Tag Archives: pork

pork roasted in wine + pastis

gorgeous slices

It’s Sunday and I just spent a good bit of time reading the “real estate” (read: totally absurdly expensive homes that no one could afford—not very “real”) section of the New York Times. Why do I torment myself like this? I am still scratching my head about how the Times is able to locate so many people who can afford multi-million-dollar homes. One of today’s features was an arty couple who have bought an old chapel and manor house in Italy. Mama.

As the kids say, whatever. I like my tiny kitchen. I especially like it on a sunny Sunday after a quick shop and a yoga class. I like that it has a sodastream: unlimited seltzer water! And the shelves are stocked with cookbooks with hundreds of slips of paper tucked in them. Lots of recipes to try out. So much potential.

nutmeg and pastis

I guess pork roast is kind of a thing here. It’s lean, it’s adaptable, it cooks faster than a roast of beef—all things I look for in my regularly scheduled programming in the kitchen. I have eyed a similar recipe in Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking, for pork simmered in red wine, for some time. As the wine reduces, a thick sauce forms. I think it wouldn’t work in the slow cooker properly, so this may just be a Sunday thing. You can rock out to some music, clean the kitchen, do some laundry. All the while, the pork is roasting on top of the stove. It is pretty magical. Bonus: you can do this in a house that did not cost $2.7 million.

A word of advice: do not skimp on the time you spend browning (and browning) the roast before you cook it. This adds a huge amount of flavor to the finished product, and makes the roast look incredibly appetizing to boot. I adapted Marcella’s recipe to incorporate pastis. Pastis or pernod is an anise-flavored liqueur, and I love fennel with my pork. In fact, you probably do, too. You know the little seeds you find in your Italian sausage (both hot and sweet)? They’re fennel seeds. If you despise fennel, just leave the pastis out. Still delicious, and very close to the original recipe. Skip the real estate, and head to the dining section. Happy Sunday.

Pork roasted in wine + pastis

Adapted from Essentials of Italian Cooking, Marcella Hazan

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 center-cut pork roast, about 3 lbs. (preferably with a cap of fat on one side)
  • 1/4 all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup pernod or pastis (anise-flavored liqueur)
  • 2 to 3 cups red wine such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, or chianti
  • 2 bay leaves
  • fresh nutmeg for grating
  • kosher salt
  • freshly cracked pepper

1. Choose an enameled cast-iron or other very heavy pan with a lid, one which is just a smidgen larger than your roast. Warm butter and olive oil in this pan over medium heat until butter foams and the foaming subsides. Meanwhile, spread the flour on a plate and coat the entire roast in flour. Brown the roast, patiently, fatty side first, until dark brown on all sides. This will take 15 minutes or so. If the butter in the pan begins to burn, reduce the heat, and continue browning the roast.

2. When roast is browned, pour in the pastis, carefully. It will foam up right away. After a few seconds, add the wine, just until only less than an inch of the roast is above the level of the wine. Add bay leaves, a few gratings of fresh nutmeg, salt (about 1 teaspoon at first), and freshly cracked pepper. Use a fork to turn the roast a few times, and then return it to a position with the fatty side on top.

3. When wine mixture returns to a simmer, adjust the flame so that, with the lid securely on, the pot is barely simmering. Cook at a low simmer for about 3 hours, turning roast occasionally, perhaps every 30 minutes or so. If the level of the wine is lower each time, that is okay. By the end of cooking, you should have a small amount of thick sauce in the pot.

4. The roast will be extremely dark in color, tender and nearly falling apart after 3 hours. Remove it to a carving board and slice it thinly to serve. Pass sauce along side.

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smoky glazed pork chops w crunchy almond crumble

My favorite thing to do to dress up a dish is to fry up some bread crumbs (I make them in the food processor as bread gets stale, and simply add them to a bag I keep in the freezer) and sprinkle them on top. Of whatever.

I love my ruts, and prefer to stay in them for as long as possible. But this particular rut has deepened, and broadened, to include some chopped almonds with the bread crumbs. If there is one thing that is as delicious as fried bread crumbs, it is fried almonds. They add more crunch and richness than the bread crumbs alone, and also taste delicious on everything.

almonds

Pork chops for dinner in this house are a common occurrence as well. It was only a matter of a few days before I recognized the unhatched potential of the crumb/almond mixture combined with the usual pork chop. Punched up with a slightly sweet, spicy, and smoky pan sauce, and we had a dish evocative of smoked and sugared almonds, with routine weeknight potential.

