All Posts Tagged ‘pork

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sunday dinner: pork ragu with parmesan semolina gnocchi.

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Oooooooh boy. Guys, I am tired. A full day (and I mean FULL) in the kitchen will do that to you, but I am hear to say that the effort was totally worth it. Any day that starts with purchasing a bone-in pork shoulder from my friendly neighborhood butcher and ends with a flavor-packed bowl of pork ragu topped with pillowy light gnocchi laced with parmesan is a good one. HOO-RAH. Two times.

You too can have this kind of fun if you’re willing to dedicate a full day (or two) to this laborious process. Truth be told I’ve been wanting to try a Sunday sauce for a long time now, but I never had the time or the willpower to take on the task. Enter a rainy Sunday morning when I happened to be awake on the north side of 9am (I like to sleep, no judgement). And I was just inspired. Pair that with finding the perfect recipe to try and I was off to the market, canvas totes in tow.

The quality of ingredients is key here — splurge a bit for some really great quality pork and DO NOT go for boneless pork shoulder because ‘it’s easier’ or ‘bones, ewww, gross’. You’ll lose out on major flavor and that is a no no where ragu is concerned. Grab the veggies (local, organic pretty please) and a good bottle of dry red (I used Cab) and get to cookin’.

I can guarantee you’ll feel mighty accomplished when you sit down to enjoy your labor of love in 8-ish (OK, maybe 10-ish) hours time.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Pork Ragu with Parmesan Semolina Gnocchi
Serves: 6
(inspired by this recipe from The Kitchn)

For the pork ragu:
canola oil
4 lb. bone-in pork shoulder, trimmed of fat
3 slices bacon, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finally chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice (I like San Marzano)
1 cup chicken stock
pinch of red pepper flakes
pinch of sugar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced

For the gnocchi:
4 cups whole milk
1 cup semolina flour
1 cup grated parmesan, divided
3 eggs yolks, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon sea salt

Kitchen equipment: large oven-safe pot or dutch oven, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, baking sheet, wooden spoon or spatula, cutting board, large kitchen knife

OK, I was not lying/exaggerating, this recipe really does take ALL DAY. Like so much of your day that it’s actually better to do this over two days. However you choose to get it done, just know that you will be spending some major time in the kitchen, so cancel the rest of your weekend plans. Okie dokie, we’re good to go now, yes?

Make the gnocchi dough. Were you looking for a little arm workout for your Sunday? Well, you’ve got one. Making this gnocchi dough requires constant stirring for what feels like 4 lifetimes, so you’ll come away with a gorgeous dish and some sweet guns. Bonus points all around.

Grab your sauce pan and heat the milk over medium heat until a ring of bubbles forms around the edges. Using your wooden spoon, gradually stir the semolina flour into the milk and set a timer for 15 minutes. Now, stir. And stir and stir and stir and stir. The mixture will thicken quickly and you will keep stirring. Don’t forget to clear the corners and the sides of the pan every once in awhile to prevent the semolina from burning. Keep stirring constantly until your alarm goes off, then stir for 2-3 minutes longer. The dough should be dense and very thick. Remove from the heat and pour the dough into a large bowl. Mix in 2/3 cup of the parmesan and stir to incorporate. Add the eggs and the salt and stir vigorously to incorporate (and to prevent the eggs from scrambling). Let cool slightly, then place some plastic wrap directly on the surface of the dough. Stick the dough in the refrigerator and cool completely. Alternatively, you can make this the night before and refrigerate overnight to save time on sauce day.

Prep the pork. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place your pork shoulder on a large cutting board and trim off the excess skin and fat. Pat the pork dry and season liberally on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat your large pot over high heat and add a few tablespoons of canola oil. When the oil is hot, add the pork shoulder to the pot and sear on all sides until golden brown. Remove the pork from the pot and set aside.

Build the sauce. Turn the heat down to medium, and add the chopped bacon to the pot you used to cook the pork. Render the bacon for about five minutes, then add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add the garlic and cook another minute or so.

