Cookery Maven Blog

Poblano & Tomatillo Shredded Pork With Cheddar Grits

Ellen sent an email asking if I would like some poblanos from her garden. I immediately thought of chile rellenos  and answered with an enthusiastic yes, please. Don't ask me why chile rellenos were the first thing I thought of, I've never eaten or made them. But, what isn't to love about deep-fried cheese stuffed peppers? All I needed was a couple of hours to get them together.

Dinner has been anything but leisurely around here lately. I remember when the kids were little, 5 pm to 7 pm was nightmarish with crabby kids rioting while I was trying to prepare dinner. Fast forward 12 years and 5 to 7 is still the witching hour. No crabby kids this time, just various drop off/pick up assignments for four kids in three different sports. Dinner needs to be quick and ready when they get home or they may revert to their younger, riotous selves. So, I'm still a chile relleno virgin but the poblanos found another incarnation in the crock pot.

I became a relatively proficient crock pot cooker when we were renovating our kitchen in 2010. I didn't have a stove for 2 months but still had 5 kids who wanted to eat— necessity is also the mother of crock pot cookery. I learned a couple of things— always brown the meat, saute the aromatics (like onions, garlic, peppers) and don't add too much liquid (like wine, broth, tomatoes).  Boston butt pork roast is my favorite for braising— full of piggy flavor and incredibly tender. Since the poblanos were driving the bus for this meal, I grabbed the tomatillos from the fridge and set out to make a south of the border braise.

Poblano & Tomatillo Pork with Cheddar Grits

Pork Braise 4 - 5 pound boston butt pork shoulder 3 tbsp olive or canola oil 3 medium onions, chopped 4 garlic cloves, minced 2 pounds fresh tomatillos or two 11 ounce cans of tomatillos 6 poblanos, chopped with seeds 3 tbsp cumin 1 1/2 tbsp Tajin Classico Seasoning 2 tbsp chipotle powder 2 tbsp ancho chile powder 1/2 tsp salt 3/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Cheddar Grits 2 1/2 tbsp butter 1/2 onion, chopped 1 1/4 cup grits (I used Quaker Quick Grits) 2 cup whole milk 2 3/4 cup water 1 1/2 cup shredded sharp white cheddar Salt and pepper to taste

Pork Season the pork shoulder with salt and pepper and brown all sides in 1 tbsp of oil over medium high heat. Place in crock pot. Add additional 2 tbsp of oil to sauté pan, add onions, garlic and poblanos and sauté for 7 - 10 minutes or until soft and onions are golden. Add tomatillos, cumin, Tajin, chipotle powder, ancho powder and salt and saute for another two or three minutes. Very carefully, add the tomatillo/pepper/onion mixture to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Pour over the pork in the crock pot and cook on high for 6 hours. Before serving, shred the pork, add the cilantro and serve over cheddar grits.

Cheddar Grits Saute onion in 2 tbsp of butter over medium heat in a large saucepan until softened and golden. Add the water and milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and slowly add the grits, stirring to combine. Cover and cook 12 - 14 minutes or until thickened. Add the shredded cheese and continue cooking until the cheese is melted, about another 2 to 3 minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.

Spicy Grilled Chicken And Sassy Watermelon Salad

I sound like a broken record but I love Tajin Classico Seasoning and I am constantly thinking up new ways to use it. Granted, grilled chicken isn't terribly inventive but is definitely delicious. I prefer to grill chicken thighs, they have enough skin to get crispy and are less likely to dry out. I put the Tajin under the skin and sprinkled more on top of the chicken for good measure. Put the chicken, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 4 hours (the salt helps to dehydrate the skin and make it nice and crispy after it's grilled). I always grill my chicken skin side up first because the fat in the skin will render and baste the chicken. Cook for about 20 minutes in a 300 degree grill, flipping occasionally.

In the battle of the barbecue sauces, I am on the side with a BBQ glaze with lots of vinegar. A sweet and tangy caramelized glaze on spicy chicken thighs is a party in your mouth. Brush the glaze on the chicken about 5 minutes before you pull them off the grill, you want it to be caramelized but not burnt.

Spicy BBQ Glaze

1/3 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark) 4 tbsp ketchup 4 tbsp chili sauce 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp cider vinegar 2 tsp Frank's Hot Sauce 2 tbsp Tajin Classico Seasoning 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and stir until thoroughly combined.

Watermelon and feta is a match made in heaven and it's even more heavenly when I use Sassy Nanny Buttin' Heads Feta. It has just enough salt to complement the summery sweet watermelon. Even Sadie, my pickiest eater, loves this salad.

