I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Showing posts with label Pork. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pork. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

One Day Cassoulet

The snow falls as the day opens and on until its close. Soft at times, swirling and heavy at others. I spy some girls making a snowman on the roof of the building next door. Hear the snow plows grind down the street. I go out to buy a few things for dinner and to stock up on wine and I see home owners, supers and those trying to make a few bucks with shovels in hand, breath puffing like smoke as they push the piles from sidewalk to street, making a slight dent before more falls in its place. How lucky I am to head home and hunker down in the warmth of my cozy apartment.

I imagine inviting all of those hard workers in from the cold and sharing a huge pot of this cassoulet with them. It takes a good chunk of a day to make this version (although traditional ones take a few days to do properly, so this is a compromise) but once you dig in to the rich interior hid under a layer of crispy breadcrumbs you will forget any effort you put forth. Hearty and layered with flavors, I can think of nothing more comforting after a slog through the icy streets. Take a snow day or a Sunday and spend that extra energy, then invite over a gaggle of friends to tuck in and savor this filling French casserole with a few bottles of red wine. It is sure to warm  your body and your soul.

One Day Cassoulet
When hibernation mode tries to set in during the coldest months, I crave dishes that are hearty and allow me to spend some extra time in the warm kitchen. This dish delivers while surprising your tongue with many layers of flavors. It is well worth the time spent to cook but save a bit during prep by cutting the onion, carrots, garlic, and thyme for both the beans and the broth up front and then dividing. 
Serves 8

16 oz. cassoulet beans (I recommend the ones from Rancho Gordo)
6 slices bacon
1/2 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 t. fresh thyme, chopped
1 bay leaf

2 legs duck confit
2 large sausages
1/2 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 t. fresh thyme, chopped
1 (14.5 oz) can tomatoes
2 c. chicken stock

1 c. panko breadcrumbs

Place the beans in a large, heat-proof bowl. Cover with boiling water by about two inches and soak for one hour.
Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven. Once crispy, remove from the pan and set aside (leaving bacon grease in pan). Add the onion and carrot and cook until tender. Stir in the garlic and thyme. Add the beans and their soaking liquid to the pan, along with the bay leaf and 3 slices of the cooked bacon, crumbled. There should be about one inch of water covering the beans: if not add more to the pan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the beans are tender (about 1-1 1/2 hours). Remove the bay leaf when finished cooking.

Meanwhile, prepare the "broth." Scrape most of the fat off of the duck legs and reserve. Heat a heavy skillet over medium high and sear the duck legs on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside. Sear the sausages on all sides and remove and set aside. Add the onion and carrot to the pan and saute until tender. Stir in the garlic and thyme for about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and chicken stock, bring to a boil, and cook until mixture has reduced and thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.

Pull the crispy skin from the duck legs and chop and set aside. Shred the duck meat and discard the bones. Chop the sausages into about 4 pieces each.

Heat oven to 350.

When the beans are cooked stir into the tomato broth. Stir in the duck meat, the sausage pieces, and the remaining 3 slices of bacon, crumbled. Top the mixture with the breadcrumbs and the crispy duck skin. Drizzle the duck fat over top. Bake until the mixture is bubbling and thickened and the breadcrumbs are browned and crispy, about 1-1.5 hours. Allow to set for about 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Pork Cheek Ravioli

For a while after returning from my summer internship I found myself struggling with creativity in the kitchen. Though I didn't do much cooking while Upstate, I didn't feel the need to dive back into it full-force once home. I put so much of myself and my creative energy into everything I did there that I needed a break to rest and allow my brain molecules to start firing on their own again, without guidelines laid out in front of me by someone else.

With the passing weeks after the event I slowly started shedding the layers of spice notes crammed in every nook and cranny of the brain and media lessons piled at the top of my mind, as Jonas looses the memories as he leaves the known world behind in The Giver. It felt like lightening the load. The things I learned are still present, but they are now settling in among my other thoughts, allowing me to find focus elsewhere.
Finally I feel inspired and invigorated when I circle the greenmarket or step into my kitchen to prepare the evening meal. I have fancy dinner party menus circling my mind, I flip through cookbooks and bookmark pages that set off a spark, I wander specialty stores and pick up ingredients that I've never seen before to try something new. It feels invigorating being behind the stove again.

This meal stemmed from that thrill filling me up. I made an appetizer of bruschetta topped with a roasted eggplant puree, creme fraiche, and pomegranate seeds. I spent 2 days on the ravioli, braising on one and making the pasta on the other. I served it alongside simply sauteed mustard greens for added bite. I lit candles, put on the fireplace video on the tv, and played some dinner music to set the mood. It felt special, a welcome home to my long absent chef soul.

On a side note, I have a few friends who are new to the blogging world and would like to give them a shout-out. Trina and Tina are sisters who get together to cook once a week and dicsuss their joint-family culinary adventures at Sister Sweetly. Sophie, Susannah, Stephanie, and Remy are all wonderfully talented writers and food lovers with whom I had the pleasure of working with at LongHouse. I know these ladies are going somewhere big, so be sure to follow them at the beginning of the journey so you can say "you knew them when." Their blogs are (respectively): The Daily Compote, The Storied SpoonStephanieCarlson.com, and RemyRobert.com.  

Pork Cheek Ravioli
This recipe was inspired by Emiko Davies. After reading of her pork dinner party for Food52 I couldn't get the recipe off of my mind. I searched all over for pork cheeks, even asking the pork farmers at the market, to no avail. Then, a couple of weeks ago at the market at Grand Army Plaza, I was purchasing meat from Arcadian Pastures and the vendor gave me his card to call if there was ever anything in particular I was looking for. Thinking it couldn't hurt to ask, I implored once again for the pork cheeks. I was thrilled when he told me he should be able to get them in for me the next week. As I waited for the next week's market to roll around, I dreamed of what this ravioli would taste like. Patience paid off with a lovely dinner as reward.

serves 4-5

2 pork cheeks, skinned with fat left on
salt and pepper
2 TB olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 c. red wine
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese

for the pasta (recipe from Emiko Davies):
200 grams all purpose flour
200 grams semolina flour
4 eggs

to finish:
3 TB butter
Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley, for garnish

Sprinkle the pork cheeks generously with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat, then add the pork and brown on all sides. Remove the pork to a plate.
Add the onion, garlic, and carrots to the pan. Cook until slightly tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the wine and the seared pork back to the pan, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Let the meat braise slowly until it is tender and shreds easily, about 1 1/2-2 hours.
Strain out the solids and the pork, reserving the cooking liquid. Finely chop the pork and vegetables, then mix in the Parmesan cheese. Set aside to cool while making the pasta dough.

