Pork spare ribs

Cooking pork spare ribs to that point where they are extremely luscious and tender is usually a long process, usually involving the oven (at least for me). Even in the cooler weather this didn’t seem to be an option even with windows and doors open; however it occurred to me that I had another option: the Instant Pot. So despite the rather humid (even if cool) weather and the prospect of hotter weather imminent, that package of spare ribs went home with me.

I’ve cooked other meat (e.g. beef short ribs) in my Instant Pot with wonderful results so that was my plan. Realizing that i was going to have an abundance of pork I started thinking of ways to deal with it: some for the freezer perhaps since there are lots of things to do with good cooked pork.

My favorite way of cooking many things in the Instant Pot (IP) is the pot-in-pot method*–a container with a lid inside the Instant Pot. My reason for using this method so often is that in cooking for one I’m often using rather small quantities in a six-quart IP. Often I don’t want to add as much liquid as would be necessary cooking directly in the container of the pot itself.

I like this method especially for meats. The broth that you collect is undiluted by water so you have broth that is flavorful and will gel nicely. So that is how the spare ribs were cooked. The only “disadvantage” to this method is that you may need to increase the cooking times but since I use the IP mainly because of hands-off method and flavor I don’t find that to be a problem.

It really isn’t possible to give quantities for things like the peppercorns or precisely for the salt–you’ll have to judge by your taste.

Ingredients

  • about 2 to 2-1/2 pounds boneless pork spare ribs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • whole black peppercorns (a lot–about a generous teaspoon or more if you like pepper
  • 4 or 5 cloves of garlic
  • salt (more than you would think)–about 2 or 3 teaspoons

Preparation

  • The day before or at least three or four hours ahead of cooking, sprinkle the spare ribs generously with kosher salt.
  • When ready to cook, rinse if there is still salt visible and pat the meat dry.
  • Cut the strips into 2- or 3-inch chunks (to fit into your bowl).
  • Add 1 cup of water to the IP container, place the trivet, and set the covered bowl on the trivet.
  • Close the IP and set to “meat”. These took about 90 minutes at high pressure.

I removed a healthy serving of the cooked spare ribs for my supper on that cool, rainy evening (with sides of cabbage and some rice) and then cooled the remaining in the broth (and the fat) for another use.

Cooks notes: *This is a rather long video but it introduces the pot-in-pot method and containers suitable for this. I almost always use a cover on the inner pot so that additional liquid doesn’t collect in it. For more on containers see this link, this link, or here.

Chilly weather food

Summer is not my favorite time of the year: I just don’t like hot, humid weather. It makes me kind of listless and wilted.  I don’t mind seeing winter come around because it’s my favorite cooking time.

One of my fall and winter favorites is fårikål.    That’s what I started out to make today since it’s chilly, damp, grey, and seriously pluvial but I got distracted and stumbled on a similar recipe that looked so good. From the North Wild Kitchen, I found slow-roasted lamb shoulder with cabbage.

That seemed easy to adapt to cooking for one.   Since my shoulder chops were nice and thick and it eliminated me having to trim them into chunks–just the thing for a lazy cook.

I have to admit that I didn’t do the apples, although I’m sure that would have been very good with it;  I just didn’t want to go back out into the rain to the grocery store to retrieve an apple! ( I did say “lazy cook”.)

My only modification here (other than using chops) was to cook it in my Romertopf instead of a covered baking dish since I was making a smaller quantity for just me (and the cat).

This is another keeper for cooking lamb and cabbage!

A son gôut!

—Ô¿Ô—

Crudités

After my last visit to my physician for my 100,000-mile maintenance check, I was appalled at the numbers I read on the scales when I weighed in. Arrrggghhhhh! So it time to do something about those numbers. Obviously, more exercise–and I’ve actually Radish Varietiessuccumbed to a fitness device that will make me (horribly) aware of how inactive I can be, especially during working days.

Along with trying to get my butt out of my office chair even on work days, I’m trying to get more veggies and fruits into me. As the weather gets hotter, I want cool things so crudités are appearing often. Most often served with a dip of some sort but I was looking for something to add a bit of zip and zing to raw (or lightly blanched) vegetables: celery, radishes, zucchini, jicama, kohlrabi, etc.

