Instant Pot Ham Bone Charro Beans

The Tex-Mex places in Austin have some of the best charro beans around. Served as a side dish, or even just with chips for snacking,Mexican style charro beans have tons of savory, warm flavors. I’ve heard that making beans from scratch in the Instant Pot Duo 60 was an absolute breeze, and wondered if I could really pull off dry beans from scratch in one hour with no soaking or long cook times. I like to use a ham bone in bean recipes; the beans get completely infused with salty-porky-goodness. You can save the ham bones from big holiday meal, or some grocery store sell them separately (and fairly inexpensive). These are hands down the best beans I’ve ever had. Another Instant Pot winner!

Ingredients:
1 lb. dried pinto beans, rinsed
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced,
2 jalapenos, ribs and seeds removed, diced
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
½ cup water
Ham bone (see note)
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cumin
1 tbsp. chopped cilantro

Note: I like to use a leftover ham bone in this recipe; the bone adds flavor to the broth and the ham bits are a nice addition. If you don’t have one, skip it and add 4 slices of diced thick cut bacon. Sauté it with the onions at the beginning an omit the canola oil. The bacon will render enough oil to sauté the veggies.

Press sauté on Instant Pot. When display reads “Hot” add oil, diced onion, minced garlic and diced jalapeno. Stir together until fragrant, approximately 2 minutes. Add beans, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, water, ham bone, salt and cumin. Press “manual” and set timer to 60 minutes. When the timer is done, let pressure release naturally before opening the lid. Remove ham bone, stir in chopped cilantro and serve. Enjoy!

Instant Pot Carnitas

This dish made me a believer in the Instant Pot. Sure, I had heard all of the rave reviews, but I was still skeptical. Carnitas was the second dish I tried in my Instant Pot DUO 60, and I was amazed. The pork was fall-apart tender, juicy and flavorful, and they were equally delicious reheated on the second day. Not only are these the best carnitas I’ve ever had, but the entire prep time was 20 minutes. Once the Instant Pot is set on Manual, you can leave it alone for the entire cooking and pressure release.

 

Ingredients: (Serves 6)
3-4 lb. pork shoulder
Carnitas Spice Mixture (see recipe below)
2 tbsp. canola oil
⅓ cup orange juice
⅓ cup water
1 white onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, smashed

Carnitas Spice Mixture
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. chipotle powder

Cut pork shoulder into six equally sized chunks and evenly coat with spice mixture. Press sauté on Instant Pot. Once display reads “hot” add oil and brown pork on all sides, working in batches. Add pork, orange juice, water, onion and garlic to Instant Pot, close the lid and hit manual. Set timer to 45 mins. Release pressure naturally once timer stops. Shred pork in a large bowl and spoon liquids over shredded pork. Service with tortillas, pickled onions, chopped cilantro and lime wedges. Enjoy!

 

Wine Pairings:
Carlos Serres Rioja Reserva 2010
Solanera Vinas Viejas 2013

Green Chile Pork Soup

Depending on the season, my healthy meal choices revolve around either soups or salads. On a chilly winter day, nothing beats a hot, steaming bowl of soup, and a savory, spicy soup like this warms you from the inside out.  Added bonus! This Green Chile Pork Soup imparts all the flavors of a typical Tex-Mex green chile pork, but is made with the lean tenderloin instead of pork shoulder, which eliminates a substantial portion of the calories. This soup also freezes well and can easily be doubled to stock some in the freezer.

