Archive | April, 2011

Day Twenty Nine: Wild Mushroom Pork Meatloaf

30 Apr
I love meatloaf. It is such a comforting and versatile dish – you can go with Greek flavors, Italian flavors, Asian flavors, and you can use a mix of meats or just one. Meatloaf is one of those things that, if you have any ground meat in the fridge, you can throw together with almost anything you’ve got laying around.
Another thing I love? Wild mushrooms. So naturally, I threw these two loves together. It isn’t any amazing combination that I can be credited for, obviously – roasted mushrooms and meatloaf have been paired together forever.
This meatloaf turned out great. It was so incredibly moist, and just full of great flavors. The fresh herbs brightened the meat up and complemented the woodsyness of the mushrooms. Christian said that this is now, to date, at the top of his list. I was shocked that this edged out the Milk Braised Pork, his previous favorite. For me, this is a very close second to the greens stuffed shoulder I made last month (my top dish so far).
I ended up trimming nearly 99 percent of the fat off the shoulder piece I had. By cooking the meatloaf in a loaf pan, as opposed to a free form meatloaf on a baking pan, the fat and juices stay in and don’t dry out the dish. Additionally, the milk soaked bread further ensures no drying out. While a well known trick, it was something I learned from my Mom and Grandma’s meatballs. Anyway, back to the fat point – I just didn’t feel the need for a fatty, greasy meatloaf. In fact, it kind of grosses me out to see that sometimes. This particular meatloaf is so juicy, even without all the fat, and so moist. While one of the greatest things about pork shoulder is the fat content and the fact that it can produce such tender meat, it isn’t always necessary. I think it is a misconception that anything with pork shoulder is going to be over the top fatty and bad for you – if you can control how you use it, you can make it as lean as you want.
The sauce that I made for this was a great accompaniment to the pork-based meatloaf. Dijon and balsamic are great pairings with pork, and this sauce just made the meatloaf feel a bit more elegant. Not the typical ketchup topping (which I never liked anyway). It added another dimension and really finished it off nicely – a bit tangy from the Dijon, with the right amount of sweetness from the reduced balsamic and maple syrup. Rather than a sauce, you could also use this as a glaze while the meatloaf is cooking. From a presentation standpoint, the sauce application adds a little something – otherwise, it is pretty monochromatic (maybe the one downside of this dish).
Served along side roasted fingerling potatoes and roasted green beans, this was a nice update on a classic. Super comforting for what I’m hoping was the last snowy, gray, dismal day until the cycle starts all over again towards the end of the year.
And as is the case with all meatloaf, this was fantastic as lunch the next day.

Wild Mushroom Pork Meatloaf

For Meatloaf:
  • 2 lbs pork shoulder, trimmed of most fat and ground
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 slices of bread (gluten-free or regular), cut into cubes
  • 3/4 c milk
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
For Mushroom Filling:
  • 6 to 8 oz mixed, fresh wild mushrooms (oyster, cremini, chanterelle, etc)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp white wine
  • 1 tsp olive oil
For Sauce:
  • 1/4 c chicken stock
  • 1/4 c white wine
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Soak the bread cubes in milk for 10 minutes; squeeze out excess milk and set bread aside.
In a small saute pan, heat the 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, shallot, and 1 tsp thyme; saute until browned and liquid is evaporated. Add 1 tbsp white wine and cook until evaporated. Season with salt and pepper. Remove mushrooms and set aside, reserving pan for use later.
Combine the pork, bread cubes, eggs, thyme, rosemary, onion, cheese and garlic. Using your hands, mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
Add 1/2 of the pork mixture to a loaf pan. Spread the mushrooms leaving a bit of a border, then top with the remaining meatloaf mixture, pressing to seal the edges. Transfer to oven and cook for 50 to 60 minutes.
During the last 10 minutes of cooking,  heat 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat in reserved pan from mushrooms. Add the shallots and cook till browned. Add the chicken stock and wine; reduce slightly. Add the dijon and balsamic and continue to cook until the sauce becomes thick and color has darkened. Add the maple syrup, thyme, salt and pepper.
To serve, slice the meatloaf and drizzle with the sauce.