As you all know by now, Bull City Olive Oil is one of my favorite places to find tasty stuff (like truffle salt for popcorn). In addition to olive oil and salts, there is a grand array of balsamic vinegars. I’ve discovered that some of these make a marvelous “dip” for all these veggies–without adding any oil–so that it keeps my cruditès low calorie but still never boring.  Some of the ones I use are honey-ginger, blackberry, blackberry-ginger, black mission fig, and lemongrass-mint.

And–the dark chocolate! Just a few drops with berries or fruit makes a wonderful treat–as does the passionfruit, or the lavender.  All very low cal, but so tasty! I suspect that the coconut white balsamic would be pretty darn good with fruits and berries too. So many possibilities for good taste–and there are always new ones to try–and healthy eating, too.

A son gôut!

—Ô¿Ô—

A one-dish oven meal

It’s time to do the weekly (at least I try to make it weekly) troll through the fridge to see what is left from last week, to use for the first two or so meals this week. There’s some kohlrabi, radichio, fresee, lettucepart of a rutabaga, a head of radicchio, and there’s part of a bag of frozen butternut squash in the freezer that should be used as well since it’s already open. There are also two boneless, skinless chicken thighs and two black pepper and onion sausages.

The chilly, drippy, damp and grey weather calls for something warm and colorful. This weather has left me feeling like I really want quality time with the cat and a good book, so I’m thinking oven type meal. It can’t be a stew–already did that quite recently. So a roasted supper seems like a good idea–and something with lots of flavor!

I’ve been wanting to try roasted radicchio, butternut squash is good roasted too–and that certainly would be cheerful and colorful. Although I usually use bone-in chicken thighs for roasting, a little perusing of recipes from The Kitchn I found a suggestion for roasting the boneless, skinless ones as well.

  • A little further browsing suggested 425ºF.for about 20 minutes for the thighs.
  •  From Bon Appetit for roasted radicchio suggested 450ºF for 12 minutes for a head cut into six wedges–I think I’ll cut mine a little thicker
  • For the butternut squash, a recipe from Food & Wine suggested 425ºF for about 40 minutes for 1-inch dice of raw squash. The frozen squash is par-cooked, so I think the 20 minutes should work for that. Since this is frozen, I’m not expecting it to brown in the oven–it will be too wet, but better than dealing with way too much squash. It should still taste good.

Ò¿Ó

It was a pretty good result for a trial run with just whatever was in the fridge, and went into the oven all in one baking dish.  It’s a combination that will likely even happen as a planned meal in the future.

The chicken thighs didn’t brown much but were tasty; however, I definitely my chicken thighs bone-in and skin-on–especially if you salt and air dry the skin so that it gets crispy and brown. I may have to give bone-in a bit of a head start on cooking, then add the other stuff.

The butternut squash did as expected–cooked fine but didn’t brown. Again, still tasted good and it was great with the radicchio.

I didn’t get part of the core with the radicchio, so my wedge fell apart–oh well, a learning experience. But roasted radicchio is now right up there with grilled or roasted cabbage. The edges a little brown and almost charred, but tender (though still some texture. The bitterness of this against the sweetness of the squash was great. That’s a combination I’ll come back to again.

It wasn’t particularly photogenic since the radicchio fell apart as I removed it from the baking dish to my plate and the chicken wasn’t browned, but it was a very tasty meal with some good taste contrasts.

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 A son gôut!

Ò¿Ó

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Spring is here?

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Mertensia virginicia

Here in NC it’s beginning to feel a lot like spring! The maple outside my house is well into bloom; on my deck there are Virginia bluebells or cowslip (Mertensia virginica) blooming, and other green shoots (including the sorrel) are starting to peek out of the ground.

The birds are acting like it’s springtime, too; the Pine, and the Yellow-rumped Warblers that suddenly appeared (just in time for the Great Backyard Bird Count) seem to have disappeared as quickly as they appeared, and as I write I’m listening to a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk calling close by . Other harbingers of spring, catalogs from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Brushy MountainBailey Bee Supply, and Dadent, have arrived, too (and I’ve ordered my package of bees to restart by beekeeping career).

