Archive | October, 2010

Day Six: Chili Verde with White Beans

26 Oct

With the rainy/snowy and gray weather we’ve been having, I’m craving more and more comfort foods. One of my all time favorite comforting pork dishes is chili verde – there is just something so great to me about the mix of tart tomatillos, roasted green chilies, and tender pork. I decided that since I’d be using meat that I cooked already, I’d make more of a green chili with pork and white beans, rather than a traditional chili verde.

The chili was perfect for the cold night, with a good amount of heat from the jalapeno and some tang from the tomatillos. Because the meat is shredded, it almost melts into the sauce, ensuring every bite has some pork in it. The flavors aren’t complicated, but just really good.

The recipe below can be adapted to your own tastes. In particular, the jalapeno can be adjusted depending on the heat level you prefer. Also, if using canned tomatillos, they can sometimes come off a bit tart. If that is the case, you can add a little bit of sugar to offset this.

Chili Verde with White Beans (about 3 servings)

  • 1 12-oz can tomatillos, or 1 lb fresh tomatillos
  • 1 large poblano chili
  • 1 tbsp minced jalapeno (I used jarred jalapeno)
  • 2  teaspoons olive oil
  • ½  cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, left whole with skn
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp tbsp dried oregano (or 1 tbsp fresh)
  • 1 ½  cups chicken stock
  • 1  can (15.5 ounces) white beans, with liquid
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • 2 cups cooked, shredded pork shoulder
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • crumbled feta cheese or cotija cheese
  • juice of lime

Preheat oven with broiler. Place drained tomatillos (if using fresh, remove papery wrapping) on baking sheet with garlic cloves (in skin) and roast 5 – 8 minutes, until they begin to char. Remove and place tomatillos in blender. Remove garlic from skin and add to blender when cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, roast poblano chili on a baking pan until blistered and blackened; place in a plastic bag. Let the poblanos cool a bit, then remove seeds and skins. Add to the blender, along with the jalapeno and 1/2 cup cilantro. Blend the chili-tomatillo mixture until smooth.

Heat olive oil in a saute pan. Add onions and cook about 5 minutes, until soft and the edges beginning to brown. Stir in cumin and oregano and cook for about 1 minute. Add the tomatillo mixture and cook for 5 minutes until slightly thickened. Add stock and the beans (plus their liquid). Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes. Add the shredded pork, bring to a simmer, and cook for 10 more minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish with cheese and the remaining cilantro, and squeeze some lime on top.


Day Five: Pork Spring Rolls

25 Oct

After the heavy truffle dinner and lots of celebrating for the Giants win this weekend, something light sounded real good to me. Of course, it was going to involve pork shoulder – who says pork shoulder can’t be associated with something light?! I opted for spring rolls, filled with fresh ingredients to counterbalance the pork, which I had planned to crockpot for this dinner and another for tomorrow.

There’s no recipe with today’s post. Spring rolls are so easy, which is why I love them. Yes, rolling them can be sort of challenging the first time, but once you get the hang of it, it is simple. All you do is soften the rice paper wrappers (I do this one by one) in hot water for a few minutes and then transfer them to a board, fill them, and roll them up like a burrito.

My rolls were a sort of mix between Vietnamese and Thai, with clean and simple flavors. I filled the wrappers with the shredded pork, fresh basil, fresh mint, cilantro, green onions, carrots and shredded green cabbage. I whipped up a dipping sauce made from peanut butter, soy sauce (wheat free), chili garlic sauce, a dash of rice wine vinegar, a little fish sauce, fresh lime juice, minced fresh ginger and some sugar. I don’t know the quantities since I usually just figure my sauces out as I go.

One of my favorite things about spring rolls is that they are not a laborious or complicated thing to prepare. The slow cooked pork in a crockpot makes it so easy because you can do all your prep well ahead of time while that is cooking. Then when you are actually ready to eat, all you have to do is assemble them. The do ahead prep plus the relatively minimal cooking associated with them makes for very easy clean up.

They are also versatile – good for dinner with a big salad, good for a light first course, and really good as a party appetizer. The latter situation is emphasized by the fact that they can be made well in advance (I’d say about 6 to 8 hours) – just put them on a tray or baking sheet, cover them with some damp paper towels so they don’t dry out, and keep them in the refrigerator.