Toss in the tablespoon of tomato paste and stir the mixture constantly to incorporate, about two minutes. Pour in the wine and cider vinegar and turn the heat up a bit. The goal is to reduce the sauce slightly and pick up all those gorgeous brown bits on the bottom. Add the tomatoes and all of their juice and season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Cook the pork. Add the pork shoulder back to the pot, and using your tongs, situate the pork so it’s nearly submerged in the sauce. Add a liberal pinch of red pepper flakes and a big ol’ pinch of sugar plus a bit more salt and pepper. Stir to incorporate.

Bring the pork and sauce to a boil, then cover and transfer to the oven. Cook about three hours, turning the pork once, until the meat is falling off the bone and easily shreddable.

Finish the sauce. Remove the pot from the oven and transfer the pork shoulder from the pot to your cutting board. Shred the pork while still hot using two forks. Add the shredded pork back to the sauce and stir to incorporate. Cover and place in the refrigerator to cool. You don’t want to skip this step, as this allows the flavors to meld and the sauce to thicken.

Cook the gnocchi. When the sauce is completely cooled and you’re ready to eat, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Take the gnocchi dough from the refrigerator and grab your baking sheet. Grease the sheet with a little canola oil and a paper towel, then using a spoon, form tablespoon-sized dumplings and place them on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart.

Sprinkle a little parmesan on each dumpling, then place in the oven on the top rack and cook for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is nicely browned.

Bring it all together. Take the cooled pork ragu out of the refrigerator and reheat over medium-low heat until warm. Ladle the sauce into bowls and top with the gnocchi, a little sprinkle of parmesan and some freshly chopped basil.

Enjoy your work with a nice glass of bold red and a group of loved ones. Or with a bold red and your couch and some trashy reality TV. Also for lunch tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. You get the idea.

This is blow-your-mind good food and well worth the effort. Hearty and rich and filling and everything a good Sunday sauce should be.

Enjoy! xx

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sunday dinner: seared pork chops with peaches & basil.

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Tarzan & Jane. Anthony & Cleopatra. Kermit & Miss Piggy. Simon & Garfunkel. Pork chops & Peaches. Wait. What?

OK, maybe I’m reaching a little by adding pork chops and peaches to a list of history’s great pairings, but hey, I’m a believer (but NOT a Belieber). I’ve always been a big fan of meat and fruit together, but there’s just something about a juicy pork chop topped with equally juicy peaches that just sends me over the edge. A slight departure from the classic pork chop and apple pairing, but well worth the stone fruit upgrade. Simple, clean flavors that come together quickly, because who wants to slave away in the kitchen in the height of summer? With this tasty dish, you’ll be back out on the patio, glass of rosé in hand, in no time.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Seared Pork Chops with Peaches & Basil

For the Brine
3 cups water, divided
3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 bay leaf

For the Pork Chops
2 center-cut, 3/4 to 1 inch thick (boneless or bone-in, you decide)
Olive Oil
Freshly ground sea salt & black pepper

For the Peaches
2 large peaches, cut in quarters and pitted
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 leaves fresh basil, chopped

Kitchen equipment: shallow dish for brining chops, large cast iron or stainless steel pan (must be oven safe), tongs

First things first, brine your pork chops. Now, this is not a mandatory step (and this is definitely where my friend, Jaime, would say, ‘Tina, simple recipes do NOT include a step in which you brine pork chops!’) And she’d be right. But, come on, people. How hard is making a little bath for your meat if the end result is the juiciest, tastiest pork chop you’ve ever had? I say it’s well worth it, but if you can’t be bothered and/or you’re short on time, feel free to skip the brine.

If you’re completely bought into this journey, however, bring one cup water to a boil (I did this in a large mug in the microwave), then add your salt and other seasonings to the hot water. Stir to dissolve the salt, then pour into your shallow dish. Add the additional two cups of water to bring the brine to room temperature.

Add your chops to the brine, ensuring they are fully submerged (if not, you can add a bit more water until they are), then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to four hours.

