Archive | November, 2010

Pork Free Post: Thanksgiving…..and the Leftovers

30 Nov

This year we hosted Thanksgiving, cooking a feast for my parents and a few friends. It was my first year cooking for Thanksgiving  since being gluten-free, which was kind of frightening at first. I knew I had to have stuffing, but would I be able to make one that “normal” people could eat….and enjoy? And what about the gravy? Yes, you can use cornstarch, but making a roux for the gravy base with butter and flour is just so much better. I was perplexed, but knew I’d make it work somehow.

I managed to figure out recipes that would work for everyone, and they all turned out great. The turkey was from Deistel farms in Sonoma County. I used this recipe from Epicurious, and it turned out fabulous. Brining is the way to go – once you brine, you’ll never go back. Rather than melting the butter and brushing it over the turkey, I opted to rub it under the skin. More flavor and more juice. The gravy could have been eaten as a soup it was so good. Definitely a super success there, even with the roux made with gluten-free flour. The stuffing was a simple herb and onion stuffing with pecans and cranberries added, and of course, I used Rudi’s gluten-free multigrain bread. It was great – definitely did not taste “special needs” at all. For the mashed potatoes I took a cue from my shepherd’s pie recipe, and made an herb infused milk that was added along with cream and butter. It just gave it something extra and was oh so delicious. The veggie sides were nothing fancy, but were good. Christian really wanted steamed peas and onions (which was great b/c it gave me one non-labor intensive thing to make), and we also had some roasted carrots with a pecan gremolata. The cranberry sauce was made fresh and flavored with cloves and orange (through orange juice and zest). The dessert was an apple crisp with a homemade egg-free Maple Spice Ice Cream. Yum. We ate and enjoyed.

So now that the main meal is over, I’m tasked with figuring out inventive things to make with the leftovers. We had to order a larger size turkey than we needed, so we ended up with a lot more turkey leftover than I had anticipated. We’ve done the turkey sandwiches, the typical turkey dinner plate with the mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy, and I’ve made a rich, velvety turkey stock with the carcass. Now it is on to something more. There was enough turkey to make 3 meals for me and Christian, and each one was pretty different. Sort of an around the world with turkey thing. I spent Saturday after the holiday cooking and inventing, which was a great way to spend yet another early winter snowy day.

I like the first and third recipe best because of their versatility. Both dishes could use chicken, or even pork,  making them good recipes for other times of the year.

Recipe #1: Spicy Turkey and Bean Soup

This was developed using things I had on hand. The soup is very simple, with nice heat and flavor. A really good soup to have stored away in the freezer for an easy weeknight meal (although I did not do this). I think it would be great with cornbread if you’ve got some leftover or want to make some. Definitely received a thumbs up from the husband, despite his original pre-eating, disappointed sounding comment of “aaawwww, turkey and bean soup?”. Yes, turkey and bean soup and it will be good.

Spicy Turkey and Bean Soup

  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp jarred or canned jalepenos, chopped finely
  • 3 cups homemade turkey stock, plus 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 cups shredded turkey
  • 1 can cannellini beans

Heat some olive oil to a dutch over or heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and celery and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the jalepenos and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cumin, and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the rosemary, thyme, turkey stock and water. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and add the turkey and beans. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. When done, remove the thyme sprigs and serve.

Recipe #2: Turkey and Stuffing Cakes w/ Cranberry Mayonnaise

I wasn’t sure what to do with the minimal stuffing that we had left – there wasn’t enough for both us to share. I knew I’d want some, and I knew Christian would want some, so being the good wife that I am, I figured out how we both could savor the last few bites. This recipe is basically a Thanksgiving crab cake, sans the crab of course. I drizzled some left over gravy on the plate and placed the cakes over that, then topped with the cranberry mayonnaise. Also, the pecans are in there because I had some left. If you don’t have them, it won’t make or break the recipe. Christian loved these.

Turkey and Stuffing Cakes with Cranberry Mayonnaise

  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups leftover turkey
  • 1 cup leftover stuffing
  • 1/4 cup cranberry sauce, plus another 2 to 3 tbsp
  • 1/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • handful of chopped mixed herbs (I used thyme, rosemary and parsley)
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise, divided
  • 2 to 3 tbsp cranberry sauce
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • chopped parsley, for garnish

Add the turkey to a food processor and pulse until well chopped. Add the herbs and mix. Crumble the stuffing until coarse and add to the turkey-herb mixture. Add the 1/4 cup cranberry sauce, pecans, eggs and 2 tbsp mayonnaise and combine well. Form into patties and place on a wax paper lined baking sheet. Refrigerate these for at least one hour and up to one day.

