Instant Pot Greek Pork Loin Roast

I picked up a PC World of Flavours Greek Seasoned Pork Loin Roast on spec for half price at the grocery store a while back, and I chucked it in the freezer until such time as I could use it. This week I was searching for something different to try for dinner, and it kind of popped out at me. The rest of the family hadn’t been too keen when I brought it home, but I figured it was at least worth a try!

I thawed it out and then cooked it in the Instant Pot instead of the more traditional oven, just to see how it would turn out. First I preheated the pot on Sauté with a bit of olive oil, then browned the sides of the roast to add a little flavour. Then I added a half a cup of beef broth and, using this chart as a reference for cooking time, pressure-cooked it on normal for 35 minutes. This means that it took about the same amount of time as cooking it in the oven.

I have to say that the final product was much more moist than any pork loin I’ve ever cooked in the oven, but I’m not entirely sure how much of that was due to the marinade and how much was due to the cooking method. The flavour was really nice, though.

I served the roast with sliced cucumbers and leftover rice reheated on the stove with a bit of chicken broth and salt. I find that this is a great way to use up refrigerated rice because it re-hydrates the grains and gives them a nice flavour. It’s also a great way to cover up that I’ve often got a bunch of different kinds of rice I’m mixing together (the tail-ends of a few meals). I really hate wasting food and I find that rice is one of the most common leftovers in our house. I also often make leftover stir-fry, which helps use up other bits and bobs in the fridge as well.

Instant Pot Pulled Pork

My pulled pork method (so simple it’s not even really a recipe) is a personal favourite, but it’s also a slow cooker meal, which means that if you’ve not planned it in advance, you’re not eating it for dinner. I had a kilo of boneless bargain pork chops to use up and no plans for the evening meal, so I thought I’d give it a shot in the Instant Pot. My online research puts pork at about 40min per kilo to pressure cook, so that’s the timing I used. I just dumped the pork chops, barbecue sauce, and 1/4 cup water in the pot, stirred it, and set it to pressure cook on normal (medium) pressure. I let the pot stay on “Keep Warm” for an additional 10 minutes, then released the pressure and removed the lid. I set the pot to sauté and pulled apart the pork with forks in the pot while I let the sauce reduce for about ten minutes, bringing it down from watery to thick and sticky.

All told, the process took me about an hour, which is a far cry from the four plus hours it would have taken in a slow cooker. And honestly, the final result tasted nigh on identical. Now, if I wanted to set up a dish to cook at lunch and and then not worry about it until dinner, I would use the slow cooker method. But the pressure cooker was perfect when I hadn’t thought that far ahead.

As a bonus, the kids and I had fun with the vegetables with this dinner. I’d picked up a carrot curler (essentially a carrot sharpener) in a grab-bag of second-hand kitchen stuff a while back, and I thought it might be fun to use with the last carrots in the fridge. I just piled my shavings haphazardly on my plate, but Thing 1 arranged hers into a rather beautiful carrot flower, much like in the device’s promo photos (although she hadn’t seen them). I think she’s inherently better at food presentation than I am, taking after her paternal grandfather as she does. Perhaps in time I should get her to arrange all of my dishes.

Restaurante Sobrino de Botín

When I was in Madrid last month, one of the places I knew I had to visit was the Restaurante Sobrino de Botín (Botín’s Nephew’s Restaurant). This restaurant, which is very close to Plaza Mayor, is featured on Atlas Obscura, which is where I first learned of it. However, it’s in a lot of guidebooks and can be found on many websites because it has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the oldest restaurant in the world still in operation. A certificate in the front window from Guinness reads, “The oldest restaurant in the world is Restaurante Botín, in Calle Cuchilleros, Madrid, Spain, which opened in 1725 and has been operating ever since; it even retains the original 18th century firewood oven. It is currently run by the González family.”

The restaurant is in what used to be an inn built in the 1500’s; it originally only took up the main floor, but now occupies all four floors. The current exterior dates back to a renovation in the 1800’s, when the large windows were added. Originally they displayed cakes and pastries, but now they showcase photos and articles on the left, and a miniature model of the interior of the restaurant on the right.

