLE:

Grab yourself some pork tenderloin.  I had a boneless pork loin rib here that was on stupid sale so I used that.

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You’ll need 2lbs pork, cut into 2″ chunks.  If I did this again, I would cut the chunks larger, just so your pulled pork strings end up being decently long.

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Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and add in the meat.  It goes gray almost immediately, which is kind of gross.  Reduce to a simmer and leave that on the go for about an hour.

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Drain the pork and use 2 forks to shred it into little pieces.

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Then you’re going to need some barbecue sauce.  Ando expressed concern that the sauce tended to overpower the more delicate flavours of the macaroni and cheese on top, so we picked out a milder apple butter sauce and it worked out fantastically.  The sweetness of the apple really worked well with the pork.

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So you pour 14oz barbecue sauce all over your pork and mix it in.

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Then you add in 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and stir that in as well, then set the whole thing aside.

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TOP:

Bring another saucepan of water to a boil and add a pinch or two of salt.  When it’s boiling, add in 8oz elbow pasta (MACARONI) and cook according to your package instructions.  When it’s ready, drain the water, saving about 1/4 cup of it.  Add the water back to the pasta in the pot.

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Add to the pasta 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (I think the sharper the better), 1/2 cup grated Gruyere (we used Jarlsberg), and 1/4 cup creme fraiche (which is next to impossible to find in Newfoundland, so we used sour cream instead).  Because Ando suggested boosting the flavour of the mac, I added a few crumbles of blue cheese (Rochefort) as well.

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Stir that up until it’s all melted, then add a few drops of hot sauce (we used Tabasco) to taste.

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Season it with salt and pepper and set it aside.

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CRUST:

Melt 1/4 cup butter and stir it up with 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and 1 cup panko breadcrumbs.

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ASSEMBLY:

Smooth the pulled pork over the sweet potatoes.

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Dollop the macaroni on top of that and flatten it down a bit.

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Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top of that to completely cover the macaroni.

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Bake for 15 minutes, until the casserole is hot through and the bread crumbs are browned.

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DISASSEMBLY:

Ideally you should be able to pop open the springform pan and cut this puppy like a cake.  My pork ended up being supremely saucy and thus too slithery to be architecturally sound in terms of casserole structure.  Meaning I tried to pop off the frame and then the whole thing went sideways — literally and figuratively.  So we just scooped it out with spoons, hence the lack of presentation.  Didn’t matter.  Ate it anyway.  And it was awesome.  Thanks Ando!

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Bar Night: Buffalo Chicken Strips

The Pie and I went to Buffalo, NY, for a shopping trip once.  We drove past the Anchor Bar, undisputed home of the Buffalo chicken wing, and it was closed.  We never went back.  I regret it to this day.  And when you order wings in St. John’s, you can get them with barbecue sauce or honey garlic, but none of that tangy, vinegary spiciness that comes with the bright orange Buffalo wing sauce.  It’s truly sad.

Out of necessity, therefore, I have had to come up with my own version of that sauce.  It’s not quite right, but it will do in a pinch.

Start with a base of hot sauce, like Tabasco.  Add in a bit of butter, as well as some light barbecue sauce (not the dark smoky stuff).  The sauce I used is the one I made the Pie for Christmas.  Pour in some rice vinegar and some white vinegar to taste.  Adjust your amounts until it’s the way you like it.

Simmer that down for a while.

While that’s cooking down, peel and thinly cut some carrots into sticks.

Cut up some celery as well, and plop your veggies in a bowl of water to await your pleasure.

Get yourself some blue cheese and some sour cream.

Crumble the blue cheese into a bowl and smush it together with some sour cream to make a blue cheese sauce.

Process some bread crumbs until they are superfine.

Slice up some chicken breasts into thin strips.

Dip the strips into buttermilk, then into your bread crumbs.

Repeat until you’re out of strips and thoroughly covered with gooey bread crumbs.

Fry up those strips until they are brown and crispy.

Toss the strips in a bowl with your simmered down sauce until the strips are all coated.

Serve with your vegetables, blue cheese dressing, and, hey, why not some French fries?