Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pork Stew with Irish Soda Bread


These two delicious recipes swirl together to form a perfect meal (and perfect leftovers) for cold winter nights. The stew takes longer than the bread, but they are both worth the time they take. 

(Thanks, Mark, for the mouth-watering Facebook photo that led to the asking for, and giving of, these recipes.) 

ENJOY!

SAVORY PORK STEW:

3 lb. boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-1/2- to 2-inch pieces.  (Note that sometimes this is really fatty.  I had a 4lb shoulder, and by the time I'd trimmed out most of the fat there was barely 3lbs left.)
2-3 oz. thick-cut bacon cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 to 3 Tbs. coconut oil or olive oil; more as needed  (You can use vegetable oil, I just don't like to)
Kosher (preferred) salt and pepper
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 carrot, coarsely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1-2 Tbs. minced chipotles in adobo (I'd make it 3, it wasn't spicy at all really)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbs. minced fresh oregano (or 1/2 to 1 tsp. dried)
1 cup beer (I used Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewery, but Edmund Fitzgerald Porter or Salvator double bock would be interesting too.  These have good flavors that aren't overpowering and they complement the stew well. You could also substitute a red wine, or just use water -- but I don't recommend that.  You're using it as a deglazing liquid and it gets boiled and then stewed for a long time so all of the alcohol should boil away - so you don't need to worry about your kids.)
2-1/2 cups chicken broth  (I prefer the swanson or central market brands if I'm not making my own)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Core vegetables:
6 cups total of Shallots, Carrots, Potatoes, and red peppers.
I actually went over a bit.  I used 1 shallot (quartered), 2 3/4 cups potatoes, 2 3/4 cups of carrots, plus what was supposed to be 3 roasted red peppers, but turned out to be 1 because two had gone bad.  :-)



Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and heat the oven to 325 degrees F. (You want it to be hot and ready, but I tend to delay this until the last couple batches of meat are done so I'm not wasting energy.)
Spread the pork on paper towels to dry for 10 to 20 minutes before browning. (You can use this time to chop the veggies and dice the chipotle peppers). If the meat is very wet, pat it dry first.
In a 6-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot, cook the bacon in 1 tbsp. of the oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned but not crisp, (6 to 8 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside. Do not wipe out the pan!
 If your bacon was really lean - you might need to add some oil.  You want about 3tbsp worth in the bottom of the pan.  You'll want it good and hot. Season about one-fourth of the pork with salt and pepper and arrange it in a single layer in the pot (there should be at least 1/2 inch of space between the pieces).  (Personally - I find it takes smaller batches for my dutch oven - but yours might be larger.) Brown well on at least 4 sides, adjusting the heat as necessary; each batch should take about 10 minutes to brown. Transfer the pork to a bowl.  Repeat with the rest of the pork, seasoning with salt and pepper before browning. Once all of the pork is browned, remove the pot from the heat to let it cool for a few minutes.
Pour all but 2 Tbs. of the fat from the pot. (If there is not enough, add oil to equal 2 Tbs.) Return the pot to medium heat, then add the onion, celery, and (single) carrot. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often and scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spatula, until the vegetables begin to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the chipotles, garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.  Return the bacon to the pot.
Add the beer, stirring with the wooden spatula to dissolve any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Raise the heat to medium high and boil to reduce by about half, 5 to 8 minutes.
Add the chicken broth and 1-1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil.
Return the pork to the pot along with any accumulated juice. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer.
Crumple a 12x16-inch piece of parchment paper, then flatten it out. (Crumpling makes it easier to manage.) Place the parchment directly on the surface of the stew, allowing the ends to come up the sides of the pot. Cover and put in the oven for 30 minutes.
During this time, chop the carrots, potatoes and shallot.  The carrots and potatoes should be in decent sized chunks.  The shallots can be added whole if they're small or quartered if large.  If you have more time, this is a good time to roast the red peppers.  (Unless you just bought them roasted.)  Just use an open flame (grill, gas stove, whatever) to char every inch of the surface.  When this is done, put the peppers into a bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap.  The longer it can sit like this and steam the better.  
After the 30 minutes are up, add the carrots, potatoes, and shallots to the pot. Cover with the parchment paper and lid, and return it to the oven for another 30 minutes. 

