Tag Archives: pork

Another Something Old, Something New Post

Most of our moms had ‘good’ towels or ‘guest’ towels that you weren’t allowed to use. At my house, they were packed, two rows deep in the bathroom closet, and so tightly that you couldn’t pull any out without causing a towel-slide. After my mom passed away, it still took me several years before I started using the good bath towels. I wasn’t able to make myself throw away any of the old beat up towels I had, except maybe for the worst of the bunch. They would end up in the laundry and then I’d use them ONE more time. Repeatedly.

I finally decided to toss my oldest dish towels and start using the new ones I had bought, this weekend. I went with a red, white and blue theme. And some black. Cause black goes with everything.

Do you prefer fluffy or linen-type dish towels?

And for the old, some pictures I took a couple of weeks ago. I had thawed some sliced pork butt to make Chinese barbecued pork (char siu) and then realized that I hadn’t replaced my bottle of hoisin sauce, which I needed for the recipe. So, I rummaged through the jars in the fridge and found some satay sauce.

Pork Satay

Boring Friday

I’m bored again and in the mood to ramble. (Lucky you if you’re reading this.)

After a warmish week which culminated in a HOT Thursday, I woke up to rain and a much cooler Friday.

School/work is done as the last class was yesterday and the chance of getting a call during exam week is slim. Just got my VISA bill, and though expected, the hit is a bit of an ouchy due to the plumbing bill. At least now I can use the upstairs tub after a good snaking out and the downstairs tub won’t be dripping hot water … and money. It’s the last of the big bills (knock wood) til I get my 2nd set of city taxes. Still, it means I have to be very frugal until October when I would be getting my first paycheque of the new school year.

I need to go to the library and pick up a book that I’ve got on hold, but other than that, I have no reason to go out.

So, I guess I’ll do some cooking or rather, baking.

Speaking of … I’ve been scavenging through the fridge and freezer again for meals or components to go with recent purchases.

A bit under two pounds of fresh asparagus for $3.50. Enough for four servings with minimal wastage.

A tray of five boneless and skinless chicken breasts, picked up for 40% off, means I ended up with five top cutlets. One of the cutlets became an asparagus roll-up which was crumbed and baked, along with fifteen chicken tenders from the bottom of the breasts, for supper. The other four cutlets and ten of those tenders went into the freezer. Pretty good for $10. The KFC flyer has a bucket of 8 chicken tenders (ok, they’re bigger pieces) for $10. I laughed.

PS: The bread crumbs used for the cutlet and tenders were made with my own sourdough bread.

The combo pack of six pork chops for under $10 gave me two great comfort meals of pan fried pork chops, baked asparagus, mashed potatoes and pan gravy and there are four more chops for the freezer.

With a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream, my fudgy chocolate cupcakes made for a great fast dessert.

The scraps of pasta from my ravioli became tagliatelle and were combined with beef stroganoff from the freezer. Enough for three meals. I’m glad I didn’t throw away those scraps. And, a beautiful fresh mango became a mango lassi when combined with milk, sugar and some yogurt.

I HAVE baked … a tray of sourdough cinnamon rolls, most of which are looking for a good home.

It’s been a productive week in spite of not working at all.

Brioche Hamburger Buns, Hoagies and a BBQ

I’ve barbecued for at least three weekends in the last month because, miracle of miracles, it’s NOT raining.

And I like the taste of bbq’d meats.

No other explanation needed.

I was going to throw sirloin steaks, burgers and a chicken breast on the grill but switched out the last two pork chops in my freezer for the steaks, so I wouldn’t have two beef items. In anticipation of the burgers, I decided to make my own hamburger buns. My recipe makes enough dough for sixteen buns but I made hoagies with half, so I ended up with eight buns and four hoagies. Brioche breads freeze and thaw wonderfully, so that’s why I decided on an enriched rather than a lean bread recipe. It tastes good too.

Hamburgers … naked and dressed – I don’t like raw onions on my burgers but onion rings. Oh mama!!

The rest of the barbecue – Now I just have to figure out what to serve for sides in the week ahead … although I’m thinking of sticking that chicken into one of the hoagies.


