Archive | January, 2011

Day Eighteen: Pork Stew with Olives and Fennel

25 Jan

Tahoe supermarkets leave a lot to be desired. High prices, and not that great of selection of fresh veggies and meats. So despite the 40 minute drive, I’ve been trekking over Mt. Rose highway, sunshine or snow, to go shopping in Reno at my beloved Whole Foods. They just can’t be beat in terms of selection and quality of food…..especially their meat and cheese departments. I can’t help but linger around the cheese section, sampling a little bit of this and that, and of course coming home with a few wedges.

Conveniently, their fabulous olive bar is right next to the cheeses, which I also have to patronize every visit. I think we have yet to try olives we didn’t like from there. In fact, the bright green castelvetrano olives have become a staple treat for Christian. Per usual, I stocked up on some of these olives, adding a container of kalamatas into the mix. From there, I decided I would find a dish that would incorporate pork and olives.

Earlier this week I made an Ina Garten recipe from her new book, How Easy is That?, given to me by my mother-in-law this Christmas. The baked shrimp with feta looked fantastic and I had to make those immediately (and it turned out delicious, of course). Anything with fennel and Pernod is alright by me.

Craving more fennel, I was ecstatic when I came across a recipe for a pork stew with fennel and olives on the Cooking Light website. It just seemed so perfect. While I made some tweaks, it is very close to the original recipe found here. I think the use of shoulder is much better in the stew than the tenderloin called for in the recipe, but obviously I’m biased.

To make the dish insanely easy, I just threw everything in the crockpot without browning or sauteeing, so there was virtually no work involved. Sure, browning the meat and onions would have given it a bit more flavor, but I was tired and not in the mood for cooking – a rarity around here. I actually made this the day before we ate it, which was a good call (thanks Christian) because the flavors definitely developed more sitting around overnight, based on my taste test when the initial cooking was done.

The pork, as usual, was so tender  – perfect texture for the stew. The fennel and olives were nice additions, really finishing it off. Lots of flavors in there that work well together – briny olives, slight licorice of the fennel, and sweetness and acidity from the tomatoes.  I probably would have added more herbs de Provence, but even as is, I thought this turned out great.

I ended up serving this dish with on top of some mashed potatoes and parsnips from our CSA box, and a big green salad with dijon vinaigrette.

Pork Stew with Olives and Fennel

  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb pork shoulder, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp herbs de Provence
  • 1/4 cup kalamata or nicoise olives

Add all ingredients, except the olives, into the crockpot. Cook on low for about 8 hours (or high for about 5 hours), until pork is very tender.  When done, stir in the olives and sprinkle with parsley (if desired).

*** If you don’t want to use a crockpot, brown the meat and onions in a dutch oven with some olive oil; add some white wine and scrape up brown bits, then add the rest of the ingredients. You’ll want to cook it on a low heat for a few hours, maybe 2 or so, until the meat is done. Alternately, you can do a hybrid – brown the meat and onions, then throw it all in the crockpot for 8 hours on low.


Day Seventeen: Vietnamese Noodle Bowl with Grilled Pork

16 Jan

On our way down to the SF Bay Area for Christmas, we stopped in Davis for lunch. Christian was insistent on finding a banh mi sandwich, something he’s never tried but needed to have. So I brought up Yelp on my phone and found a little Vietnamese place in downtown Davis with great reviews for their banh mi. I must also note here that the sandwiches were only $2.50 each, so you could really have quite a banh mi feast there. Apparently they were fantastic.

Since  I can’t eat them, I ended up ordering a gigantic noodle bowl with beef. Really, nothing is better than a bowl of rice noodles combined with super fresh vegetables and herbs, along with tender meat and sweet but sour and spicy nuoc cham sauce. So good. I don’t think that is a dish I will ever get sick of. I love digging into the bowl with my chopsticks, uncovering all the great treats hidden below the noodles.