Towards the end of this time, take the peppers out of the bowl and with a pair of tongs (if they're still hot) and a knife scrape off the skin.  It should come off fairly easily.  Then slit the pepper from stem to base and cut around the stem - the stem and the seeds should come out easily.  Cut the rest of the way through, and wipe away any seeds and cut out what membrane you can.  Then chop.

When that second 30 mins is up, add the peppers. Cover with the parchment paper and lid, return the pot to the oven, and cook until the pork is fork-tender, about an hour more. 
Stir in the cilantro.  I also like to, degrease the stew by laying a clean paper towel over the surface of the stew and gently pushing it into all the bumps and dips, then quickly peeling it off - repeating as needed till you don't see the sheen of oil on the surface. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Now -- I find that the stew is always better the next day.  So I like to let it cool to room temperature, put it in the fridge, and then warm it up in the oven again the next day (usually ~300 degrees until hot).  Or at least - that's the idea.  I've not yet done it a day ahead as everyone wants to eat it.  I did manage to make it in time for lunch and let it sit at room temp all day and then heat it for dinner though -- definitely worth it. 

IRISH SODA BREAD RECIPE:

The bread is actually really easy to make. Preheat the oven to 450. Make sure you do this first! Once you finish mixing the dough you need to get it in the oven quickly, you can't let it sin while it preheats. Lightly flour a baking pan now too.

Sift together a pound of flour (3 & 1/3 c. sifted-- not packed-- flour), 3/4 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt in a largish bowl. Make a well in the center, and pour in about 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk. 

Using your hands mix it together. Spread your fingers out like a rake and mix it in a circle around the bowl. You want a light touch here, and don't overdo it. The baking soda interacts with the buttermilk to create air pockets in the dough and you don't want to break them. Just mix until it starts coming together well. You might need to add more buttermilk - just do it ~ a tbsp at a time or you risk getting it too moist.

Scrape the dough out onto a well floured surface and shape it into a round. A little over six inches across and about an inch and a half high in the center (no higher!). Then flip it over onto the pan so the floured side is up and make a shallow X cut from side to side about 1/4" deep. This cut isn't just in the top, it stems all the way from edge to edge.

Put it in the oven for about 15 mins, then lower the temperature to 400 and bake until it's brown and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom (20-30 mins). I prefer to rotate the bread when I drop the temp as well - it promotes more even baking/browning.

Let it cool completely before cutting. 

It's really fast to make, and doesn't require anything special. (If you didn't know, you can even make the buttermilk for this pretty easily because of the chemistry being used. Just measure out a cup and a half of milk and add a tbsp and a half of white vinegar to it and let it sit for ~20 mins.)

Pretty sure this is the easiest bread recipe I know, and it's definitely the quickest.




Monday, December 16, 2013

My FAVORITE Most-Used Knife EVER

It's a 7-inch hollow-edge Santoku knife. Santoku is just a fancy word for Chef's knife that has a brilliant edge but lays flat to the board (rather than curving). It has become my go-to knife for pretty much everything.

Sturdy enough to cut through something hard like acorn squash, but light enough to slice onions, thin-slice potatoes, chop garlic… it holds up to whatever you put it through, and keeps chopping beautifully. I love the weight and feel of this Wusthof. It's a touch pricey, but for a gal like me who's in the kitchen multiple times a day cooking for a hungry crew, the cost per use is pennies, even in just one year's time. I got mine over two years ago and it's still going strong, and is absolutely my favorite knife in the world. I highly recommend it!

Amazon sells it in this lovely set:
Wusthof Classic 2-Piece Asian Santoku and Paring Knife Set

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cate's Chicken and Wild Rice Soup!

serves 8 ... Triple to feed a crowd!