Meanwhile, puree 2 to 3 tbsp cranberry sauce in a food processor. Mix with the remaining 2 tbsp mayonnaise and 1 tsp fresh rosemary.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add cakes, 2 or 3 at a time, and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn over and cook until browned. Serve with aioli and/or leftover gravy on the side.

Recipe #3: Turkey Curry

This isn’t a super traditional curry, but it is very tasty. I got the recipe from Epicurious and tweaked it a bit. We didn’t have any apples, mango chutney (I think Christian is mangoed out for now anyway) or cilantro, but I don’t think it mattered much. Everything else I actually had on hand, which is random – whipping cream and apple cider are not staples in our house. Plus I rarely have any tomato paste open since I never use it in time, but thanks to the soup I made, I have actually have two recipes that require it. I still won’t use it all in time, but at least I’ll use more than I normally do and won’t feel as wasteful.

For the hot pepper powder, I used some spice our friend John gave us from Africa that is crazy hot, but you can use cayenne or any other hot spice. I did this because our curry powder isn’t a good, hot curry – if yours is, then you may not have to worry about adding extra heat. I also added a lot more curry powder (used the amount for the full recipe that serves 6). As it was cooking, it was just bland to me. Adding the additional curry powder definitely helped keep it interesting.

Turkey Curry with Saffron Rice

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cups onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped and peeled
  • 1 garlic cove, mined
  • 1 1/2 tbsp flour (gluten free or regular)
  • 2 1/3 tbsp curry powder
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • pinch of hot red pepper powder
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or turkey stock/broth
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cups cooked turkey, coarsely chopped
  • jasmine or basmati rice
  • saffron threads

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, ginger and garlic; saute until onion is soft, about 10 minutes. Add the flour, curry powder, cumin and hot pepper; saute 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in broth. Add the cider, cream and tomato paste. Redce heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture thickens, about 20 minutes. Add the turkey and stir until heated, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook rice with water and saffron threads.

Spoon curry over rice. Top with shredded unsweetened coconut, if desired.


Day Eleven: Black Bean and Pork Tacos with Mango Mint Sauce

27 Nov

Yes, there was pork left over from the Coconut Braised Pork – this was my intention all along (a rarity, really). I guess in addition to this general pork challenge, I thought it would be fun to use most of the same ingredients for an entirely different recipe. Makes meal planning and shopping a whole lot easier, that’s for sure. I decided on some tacos, because they are easy on a weeknight. It is my Caribbean take on carnitas –  shredded pork shoulder, black bean mash and cabbage, finished with a minted mango sauce.

Christian wasn’t particularly fond of these, mainly because he doesn’t really care for mango (he didn’t even realize there was mango in the previous post though). Basically, he would have liked them a lot more if there was no mango sauce, just the pork, beans, cabbage and some hot sauce or salsa. I, on the other hand, love mango and thought these were pretty good. Cheese, like feta or queso fresco, would have been a welcome addition but I didn’t have any.

Black Bean and Pork Tacos with Mango Mint Sauce

  • 1/2 can black beans
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • leftover pork, shredded
  • 1 mango, chopped
  • 1/4 c mint, chopped
  • shredded green cabbage, about 1/4 of a head
  • pinch of hot, dried red chili powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 6 corn tortillas
  • oil

Mix the black beans with the onion, salt and pepper, and mash. Set aside.

In a food processor, add the mint, mango and hot pepper. Mix until a puree is formed, adding water if necessary to thin. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large cast iron skillet, heat a few tablespoons of oil. Add two tortillas, resting 1/2 of each tortilla on the side of the skillet so only 1/2 is in the oil. Add some of the bean mixture to each tortilla, then add shredded pork. Cook until browned and crisp, fold, and flip to brown the other side. When done, transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

When all tacos are cooked, carefully open and add the cabbage and mango mint sauce (and cheese, if using).

Day Ten: Coconut Braised Pork Shoulder

22 Nov

We’ve made it to double digits. This is very exciting – progress is being made. Whether or not this is a good thing, I feel like I’ve made way more pork shoulder dishes than 10. But, its all good – I’m still enjoying it and have lots more fun stuff to make. My nerdy spreadsheet of pork ideas is growing longer each day.

