Good morning everyone.
I did say that I would post again in a timely manner, so I’m attempting to make good on my word.
Two items are featured today: polenta that no one in my house liked, and pork that generally everyone felt tasted good.
Let’s begin with the polenta.
I tend not to post my failures on here, partly because I never take pictures of them, and also because I’m thinking of making a worst hits post in the future.
Polenta is essentially coarse corn meal cooked in water. Typically, 1 1/2 cups of polenta is cooked with about 4 cups of water. The water can be salted, as you would for pasta or potatoes. The cooking liquid doesn’t have to be just water, of course. For more flavor, you could substitute any stock of your preference, or you could even add a bit of heavy cream for some deliciously silky polenta.
I decided to just cook it in water. To a medium sauce pan, add 4 cups of cold water. Then, add 1 and 1/2 cups of polenta. Begin stirring, and turn on the heat to high, bring to a boil. This will need your constant attention…so keep stirring! If you don’t, it will stick and scorch. And who wants that? Once it begins to form a porridge-like consistency, add seasonings, herbs, whatever you want. After all the water has been absorbed, turn the heat down to medium-low/low and add 1 TBSP of butter. Then, fold in some cheese, perhaps marscapone or creme fraiche for a really velvety consistency, or some gruyere or cheddar for a nice bite. And there you have it.
You can serve it like that, or you can preheat your oven to about 350F and pour the polenta into a cast iron skillet (or some other oven-proof dish). Spread it out so it’s even, top it with more herbs or cheese, and throw it in the oven for about 20-25 minutes. It forms a delicious crust on the outside, and maintains its creaminess on the inside. *I* thought it was very good.
The other night, we were set to have pork chops. So, with my day off, I decided to roast them until they were fall-off-the-bone tender.
I generally followed my previous roasted pork recipes and made an interesting sauce prior to putting this all in the oven. In a medium saucepan, I combined 2 cans of diced tomatoes, about a cup of red wine, onions, garlic, mushrooms, and fresh basil, oregano, and tarragon from my garden. I am LOVING my basil plant, it is going crazy out there and it’s REALLY fragrant. By far one of my favorite herbs.
In some olive oil, saute about half a vidalia onion until soft. Then add garlic, loads of salt and pepper. Stir, add the wine and cook out some of the alcohol. Then, add the tomatoes and mushrooms. Reduce about 1/4th of the volume. Then, add the herbs.
Add a generous amount of salt and pepper to the pork chops and place in an oven proof dish. Pour the sauce over the chops, and put in a preheated 350F oven for about 2 1/2 hours. Serve with some egg noodles and you’re all set.
Tuesday, I am (hopefully) going to a book signing with Anthony Bourdain. Holy. Shit.
Good evening everyone.
It’s been a few days, but I’ve been trying to clear away my leftovers.
Tonight was pork night. Slow, deliciously roasted pork loin chops. No knife needed.
2 pork loin chops
1/2 cup beef stock (home made preferably)
1/2 cup red wine
1 overflowing spoonful of creme fraiche
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
4 sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper
dried parsley (use your judgment)
5 or 6 small gold potatoes, cubed
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled
olive oil & butter
1. preheat oven to 350F and chop, smash, season, etc. everything to get it out of the way.
2. rinse and pat dry the pork chops. season generously with salt and pepper.
3. in a saute pan with sides, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. once the butter’s foam subsides, sear the pork on both sides so a nice, brown crust forms. remove when done.
4. in the leftover fat, add onion and saute for about 2-3 minutes. add the garlic, thyme, dried parsley and beef stock. simmer for 2-3 minutes.
5. add dollop of creme fraiche and stir until melted completely. taste and add salt and pepper as needed (you should probably just make it a habit to taste your food constantly…and use a different spoon every time you do)
6. simmer for 1 minute, then add the red wine. simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the alcohol has cooked out.
7. add pork to a small roasting pan. pour liquid over chops, and add potatoes to the pan. cover the pan with foil and put in the oven for 2-2 1/2 hours. After one hour, flip the pork. After 2 hours, check the pork. If you can pierce it easily with a fork, it’s done (the fork should really melt into the meat with little to no force on your behalf).
I’ve got the beginnings of a cold right now, and this was one of the best comfort-food dishes for it. It wasn’t too heavy, it was nourishing (pork is always good for the soul), and the meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender. It was practically falling apart as I sliced into it with the fork. UGH, SO GOOD. The creme fraiche added a whole other level to the sauce. It lightened it up while thickening it. So savory, so good. I could’ve eaten 5 more chops like this. The potatoes were perfectly cooked. They just absorbed all the delicious flavors of the pork, beef stock, creme fraiche, red wine, garlic….everything. Delicious. It seems like 2 hours, in my oven, was the perfect amount of time. I encourage you to braise things. Yes, these dishes take hours, but come on…I got all my laundry done in the meantime. Plus, your house will smell SO GOOD.
Good morning, everyone.
Not only is today a rainy one, but it’s quite cold as well. Gross.