In honor of the fabulous Vietnamese noodle bowl, and continuing with my light Asian-inspired track, I made up my version of this dish. The pork shoulder was cut into thin strips and then pounded out to tenderize and make the slices even thinner. This way, the pork would get nice and crispy…..and it was. Because it is winter, I opted to broil the pork, but I imagine this would be fabulous grilled in the summer. The flavors were fresh and subtle, but tasted great, and the crispness of the pork was a nice contrast to the soft noodles. The noodle bowl was very easy to put together in a short period of time.

Vietnamese Noodle Bowl with Grilled Pork

  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, sliced
  • 2 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 serrano pepper, sliced thin and divided
  • 1 lb pork shoulder
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 carrot, sliced into strips
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz thin rice noodles
  • 1/2 head green cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium cucumber, sliced into strips
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

Cut the pork into thin strips and pound, using a tenderizer. Place in bowl and add 2 tbsp fish sauce, 2 tbsp sugar, the lemongrass, 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil, 1 garlic clove and 1/2 of the pepper. Marinate for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

To make the sauce, add the lime juice, shredded carrots, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp fish sauce, 1 garlic clove and the remaining pepper to a bowl. Set aside.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan and when hot, fry the shallots. When done, drain on a paper towel and set aside.

Preheat the broiler and place pork strips on a baking pan. Broil, turning the pork twice, until browned and crispy. When done, remove and chop the pork into small pieces.

Meanwhile, cook the rice noodles according to package instructions.

On a plate or bowl, add the cabbage, remaining pepper, carrot and cucumber. Top with the rice noodles and toss with the sauce, then add the pork and herbs.

Day Sixteen: Pork and Shrimp Cabbage Rolls

16 Jan

And we’re back. We had a great holiday season, with Christian thoroughly enjoying a break from pork shoulder challenge. In fact, he enjoyed it so much that I’ve acquiesced and decided that (but not necessarily agreed that) 100 different pork shoulder recipes in 365 days may be difficult to achieve…..or stomach.  So, we’re removing the timeline from the project. Perhaps a little side Christmas gift from me to him. I will still be cooking a few recipes each and every month, just not as many as before. I have to maintain my momentum here – despite this schedule change, I will not allow for failure!

The first recipe of 2011 is a light(er) one. I just ate way too much over the holidays and am still recovering. I had first thought to do a typical Hungarian cabbage roll, but that will have to come later after I’ve built my heavy food tolerance back up. So instead, I opted to kick 2011 off with some pork and shrimp cabbage rolls. Yes, it is similar to the wontons, but this is much better.

The blanched cabbage “wrapper” gave a slight crunch, despite being blanched and steamed. The flavors were a bit too subtle, however, so the amounts of some components (ginger and cilantro, mainly) listed below are basically doubled from what I used. I really think that it would make all the difference. I might also add some chili sauce or chopped fresh serrano peppers next time, to give it something even more. But I will say, they were tasty as-is and I’m happy with the results, for sure. As a whole, I ended up serving this with a bit of the broth and some rice with garlic stir fried bok choy.

I didn’t make the whole batch at once and ended up saving some of the filling, which I browned up another night. Sort of like little Vietnamese burgers. If there is any filling left over, I’d highly recommend doing this – it was a great late night snack.

Pork and Shrimp Cabbage Rolls (serves 4 to 5)

  • 3/4 lb pork shoulder
  • 6 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 10 shiitake mushrooms, minced
  • 4 tbsp shallots, minced
  • 4 tbsp cilantro, minced
  • 2 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 15 large cabbage leaves (green cabbage or napa cabbage)
  • 15 green onions
  • 4 cups chicken broth

Cut the pork into small pieces, removing as much fat as possible. Place the pork in a food processor or meat grinder. When ground, remove and set aside. Cut the shrimp into small pieces and process until ground; add to the pork.  Mix in the ginger, cilantro, garlic, mushrooms and soy sauce.

Carefully remove the cabbage leaves and blanch for 3 to 4 minutes in boiling water, to soften. Remove and add the green portions of the onions to the water and blanch until soft.

Place one large tablespoon of filling into each of the leaves, rolling them up like a burrito. Tie each roll with the blanched green onions.

Slice the white portions of the onions and add to a saute pan with the chicken broth. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Add the rolls and reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, until cooked.

Place 2 to 3 rolls in a bowl and add some of the broth and onions.

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