A Traveling Crockpot Dinner

While this is my first formal post about it, the Traveling Crockpot has actually been in my life for some time now.  A group of four gals get together once a month (mostly) where one of us hosts a dinner.  Really, it's an excuse to find our fanciest recipes we've always wanted to try out but couldn't justify (or had time for) making on a Tuesday night after work.  

My second Traveling Crockpot dinner was summer-themed (the first was a Middle Eastern Feastern!).  Located here are my personal photos...which, as usual, kind of suck.  But!  Happily, our group includes Mrs. Becky whose talent populates Little Siddall Studios with much more pleasing visual fare.

To Drink
Mango Balsamic  Spritzer with Mint

I'm not even going to try with a photo for this one; it was too lame.  Check out Beck's.

Don't get weirded out about a drink with vinegar in it.  It brings a totally unique brightness to the flavors.  If you live in Toronto, you can get excellent mango balsamic at Crescendo (two locations).

This drink could probably use a high-ball glass.  The structure is that of a mojito, but the two drinks share nothing else.

1 drink

1 tsp mango balsamic vinegar
2 sprigs mint
1 oz orange liqueur
3/4 oz vodka
Crushed ice

 Strip the mint and muddle the leaves with the vinegar in a cocktail shaker.  You want a lot of mint; if your sprigs look measly, don't shy away from adding more.  

Top with enough crushed ice to fill your glass.  Add the orange liqueur and vodka (go for the good stuff!  I used Patron's orange liqueur and Grey Goose vodka).  Shake, and pour ice and all into the glass.  Top with gingerale to fill the cup.

To Start

Scallop-Mango Ceviche

Again, "real" photo here.

The ceviche was a big guessing game.  I googled a half a hundred recipes and cobbled together my own.  Use more mango than you think, make sure the scallops are bite size (I should've trimmed down even my bays), and toss in acid briefly.  All those recipes recommending 4-8 hrs are going to turn your scallops into rubber.

Seared Pork Chop with Chipotle Butter and Avocado Mousse
Mango-Kholrabi-Radish Slaw

The chops are seared in a hot pan with butter and a little oil to keep it from burning too fast.  Don't use a nice olive oil--use a grapeseed or something else with a high smoke point that will allow you to sear the chops super-hot each side for just a few minutes to get that golden-crisp exterior.  A barbeque would be equally as awesome but I don't have access to one of those.

My chops were centre-cut, bone-in, local pork affairs purchased at the awesome Sanagan's in Toronto's Kensington Market.  Leave the bone in--it helps with moisture retention and is quite easy to eat around with this cut.

Chipotle Butter**

1/4 lb butter, unsalted, softened
3 chipotles, seeded and minced
several dashes liquid smoke
honey, to taste
cracked black pepper
good, flaky salt, such as maldon or fleur de sel, to taste

The butter in this recipe is unsalted for two reasons.  1) You need control over the salt to get the right balance.  2) The texture of crispy flakes of good salt are wonderful.

Put the butter, chipotles and liquid smoke in a large bowl--you'll want room to whisk vigorously.  Add approximately 2 Tbsp of honey, 1 Tbsp cracked black pepper and 3/4 Tbsp salt to start.  

Whisk together all ingredients until smooth.  This will take time to come together--it may seem like you'll whisk forever at first.  Be patient.  

Taste, add as needed, whisk.  Taste, add as needed, whisk. 

Avocado Mousse

1 avocado, very ripe
2.5 Tbsp heavy cream
juice of 1/4 of a lemon

You could make this mousse much more complicated.  I had enough flavors on the plate with the coleslaw and the butter and I didn't want to take anything else away from those amazing porkchops.  So this just became a fatty foil for heat and acid elsewhere on the plate.

Get the avocado into a bowl; doesn't matter how.  Add the cream.  Whip like the dickens.  Again, this will take time to come together.  Near the end, when it's almost perfectly smooth, add the lemon juice to keep it from browning.

Mango-Kholrabi-Radish Slaw

1 mango
1 kholrabi
5 radishes
1.5 tsp sugar

Matchstick the fruit and vegetables.  The kholrabi tastes very much like cabbage.  If you can't find one, actual cabbage would do; they're even the same color.  I found pretty little Easter Egg radishes for the rest of the color in this dish.

Mix the acid (I used a calamansi vinegar from Crescendo(as mentioned above)) and the oil.  Get creative here if you like--an avocado oil would be awesome, for instance.  Or use lime juice if you have leftovers from the ceviche.  I like a 2:3 acid to oil mix, personally, which may be a little heavy on the acid depending on your palette and what you're using.  Taste and adjust as necessary.  You'll need a little sugar but not too much--a nice ripe mango adds plenty here.

Goat Cheese Pudding with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Another recipe not my own. While it's not photogenic, it's unbelievably good.  The singularly excellent recipe is here at Food & Wine.  I've made it twice, excellent results both times, but you must have some kind of acid (like the raspberries in their version) to cut this.

The compote was my own.  You simmer strawberries and rhubarb and a bit of water and a bit of sugar together for a long time.  I can't tell you anything more about that.

Bon appetite!

*I love the guys behind Real Food Has Curves which is sadly no longer updated.  I'm just so glad they left the links live on this old version of the site.  Their new materials exist here.  Also, having the thyme added to the apricot soup was crucial, imo, though they list it as optional in the original recipe.

**This is what's called a compound butter.  You can basically take any mash of flavors that appeal to you and use them in a compound butter.  Other suggestions would include rosemary, anchovies and garlic.  Sage.  Lemon and thyme.  Basil and black pepper.  Roasted garlic and chili flakes.  You get the idea.

To store excess (the recipe above provides plenty of excess), dob butter in a log-ish shape on a length of plastic wrap.  Use the plastic to make a neat log, twist off the ends, and toss in the fridge.  Lasts a good long while.

Compound butters can be used at room temperature, smeared on bread, dobbed on meats, as the gloss-and-fat addition to a sauce, cold disks to melt over your hot veg, as the fat to fry an egg in...  The list is pretty ridiculous.