The big problem here is that the crunchy topping is a delicious snack. I always taste-test it when it is done frying, to make sure I have put enough salt in it. This is a terrible mistake, because I pinch up little bites of it while the chops cook, crunching away until there is barely enough left for supper. I suggest giving it to someone you trust, who will hide it from you until the time comes to heap a few spoonfuls on top of each pork chop. There; I can’t be held responsible when your family is having plain old pork chops once again for supper.

Smoky glazed pork chops w crunchy almond crumble

Serves 4

  • 4 large boneless center-cut pork chops
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup fresh coarse bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon Maldon or kosher sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup

1. In a small bowl, combine smoked paprika and kosher salt. Dry pork chops with a paper towel and rub them evenly with the paprika-salt mixture. (You can set chops aside at this point in the refrigerator for up to one day.) In a large, nonstick skillet, warm 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering and add chops. Cook on first side until dark brown, then flip them carefully and brown the second side. Reduce heat to medium and add a lid or cover, and cook until internal temperature of pork chops reaches 150 F.

2. Meanwhile, in a separate skillet, warm the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until very hot. Add almonds and fry, stirring constantly, until toasted. Add bread crumbs and crushed red pepper, and continue stirring until they are toasted as well. Remove from heat and add Maldon salt or kosher salt and stir. Set aside until chops are cooked.

3. Remove lid from pork chops when they are cooked through, and drizzle with maple syrup. Flip chops and stir syrup into the pan liquid. Increase heat to medium-high and reduce sauce, turning chops regularly. To serve, place on chop on each plate and drizzle with one-quarter of pan sauce. Then scoop one-quarter cup of almond crumble topping onto the top of the chop and serve.

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sweet + tangy meatballs

For a long time I have played around with Marcus Samuelsson’s Swedish meatball recipe, which is a great addition to a Christmas Eve supper, or a Christmas lunch. The combination of sweet (lingonberry preserves) and creamy (heavy cream) and tangy (pickle juice) with the rich meatballs is just the perfect holiday mixture.

When I make meatballs, I like to make a lot. It’s a pretty labor-intensive—not to mention messy—process. You can always freeze them for later and then have the benefit of having messed up the kitchen only once. When I started making these meatballs, I would fry them in oil on top of the stove. But with the larger batch, I find that it’s dramatically less messy than frying in batches, and I can make sure the meatballs are cooked all the way through. Sure, the resulting meatballs are kind of flat on one side (the side sitting on the baking sheet), but this is a price I’m more than willing to pay to avoid a grease-coated kitchen. If you’re dedicated to producing the cordon-bleu version of these, by all means fry away!

While the meatballs are cooking, you’re cooking up a sweet, tangy, and then ultimately creamy sauce on top of the stove. After the meatballs are cooked and the sauce is thickened up, you can combine them right away in a slow-cooker on low or on top of the stove on low, to coat the meatballs and allow the flavors to mix. After that, you can reheat or keep warm at will. If you’re freezing part of the meatballs, you should freeze them after baking in the oven, and make up the sauce when you’re ready to use them.

Samuelsson’s recipe is based on his family’s Swedish traditions. In my family, molasses is a traditional ingredient in just about anything. And we get the best molasses in the world from Center Market in Cambridge, Md. I keep lots of it in the house this time of year. I played around with using it here in lieu of honey in the meatballs themselves, and I added them to the sauce, just like I do to my barbecue sauce. The result is a nicely browned meatball, and a rich and sweet sauce. (By the way, if you prefer, you can make up the meatballs as below and make the barbecue sauce recipe to dress them. Also delicious.)

Enjoy serving these to your family and friends—and adapt the recipe with traditional ingredients in your house this time of year.

Sweet + tangy meatballs

Based on Marcus Samuelsson’s Swedish meatballs, which is a great recipe

Meatballs:

  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large or 2 medium red onions, finely sliced
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground veal
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • pinch of cloves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Line two large baking sheets with baking parchment and set aside. Preheat oven to 425 F. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs and half-and-half and allow to rest, stirring occasionally while sauteing the onions. Set up food processor fitted with metal blade.

