Times can get tough for everyone now and again, so today I will be showing you what you can do with some stuff you may have lurking about in your cabinets and your fridge. The idea behind this article is to give you some ideas on how to make a meal out of seemingly innocuous ingredients.
We don’t eat a lot of things from cans in this home. I try to buy fresh ingredients whenever I can, but there are some things that only come in a can or a jar. Sometimes I just buy a couple items just to have them around for a time such as this.
I didn’t have a chance to get to the store for a few days, and by the time I discovered that I should make some dinner, because I was starving, I realized that I didn’t really have an entree in the fridge. I knew I had some bacon, and part of a leftover pork loin filet. I also realized that I had some ground chorizo in there as well. Now what to do with those three? Well, I opened one of my pantry cabinets and started digging through it to see what surfaced. Lo and behold I found a can of Southwest Corn that was purchased for Thanksgiving (and completely forgotten about), some Salsa Casera that I had bought when I couldn’t find any ranchero sauce, some fire roasted diced tomatoes and green chilis, and lastly a can of black beans. I had purchased the diced tomatoes and black beans just a couple weeks before when I was toying with the idea of making a pseudo-Mexican dish at some point. Well, I guess tonight was the night!
This is going to be ridiculously simple, but man, is it tasty!!
Fruits and Veggies
Start with a 3-quart pot. Put it on medium-low heat. Open the black beans, then rinse and strain them using a colander in the sink. Once they are no longer slimy looking put them in the pot. Open and add the corn, salsa, and diced tomatoes and green chilies (or whatever you have in your cabinet that might resemble something that would be in a Mexican food recipe). Bring it all to a simmer and then back off the heat just a bit. We want everything to warm up and meld together, but we don’t really need to COOK anything that is in here.
Puerco Numero Uno
The chorizo, however, needs to be cooked. Unless you went out and bought that stuff that says chorizo but looks like a bratwurst. Those might be pre-cooked, but I don’t really consider it chorizo. Mexican pork chorizo is a very finely ground sausage that contains paprika, red chiles, garlic, cumin, salt, onion and maybe some other stuff depending on who made it. It will cook down and produce a very red oil that lends a wonderful color to things like scrambled eggs and the like.
So, toss some chorizo in your small cast iron skillet (that has been preheated over medium heat) and brown it up. The trick is to cook it just up to the point where it starts getting dark and looks like it might be drying out a little. Then it will be perfect. When it is done you can take it out of the pan and put it in the pot with everything else. Reserve some of the oil in the pan because we are not done with it yet.
Stir the mixture in the pot. You got that down by now, right? Always stirring when something is simmering. Otherwise it will stick to the bottom of the pot or pan. Also, you want the heat and flavors to blend together, and that works better when you get them all riled up and moving around a bit.
Puerco Numero Dos
BACON!! I was fortunate to get some of my favorite bacon when we visited the Asheville, NC area a couple weeks ago. It is the Carolina Pride brand Ends and Pieces. You never really know what you are going to get. Sometimes there are strips in there. Sometimes you only get chunks. Sometimes you get crumbles mixed in with the other two. Out of all the bacon that I have tried that is regularly available in large retail stores, the flavor of this bacon is my favorite. It is such a great balance of salt and smoke and piggy goodness that you won’t even miss it not being in slices.
OK. Take the bacon and dice it up into small chunks. About the size of dimes. Toss that smoky salty goodness into that cast iron pan that you used for the chorizo and cook it up! Make sure you move it around a bit to get that oil from the chorizo to stick to it a little. When it is done, you know what to do: Toss it in the mix and give everything a good stir.
Puerco Numero Tres
While the bacon is cooking you can go ahead and slice, dice, or chop the pork loin (or pork chop, or ham hock, or whatever piece of pig you have left) and toss that into the mix as well.
Let the whole thing just sit and simmer for a bit. How long? Well, that depends on how much you want the mixture to cook down. Less time will result in a more soup-like texture. More time it will start to resemble chili.
While it is cooking down, here is something else you can do that makes this dish a bit more fun and also adds a very welcome and different texture to it: Take out a tortilla and slice it into 1/8” strips. Take that same cast iron and put it over high heat. Add some olive oil (not EVOO, remember? The smoke point is too low to fry foods well) or some vegetable oil and get it nice and hot. When it is ready, toss those tortilla strips in there and move them around for about two minutes. You just want to brown them up and get them a little stiff. When they are done, place them on a paper towel on a plate so they can drain a bit. Of course, if you are watching your fat intake you can always bake them in the oven at 425 degrees until the same result is achieved. You can also experiment with twisting the strips before cooking to see if you can make some cool shapes or get them to look like the ones at the restaurant.
Grab a big ol’ bowl and spoon or ladle a nice, big helping of the chili into it. I topped mine with shredded sharp cheddar and fresh jalapeños. You can add whatever you want: Sour cream, cream cheese, fresh red onions, banana pepper rings. Let your imagination run wild! Or just see what else is lurking next to the pickles on the bottom shelf. Don’t be afraid!
To finish it off, just add those homemade tortilla strips and then go to town!
Don’t forget that if it isn’t hot enough for you that you can always add your favorite hot sauce.
Do you have any “recipes” like this that you have come up with when you thought there wasn’t any food in the house? I would like to hear what you came up with. Feel free to leave a comment here or email me at [email protected].