Gremolata

A simple, quick way to add some kick and freshness to lots of dishes: gremolata.  It’s an Italian classic served with osso buco, but can be used with almost any grilled, roasted, or even boiled meats, fish, or with vegetables. It’s especially delightful in the winter when food is a bit heavier and lacks that spring and summer freshness. Great taste, and it is so simple and quick.

It’s one of those things you don’t really need a recipe for. It’s just lemon zest, parsley, and garlic. Here is a nice post from The Kitchn that should give you all the information you need to whip up this condiment.

Once you’ve got this basic condiment down, you’ll find lots of uses for it, and here are some variations for different dishes.

So many variations!

A son goût.

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Snow day. . .

Well, not really a snow day (I wish!), but an ice and wind day, the second in a row here. It’s a grey day with a few snowflakes fluttering around. It’s not so far been a productive day. I’ve been wandering from room to room, fighting the urge to take a lesson from the cat. Neither did he go with me to make morning coffee nor did he get out of bed when I started rattling around in the kitchen. He simply got under the duvet instead of on top.

Cat looking into refrigeratorSo I’ve resisted the lure of book and duvet to try to accomplish something, even if not useful or productive, just something I can say that I did. The motif today seems to be opening, peering inside, and closing doors, figuratively and literally, including internet browsing–opening a site and then just passing on to another. I’ve peered into the cabinet where all the plastic storage containers live and close the door tightly and firmly, then opened the internet door (Google search) on organizational ideas for empty containers.

Peering into the refrigerator led to the conclusion that I didn’t want to eat anything that was already in there. The threat of power outage led me to follow a link on what foods were safe after a power outage, but that didn’t catch my interest either (no new information, and no power outage here yet). My list of blogs that I follow l did provide something that held my attention: posts on one taste at a time caught my interest–food waste and eating mindfully. After reading (and reblogging those) my meandering led me back to the kitchen with thoughts of something warm and cozy to eat this afternoon.

This recurring theme eventually led to the freezer compartment of the refrigerator which has been needing organization and sorting for a while. Gazing at a container of stock finally got my interest. What better way to start sorting and organizing that to make something from what I found in the freezer that was approaching its end-of-life-even-if-frozen state.  Thus: mostly freezer soup happened–with additions from the crisper drawer.

Ingredients

  • pulled pork (from a large pork butt, slow-roasted in the Schlemmertopf)
  • two packages of stock (one pork, one chicken)
  • the last package of sofrito (a staple, but needing to be used and replaced)
  • carrots (the last of a bag that had been vacuum packed for later use)
  • 1/2 small rutabaga, diced
  • two handsful of cabbage, in bite-size pieces (a crisper staple)
  • about 1 cup yellow split peas
  • about two teaspoons Hatch red chili powder
  • a dash of dried oregano
  • (a retained bay leaf from the pulled pork)

Preparation

  • thaw and sauté the sofrito to brown lightly (frozen with olive oil)
  • add chili powder and oregano to bloom in olive oil
  • add frozen stock
  • add pork
  • add rutabaga, cabbage, and split peas
  • simmer until rutabaga and split peas are tender (about 40 minutes)

Supper is on! IMG_8880

As is typical of all soup making, there is more than I’m going to eat, but some will go back into the freezer for a quick meal on another grey day–carefully labeled, and dated.

Ò¿Ó

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Slow-roasted pork

It’s a day that shouts that fall is finally, really here–steady, gentle rain, cool breeze, a bit dreary–the kind of day that says cook something savory and warming.  As the weather has been getting cooler, I’ve been anticipating this kind of day, so on yesterday’s trip to the market, I had the butcher cut me two extra-thick, bone-in, loin end pork chops.  When I got home, I “prepped” them for roasting–a generous sprinkle of salt (for a dry brine) and let them stand overnight in the fridge. Though it’s not cool enough to turn on the heat, just what I get from the oven while these roast will be cozy, and the smell of roasting pork….almost as good a baking bread.

I’ve gotten two chops because I actually want to have extra meat. Leftovers in this case are welcome (which is, admittedly, unusual for me).  This kind of weather brings out a desire for soup-making and other hearty fare, and roasted meat is a good starter!

Slow-roasted loin-end pork chops

Note: The pork was roasted in the clay cooker–with very simple seasoning. I just wanted some big roasted pork flavor. I used loin-end chops here, but thick-cut shoulder chops, or country-style spare ribs will also work. I love the Schlemmertopf/Romertopf for cooking, but you can do this in a Dutch oven if you don’t have a clay cooker.  It will still taste good!

loin end pork chopIngredients

  • 1 or 2 extra thick (1-1/2 to 2 inches) loin-end pork chops
  • a generous tablespoon kosher salt (for the two chops)
  • 2 large Yukon Gold potatoes scrubbed, cut into large chunks (eighths)

pork chops and potatoesPreparation

  • Pat chops dry and sprinkle kosher salt evenly over the chops.
  • Refrigerate overnight or for about 8 hours (up to 24)
  • Soak clay cooker for at least 20 minutes, add chops and place in cold oven set for 295 °F until easily shredded with a fork (about 3 hours).
  • Serve with roasting juices from cooker.

