Archive for February, 2011

Pork Pot Roast


Beef is what most of us think of when we shop for a pot roast, but pork also makes a fantastic pot roast. When the right cut of pork is braised in the same fashion as beef, the result is meat that is fall-off-the-bone tender without becoming dry like many beef cuts do when cooked in this fashion.

Almost any bone-in cut, with the exception of the loin is perfect for this. The loin is too lean and is best dry roasted. The best cuts for this also happen to be the least expensive. The shoulder, butt and fresh ham all make a perfect pot roast. The amount of fat in these cuts almost guarantees a moist, tender roast when braised for a long time.

This recipe for a pork pot roast is identical to the beef pot roast I serve. The leftover pork is superb the next day in hot roast pork sandwiches or when shredded and added to BBQ sauce for BBQ pork sandwiches. I also shred the meat and often use it in Mexican recipes. I have used a 4-5 pound roast here, but a larger roast is just as easy and is a great way to feed a crowd, just increase the first phase of braising until the roast is tender.

Pork Pot Roast
1 4-5 lb pork butt roast (bone-in)
3-4 medium carrots
2-3 stalks celery
1 large onion
4 large, whole cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
½ cup sherry
1-1 ½ qts good beef broth
½ tsp light brown sugar
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour

Pat the roast dry with paper towels, Remove any excess fat from the outside, but leave a little bit to help when browning the roast. Tie the roast with kitchen twine to help keep it’s shape while roasting and to help it cook evenly.

Rub the roast all over with salt, pepper and the brown sugar (aids in browning).

Sear the roast until well browned on all sides in a non-stick sauté pan. Place in a roasting pan (with a cover) large enough to hold the roast, cooking liquid and vegetables.

Add the sherry, broth, whole garlic cloves and bay leaves. The liquid should come halfway up the roast. Don’t completely submerge the roast. Cover tightly and braise in a 325 degree oven for 2 hours. Turn the roast over and cook for another hour and test the roast for tenderness. When the meat almost falls from the bone remove the roast from the oven. Larger roasts may require additional cooking time for this step.

Cut the carrots, celery and onions into large chunks and add to the roasting pan. Cover and braise for another 30-45 minutes until the roast is very tender when tested with a fork, and the vegetables are also tender. With a slotted spoon, carefully remove the roast and the vegetables. Cover with aluminum foil and set aside to keep warm while making the gravy,

To thicken the gravy, prepare a roux by combining the butter and flour in a small non-stick sauté pan and cook for 1 minute. Remove any excess fat from the cooking liquid. Bring the cooking liquid to a simmer and add half of the flour/butter mixture. Bring to a boil and cook until thickened. If not thick enough, add additional flour/butter mixture until it’s a thick as you like.

Serve the meat and vegetables with mashed potatoes and a generous amount of gravy over all.

Serves 4-6 with plenty of leftovers.

Pineapple Fritters

These crispy fruit fritters are coated with my current best friend, panko, those crunchy Japanese breadcrumbs and they are delicious! They can be served as is or topped with a scoop of vanilla or banana ice cream. They also make a very nice side dish for ham or pork. Having made them early in the day recently, I can tell you, they’re awfully nice for breakfast, as well.

The coating starts with a simple pancake batter that helps the bread crumbs adhere to the fruit. Panko breadcrumbs are available these days in all major grocery stores either in the Asian food aisle or next to the regular breadcrumbs. Once fried, the panko crumbs stay ultra-crispy for hours, which makes them great for making ahead of time.

Either fresh or canned pineapple work perfectly well for this. If using canned, note that a 20 ounce can of pineapple rings contains 10 rings. The recipe below is sufficient for 10 rings but can be doubled if making a larger batch

Crispy Pineapple Fritters
1 20 oz can pineapple rings (contains about 10 rings)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp cornstarch
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ cup milk
3 cups panko breadcrumbs
Vegetable or canola oil for shallow frying

Prepare the batter by combining the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, egg and milk in a shallow dish and whisk with a fork to make a pancake-like batter.

Place the panko crumbs in another shallow dish.

Place about an inch of oil in a large skillet and preheat the oil over medium-high heat.

Pat the pineapple rings as dry as possible between sheets of paper towels. Slide each ring into the batter, tapping off any excess batter. Coat well in the crumbs. Immediately fry in the hot oil until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Great just as is or optional garnishes can include powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, ice cream, or whipped cream.

Savory Spinach Custard


I’m a huge fan of spinach and I’m particularly fond of the creamed spinach served as a side dish at steak houses (especially the truffle studded creamed spinach served at Strip House at Planet Hollywood on the Las Vegas Strip).