2. In a large saute pan, melt olive oil and butter together over medium heat. Add sliced onion and saute until soft and transparent. Do not allow to caramelize. Scrape contents of pan into food processor. (Set pan aside without washing to make sauce later.) Add soaked bread crumbs. Pulse about 20 times until onion is finely chopped and mixture is well combined.

3. In a large bowl, combine onion mixture, ground meats, molasses, eggs and spices. Using your hands, combine until mixture is consistent, but use a light touch. Do not squeeze or manhandle the mixture. Take your time. When combined, set aside and wash your hands.

4. Place the meat mixture and baking sheets on a work surface. Wet your hands and begin to form meatballs the size of golf balls. Pinch off a suitable amount of the mixture and lightly form them into balls by smoothing between your hands. Line meatballs up, not touching, on the sheets. When all meatballs are formed, place the sheets into the oven and lower the temperature to 400 F. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the internal temperature of meatballs is 170 F. Remove from oven and set aside.

Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried ancho chile powder (this is not the same as chili powder, which should not be used)
  • pinch cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 c molasses
  • 1 and 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or pickle juice
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

1. While meatballs are in the oven, make the sauce. Using the saute pan you used for the onions, warm tomato paste and ketchup over medium-high heat. When mixed and bubbling, add chile powder, cayenne, and allspice. When these are mixed in, add molasses and stir until bubbling and combined. Slowly add apple cider and whisk until mixture is smooth and combined. Cook this mixture until thickened and bubbly, about 10 minutes. Adjust heat lower if boiling too rapidly.

2. When mixture is thickened, add salt, chicken stock, and vinegar. Whisk again until very smooth and continue simmering until reduced and thick, another 10 to 20 minutes. Taste sauce and correct seasonings. Remove pan from heat and stir a few times. Slowly add cream, whisking constantly, and bring back to a simmer. Keep warm until ready to combine with meatballs.Taste again and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

3. To finish the dish, place the cooked meatballs in a large heavy Dutch oven or sauteuse with high sides. Cover with sauce and gently combine until meatballs are coated. Keep warm over low heat until ready to serve. Serve as hors d’oeuvres, or with mashed root vegetables, mashed potatoes, or egg noodles.

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smoked pork shoulder prepared like ham

Upon hearing that I had made this dish, my sister exclaimed, “Oh my god! You went straight from using a slow-cooker to those recipes that use soda!” It is true that this practice is very alarming, especially in a slow-cooker novice. But I remember years ago seeing Nigella prepare a ham by boiling it in a giant pot of soda, and for some reason this made sense to me. There will be some confusion about cuts of pork in your grocery store. You can make this recipe with a bone-in fully cooked ham, or, as I did, with a fresh smoked pork shoulder. Keep in mind that my slow cooker is quite large; if you have a more normal-sized one, you’ll need to use a smaller cut of meat. Likewise, if your shoulder has a substantial cap of fat on it, you’ll need to make sure the melting fat doesn’t overfill the crock of your slow-cooker.

(I apologize that there are not more photographs of this wonderful concoction, but they are truly hideous! A giant hunk of meat is really ugly! Therefore, I break up your winter with this gorgeous picture of plums basking in the sun in Vila Real, Portugal.) This dish came out just as I expected: not at all sweet, but tender and melting. The leftovers and scraps—the shoulder simply falls apart, so there will be bits that are only fairly characterized as scraps—are marvelous in this soup. Which brings me to why I’m posting this now: it is the time of year when many of us are running from holiday party to errand to event, and we need a dish like this, which will last for several days, and then make another quick supper when we turn it into soup. And don’t forget, you can always freeze the leftover bits and make your soup later.

Smoked pork shoulder prepared like ham

This recipe works in a 6.5 quart slow cooker, which is very large. Adjustments will need to be made for smaller slow cookers.

  • 1 smoked fresh pork shoulder, approximately 5 – 7 lbs., bone in
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons ground dry mustard
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 can Coca-Cola

1. Take the pork and remove any netting. Make sure it fits in your slow cooker. Trim the meat to fit in the cooker if necessary. Alternatively, place the pork in a large roasting pan with a lid.

2. Combine dry ingredients and rub all over pork shoulder. Replace the pork in the slow cooker, making sure the fat side is facing up towards the lid. Pour in the can of Coca-Cola.

3. Place the lid securely on the slow cooker. Set to cook on low for 10 to 11 hours. If you are using the oven, bring pot to a simmer and then place in a 300 F oven for four to five hours. Check it at least once to make sure the liquid level in the cooker hasn’t risen too high due to fat melting. Carefully scoop out a bit of liquid if it has risen too high.