Form the flour into a volcano-shaped peak on your counter top. Make a deep well in the center and crack in the eggs. Use a fork to slowly start beating the eggs, ever so slowly incorporating the flour from the sides while being careful not to "crack" the sides, which will create a lava-like flow of eggs all over the counter (I have yet to successfully complete this task, but I have high hopes that one day I will form pasta like a pro). Once enough flour has become incorporated that it is difficult to mix with the fork, begin working the dough with your hands, incorporating more flour until it is no longer sticky, then knead until the dough is elastic, about 5 minutes. Form into a ball, cover, and rest for 30 minutes.

Now it is time to roll out the dough. I find I can never get my pasta thin enough when I roll it by hand, so I highly recommend a pasta roller. Divide the dough into 4 parts and roll until it is very thin (#7 on the Kitchen Aid pasta roller attachment) and about 4" wide. Drop a rounded teaspoon of pork onto the pasta sheets about every 2 1/2 inches, in the middle of the bottom half of the sheet. Brush water or an egg wash around all sides, then fold the pasta sheet in half over top of the filling and press firmly all around to keep out air bubbles. Use a pasta cutter to separate out the ravioli.

Once the ravioli are prepared, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a large saute pan, heat the cooking liquids from the braised pork. Once the braising liquid comes to a boil, stir in the butter until it melts. Taste and salt and pepper as necessary, then turn the heat to low. Add the ravioli to the boiling water and cook about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place directly into the sauce (a bit of starchy pasta cooking water will help the sauce coat the noodles). Gently toss to coat the ravioli, then plate on a large serving platter. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped parsley to serve.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pork and Soy Ramen

Joe and I often talk about all of the things we would miss if we were to move out of New York City. High on the list are the theatre, the abundance of museums, the fact that it's virtually impossible to be bored. But I think the thing that actually makes me fear for that day, if it were to ever come, is the loss of huge variety of great Asian food. The soup dumplings, dim sum, yakitori, Korean BBQ, Korean fried chicken, ramen, great pad thai, etc. etc. have all opened my tastes buds through our years here and I can't imagine living where they aren't readily available.

I have some moments of extreme panic when I think of leaving all of this behind (despite the fact that we have no plans to leave anytime soon) and feel myself drawn to the kitchen to hopefully recreate a dish or two to be able to always carry this cuisine with me, no matter where I go.

With the cold temps and even colder wind blowing through these parts lately my biggest craving has been huge bowls of ramen. We are lucky to live very near an excellent joint in our neighborhood called Chuko that I find myself drawn to over and over again (if you make it there yourself don't miss out on the kale salad as well as the ramen--probably my all-time favorite salad ever). Last night, however, I decided it was time to try a version of my own.

Shoyu ramen tends to be my favorite--I love the salty, unami filled broth, but I also love anything involving pork so decided to do a blend of styles based on a recipe from David Chang in the first issue of Lucky Peach (the tare recipe is basically his). It also involves mostly ingredients I could  find at my local grocery store (where we don't have a huge spread of Asian ingredients). My favorite thing about this recipe is that it is really very easy to play around with and change based on your own taste preferences. The ingredient list looks large and intimidating, but it really isn't much hard work--just a bit of waiting time.

Pork and Soy Ramen
(serves 3-5 depending on add-ins)
For the broth:
1.5 lb. pork necks
1 TB oil
2 carrots, peeled and cut into a couple of pieces
3 stalks celery, cut into large pieces
1 onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic, peeled
white and light green parts from 1 bundle of green onions
1/4 c. dried mushrooms
2 large sheets nori*
10 c. water

*many ramen recipes I found called for konbu, which is an edible kelp. Since I couldn't find any in my local grocer I decided to add a bit of "sea" flavor with sushi wraps. These broke apart a lot during the cooking but were mostly strained out through a fine mesh sieve after the broth was finished. The tare for this soup is so dark that I didn't mind the darker color of the broth.

Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot add the pork neck pieces. Sear these on all sides until they have a nice brown color all over. Then add the remaining ingredients to the pan. Bring to a boil, and then turn the heat to low and allow the mixture to barely simmer for 3 hours. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and skim off any fat/scum from the top.

For the tare:
(recipe adapted from David Chang's Lucky Peach)
.25 lb (1 medium piece) of pork neck
1 TB oil
1/2 c. sake
1/2 c. mirin
1 c. soy sauce
2 slices thick cut bacon, cut into thirds

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a small saucepan. Add the pork neck and sear until it is nice and caramelized and dark brown all over. Remove the pork neck from the pan briefly and turn the heat off momentarily. Add the sake to the pan (careful as it will pop and splatter a lot) and stir to deglaze the pan and pick up the porky bits stuck to the bottom. Turn the heat back on and add the pork neck back to the pan along with the remaining ingredients. Bring the liquid to the barest of simmers and then turn the burner to the lowest heat possible and cook for 1 1/2 hours. You don't want the mixture to really reduce--you are just infusing the flavor into the liquid. Then strain, allow to sit for a little bit of time and then skim the fat layer off the top.

Once both the broth and the tare are finished you are now ready to mix them together. I like an extra strong, salty broth so I used all of the tare. I would suggest adding a bit at a time and tasting to make sure you have a soup base to your liking. If you want it even stronger you could add even more soy sauce, fish sauce, mirin, etc. to the liquid for flavoring.

