Today is National California Day. I know when most people think California Cuisine, they picture thin-crust pizzas with artichokes and a white sauce or sprouts on a whole-grain sandwich.
People think the Farm to Fork movement, dishes driven by location and sustainable ingredients with an emphasis on regions and seasons. Most people think healthy. They think Five-Star establishments in the Wine Country or Coastal Regions or Southern California. All well and good. Undoubtedly delicious, but there is another side to California.
I grew up in farm and ranching country. If we drove out to the coast or down to through the valley, I looked out the window of the family car and watched people toiling in the sun to bring food to our tables. Entire families. Children younger than me, working the fields. Those were the images seared into my brain.
As I got older, I learned about the ranch hands who drive the cattle, many of them Portuguese. I’ve had the privilege of riding with these people on cattle ranches. Strong and proud.
When I think California Cuisine of today, I think wine country, sure. I love the wine country. But when I think of the roots of California, the blood, sweat and tears of this land, I think of the immigrants. When most people think of California, they think in terms of liberal politics. When I think of California, I think of small towns with conservative views. I think of places where people still help their neighbors to raise a barn or harvest a field or lend a hand when needed. I think of community values and a people not afraid of an honest day’s work.
This is my interpretation of California Cuisine. Happy California Day everyone!
California’s Heritage Menu
Spicy Black Beans
4 lb boneless Pork Roast (pork butt or shoulder) ,
2-1/2 teaspoons Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon Black Pepper
Rinse and dry the pork shoulder, rub all over with salt and pepper. Set aside to make the rub.
1 tablespoon dried Mexican Oregano
1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
2 teaspoons Ground Cumin
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
Combine the Oregano, cayenne and cumin in a small bowl. Grind the mixture between your fingers to create a powdery rub, then add the olive oil.
Rub the mixture all over the pork. Set aside for the rub to begin to season the meat. Get the slow-cooker ready.
Slow Cooker Extras
1 Yellow Onion
1 large Jalapeño Pepper
4 Garlic Cloves
2 Oranges, juiced
Peel and chop the onion; set aside. Stem the pepper, split in half. Remove some or all of the seeds, then dice the pepper and set aside. Peel and finely mince the garlic, set aside.
Place the pork in a slow cooker, fat side up. Sprinkle with the onion, jalapeño, and minced garlic. Squeeze the juices from the oranges directly over the pork. Set the slow-cooker to cook on LOW for 10 hours or HIGH for 6 hours. The pork needs to be tender enough to shred. Remove the roast from slow cooker and let cool slightly.
While the roast cools, pour the cooking liquid into a large bowl. Refrigerate to let the fat coagulate at the top. Skim off the fat, leaving the flavorful pure cooking liquids. Set aside.
When the pork is cool enough to handle, shred using two forks.
To crisp the meat, heat a little oil in a large skillet. Fry up the shredded pork in batches just until crisp. Return to the slow-cooker to keep warm. Drizzle with just a little of the cooking liquid to keep moist.
Just before serving, warm the liquids, drizzle over the shredded pork and serve.
Spicy Black Beans
1 small White Onion, diced
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (optional)
1 (15 oz) can Black Beans
1/4 cup Cilantro Leaves, chopped
Peel and dice the onion, set aside. Peel and finely mince the garlic, set aside.
Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the olive oil and let heat briefly, almost to the point of smoking. Add in onions and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes until soft.
Add in minced garlic, cumin, salt, and cayenne pepper and sauté quickly, about another 60 seconds.
Add in black beans and juices. Reduce heat and let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes for all the flavors to develop. Chop cilantro, if using. Transfer the warm whole beans to a serving bowl, garnish with cilantro and serve hot.
1/2 cup White Onion
1/2 Red Bell Pepper
1 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Cumin
1/4 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1 tablespoon Turmeric
1/2 teaspoon Sweet Paprika
1 cup White Rice
3/4 cup Water
1/2 cup Chicken Stock
1/2 cup frozen Peas
Dice onion and pepper, set aside.
Heat oil in a large, deep skillet or stockpot over medium-high heat. Fry pepper and onion in heated oil for 2 minutes; stirring constantly.
Add cumin, pepper flakes, Turmeric and paprika. Continue to cook for another minute or two. If the pan seems too dry, add a little more oil to keep things moist. Add rice, water and chicken stock to the hot pan. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to low.
Cover with lid and cook for around 20 minutes undisturbed. Stir rice, re-cover and cook an additional 10 minutes or until rice is cooked through and tender. Once completely cooked, stir in the peas, warm through and serve.
3 cups Flour or
1 cup Mesa Corn
1-1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 cup Lard (Crisco in a can will also work)
1-1/4 cups Water, warmed
In a large mixing bowl combine flour, Mesa, salt and baking powder. Stir everything together with a wooden spoon. Work in the lard using your finger tips until it disappears into the blend of dry ingredients.
Measure tap water into a two-cup glass measuring cup. Zap the water in the microwave for about a minute. Slowly add the water to the flour mixture as you stir to blend. Once all the water has been added, work the dough to form a large ball.
Place the dough out on a large piece of plastic wrap and form into a long, thick rope about 15 to 18 inches long, about an inch and a half thick. The dough should feel warm to the touch.
Wrap the dough and set aside for 30 minutes to rest.
While the dough is resting, cut squares of parchment paper to place between each tortilla. Depending upon the side of the finished tortilla you will need somewhere between 30 and 36 squares, give or take a few.
Depending upon the size of your tortilla press (if using) and the size you want your finished tortillas to be, when the dough has finished resting, cut it into equal pieces.
Note: I like mine small, hand-held size – a little larger than a street taco, but not a big burrito.
Once cut, roll the pieces into a ball. Using the same piece of plastic warp, cover the balls and let rest 10 minutes.
To press the tortillas, place a piece of parchment paper on your press. Center a tortilla ball. Place a second piece of paper on top, press slightly with the palm of your hand. This will anchor the tortilla in place. Close the press, press down. Remove the tortilla, still between the papers.
Note: If you don’t have a tortilla press, that’s okay. Place the ball between two pieces of paper. Flatten as much as possible by hand, then roll out with a rolling-pin.
To cook the tortillas, a heavy cast iron skillet or cast iron tortilla pan works best. Heat pan over medium-high heat. Spray with a little cooking spray. Fry tortillas, one at a time, until nicely golden, then flip and fry up the other side. Stack them on a plate or in a tortilla dish until ready to serve.