Ingredients (serves 6):
2 lbs. pork tenderloin, cut into cubes
1 tbsp. canola oil
6 cups chicken broth
14 oz. can diced tomatoes
3 poblano peppers, ribs and seeds removed, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 onion, diced
1 lb. potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
½ bunch cilantro, tied together
1 tsp. cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste
Juice from ½ lime
Optional garnish: lime wedges, sliced jalapeno, chopped cilantro

In a large stock pot, heat canola oil on medium heat, brown cubed pork tenderloin on all sides, being careful not to overcrowd the pot. Work in batches if necessary. Add chicken broth, diced tomatoes, poblanos, celery, onion, potatoes and cilantro. It’s easier to remove the cilantro at the end of cooking if it’s tied together, but it doesn’t need to be. Add cumin, salt and pepper (I like lots of pepper!). Simmer for 2 hours, until pork is tender. Remove cilantro, and add lime juice before serving. Garnish with lime wedges, sliced jalapenos and chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

Wine pairings:
Montgo Monastrell 2012

Restaurant Style Guacamole

Restaurant Style GuacamoleGuacamole is a summer mainstay here in Austin, and you can get it at nearly every restaurant in town. Back in my native New York, it is seldom found outside of a Mexican restaurant. This Restaurant Style Guacamole is easy to make, uses lots of fresh veggies and herbs, and everyone should have access to good Guac! It’s perfect to make for a BBQ, when making Corn and Black Bean Salad as a summery side, so you can put the leftover red onion, cilantro and lime from that dish to good use. Making them at the same time cuts down on prep time, and there is less to buy at the grocery store!

Restaurant Style Guacamole 2Ingredients:
1 large or 2 small avocados
1 Roma tomato, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, diced
2 tbsp. red onion, minced
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro leaves, stems removed
Juice of ½ lime
Salt and pepper

Restaurant Style Guacamole 3In a medium bowl, scoop out avocado and mash with a fork. Mix in diced tomatoes, jalapeno pepper, red onion, cilantro, and lime juice until creamy. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately with tortilla chips. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Chicken Soft Tacos

Slow Cooker Chicken Soft Tacos 1Tacos are a way of life in Austin. You can get tacos for any meal, any time of day, with nearly anything on them. A stormy weekend followed by a cold front inspired a spicy mixture of chicken, onions and peppers simmering away in my slow cooker. The end result is tender chicken, loaded with flavor, and piled high with shredded cheddar and pepper jack cheese (like any good taco should be!) The mixture of spices could easily be substituted for a taco seasoning packet, but it’s cheaper to make your own (plus no mystery ingredients!).

 

Slow Cooker Chicken Soft Tacos 3Slow Cooker Chicken Soft Tacos 2Ingredients:
2 bone in chicken breasts
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, ribs and seeds removed, sliced

Slow Cooker Chicken Soft Tacos 4Place chicken in slow cooker. Top with diced tomatoes, chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, crush red pepper, salt and pepper and cook on low for 3 hours. Add onion, bell pepper and jalapeno to slow cooker for 1 hour more. Remove chicken and shred, discarding bones and skin, and return to slow cooker to heat thoroughly. Serve with tortillas, shredded cheese, lettuce, salsa and your favorite taco toppings. Enjoy!

Sous Vide Carnitas

Sous Vide Carnitas TacosI’ve mentioned more than a few times that I love my Sous Vide Supreme. It just makes everything better! I’ve made the best ever sous vide fried chicken and it totally transforms flank steak. In my experience with everything I’ve cooked Sous Vide, it makes the biggest transformations of cuts of meat that are typically tough. I love pork shoulder, but our Kamado is in storage for a little while, and wanted to see how it would come out in the Sous Vide.

 

Seasoned Pork Shoulder for Sous Vide CarnitasUsing the same spices that I would use in my carnitas, I put a dry rub on a 2 lb. piece of pork shoulder, popped it in the Sous Vide for 24 hours at 145 degrees, and the result was perfectly cooked carnitas that were flavorful and juicy! After cooking, pull the meat apart, discarding any fatty pieces, crisp in a cast iron skillet to get those crackled edges carnitas is known for, and squeeze a little fresh lime juice on top. Seems like this is a whole lot healthier than traditional carnitas cooked oil or lard!  It also only takes about 5 minutes of prep to go into the Sous Vide and 10 minutes to crisp after removing.