Now you are ready to build the ramen:

noodles (I used these, which are about 3 cups and are fresh/mostly cooked. If you can't find anything similar you can just use the noodles from a couple of packages of instant ramen without the seasoning packages)

cabbage, shredded
bok choy, shredded
green tops of green onions, sliced
bean sprouts
enoki mushrooms
meat (perhaps braised pork, cooked ground pork, chicken? I used thinly sliced smoked duck breast that I get at my farmer's market)
poached or soft-boiled eggs

Cook the noodles: I cooked mine for a couple of minutes in the broth, but you could cook them separately, drain, and then assemble.
Take a large, deep bowl and place a pile of the cooked noodles at the bottom. Top with any of the ingredients you would like and then spoon over a good portion of the broth. If using, top with a poached or soft boiled egg. Add some heat with chili garlic oil (recipe below). Serve with chopsticks and a large spoon. Feel comforted and warm and happy as you lean over the bowl to devour and the broth facial invades all of your senses.

Garlic Chili Oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 t.+ red chili flakes
1/3 c. olive oil

Place all of the ingredients into a small saucepan. Place over low heat and slowly cook, stirring frequently, until the oil is infused and the garlic has become very slightly browned and crispy. Remove from heat and use to stir into your ramen.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Chorizo and Manchego Croquettes

Last week I realized that it has been 10 years since I spend a semester in Ronda, Spain studying Spanish. It's hard to believe it's been so long. I posted about it on Facebook and many of the friends I made while there started reminiscing together about our favorite haunts, people, and memories of those days years ago. It was wonderful to rehash the moments with the people I shared them with.

I still consider that semester one of the most important parts of my life. Obviously I discuss it's influence in my culinary life often on this blog but its implications on my personality come through me almost daily in my wanderings. I love to continuously remind myself of Spain and the experiences and people I met there every time I pull out a recipe for a Spanish dish. Despite time continuing on those memories stay close at hand when these scents fill the air and the flavors hit my tongue.

Chorizo and Manchego Croquettes
makes about 13-15 croquettes
3 TB olive oil
1/3 c. chopped onion
4 TB flour
1 c. milk
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 c. shredded manchego cheese
1/3 c. finely chopped Spanish chorizo
2 eggs
1 1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs
oil for frying

Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour flavor has cooked out a bit, about 3-4 minutes. Pour the milk into the pan and whisk until the mixture has thickened quite a bit, about 4-5 minutes. Add the salt and pepper. Place the mixture into the fridge and allow to cool for at least an hour.

Once cool, stir in the manchego cheese and chorizo to the onion mixture. Form into tablespoon size balls and place on a platter. Once you have formed all of the mixture into balls, place in the freezer for a few minutes to allow them to cool down again while you get everything else prepared.

Heat at least 3 inches of oil in a saucepan over medium heat for frying. While this is heating up, beat the eggs with about 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Place the breadcrumbs in another bowl.

Once the oil is just about ready dip the chorizo balls into the eggs and then roll in the breadcrumbs. Once they are all coated they are ready to be fried. If you are using a smaller saucepan for frying work in batches so as to not overcrowd the pan. The time to cook will vary depending on the temperature of your oil, but you will want to cook them until the breadcrumbs are toasty brown and the filling is cooked through. Once fried, remove to a paper towel lined platter. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Inspiration from around the Web

The world has been offering up some truly inspiring recipes these days, so I thought it was high time I passed on a few recipes from others that I've loved lately so you can get in on the delicious action. These are all foods that will find their way onto my table again and again.

April Bloomfield's Oyster Pan Roast (from John Dory Oyster Bar)--if I died today, I would be happy that at least I had gotten the chance to eat this. One of the best dishes I've had, perhaps ever. This recipe from the NYT gets you pretty close to the actual dish served at the restaurant. I'd add a bit of butter at the end to finish it off.
Honestly, though? Just buy A Girl and Her Pig already. There's not a bad thing I've tried from this one and it is all simple, lovely fare that you can't get enough of (yes, even the veal kidneys. No lie.).

While we are on the subject of cookbooks--please also pick up a copy of Plenty from London's Ottonlenghi. You won't ever struggle with eating vegetables ever again. One of the best cookbook purchases I've ever made.

Corn with Miso Butter and Bacon from Savour Fare. She takes a slightly complex David Chang recipe and simplifies it so it is a breeze to prepare and let me tell you--you will be buying every ear of corn you see from here on out to make this again and again.

So, so easy refrigerator pickles from A Way to Garden. For some reason the husband and I have been on a pickle binge and these may be the best ones yet.

Brown Butter Tomatoes from food52. Can you even call this a recipe? Somehow, though, the caramel notes of the cooked butter coating the fresh tomatoes will make this one of the greatest simple treats you've tasted all summer long.

What have you been loving lately?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fig and Prosciutto Panini

A couple of years ago my mom sent me a panini press for Christmas. It's one of those bulky kitchen items that takes up a lot of space and has a specialized use that means it's frustrating to find a home for in tiny NYC kitchens. I stowed it away in that little cupboard above the fridge, effectively forgetting about it since then.

Until I started trying to come up with dinner ideas in the past couple of weeks that would allow me to not turn on the oven at all. We're back around at the hot part of the summer where any oven time means the whole apartment turns miserable. Though usually a salad or cold dish can be refreshing, every once in a while you would still like something warm served up. The panini press came down.

I pulled together a bunch of ingredients on a catering shopping trip to Trader Joes: fresh figs (which I hardly ever see anywhere around here!), goat cheese, Italian bread. Then I made a trip over to Bklyn Larder and added some prosciutto and chestnut honey to the mix. Dinner was born.

With the combination of salty and sweet all pressed and melted together by the goat cheese in the panini maker, the meal was a success. Next time around I'll probably throw some arugula into the mix to add a hint of brightness. For a quick, delicious summer meal look no further.