4. When pork has finished cooking, set a baking sheet near the slow cooker and remove meat carefully to the baking sheet. (It will have completely fallen apart.) Discard bones and scraps, or use for beans or soup. Slice meat carefully and serve with grainy mustard. Discard cooking liquid.

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pork loin roast w bacon, apples + onions

I never really thought I would become a slow-cooker person. But the demands of my job are fairly unpredictable. At the same time, I have noticed that having something good to eat at a reasonable hour (and by “good to eat” and “reasonable hour,” I mean not Indian delivery at 9:30 p.m.) contributes to the general happiness of the household. A few weeks ago I purchased a slow cooker. I have been learning to use it—what is good and what is not—and have been noticing that it definitely contributes to the net joy in the house. It is such a relief to come home and remember that, oh wait, supper is already done! Not only that, the cooker I got is large enough that it guarantees leftovers for at least another day or two.

In the process, I have realized that a lot of what I prefer to cook is, really, slow-cooker fare. I do a lot of low-and-slow braising on weekends, anyway. All it means, having a slow-cooker, is that I can have these meals during the week, too. The good news is that if you do not have a slow cooker, you can still use these recipes in the oven. Just remember, you can’t leave your oven unattended the way you can the slow cooker. This dish, in particular, is a genre of pork roast that I’ve made in various permutations for years. It works great in the slow cooker and in the oven. When the pork is finished the lean loin cut has become fork tender, and in the process it has produced its own remarkable onion- and apple-scented sauce. Here’s to civilized weeknight eating.

Pork loin roast w bacon, apples + onions

Serves about 6

  • 2 slices of thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon, cut into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • boneless pork loin roast (the whole loin roast, not just the tenderloin)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground dried chile
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large apple, unpeeled, cut into wedges
  • 1 to 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1. In a large skillet, warm bacon over medium-high heat with oil. When shimmering and bacon is beginning to render its fat, turn heat to medium and add the loin roast. Brown the loin roast very well on all sides (this takes 8 to 10 minutes per side) and then place in the crock of your slow cooker. (Alternatively you can place it in a large oven-proof Dutch oven with a lid. In this case, preheat the oven to 275 F.) Rotate the roast and sprinkle with the salt, ginger, and ground chile.

2. Return the skillet to the stove. If it does not have enough oil in it to fry the onions and apple, add another glug of vegetable oil. Warm the skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced onion and apples. Give the pan a few shakes at first and then let the apples and onions sit and get very brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Then stir the apples and onions and continue cooking until very brown. Scrape bacon, onion, and apple over roast in the crock of the slow-cooker.

3. Return skillet to stove. Add 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock and scrape assiduously with a spatula or spoon to get all the brown bits from the pan. Simmer for about 1 minute and then add to the roast in the crock. At this point assess how much liquid is surrounding the roast in the slow cooker. Liquid should be about half-way up the side of the roast. Add more stock if necessary. Make sure the top of the roast is exposed and is not covered with apples or onions (push them to the side if necessary).

4. Turn slow cooker to the “high” setting and cook for 3 to 4 hours, or cook for “low” from 8 to 9 hours. Internal temperature of pork should be at least 160 F before eating. (In my experience, after 4 hours on “high” the internal temperature is well over 200 F.) (If cooking in covered Dutch oven at 275 F, bring entire pan to a rolling boil and place in the oven. Cook with lid on for 3 to 4 hours and then proceed with recipe.)

5. Remove pork to a cutting board to rest. Place a bowl in the sink or on the counter, with a sieve over it. Pour everything left in the pan or crock into the sieve and collect in the bowl. Take a spoon and press the apples and onions against the sieve, pushing much of the liquid and passing some (now pureed) solids into the broth. Take the liquid in the bowl and pour it into a saucepan or skillet. Bring to a boil and reduce until a thick sauce is formed. Taste for salt, and add more if necessary. (This will depend upon how salty your bacon was.) Serve pork warm with some of the sauce.