My second favorite spinach recipe is this very simple one for spinach baked in a savory custard. It’s easy, foolproof and very good. It’s just perfect on it’s own, or as I like it, with Hollandaise sauce. The spinach bakes in a silky custard that goes well with any meat, poultry or fish.

This recipe uses dehydrated onions, one of my favorite secret ingredients. I find fresh onions are too harsh for this and love the subtle onion flavor they add to the custard. If you don’t have any dehydrated onions on hand, don’t use fresh; better to omit the onions altogether.

Spinach Custard
1 bag (10 oz) baby spinach
3 eggs
1 ¼ cups milk
½ tsp salt
½ tsp dehydrated minced onion
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp. soft butter
Hollandaise sauce (optional)

Butter a 1 qt. oven safe dish. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Place the spinach in a microwave safe plate and cook for 2 minutes on high. Flip the spinach over and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the spinach on paper towels to drain and cool.

Lightly squeeze any excess liquid from the cooled spinach and roughly chop. Set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk the eggs, milk, salt and onion together. Add the spinach and combine well with a fork.

Pour the mixture into the buttered baking dish and place into a larger pan. Sprinkle top with the parmesan cheese. To make a water bath, pour enough hot water into the larger pan to come half way up the baking dish with the spinach mixture.

Bake at 325 degrees for 50-60 minutes until a knife inserted in the middle of the custard comes out clean. The top will feel firm to the touch and will be slightly brown around the edges.

Serve hot or room temperature with or without Hollandaise sauce.

Serves 4

Easy Stuffed Pork Chops


For me, the best part of a stuffed pork chop is the stuffing and no matter how large I make the pocket in a double thick pork chop, I always wish I had more stuffing. Here’s how I solve that problem.

I pre-bake a dish of stuffing until almost done. Seasoned, boneless slices of pork loin are quickly seared on both sides, laid on top of the stuffing and popped back into the oven where both finish roasting together. Not only do I get a bounty of stuffing, but I can better control how long the pork needs to be cooked so it stays moist and juicy.

I love my stuffing but if you feel the same way about yours, feel free to use it. I’ve used boneless pork loin chops here but bone-in sirloin chops are also a great choice. In either case, cut a few slits in the fat edge of each chop before searing to prevent them from curling up while cooking.

Easy “Stuffed” Pork Chops
Stuffing:
6-8 slices stale white bread
2 ribs celery finely diced
½ medium onion finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 cup chicken broth (more or less)
3 tablespoons butter
salt & pepper to taste

Chops:

5-6 pork chops (boneless or bone-in)
Salt & pepper to taste

Early in the day (or the night before) cut the bread into ½ inch cubes and leave out to air dry. Place in a large mixing bowl (or toast lightly on a baking sheet to dry slightly).

Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat in a sauté pan and sauté the celery till almost tender. Add the onions and continue to cook over medium heat until translucent. Remove from the heat and add half of the chicken broth to the mixture.

Add the chopped parsley to the bread cubes and toss to distribute evenly. Pour the celery/onion mixture over all and gently toss, adding additional broth to moisten the bread. Use caution to not break up the bread cubes. The cubes should be almost moistened through, but not soaking wet.

Butter a shallow baking dish with half of the remaining butter and place the stuffing in the middle. Dot the top of the stuffing with any remaining butter. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.

In the meantime, pat the chops dry with a paper towel and season on both sides with salt and pepper. With a sharp knife, cut 2-3 slices through the fat edge on each chop to prevent curling while chops are cooking. Preheat a non-stick sauté pan over medium high heat and quickly sear on each side until lightly browned. The chops will still be nearly raw in the center.


Remove the foil from the precooked stuffing and place the chops in a single layer over the stuffing. Return to the oven and roast for aprox 15-25 minutes, uncovered (depending on the thickness of your chops). The chops should be cooked until the no longer dark pink inside, but still moist and juicy, but not overcooked. Remove from the oven and serve.

Serves 5-6.

Okonomiyaki


My Japanese friends will recognize this as a popular way to end an evening of drinking with friends. My non-Japanese friends not familiar with this dish know me well enough to trust me when I say this is good stuff. Think of it as an Asian cousin to a big potato pancake or latke.

Okonomiyaki translated into English means “as you like it”. It’s a savory pancake, usually cooked by the diners at the table on special flat top grills. They are filled with whatever the diner chooses, usually meat, seafood or finely chopped vegetables and almost always topped with a savory brown sauce and Japanese style mayonnaise.

Okonomiyaki couldn’t be easier to make. Here, I’ve used a commercial mix from Kikkoman that also doubles as a base for tempura, but if that’s not available in your area, the following recipe works equally well. My fillings of choice are common ingredients in Japan and include shredded cabbage, shrimp and green onions, but any favorite shredded meat, seafood or vegetable can be used. The internet is loaded with options for other fillings.

