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.

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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!

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Potato and cabbage soup

I like soup for a meal–if it’s a good hearty soup with lots of veggies and maybe some meat in it. All it takes is cold weather and I’m especially interested in soup. Well, we’ve got the cold weather right now and it’s apparently going to last a while, too. I’ve a small “dinner” ham–I’ve sliced part of it to use for sandwiches, and cubed part–some will go in mac ‘n’ cheese (in the rice cooker), and it seemed that part of it would be good for soup–some to eat now and some to freeze for later meals.

Looking in the fridge, I discovered a head of cabbage and some red potatoes, and, of course, ham.

  • a medium yellow onion, chopped and lightly browned in a scant tablespoon of bacon fat (or oil).
  • Two good serving of ham, in 1/2-inch cubes, browned.
  • Garlic, about 6 good-size cloves, coarsely chopped, and cooked with the ham and onion until it starts to smell fragrant.
  • several healthy shakes of hot red pepper flakes added and “toasted” with the ham an onions.
  • about 1/2 teaspoon of kala jeera (black cumin) added to toast just a bit with the contents of the pan.
  • Two bay leaves added to the pan.
  • Three cups water to degaze the good brown fond from the bottom of the pan (add more later if needed when all the ingredients are in the pot). Bring to a simmer.
  • Three medium red potatoes cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes and added to the pot.
  • Cabbage, 1/2 small head cut into 3/4-inch pieces, or shredded if you prefer, added to the simmering pot. Add more water if needed to just barely cover.
  • Put the pot into a 250°F oven, and ignore for about 2 hours (I was working on an index and didn’t want to have to mind the pot on the stovetop).
cabbage, potato, and ham soup

meal in a bowl

Since cabbage keeps so well, I almost always have it in the crisper, and potatoes, too. I’ve done similar soups  (starting with the onions, potatoes, and cabbage–varying the seasoning, of course) with various sausages–kielbasa being a particular favorite. I’ve used leftover roast, steak, chicken, or chops in similar soups as well. If the meat is already cooked, I’ll use broth (vegetable, chicken, or beef) instead of water.

The kala jeera has a rather flowery flavor (and you want to use it in small amounts as it could be a bit overwhelming, but the hint of the floweriness was a nice contrast to the smokiness of the ham and the earthiness of the cabbage.

Garlic mashed potatoes

My assigned dish for the Thanksgiving dinner that I always have with friends is garlic mashed potatoes…I love them, but don’t make mashed potatoes for one.  One of the reasons is that I want my mashed potatoes to be unctuous, with lots of butter and (at least) half-and-half–not something I should be adding to my diet often.

This year, I made my Thanksgiving garlic mashed potatoes as described inCook’s Country recipe for garlic mashed potatoes–it’s a one-pot method that produced a lovely result–with less effort that the way I had done them.  It’s always been my contention that I don’t want to cook potatoes for mashing in the jackets–I hate having to peel them while still hot, and I certainly don’t want to boil peeled potatoes in water–I want all that lovely starch to be available to absorb cream and butter–so I’ve always steamed them and then let them dry out just a bit before I start mashing.

This recipe took a different approach:  the potatoes were cooked with the minced garlic (after it was sautéed in butter) and then cooked in the half-and-half with a bit of water added.  Once tender the potatoes were mashed right in the pot, adding some more butter, and half-and-half.

I’ve looked at this recipe and wondering if this approach could be adapted to making mashed potatoes (decent ones) for one, or maybe two.  It would certainly be faster than baking a potato and then making mashed potatoes, since the potatoes are cut into 1/2-inch cubes before cooking and you do the mashing right in the same pot that you cooked them in–less clean-up to do, as well.

Adapting this recipe for one seemingly would involve just a ratio adjustment–but that will take a test run to see if it is so simple.  Since the original recipe called for four pounds of potatoes (designed to serve about 6 or so), it might take some tinkering, but sometimes mashed potatoes (like risotto) are necessary even when doing single-serving cooking.

Serious, easy comfort food….

Surely one of the easiest comfort foods must be a baked potato. I don’t mean just any old baked potato. It has to be one that has never had aluminum foil mentioned in the same room with it, rubbed with oil, popped into the oven at about 325°F until the well-scrubbed skin is almost crisp.