Fig and Prosciutto Panini

fresh figs, sliced
goat cheese, crumbled
chestnut honey
prosciutto, thinly sliced
Italian bread, cut into slices about 3/4" thick

Heat the panini press as you prepare the sandwiches.
Spread a nice layer of goat cheese onto a slice of Italian bread. Top with a layer of sliced figs. Drizzle a light amount of chestnut honey on top. Then top with a good quantity of prosciutto. Place another slice of Italian bread on top. Repeat for as many sandwiches as you would like
Place the sandwich into the panini press when it is hot. Place a sturdy amount of pressure on the handle and cook until the bread is lightly toasted and the sandwich is nice and thin. Serve immediately.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Italian Paella

I love how food inspiration hits in so many different ways. Oftentimes it comes from browsing through the all of the brilliant blogs that are out there. Sometimes it comes from flipping through the pages of a cookbook, or from reading a menu posted outside of a restaurant. I end up jotting down countless ideas into a notebook, where they often end up just sitting around (hoping for the day I am out of immediate inspiration and need a jolt).

But some days, the inspiration comes as the hunger is creeping up on you. I am out and about, maybe ready to head home, feeling the beginning twinges of hunger. I have nothing in the fridge and no pre-conceived notions on what to prepare for dinner. So I wander into a store hoping that flash of clarity will take over and dinner will unveil itself to me in the grocer's aisles. This particular meal came to me that way.

The husband and I were wandering around after a day in the city and feeling ready to head back to Brooklyn, back to the comfort of our cozy apartment and a home cooked meal. Before heading that way, however, we first stopped by Eataly in hopes that our meal would show itself. A flash of enlightenment hit in the form of longing for a meal in Barcelona--maybe something like the rustic rice dish we enjoyed one lunch at one of the beautiful markets. And there it was: a paella inspired dish, but slightly darker, richer, put together from the Italian ingredients we had at hand.

Orzo meant the dish wouldn't need hours to prepare. Eataly's lovely flavorful sausages added the protein and also lent themselves to quick cooking. Beef stock made the dish a little deeper in flavor and stood up well to the boar sausages. Some frozen peas we had on hand and some canned artichoke hearts added a bit of bright flavor to counteract with the other rich flavors. Saffron added its own unique punch. The orzo cooked up and slightly caramelized on the bottom of the pan, creating the "socarrat", my favorite part of any paella.

An inspired, satisfying last minute meal was enjoyed with wine and tomato bread. I hope to repeat this meal (and the contentment it brought with it) again and again.

Italian Paella

large pinch of saffron
4 wild boar sausages (if you can find them, otherwise any sausage will do)
2 TB olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 t. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 c. orzo
2 c. beef stock
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 can artichoke hearts
1/2 c. fresh or frozen peas

Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the saffron and lightly toast, about a minute or two, then add 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside.
Heat a 12" cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and brown on all sides. Keep turning the sausages frequently and cook until just cooked through. Remove the sausages from the pan and turn the heat down to medium.
Add the olive oil to the pan, then add the onion. Cook until it is tender and almost transparent. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for another minute or two. 
Add the orzo to the pan and cook for about two minutes, stirring often. Then add the beef stock, saffron and water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often.

At this time slice the sausages into bite sized pieces. After the orzo has cooked 5 minutes, add these back to the pan along with the artichoke hearts. Stir all of this together and cook for another 4-5 minutes.
Next stir in the peas to the orzo and turn up the heat to high. Most of the liquid should have been absorbed by the orzo or evaporated by this point and the high heat will cook off the rest while slightly toasting the orzo that is touching the bottom of the pan. Do not stir at this point. This should take about 2-3 minutes. You will start to smell the orzo toasting and can use a spoon to see if it has created a bit of "crust" at the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and serve.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cheater's Cassoulet

We are finally getting some more winter-like weather around these parts after a rather warm season (not that I'm complaining about the beautiful temps we've had!). Despite spending most of this particular winter craving lighter meals, when the snow finally fell last week I longed for something rich and hearty. Cassoulet seemed to call to me, but after the busy days (fitting in runs, writing for another website, workshops, and work) I had no energy to spend hours slaving away on the dish.

I decided to instead come up with the Cheater's Cassoulet. Using some of the traditional flavors of the dish, but breaking it down and simplifying so it can be prepared on any weeknight. It doesn't have the depth that the original carries, but will fit the bill when you just don't have the time. Feel free to substitute prepared duck confit or leftover braised pork for the sausage (or add in addition to the sausage) if you have some on hand.

Cheater's Cassoulet
4 servings

4 sausages (I like wild boar sausage for this recipe, but any will do)
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
3 t. chopped fresh thyme
2 15oz. cans cannellini beans
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
3 TB butter
1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat a dutch oven or deep oven safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and sear all over. Then remove the sausages to a plate. 
Add the chopped bacon to the pan. Cook until the bacon is crispy then remove to a plate.
Add the onion to the bacon grease and cook until translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Then add the garlic and thyme and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and then stir in the cannellini beans, salt, pepper and cooked bacon. Place the seared sausages into the beans.
Melt the butter and mix with the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle this mixture on top of the beans and sausages. Place uncovered into the oven and cook for 30 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are slightly browned and the sausages are cooked through.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Italian Feast: Mushroom Bruschetta, Orecchiette, Sardines, Panna Cotta

Sometimes I desperately wish that I had that woman in my life who taught me how to make gorgeous bread or pasta from scratch as a very young child. Don't get me wrong--my mom made so many things homemade--egg noodles for chicken soup, cinnamon rolls, biscuits, and always let me help and learn, but she isn't descended from a long line of Italians who passed down the tradition of beautiful ravioli or thin tagliatelle that is made without even having to measure out the ingredients onto the counter top. And I never moved to Italy and found an "adopted grandmother" who would show me her trade, patiently guiding my clumsy hands through the work over and over again until they finally found the pasta rhythm.

Therefore my homemade pasta tends to turn out thick and oh-so-indelicate. You can't see the filling through the ravioli because I haven't had the patience to let it rest so it actually rolls out thinly (instead of just shrinking back to its thicker self as I roll it out too soon). My hot hands make the orecchiette stick to my fingers instead of rolling smoothly off, making every shape in the world besides the ear shape they should be.