Pork Free Post: Truffle Extravaganza

24 Oct

Last week was my birthday, a rather ordinary one considering I was turning a boring 31 years old. But that is okay – it was a wonderfully relaxing evening with a fabulous meal cooked by my husband. I couldn’t have asked for a better celebration. However, there was some underlying excitement in the air, due to a cryptic email I received the week prior, which I would learn more about a few days later.

Somehow, in addition to a great husband and family, I’ve also been lucky enough to be surrounded by great friends. Two of these friends gave me a great surprise last Wednesday – they would purchase some fresh, white truffles from Italy. The caveat? I’d have to come over and cook at least one dish for them (they’d also be cooking) and then I’d have to enjoy myself the rest of the evening. Hard decision, right?! I don’t think so.

The hard decision was figuring out what to make, since I have never touched a truffle in it’s pure, unaltered state. It seemed simple enough – just shave the stuff over some food. But I know it is more complicated than that. After a few hours of fiddling around with cookbooks and websites, I decided on two dishes: Warm Sweet Onion Flan with Fonduta, Roasted Shiitake Mushrooms and Shaved White Truffles, and Roasted Asparagus with a Warm Truffled Walnut Vinaigrette.  The latter I’ve made (sans truffles) and was pretty sure it would work; the former was moving into uncharted waters. I was overwhelmed by the different approaches. Eggs or no eggs in the fonduta? How many eggs in the flan? Milk or cream in the fonduta? Milk or cream in the flan? I’ve made sweet flans, but for some reason this whole savory aspect was a bit more involved. Finally, I had to stop obsessing and just come up with something. But the pressure (all, obviously, generated by me) was on – there was no way I was going to mess up my chance with fresh truffles. Nope, not happening.

It helped that I was not the only one that was cooking. Lynn, although a truffle virgin herself, is a great cook and would be making a few things as well. She let me know she’d be making a Watercress and Endive Salad with Truffle-Marinated Avocado and, for the main course, a Crispy Duck Breast with Smashed Potatoes and a Truffle Emulsion. John’s contribution would be perfectly paired wine selections, while Christian’s contribution would be taking pictures.

And so the truffle extravaganza adventure began.

The evening was a blast. While we both agree there could be improvements to our dishes, in the end it was a delicious calorie-counter’s nightmare. The flan was surprisingly light in texture, silky and rich. The duck was juicy, the truffled potatoes were full of flavor, and the truffle emulsion was both creamy and tangy. The smell of fresh truffles was everywhere, and was heightened when shaved onto the hot fonduta or the steaming potatoes. Each course featured the truffles in a different way, and each course wouldn’t have been the same without them.

And there was the wine. John pulled out 3 different bottles of Barolo – two 1997 vintages and a 1993 vintage. Each one was fantastic, but the 1993 was definitely the stand out – it was smooth and full of flavor. The wines really paired well with each of the dishes.

At the end of the night we were completely stuffed. We all just sat around the table rubbing our bellies, not wanting to move. It was a memorable evening with friends and food. I think John’s comment after dinner deserves to be remembered, for a number of reasons:

“We came full circle tonight. The pigs brought this from the earth and we as pigs will return it to the earth”

A day later, it makes me laugh, even though it is rather true.

Day Four: Pork and Apple Shepherd’s Pie

21 Oct

Yesterday was a personal trifecta – the Yankees beat the Rangers to keep that series alive (sorry Uncle Jim), my dinner turned out great, and most importantly, the Giants kicked the Phillies butts. It was a good day.

Okay, back to dinner. This dish was outstanding. According to my husband, it needs to be a house staple, like (and I quote) dijon mustard, Hellman’s mayo, bread and butter pickles and peanut butter and jelly. Well okay then, I guess it was a success.

I have a recipe for a Normandy-style chicken, which is baked with Calvados, cream and apples, then topped with a parsnip-potato mash. It is a really tasty dish that I thought would translate to pork well, with some modifications. And so the Pork and Apple Shepherd’s Pie was made.

The milk with the infused herbs and spices really makes the mashed potatoes stand out and complements the filling wonderfully, while the pork itself is super tender and just melts with the apple. The dish isn’t super heavy, but has a creaminess to it that I loved. The flavors all combine together perfectly to make one tasty meal.