Pulled from the oven, x-ed on top and smushed open, given a minute or two for steam to escape, just a tad of butter added–it’s so good!  Probably, in my estimation, the ultimate comfort food–even more than mac ‘n’ cheese.

Want to make it some seriously “gourmet” comfort food?  Add some fleur de sel, or another fine specialty finishing salt. For a great account of salts of the world, you should check out Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral by Mark Bitterman. Just a pinch of a finishing salt adds a very special touch.

Some truffle oil and/or butter, or shaved truffle over the lovely baked potato is awesome.  If you go so far as the truffle butter (or not) a glass of champagne goes well with it and helps induce an aura of comfort in a serious way.

If it’s a meal you want, rather than just comfort food, add some steamed broccoli, and maybe even some cheese–some pepper jack or Havarti will melt easily over the top–just lay thin slices over the hot potato–never mind making cheese sauce here.

Sumptuous but simple.

A son goût!

Red, white, and blue roasted potatoes

Happy Fourth of July to all!

mixed color potatoes in colander

I really was planning to do something special today–more smoked lamb and goat shanks–but I admit to turning to a total wuss, wimping out…as I looked at the weather forecast for the week.  Even though those are easy, it still requires some minding of the grill, and I just could not face it.  I resolved to have a quiet, cool Fourth of July–just me and the cat–indoors with the air conditioning…and I woke up this morning wishing I’d not been such a wuss.

Saved by friends!  An impromptu invitation to join them for grilled chicken this evening.  So–I’m having my quiet Fourth, but with friends and neighbors.

close-up of cut purple, pink/red, and yellow potatoes

Not to go empty-handed, I am making some patriotic roasted potatoes–red, white, and blue–Red Thumb, Russian Banana (okay, bit of fudging here), and Purple Majesty potatoes (new ones from the farm).  Since it’s HOT (my thermometer is reading 98°F now), I’ve decided that those roasted potatoes are going to turn into something that can be eaten at “room temperature”, that will be light and refreshing, and compliment the chicken.

I’m taking  newly dug tri-colored potatoes and scrubbing their delicate skins carefully, cutting as needed to have them equal sizes so that they cook at the same rate, tossing them with a little olive oil; then into a preheated pan and into a 350° F oven until they are tender.

cut and oiled potatoes on baking sheet

I’ve done what America’s Test Kitchen recommends and placed cut sides in contact with the baking sheet so that at least some of the potatoes will brown to give roasted flavor. Now for some complimentary and contrasting flavors to finish these. Since all these do taste a bit different, and for me one of the fun things about this is to be able to taste the individual potatoes and to compare them–think about comparing wines–I want light seasoning–nothing to overwhelm the potatoes themselves. The only seasoning at this point is kosher salt.

Since it’s hot outside (my thermometer is now reading 99.7°F ), I’m thinking light and cool flavors.  I don’t want “potato salad”–so vinegar is out, but I do need something “bright”–and light, and something cool.  Time to check out the herbs on the deck, and the crisper drawer.

lemon, tarragon, chives, mint, and chili peppers.

Chicken makes me think tarragon.  Cool makes me thing mint–hmm.  Let me smush a couple of leaves together and see how that smells.  Tarragon–warm, mint–cool.  Need some brightness to set off the earthiness of the potatoes–lemon zest, and maybe just a bit of lemon juice over the potatoes while they are still warm.  Seems a good start–but not quite there yet.  Needs a little “spice”–some very finely minced red chili pepper might just do it.

After the potatoes had been in the oven for 30 minutes, I used the tip of a paring knife to check doneness–not quite; and, not quite brown enough.  (I probably should have used the heavier half-pan baking sheet instead of this one–drat.) I kicked the oven temperature to 450°F for another 15 minutes and checked again.  Perfect!  Brown potatoes–so out of the oven, ready for the first seasoning.

roasted potatoes--browned edges of the red, yellow and purple  ones.While still hot, I tossed them with the zest of one lemon and most of the juice of the lemon–nice bright flavor to contrast with the brown and earthy potatoes.  After cooling a bit, I tossed in about a tablespoon each pretty finely chopped French tarragon and mint. That got the first taste of cool mint, followed by the warm flavor of French tarragon.  So far so good.