But these downfalls don't keep me from trying. I figure eventually practice will have to win out and someday I won't feel ashamed to host a dinner party featuring a pile of my own handmade pasta as the centerpiece. Someday.

Unfortunately that day is not today. After reading Gabrielle Hamilton's raw, honest Blood, Bones and Butter I wanted nothing more than to prepare an Italian feast--complete with homemade pasta. Since we had no dinner parties to speak of coming up, it was a special weeknight dinner prepared for just two.

The farmer's market gave me the initial inspiration with all of the flavorful sausages available at this time of year and the mounds of kale. Traditional orrechiette it was. The mushroom stall also called my name and I couldn't resist the oyster and maitakes, which would become a simple bruschetta appetizer. In my search for lobster the other week, I noticed Whole Foods had some really nice looking fresh sardines, so they went onto the list as well, with my plans to top them with the pesto I had made and frozen this summer. The whole meal was finished off by a simple and clean panna cotta topped with a freezer strawberry jam I also packed away during the warmer months.

The orrechiette making ended up being a bit of a disaster. I used an all-purpose flour from the farmer's market, which I thought would be nice, but it has more whole wheat which actually made the pasta dough too thick and not as smooth. As I said before, my hot hands also make shaping the little ears very difficult. I ended up with a lot of very thick, just barely concave disks but went through with the pasta course anyways. Despite it not being quite right and too chewy, the dish still tasted incredible--spicy from the sausage and just enough crispy bite from the kale.

The rest of the meal though was just right. Not too much (I actually somehow made small enough quantities that we had very few leftovers) and the flavors were harmonious in their simplicicty. The sardines were even delicious--we don't eat a lot of oily, fishy fish and I am trying to break us in. Topped off with this spiced pesto is the way to go if you are trying sardines for the first time! And panna cotta is always a wonderful way to end a big meal as it is light and never too filling.

It was a meal I feel my imaginary Italian nonna would be proud of. And one day, I know my orecchiette will roll off my fingers as easily as they do hers.

Mushroom Ricotta Bruschetta

French bread
1/2 c. ricotta cheese
zest from 1 lemon
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper

1/2 lb mushrooms (mixture of oyster and maitake), chopped
4 TB butter
1 clove garlic
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 t. fresh rosemary, chopped

Slice the French bread into slices about 1/2-3/4" thick and lightly toast. Set aside.
In a small bowl mix together the ricotta, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Once hot, add the chopped mushrooms. Saute, stirring occasionally until they are nicely browned. Then add the butter and garlic to the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes until the butter is melted and the garlic is fragrant. Then add the salt, pepper and rosemary to the pan and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Spread the toasted French bread with a bit of  the ricotta mixture and top off with a good heap of the sauteed mushrooms and serve.

Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale

Homemade Orecchiette Recipe Here
Here's a video of a woman making beautiful orecchiette
(I doubled the Orecchiette recipe above to make enough for leftovers)
4 hot Italian sausage links, meat removed from casing
4 c. chopped kale
1 clove garlic
1/2 stick of butter
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Boil the orecchiette according to directions.
Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage meat and saute until cooked through, breaking the meat up into small pieces as it cooks.
Add the chopped kale to the pan and cook until slightly crispy, about 4 minutes (before adding the kale you may need to add a tablespoon or so of olive oil to the pan if the sausage did not release a lot of its own fat).
Add the garlic and butter to the pan and cook until the butter melts and the garlic is fragrant. Then toss the whole mess with the cooked orecchiette. Top off with a bit of Parmesan cheese if desired and serve.

Fresh Sardines in a Spicy Pesto
serves 2

4 fresh sardines, cleaned
salt and pepper
1/4 c. pesto
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 t. paprika
1/4 t. red chili flakes
1 TB fresh lemon juice

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
Pat the sardines dry with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside while making the sauce and allowing the skillet to heat up.
In a small bowl mix together the pesto, extra virgin olive oil, paprika, chili flakes and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.
Once the skillet is hot, add the sardines in a single layer. Sear and cook for about 3 minutes or so per side, until the skin is charred and the flesh is just cooked through. Then carefully remove the sardines to a platter and top off with the pesto sauce to serve.

Panna Cotta
For easy, fast, simply delicious panna cotta use David Lebovitz's recipe Here

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pork Blade Roast and Celery Root Puree

Hope everyone has been having a wonderful holiday season. Joe and I had a quiet but really nice Christmas day here in the city. We saw Pina (a lovely film tribute to Modern dancer/choreographer Pina Bausch), but mostly spent the day eating and drinking. Homemade cinnamon rolls, coffee, lox, bone marrow on toast, fried potatoes, dry-aged rib eye roast, Scotch, wine...pretty decadent day. Really the only thing that would have made the day better is the addition of family. Hate being so far from home around the holidays. I think the older I get the harder it becomes (plus I really hate watching all of those babies--of friends and family--grow up from afar. I want them to know who I am!).

This was not served in the midst of all of the food extravagance but would have made a nice meal for the day as well. Vegetable purees always seem to lend an elegant note to a meal, giving a "restaurant quality" touch. The brightness of the creamy celery root puree also helps to cut through the richness of the pork blade roast.

Pork Blade Roast

2 lb. tied pork blade roast (boneless)
2 t. herbs de Provence
1/2 t. fennel pollen
1/4 t. garlic powder
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 onion
1/4 c. dry vermouth
1/2 c. cream
2 TB butter

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Mix together the herbs de Provence, fennel pollen, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Rub this mixture all over the pork roast.
Cut the onion into 4 wedges and place them into a large dutch oven. Place the blade roast on top of these onions (using them as a "roasting rack"). Pour about 1/2 c. water into the bottom of the pot. Place the roast into the oven and cook for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 325 degrees. Cook for about 20 minutes and then check on the roast--you want to make sure there is always a little bit of water in the bottom of the pot. Add a little more as necessary. You want to cook until the roast reaches an internal temperature of 145-150 degrees (it should take about 50-55 minutes after turning down the oven temperature).
Remove the roast from the dutch oven and cover and set aside for at least 10 minutes before slicing. Remove and discard the onions. Place the dutch oven onto the stove top over medium-high heat. Add the vermouth and deglaze the pan. Then add the cream and allow to cook down for about 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the butter, remove from the heat and salt and pepper to taste. Serve drizzled over top of the sliced pork roast.