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ham, bean + cabbage soup

With a hurricane bearing down on the northeast, something strange happened. It would seem that I am genetically programmed to cook ceaselessly—like, everything in the refrigerator—when a storm is approaching. Apples were turned into a crumble, and also added to a slow-cooked pork loin roast with onions. Bits and bobs of cheese (four totally random kinds that had accumulated in the drawer) went into a big dish of macaroni and cheese. A container of leftover ham, the odd turnip, potato, carrots, celery, and beans was clearly the base for a soup. Hurricane soup! What could be more appropriate with a weird hybrid storm approaching? Soup is called for in this situation. Soup is part of the emergency planning scenario. The thinking was that even if the power goes out, we can use the gas stove to heat up the soup. And the longer the soup sits around, the better it tastes.

I’m not going to lie and say that this soup is terribly gorgeous. It is fairly unattractive. But, hey, any port in a storm, right? It is delicious, and filling, and flexible. You can add or subtract from the amount of carrots, turnips, cabbage, and potatoes I used. You could substitute other root vegetables, or swap in kale for the cabbage. Heck, you could substitute a few slices of smoked bacon in place of the ham. The soup won’t mind. It just gets better and better. If you still have power, and a gas stove so you can keep cooking if the power goes out, start a pot of soup. It’s time to get serious about storm preparation. Good luck to everyone on the East Coast, and I’ll see you on the other side of Sandy.

Ham, bean + cabbage soup

Makes 8 large bowls of soup

  • 2 small or 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 5 carrots, peeled and cut into slices
  • 2 celery stalks trimmed, finely chopped
  • 1 large or 2 small turnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 to 2 cups cooked ham, chopped
  • 4 cups cabbage, cut into 1/2-inch chiffonade
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 3 cups cooked white beans (such as navy or cannellini), with some of their cooking liquid
  • salt, if needed

1. In a large soup pot, combine onion, carrots, celery, turnips, potato and vegetable oil. Turn heat to medium-high and saute for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until vegetables are fragrant and onion is translucent, but not browned. Reduce heat to medium if necessary to prevent browning.

2. Add rosemary, thyme, crushed red pepper, and ham, and saute for 2 to 3 additional minutes. Add cabbage, stock, and cooked beans. Then add water to cover vegetables and ham by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 60 minutes, until turnips and potato are cooked, and soup is thick. Leave to simmer for longer, if desired. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. Serve piping hot with crusty bread, or biscuits, and a salad.

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shrimp, collards + grits

While Delaware, the place I grew up, is in many ways a southern place, shrimp and grits is not the sort of thing we ever would have eaten at home. Let’s face it, “southern” cooking cuts a wide swath through the American culinary repertoire, and while you would probably recognize much of what we cooked at home as “southern”—biscuits, cornbread, fried chicken, homestyle (i.e. well boiled and usually with a pork product) vegetables all played a leading role—taken as a whole, it bore no resemblance to the cooking of the Piedmont, or the Gulf Coast, or southern Appalachia. Nor does the cooking of any of those places bear much resemblance to the cooking of each of the others.

On our family vacations, which were always taken in a vehicle, and never in an airplane, we visited Appalachia, the lower Eastern Shore, the Delaware Water Gap (to the north), and most places in between. I never got to North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, or Florida until I was much older. Ty, though, has traveled throughout the south much more than I have, and has always had a taste for deep-South dishes like shrimp and grits. (Ty points out that he has traveled the SEC East thoroughly, but not the SEC West. I don’t know what this means, but suspect others might.) I never even tasted shrimp and grits until last year, in South Carolina. And let me just say up front—or you can tell me again in the comments—that this dish would absolutely not pass for shrimp and grits in Charleston or anywhere in the low country. In fact, I am pretty sure it would count as heresy. In order to make this into a relatively quick, one-dish meal, I have added fresh chorizo sausage in place of the traditional tasso ham, and I have added a lot of chopped collard greens as well. Instead of using shrimp broth, I have substituted chicken or vegetable, the two kinds I always have on hand.

However, one place where I have not and will not scrimp is when it comes to the grits. I use Anson Mills’ stoneground white grits, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. However, if you can’t find stoneground grits, please feel free to substitute whatever grits you have available where you are. (Since I’m busy confessing, I will admit that I once made this dish and served it over a nice, soft polenta. What?! Polenta is also made of corn!) The chunky stoneground grits, if soaked overnight, cook in about 50 minutes (with a little tending), which is about what it takes to prep and cook the rest of the dish. If you want the legitimate low-country version of shrimp and grits, make the delicious rendition available here at the Anson Mills site. Those folks know what they’re doing. This version, though, is pretty darned good.