Anyway, I move back home in just over two weeks (17 days, but who’s counting?) and I’m feeling some pressure to use up the food I have lingering in the pantry and such. So last night, I made an effort to use up some pork and prosciutto.
Initially, I thought it would be a good idea to wrap chicken breasts with the prosciutto. However, when I took pork out of the freezer, I realized it was time for some pork-on-pork action. Last night was a veritable porkfest, as it were.
I don’t know what my deal was yesterday, but my game was off. I decided to make some rice to go along with the pork, but I started cooking the rice way earlier than the pork. I’ve…never done that before. So to stall for time while the pork cooked in the oven, I used the rice for tahdig. I’m glad I did because the piece of lavash bread I had hanging around was getting REALLY stale.
2 pork loin chops
2 slices of prosciutto
1/2 lemon thinly sliced
1. preheat oven to 350F.
2. rinse and pat dry the pork. set on a baking sheet lined with either parchment paper or foil.
3. coat pork generously with garam masala and freshly cracked black pepper on both sides. you won’t need salt here, because the prosciutto’s got you covered.
4. take a slice of prosciutto and wrap it around one of the pork chops. note: i have pork loin chops (or something like that), so my cuts are a little narrower. if you have huge pork chops, you could stuff them with the prosciutto or something if wrapping doesn’t work.
5. slice half of a lemon and place the slices on top of the pork. place in the oven for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until you notice the lemons are dehydrated and starting to change in color.
This was a completely random recipe, and it came out really nicely. The pork was kept tender and moist because of the lemons, and surprisingly, the lemon slices went really well with the prosciutto and pork. The garam masala is a bit of an odd ingredient in here, but I think it worked. It added warmth, which contrasted nicely with the brightness of the citrus. It just goes to show that even when you slop random ingredients together, it often comes out pretty damn well.
For the first time since beginning college, I went home for Easter. Although Easter does not seem to hold quite as much importance to our family as does Thanksgiving or Christmas, it still meant a lot to come home. Of course, it means a lot any time I go home.
While most of my Easter memories involve a honey glazed ham of sorts, this year we decided to go with pork shoulder. My appreciation for pork is growing (I never used to like it), and this recipe pushed me over the edge in to full-on pork love.
I spotted the recipe here and thought it sounded delicious. It involves braising the pork in a champagne vinegar mixture. To be honest, I have never heard of champagne vinegar so this recipe was exciting. New ingredients are always exciting. I won’t bother reposting the recipe, as you can just follow the link over to Food & Wine.
As you can probably tell, the pork was damn good. Perfectly cooked, if I may say so (I had nothing to do with the cooking, which is probably why!). It was moist, tender, and fell apart when sliced with a fork. For whatever reason, there ended up being about a half a gallon of sauce (yes, a half a gallon!) which is rather excessive. Nevertheless, it was a delicious sauce. I was wary of including the grapes, and we toyed with omitting them. In the end, I’m glad we kept them in. They added a subtle sweetness to the pork. I personally hate the honey-glazed ham crap because I think it’s too sweet, so this was just the right amount of sweetness for my liking.
With the pork, my mom and I tried our hand at making dinner rolls. We dug out the bread machine to use to make the dough. To the original recipe, we added some thyme and tarragon so they would have a nice herby feel.
They came out really well for our first try at making them. They were soft, and the egg wash made them look store bought (at least, I thought so). They had a slight sweetness to them, which was really nice along with all the savory food. The recipe was out of a cookbook we have at home.
In addition to the rolls, we had prosciutto-wrapped roasted asparagus with a citronette found here. The original recipe calls for pancetta, but we opted for prosciutto. This side dish could not be easier, and can be prepped the night before if need be. All you have to do is wrap the asparagus in some prosciutto and keep them covered in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook them. The citronette was actually really, really good. It was a little sweet, and the citrus really balanced the intense salty flavor of the prosciutto well.
It has become a rather well-known and accepted fact that my mother makes the best deviled eggs, and these were certainly no exception. Alex never had deviled eggs before visiting for Easter, and I would argue that these were probably the best introduction to this side dish. Although deviled eggs are commonly had during the summer for picnics and such, we had lots of eggs and who doesn’t love deviled eggs?
For dessert, we bought a cheesecake. It was really good, but I’m a little biased.
I think I can safely say that this was the most delicious Easter I’ve had yet.
Yes, two in one day. Can you tell I have an exam coming up later this week?
As I mentioned earlier, I decided to go for a buy one get one free sale of pork. I also mentioned that it has become my new mission to make pork chops tender and delicious.
When I think of tender and delicious, I think braising. Braising is one of my favorite methods of cooking because it leaves meat fall-off-the-bone tender. I was in the mood for something spicy tonight, and I coincidentally came across this recipe for carnitas. Although pork shoulder is traditionally used for carnitas, I don’t see myself buying THAT much (as much as I would love to, that would be leftovers for….a while…and I’ll only be living here for one month more). I decided to take Anthony Bourdain’s advice when it comes to pork:
Love pork in all its many-faceted glory. Respect it. Do not waste it. Use it carefully and well. Cook with it, at all times, as if you were dirt poor; it is imperative that you do not waste a scrap. A highly intelligent animal died so you could have bacon. So don’t overcook it.