The large door to the right of the main entrance is carved with the year 1725, and it was installed at the time of the restoration that transformed the main floor into a restaurant. It would originally have been called an inn, then a tavern, under the name Casa Botín, because at first the proprietors were forbidden by law to sell the food, only to cook it for customers. Eventually the laws changed and they began to provide food as well as prepare it; the restaurant was passed down to Candido Remis, the Botín’s nephew, which is when the name changed (“sobrino” means “nephew”).

The miniatures in the window showcase all four floors, but for some reason I didn’t take a picture of the top one (which was showcased off to one side of the window).

The basement, with its vaulted brick ceilings, used to be the wine cellar.

The ground level is the original restaurant.

The second floor used to be lodgings (I believe the proprietors lived there), but has since been expanded.

On the sidewalk just out front of the building (you can see it roughly at the center bottom of the first photo) is a plaque installed by the City of Madrid. These plaques don’t stand out, but they’re out front of a lot of the city’s culturally important locations.

When my husband and I went for dinner, we were seated on the second floor. It was outside of the main tourist season and we arrived relatively early by Spanish dinner standards, around 8:00pm, so we didn’t end up needing a reservation. Even so, the restaurant was doing a very brisk business and table turnover was steady.

Given the mixed reviews that this place has received for its food (since the recognition by Guinness, a lot of people claim it’s just a tourist trap), I was quite happy with the food. The bread was fresh and tasty, with a crisp, flaky crust, and soft insides.

Since we had to be budget-conscious, we skipped appetizers and went straight for the main meal. It’s probably a good thing we did, because it was really filling! I had the suckling pig roasted in the restaurant’s original wood-fired ovens, served with boiled potatoes. It was plain but delicious, with the crackling skin being the most delectable part. The pork is a traditional regional dish and the pig itself was brought in from Segovia, where we were actually going the next day, and where I also had suckling pig. If I’d realized that these events were going to happen two days in a row I would probably have switched my dinner order in Segovia itself, but we had to decide weeks in advance what we were eating because it was a large group and a tour meal. The restaurant in Segovia was fantastic, and I’d say that the suckling pig at the two locations was comparable.

We declined dessert so that we could take a walk around the area around the main square to find ourselves a separate place for coffee and sweets. I had a lovely meal at the oldest restaurant in the world, and I can see why it has been in business for so long!

Sansotei Ramen

Over time, I hope to try every ramen restaurant in Ottawa. What with ramen becoming more popular, this process has become more difficult, but I think I’ll manage! Recently I had the chance to check out the Sansotei Ramen location at 1537 Merivale Rd.

A few things you should know before I even talk about the food: they’re closed Mondays, they don’t take reservations, and they’re really popular right now due to positive reviews in the paper. The last two factors mean that even if you arrive shortly after opening for dinner, as we did, there’s going to be a wait. The line only gets longer as you progress further in to the dinner hour, with people squashed into the tiny vestibule awaiting their turn, and then a line going out the outer door and down the sidewalk. Although turnover was fairly quick (ramen is generally supposed to be a quick meal), the entrance looked like the above the entire time we were there — although to be fair, it was a Saturday.

Now to the food. I tried the tonkotsu ramen black (i.e. pork bone broth with black garlic oil) with chashu pork, which is one of my favourite dishes. It’s also one of the more complicated ones to make, so I find that it’s a pretty good test of a restaurant. I was very happy with my soup! The broth was rich without being too fatty, and bursting with flavour. The pork was melt-in-your-mouth. The noodles had just the right amount of chewiness. I have to admit that my favourite ramen place in Ottawa is still Koichi Ramen (formerly Ginza Ramen) in Chinatown, but Sansotei is definitely giving them a run for their money. I would definitely recommend this restaurant; it’s well worth the wait in line.

Faster Than Takeout

This weekend we found Candy Cane sleighing down the side of the staircase:

And petting the reindeer in the Little People Christmas train:

This morning we found her taking pictures of the family as they walked down the stairs:

Yesterday was a very busy day filled with Christmas visits, Christmas shopping with a good friend, and knitting (I’m finally on Stocking #3). All that didn’t leave me with much time to cook, but I didn’t want to eat out, so I compromised with some quick fixes from the grocery store.