Shrimp, collards + grits

4 servings as a main course

  • 1 cup stone ground white grits, such as Anson Mills
  • 4 and 1/2 cups water, divided
  • 1 lb fresh chorizo sausage links
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb collards, ribs removed, leaves cut into fine chiffonade
  • 1 large or 2 small bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 and 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled (fresh or thawed frozen)
  • kosher salt

1. Starting 12 – 24 hours before you make the grits, place the grits into a covered saucepan of at least 3 quarts. Add 2 and 1/2 cups of the water. Stir once, and let grits soak for 12 – 24 hours.

2. After the grits have soaked, place saucepan on burner at medium heat. Bring to a simmer and stir constantly for 8 to 10 minutes. Add the lid and turn heat to very low. Meanwhile, bring the other 2 cups of water to a simmer and keep nearby on the stove. As grits thicken, add simmering water 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. Cook grits for 45 to 50 minutes, adding simmering water as needed and stirring, replacing the lid after each addition.

3. While the grits are cooking, start the shrimp and collards. Select a heavy, large, lidded skillet or casserole. Add chorizo sausage to the pan and brown very well over medium to medium-high heat. When sausages are well browned on all sides, set them aside. If only a small amount of fat has rendered from the sausages, add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Over medium heat, add the onion, and stir and cook until softened. Add collards and stir until coated with oil and wilted. Saute for about 10 minutes. Then add the bay leaf, crushed red pepper, and paprika. Stir well and add tomato paste. Mix well again. (Don’t forget to check and stir your grits, adding more water as needed.)

4. Add white wine to the skillet and simmer until reduced by about half, stirring well. Then add broth and zest and bring to a simmer. Return sausage to the pan and cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove lid, stir well, and add shrimp, tossing well. Replace lid and cook for 5 minutes, until shrimp are pink and cooked through. Taste mixture for salt, and add more, 1/4 teaspoon at a time, as needed.

5. Spoon grits onto warmed dishes and top with shrimp, sausage, and collards mixture. Spoon plenty of the pan gravy over, and serve piping hot.

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brined pork chops w garlic pan sauce + crispy sage

So here is a recipe that I cannot believe I have never posted. Many years ago, my sister bought me Judy Rodgers’ Zuni Cafe Cookbook. I find that really great cookbooks affect you in both the short and long term. In a great cookbook, you’ll often find a tiny handful of recipes—maybe one or two—that are immediately enlightening and useful at the same time. These are the recipes that change your life right away. They change the way you approach weeknight meals, or dinner parties, or a certain ingredient. You turn on a dime, and things are never the same in your kitchen again. Then, as you live with a great cookbook, you are influenced by it in more subtle ways. A variety of recipes from a great cookbook infiltrate your cooking over time; you work with them, change them, play with them. Eventually, a great cookbook—through immediate sea changes and long-term evolution—changes your approach to food. The Zuni Cafe Cookbook is certainly one such cookbook for me. And this brine for pork is certainly an approach that took me by storm, with no going back.

Boneless pork chops can be tasteless. And if you cook them quickly, the exterior is overdone (dry) before the interior reaches a safe temperature. If you cook them too slowly, they can be tough and flavorless; virtually boiled. This brine changes all that. It distributes flavor and moisture throughout the chops. But even when you pat them dry and put them in the pan to cook, the brine caramelizes on the outside (it has sugar in it) and creates a lovely fond in your pan. You can eat the chops all on their own, but it is worth a few extra minutes to deglaze that pan and turn the fond into something truly spectacular. Either way, I don’t serve pork chops much anymore without brining them.

About that brine: if you don’t have allspice berries, or juniper berries, use whole cloves, or skip it. If you don’t have chilies, don’t sweat it. The key ingredients are water, salt, and sugar. Everything else is window dressing. Delicious window dressing, but easily skipped nonetheless. Another detail about this recipe—you can leave out the fried sage part for weeknight suppers. Just go ahead and cook the chops (having brined them the night or morning before) and make the pan sauce. But if you’re having a special meal, or a dinner party—and if you’re lucky enough to have a glut of sage leaves—I’m going to go out on a limb and say that having crispy sage croutons on your pork chop really will make your day.