And that is what I did. I did not overcook it. Even though I was working with these two smaller than average pork chops, I respected it and tended to it diligently while it slowly braised in a savory and spicy sauce. Embarrassingly, I did not have all the accoutrement for proper carnitas (cilantro, lime, salsa, you know…everything you would need), so I improvised with some potatoes. I braised them right along with the pork chops so they benefited from the sauces and juices as well.
2 pork sirloin chops (mine were small. these two probably equaled the size of one normal chop)
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
a generous pinch (or two) of chili powder
1 cinnamon stick, or about a teaspoon of ground cinnamon
a generous pinch (or two) of cumin
a few shakes of tobasco sauce
2 bay leaves
1. cut the meat into 2-3″ chunks and season all sides with salt. preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. in a saucepan, heat the oil and cook the meat until very well browned on all sides. once brown, remove and blot on a paper towel. after blotting, add to a small roasting pan (i used an 8 x 11 brownie pan, as it turns out).
3. once all the meat is browned and it has been removed from the pan, add about two cups of water and scrape the bottom of the pan to release all the brown bits. add the cinnamon stick (or powder), bay leaves, garlic, chili powder and cumin. mix well, and then add to the meat in the roasting pan. if the meat is not about 2/3 covered, add a little more water.
4. braise in oven, covered with foil, for about 3 hours. check on the meat occasionally, turning it, adding more water if it seems to be too dry, etc.
5. once a fork pierces the meat like it would room temperature butter, remove from the oven and transfer the meat to a plate. strain the liquid. shred the pork and put it back into the pan. add the liquid and put it into the oven. cook until most of the liquid evaporates. the pork should be crispy and start to caramelize.
These were the most tender pork chops I’ve ever had. The cinnamon added a real nice warmth to the dish, while the chili powder, paprika, and tobasco added some HEAT. It was exactly what I was looking for tonight. I served it over lavash bread in the absence of tortillas. This would’ve been good in a pita, too. It was screaming for a squeeze of lime and some cilantro, but I was totally lacking. I’ve got tons of pork left, so I’m sure I’ll be making something like this again – only less ill prepared. This is a pretty easy recipe, and you’re left with a lot of free time to either study for an exam or watch a movie. Not to mention it perfumes the place with the most delicious smell – I could not wait to taste it.
Good afternoon all, and happy spring!
Today, my friends and I took a trip to the Sam Adams Brewery in Jamaica Plain. The tour itself is extremely interesting, and comes with the added bonus of being free. It makes for a good day trip.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Boston area, Jamaica Plain is a really cool neighborhood. It’s got a huge variety of neighborhoods dispersed among green spaces and landmarks. Some neighborhoods are made up largely of Hispanic communities, while others are predominantly Jewish. Although it’s going through a period of gentrification (lots of college students, activists, and other young professionals are moving in), I think it still maintains its culture.
Today we walked along Centre Street in search of some food after the brewery tour. Initially we sought soul food, but ended up at Miami Restaurant in the Hyde Square area. This neighborhood is mostly Hispanic, and I’ve never been disappointed by the food here (although, this is only the third restaurant I’ve been to in the area).
Everything in this place is reasonably priced, and the quality of food is beyond expectations. I decided to get two appetizers, mofongo and a jamaican beef patty, with a side of tostones.
What is mofongo? Well, it’s mashed plaintains mixed with garlic and in this case, pork rinds. The flavor is out of this world. The mellow plaintains are spiked with just the right amount of garlic. The crunchy pork rinds add a perfect textural contrast to the softness of the plaintains. And it was sprinkled lightly with salt. Although this is an appetizer, it’s fairly large so it makes a good entree for just $7. If you want an actual entree, they do serve a seafood mofongo, which I bet is insanely good.
Embarrassingly, I have never had a Jamaican beef patty. I’ve heard so much about them, but for whatever reason we have never crossed paths. Today, it finally happened.
Meat encased in dough is a huge cross-cultural staple. Eastern Europeans have pierogies, Hispanics have empanadas, and Jamaicans have these delicious things. The crunchy yet soft dough gave way to incredibly well-seasoned and spicy ground beef on the inside. For $2, they are more than worth getting.
To go along with these items, I decided to get a side of tostones. Tostones are just fried unripe plantains. While comparable to french fries, I think they’re a way better alternative. They are very starchy, but have a softer texture than potatoes or yucca (yucca also makes an awesome french fries substitute). For $3, you get a lot of tostones, as you can see below.
To top it off, I decided to get a mango milkshake. It was REALLY good. It wasn’t too thick so I could actually drink it along with my meal. For this warm day, it was very refreshing. All in all, my meal cost about $16, and I have a ton of leftovers for later (which I am very much looking forward to). If you’re in the Boston area, check out this place in Jamaica Plain – I can’t wait to head back to check out some of the other very tempting menu items.
Tomorrow’s dinner? I’m thinking filipino adobo with oxtails and chicken? Mmm….oxtails……