Celery Root Puree
5 small celery roots (about 3" in diameter)
2 small potatoes
1/4 onion, chopped
3 cloves peeled garlic
2 1/2 c. milk
4 c. water
salt and pepper
1 stick butter
1 t. lemon juice

Peel and chop the celery roots and potatoes. Place both into a large pot along with the onion, garlic, milk and water and a good shake of salt. Place on the stove top and bring to a boil. Cook until the celery root and potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes or so. 
Once tender, drain off all of the liquid, then place the solids into a blender/food processor along with the stick of butter. Puree until smooth. Then add the lemon juice and salt & pepper to taste.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Grape and Blue Cheese Pizza and Raclette Potatoes

I am already excited about Christmas this year. Normally I'm not one of those people. I need time to celebrate Thanksgiving, enjoy the fall, and then once December hits, I'm good to go to prep and feel the Christmas joy. I'm not sure what it is, but something is different this year.

It's not that I am not excited about Thanksgiving, because I can't wait for the intimate gathering we are going to be having with friends. And Fall has been absolutely lovely this year, with wonderful weather and the trees having time to turn into an exceptional display of color. Perhaps it's just the fact that last year I never really got into the holiday feeling so somehow it feels like it's been two years since I last had Christmas.

Whatever the reason, I can't wait to put up Christmas decorations, listen to Christmas music (especially She and Him's new Christmas Album!!), and Joe and I may send out Christmas cards for the first time ever this year! The one thing that I'm sad about is the fact that we will be staying in the city this year instead of heading home to be with family. Joe and I have a really nice time doing this (picture starting off the day with breakfast and coffee with Bailey's and then moving on to lots and lots more food, wine, champagne, and maybe even a movie later in the day), but I am missing the family a lot--and will miss seeing my adorable nephew (who is almost 2) experiencing the day.

This meal would be a very nice one for Holiday entertaining. It's very simple, especially since the dough doesn't need time to rise (although you could also just purchase the pizza dough to make it even easier). The grapes I used were from my local farmer's market, where we get in a bunch of fun varieties (like Mars) from a local winery, but again you can use any seedless variety. The pizza is essentially a play on the fig and blue cheese combo, but the grapes are juicier and have a slightly brighter flavor than figs, giving a burst of flavor in every bite. The potatoes served alongside are just cooked through then tossed with a crunchy grain mustard and then topped off with creamy raclette cheese and broiled to make them gooey and fabulous.

Grape and Blue Cheese Pizza
makes 1 12" pizza
dough recipe (from Robbie's Recipe collection):

.25 oz. pkt. active dry yeast
1/4 tsp. granulated sugar
3/4 cup 110 degree water
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
pizza sauce - of your choice, as needed
shredded cheese - of your choice, as needed
toppings - of your choice, as needed

-Dissolve yeast and sugar in water; allow to rest for 8 minutes.
-In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt.
-Pour yeast mixture over flour mixture and mix well with a heavy spoon.
-Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for 2 minutes.
-Working from the edges to the center, press dough into a 12" circle.
-Place dough on a lightly greased pizza pan and stretch dough to edges.
-Spread sauce over crust and top with cheese and desired toppings.
-Bake in a 500 degree oven for 8-12 minutes, or until edges are golden.
Notes: To answer the most frequently-asked question I receive about this recipe: No, the dough does not have to rise - if it did, it wouldn't produce a thin crust.

For the pizza:

1 pizza dough
1 TB extra virgin olive oil
1/3 lb. crumbled blue cheese
6 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
1 c. seedless grapes
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Once you have formed the pizza dough into a 12" round, use a pastry brush to brush on the extra virgin olive oil.
Sprinkle on the blue cheese, then the bacon, grapes and top with the Parmesan cheese. Bake the pizza for about 10-12 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the crusts are browned. Allow to cool for about 4-5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Raclette Potatoes

potatoes (preferably 1-1 1/2" small round potatoes, or larger potatoes cut into smaller pieces)
whole grain mustard
raclette cheese, grated

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until they are tender and cooked through (varies depending on size of potatoes).
Drain the potatoes and cool for a few minutes. Then toss with a good helping of the grain mustard and spread onto a baking sheet.
Sprinkle the grated raclette on top of the potatoes. Place under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbling slightly. Remove from the broiler and serve.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chickpeas with Chorizo and Squid

I often dream of living right on the beach. I feel so at home there with the sand between my toes, the salty breeze, and the constant sound of the waves crashing. Perhaps odd for a girl raised smack in the middle of the country with no ocean in sight, but I think there is something reminiscent of the wind rolling through the tall prairie grasses and the huge open sky that just calls to me. I always feel a sense of calm wash over me whenever I find myself near the coast. In my dreams of my beach-side home I imagine a chill day, starting with a run along the water, and where later even if I am working it is at a relaxed pace. There would be the promise of an evening listening to the water on the back porch with wine in hand or of a bonfire in the sand with many friends. I think I would make something like this for dinner. So quick to put together (15 minutes tops) and delicious with uber-fresh seafood and a kick of heat from the chorizo. Because who wants to spend all night cooking when you could be enjoying your beach??