I’ve been happily indexing with the doors and windows open on some days (like today) when the temperature rose into the 70s, and my cooking thoughts have turned to more spring-y things–like shad roe, fresh garden peas, and asparagus–instead of things like pot roast, chicken and dumplings that are so comforting in cold, winter weather. That was until I looked at the weather forecast this morning while I was imbibing my morning quota of caffeine. On my second cup of café au lait, doing my Facebook catch-up, I spotted a post from a friend about possible snow on Sunday–that’s right on 12 March 2017–after days of warm weather and blooming flowers!

Ever on the lookout for “fake” news these days, I pulled up the Weather Channel, and WRAL for local forecasts–sure enough–after daytime temperatures of 70 to 75ºF until Friday the forecast highs plummet to mid-40 to 50ºF for the weekend–and freezing (to below freezing) nighttime lows for the weekend and Monday. Yes, there were those cute little snowflakes in the graphics with the raindrops!  Here’s hoping that whatever we get, it’s not one of the infamous “ice storms” with freezing rain and all its complications.

That shifted my cooking thoughts in a rather abrupt manner: one last fling of winter food before we get to the kind of weather that makes me cringe at the thought of things like beef stew, pot roast, or beef and barley stew just because it hot and humid.

9780393081084Those specific things came to mind because I’ve just been reading  The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J.Kenji Lopez-Alt. Yes, food science with attached recipes (and experiments to demonstrate his points)–a good book to get you started with cooking by understanding the science (without too much science detail to bore you).

Considering that my freezer is already pretty well stocked with pot roast to get me through the damp, drizzly spring weather, I decided that wasn’t my option for my last winter cooking fling.

(So you’re asking why I’m doing one last bit of winter cooking instead of just pulling some pot roast out of the freezer? Well,  for me, part of the satisfaction of winter cooking is all about the the aroma of whatever is cooking in the oven (that’s also helping make the kitchen warm and cozy). It’s not all about putting stuff in the freezer for later although that’s good–it’s about the immediate experience, too. That’s what I mean by “comfort food”!).

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I’ve decided that I’ll try the recipe for Beef and Barley Stew. This may be the first time that I’ve ever used a recipe for it but this one looks interesting, and maybe, an improvement on my usual throw-together version. So–from The Food Lab (Kindle location 3875), here’s what I’m going to try (though I’ll adjust the quantities since it’s to serve only me–and the cat). The recipes in this book are very easy to follow–instructions complete, and the science explained before the recipe, thought it’s easy reading and not so tedious as some food science can be. The recipe below is a good example of what’s in this book.

Beef and Barley Stew

from The Food Lab (Kindle location 3875-3896)

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless beef short ribs, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, split in half lengthwise and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium stalks celery, split in half lengthwise, and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large onion, finely diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Marmite
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced or grated on a Microplane [grater/zester] (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 4 cups homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock
  • one 14-1/2 ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups loosely packed roughly torn kale leaves

Preparation/assembly

  1. Toss the short ribs in a large bowl with salt and pepper to coat. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over high heat until smoking. Add the beef and cook without moving it, until well browned on first side, about 5 minutes. Stir and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, about 10 minutes total; reduce heat if necessary to keep from scorching. Return the meat to the bowl and set aside.
  2. Return the pot to medium-high heat. Add carrots, celery, and onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the Marmite, soy sauce, garlic, and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the stock and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes, barley, and bay leaves, then return the beef to the pot, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce to the lowest possible heat and cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef is completely tender and the barley is cooked through, about 2 hours.
  4. Stir in the kale and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, or, for best flavor, cool and refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 5 days before reheating and serving.

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Why did I decide to try this recipe? Well, in a word, umami. Good food is all about flavor–and I’m investigating an ingredient that I’ve never tried before: Marmite. I’ve read that it’s a love-or-hate thing with Marmite, but it’s supposed to enhance umami. I don’t think I’ll hate it–after all I’m not going to eat it straight, and I do use anchovies and nam pla (fish sauce) so why not try this one?