Ingredients:
Pork butt
Dry Rub:
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. black pepper

Sous Vide Carnitas Tacos 2This recipe would make great tacos, nachos or sandwiches. Serve on corn tortillas with pickled onions, cilantro, queso fresco and lime for an easy taco night!

Enjoy!

Wine Pairings:
Montgo Monastrell 2012
Solanera Vinas Viejas 2013

La Condesa

La Condesa Decor 2La Condesa is becoming a mainstay of ours. From their bright and cheery décor, to having one of the Top 5 Margaritas in Austin, this is the kind of place that just makes me happy.

 

La Condesa TacosOften thought of as one of the more expensive Mexican restaurants in Austin, the key is knowing when to go and what to order. On Sunday mornings, skip the specialty cocktails and opt for their $2 Bloody Mary and Mimosas. Get some of the tacos, they are mix and match and can be ordered a la carte. Grab a fish taco, grilled and dressed with a light aioli and pair it with one of the roasted chicken tacos, topped with cilantro, onions, and salsa verde and you are on your way.

 

La Condesa Mixta Con Pollo RostizadoThe best brunch dish at La Condesa is the Mixta Con Pollo Rostizado. Mixed greens are piled high with thinly sliced onions and cucumbers, avocado and queso fresco, very lightly dressed in a mustard vinaigrette. The roasted chicken is perfectly seasoned and seems to be finished with a confit style of cooking, which gives it a savory balance to the fresh greens, not often found in a typical salad.

 

 

Margarita La CondesaIf Happy Hour is more your thing, come in for some of the best specialty cocktails in Austin. I would love to know who comes up with their cocktail list. The Margarita La Condesa, with fresh pineapple and herbaceous cactus-lemongrass salt rim, is perfectly balanced, and is number one on my list of Top 5 Margaritas in Austin.

 

 

The cubico is La Condesa El Cubicodownright sinful. The spice of the saffron salt rim and the smokiness of the tobacco pairs perfectly with the sweet vanilla brandy and grilled pineapple juice. Top it off with a hefty pour of cazadores resposado, you have the perfect sipper for when there is a little chill in the air. Best of all, all drinks are half off during happy hour, so the normally pricey specialty cocktails are all $6 from 5-7pm.

El Alma

El Alma MargaritaWhat’s not to like about El Alma? Their frozen margaritas are some of the Best Margaritas in Austin, and they have a great rooftop patio that overlooks the Austin skyline. In a city flush with Tex-Mex, El Alma is a much welcomed, more traditional, approach to Mexican food in Austin.

El Alma CevicheI’m a sucker for a good brunch or a good happy hour, and since El Alma has both, it’s not surprising that we are there often. They have happy hour pricing from 3-6pm daily on some of our favorites. The Margarita Clasica and Margarita Chilanga, a spicier version of the classic, with the addition of Valentina hot sauce, are both discounted. The Ceviche Clasico is exactly how it should be; a large portion of flaky fish, dressed with tomatoes, onions, serrano and lime served with fresh, homemade chips. For a perfect balance of adobo marinated pork and sweet grilled pineapple, try the savory Pastor taco. All of their tacos are sold a la carte, and are perfect for a happy hour snack.

El Alma Huevos Franceses

If you can’t wait until happy hour, Saturday and Sunday brunch is where it’s at. The Huevos Franceses, two poached farm eggs and spinach on corn pudding; with chipotle hollandaise, tomatoes, and avocado, is one of the best brunch dishes I have had anywhere (and I’ve been to my share of brunches). It’s savory, mildly spicy, and visually stunning. When really hungry, you can’t go wrong with the Pollo a la Parilla, a large grilled chicken breast, chipotle tomato salsa, caramelized onions, and grilled queso panela on a platter piled high with spicy potato wedges.
You simply cannot have a better start to your day than a sunny patio, overlooking downtown Austin and frozen margaritas. That’s a fact.