I kept the skin on both the potatoes and the apples – to me, there is no point in taking the time to peel them. It makes it a bit more rustic feeling, and you can keep some of the good healthy stuff in the peel/skin. But if you prefer, you can definitely peel them. Also, if you don’t have Calvados, you can substitute apple jack or any other regular, non-apple brandy here.

I used a chardonnay that was not overly oakey and paired nicely with the meal. We served a simple green salad on the side, with ricotta salata crumbles and a homemade dressing of apple cider vinegar, olive oil, and homemade mustard with thyme. This is a super comforting fall or winter dinner, and could easily be doubled or tripled to serve more people.


Pork and Apple Shepherd’s Pie (serves about 2-3 people)

  • 1/2 cup onions, chopped
  • 3 slices pancetta, cut into pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 pork shoulder, cut into 1″ pieces, excess fat removed
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary,chopped
  • 1/8 c white wine
  • 1/4 c Calvados
  • 1/2 c stock (I used beef stock, but chicken would work fine too)
  • 1/2 c  Granny Smith apples, cored and diced
  • 1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tbsp flour (or gluten-free flour mix)

In a dutch oven, saute the onion, pancetta and garlic in 1 tbsp butter for 5 to 7 min. Remove from pan and reserve.

Season pork with salt and pepper. Brown in dutch oven for 8 to 10 min, till lightly browned. Add herbs, wine, Calvados, stock and onion/garlic/pancetta mix. Bring to boil. Immediately turn to simmer and cover pan. Simmer about 1.5 hours, until pork is tender.

Meanwhile, cook potatoes until tender. Place milk, thyme sprigs, bay leaf and nutmeg in sauce pan. Bring to boil and immediately turn off heat and cover. Let sit at least30 min. Drain potatoes and return to pan. Add milk (minus thyme and bay leaf) and 2 tbsp butter; mash with a potato masher until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

When the pork is done, remove pork and other solids from dutch oven and put in a bowl; with two forks, break the meat up into smaller bits. Pour the cooking liquid into another bowl and set aside. Mix 1/2 tbsp butter and 1/2 tbsp flour mix; add to dutch oven and cook for about 3 min over medium heat, until the butter is foaming. Add apples and cooking liquid; bring to a boil and cook for 5 min, until it begins to thicken and reduce. Return pork mixture to the pan and cook an additional 5 – 7 min, until thickened more.

Pour pork mixture into a casserole/baking dish. Top with mashed potatoes and bake for 20 min, until liquid is bubbling at edges. Place a baking pan on a rack under the casserole dish to catch any spill over. Turn to broil for 5 min to brown top of potatoes. Let stand 10 min before serving.



Day Three: Wonton (Sort of) Soup

12 Oct

Wonton soup is one of my favorite Chinese dishes. It is comforting and full of flavor. Now that I can’t eat wontons, I never get it (well, that combined with the fact that there are no good Chinese restaurants in Tahoe). And in general, I’m horrible at cooking most Asian cuisine. But, since I’m experimenting here, I decided to go for it. I essentially made wontons without the wrappers, so they are gluten-free. They are basically little meatballs – sort of an Asian version of  Sopa de Albondigas. The end result was great, flavorful and light.

I opted to cook the meatballs separately for three main reasons: 1) there is the chance that they could fall apart in boiling water, and I didn’t want there to be chunks in the soup,  2) when you cook them, the cooking liquid becomes very murky which would not make for a pretty soup, and 3) some of the fat cooks out and therefore it won’t be in the soup itself. A note – you could make these as regular wontons. Just buy the wonton skins, fill with meat filling, and cook the same way as the meatballs. You could also add more vegetables, like bamboo shoots or mushrooms.

Wonton Soup

  • 1/2 lb pork shoulder
  • 1/4 c cabbage leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce (regular or wheat free)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp finely minced ginger
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 2 c rich chicken stock
  • 2 c water
  • 1 carrot, sliced diagonally
  • 1/4 of a green cabbage, sliced

Cut the pork into small pieces, and remove any excess fat. Place in a food processor or meat grinder. In a bowl, combine the pork, diced cabbage, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp soy sauce, egg yolk, garlic and ginger. Season with salt and pepper. Form into 10 meatballs (if using wonton skins, you’ll end up with about double since you will use less filling in each).

