About thirty years ago, I made an attempt at a tourtiere, a French-Canadian meat pie, but the pastry was so hard that I ended up tossing the whole thing. I finally decided to try again using a recipe I found on line. The crust was a great success, but the filling was a bit on the bland side. I’ll try again one day. In the mean time, this was the result.
Kung Pao chicken is a classic Szechuan dish, but I had a two pound piece of pork tenderloin in the freezer, that I wanted to use up, so I switched things up a bit. The other elements were still there including the hot chili and crunchy peanuts, even if I forgot to add the latter to the dish, until I was almost finished devouring my first bowl.
Kung Pao Pork – serves 2-3
1 lbs pork tenderloin, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tbsp Kikkoman soy sauce
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tbsp light soy sauce, or Kikkoman
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1/2 tbsp Shaoxing wine or cooking sherry
1/2 tbsp black vinegar or rice wine or apple cider vinegar
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tbsp granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp water
From left to right: Shaoxing cooking wine, black/Chinkiang vinegar, Kikkoman soy sauce and dark soy sauce
Remaining Kung Pao Ingredients
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 small white onion, finely diced
1/2 tbsp minced or grated ginger
1/2 tbsp minced or grated garlic
1-5 whole dried red chilis, with or without seeds depending on preference, broken into 1/2″ pieces*
1/2 tsp ground Szechuan peppercorns
1 medium zucchini, diced (optional)
1 small red bell pepper, diced
2-4 tbsp dry roasted peanuts, unsalted
From top left, clockwise: dried chili, ground Szechuan peppercorns, onions/ginger/garlic, marinated pork cubes, and lo mein noodles (no egg, 3 minute cooking time)
* I used one chili, with seeds, and it was very bland.
1-2 stalks of green onions, thinly cut on the diagonal, for garnish
Marinate the pork: In a medium bowl, combine the pork, soy sauce, and cornstarch. Mix well and let the pork marinate, for 1 hour, in the fridge.
Making the Kung Pao sauce: In a small bowl, combine the light and dark soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, black vinegar, cornstarch, sugar, sesame oil, and water. Stir to mix the ingredients. Set aside.
Cooking the pork: Heat up one tbsp of cooking oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add the marinated pork cubes and flash fry for 3-4 minutes or until the outside is lightly browned. With a perforated spoon transfer the pork cubes to a shallow bowl lined with paper towels to absorb the majority of oil. Retain the remaining oil in the wok as you’ll need it to fry the rest of the ingredients.
Cooking the other ingredients: Measure the oil remaining in the wok and if needed, add more oil to equal 1 tbsp. Place the wok back over medium-high heat and add the diced onion, bell peppers, zucchini (if using), ginger and garlic. (NOTE: I don’t have a kitchen fan so I didn’t flash fry the chili pieces and the peppercorns by themselves over high heat before adding the onions etc. Instead, I fried them briefly in the next step.) Stir fry for about 5 minutes. The diced onions should be translucent and both they and the zucchini cubes should have browned a bit.
Push the vegetables to one side and add the chili pieces and ground Szechuan peppercorns. Fry for a minute or two just to toast the chili and peppercorns. Add the fried pork and continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes.
Whisk together the sauce ingredients to redistribute the cornstarch, which will have settled to the bottom, and pour over the meat and vegetables. Stir well to distribute the ingredients and continue to cook until the sauce thickens and starts to bubble a bit.
Transfer to a serving plate and serve with the sliced green onions sprinkled over the top as a garnish.
If desired, pour the kung pao over a bed of plain steamed rice or cooked noodles.
NOTE: I decided to use lo mein noodles as my starch. For serving, I tossed the noodles with the pork. It’s a fairly dry preparation.
It’s cold and gray and I’m bored so I made one of the easiest lunches or dinners that I’ve had in ages using leftover chile verde (green) enchilada sauce and cubed pork tenderloin.
Pork Chile Verde – serves 3-4
500 gm pork tenderloin, cubed
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups chile verde enchilada sauce
1 cup water, plus more as needed
salt and pepper, as needed
Garnish with grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, sour cream, sliced green onion tops and diced avocado.
In a medium sized saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
Add the pork cubes and saute until lightly browned. Push the cubed pork to one side and add 1/2 cup of water to the saute pan, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom. Add the enchilada sauce and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat until the mixture just barely simmers and cover tightly with a lid.
Cook for 1 1/2 hours or until the pork is tender and breaks up into shreds when a fork is used. Check the pot every 15-20 minutes, scraping the bottom to make sure that the meat mixture doesn’t stick. Add more water as needed.