Brined pork chops w garlic pan sauce + crispy sage

Method adapted from Judy Rodgers, Zuni Cafe Cookbook

  • 5 or 6 center-cut boneless pork chops
  • 5 cups room-temperature water
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 dried chili peppers
  • 4 dried bay leaves
  • 8 to 12 allspice berries
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 20 or 30 fresh sage leaves
  • 3 large cloves fresh garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup dry white wine

1. At least 8 hours (and up to 48 hours) before you plan to cook the pork, whisk together the water, salt, sugar, chilies, bay leaves, allspice berries, and crushed garlic. Whisk vigorously until sugar and salt dissolve completely. Add pork chops and cover well. Place in refrigerator for 8 to 48 hours.

2. When ready to cook pork, pour olive oil into a nonstick skillet. Warm it over medium-high heat until quite hot but not smoking. Add sage leaves (leaving room between leaves) and fry until very crisp and just turning brown, turning leaves once. (If oil is very hot, this takes about 5 minutes.) Remove sage leaves to a paper-towel-lined plate and sprinkle with fleur de sel. Turn burner to low. Add thinly sliced garlic and stir until just beginning to turn golden in color. Pour olive oil and garlic into a heatproof bowl or measuring cup. Leave thin sheen of oil in pan, and place over medium heat.

3. Remove chops from brine and pat dry. Place into hot pan. If needed, weight chops down with another heavy pan. After 10 minutes, flip chops and weight down again if needed. Continue to cook until chops are nicely caramelized and internal temperature reaches 155 F. Remove chops to a plate and let them rest.

4. Turn heat under pan to medium-high. Add white wine and boil, scraping all browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce by at least half, until wine forms a somewhat thick reduction. Remove from heat and add cooked garlic and olive oil mixture, stirring well.

5. Slice pork chops and place one on each plate. Spoon garlic and wine sauce over and top with crispy sage leaves.

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red chili with pork loin

Although this red chili with pork is decidedly un-photogenic, I am bravely posting it anyway, in hopes that if you eat pork, you will join me in my attempt to overturn the hegemony of ground-beef chili this year for the Super Bowl. Last week I made Ty eat chili on three different nights as I attempted to make two pork versions (this red one and a green one that was superb, but still needs more testing before I post it) and a red version with steak.

I like the idea of chili as a stew, which I learned from Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo. His cookbook has lots of great chile/chili recipes, and I highly recommend it. Using the stew format, you really focus on building many layers of flavor: browning the pork, cooking onions, then dried chiles, cumin and oregano, then molasses, then beer, then stock. I know molasses is an odd addition to the mix, but if you think about how good it is in baked beans, you realize it can do wonders here, too. The taste here comes from the flavor base you’ve built and I think it’s terrific if you don’t include the traditional tomatoes. However, if you love tomatoes in chili, I bet you could easily add some at the end with no ill effects.

Bean lovers may want to skip the tomatoes, though, as I think the thinner broth produced here is marvelous with a great bean. In this version I used some Sangre de Toro beans from Rancho Gordo, and I would have been sad to have their delicate flavor and texture masked by the tomatoes. If you don’t have any great chili beans from Rancho Gordo (they sell at least a dozen varieties that are terrific in a stew like this), use any pinto-type bean that you enjoy in your chili. I cook the dried beans over the weekend and store them in the refrigerator to use throughout the week. If you only have canned beans, they will be just fine.

Even if you’re not a Super Bowl watcher, I can’t see where you could go wrong with this stew on a wintry weekend. As you can see, it’s pretty ugly, but one taste and I think you’ll get over it.

Red chili with pork loin

Inspired by many recipes from Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo

  • a 2-to-3-pound pork loin roast cut into 1-inch cubes
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons New Mexico chile*
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 bottle of beer (I used lager)
  • 1 3/4 cup beef or vegetable stock
  • 4 cups pinto-style beans, such as Sangre de Toro
  • salt, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 275 F (this is optional; I give instructions for cooking on the stovetop as well). In a large, heavy, ovenproof Dutch oven or pot with a lid, warm several glugs of olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown cubes of pork in the oil (do this in a single layer, browning in batches if necessary) and then set them aside. Add a little olive oil if necessary, lower heat to medium, and saute the onion until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, chile, oregano, and cumin. Stir frequently until the spices are fragrant and forming a paste around onions.

2. Push onion mixture aside and pour molasses into the pan, scraping it from the bottom, for about 1 minute. Pour in the beer and scrape up all the spices and brown spots on the bottom and sides of the pan. When the beer comes to a boil, add the stock and stir everything well.