Ò¿Ó

roasted pork and potatoesI made the spicy grilled cabbage from The Kitchn, to go with this. The weather didn’t permit grilling (and lack of planning the oven, therefore the broiler, was in use) so I did a thinner wedge on a smoking hot cast-iron griddle. It was fantastic–no doubt this would be even better on the grill. The spicy lime sauce is yummy (and the bit that found it’s way onto the pork was good there, too).

I did make a couple changes to the sauce: since I was lacking the “smoky” grill, I added chipotle chili powder as well as the cayenne, and I used honey instead of sugar. (I would love to try this sauce with buckwheat honey in it, but none in the house today.)  Definitely a keeper of a sauce!

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There are leftovers–but I’ve planned how to use them. The pork is seasoned only with salt at this point–deliberately so that I have lots of flexibility in using the rest of it.  I want to try a pasta dish with the “pulled” pork, sage and brown butter sauce. There are roasting juices that will contribute to some good soup–maybe hot and sour soup, or maybe something with hominy and sort of southwestern flavor. I suspect that a serving of basic roast pork is headed to the freezer for a quick comfort-food meal in colder weather.

pork, potatoes, cabbageA son goût!

The less common parts of the beast

As you’ve seen in my posts on offal before, there are edible parts of the animal that you won’t find in the supermarket–Americans seem to focus on only the really choice (not referring to USDA grading here) parts of the animal–like steaks and roasts.  We relegate  some really tasty parts to pet food (not that I don’t love the cat–I’ll share).

If you want to sample some of these tasty bits,  you’ll  need a local supplier who butchers their own animals or you can likely find some of these other edible parts in an Hispanic or Asian market, though I’ve noticed that pork belly has been showing up in the meat case at my local Harris Teeter recently.

For cooking instruction for the odd bits, some of my favorite cookbooks for this “nose-to-tail” or “everything but the oink” eating are by Fergus Henderson and Jennifer McLagen. See Bibliography page.

This really isn’t offal–it’s not an internal organ, but it is part of the beast that we don’t usually cook (except as bacon), kind of like jowels or cheeks.  For some really luscious pork, you should try pork belly.  This is going to be more like what you’d get if you attend a “pig pickin'”, rather than the usual pork roast that shows up on the dinner table.  If these pictures from Eat the Earth don’t have you drooling on your keyboard, I can’t imagine what will.

The method used there was from Jamie Oliver.com; here is a recipe for roast pork belly.  This is serious comfort food–and it’s good to be able to get this without having to wait for an occasion where the whole pig has been cooked. Now that you’re acquainted with “less common” parts of the beast you should check out true offal: heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, and even the stomach and intestines. (Frankly, I have cooked and eaten tripe (stomach) and chitterlings (intestines), and probably will not ever cook those two bit of offal again–unless it’s the intestines as the casing of sausages.  That’s a whole different thing.  I’ll happily have a go at most of the other organs.

Since I’ve an easy supply of offal from Rose’s Meat and Sweet Market and a large Li Ming’s Global Mart (Asian) I’ve no problem getting the odd bits–like duck gizzards–so there will be more about offal as we go along.

More pork and cabbage

prok butt country ribs IMG_6075

country-style ribs

Yes, more pork and cabbage.

I think pork is a really versatile meat, and cabbage an under-utilized vegetable.  So, more!

My local Harris Teeter had a special on pork country-style ribs recently–about half the usual price. (Not the price in that picture–less.)  Needless to say,  a big package of country-style ribs came home with me.  The weather has still been cool enough to have braises and stews–cool-weather dishes, so I though I would make braised pork and cabbage since that reheats well, and freezes well.

I was planning to do the Caribbean spiced one from Jacques Pepin’s book, but my plans were altered by the arrival of a manuscript for indexing. After looking at the manuscript, I decided that I needed to get started on that right away to be sure I could meet the deadlines–it’s very dense and intense, and brings out my OCD tendencies–so I opted for a braised pork that I could put together really quickly–in other words, improvisation.

one-pot meal in the making

potatoes and cabbage

I wanted to turn this into a one-pot, one-plate meal, so I put potatoes right in with the pork and cabbage.  I looked at the amount of pork and decided that it needed a whole large head of cabbage. I eye-balled what I thought would be a serving of potatoes with each serving of pork and cabbage, and popped those right in with the cabbage–scrubbed, unpeeled, and cut only if they were large. In this case I used “regular” green cabbage, instead of savoy. I sprinkled some salt over the layers of cabbage and potatoes.