I’m not dissatisfied with my usual beef and barley stew or soup (which does contain most of the ingredients here except for tomatoes and Marmite), but I’m feeling adventurous–my ever-present curiosity about ingredients that I haven’t tried rears its head.

However, I’m thinking of one modification here–depending on my work schedule for Sunday. If an anticipated manuscript arrives for indexing, ending my hiatus of goofing off and spending quality time with the cat–meaning I’ll actually be working–the 2-hour cooking may take place in a slow (275 ºF) oven–with the lid slightly ajar as suggested in this recipe since it reduces the watching necessary with stove-top cooking; it’s usually my preferred method because it eliminates the possibility that I’ll get involved and not give the pot proper attention; nothing worse that a scorched pot to clean up–not to mention ruining good food!

There’s one other deviation that I’ll use with this recipe–because I’m only cooking for one and bunches of greens tend to be a bit overwhelming (read just too damn much of even a good thing), I’ll be getting my kale out of a freezer package (my usual  Stahlbush Island Farms chopped curly kale) so that I don’t have to deal with the excess. Since I’ve got a few “winter” veggies in the crisper that need to be used I’m planning  different vegetable sides for the week–something with rutabaga, and kohlrabi.

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Winter oyster tradition continues

As I’ve posted before, oysters with special wine are a Christmas and New Year’s tradition in my home. When I finally got it back together from the C. difficile, it was way past prime oyster season. But it is again prime oyster season so my thoughts are turning to oysters and wine. Eating oysters on the half-shell recently at Burger Bach (yes, they “do” excellent burgers, and oysters) really got me thinking about oysters in a very serious way. Even though I’ve not made it for either Christmas eve or New Year’s eve, I still intend to have my winter oysters. I’d arranged to share with two good friends who are also oyster lovers–but we had to reschedule first because of snow and horrendous cold, and then, again, because all the snow and cold left Durham essentially without oysters!

I’ve done some fun things with oysters: oyster and corn chowder, and a in 2013-2014, with black truffle (good friend gave me truffles) and experimented with some wines.  I liked the “surf & turf” combination so well that I’m continuing it this year as well.

I’ve started the hunt for wine for this winter’s oyster feast. So far the wines recommended are:

2011 Pouilly-Fuisse (Gilles Noblet, France)

“Gilles Noblet, Pouilly-Fuisse, Burgundy, France, 2011{sustainable} 100% Chardonnay EXOTIC FRUITS, DRIED CITRUS & WHISP OF VANILLA Thirty year old Chardonnay vines provide the heart and soul of Noblet’s Pouilly Fuissé, right from the village of Fuissé. This area was originally comprised of negociant producers and Gilles Noblet was the first in his region to independently bottle his wine under his own name. This style is racy, rich and elegant with hints of kiwi and pineapple fruits. The finish goes on and on and on… Serving Suggestion: White Burgundy is the home of Chardonnay and this one is extremely versatile. A perfect match for dishes with heavy cream sauces.”  From Wine Authorities.

2013 Macon-Peronne (Gandines, Domaine des, France)

domaine-des-gandines-macon-peronne-burgundy-france-10338034“100% Chardonnay FULL & FLAVORFUL, LEMON, HAZELNUT, CARAMEL. SERIOUS! Gandines really surprised us with this compelling, and serious White Burgundy. Fully ripe and lush, but with juicy acidity and complex minerality. This kind of power usually comes from the big boys north of the Macon in the Cotes de Beaune. Aged in enormous 3000 liter old oak barrels that soften the wine without giving it any oak flavor, it is possibly the most impressive Chardonnay available at this price! Serving Suggestion: Steamed or raw oysters. Black sea bass poached in olive oil with fresh thyme. Roast turkey with truffles or chanterelles.”  From Wine Authorities.