Sassy Watermelon Salad

4 - 5 cups arugula 2 cups watermelon, rind removed and cubed 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped 1 cup Sassy Nanny goat feta, crumbled


1/4 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed 1/4 cup lime juice, freshly squeezed 2 tbsp shallots, minced 1 tbsp honey 1/2 cup olive oil 1 - 2 tsp Tajin Classico Seasoning

Mix all dressing ingredients in a bowl and stir until combined. Dress the assembled salad and dinner is served!

Summer Strawberry, Chicken & Avocado Salad

Strawberry season in Bayfield is over but it was fun while it lasted. We ate strawberries all day long— smoothies, shortcakes, layered between angel food cake, on waffles and in salads. It was utter strawberry madness at the Dougherty's for two weeks in June. Bayfield is the perfect place to live if you like berries— strawberries, raspberries and blueberries are plentiful and my kids gobble them up with abandon.

Salads are a good idea when it is 150 degrees outside and you live in a 100-year-old home without air conditioning. Ted rounded up a couple window units a few weeks ago and now my dinner repertoire includes judicious use of the oven. However, when the house was a sauna, we ate a lot of salads and grilled outside.

Don't you love it when you go to the grocery store and find perfectly ripe avocados? This salad was the fortuitous result of ripe avocados from Andy's, a surplus of strawberries in the fridge and my new favorite spice, Tajin. My friend, Kathy, turned me onto Tajin (a lime and chile salt from Mexico) this spring. She used it in her jalapeño margarita (also known as the Kaboom Margarita at Good Thyme) and I was smitten at first taste. In homage to Kathy's margaritas, I marinated the chicken in tequila, lime and Tajin— it was a seriously good idea.

 Summer Salad with Strawberries, Chicken and Avocado


1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1/4 cup tequila

1/4 cup olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

4 tbsp Tajin Classico Seasoning


8 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in

2 avocados, sliced

2 cups strawberries, sliced

1/2 red onion, sliced

1/2 cup feta (can substitute quesco fresco), crumbled

6 cups romaine, chopped

Cilantro Lime Salad Dressing

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup cilantro, chopped

2 tsp Tajin Classico Seasoning

1/4 orange juice

1/2 cup lime juice, freshly squeezed

3/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


Mix together all ingredients in the marinade, place in a non reactive bowl, add chicken and marinate, refrigerated, for 4 - 6 hours. Prepare the grill and remove the chicken breasts from the marinade. Grill the thighs skin-side down for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Turn the chicken and cook for another 10 minutes, until just cooked through. Remove from the grill to a plate. Cover tightly and allow to rest while you prepare the salad.

Place all salad dressing ingredients, except olive oil, in a food processor or blender and combine. Slowly add olive oil until the dressing is emulsified. Taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary.

After the chicken has rested, remove the meat from the bones and set aside. Place romaine, strawberries, avocado, chicken and feta in a large bowl, add salad dressing, toss to combine and serve.  

Where Is Leeann Chin When You Need Her?

I cooked many meals at home when we lived in St. Paul but take-out was an important component of our weekly dinners. Leeann Chin was always on the roster for a quick Chinese and kid friendly dinner. The cream cheese wontons were always a favorite— what's not to love about a golden crunchy exterior that gives way to creamy, melted cheese?

My sister, Annie, made them for the boys a few years ago and they were a huge hit. Will suggested we give it a whirl and bring a little Leeann Chin to our kitchen in Bayfield. As luck would have it, our local IGA has wonton wrappers and cream cheese, we were in business. It was a surprisingly easy endeavor. A dollop of cream cheese on a wonton wrapper, wrap it up, fry it up and there you go— a Dougherty version of Leeann Chin wontons in Bayfield.

Fried Cream Cheese Wontons

1 8 ounce package cream cheese - softened

1 1/2 tbsp scallions sliced thin

1 1/2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped

1 tsp Tajin Classico Seasoning (optional)

Wonton wrappers

Oil for frying


Heat enough cooking oil to fill 2 to 3 inches in a medium-sized cooking pot. In a small bowl, mix cream cheese, scallions, cilantro until fully incorporated. Spoon approximately 1 teaspoon of cream cheese mixture into wonton, and fold wonton.

Fold wonton by brushing a little water over all of the edges of the wonton skin. Fold wonton diagonally unto a triangle. Be sure to seal all of the edges completely, this will keep the filling from running out of the wonton when being cooked. Next take the two furthest ends and press and twist those together. You may need to tack together the two end pieces by adding a little water.

When the oil is heated, you can use a thermometer and test to see that it is 350 degrees, or you may test with a small piece of wonton skin. If the wonton skin bubbles immediately when dropped into the hot oil, it is ready. Drop only 4 or 5 pieces into the hot oil. After about 1 minute the wonton will begin to brown, it will now brown rapidly, remove it when it is lightly browned. Set it on a wire cooling rack or paper towels to drain. Serve with Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce (the best sweet chili sauce, ever!).