Week 45: Pacific Islands – Kalua Pork Hawaiian Pizza

This week’s Pacific Island challenge spanned so many countries, it was surprisingly hard to stray from the enticing flavors that Hawaii offers. While Hawaiian pizza may be all too fitting for a pizza metatheme, the style actually originated in Canada, thus Kalua pork was slapped on for extra credit.

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Entrusting a slow cooker with three pounds of pork shoulder led to hours of tasty aromatics roaming around the house.

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In lieu of liquid smoke, I smothered the pork shoulder with a heap of smoked salt from Scotland.

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Canadian bacon was substituted with actual bacon because I do what I want.

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Pineapple meanwhile remained pineapple.

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After a 12 hour cooking session, just a small portion of meat was pulled for topping purposes. The pork leftovers were later transformed into a week-long diet of carnitas tacos.

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The pizza base was a red pie with mozzarella, as per the standard Hawaiian pizza build.

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For wine, I opted to follow the “pork and pinot” pairing mantra and selected a New Zealand Pinot Noir not only for its punchy red fruit characteristic but also for the additional love tap on the Pacific Island theme, albeit sourced from the opposite end of the geographic zone.

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Spy Valley was a refreshing sipper of a wine that played nicely with the pineapple sweetness but also contrasted the heaps of savory notes brought on by the pork and bacon. It also went well with carnitas tacos.

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Week 26: Gelatin – BBQ Pulled Pork & Pineapple Gelatin Morsels

Inspiration for this week’s gelatin challenge came from the leftover pineapple juice of last week’s creation. The thought process began with a play on a Hawaiian pizza and evolved into a pulled pork sandwich craving that could not be shaken.

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Pork shoulders were purchased and my first attempt at pulled pork began with a flavorful, smoky rub.

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To begin what would inevitably become the long road towards appreciating my slow cooker, I first took to the outdoors to light coals for a Weber grill that’s been aching to celebrate summer with a feast.

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Having never used wood chips for smoking, it’s hard to diagnose and fix any issues when I’m still learning how the grill itself best operates. Within a couple hours, I switched gears and opted for an indoor cooking session with a dusty item in the cabinet: the slow cooker.

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Onions made up the base of a cider vinegar stew the pork was to cook overnight in. The next morning, the onions were strained off and saved for topping later.

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As an anti-ketchup user, I am shocked at how magnificent the flavors of apple cider vinegar and ketchup combine together to create a simple yet perfect Carolinian BBQ sauce. It doesn’t excuse ketchup for being the way that it is, but it does now give it a reason to exist at all.

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Fresh pineapple juice keeps enzymes that are just as detrimental to gelatin as they are to human flesh (yes, that’s right. pineapples are eating you right back). Cooking helps to shut these enzymes down so that the gel can hold their shape.

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Using a combination of gelatin and agar agar, I managed to make gelatin faster than expected. The gel set so quickly I had to start from the beginning to set it in the shape of my choosing.

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Albeit not a very interesting one. I settled for the broken pieces of a thin and flat pineapple topping to debut my gelatin skills.

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BBQ sauce lined the bottom of this pie while pulled pork & onions bulked up the top.

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After a minute of cooling, the pizza was dressed with pineapple gelatin pieces and served with green onions.

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Mulderbosch’s single vineyard Chenin Blanc was able to tease out the softer pineapple notes with some tropical aromas of its own while cutting through the fatty richness of the pork. The combination was pretty incredible.

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Just watch out for that pineapple.

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Week 25: Caribbean – Pineapple & Mango Jerk Shrimp Pizza

For this week’s Caribbean challenge, I took on what seems to be the most common style tackled by many fellow redditors: jerk something. Having never tried jerk anything, I expected to fail in ways I wouldn’t realize without a basis for comparison. Ultimately, my goal was to scrape together a half-edible pizza, which (spoiler) I achieved.

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Jerk seasoning revolves around the aromatics of allspice and the intense heat derived from the Scotch bonnet pepper. Habaneros, which rank in the same Scoville neighborhood, were used in their stead.

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Borrowing a tidy pastry bag prep trick from work, I set raw shrimp in a wet marinade for a 12-hour swim.

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Meanwhile, I juiced a fresh pineapple and reserved some chunks for topping as well.

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Plucking from another jerk pizza recipe, I mixed the pineapple juice into tomato paste with red wine vinegar until a sauce like consistency was achieved.

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The remaining toppings were prepped for a trip to pizza town.

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To ensure the shrimp would cooked completely through, they were given a quick tour of a hot cast-iron pan before joining the rest of the pizza toppings in the oven.

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Mozzarella cheese was sprinkled on lightly for some cohesiveness and a small relief from the potentially high heat of the habaneros. Based on how badly my fingertips stung 12 hours and some 20 hand-washing sessions after I had last touched the peppers, I was ready for a battle.

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After sacrificing aesthetics of using whole shrimp in the name of overall consistency, I still went batty over the colorful vibe of this pizza.

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Distracting and friendly, these hues are a bit deceiving of the dangers here. Luckily, the sweetness in wine can play defense for your tongue.

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To help relieve the local wine shop, Village Vino, of the wall of tasty rosé they’ve amassed in a short amount of time, I selected a light and fruity style to accompany this pizza and all of its Caribbean flair.

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Hailing from the Chehalem Mountains of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, this Teutonic rosé bursts with fleshy melons and peach on a white pepper backdrop all while keeping a tame 11.54% abv. Such a plump, summer style is a hammer to a bad mood and does a pretty decent job wrangling in the spice on this pie. As this is a fruity but dry style, this wine is not as spice-repellant as a sweeter wine might be, but it does match the brightness of fruit in every bite. I consider the pairing passable and the pizza a win.

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It’s hard to say if I’m more excited about receiving my shiny new 25-week apple badge than I am about hitting the midway point to my 52-week commitment next week. I get that, like karma, these small achievements don’t mean much. But still…

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