Serve over rice or cauli-flower rice. Additional sides include refried beans and flour tortillas.
Cauliflower Rice – 2 1/2 cups of frozen cauli-rice microwaved, squeezed dry in a towel and sauteed with 1 tbsp of olive oil or butter until lightly browned. I added about 1/4 cup of frozen green onion tops to the pan and sauteed it for about one minute before adding the cauli-rice.
I recently ran across an ice cream tub with the label “odds and ends” on it and popped it open to find the carefully wrapped remainder of a can of Masri brand green curry paste. I was debating which protein to pair it with and settled on some sliced boneless pork chops. The finished dish … Thai green pork curry served over basmati rice. I would have preferred jasmine rice but, unfortunately, didn’t have any.
Thai Green Pork Curry – serves 3
1 tbsp oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
350-400 gm boneless pork chops, thinly sliced
200 gm broccoli florettes (or diced eggplant, green beans, tops removed, asparagus, sliced into 2 inch pieces)
1 large or 2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2-3 tbsp Thai green curry paste
200 ml coconut milk (or a combination of the coconut milk and plain Balkan yogurt)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp white sugar, if needed
extra yogurt, for serving
Heat oil in a saute-pan to medium-high and saute the sliced onion and pork for 2-3 minutes or until the onion is golden and the pork has started to brown.
Add the vegetables, coconut milk (and yogurt, if used), brown sugar, soy and fish sauces. Cook for 12-15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. If using broccoli, you might want to add the florettes for the last 7-10 minutes so they don’t overcook. (Like mine did.)
Taste and if the curry is too ‘hot’, add a tsp of white sugar to reduce that a bit. Serve over steamed jasmine or basmati rice.
Top with an extra dollop of yogurt, if desired.
If you have a chance to buy pork tenderloin fresh, it’s quite a versatile protein for a singleton, and you can take your time making various dishes.
Unfortunately, I bought mine frozen, so when I thawed it, I had to prepare (trim off fat and remove the silver skin) and use it in as soon as possible.
Pork tenderloin souvlaki – marinated (Kraft Zesty Italian dressing), threaded onto skewers with chunks of onion and sweet pepper (red, yellow and orange), and then broiled on the bbq or in the oven under the grill. Serve with starch of your choice. In this case, I had leftover Mexican rice in the freezer so that’s what I used.
Korean pork tenderloin roast – marinated in a Korean paste and served over plain rice. I boiled and served the marinade over the slightly charred pork.
Korean (Gochujang) Pork Tenderloin Marinade – serves 3-4
1 large piece of pork tenderloin (1 1/4 – 1 1/2 lbs)
1/2 cup gochujang
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey or brown sugar*
1-6 cloves of garlic, minced*
2 tbsp fish sauce (optional)
pinch of salt
* I used honey and only 1 clove of garlic
Pesto pork tenderloin roast – marinated in home made pesto and served with pesto fettuccine
Honey mustard pork tenderloin – Pan fried pork cutlet served with honey mustard dressing … it turned out I hadn’t taken a picture of the honey mustard over the pork itself, just over the raw broccoli so you’ll have to imagine. The protein was served with skin on, smashed potatoes.
Cooking for one (or two) means you often have leftovers from things you’ve thawed. In this case, I had a cup or so of diced ham from a 2 cup bag I’d frozen for soup. (I used the other cup for a broccoli, cheddar cheese and ham quiche.)
I found an online ‘one dish’ recipe and scaled it down to suit the amounts I had. Although I halved all the other ingredients, I used the full 2 cups of chicken stock (1 1/2 cups of stock and 1/2 cup of water, works too) because I needed to have enough liquid to cover the noodles. The noodles were cooked in the pan and didn’t suffer taste-wise from the substitution. I also omitted the lemon juice because I was saving my lone lemon for something else. Instead of using half and half, I used 1/4 cup of whipping cream.
Creamy Ham, Pea and Egg Noodles Pot
The dish was quick to assemble and delicious and the leftover portion could be taken to work the next day for lunch or enjoyed for a repeat supper.
This is another reason that my freezer keeps filling up, in spite of my attempts to clean it out.
A local grocery store tempted me with a meat display refrigerator filled with vacuum packed boneless pork loins at a crazy cheap price. For $11 I brought home this vacuum packed beauty and stood there looking at it with a chef’s knife in hand. Oh, the possibilities.
In this picture, the ‘fatty’ end is on the right.