Sweet Potato and Ricotta Ravioli with Prosciutto and Pea Sauce

I haven’t made ravioli from scratch in a while but after picking up a pound of ricotta cheese from the local Italian grocery store and with a medium sized sweet potato sitting on the counter in the kitchen, I had my inspiration. An economy ($2.31 for ~3.5 oz) package of prosciutto ends and a cup of frozen peas made for a tasty sauce.

Word to the wise … don’t start rolling out pasta late in the day when your kitchen is hot and you’re cranky and tired. Cause you end up rolling the pasta too thin, and then forget to cover it so it dries out. And trying to turn your thin drying pasta into sacchettini (little purses) when the tortellini shaping isn’t working out. Well, it’s not pretty. I ended up with some misshapen sacchettini and free-form square ravioli which I froze for bagging. Then I dropped the package. Cooked them anyway and covered them with the sauce and grated cheese and ate them anyway in protest.

Broken free-form ravioli covered with sauce and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano – It was delicious.

I made a couple dozen ravioli in my molds with the last of the filling, boiled them up, as well as the sacchettini, tossed them with the sauce and then froze them away for work lunch and two future meals.

RECIPE … well, here’s a list of ingredients, anyway

Pasta – 1 cup all purpose flour, 1 cup semolina flour, 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt and 3 large eggs make 1 lb of pasta, enough for 4 people

Filling – 1 cup cooled mashed sweet potato, 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, 1 tsp dry minced onion, 1 large egg, 1/4 tsp dried thyme, pinch or two dried garlic powder, salt (1/4 tsp) and ground black pepper (1/8 tsp) to taste. Enough for about 4 dozen ravioli at 1 tsp filling for each.

Sauce – 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 3-4 oz prosciutto, thinly sliced and cut into strips, 1 cup fresh or frozen peas, thawed

Prosciutto and pea sauce combined with the broken ravioli … pretty all on its own.

I have the trimmings of the pasta in the fridge and may make plain noodles later today. Or maybe not.

PS: Ended up with 200 gm of tagliatelle noodles.

I made some duck fat brioche dough and turned it into hamburger buns and hoagies earlier that morning for a planned bbq the next day. Watch for pictures.

Happy Mother’s Day (2017) … Fudgy Chocolate Cake

In many households, dads barbecue to save mom from having to cook on this, their special day. Which you might think is a very considerate thing to do.

My question is … who does the dishes and cleanup, let alone did the shopping, for what gets bbq’d?

Dad?

I DON’T think so. 🙂

For all the mothers (step-mothers, foster mothers, grandmothers etc) out there, I hope you had a great day surrounded by your loved ones. Who show their appreciation to you for all you do, year round.

I made a fudgy chocolate cake yesterday which many mothers would appreciate. Instead of a cake however, I made a dozen cupcakes and two mini cakes that would serve two people. They were frosted very simply with a ganache (whipping cream and chocolate) and there’s a pretty strawberry sauce to go with it.

Strawberry Sauce – makes about a cup of sauce

3 tbsp water
2 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 cup thinly sliced strawberries
3 tbsp granulated sugar
a squeeze of lemon juice (it’ll liven up the flavour of the sauce)

Stir together the water and cornstarch in a small bowl until combined.

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, stir together the cornstarch mixture, sliced strawberries, lemon juice and sugar.

Bring mixture to a simmer, whisking frequently and cook for a minute or two. Cool for 5 minutes.

Puree in a food processor.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl.

I bbq’d a sirloin steak, a large pork chop, several pork souvlaki skewers for the rest of the week and some pineapple rings. The steak was served with a baked potato (cooked in the microwave and finished on the bbq), sauteed white mushrooms and a simple salad.

 

Cupcakes and frosting

 

How to Eat Out on a Budget

The answer is .. you don’t.

At least, if I do, it’s very rare these days.

Dim sum, sushi and Red Lobster are my only dining out treats, but even they are quite rare … a few times a year.

Let’s do the math of dining out in comparison to cooking at home.

The last time I went out for AYCE sushi, I spent $17 and change. And that didn’t include a $3 tip.

In comparison, I spent $10 ($14 regular price with a 30% discount 30%) on a smoked picnic shoulder ham, and another $7 for a package of 4 fresh, skinless, bone in chicken breasts. Sometimes you can find boneless chicken breasts on deep discount.