That’s pork schnitzel from the butcher section; I’ve had schnitzel before, even had it in Germany, but I’ve never had the pre-made pork version from the grocery store. I didn’t have high hopes, but it wasn’t half bad! In an effort to keep in quick and simple, I served it with eggs over easy and a prepackaged spinach salad with clementine wedges, strawberries, cucumber, goat cheese crumbles, and sliced almonds. Overall, it was quicker than ordering takeout, and also both cheaper and healthier!

Don’t Do This

So. Um. I messed up.

Last night for dinner, in an attempt to create a meal with the ingredients I already had on hand (despite my freezer becoming progressively emptier), I decided to grill some pork belly slices on my smoker grill. I’d done my research and it can be done, with apparently tasty results, too! I figured I’d serve it with tiny boiled potatoes and steamed spinach, i.e. what I had left in the fridge. So I prepared the meat, heated up the grill, and threw the strips on.

For the first four minutes (I set a timer), everything was going well. The pork belly was grilling nicely, changing colour from “uncooked” to “cooked” with a few grill marks, just as intended. So I flipped the strips, closed the lid, and set the timer for another three minutes, as directed. I popped back inside to deal with the side dishes while it cooked.

Then my hubby came through the door, having walked down the street from the bus stop, and asks me, “Are you barbecuing something? Because something smells really burned outside.”

Crap.

There was a MASSIVE flare-up on the barbecue while I was otherwise occupied. Smoke was billowing out of the chimney. When I opened the lid, the flames shot up higher than I was tall. Every piece of meat in on the grill was on fire.

I turned off the power to the grill, both to remove some of the fuel from the fire and because smokers have a fan that forces the air through the machine. Unlike a gas barbecue, which has no moving parts (or at least mine doesn’t), the fan on a smoker literally fans the flames, which I very much did not want. Then I grabbed the longest tongs I owned and pulled the charred remains of the meat from the grill, blowing some of it out as I removed it. Fuel sources removed, the fire died down and quickly burned itself out. At least I didn’t have to use the fire extinguisher. (Due to the construction of a barbecue, which is made to circulate air through, I couldn’t just throw a lid over it to starve the fire entirely of air, like you would with a grease fire on a kitchen stove.)

So here you have the cremated remains of what was supposed to be last night’s dinner. In an interesting twist of fate, the few pieces that weren’t completely charcoal were actually still pretty tasty. Despite my absolute fail this time, I think I may try to grill pork belly strips again. However, it will be the only thing I will do at the time and I will watch it like a hawk. Hopefully I am capable of learning from my mistakes.

Husbeast and the kids had Kraft Dinner and hot dogs in the end, while I had leftovers, by the way. After this debacle, I just didn’t have time to make another dinner from scratch.

Guinness Pulled Pork

Because I think that trying new things is important, and because I don’t think there’s such thing as ever truly perfecting a dish, I decided to try a new recipe for pulled pork the other day. On freebie day, someone had left a box of books on the side of the road, and one of the ones in there was Cooking With Beer: Quick & Easy from Publications International Ltd. (2010). One of the ingredients in the recipe was stout – there weren’t any brands mentioned (probably due to trademark or copyright issues), but whenever anyone thinks “stout” around here, one of the first beers to come to mind is “Guinness”. So that’s what I used.

Given that it was a beer-based recipe, I also used Bulls-Eye Guinness Barbecue Sauce (recently bought on sale for $0.99 a bottle), and I served it on my bread machine beer bread (you can find the recipe in yesterday’s post). I thought that this would be the perfect combination.

Sadly, I wasn’t terribly thrilled with this pulled pork recipe. It had a nice flavour, but you didn’t really taste even the slightest tang of beer. Also, the sauce didn’t thicken very much; it was more like pulled pork soup than a proper sauce. And, in my case, it took way longer to cook than planned. I mean, the meat was cooked through by the specified time, but it definitely wasn’t soft enough to shred. Now, that might have been the fault of my oven, but overall the recipe just wasn’t up to my (admittedly high) hopes. All that being said, though, everyone ate their fair share, because there’s only so wrong you can go with pulled pulled pork on fresh bread.