Fill a pot with water and some ginger slices (if desired). Add meatballs, about 4 at a time, and cook for roughly 8 minutes. Remove and repeat with remaining meat.

Meanwhile, combine the chicken stock, water, rice vinegar and remaining soy sauce and sesame oil in a heavy pot; bring to a simmer. If desired, add additional chopped ginger. Add the carrots and sliced cabbage and cook until carrots are crisp-tender. When all meatballs have cooked, add to the pot with vegetables and broth. Simmer until meatballs are heated through. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Day Two: Coca-Cola Braised Pork

12 Oct

I’m not sure why, but for some reason I had a craving for a sweet and sticky braised pork, and since I never drink soda, Coca-Cola was somehow going to be thrown in the mix. This ended up being a very complicated dish.

The pork itself was amazing – extremely tender and full of flavor, thanks to the soda’s ability to break down the meat. The ancho chili adds a very subtle smokey flavor, and the tomatoes in the braising liquid cut the sweetness a bit (could have probably added more tomatoes).  The problem was how to serve it and what to serve it with.

I put it over a simple white bean puree, a la Luella in San Francisco, but that wasn’t right. The pork itself is so rich that the buttery bean puree just added to the heaviness. It needed a good acid or even bitter component to cut it. My husband started eating it with his arugula salad, so it made us think that maybe lightly wilted arugula or other braised greens would do. Another thought is that a small helping of mashed potatoes mixed with something like celery root might also do the trick, with the pork and a bit of sauce on top. I also think it would be amazing, without the reduction sauce, for carnitas with pickled radishes and onions.

Anyway, the overall thought was the pork was great, but rounding out the dish and finding the right side/vegetable will take a bit more thought.

Coca-Cola Braised Pork

  • 1  c Coca-Cola
  • 2 c chicken stock
  • 1/2 c diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 3/4 tbsp ancho chili powder
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb pork shoulder, cut into 1 inch chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toss the pork pieces with the ancho chili powder. In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil over high heat. When very hot, add some of the pork and sear for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove to a bowl and repeat with the remaining pork.

Add the soda to the pan and boil, scraping up any small bits. Reduce by 1/4, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and boil. Reduce for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and pork, and simmer. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Braise until tender, for about 1 1/2 hours.

When done, remove the meat and cover with foil. Skim off as much fat as possible from pan juices. Reduce the liquid for about 5 to 10 minutes, until it is the consistency of a thin syrup. Return the pork to the pan with any juices that accumulated. To serve, place pork over greens, potatoes, or alone on the plate and drizzle with sauce. If you want, add crisped tortilla strips on top.


Day One: Pork Burgers with Apple-Onion Chutney

8 Oct

Instead of kicking things off with the standard slow cooked, pulled-style pork, I opted for something different. Burgers. For the past two summers I’ve been trying to perfect the burger, after reading a New York Times article on the subject. The most important thing I took away was the fat to meat ratio – the more fat, the better. Since the shoulder has so much fat, it fits the bill. I ended up making pork burgers with an apple-onion chutney, incorporating flavors typical of a fall season pork dish. While there are things that could be improved on (like, oh, maybe adding a compound butter to the center like I do with beef burgers), they turned out really well – juicy and tasty.

The recipe is below. I don’t have a specific quantity for the meat, since I just sort of chopped off a big chunk from a larger shoulder. I’d say that I probably used about 3/4 lb, which yielded 3 burgers. I also ground the pork at home in the food processor – I cubed the shoulder into about 1 to 1 1/2 inch chunks, and cut off as much of the fat as I could. I processed the fat and meat separately since it takes a bit more work to break down fat, and then combined the two.

Pork Shoulder Burgers with Apple-Onion Chutney

  • 1 apple
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • pork shoulder, ground
  • jack cheese, sliced or grated
  • arugula
  • hamburger buns (or whatever bread/roll you like)

Combine the first nine ingredients (apple through balsamic) in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 45 min to an hour, until it is thick and the liquid is reduced.

Mix the dijon mustard with the ground pork, and form into patties. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a cast iron skillet (or grill) until very hot, over high heat. You want the pan very very hot to get a good crust. Cook the patties about 5 to 6 minutes per side (or more depending on thickness). Only turn once.  When the burgers are almost done, add the cheese and let melt.

Place some arugula on the bottom bun and top with the burger. Spoon the chutney over the burger.


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