In my opinion, one of the best “bang for your buck” cuts of meat is the Boston butt. I’m not sure why they call it a butt, when really it’s a shoulder – one of the many mysteries of cookery. You can usually find one for under $10, and I find that we will get countless meals from it. My go-to way to prepare it was always in the slow cooker, with a ton of BBQ sauce. Which, I love. But, after trying it slow roasted in the oven with lots of Mexican spices…I have a new favorite go-to recipe for this budget friendly cut. The final crisping stage of the pork really seals in the flavor. One shoulder yields a ton of meat. I’ll usually plan for burritos or quesadillas one night, and then tacos later in the week. Would be great on nachos too. Perfect for your table on Super Bowl Sunday!

We don’t go out to eat that often, but when we do, we usually go to the local Mexican joint down the road. Our favorite place closed last year. The friendliest family ran it. They were always so great with Andrew, the food was always good – we just loved them. They moved on to another part of the country to start a new venture, and left me with no Mexican eats locally (outside of my home, of course) for about 6 months. In desperation one day, I browsed Mexican restaurants in our vicinity on Yelp. To my surprise, one turned up in a town nearby – a nice 30 minute drive on the back roads. I must admit I was leery, as Crisfield is known primarily for it’s seafood (blue crabs, oysters, etc). I wondered how good could this place be? I’d never heard of it. But, like I said, I was desperate. So, one night, we ventured up.

We were blown away with the dinner we got at that little hole in the wall place. The proprietor/chef hails from South America, so there are lots of great Latin options – as well as traditional Tex Mex fair. While a new place has opened up closer by, we still try to make the trip to Mi Pueblito whenever we can. My favorite thing on the menu is the black bean soup. So simple, yet so flavorful and filling. Nice and smoky from the ham hock, and rich silkiness that only black beans can lend.I always devour the whole bowl, then have very little room for dinner. I made a batch last weekend at home in an effort to recreate their version, and it is right on point. As with other soups, it was even better the second day for lunch. The pico de gallo on top is optional, but highly recommended. It adds a great pop of color and flavor!

The backbone of any good soup is a good stock. Whether it’s chicken, beef, seafood, of vegetable – it’s key. When I was first learning to cook, I had the hardest times with soups. It seemed so easy, yet, I kept messing it up. It was always too bland, or too overly seasoned. Thankfully, after a few bunk batches, I got the feel for it. It is almost too easy in it’s simplicity. Some chicken scraps, carrots, celery, onion – combined, transform into liquid gold.

You could easily substitute a turkey carcass, if you happen to have one lying around. It’s quite possible a few of you might! I like to make the stock a day ahead, and refrigerate overnight. That way the fat separates to the top of the stock, and I can skim it right off before reheating to make the whatever it is I might be doing with the stock. I find that poultry, more than anything, renders a ton of fat. So, I always like to remove as much as I can. I don’t even bother peeling the onions or the carrots. I literally stumble to the stove in the morning in my PJ’s, throw the stuff in the pot, and call it a day. Doesn’t get much easier than that, folks!

My mom used to make something she called “Chicago Beef” sandwiches when I was growing up. It was a chuck roast that was simmered in the crock pot all day. Then served over crusty Italian rolls with melted cheese on top. It was one of my favorite dinners! I’d forgotten all about it until I saw it featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Googled recipes and came up with a ton. Evidently, most people refer to it as “Italian Beef”. I suppose it’s also known as Chicago Beef because the place that “put it on the map”, Al’s Beef, is in Chicago. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a great sandwich!

I knew I wanted to cook it in the dutch oven, and not the crock pot. While I love the crock pot, I think you get a better flavor from roasts from cooking in the oven. I’m sure it would be great prepared in a slow cooker, but I’d definitely deglaze the pan with the beef broth – then add that to the pot with the beef and peppers.  If you’re worried about it being spicy because of the peppers – don’t be! Pepperocinis are very mild peppers. They just have a great, zippy flavor. I love the addition of these to the beef! Totally make the sandwich in my opinion. I used provolone cheese, but mozzarella would be wonderful too.

It’s traditional to dunk the whole sandwich in the braising liquid before serving. But, I have “issues” with soggy bread. I think the sandwich has plenty of juiciness without any dunking. You could always serve a small dish of the jus on the side as well. I also topped my sandwich with some sliced banana peppers, just because I wanted a little extra crunch. They were a hit with everyone in the house, and an easy dinner that pretty much takes care of itself. Will definitely be on our menus in the future!