I seem to be syncing up my braised dishes quite perfectly with our early winter storms. Not knowing that we’d be getting nearly 3 or more feet of snow and temperatures in the teens this weekend, I had planned to make some tropical inspired dishes. Perhaps subconsciously I knew we could be snowed in and wanted to take a culinary vacation or something, pretending I was on some warm tropical island with a rum cocktail in hand.  But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say no, probably just a coincidence.

Anyhow, this blustery, freezing,  snowy Saturday I made some Coconut Braised Pork Shoulder. It transpired after I went “shopping” in my parent’s pantry during my visit down this past weekend. Not sure why, but I love to raid their cabinets. Maybe it is because they buy everything in bulk, which I think is totally unnecessary. Do you really need 15 cans of beans? 8 bags of pasta? I doubt it. Understand that periodically I clean out their pantry and find things as old as time in there, which is always a fun event for me and my Dad (Mom doesn’t find it quite as fun).  As such, I guess it is just my natural reaction, knowing that these various canned/packaged products could be sitting around for a while.  So I decided to help myself to some coconut milk and black beans, among other things. Given that my Mom had just told me that my Dad “isn’t supposed to have coconut”, I figured they wouldn’t miss it. Plus, they had a few other cans of black beans.

I can’t take full credit for this recipe myself. I’m sure just like many others out there, with my stolen goods in hand, I was inspired by Mark Bittman’s February article in the New York Times for Coconut Braised Beef. I find that many (but not all) beef recipes that involve slow cooking translate to pork quite well. After all, pork technically is really red meat, despite the National Pork Board’s “other white meat” slogan (and no offense to the Pork Board). I used the base recipe – chilies, coconut milk and lime – and added some more ingredients to it.  To complete the meal, I served it over a mixture of black beans and rice. The result is a Southeast Asian-meets-Caribbean inspired dish, perfect for forgetting about how cold it is outside.  And it goes rather nicely with a rum and tonic.

My only complaint here was that it wasn’t quite hot enough – I definitely should have added more serranos. Maybe even added them as a garnish at the end. Oh, and it was supposed to have cilantro on top as garnish, which would have been fantastic, but Christian accidentally bought me Italian Parsley instead. Oh well. But don’t get me wrong, it was good as is (Christian gave it 3 and 3/4 stars out of 4).

Just a note – I cooked the entire shoulder for this recipe, with the intent of using some leftovers for another dinner this week.

Coconut Braised Pork with Mango

  • 2 1/2 lb pork shoulder, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 can coconut milk, plus 1/2 cup water
  • 2 to 3 serrano chilies (if you like to really notice the heat, I’d add 3 or more)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, chopped
  • Juice and zest of 1 lime
  • 1 mango, diced
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1/2 can black beans, rinsed
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • cilantro, for garnish

Add the garlic, lemongrass, lime juice, lime zest and serrano chilies to a food processor, and combine until minced and the mixture resembles a paste.

In a large pan, heat some oil and brown the pork chunks in batches. Add to the crock pot as they are finished. Add the coconut milk, water and herb paste to the pan and cook, stirring and scraping up the pork bits. Pour sauce into the crock pot. Set to low and cook for 7 to 8 hours.

When pork is done, remove the meat from the sauce and keep warm. Strain the sauce and skim off any fat. Pour sauce into a shallow pan. Puree about 3/4 of the diced mango and reserve the remaining. Add the mango puree to the sauce and cook, over medium high heat, until thickened, stirring occasionally; about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook some white rice and, when done, add 1/2 can black beans and juice of one lime.

To serve, place some of the rice and beans on a plate. Sprinkle the remaining diced mango on top. Add the pork and drizzle the sauce over the dish.  Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Day Nine: Milk Braised Pork

8 Nov

Yesterday was nasty. Normally, I’d be happy about falling back and gaining an extra hour, but when it happens on a freezing, snowy day where you are stuck inside, it isn’t that great. It was the longest day ever – it just wouldn’t end. It was a good thing that I planned on making a super comforting dish that would take nearly all afternoon to cook. I had nothing else to do.

