Not quite Bavarian-style Roast Pork Knuckles

For ages now, I’ve been wanting to make roasted pork knuckles, or more specifically, German roast pork knuckles, called Schweinshaxe.

The first time I came across a recipe for roasting pork knuckles was while watching Nigella’s Kitchen. Her recipe is for Beer-braised Pork Knuckles with Caraway, Garlic, Apples & Potatoes and looked like a really great way for The Hubbs & I to enjoy a traditional roast beast meal without having to contend with oodles and oodles of leftovers for days on end afterwards.

The second time I happened upon this recipe was while watching an Australian show on youtube called Food Safari. I really love that show but rarely ever see any of the newer episodes. The older stuff is really neat because every episode visits a different country and covers the basics of their culinary history, typical ingredients, traditional dishes, as well as introducing one or two popular Aussie chefs to make their favourite traditional dish. I’ve only seen one or two of the new series and I don’t think I like it nearly as much.

The two recipes that I cobbled together, both originally from Food Safari, “Regular” Pork Knuckles and Bavarian-style were my jumping off point:

I followed the cooking method from the Bavarian-style, then when it came time to toss the knuckles into the oven for roasting, I used the seasonings from the Regular version. Instead of using ale to pour over the knuckles, I used the leftover, super flavourful, stock that I simmered them in.I used the opportunity to try adding more flavour by drizzling some olive oil on everything then rubbing it all with salt, pepper & minced garlic, which is what the instructions from the Regular-style was all about. It worked really well! The skin went all golden brown & deliciously crunchy, and the meat was very tender & flavourful from the earlier simmering.

The pork knuckle was so well received by my parents, they totally finished the bone clean when I sent a portion home with them on Monday night. Mom even wants me to show her how to make them herself next time she happens upon some pork knuckles at the store — Colour me happy!

To round out our meal, I served the pork with my homemade(!) sauerkraut cooked with thick-cut bacon, and mashed potatoes. I wanted to try my hand at making the potato dumplings that’s included with both recipes, but it required far too much energy expenditure. Prepping & cooking the pork, on the other hand, is super simple and only takes a few minutes to roughly chop veggies, dump it all in your biggest pot, let it simmer away, then drain & roast everything until done.

Unfortunately I didn’t have an opportunity to take a photo of our finished meal, and it was incredibly photogenic too, which was a bit of poor planning on my part. Hopefully you’ll give this recipe a try and revel in the awesomeness that is pork knuckles.

Roast Pork Knuckles

2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
1 leek, roughly chopped
1 onion, halved
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
4 small pork knuckles
corn starch, as required (to thicken gravy)

Coarse salt
Garlic
Olive Oil
Caraway seeds, extra (optional)

In a large pot bring 2.5 litres water to the boil and season with salt.

Add the carrots, celery, leek, onion, bay leaves and spices and re-boil.

Place the meat in the boiling broth and simmer on a low heat for 75mins. Scoop off any foam that rises to the surface.

Remove the meat from the broth and slash the skin with a knife. Do not discard broth!

Place the knuckles in a roasting tin, drizzle all over with olive oil. Season the knuckles well with salt, pepper, garlic and extra caraway seeds, if desired, making sure to get the seasonings into the slashes in the skin. Make sure the knuckles are placed skin-side up in the tin as best you can for roasting.

Pour enough of the remaining pork stock into the bottom of the roasting pan to come up to about 2cm. Roast @375F for 90 minutes, until skin is all crispy & crackling.

Remove the meat from the roasting tin and loosen the tasty stuff from the bottom with more of the remaining pork stock. Add the cornstarch dissolved in some of the cold pork stock and season to taste.

 

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Jambalaya!

Mmmmm… so tasty!

I’m trying to recall if I’ve ever eaten jambalaya before — either at a friend’s house or at a restaurant or wherever, and as far as I can remember I’m pretty sure that I’ve never had it. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never had it… or if I have it was a poor representation of the dish and I’ve subsequently erased the whole episode from my mind, which is a possibility.