  • 2 tsp oil 
  • 1/2 yellow onion chopped 
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 2 carrots chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery chopped
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 lb. cooked and shredded boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 (4.5 oz) quick cooking long grain and wild rice with seasoning packet
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup (one stick) butter
  • 2 cups half and half

In a large pot over medium heat, add 2 tsp oil and saute onion and garlic for one minute. Add carrots and celery and cook for 2 minutes or until they start to soften. Add chicken broth, water and chicken. Bring to a boil, stir in rice (reserve seasoning packet), cover and reduce heat to low. 

In a bowl combine salt, pepper and flour. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in contents of seasoning packet until mixture is bubbly. Reduce heat to low, then add in flour mixture, stirring to form a roux. Pour cream in slowly, whisking until smooth. Cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. 

Stir cream mixture into broth and rice. Cook over medium heat for 10 - 15 minutes. 

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Creamy Bacon Parmesan Pasta

Just made this sauce on a whim and I want to write it down so I won't forget to make it again.  I served it over medium pasta shells, and it was a hit with everyone in the family! Start to finish, this takes about 15-20 minutes to complete.  Serves 6-8.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil or butter, or some mix of the two
  • 1/4 c. chicken broth, then also 1 1/2 c. chicken broth
  • 1/4 - 1/3 c. flour
  • garlic salt
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 10 thick slices of bacon-- the good thick, real stuff, not Oscar Mayer/whatever, chopped against the width/grain (so each piece of bacon in your sauce is roughly 1 inch long, but in thin slices, hope that makes sense-- I stacked the strips of bacon into one tall stack, and sliced down the stack, widthwise)
  • 1 c. heavy cream 
  • 1 1/2 c. whole milk
  • Shaved parmesan/asiago/romano cheese to taste
Heat the oil/butter over med-high heat, with 1/4 c. chicken broth and add the chopped onion.  Lightly salt the onions.  Cook 3 minutes, or longer, until softened w/ good aroma.  (While the onions are sauteeing, put water in your pasta pot and start your water boiling.) Add in the bacon and garlic.  Cook approx. 5-8 minutes, still on med-high heat, until meaty part of bacon has turned bright red and is cooked, but not hardened.  Add in 1/2 tsp. salt, and as much flour as is necessary to soak up the oil/juices into the flour.  This will be similar to a roux, except your meat is already in there.  Make sure you scrape the bottom clean, to get up any flavorful bits and keep it from sticking.  Now, add your remaining chicken broth, stir in, and then add your cream, stirring occasionally.  Add in 1/2 tsp. garlic salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, and 2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary.  Stir until thickened, then add in the whole milk, and wait for the sauce to thicken again.  (This whole thickening process can take anywhere from 1-3 minutes.)

Serve over the hot pasta of your choice, and use shaved parmesan/asiago/romano generously to garnish the top.  Enjoy!  (We just did!)

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Crock Pot Recipe Round-Up

A few links from around the web that sound like great crock-pot recipes worth trying out:

I need to be more diligent & efficient & put my crock pot to more frequent use!  Hope this gives you ideas too!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Southwest Soup

This is an easy dump-and-heat soup that tastes great!

  • 1 can pinto beans, drained
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can corn (drained)
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 2 cans cooked chicken breast (or 1 lg. cooked chicken breast)
  • chopped onion
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro (if desired)
Mix & simmer.  Add water as desired; salt & pepper to taste.  Tear up flour tortilla in soup bowl; serve soup over tortilla w/ cheese sprinkled on top. 

Slow-Cooked Pulled Pork

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 cup Ketchup
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 3 1/2 pound pork shoulder, trimmed & cut into 4 pieces
In a 6-quart crock pot, mix all ingredients except pork.  Once combined, add pork, and turn to coat in sauce.  Cook on low 8-10 hours.  Remove pork and shred w/ two forks.  Return pork to crock pot & stir in sauce.  To serve, spoon 1/2 cup onto a sandwich bun.


SOUNDS GOOD!