Tenuta del Cavaliere, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Marchetti, 2013 

385762“Verdicchio is central Italy’s most distinctive white varietal. The mineral-rich soils of the Classico Superiore sector of the Marches’ Castelli di Jesi zone – just a few miles from the Adriatic Sea – imbues the finest Verdicchios with extra complexity and a deeply etched soil signature. A radiant green-gold in the bowl, Marchetti’s Verdicchio shows all the minerally snap pea and smoky white pepper notes that we so love in the very finest Verdicchios. The wine’s smoky mineral expression yields to a fleshy core of pear and melon fruit backed by riveting acidity, a tactile mineral expression, and suggestions of green tea, grapefruit zest and sappy dried herbs. Full bodied yet balanced and elegant, Marchetti’s Verdicchio begs for rich vegetarian recipes and fish steaks. Pair it now and over the coming five years with hearty fare that calls for a bold white wine, like swordfish, fresh albacore tuna, rabbit, zucchini casseroles, white pizzas, and pastas dressed with olive oil, garlic and seasonal vegetables. Impressive Verdicchio! ” Found this one at Hope Valley Bottle Shop.

Finally, the weather is cooperating, and I’ll be eating oysters on Saturday evening. I haven’t yet decided which wine will accompany this round of oyster stew with black truffles!  I keep reading the descriptions of each and just can’t decide, but I do know that three is too many–I have to make a decision.

 

Lamb Stew (Alentejo-style)

My bargain shopping got me a butterflied leg of lamb that was on special. Rather than roast it whole, I decided our chilly, grey, damp weather needed stew.

I cut the lamb leg into 3 cm cubes; I decided that I wanted some variety in my stews so since I had two pounds of lamb so all I needed to do was halve the recipes.Since I’ve not done much Iberian cookery I got out The Food of Spain & Portugal: The Complete Iberian Cuisine by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz (page 152).  

pimenton-de-la-veraThere are a lot of lamb stew recipes in this book. I finally made a decision based on seasonings that sounded interesting: garlic, parsley, pimenton de la vera (smoked), cayenne, and cloves. (The recipe only said “paprika”–which I’m sure would work fine, but I particularly like the smokiness of the pimenton de la vera, but I used the amount called for.)

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Carneiro à Alentejana

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 900 g (2 pounds), lean, boneless lamb, cut into 3.5 cm/1-1/2 inch pieces
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil or lard
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 175 mL/ 3/4 cup dry white wine

Preparation

  • Mix garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Add the lamb to the garlic mixture and marinate about 2 hours. (I left mine overnight)
  • In a large skillet, heat the oil or lard and brown the lamb pieces all over.
  • Transfer lamb to a flameproof casserole.
  • In the remaining oil and sauté the onion until soft and add to the casserole.
  • Add paprika, cayenne, cloves to the casserole. (I like to “bloom” dry spices in oil before adding liquid so I added the paprika while sautéing the onions)
  • Bring to a simmer on the stovetop.
  • Cover and put in a moderate oven (180ºC/350ºF) and cook until the lamb is tender (about 1-1/2 hours).

The author recommends serving with a light red wine (red Vinho Verde or Dão, and notes that in Portugal meats are usually served with both potatoes and rice.

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I halved the recipe above and used the other pound of lamb to make my favorite lamb and cabbage stew (Fårikål) with the other half. I considered being very energy conscious and making both at the same time; however, my hedonism won and I made them on different days because I love to luxuriate in the aromas of cooking–that’s part of the anticipation and enjoyment of cooking and eating. I just didn’t think I would get to enjoy them in the same way if I were to cook both at the same time. I would have missed some of the pleasure of cooking had I done that. The smell (especially of the pimenton de la vera) was particularly appetizing.

The combination of the pimenton, cayenne, and clove was wonderful. I don’t often use the “sweeter” spices with meats but that little dash of clove has made me wonder why I haven’t used them more with meat. I need to broaden my perspective on the “appropriate” spices to use with meats.

The balance of the seasoning in this recipe (I didn’t change anything) was wonderful–just enough cayenne to give a little “burn” as you eat your way through a serving, but not every getting to the point where you felt as if you had blisters on your taste buds–and the clove didn’t smack you in the face either. All in all a very well-balanced seasoning. I’ll probably try this with lamb shoulder chops–even without cutting them up.

Oh, wine? Well since there was a bottle of my “house wine” already open, I used that–it’s one of the things I like about that wine: it’s very versatile. Rice? Potatoes? Nope–garbanzo beans.

There is one modification I think I’ll make next time–I’ll add more onions they were luscious after cooking with the lamb and seemed just right with the pimenton.