I let them stand for a bit and tasted again–the lemon flavor is there but not overwhelming–the juice has added just a bit of tartness, but not enough to taste like a “potato salad”. Now, I’m debating chives and chili pepper.  I taste the chili pepper–it’s not screaming hot–and I think that just an occasional bit of heat as you eat the potatoes would be nice.  I seeded and removed the ribs, and finely minced about 1/5 of the pepper and tossed that with the potatoes. (Still debating about the chives–I really don’t want them to taste like ersatz baked potatoes.)

seasoned IMG_6935After standing for a bit longer, I tasted again, and decided that chives are not what is needed here–I probably should just leave them alone!

So the final seasonings are the zest of one lemon, lemon juice, mint, tarragon, and just a touch of  red Serrano chili pepper, and a very light sprinkle of a good fruity, extra-virgin olive oil.  I hope that after standing a bit more (not to be refrigerated before we eat the at ambient temperature–or maybe a little less–thermometer now at 100.6°F ) there will be flavors of warm and cool herbs, the brightness of lemon (juice and zest), and an occasional burst of heat from the chili pepper.

Using the baking sheet so that the potatoes are spread out and don’t steam, and preheated does really help get browned roasted potatoes.  If they are too crowded, they will only “steam” and not brown–not really roasted.  The browning is, after all, the whole purpose of turning on the oven!

It’s not smoked lamb shanks, but it’s going to be a pleasant evening with friends–and I do think that something similar will return to go with those lamb shanks when they happen later–when the temperature does not turn me into a total wimp!

…and yes, I’ve done that final taste–yum!  No chives though.

roasted potatoes, with herbs and chili peppers in serving dish.

Leftovers? Possibly–it is a big dish of potatoes for three, but leftovers here are desirable.  Tomorrow they can become a roasted potato salad–perhaps with just a splash of balsamic vinegar, adding some fresh tomato, and cucumber, and, perhaps, some celery, radishes, crisp sweet onion or some freshly snipped chives.

Happy Fourth of July!  A son goût!  

Beet (and other) Röstis

One of the things that we often want in cooking for one (just as in cooking for four or six) is fast and easy, and a technique that can be applied to a number of dishes. I’ve mentioned steam-sauté as a great way to cook vegetables quickly–but here are some other ideas for quick cooking.

Beets image from Swallowtail Garden seeds

beets

Beets can normally take quite some time to cook since they are dense and hard.  One of the ways to speed up cooking is by grating or shredding a dense vegetable–think about hash browns!  You can use a similar technique with beets (or carrots, parsnips, cabbage)–cut them into small pieces so that they will cook more quickly.  Here is an example adapted from Marion Morash’s Victory Garden Cookbook: 

Grated Sautéed  Beets

Ingredients

  • 4 medium beets
  • 4 tablespoons butter, or olive oil
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
  • Chopped fresh dill weed or parsley

Preparation

  • Wash, peel, and coarsely grate beets (If small and tender, peeling is not necessary)
  • Melt butter in a covered frying pan.
  • Add beets, and stir to cover with butter or oil.
  • Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until just tender.  (You could add a bit of water or stock–like steam-sauté technique if needed to keep from burning.)
  • Season with lemon, salt and pepper and serve.

Although this will serve four, it’s easy to cut this down to a single-serving size–there’s really nothing to measure or adjust–it’s easy to eyeball the amount of butter and quantity of beets needed.  What could be simpler!

If you want to get just a bit fancier with your veggies, you could make röstis.  This gives you different flavor and texture for very little extra effort.

 You’ve probably heard of rösti–maybe just as “potato pancakes”.  A potato rösti at its simplest is just grated (shredded) potato, mixed with a little flour to help hold the potatoes together (and maybe some Parmigiano-Reggiano), which is sautéed  in a little butter until tender, brown, and crispy.  It’s simple, quick, and yummy–and even better, it’s easily made for one or two people as it’s really not a fussy recipe:  small for a side dish, or a bit larger for a main course.

