Sunday, March 9, 2014

- Eating Texican

Wow ... I haven't posted in forever and now come to find out there have been over 5000 views of the rain chain post.  So, I've put an addendum on the post and belatedly answered those who were kind enough to leave a comment.

Now back to why we're here: a new recipe.  The back story is that we had some pork loin chops in the freezer and I wasn't quite sure what to do with them because they looked really lean (I usually get pork sirloin). After a fair bit of Googling on "green chile pork loin" (which is what I had in mind), I discovered a dichotomy of opinion on how long to braise pork loin.

So, nothing ventured, etc etc ... I cut the meat into cubes, salted and seared it in olive oil two minutes to a side and dumped it into a Pyrex dish.  Then I diced and sauteed some sweet onion, deglazed the pan with a slug of Lobo Negro beer, poured it all over the meat along with a pack of Rick Bayless' Frontera Green Chile Enchilada sauce (I don't usually go for packaged stuff, but this is pretty "clean" with tomatillos, poblano chiles, and no chemicals), a spoonful of cumin, and cup of homemade chicken stock.

After 45 minutes with the lid on at 325 (the time many recipes recommended as an end point), I opened up the door of a fragrant oven only to find very unappealing stew ... the meat was tough beyond prodding and there was a gumbo-like oil slick floating on top. Yuck.

I took off the lid and let it go for another hour ... which made for some significant improvement.  Good thing, as the only other realistic option for dinner was pancakes.  So I put the lid back on, stuck the dish back in the oven to cook some more, and started researching Mexican rice.

Rice Select Royal Blend is a standard in my pantry ... which isn't exactly what you find in most Tex-Mex joints. But I took a chance, sauteed some onion in olive oil, then added in the rice as one would for a pileau. After a couple of minutes, I stirred in some chicken stock, chopped grape tomatoes and finely diced jalapeno, slapped a lid on the pan and left it to simmer. After 15 minutes, I removed the lid and raised the heat, stirring until the excess liquid evaporated.

The stew came out of the oven after about 2.5 hours at 325.  It still wasn't pretty, but the meat fell apart at the nudge of a spoon.  I raided the fridge for some avocado, cilantro, sour cream, and lime ... then pulled a handful of good tortilla chips from the pantry.

A bed of rice, stew on top, liberally dosed with the aforementioned condiments made for a great meal. No picture ... honestly, it didn't look like much.  But with Shiner Bock to help it down, we agreed that it was worth recording ... for the next time.

- Rain chain (revised)

Note: This post was moved to a new URL on August 26, 2015

I fell in love with a copper rain chain that I saw at an ceramic artist's house, but the price was too dear.  So I started looking at all the silverplate flatware we've inherited over the years and decided to repurpose it (after checking to be sure I wasn't ruining something valuable).  The end result has been more decorative than functional, but then again, it doesn't rain all that much in our neck of the Texas Hill Country.

Addendum (March 9, 2014)
With apologies for not responding sooner, here's how the rain chain was made. After doing some Googling for ideas on how to bend silver, I used pliers while holding the silverware in chamois cloth in order to twist the fork tines into interesting shapes ... it would have been much easier with sterling silver, but there's no way I would use sterling for this project.

Then I bent the handles of the forks and spoons, once again using heavy pliers for leverage and the chamois to protect the silver (I wore gloves, too) ... this definitely took some experimenting to figure out the ideal flex points and I broke several pieces. Once I had a pile of bent forks and spoons, I played around with how best to arrange them before putting the whole thing together.

The top of the rain chain is a copper funnel I found at our local antique store (By the Bridge in Wimberley, Texas). I punched a couple of holes in the funnel with a hammer and nail, then ran a crab pick through the holes (with fond memories blue crab picking on the Eastern Seaboard). The first piece of silverware hooked over the crab pick. After that it was a simple matter of hanging one piece of silverware after the other. Gravity is the only thing holding the chain together and except for the bottom piece or two it has yet to come apart, even on the windiest days.

I'm not a metal-smith and had never done a project like this before (or since), so there may be other/better/safer ways of doing it. If you like what you see, I encourage you to experiment, carefully. Please note that the chain has since weathered to the color of dark copper pennies ... there's no practical way to keep it silvery that I can think of. However, since I'm very much into natural patinas, it suits me.