After boiling the ham, I ended up with 18 cups of broth. I used half of the broth to make 11 cups/servings of ham and bean soup. I used 2 cups of diced cooked ham in the soup and still had enough ham left over for eight generous servings for other meals.

As to the chicken breasts, which were big enough to serve two people each if just simply breaded and baked, the possible usages are plentiful. Another option is turning the meat into breaded cutlets or chicken fillets.

Admittedly, chicken and pork are the most inexpensive proteins available … $2 – 2.50 a pound. Fish and seafood are a lot pricier. And a premium steak. The savings of cooking at home aren’t as obvious, but it’s still cheaper than dining out … two meals in for the price of one meal in a restaurant.

Every time I get tempted to dine out, I do the math.

Although, being frugal in my grocery shopping means that I CAN afford to treat myself occasionally.

What’s your favourite dining out treat? Do you eat out as much as you used to 5 yrs ago, 10?

ETA: I spent $18 on this name brand (Butterball) turkey bought frozen for $1.49 a pound. Lots of breast meat, thighs turned into a spicy Indian curry dish, roasted wings and drumsticks, turkey and rice soup, giblet and rice dressing, delicious gravy and the carcass will end up in a big pot turkey stock.

Pork Crackling Yeast “Biscuits” Redux

It’s been almost a year since I last made these pork crackling biscuits and I’ve been wanting to make some for the last month or so. They’re not particularly pretty  (I still took a lot of pictures to make up for the bad ones posted before) but they’re fluffy and tender from the pork fat in the cracklings. Some recipes grind half the cracklings to a paste and leave the other half more granular, but I kept them all granular. Duck fat was used to help create the layers.

Chunks of ground pork cracklings give texture and flavour to the biscuits

Two Different Finishes to the Biscuits  – The cuts on top should have been only 1/4 inch apart but I got lazy. The top layer slid off so it wasn’t as photogenic as the ones I made a number of years ago.

Pork Cracklings – cut into chunks and then ground

Layering the Dough

Duck and Pork Cassoulet/Casserole

I first tasted this dish at a very expensive restaurant in Chicago while visiting there with some friends. We stayed at the Renaissance Blackstone Hotel, in walking distance of other famous landmarks including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium which we visited. We even walked all the way to the Water Tower Place for some window shopping. It was a memorable visit long before my mobility issues.

For a simple French peasant dish, there are a lot of ‘expert’ opinions on what you should and shouldn’t do when making this glorified pot of baked beans.

As you know, for Christmas dinner, I roasted a duck very simply and sliced and froze away both breasts, one of the legs, the carcass and some trimmed meat from the back. I had visions of a hoisin duck wrap with the breasts. And with the leg … well, I made duck gravy with the drippings and froze that away as well. I can’t remember exactly WHY I decided to make a duck cassoulet. I think I saw one posted on FB and had an A-HA moment.

In any case, since I’m home this week and snow was predicted midweek, I thought it would be the perfect time to give the cassoulet a try.

Duck and Pork Cassoulet – single portion with a breadcrumb crust

Just a bit of broth left at the end makes for a perfect cassoulet

5 Steps in Making a Cassoulet

Step 1: Soak the beans – This step and the next can be eliminated if you buy canned beans. Drain and rinse well and go straight to Step 3. In this instance, I added a generous tablespoon of salt to the soaking liquid as I wanted to see if that would affect the cooking time. It’s also been suggested that this will give the salt more time to penetrate the beans and flavour them.

Step 2: Cook the beans – You don’t have to cook the beans until they fall apart, just until they’re no longer crunchy, as you’ll be cooking them some more with your meats.

Step 3: Brown the meat – The meat used is a matter of debate. Duck, lamb (mutton) and pork, in several forms, may be used. The lamb is often omitted, which I did as well. Chicken may be substituted for the duck. And then, there’s a question of fresh or smoked. I’ve already mentioned that I was using leftover roasted duck, about a pound in total. For pork, I went with fresh pork belly, with the rind removed, and cut into portion sized chunks, as well as two raw apple sausages. I wanted to use raw garlic sausages, but my regular butcher didn’t have any, and I forgot to check at the other one at the market. (duh!!)