Here is a basic potato rösti recipe from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters cookbook Kindle location 1464).  This recipe makes four substantial servings, or 12 snack size röstis. Röstis are typically shaped into a cake, but can also be baked in muffin tins or on a cookie sheet

Potato-Parmesan Rösti

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for greasing pan and your hands.
  • 1-1/2 pounds waxy potatoes (new potatoes, or red potatoes)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary or thyme
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
  • salt and fresh-ground black pepper

Preparation

  • Heat oven to 350° F and grease nonstick muffin tins or backing sheet.
  • Grate the potatoes and onion (food processor, or by hand).
  • Squeeze dry with paper towels.
  • Put in bowl, add Parmesan, flour, and oil (if baking–omit if sautéing).
  • Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Divide between muffin tins and press down, or press into cakes.
  • Bake or sauté until crisp and golden–about 30 minutes.
  • Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature.

Obviously, this technique will work well with other vegetables–such as beets, carrots, squash, cabbage.  You can see that this is easily cut down for a single serving: you’ll want about one-fourth this amount:  1 tablespoon oil, 6 ounces potato, 1/4 onion, a healthy pinch of rosemary, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, and a scant teaspoon of flour for one large cake, and the cooking time should be about the same since the recipe calls for dividing into cakes. Making these in single serving sizes, I opt to sauté them rather than bake them.  I omit the oil from the mixture and add a little to the skillet.

This technique can be used with lots of other vegetables–one of the advantages being that the shredded vegetables will cook more quickly than whole veggies.

Another recipe from Mark Bittman is for beet rösti from his column in the New York Times:

Beet rösti

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds beets (3 very large or 4 to 6 medium)
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Minced parsley or a few rosemary leaves for garnish.

Preparation

  • Trim and peel beets as you would potatoes.
  •  Grate them in food processor or by hand (For a single serving, I’d use a box grater.)
  • Begin preheating 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  •  Toss grated beets in bowl with rosemary, salt and pepper.
  • Add about half the flour; toss well, add rest of flour, and toss again.
  •  Put butter in skillet; heat until it begins to turn nut-brown.
  • Scrape beet mixture into skillet, and press with spatula to form a round.
  • With medium to medium-high heat–the pancake should gently sizzle–cook, shaking pan occasionally, until bottom of cake is nicely crisp, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Slide cake onto a plate, top with another plate, invert the two plates, and return cake to pan.
  • Keep cooking, adjusting heat if necessary, until other side is browned, another 10 minutes or so.
  •  Garnish, cut into wedges, and serve hot or at room temperature.

 This can be readily adapted to other vegetables–carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips–which have about the same texture and density as beets. Once you’re familiar with the technique, you can use vegetables with different textures:  summer squash–just squeeze them thoroughly to remove moisture, and remember that they will cook more quickly than beets.

Sweet potato & chile hash

Basic Sweet Potato & Chile Hash

Adapted from FineCooking, November 2001”Delicious Wayswith Sweet Potatoes” by Karen & BenBarker. (There are more awesome recipes in the article.The Chile Mayonnaise recipe is a keeper, too.)

Here is a recipe that I love–the combination of the sweetness of the sweet potato, with the slight “burn” of the chile pepper is just great.  The hash is excellent on its own–with grilled meats, or fish as well, and a fantastic accompaniment to eggs any way you like them.   It holds well in the fridge so “leftover” is not a bad thing with this.  If you ignore quantities, just pay attention to the flavors, you can use that half sweet potato left from the roasted Brussels sprouts to get a similar side dish in single-serving quantity since the recipe calls for you to precook the sweet potato.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil; more as needed.
  • 1 small onion, diced (to yield 1 cup)
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced (to yield ½ cup)
  • 2 small fresh poblano or Anaheim chiles (or other medium-hot chiles), cored, seeded, and diced (to yield ¾ cup)
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1-2 jalapeños, cored, seeded, and minced
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt; more to taste
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

  • Cook the diced sweet potatoes in boiling salted water until firm-tender, about 3 minutes.  Drain well and set aside.
  • In a large nonstick skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat.
  • Cook the onion, red pepper, and diced chiles, (except the jalapeños) stirring frequently, until all are well softened and the onion is golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  • Stir in the garlic and jalapeños, cook for 1 minute. Transfer to a plate.
  • Increase the heat to medium and heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in the pan.
  • When the oil is not, add the sweet potatoes and cook, tossing frequently, until the edges begin to brown, about 10 minutes.
  • Return t he onion and pepper mixture to the pan.
  • Stir in the salt, cilantro, oregano, and lime juice; season with pepper to taste….