The sauce can be made from scratch but excellent bottled sauces are readily available in supermarkets that stock Asian staples (I particularly like the Tonkatsu sauce made by Kikkoman).

Pair this with some cold Japanese beer and a baseball game on TV for a favorite Japanese evening with friends. The following recipe will serve two but can be doubled for more servings.

Okonomiyaki
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon corn starch
½ tsp baking powder
2/3 cup stock (dashi, and if dashi isn’t available use any broth)
1 egg
2 cups finely shredded green cabbage
½ lb medium shrimp (51-60 size)
3 green onions finely sliced
1 tablespoon canola or peanut oil
Garnishes:
Mayonnaise and Tonkatsu sauce (see below)
Finely minced green onions
Japanese Furikake seasoning (optional but very good-worth seeking out)

Combine the flour, cornstarch, and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk the broth and egg together and add to the flour mixture to make a medium-thick pancake batter.

Add all of the cabbage, shrimp and green onions (will seem like a lot of cabbage, but this is how it should be). Preheat the oil in a non-stick sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the all of the pancake mix and flatten to the depth of the shrimp with a spatula.

Lower the heat to medium and cook for about 15 minutes, flipping several times, until golden brown on both sides.

Serve right away with the mayonnaise and Tonkatsu sauce drizzled over the top.

Makes one large or two medium pancakes and will serve two people.

Sauce
½ cup ketchup
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup sake or dry sherry
¼ cup dark soy sauce
½ tsp sugar
Stir all of the ingredients until the sugar is dissolved, Serve on the side in dipping bowls or drizzled over top of the pancake.

Panko Crusted Spam


I truly believe just about anything can be breaded with panko, those crispy Japanese style breadcrumbs, and transformed into something pretty darned good.

In Japan pork, chicken and seafood are breaded in panko and fried until golden brown and crisp. In my kitchen, anything is a target. The most unconventional food I’ve breaded and fried so far has been poached eggs. That turned out better than I expected.

When it comes to Spam, I can take it or leave it. I’m not a food snob, I can just think of dozens of other nitrite laced, processed foods I like a great deal more than Spam, but a recent request from a family member for it forced me to think of a way to prepare it that I might actually like. Panko…Spam…bingo!

After I figured out how to get the fluffy breadcrumbs to stick to the slices of Spam, the rest of the process was a snap. Trust me on this; if you’ve always been frightened of Spam but have wanted to give it a try, this is the way to go. And if you are already a Spam fan, you’ll want to panko-bread and fry up two cans of the pink stuff people love to hate.

Panko Crusted Spam
1 can Spam
1 large egg
¼ cup all purpose flour
2-3 cups panko (Japanese style breadcrumbs)
Canola oil for shallow pan frying

Slice a can of Spam into 8 slices (the slices can be thicker, but thinner slices fry up extra crisp). Beat the egg together with the flour to make a thick batter. Place the panko crumbs into a flat pie plate.

Slide the Spam slices into the batter to coat well. Lift the Spam out of the batter leaving as much batter on the meat as possible and gently place in the plate of crumbs. Press the crumbs into the batter on the meat to get a heavy coating on both sides.

Heat about an inch of oil in a sauté pan with deep sides over medium high heat. Place the breaded Spam into the oil and fry on both sides until deep golden brown and crisp. Remove from the oil, drain on paper towels and serve.

Sauteed Curry Flavor Carrots


Carrots are used so often as a secondary ingredient in soups, stews and sauces that they are often overlooked as a stand-alone side dish on their own. A recent bargain on carrots caught my eye and the following recipe featuring them was soon born.

In this very easy recipe, julienned carrots are quickly sautéed till crisp-tender in a bit of butter and seasoned with a light touch of curry powder. The result is delicious and goes well with beef, pork or chicken main dishes. The touch of curry powder is just enough to fragrance the carrots without overwhelming their natural sweetness, and the color is stunning.

You can julienne-cut carrots yourself with a food processor or mandoline, but most markets these days sell carrots already julienned and ready to use. From start to finish, this dish is ready to serve in under five minutes.

If you’re in the winter vegetable doldrums, give this very quick and delicious dish a try.

Sauteed Curry Flavor Carrots
10 oz julienne cut carrots (about 2 cups)
1 tablepoon butter
¼ tsp curry powder (mild or hot)
Salt & pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat until it just begins to turn brown and smells nutty.

Add the carrots and sauté for about three minutes. Add the curry powder and sautee and additional minute, tossing well. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Recipe can very easily be doubled or tripled to serve more people.

Serves 2-3

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