Last Saturday we were invited to an old coworker’s of The Hubbs’ for dindin and unfortunately, as wonderful a cook as his wife is, she had a bit of a disaster happen with her attempt at jambalaya and as a result I’ve been rather craving something that is a little bit better. I have to laugh because the way she was telling it, the whole dish just became a comedy of errors from the get-go: when she decided to make the jambalaya, it turned out she didn’t have a lot of the ingredients. Then she accidentally burnt the rice. In an attempt to salvage what rice there was unscathed by the burning, she decided that the addition of tomato sauce & cayenne pepper might work. It basically ended up being a mildly spicy tomato rice dish. It was okay, but it wasn’t jambalaya and it was a little too sweet for me.

So after that whole fiasco, my tastebuds were in great need of a more recognizeable interpretation of jambalaya — I have to laugh at myself, because once again, my tastebuds have decided to crave something in which I’ve never eaten before and so I didn’t know quite what to expect when we finally got to eating supper tonight.

Sunday night I had taken out some chicken thighs to defrost with the intention of making jambalaya later in the week. I knew that at some point I would have to do some grocery shopping for the remaining ingredients which I didn’t have and all I vaguely knew was that I would need some sausages and maybe some shrimp. Beyond that I figured I probably had everything else on hand — well, I was mostly correct. The only thing I was missing was the bell pepper and lucky enough for me, Mom had some red ones and gave me one this afternoon.

I am pretty sure that the jambalaya I made isn’t authentic — what is an authentic recipe, anyhow? Is there such a thing anymore? Mom does weird stuff like cutting ingredients out or adding stuff that totally clashes with the dish on the grounds that it’s supposed to make a recipe “healthier” and then it doesn’t even resemble the original anymore, that just irks me to death. I dunno, maybe I’m just being nit-picky, fussy and closed-minded. *RAWR!*

Anyhow, back to my jambalaya…

Jambalaya

I’m pretty sure I don’t actually own a cookbook with a recipe for jambalaya, but I do own Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything for my iPad! As much as I love downloading cooking apps, I have a hard time cooking with my iPad — it’s just too dangerous! I get stuff everywhere when I cook & bake! I am pretty sure that iPads don’t like getting sticky, messy and spilled upon, so I tend to only read(?) the apps from start to finish, playing all the videos and making sure to bookmark/star all the recipes that interest me for future reference when I’m feeling more brave about taking my iPad into the kitchen. I admit, lately I’ve been using it more often in the kitchen, but I’m terrified of getting stuff all over it still. It does make cooking so much easier when you have the recipe right in front of you, but sticky/dirty fingers do not mix with touchpads and that is something I’m going to have to rectify soon. I’ve read that you can put your iPad into a big ziplock freezer bag and you can still use the touchscreen without any problems, so that is probably something I ought to try before I really get junk all over the screen or spill something on it.

According to Mark Bittman’s recipe, making a version of jambalaya using only chicken & sausage and omitting the tomatoes, changes the name slightly and is referred to as a “brown jambalaya”. I happen to like the taste of rice & tomatoes, so I decided to keep the tomato component in my version by using a can of tomato sauce, which reduced the amount liquid, in this case chicken broth, required to cook the rice.

I have to say, for my first attempt at jambalaya, I’m really, really impressed. It was so incredibly tasty and pretty easy to make, too! I didn’t think that jambalaya would be complicated to make, but I didn’t think it would be as easy as just continuously adding more ingredients to the pot as the last one finished cooking and then finishing it off by just letting everything come together as you stirred it all around so stuff wouldn’t stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. Me likies jambalaya! The Hubbs really enjoyed it too, which pretty much made the recipe a winner and absolutely worth keeping as it was written.