I could have used a Dutch oven, but using a clay cooker let me take a few shortcuts to speed this up–including cooking a bit faster in the oven than had I used the Dutch oven and making it unnecessary to brown the ribs as a separate process before putting them into the pot. The meat will brown on the exposes surfaces while it cooks in the Römertopf since this is more roasting than braising, at least of the meat.

pork added to cabbage and potatoes

ready for seasoning

The Römertopf that I used (pre-soaked) for this was sized for 14 pounds (not that I had THAT much pork), but the quart sizing on these is misleading since it’s the capacity of the bottom (rather shallow).  I had a lot of pork, so I needed the head room here for all that meat. I put the pork over the cabbage and potatoes and seasoned it.

I used by “stand-by, go-to” when lazy seasoning–herbes de Provence because it’s such a great blend of flavors. (I really should have put some caraway seeds in with the Herbes De Provencecabbage, under the pork–that would have blended nicely with the herbes de Provence on the pork). I sprinkled the meat with kosher salt, herbes de Provence, and added some red pepper flakes (hot) for a little extra spice; my supper was now oven-ready.

So there’s not really a recipe here, but to summarize:

Ingredients

  • country-style pork ribs (each strip makes one very good serving)–this was about 6 servings based on the amount of meat
  • one large head of cabbage, depending on what you want the ratio of meat to vegetables (this was about 1:2 meat to cabbage since I wanted large serving of cabbage with the meat).

    IMG_7990

    oven ready Römertopf

  • Yukon Gold potatoes (4 small per serving) but adjust as desired
  • salt (about 1 tablespoon for the entire dish) \*
  • herbes de Provence  or other herbs, about 2 generous teaspoons
  • red pepper flakes, about 1 generous teaspoon, adjust as desired

Preparation

If you’re using a clay baker like the Römertopf or Schlemmertopf, you will need to soak in water for 15 to 30 before putting into the oven. DO NOT preheat oven–clay pots must go into a cold oven.

ready to eat!

ready to eat!

  • Chop cabbage into about 1/2 inch (3.5-4cm) pieces
  • Layer potatoes and cabbage into three layers; sprinkle salt over each layer)
  • Place country-style ribs on top of the cabbage and potatoes and sprinkle with salt and herbes de Provence
  • Cover with the pre-soaked top
  • Do not add liquid–there will be enough released during cooking
  • Place in cold oven, and set to 400°F (200°C)
  • Check after two hours–it’s likely ready to eat.

ÒνÓ

If you don’t have Römertopf or Schlemmertopf, you can do this in a Dutch oven. The recipe for braised pork and cabbage should give you the cooking times, liquid, and oven settings.  Just adjust the size of the pot to be appropriate for the amount of meat and cabbage. (It would have been just as tasty but more colorful had I used Red Bliss potatoes–but Yukon Golds where what was present in the kitchen!

IMG_8002

* A note on salting: I keep kosher salt in a salt pig by the stove so that I can just pinch-and-sprinkle. I estimate that I used about 1 tablespoon for this entire preparation. Just sprinkle salt evenly and lightly and you’ll be fine.

Pork butt steaks

One of the frustrations of cooking just for me is that some of the cuts of meat that I like best are typically way too big!  For example, one of my favorites is pork butt (also known as Boston butt).  Note that this does not refer to the location of the cut on the hog–but to the way it was processed and cut in pre-revolutionary and revolutionary times in New England–it’s shoulder that was salted and packed in barrels (called butts).  History aside, it’s good eating no matter what you call it. Enough fat to be succulent, and great for BBQ–friends are always willing to help eat it, but that takes a long time to cook and it’s a LOT of meat, so I generally turn to other cuts.

I use  chops (both loin and shoulder) often. I mean, chops are wonderful–quick, tasty, good size for one, but they are not the only good part of the hog!  I’d rather have cuts other than the ubiquitous loin chops with so little fat that they can be dry if not cooked carefully–such as, a pork neck steak is great (even if hard to find).

Country Spare Ribs

country-style spare ribs

Most often I use country-style spare ribs (from the rib end of the loin), since these can be had in quantities suitable for one person–single-serving plus one for the freezer.  These work well for braised pork and cabbage, and in chilli con carne.

pork butt steak

pork butt steak

While skulking through the supermarket just the other day is was quite surprised to find a package of pork butt steaks lying there in the meat case. No hesitation on my part, they went right into my basket, and home with me, especially since they were on “manager’s special”, but not a problem since I was planning to cook them right away: maybe griddle one, and pop the others into the Romertopf after salting and seasoning with a little chilli powder and coriander.  No water needed to roast these in the Romertopf–but good broth when they come out.   I had one hot meal when they came out of the oven,  packed two more servings with broth for the freezer, and had some for the hot and sour soup.

Some good eating with very little effort on my part–and all very inexpensively!