Chickpeas with Chorizo and Squid
4 servings

1 lb. cleaned squid
4 links chorizo
1 28 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
2 t. coarse sea salt
1 lemon

Rinse the squid in cold water and then pat dry with paper towels. Score one side of each of the squid bodies with a couple of slashes of your knife.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the squid in a single layer (doing multiple batches if necessary). The squid will cook very quickly, about 45 seconds-1 minute per side. Once cooked through (hopefully with a little char), remove the squid to a plate and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Squeeze the chorizo out of the casing into the hot skillet (discard the casings). Saute until cooked through and then add the chickpeas. Stir quickly and cook until the chickpeas are heated through and then remove the skillet from the heat.
Plate the chorizo/chickpea mixture and then drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Top off with the squid and squeeze the juice of the lemon over top just before serving.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Oven Baked Spare Ribs

I know some people hate the heat of summer, but I have to disagree. It's not always comfortable being hot, but I would much rather walk down the street in a sundress and flip-flops than be bundled up and barely able to move in a huge coat, scarf, hat, gloves and boots. Summer means enjoying the stroll to the markets, lounging on a park bench with a good book, ice cream, trips to the beach. It means not having to have an excuse for a backyard barbecue, and farmer's stands overflowing with the treasure of their harvest. To me the summer means unlimited possibilities, in the kitchen and in the everyday.

Despite the sun beating down today, I had a wonderful walk over to Bklyn Larder, Fermented Grapes, and the grocery store for ingredients for tonight's dinner. I love knowing the neighborhood so well that I know where to stop for which particular products, and love knowing that many of the shop workers recognize me as well. The sense of community is strong and it feels great to belong to that. Between the gorgeous weather, the friendly neighbors, and the sense of opportunity on the horizon, it is a damn fine day (plus I get to finally have dinner with the husband again after a couple of crazy busy weeks).

These ribs are an excellent way to pass a perfect summer evening--lots of flavor from the soy and fish sauces, wonderfully tender with just enough bite, and the low oven temps help keep your home cool. Enjoy them with friends to make the experience complete.

Oven Baked Spare Ribs
2-3 servings
2.5 lbs. rack of pork spare ribs
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. soy sauce
1 TB fish sauce
1 TB white wine vinegar
1 t. sesame oil
1 t. liquid smoke
1 t. season salt
1 t. dried onion flakes
1/4 t. dried garlic powder
1/2 t. smoked pepper
1/2 t. salt

In a small bowl mix together the honey, soy sauce, fish sauce, white wine vinegar, sesame oil and liquid smoke. Pour this all over the spare ribs.
In another small bowl mix together the season salt, onion flakes, garlic powder, smoked pepper and salt. Sprinkle this all over the ribs. Cover the ribs with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.
Pull the ribs out of the fridge and allow to sit at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes as the oven is preheating to 275 degrees. Then place them on a foil lined baking sheet or in a baking dish. Place in the oven and bake until the meat is fork tender (about 2-2 1/2 hours). Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.
Slice the ribs between each of the bones and serve.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Chinese 5-Spice Slaw

One of the worst parts about not having a backyard or a balcony is not being able to own a grill. I miss the impromptu gatherings that are held centered on the grilling of meats with beers in hand and good friends all around. It is truly a downside to living in New York City.

In Kansas I remember many an evening perfumed by burning charcoal, the char of meat, a warm breeze on the air and the sound of laughter and conversation mingling together. It was never fancy or fussy and often was the result of a last minute phone call as an invite. You would be asked to maybe bring some meat and a side. Often it was as easy as swinging by Dillons to the deli department for some prepared potato salad or baked beans, or for a bag of chips, packet of hot dogs, and beer. As amazing as the grilled burgers and hot dogs tasted, the meal wouldn't be quite the same without the sides: some coleslaw, deviled eggs, etc. They made the event complete.

This is my attempt to recreate one of those summer evenings inside my NYC apartment. The meat isn't grilled, but it is deeply flavored and served on a toasted bun--just the sort of thing you'd crave at a barbecue. And served alongside (or right on top of that pulled pork if you are doing it right) is a crisp, easy coleslaw flavored with the warm notes of Chinese 5-Spice. Paired with a super cold beer and a few friends, and you can almost feel the grass under your toes and hear the locusts buzzing in the trees. Summer on a plate.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches
serves 8-10

2.5 lb boneless pork roast
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 TB dried mushrooms, finely chopped
1/2 t. seasoned salt
1/2 t. smoke seasoning (smoked sea salt and pepper)
1 t. dried onion flakes
1/2 t. pepper
1 t. salt
1/2 c. olive oil
3-5 c. beef stock
8-10 buns

Mix together the garlic, dried mushrooms, seasoned salt, smoke seasoning, dried onion flakes, pepper, salt and olive oil. Rub all over the pork roast. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight.
Unwrap the pork roast and place it into a crock pot. Pour in the beef stock until you have enough to come just over halfway up the side of the roast. Turn the crock pot on and cook until the pork is tender enough to shred with a fork (probably about 4-5 hours on high and about 7 hours or so on low. Go ahead and flip the pork roast over about halfway through the cooking process).
Remove the pork from the crock pot and shred all the meat using two forks. It wouldn't hurt to toss a few tablespoons of the braising liquids over top of the meat here for extra flavor.

Butter the inside of the rolls. Toast in a skillet or under the broiler until nice and brown. Top with the pork (and the coleslaw if desired) and serve.

Chinese 5-Spice Coleslaw
3 1/2 c. shredded red cabbage
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/3 c. white wine vinegar
1 t. Chinese 5-spice powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 t. seasoned salt

Mix together the mayonnaise with the white wine vinegar, 5-spice, salt, pepper and seasoned salt. Mix with the red cabbage. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Serve on top of the pulled pork sandwiches or as a side.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mushroom, Bacon and Parmesan Salad

Growing up in small-town Kansas, meals for our family always meant a large chunk of meat accompanied by sides. Usually some kind of potato or starch and some veggie, and oftentimes bread, but incredibly rare were the meatless meals. A salad was just filler to the main event.

In college, meat was far too expensive to be consumed in quite the same way, but many a meal were still focused around those affordable cuts: hot dogs and pepperoni.

When I got married I fell back into the habit of centering all of our meals around the protein. Sides were always the afterthought. Many a time the side was only a salad of lettuce and ranch dressing.