Day Twenty Eight: Five Spice Grilled Pork Crepes

23 Apr

Typically, I try to cook food that goes with the weather outside. Comfort foods when it is cold and snowy (or rainy) and grilled, lighter dishes when it is sunny outside. Last night was an exception to this.

Lake Tahoe weathermen are notoriously clueless around this time of year. Just 2 days ago, sun was forecast for Friday and Saturday so, as a result, I decided that I’d grill outside and planned my weekly menu accordingly. To my (not) surprise, I woke up Friday morning to cloudy skies, which quickly turned into snow. I’m so darn sick of this snow and now it seems worse since it is throwing a wrench into my cooking plans. I should have known better, but I think my yearning for warm sunny skies has clouded all reason out of my brain.

Anyway, I didn’t care that it was snaining outside, I was still going to grill. What came out of it was a fresh, pleasant, flavorful meal that made you forget about the dismal skies outside.

This dish was full of flavor – Chinese five spice, plum sauce and fresh cilantro. It was sort of a play on soft tacos, with Asian influence and crepes in lieu of corn or flour tortillas. The pork had a nice charred crust on the outside, but the meat itself inside was juicy and tender. Yum. The crepes, made with rice flour, were light and very tasty – undetectably gluten-free, a plus in our house. Thanks to The Book of Yum website for a great base recipe to tinker with. It is very adaptable and great for savory or sweet recipes. .

Also a great attribute about this dish? It is wonderfully easy. Crepes can be made ahead and the pork only takes about 8 minutes to cook. Chopping vegetables is a no brainer.

This is a must try, and would be even better sitting outside on a nice sunny deck. I served this along side some stir-fried Chinese long beans with almonds and some simple steamed brown rice.

Five Spice Pork Crepes

(Makes about 9 crepes, or 3 servings)

(Crepe recipe adapted from The Book of Yum)

  • 1 1/4 lb pork shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into 1/2″ to 1″ cubes
  • 2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
  • Pinch of cayenne, to taste (omit if the five spice has Schezuan peppercorns, or if you don’t like too much spice)
  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • Cilantro, chopped (up to you how much)
  • Thinly sliced lettuce (as much as you want)
  • Bottled Plum Sauce (amount is dependent on how much you want to use)
  • 1/2 cup white rice flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for the pan
  • 1 tbsp sherry
  • 3/4 cup milk

To make the crepe batter, whisk rice flour through milk together.  Let stand for about 30 minutes. Heat a small skillet/crepe pan over medium high heat. Add just enough oil to thinly coat. Lifting the pan off the heat, pour in 2 tbsp of the batter, swirling to coat the batter evenly on the pan. Return to heat and cook about 2 minutes, until you can lift the crepe up. Flip and cook another minute. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining batter, coating with oil between each crepe. If not using right away, wrap in foil and keep in a warm oven.

In a bowl, add the five spice and cayenne. Add pork and toss to coat. Thread onto metal skewers. Set aside until ready to grill.

Prepare a grill to medium high heat. Brush the pork on both sides with vegetable oil and grill, about 4 minutes. Flip, and continue cooking another 4 minutes. Remove from grill and let rest a few minutes, then remove from skewer. Chop the pork – I cut my cubes in half.

To serve, spread plum sauce on a crepe and add some pork. Top with cilantro, carrots, lettuce and drizzle with more plum sauce. Fold and repeat with remaining crepes.

Day Twenty Seven: Oolong Tea Braised Pork Shoulder

17 Apr

We have a friend, Cory, who is also a meat lover and great cook. He’s like our summer camp leader when it comes to organizing the beach bbqs, and he is always throwing something good on the grill. Currently, he’s off living through an eternal summer down in Argentina. Smart move, given this winter we’ve had.

From his really, really rough life down there in sunny 80+ degree South America, he sent me a Twitter update from a local Thai restaurant up here, Drunken Monkey, with a potential dish for this challenge. The message was introducing some new dishes they were offering, including a particularly intriguing “Oolong Tea Pork”. They described it as “pork boiled in Oolong tea and marinated in soy, sake, mirin and rice vinegar”. Sounded good to me.