As a side note: The Hubbs did mention that jambalaya tends to be quite hot & spicy, so I guess I did make it a lot less spicier than it could have been, but the recipe only called for a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. It was just pleasantly piquante, for my tastebuds and I was perfectly content with that but if you like your food spicier, by all means have at it and add as much as you need to please your tastebuds! Oh and I didn’t have andouille sausages. I have no idea where to buy those actually, so I just used a plain pork sausage instead. I enjoyed the resulting flavours from having such a mild sausage in the dish, a lot of people might actually be highly offended that I omittied a pretty crucial ingredient from the recipe, but sometimes you have to make do with what you’ve got.

Jambalaya
olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, diced
4 cups chicken stock
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 tsp dried thyme
1 can (398ml) tomato sauce
2 cups long-grain rice
4 chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
2 pork sausages, cut into bite sized pieces
2 handfuls shrimp, shelled, deveined & defrosted (optional)
minced fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish
salt & pepper, to taste

Heat enough olive oil over medium high heat to coat the bottom of a large cast iron dutch oven.
Add the onions, garlic and bell pepper, season with salt and pepper and cook until the onion softens and just begins to brown.
Push the veggies aside, add the sausage pieces and cook until the fat renders out and pieces start to brown nicely.
Add the chicken, cooking until the pieces are no longer raw looking on the outside, then season with cayenne and thyme, stirring well to combine.
Stir in rice, making sure stuff isn’t sticking to the bottom, and let everything cook for a few minutes just to absorb all the yummy meaty juices.
Pour in tomato sauce and chicken stock, bring everything to the boil, stirring constantly.
Turn heat down to medium and cook uncovered, stirring occassionally so bottom doesn’t stick, until rice is tender and liquid’s absorbed — about 20-30 minutes.
When rice is cooked, if using shrimp, stir them into the rice, let cook 2-3 minutes until then turn off the heat, cover and let rest for 10-20 minutes.
Top with your choice of garnish and serve.

Pork Cutlet Sammich

I made this sammich somewhere around the middle to end of last week when I was feeling better and craving “real food”.

By real, I am referring to something that isn’t in a mostly liquid form used to help replenish electrolytes and is easy on the tummy to digest. After awhile, consuming nothing but Gatorade, Coconut Water, salted crackers (occassionally toast) and bowlfuls of joak gets kind of depressing.

As much as I like joak, when you’re sick & seriously unwell, you just wanna be able to chew and have something with flavour.

Enter pork cutlet, stage left.

I was spending most of my days either bed or sofa-bound with two heating pads (one on my tummy and one under my back for my kidneys) and more often than not my iPad with digital magazines & Youtube videos to occupy my time.

I discovered that Martha Stewart Everyday Food has a Youtube channel that shows quick meals once a week. The videos are at most five or so minutes long and they’re pretty quick recipes. One of them was this pork cutlet sammich. Yea, while I was down & out with food poisoning and my insides were feeling still rather touchy at best, I made myself a pork sammich. It was really, really, really good. OH. MY. GAWD. GOOD.

The recipe is actually not all that different from fave pork katsu & risotto recipe that I make for The Hubbs. In fact, the only difference is that there’s no thyme or sage in the breading. To take it totally over the top, I used a thin, toasted slice of Charlesford, my homemade picante sauce from last summer and melted mozzarella. Admittedly, the sammich could have used the requisite greens to freshen it up just a smidge, but otherwise, it’s a damn good & satisfying sammich.

Not only that, but I swear, it took me less than 20 minutes, start to finish to make these sammiches, and that was with me feeling less than stellar. There’s not all that much more I can say about it other than: Make it.

Pork Cutlet Sammich

1/4 cup flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup panko
salt & pepper
4 pork cutlets
olive oil
shredded mozzarella
bread of your choice
1 cup picante sauce
arugula (optional)

Place flour, egg, and breadcrumbs in separate shallow dishes.
Season flour and breadcrumbs with salt and pepper.
Coat pork in flour, shaking off excess, dip in egg, then coat with breadcrumbs, pressing to adhere.
Set pork aside.
Heat broiler.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high.
Cook pork until deep golden brown, about 3 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Line rack with paper towels.
Transfer pork to towels and let drain 1 minute.
Top pork with cheese, place on sheet, and broil until cheese is melted, 1 minute.
Divide among bread and top with picante sauce and arugula, if using.