3. Add water to the pot if needed, to come up just to the top of the cubes of pork. Place the lid on the pot and put it in the oven for 2 to 3 hours. It will simmer there. Or, alternatively, turn to a low simmer and cook for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

4. Remove pan from oven and remove lid. Add beans to the pan and return to a simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste and correct for salt and other seasonings at this time. (The amount of salt you’ll need will vary dramatically depending on how you cooked the beans and the weight of meat you used. You may use as much as a handful of salt, but taste and add it in small amounts during the last 30 minutes of cooking.)

5. Serve in warm bowls with lime wedges.

* Ground New Mexico chile is not the same as chili powder, which contains cumin and other spices. If you don’t have it you can substitute ground ancho chiles or another mild, red, dried, pulverized chile.

 

 

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sausage “meatballs” with tomatoes + braised cabbage

Something magical happened to the cabbage in this dish. Only Marcella Hazan could have scolded me into exhibiting the kind of patience required to make something like this out of cabbage. For some time I had been intrigued by her recipe, in Essentials of Italian Cooking, for “Winter Meatballs with Savoy Cabbage.” This week, though, while I had a cabbage (not Savoy) in the refrigerator, I did not, by any means, have time to make meatballs. Lots of food bloggers say things like, “these meatballs came together in a snap!” I am not one of those food bloggers. I know how much time it takes to make a proper meatball.

And let me also say that I am highly experienced in braising cabbage. We eat it every week during the winter. Right now we are getting excellent stored specimens from our friends at Stone Gardens at the CitySeed Farmers’ Market in Wooster Square. I also noted an organic farm at last week’s market that had a variety I hadn’t heard of, “Storage #4” from Johnny’s seeds. I may be going back for one of those beauties. When I saw it I was with my dad. We are the type of people who ask people where they got their cabbage seeds. In any case, I love braised cabbage, and it always turns out delicious and satisfying. However, the method below, ripped off from Marcella Hazan, is more than just braised cabbage.

Her original recipe features meatballs (I will get around to making this properly someday), but I simply took Italian sausage and removed the casings, forming it into slightly flattened balls. These I fried in a separate pan until they were very, very brown. You cook the cabbage forever, in just a bit of olive oil and garlic, first uncovered, then covered, for a long time, then uncovered again. Then you add a few chopped tomatoes from a can, very well drained (you want this very dry), and cook for a while more. Then you add your meatballs, or in my case, sausage, and cook even more, this time with the lid on again. This all takes quite a bit of time, but you don’t really have to do very much. You can read your mail, or watch an entire episode of a TV show.

When everything is done, this is a great one-dish meal. You just scoop it onto the plates and enjoy it. This recipe feeds about four people if you are making a separate, small pasta course, or a substantial salad. The cabbage, by the end, has transformed into a sweet, mellow, delicacy, but it has lost none of its substance. It is still very much like cabbage. Just cabbage that took a little detour to heaven. Which is very much the way I like it.

Sausage “meatballs” with tomatoes + braised cabbage

Adapted dramatically from Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Italian Cooking

Serves 4 as a main course

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 – 1 1/2 lb. cabbage (Savoy or regular), cut into quarters, cored, sliced in 1/4″ strips
  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed and cut into 1″ balls
  • 2/3 cup canned plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large, shallow, lidded casserole or saute pan, heat the olive oil and garlic over medium heat. Cook and stir until pale gold in color, then add the strips of cabbage. Toss very well, six or seven times, to coat with oil. Add the lid and reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Cook for 45 minutes or so, until it is very soft and reduced to one-third its original volume.

2. Meanwhile, in a frying pan, cook the sausage “meatballs” until they are very well browned on all sides and cooked thoroughly to the middle. This will take 15 minutes or so.

3. When the cabbage has cooked for 45 minutes to an hour, remove lid, sprinkle with salt and, generously, with pepper. Taste and correct the seasoning. Then turn heat to medium, and cook for 15 minutes uncovered until cabbage is a light and nutty brown color.

4. Add the tomatoes and, turning occasionally, cook for 15 more minutes. Return the meatballs to the pan, toss thoroughly four or five times and cover the pan again. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the lid three or four times and give everything a good stir.

5. Serve immediately from a warm platter, or directly into diners’ dishes.

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