After cutting off and discarding the fat cap and removing as much silver skin as I could from the loin, I started at the ‘not so pretty’ fatty end and cut it off. I bagged and weighed it at about three pounds before freezing. I haven’t decided if I’m going to cut this piece into 2 1/2 inch wide strips to marinate for Chinese barbecued pork or turn it into pulled pork. Still, this left about two thirds of the loin to play with. I also removed the streaky ‘rib portion’ of the loin, about three finger widths in size, that you can see at the top of the picture above. It was set aside until I got to the end.
I moved to the other end of the loin and cut off two 1 1/4 inch portions for butterflying and then continued cutting until I got to a portion of the loin that transitioned in appearance between the pretty loin and the fatty end that I had already cut off. I ended up with a baker’s dozen (that’s thirteen, if you don’t know) 1/2 inch pork chops.
The rest of the pork, between the fatty end and the pretty loin end in appearance, along with the streaky ‘rib portion’ that I had set aside earlier, was cubed, bagged and frozen for pork stew. I ended up with a bit over one pound (500 gm) of meat.
Butterflied pork chops before and after pounding and after seasoning
Delicious meal of pan fried butterflied pork chops with mashed potatoes, pan gravy and raw broccoli florettes with ranch dressing
Pan-Seared Butterflied Pork Chops – serves 4
1 pound pork loin boneless center cut butterfly chops, fat trimmed and pounded to about 1/4 inch thick
3/4 tsp salt, or to taste
3/4 tsp black pepper, or to taste
3/4 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp onion powder
3/4 tsp paprika
2 tbsp olive oil
Mix together 3/4 tsp each salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika, set aside.
Trim off any excess fat from the chops and rub the spice mix on each side.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in a cast iron frying pan until it’s hot, then reduce heat to a bit under medium.
Carefully place the chops in the hot oil. Cook and brown approximately 1 minute per side.
When both sides are evenly browned, cut into the thickest part to make sure they are cooked thoroughly. Allow them to rest a minute or two then serve.
I used one of the boneless loin chops (about 2 oz each) to make two huge pork and shrimp udon noodle bowls.
Pork and Shrimp Udon Noodle Bowl – serves 2
2 x 2 oz pkgs uncooked udon noodles, or 100 gm dry spaghetti noodles
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups pork, ham, chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sake, dry sherry or dry white wine*
1 tsp honey
cooking spray or 1 tsp vegetable oil
1 cup sliced mushroom (~5-6 medium mushrooms)
1/2 cup thinly sliced carrot (~1 small/medium carrot)
2 oz lean pork loin, thinly sliced
2-3 oz shrimp**
salt and white pepper, as needed
1/4 cup broccoli florettes, and a half dozen or so leaves for garnish
1 green onion, thinly sliced on the diagonal, for garnish
* I used the wine as I had an opened bottle in the fridge
** I used 6 large raw peeled shrimp
Cook noodles per package directions; drain and set aside.
Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and broth to a large saucepan; bring the broth to a boil. Lower heat, and simmer for 10 minutes to flavour the broth.
Combine soy sauce, sake, and honey in a small bowl; stir and set aside.
Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray or a tsp of vegetable oil over med-high heat. Add in broccoli, mushrooms and carrots, stir/saute 2 minutes. Stir in soy sauce mixture; cook 2 minutes stirring constantly.
Add vegetable mixture to broth mixture. Stir in sliced pork, raw shrimp and broccoli leaves. Cook for 2 minutes or until the pork turns white and the shrimp turn pink. Taste the broth for seasoning level adding a bit more salt and some white pepper, if needed.
Divide cooked noodles among two bowls. Add half the soup mixture over each bowl of noodles.
NOTE: If, like me, you forgot to add the red pepper flakes to the broth, add some Sriracha sauce to your bowl of soup, stirring it into the broth.
NOTE: The potato gnocchi soup below is a tomato based adaptation of the kale and sausage soup posted here.
After an indulgent last dim sum outing with my nephew, on Friday, I used the afternoon to make another bread that I had added to my ‘to do’ list, while I was flourless.
The recipe came from the King Arthur Flour web site and is called a “Sesame Semolina Lunetta”. I have NO idea where the term lunetta comes from … lunetta means ‘little moon’ in Italian but this S-shaped bread doesn’t fit. In French, lunette refers to ‘eyeglasses’ … I guess you can vaguely picture two circles of glass in the S-shape. Sometimes, names have no clear explanation.