Chocolate Loaf Cake

Yesterday was a hugely productive yet very, very, tiring day.

Today The Hubbs’ sibblings & MIL are all coming over for a family pow-wow. I will not be here and I’m quite glad for that. I’ll be moseying on over to my parents house for dinner while The Hubbs gets to deal with his family.

I have to say this: It drives me absolutely batshit insane, and offends me something huge, that whenever they have family meetings, and it coincides with a meal of some sort, the habit is for them to buy cheap $5 pepperoni pizzas from Lil’Caesars to feed everyone… WITH the expectation that people will chip in for the pizzas. It drives me insane, I can’t emphasize that enough. The biggest reason for this cheaping out on feeding people is because no one wants to pay money to feed someone else and almost all of them are ridiculously close-minded and picky individuals. Not only that, but they never order enough pizzas to let people eat until they’re full, which drives me even more bonkers.

RAWR!!!

So to break the pizza-cycle, The Hubbs told MIL that he wanted her to have this family gathering at our house for once. He informed her last weekend that we will be making pulled pork sandwiches. His comment to me was, “I want pulled pork. If they don’t want to eat it, then they can order their own pizzas.”

Menu will be: pulled pork sammiches with a honey garlic BBQ sauce, potato salad, coleslaw and a quadruple chocolate loaf cake for dessert with vanilla ice cream. I figured if I had to do all the cooking, I mind as well take the opportunity to try a new recipe where the likelihood of it being consumed is pretty high. I’m kind of hoping that they might leave one slice for me, but I’m not counting on it.

The pulled pork is my usual and super easy concoction: rub skinless, bone-in pork butt (or shoulder) generously all over with a dry rub, dump in 1-2 sliced onions + lots of garlic into the bottom of crockpot, put pork on top of veggies, add enough gingerale until it comes most of the way up the pork and let cook on high until meat is super tender and you can pull it apart easily with a fork.

The recipe for the cake came from Nigella’s book Feast and I kind of wish that I had the chance to try a slice before anyone else gets to it tonight. I just noticed that I made a bit of an oups to part of the recipe — I added 25g of chocolate chips to the syrup where there isn’t supposed to be any on top of the chocolate shards to decorate the cake. I suppose it’s not a huge error, it certainly made it so that the syrup made a bit of a more solid chocolate glaze on the top o the loaf. Otherwise, the only ingredient change I made to the recipe was using creme fraiche instead of sour cream because I failed to realize that it required that particular form of dairy. I did notice that the batter seemed a smidgen dry during its first blitzing in the food processor (possibly due to the incredible thickness of the creme fraiche), so I added a couple of tablespooned dribbles of buttermilk to the batter before the addition of boiling water for the final blitz.

One other thing to note is that I kina wigged out with the idea of lining my loaf pan with a sheet of plastic and putting it in the oven even though it’s not supposed to melt, so I lined my biggest loaf pan with a piece of wet parchment paper instead.

Chocolate Loaf Cake

Nigella’s Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake200g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
50g cocoa
275g Sugar
175g soft unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
80ml creme fraiche (or sour cream)
125ml boiling water
175g chocolate chips

1 tsp cocoa
125ml water
100g sugar
25g chocolate chips
grated chocolate shards, to top the cake once cooled

Preheat the oven to 350F and line a 900g loaf tin (mine measures 21x11cm and 7.5cm deep and the cooking times are based on that) with a piece of damp parchment paper, making sure to leave lots of overhang.
Put the flour, bicarb, cocoa, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and creme fraiche into food processor and blitz till a smooth, satiny brown batter.
Scrape down with a rubber spatula and process again while pouring the boiling water down the funnel.
Switch it off then remove the lid and blade and stir in the chocolate chips.
Scrape and pour batter into the prepared loaf tin and slide into the oven, cooking for about 1 hour. (Mine took closer to 1hr20m)
When it’s ready, the loaf will be risen and split down the middle and a cake-tester, or a fine skewer, will pretty well come out clean. But this is a damp cake so don’t be alarmed at a bit of stickiness.
Put the syrup ingredients into a small saucepan and boil til reduced to a syrup.
Once baked, sit the cake on a cooling rack and, still in its tin, pierce here and there, then pour the syrup as evenly as possible over the cake.
Let the cake become completely cold and then slip out of its tin, removing the parchment and sit it on an oblong plate.
Sprinkle the remaining chocolate shards over the cake until it’s to your liking.