Step 4: Prepare the crust – This step is also a matter of debate. Some cooks swear by a crunchy crust made of fresh bread crumbs fried in duck fat, spiked with garlic (fresh or dry) and fresh, chopped parsley with a bit of stock to moisten it before it’s spooned generously over the top of the cassoulet. Pat the crumbs down gently and bake your cassoulet until the top is brown and crunchy. For other cooks, a ‘natural’ crust formed by the broth as it cooks down is preferred.

I was GOING to make the breadcrumb topping but then found myself with only 2 TBSP of breadcrumbs in my breadcrumb jar and no bread in the house/freezer that I could make more out of. I was too lazy to run to the local bakery and buy breadcrumbs so I made a single portion of the cassoulet in one of my ramekins with the breadcrumbs I had.

Step 5: Assemble and bake – Use a casserole dish large enough to hold all your beans, meats and enough liquid to just cover the beans. You will bake the contents for at least an hour until the beans and the meat are cooked through and then uncover and continue cooking to reduce the amount of liquid. You’re not making a soup but you DO want some liquid left. If your bean mixture gets too dry, you can spoon some of the reserved bean cooking liquid or stock over each individual portion before serving.

Duck and Pork Cassoulet/ Casserole … finished dish

Duck and Pork Cassoulet – serves 6

Beans and meats for your cassoulet

1 pound dry navy beans, soaked overnight along with 1 tbsp salt
1 pound duck meat, legs and or breasts
1 pound fresh pork belly, rind removed and cut into 4-6 portions
1/2 pound (2) fresh pork sausage, garlic preferred but apple was used

For the duck stock

1 duck carcass
6 cups of water, enough to cover the duck carcass
~ 1 tsp salt
1 small onion, ends trimmed and outer skin removed
1 carrot, rinsed, trimmed and chopped into 2-3 pieces
1 stalk celery, rinsed, trimmed and chopped into 3-4 pieces

For the bouquet garni – wrapped in cheesecloth and tied closed

1 clove garlic, whole, root end trimmed and paper husk removed
2-3 dry bay leaves
6-9 black peppercorns
1/4 tsp dry thyme

Cooking the beans/making the stock

In a large stock pot combine the soaked navy beans, water, duck carcass and bouquet garni. Bring just to the boil, skim off any scum that floats to the top, reduce the heat until the contents are just simmering, cover and cook 45 min to 1 hr or until the beans are just barely tender. Remove the carcass to a bowl. Let cool and pick off any meat from the carcass which you’ll add to the cassoulet during the assembly.

Remove and discard the bouquet garni, onion, carrot and celery pieces.

Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid for assembling and cooking the cassoulet.

For the cassoulet

6 cups cooked navy beans
2 – 2 1/2 cups duck stock or bean cooking liquid
2 tbsp duck fat
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
2 tbsp tomato paste

For crumb topping

2 – 2 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 – 2 tbsp duck fat

Preheat the oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit.

Place a large dutch oven on the burner set to medium heat and when hot, add the trimmed off rinds from the pork belly. Render out the pork fat and then add the meaty cubes of pork belly. Brown on all sides then transfer to a large dish. Brown the sausages on both sides, cut each into 2-3 pieces and add to the dish with the cubes of pork belly.

Drain off all the pork fat from the casserole. Add 2 tbsp duck fat to the casserole and saute the diced onion over medium heat just until the onion is soft but not browned. Add the minced garlic and saute for another minute or two. Add the tomato paste and cook for a few minutes to dry out the tomato paste. Add a cup of the bean cooking liquid/duck stock and scrape up browned bits from the bottom. Add the beans and as much liquid to just cover the beans. Nestle the meats into the broth, bring to the simmer and then cover the dutch oven and transfer to the preheated oven. Cook for an hour.

Even without a crumb topping, you’ve got a tasty dish … a bit of fresh parsley scattered over the top would be perfect

Prepare the crumb crust by toasting the garlic in the duck fat, if using fresh minced garlic, in a large saute pan. Otherwise, toast the breadcrumbs, dried garlic powder and the dried or fresh parsley in the duck fat. Add a splash or two of bean cooking liquid to the pan. Remove the dutch oven from the oven and pat the crumb crust over the top of the cassoulet.