Oolong tea is great. The nice smokey aroma and flavor seems to naturally lend itself to cooking, particularly meats. While I’ve eaten foods cooked with tea, I have never made something like this before. I was pretty excited to give this one a try.

I wasn’t sure at first how I was going to do this, but knew I wanted to incorporate some of the tea in both the marinating and cooking aspects of the dish. As such, the marinade had finely ground tea in it, along with soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, sherry and garlic. I’m not sure if this imparted more tea flavor in the meat or not, since it was cooked entirely in brewed tea and star anise pods. To finish, I added more tea to the remaining juices/liquids and some honey after the meat was done, and reduced this until it was thickened a bit.

The dish had a very interesting (in a good way) flavor – smokey and rich, with a hint of sweetness from the honey in the sauce. The anise itself was very noticeable as a scent, but not as much as in the flavor of the dish – very subtle, but I think very necessary to finish off the flavors. I served this alongside gingered white rice and a salad of red cabbage, carrots and green onions with a light sesame dressing.

I’d suggest giving this one a try, playing around with different teas (Lapsong Suchong or green tea might be equally as good).

Oolong Tea Braised Pork Shoulder

(Serves about 2)

  • 1 lb pork shoulder
  • 2 tbsp Oolong tea leaves
  • 1 tbsp sherry
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce, divided
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 cups brewed Oolong tea (you may not use it all)
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1 green onion, sliced horizontally

In a food processor, combine the tea leaves, 1 tbsp soy sauce, sherry, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar and garlic clove. Pulse until combined. Place the pork in a container (tupperware type or Ziploc bag) and cover with the marinade, rubbing all over the pork. Refrigerate, turning the meat occasionally, for a few hours. Remove from refrigerator and bring up to room temperature before cooking.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a dutch oven, heat some oil over medium high heat. Add the pork and brown well on all sides. Pour in 2 cups brewed tea and add the star anise. Bring to a boil; cover and transfer to the oven.

Cook the pork shoulder until tender, about 2 hours (depending on size of shoulder). Check the pot every so often, and add more tea if liquid has been reduced.

When done, remove the pork and set aside. Add 1 cup of tea and the honey to the braising liquid; bring to a boil and reduce until it begins to thicken. Return pork to the pot and baste with the sauce. Place in oven, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, basting often.

Take pork out of the pot and let rest for about 10 minutes. Transfer the sauce to a gravy separator (or skim off as much fat as possible). Slice the meat thinly and place on serving plate; drizzle with the sauce.

Day Twenty Six: BBQ Pork Stuffed Mini Corn Muffins

4 Apr

On Saturday night we all convened at another friend’s house to watch the Final Four games. UCONN won, which was nice. Amidst the game watching there were babies bouncing (and scooting across the floor at high speeds), wine drinking, and of course, food eating.

My contribution to the event was mini corn muffins stuffed with bbq pork. I had a smaller chunk of the shoulder left, which I figured I could use up for some snacks to bring along. I almost feel like this dish is kind of cheating, not really following the rules of my challenge – it is just too easy. But I’m still counting it – 100 different recipes will require me to get pretty inventive real soon.

I’m not including a recipe with this, since it is quite simple. Just throw your pork shoulder (mine was about 1/2 lb) in the crockpot with some onions and a splash of stock/broth for a few hours on low. Meanwhile, make up some bbq sauce if you aren’t using your favorite bottled kind. When the pork is done, chop it up and mix it with the bbq sauce. Whip up some cornbread (I made a gf version with cornmeal and white rice flour), and you’re almost done. Using a mini muffin pan, spoon a small amount of batter into each cup, then add some of the chopped pork, and cover with more batter. I did three variations – one with just pork, one with pork and sharp cheddar, and one with jalepenos and pork. Serve with some bbq sauce on the side to dip the little muffins in, and that is it. Pretty easy, huh?

These were all eaten up – great finger food for a party. I think they’d be great using a normal size muffin tin, which would yield a more substantial sandwich-like muffin. The larger ones could work well as a part of a light lunch with a salad. It seems like it would be a great thing to take along for a picnic or a beach day.