Sunday dinner was pork shoulder braised in milk and tomatoes. I used this recipe I found on Epicurious and tweaked it a bit. Mainly, I reduced the amount of liquid because it just seemed like way too much (which it still was even with the reduction) and added some fresh herbs towards the end. When I tasted it mid-cooking, it seemed to be lacking some flavor, hence the addition of the herbs. I also served it over broiled polenta squares instead of the semolina gnocchi associated with the recipe. This was mostly because of the flour thing, but also because their gnocchi recipe seems pretty much like polenta to me.

I really think the alterations were worth it – Christian gave it 4 stars (out of 4) after the first bite. His comment was “Now THIS is the kind of food I like. It has a good, rich sauce”. He’s right, the sauce is rich, but not too rich. It was so good that I occasionally caught Christian eating the extra sauce I brought to the table as if it were soup (I would have too if I hadn’t done the same while I was cooking – thought I’d share the wealth). As a whole, the sauce didn’t overpower the super tender pork, and the firm polenta gave the dish another texture, and sort of acted like a canvas for the other flavors to stand out. Having a fork full of the three components was just plain tasty, and delivered that perfect comfort food feeling we needed.

The consensus was that this was the best dish to date (the shepherd’s pie is a very close second). Now, only 91 more opportunities to make something even better.

The only downside to the dish? It isn’t the prettiest, in my opinion, but I cook to eat the food, not to look at it. It was sort of a light pink sauce, like when you make tomato soup and use milk instead of water, and had the small pieces of onion, carrot and celery. None of the pictures turned out very well, which can largely be attributed to my lack of plating and photographic skills. At one point during dinner, I finally thought maybe a picture would turn out, but the camera acted up and wouldn’t shoot. As a result, no pictures. Sorry.

You’ll have to start the dish the night before, since you “marinate” the pork overnight. I would imagine, however, that you wouldn’t really need that much time to get the flavors right, given what the rub is. The original recipe also says to let the cooked braise sit overnight and reheat the following day. While I’m sure the flavors would develop more, it was fantastic when we ate it right away.

Milk Braised Pork

(adapted from Epicurious)

  • 1 lb pork shoulder, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 of a stick)
  • 1/4 cup flour (I used Pamela’s GF Bread mix flour blend)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 carrot, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 4 slices of pancetta, chopped
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 14-oz can whole tomatoes, pureed with juice
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary and sage
  • 1/2 cup polenta
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper

Mix the pork with the salt and cinnamon. Put in refrigerator and let stand overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium and whisk in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes, until thickened.  Set aside.

Add the carrots, celery and onion to a food processor and process until finely chopped. Cook the pancetta in a dutch oven until browned, over medium heat, about 6 minutes. Add the vegetables and cook until beginning to brown, another 6 minutes. Transfer pancetta and vegetables to a bowl and set aside. Add the pork to the pot and brown, about 7 minutes. Add the wine, scraping up the browned bits. Return the vegetables to the pot and add the milk, stirring; bring to a simmer. Add the tomato puree, then whisk in the roux. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, whisking occasionally.

Cover the pot and place in the oven. After about 1 hour, stir in the fresh herbs. Braise for another hour, until the pork is fork tender.

While the pork is cooking, boil the water in a saucepan. Add the polenta, whisking constantly until it begins to thicken. Cook the polenta, stirring constantly, until it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Add the shredded cheese. Brush a baking pan with olive oil and pour in the polenta. Let cool. When the polenta is set, turn it out onto a cutting board and slice into squares, then triangles. Brush both sides with olive oil and place on a baking sheet.

Take the pork out of the oven and skim off any fat that has accumulated on top. Cover and let sit. Meanwhile, broil the polenta squares. When one side has brown, flip over and cook until browned and crispy.

Place 2 polenta triangles on each plate, and top with the pork and sauce.

Day Eight: Cubanish Grilled Cheese

8 Nov

Rudi’s Organic makes quite possibly the best bread you can find in a grocery store, in our opinion.  Hearty, but fluffy, and just tastes darn good. Kinda pricey for bread, but worth it. So, needless to say, I became very sad when I learned I can’t eat real bread like Rudi’s. I tried really hard to like gluten-free bread, but if anyone has ever picked up a loaf of the stuff, the sheer weight alone is reason enough not to buy it. Sure, there are some decent ones that I can eat as long as it is toasted and the flavor is overpowered by lots of good fillings, but the texture is what always gets me.

That was until I was browsing the frozen section of Whole Foods and saw the greatest thing ever – Rudi’s Organic Gluten-Free bread. And it was on sale. I nearly screamed. Even without reviews, I knew this stuff would just be good. When I got home with my new treasure, I toasted some up and it was just as good as I remember the real stuff being. Perfect texture and taste.