Then I began to meet and dine with vegetarian friends and to read books such as Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" and Michel Pollan's "Omnivore's Dilemma". I started to understand where most supermarket meat comes from and realized there were better options. I also came to realize that meat did not have to be the focus of every single meal. Through exploring these ideas I've also recognized that a salad can be the star of a meal itself. When well-balanced and well conceived it is a thing of beauty.

If you were able to sludge through the last few posts you may recognize this salad as the one we ate at Cuines de Santa Caterina and quite possibly the best salad I've ever had. The main components were obvious, although certain ingredients vary from what we can find here (I've never had such a light, almost sweet mushroom as on that salad--even though it looked like a plain button variety; and the "bacon" was similar to pancetta but had a definite richer flavor). The dressing I had to guess at and create all on my own--it was creamy, sweet and the ideal compliment to the other flavors. My version isn't quite the same, but it's close enough that we will be enjoying it over and over again this spring and summer--all on its own.

Mushroom, Bacon and Parmesan Salad
serves 3
4 cups mixed salad greens
4 pieces cooked and chopped bacon
1/4 lb crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 c. shaved Parmesan*

*Use your vegetable grater to shave off large, thin slices of Parmesan.
In a large bowl mix together the salad greens, bacon and crimini mushrooms. Pour the salad dressing over top and toss it all together. Top with the shaved Parmesan and serve immediately.

Creamy Sherry-Honey Dressing
1/4 c. honey
1/8 c. sherry vinegar
1/3 c. mayonnaise
1/2 t. mustard powder
1/3 c. olive oil

Whisk together all the ingredients into a small bowl until well combined. Taste for flavor and add a bit of salt and pepper if you would like. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Risotto

It is a gorgeous day outside. Nothing like a beautiful, warm day to lift the spirits after a long, tough winter. It would be perfect to go lie on a blanket in the park and read. But since I have to leave for work very soon, and since I live in an apartment on the 10th floor with no balcony, I will instead lie on the couch underneath an open window enjoying the breeze with a book in hand. The book? A Barcelona travel guide. Yep, Joe and I will be heading to Spain next month! All of my energy right now is devoted to dreaming of that trip (and the pounds and pounds and pounds of food I will consume there). If anyone of you has any suggestions on things to do/places to eat I will take them!

None of that has anything to do with this recipe. But! this risotto is slightly lighter with the Brussels Sprouts and lemon, so it's a good dish for those winter days that feel almost like spring.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Risotto
3-4 servings
10-12 Brussels sprouts
2 TB olive oil
4 pieces bacon
2 TB chopped shallot
cooking oil
3/4 c. arborio rice
1/4 c. white wine
2 c. chicken stock
2 c. water
3 egg yolks
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 lemon
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425.
Clean the brussels sprouts and then separate each one into individual leaves (once you get to the very center and the leaves are too small to pull off chop the remaining piece in half). Place the leaves and the centers onto a baking sheet. Toss with 2 TB olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast until the leaves are slightly crispy and browning at the edges, about 8-10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Heat the water and chicken stock together in a saucepan until it begins to boil. Turn it down to low and keep it over the heat while cooking the risotto.
Chop the bacon. Cook in a medium saucepan until crispy, then remove and set aside. If necessary add cooking oil to the same pan to bring the fats up to about 2 TB (including the bacon fat). Turn the heat to medium and saute the shallots until soft. Add the arborio rice and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the white wine and cook until the rice has absorbed the liquid, stirring constantly. Add a ladle of stock/water mixture to the rice and stir until it has absorbed. Continue to add the stock/water in the same manner a ladle at a time, stirring constantly, until all the liquid has been added or the rice is fully cooked. If you have added all of the liquid and the rice is still not finished continue to add water until it is done. 
Remove the risotto from the heat. While stirring add in the egg yolks, stirring quickly so the yolks do not scramble. Then stir in the Parmesan cheese, the cooked bacon and the brussels sprouts. Add the zest of 1 lemon and then squeeze in 1 TB of lemon juice. Salt and pepper to taste and serve. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wild Boar Ragu

Happy New Year! Hope everyone has recovered nicely from the festivities. I myself am pushing through a cold that I believe is the result of way too little sleep and way too much booze. Probably worth it, though.

As January is still rather early in the winter season I should be sitting here craving something dense and hearty. Instead I am sweating and cursing the New York City gods that made it so I cannot regulate the heat in my own apartment. My windows are wide open, it's cold outside, and yet I feel like I am sweltering here at the computer. And I don't even want to think about turning on the oven (guess all that bread baking I was planning on once the temperatures dropped will have to wait). Thank god for the crock pot.

My husband is a huge fan of wild boar, therefore I have tried to prepare it in a couple of different ways. This way is hands down the best and it won't require you to turn on the oven. It is wonderful on its own but I love scooping it over a big bowl of noodles with a quick shredding of Parmesan cheese. Mmm. I am lucky enough to live in a city where wild boar can be purchased from a butcher just a train ride away, but if you are not so fortunate, please try this recipe out with pork shoulder instead. You will not regret it.

Wild Boar Ragu

1.5-2 lb boar shoulder or roast, tied
1 TB salt
1/2 TB pepper
1/2 c. chopped carrot
1/2 c. chopped celery
1/2 c. chopped parsnip
1 TB fresh chopped thyme
3 TB cooking oil
3 TB tomato paste
32 oz. beef stock

Turn the crock pot onto the high setting to allow it to preheat.
Rub the boar shoulder all over with salt and pepper. Heat the cooking oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Once it is hot, sear the boar shoulder on all sides. Then remove the boar and set aside. Turn the heat down to low and then add the carrot, celery, parsnip and thyme. Saute until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the beef stock to the pan and then return the heat to medium high until it begins to boil.
Next place the boar shoulder into the crock pot. Pour the stock and vegetables over top of it. Cook until the boar meat is tender and can be shredded with a fork (about 4-5 hours on high or 7-8 hours on low). Remove the meat, remove the twine that holds it together and then shred it using two forks. Then return the meat to the broth. Serve tossed with pasta.