Next, take your cast iron or stainless steel pan and place it on the center rack of your oven. Preheat the oven and the pan to 400 degrees. This genius little trick of preheating your pan will ensure that you get a nice, golden sear on the outside of your pork chop while still maintaining a nice juicy inside.

While your oven preheats, remove chops from their brine (or their packaging if you were all ‘screw your brine, Tina’) and pat dry with a paper towel. Rub the chops on both sides with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Set aside until the oven comes to temperature.

Once the pan is fully preheated, remove from the oven (very carefully and with oven mitts) and place on the stove over medium-high heat. I would also recommend turning on a fan or opening a window, as your pork chops might smoke a bit when added to the pan.

Now, add your chops to the pan and sear for about 3 minutes, until golden brown. Don’t move them around during this step — the key to a good sear is to let them do their thing without interruption. Once the chops have a nice crust on one side, flip them with your tongs and remove from the heat.

Place your pan back in the oven to finish the cooking, which should take about six to ten minutes depending on the size and thickness of your chops. The internal temperature when done should be between 140 to 145 degrees, so start checking them after about six minutes (and every minute thereafter) until you reach the right temperature.

When fully cooked, remove from the oven and place the chops on a plate tented with foil. Pour any pan juices over the chops — these should NOT go to waste. The chops need to rest for about 5-10 minutes to soak up and retain all those good juices, and that’s the perfect amount of time for you to cook the peaches.

In the same pan you cooked the pork, heat on medium-high on the stove. Place the peaches cut side down and sear until browned, about 30 to 60 seconds. Remove and add to the plate with the pork chops.

Serve the chops with the seared peaches, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a garnish of the chopped basil. I sautéed some green beans with a little garlic and olive oil to go along side, and of course, my trusty summer sidekick, a glass (read: bottle) of crisp rosé.

Enjoy!

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sunday dinner: pork chops with onions & apples and spice roasted squash.

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I woke up this morning to the first truly Fall day. The air was crisp and chilly, the sun was bright, the breezes were a-blowin’ and I had a deep, intimate desire to wear flannel. And so I did.

I also had a deep, intimate desire to cook something Fall-ish. Fall-esque. All Fall, all the time. I wanted to put all that crisp and chilly and bright and breezy and flannel-y on a plate. And so I did.

In my family, there were a few ingredients that started to show up regularly as the leaves began to turn — Apples. Onions. Squash. Spices like thyme and bay leaves. And wouldn’t you know it? They all go beautifully together and they all go beautifully with pork, my very favorite protein.

The following recipe will produce a simple, flavorful, and dare I say, elegant, interpretation of the best of Fall’s offerings. It’s hearty and delicious, and save for some extended stove time for the onions and apples, it’s easy to pull off even for the novice cook.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Pork Chops with Caramelized Onions & Apples

You will need:

1 pork chop per person, about ¾ – 1 inch thick
2 tablespoons butter
2 large red onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 apples (fuji, honey crisp or gala are great), cut into ¼ inch matchsticks
2 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup apple cider (you can also use white wine, beer, or chicken stock)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Spice Roasted Squash

1 acorn or carnival squash, cut into 1-inch thick wedges (this will serve up to 4 people, double the recipe if you are serving a bigger crowd)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Kitchen tools: cast iron skillet or sauté pan, baking sheet, kitchen tongs, kitchen timer

Most of the prep for this dish is remarkably easy and comes together very quickly. The onions and apples will take the most time, so let’s start there.

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After you’ve sliced your onions and apples, heat a skillet or sauté pan on medium heat until hot. Add the butter and stir until melted. Next, add the onions and apples, the thyme, and the bay leaves, and season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with a lid half way and set a timer for 35 minutes. Don’t fully walk away from the stove — you’ll need to stir your onion/apple mixture every few minutes to ensure they don’t burn, but it’s a pretty low maintenance gig.

While your onions and apples are cooking, you can get to prepping your squash.