Now that I’ve made this discovery, I am relearning the basics of using bread. Egg, bacon and cheese breakfast sandwiches, toast with butter, grilled cheese and bread crumbs are all back in my life. Grilled cheese is the one thing I think I’ve missed the most, and I get so jealous every time I’ve seen Christian make them.  But no longer.

So now I’m getting creative with grilled cheese, which led to Saturday night’s dinner, something I called a Cubanish Grilled Cheese. It takes the idea of a Cuban sandwich and throws it into a more grilled cheese format. It was delicious – cheesy goodness mixed with flavorful shredded pork, mustard and pickles. It probably would have been even better with a good crusty roll, like those used for a real Cuban sandwich, but I’ll take what I can get…..and so will Christian.

The amount of pork I cooked was way more than you need for the sandwich, leaving some good leftovers (we just ate it cold the next day, but it would have been really good in a quesadilla or for tacos).

Cubanish Grilled Cheese Sandwich

  • Pork Shoulder (I used about 3/4 lb, which yielded enough for leftovers)
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1/2 onion, sliced into wedges
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 4 slices swiss cheese
  • Sliced dill pickles
  • Mustard (I used dijon, but anything would be good)
  • 4 slices of bread
  • Butter

Put the whole shoulder piece into a crockpot with the orange juice, lime juice, onion and garlic. Cook on low for about 8 hours, or on high for about 5 hours, until the pork is tender and shreds. Shred the pork and mix with the onions and the pan juices.

Butter one side of each slice of bread. Turn over, and on one slice for each sandwich, spread on some mustard; cover with one slice of swiss cheese. Pile on some pork, then pickles, then another slice of swiss chesse, and top with the second slice of bread. (You can put mustard on the 2nd slice of bread if you want).

Melt butter on a cast iron skillet or griddle over medium heat. Add the sandwiches and cook until browned and toasted. Turn over and cook the other side.

Day Seven: Pork Souvlaki

5 Nov

I have really wanted some souvlaki lately. I’ve never made it, just eaten it, and it is so good. Searching around for recipes today was a bit annoying because I didn’t want to have to grill, and most souvlaki dishes start with skewered grilled meat. I find that one of the reasons I love pork shoulder so much is the flavor it gets from cooking in its own juices and fat, and grilling would essentially eliminate that, in my opinion. Normally, I’m all over the grill, but not today.

I was very pleased when I came across a simple souvlaki recipe from Food & Wine because it met three criteria I had established today: 1) most importantly, it was not grilled; 2) it uses a cast iron skillet, which I just love to use; and 3) I could make tzatziki with the Greek yogurt we’ve got in the fridge. I didn’t use their tzatziki recipe exactly, although I’m sure it is delicious (I prefer mine with some lemon and a bit more mint).  But the actual pork part is from their recipe, just cut in half for 2 servings, and some alteration to the cooking time. I found the meat needed more cooking time to get a good crust on the outside, and then reducing the heat and covering let it simmer a bit in the juices.

Try to make the sauce ahead of time so that the flavors really develop. The recipe below makes more than you’ll need for the souvlaki – it is really good as a dip with veggies, crackers or chips. Dill is a great substitute for the mint if you either don’t have some or don’t want mint. Also, if you’re not using pitas (like me), it is equally good with the sauce on the side for dipping.


Pork Souvlaki with Tzatziki

(adapted from Food & Wine)

  • 3/4 lb pork shoulder, cut into 3″ by 1/2″ strips
  • 1/2 onion, cut into wedges through the root end
  • 1/8 cup plus 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 garlic clove, mashed into a paste
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cucumber, seeded and sliced
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • warmed pitas, for serving

Place a sieve or colander over a bowl. Put the cucumber slices in the colander and sprinkle liberally with salt. Let sit for about 20 minutes.

Remove the cucumber from the sieve and squeeze to get more water out. Mix with the mint, garlic and lemon juice in a food processor. Process until chopped up pretty good.  Transfer to a bowl and stir in yogurt. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to use.

Toss the pork with the onion, olive oil, lemon juice, oregano and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and let sit for at least 20 minutes.

Heat a cast iron pan until very hot. Add the pork and onion, along with the marinade. Cook on high, two or three times, until charred about – about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cover; cook for about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate and serve with tzatziki and pitas (if using).


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