Day Twenty Five: Grilled Pork Shoulder Steaks

3 Apr

Thursday was amazingly beautiful – bright blue skies and warm temperatures. I think I can officially say that Spring has sprung. With this great weather came the desire to grill. After a long winter, we need to capitalize on these sunny days and be outside as much as possible. This wasn’t my original plan for dinner, but could not imagine being inside, braising something in the oven for hours. So instead, I looked at what I had and worked with it. Our newest CSA box on Wednesday was quite helpful, providing lots of goodies to use.

I had never made pork shoulder steaks, but couldn’t see why they would be bad. However, since I started cooking in the late afternoon, I couldn’t throw it on the grill at a super low temperature and let it cook for ever – I had to improvise. I came across a recipe on Mark Bittman’s website for a pork shoulder steak that was braised then grilled. This seemed to be the answer to my time issue – get it tender and then grill. I decided to braise the meat in a low oven, rather than on the stovetop – this can work both ways.

My recipe includes an orange marmalade glaze, which when on the grill, caramelizes the outside of the meat nicely. It adds a little sweetness that pulls it all together. Despite the dual process cooking, the recipe was really easy. And the results were great. I admit that the meat could have been more tender, but I became impatient and didn’t braise it as long as I should have. I let it go for about 1 hour, but really should have gone about 30 minutes more. But as I said, it was still successful and I’d definitely make this again.

I served this with a homemade bread pudding made with leftover cornbread, fresh swiss chard and green garlic from our CSA. Yum. This was a great partner to the meat. And, it was yet another sneaky way I found to get my husband to eat greens. Success on both fronts!

Grilled Pork Shoulder Steaks

(serves 3)

  • 1 lb pork shoulder, cut into 3 even steaks about 3/4″ thick
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • pinch cayenne
  • 1/4 cup whiskey
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 3 tsp orange marmalade
  • salt and pepper

Heat oven to 300 degrees.

Mix the brown sugar, chili powder, cayenne and cumin together in a bowl. Sprinkle the meat on both sides with salt and pepper, then coat in the spice mixture.

Heat some olive oil in a saute pan with lid over high heat. When hot, add the pork and brown on both sides, turning once, for about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove pork and set aside.

Add the whiskey to the pan and reduce. Add the wine and broth; bring to a boil. Return the pork to the pan and bring to a boil. Cover, turn off heat, and transfer to the oven. Braise for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until tender.

When pork is almost done, preheat a grill to cook over medium high heat.

Remove pork from oven and set aside. Bring the pan juices to a boil and reduce by about 1/4. Add the marmalade to the pan and stir to dissolve. Continue cooking until the glaze is thick and has a consistency like honey. Remove from heat.

Brush one side of the pork with the glaze and place on the grill, glaze side down. Glaze the other side. Cook for about 3 minutes, until meat has browned and has grill marks. Turn over and repeat.

To serve, place the pork on a plate and drizzle with the remaining glaze.

Cornbread Bread Pudding with Chard and Green Garlic

(Makes 3 servings)

  • 2 cups leftover cornbread, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 bunch swiss chard, stems removed chopped into large pieces
  • 1 stalk green garlic, sliced thin
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

If the cornbread is not stale, place in the oven for about 10 minutes to dry the outside.

Toss the chard with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and cook until beginning to crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool. (If you do not want to roast it, you can saute the greens. Or, quickly boil them but be sure to squeeze out all of the excess water).

In the meantime, heat some olive oil in a saute pan and cook the garlic, until it begins to brown. When done, add to the chard and toss to combine.

In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, cream, nutmeg and thyme. Add the cornbread pieces and toss well to coat. Let sit for about 10 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add the chard/garlic mixture, and season with salt and pepper.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Butter 3 ramekins, about 6 to 7 oz each. Distribute the bread mixture to the ramekins evenly. (This can be done a few hours ahead of time – cover with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator until ready to bake).

Put the ramekins in a baking dish and add warm water, enough to get to about 1/2 the was up the sides of the ramekins. Transfer to the oven and cook for about 30 to 35 minutes, until the puddings are warm throughout and crispy on top. Remove and let cool slightly. Serve warm.

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