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Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Slice your squash in half (this will take a good chef’s knife and some muscle, so don’t be shy) and using a sharp-edged spoon, scoop out the seeds and inner flesh. You could save the squash innards and probably find a million recipes on pinterest for ‘delicious roasted squash seeds!’ but ain’t nobody got time for that…says the girl who hand braided the lattice on this pie.

Anyhoo, toss the innards unless you’re going to make Pinterest magic, and slice the squash into wedges that are about 1-inch thick. Throw ‘em in a big bowl and add the olive oil, brown sugar, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Using your trusty kitchen tongs (I could seriously write an ode to mine; they are hands down my favorite kitchen utensil) toss the squash wedges with the oil and spices until thoroughly coated on all sides. If you don’t have tongs, you can use two forks or spoons, but I wouldn’t use your hands given the addition of the cayenne.

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Spread your squash evenly on a baking sheet, and when your oven is ready, cook for 30 minutes, turning once at the halfway point.

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They are done when the squash is golden brown and you can easily pierce them with a fork. Remove from the oven and set aside, covering with a large piece of tin foil to keep warm.

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By now, your onions and apples should have hit the 30 minute mark and should be cooked down by quite a bit. You’ll probably need to cook them an additional 10 minutes until they are further reduced and starting to brown. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaves.

At this point, add the balsamic vinegar and stir to incorporate, making sure to scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring often, until the balsamic is reduced and the onions/apples are a rich purply-brown color. Turn off the stove and remove from the heat; set aside to cool slightly.

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We’re in the home stretch now and all we need to do is cook the pork. Remove your pork chops from the refrigerator and set out on a plate for a few minutes, seasoning generously on both sides with salt and pepper. Wipe out the sauté pan you used to cook the onions and apples and heat a tablespoon of olive oil on high heat until the oil shimmers.

Add the pork and cook for three minutes, then flip and cook an additional three minutes (the easiest way to do this is to set a timer and DON’T TOUCH your pork during this time, it’s the best way to get a good sear). Add the cider to the pan with the pork and a few big spoonfuls of the onion/apple mixture. Cook pork for an additional five minutes, then flip and cook for another two minutes.

Remove pork from the pan to a serving platter and pour the pan sauce over the top. Top with more of the onion/apple mixture, and dish up the squash along side. Serve immediately.

It will be as if Fall exploded in your kitchen. This meal is spicy and tangy and rich and earthy and positively cozy. Enjoy it with your favorite red wine or craft beer and savor what is simply the best of Fall on a plate. You can wear some flannel too, if you’d like. You know I did.

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sunday dinner: pork chile verde with potatoes.

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When I was a kid, I’m pretty sure my father’s list of priorities for raising a daughter were the following:

1. Raise me a in a loving, supportive home filled with laughter.
2. Teach me to value intelligence, self-sufficiency and hard work.
3. Build a deep love of spicy food as early in my life as possible.

Food with flavor and spice was always a mainstay in my house growing up, and spicy food (‘food that’ll make your hair sweat,’ as my father describes it) was on the menu regularly. It didn’t take much for me to love it quickly, further proving I am my father’s daughter, and I maintain a love of it to this very day. It’s like, if food doesn’t smack you across the face with flavor every once in awhile, why even bother?

When I think about some of my favorite spicy dishes, pork chile verde is right at the top of the list. It’s that perfect blend of spicy and sweet and tart; the layers of flavor just bowl me over. Stewing the pork and chilies together for a few hours produces a rich concoction that pairs beautifully with rice or tortillas or both. It’ll leave you a little tingly, as if you’ve received a big ol’ warm, stew-y hug.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Pork Chile Verde with Potatoes

You will need:

3 – 3½ pounds pork butt or shoulder, excess fat removed, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 large poblano peppers
4 serrano peppers
1 pound tomatillos, husks and stems removed
5-6 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano (or ¾ teaspoon Italian oregano)
2 bay leaves
1 stick cinnamon
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2½ – 3 cups chicken stock

3 medium yukon gold potatoes

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Serve with:

avocado salsa (chopped avocados mixed with salt/pepper, lime juice and chopped cilantro)
cooked white rice
warmed flour tortillas

Kitchen utensils: baking sheet, heavy duty aluminum foil, tongs, large heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven

You’ll have to do a bit of prep work before you get to stewin’, so let’s do it. Move one of your oven racks to the top position, turn your oven on to the broiler setting and let it get nice and hot. Take your baking sheet and cover it with one sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil. Lay your chilies out on the baking sheet, spaced evenly so they’re not touching.