Return the dutch oven to the oven and continue cook for another half hour or so before checking the level of liquid left.

You may turn on the broiler on high for 2-2 1/2 minutes to finish the browning if your liquid has reduced enough. Check carefully as you don’t want to burn your crumb topping.

Spoon into each individual bowl making sure there’s a bit of sausage, pork belly and duck in each portion.

Garnish with some fresh parsley before serving.

Pork Chops alla Pizzaiola

I’m not posting a recipe with amounts below but more of a guideline. For a more detailed recipe, try Giada or Rachel Ray.

Boneless or bone-in, pork chops make for a fast and tasty meal.

I got tired of my regular ways of cooking them – panfried with gravy or without, ‘shake and bake’, breaded (using Italian seasoned or panko breadcrumbs) and then fried or baked…

… so, with some leftover pizza sauce with mushrooms as an inspiration, I made this flavourful dish which can be served over pasta, mashed potatoes, polenta or rice. A comfort dish with some red pepper flakes to give it a bite. I didn’t have any wine to slosh into the sauce but if YOU do, go for it.

Pork Chops alla Pizzaiola

“Pork chops alla pizzaiola” includes the items that the wife of a pizza maker (pizzaiolo) would have available to her in her kitchen or her husband’s shop … tomatoes, olives, olive oil, dried red pepper flakes, anchovies, onions, garlic, capers and oregano. Maybe a bit of red wine from a jug sitting on a shelf.

As for the meat, a little goes a long way as is often necessary in a modest household … a thin cut sirloin steak, a piece of fish. Or, in this case, a couple of pork chops from a tray of various cuts purchased on sale in my local budget grocery store. If you don’t like olives or anchovies, leave them out, but if you DO, saute them in your olive oil along with your garlic until the anchovies melt and give an amazing subtle flavour to your sauce. The same with the capers. If you don’t have them, that’s fine, but if you DO, their salty flavour will add something special to your sauce.

Seeded, peeled and diced whole tomatoes, or halved cherry tomatoes, from your garden are great. Diced canned tomatoes are good too, but I was cooking for one and the leftover pizza sauce in my fridge was a perfect amount.

The cooking time depends on your meat. The steak and fish just need a quick sear (30 seconds on each side for the steak) on medium high heat in the hot oil, while the timing for your pork chops depends on their thickness. Use a large saute pan so your ingredients have room to move around. Remove the meat when it’s seared. Transfer it to a plate and cover to keep warm. Remember, you can finish cooking it in the sauce for as long as needed.

Saute your thinly sliced onions, finely minced garlic, anchovies, capers, finely minced olives, red pepper flakes and tomatoes, and then simmer covered, until the tomatoes have broken down into a wonderful sauce. You may need to add some water depending on how juicy your tomatoes end up being. Add your wine before adding the tomatoes so that it will help pick up the great browned bits from the pork chops and cook off.

Add your browned pork chops, and any liquid that has drained off while standing, to the sauce, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavour to permeate into the pork chops. Serve with whatever starch you like.

Home made Pita Breads … Sort of Fail

I decided to make another attempt at pita bread. For some reason, flour tortillas, naan and pita breads aren’t great successes for me, but I don’t give up. Especially as I’d bought a couple of packages of pork souvlaki on sale and a tub of tzatziki to eat them with.

This time, I used Chef John’s recipe and, as expected, they did NOT puff up. The frying temp (medium-high) in the cast iron pan charred areas of the pitas, in the time frame recommended. I reduced the temperature to medium and the remaining pitas looked better.


I tried baking one of the pitas at 425 deg F and ended up with crispy bread by the time the bread got the golden colour I was aiming for. It was tasty as a vehicle for eating hummus with in any case.

And then I decided to make some pita pizzas with the rest of the dough. Both pizzas were topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.

After baking for about 8 minutes at 425 deg F, torn prosciutto was placed on both and julienned fresh basil on one before returning the baking sheet to the oven, for a few more minutes.

White pita pizza – extra virgin olive oil, caramelized onions, grated Grana Padano and mozzarella cheese. I topped this one with some prosciutto as well, though I forgot to take a picture.

Oh well, everything was still edible.