The dough turned out very wet but I suspect that my measuring cup didn’t allow me to be precise enough. (Next time, I’d try using the weight option for ingredients. ) Since it was too wet to hand knead, and I didn’t want to dig out my stand mixer, I decided to use a ‘stretch and fold’ process (every 15 minutes for an hour, for a total of 5 S&F’s) letting it rest for a further 30 minutes. I shaped the dough into an 18 inch rope and then coiled it into the S-shape and let it proof until it got very puffy, about 50 minutes.
Since it was still such a wet dough, I increased the baking temp to 400 deg F, rather than the 350 deg F in the recipe and baked the loaf until it got golden brown, 35-40 min (NOTE: 37 1/2 min).
The crust was crispy and the crumb was relatively open. The taste was good and there was a faint scent of sesame from the toasted sesame seed oil used in place of olive oil.
Creamy version served with sliced and toasted sesame semolina bread, spread with pesto and grilled long enough to melt the Parmesan cheese in the pesto.
Meal planning at my house usually involves starting with the protein and figuring out what sides (starches and vegetables) are available and will take the least amount of preparation time. If feeling energetic/creative, I’ll pick a cuisine or flavour based on whatever jars of sauce or spices I’ve got. And I’ve got a good assortment of sauces and bottles of spices and spice blends.
If barbecuing, I let the smokey flavour of the grilled meats star and keep the sides plain.
I went into a bit of a carnivore frenzy on my last visit to the grocery store and came home with a large tray of hot Italian sausages and a family pack tray of lean ground beef.
Since I already had sausages in the freezer (for making a fast meat sauce), I skewered and bbq’d the entire tray. The ground beef were turned into mini meat loaves and four 1/3rd pounder hamburgers, since that’s the size needed to fit into those giant sweet potato hamburger buns I made. I also dug a steak and a package of two pork chops out of the freezer.
Vegetables … well, I picked up a bundle of fresh asparagus since they were on sale. A bit of salt, a drizzle of oil (vegetable or olive) and a few minutes on each side and you’ve got tender but still crisp stalks of delicious asparagus to nibble on.
BBQ: Before and After
Most of the meat loaves and burgers went into the freezer for quick future meals. The main portion of the steak was reserved for a steak and mushroom sandwich so supper was the bits trimmed off and some of the grilled asparagus.
One of the mini meat loaves was turned into a wrap with creamy guacamole and a home made flour tortilla
A meaty ham bone, flavourful ham stock from boiling a large smoked picnic shoulder ham, a pound of split yellow (or green) split peas, and you’ve got a delicious and filling soup for not a lot of money.
Hammy Yellow Split Pea Soup – serves 6-8
2 cups (~450 gm) dry yellow split peas
6 cups (1.5 L) ham broth, from cooking a smoked, picnic shoulder ham
1-2 cups water or chicken stock, as needed
1 ham bone with some meat on it
1-2 tsp vegetable oil
1-2 tsp dry thyme
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped*
2 large carrots, coarsely chopped*
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped*
1 tsp salt, start with 1/2 tsp
1/2 tsp celery salt**
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2-1 cup diced ham (optional)
* If you’re going to leave your soup chunky, dice your onion, carrots and celery finely.
** It turned out that I was out of celery, so I added the celery salt. Soup recipes are usually adjustable depending on what’s in your pantry or veggie drawer.
The night before you make the soup, pick through the dry split peas for any impurities, place the peas into a large stock pot and cover with cold water. Rinse a few times, rubbing the split peas between the palms of your hand to help any dry skins come off, and then let sit covered with fresh cold water overnight. You’ll see some foam produced during this process (from the starch in the split peas) which is visually unattractive but not actually harmful.
The next day, drain the split peas and reserve.
In a large saute pan, over medium-high heat, saute the onion in the vegetable oil until the onion is translucent and tender. Add the diced carrots and celery and saute for a few more minutes.
Add the bay leaf and thyme, ham bone, drained soaked split peas, and ham broth. Add half a teaspoon of the salt, celery salt and the ground black pepper and bring to a boil. You may need to add another cup or so of water or chicken stock to cover the ham bone. Cover, reduce to simmer and cook for 1-2 hrs until the split peas are very tender.
Check after 5-10 minutes and skim off any foam or other impurities that have come to the surface.
Remove the ham bone, trim any meat from the bone, dice into bite sized pieces and return to the saute pan of soup. Discard the bone and gristle.
If a smooth texture is desired for the soup, puree the soup before returning any meat to the soup. For a more meaty soup, add additional diced ham to the pot after the soup has been pureed and re-heat before serving.
Taste again before serving and adjust as necessary by adding more salt, or water, if the texture of the soup is too thick.