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When the oven is hot, put the baking sheet on the top rack and let your peppers cook for five minutes, then using your tongs, turn the chills over and cook for an additional five minutes. The chilies will start to blister and turn black, but they should not char or burn, so make sure you’re watching them closely. Once fully roasted (this should only take about 10-15 minutes total), remove from oven and place in a paper or plastic bag, closing tightly. Leave the chilies in the bag to cool; they will steam in their own heat which will make it easy to remove the skin. When cool, remove the skins and most of the seeds (the more seeds you leave, the spicier it will be), roughly chop the chilies, and set aside.

Next, score your tomatillos (cut an X on the top of each) and place on the same baking sheet as the chilies. Put back in the hot oven and cook for three minutes, then flip using your tongs, and cook another 3-5 minutes until charred. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Once cool, roughly chop and place in a bowl with any leftover juices.

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Next, you need to prep your pork. Grab your pork butt (heh, heh) and a sharp chef’s knife and slice your pork against the grain in about 1-inch thick slices. Trim the excess fat from each slice, then cut each slice into small chunks, about 1-inch square. You want to cut your meat in as uniform pieces as possible, as this will ensure that your meat cooks evenly. Pat your pork pieces with a dry paper towel and season with salt and pepper and set aside.

The last bit of prep work is to chop your onion and garlic, setting aside until you need them.

Now, take your big pot or dutch oven, add a few tablespoons of canola oil, and heat over high heat until the oil shimmers. Working in batches, brown your pork in the pot making sure not to add too much at one time. Don’t crowd your meat, people! This is bad news bears — if you dump the pork in all at once, the water in the meat will steam it, which will get in the way of you achieving a beautiful brown sear that takes flavor up about 78 notches. If you add fewer pieces of meat to the pot at a time, it has room to brown nicely, which you’ll thank me for later. As each batch finishes, use your tongs to transfer to a bowl and set aside. Just a warning, as the pork browns it will splatter, so be careful not to burn yourself. Using longer tongs is a great way to tend to your pork without getting within oil splatter territory.

Once all of the meat is cooked, in the same pot, turn the heat down to medium and add the onions. Cook about five to seven minutes until translucent and fragrant (is there anything better than the smell of onions cooking? I think not.) Next, add the garlic, cumin, oregano, bay leaves and cinnamon stick and stir to incorporate. Add the cider vinegar and deglaze the pot, scraping up all the brown bits on the bottom that are packed with flavor.

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Add the pork back to the pot, then add the chicken stock and the honey. Turn the heat back to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about two hours until pork is tender. Check in on the pot every once in awhile during this time and give it a stir to ensure that it doesn’t burn and that everything cooks evenly.

Chop your potatoes and add them to the stew at the two-hour mark. If the stew is looking a little thick, you can add a bit more chicken stock (about a 1/2 cup). Stir to incorporate, making sure the potatoes are covered by the stew. Cook an additional 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft.

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If you’re serving with rice, now’s a great time to cook it; same goes for prepping the avocado salsa.

Once everything is ready to go, warm some tortillas in damp paper towels in the microwave for 45 seconds. Add rice to each bowl and spoon stew over the top. Add a spoonful of avocado salsa and you’re good to go.

This stew is hearty and flavorful and will pack a good amount of heat. It also gets better with time — the few days after I make this, it usually shows up in many a leftover meal — you can make tacos or burritos, serve it with eggs for breakfast, or serve just as is, maybe with some corn bread. It’s all good, and it’s sure to make your hair sweat in the best possible way.

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