Some things really do go wonderfully together…

In this case, what I’m referring to is my version of Nigella Lawson’s Boxing Day Bacon & Egg pie.

Every Thanksgiving, Christmas & Easter, my Mom makes a turkey. My family’s not huge into breast meat and I usually (though, not always) end up taking a whole breast home with me to stash in the freezer for supposedly future sandwiches. At least, that’s what I used to do with them. Nowadays, I’m not so much into sammiches because I no longer eat breakfast on a bus on the way to work, so my usual run of things generally include fried rice and the above mentioned pie.

I do of course make changes to the above recipe, and I can’t recall if I’ve even posted it before in the past, but I figured it deserved a re-visit given we’ve just had Thanksgiving a week ago and I was left with a half turkey breast to use up.

The recipe itself calls only for bacon and eggs and I’ve found that the original recipe is just a wee bit too salty for my likings, so I’ve come to add turkey to the mixture. When I don’t have bacon on hand I’ve substituted ham and the results are just as stellar, if not more so, if I do say so myself. The other changes I make include: using a whole onion, adding some extra greenery to the filling with the addition of some frozen peas and a generous handful of dried parsley, and substantially increasing the quantity of eggs to the mix so everything sticks together inside the crust.

Finally, because the only pie plates I own are rather huge, I’ve come to the realization that I have to make a double quantity of the pie dough just to cover everything — it does make for an extremely rich & satisfying pie, so be warned. When I double the quantity of dough, there is always just enough remaining from the cut-offs to make one hand pie which I stuff with whatever appeals at the time. This time around I used a little bit of tomato sauce, pepperoni and a chunk of gruyere.

As to how one eats this rather daunting pie with its thick and savoury shortbread-like crust is up to you. Day I is always hot from the oven and subsequent days are generally eaten cold, straight from the fridge or popped into the microwave for a minute just to take the brain-numbing, fridge-coldness off, making it more like room temperature.

The most important things to note about this pie is its accompaniments, the real reason for this post. You must always have them. Must. Must. Must. The Hubbs’ accompaniment of choice is dill pickles. Going along the pickled vegetable route, I’ve found that most any pickle will taste fantastic — I’ve found that pickled jalapenos are especially tasty, along with yumyums and beets. This time around I’ve been gorging on yumyums while I eat my pie, but ordinarily I would be eating the pickled beets.

The second accompaniment that you must have with your pie is cheese. An old cheddar has been our usual standby, but I was cleaning out the fridge of end bits and served some Swiss cheeses which went quite nicely. One was a harder cheese and the other was a softer one.

Now go. Make yourself a pie!

More experimenting…

I’ve decided to try something crazy and different for dindin tonight using the pulled pork I made yesterday. FINALLY, a recipe for pulled pork that doesn’t involve BBQ sauce or coleslaw. Pasta, my love, here I come!

The original recipe is called Orecchiette with Pulled-Pork Sugo and it reads fairly interestingly.

Changes I’ve made so far:
2 loosely packed cups of pulled pork, straight from the crockpot
1 can of whole stewed tomatoes, crushed
2 cups chicken stock + 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
omitted wine
1/2 cup navy beans
parmesan cheese
rotini or penne for serving

Followed recipe instructions as written, but omit adding the pasta. My pulled pork wasn’t 100% fall off the bone tender when I took it out of the crock to refridgerate overnight last night, so this morning I removed all the fat from the top of the gelatin and tossed the pork back in. The pulled pork had been going in the crock for about 3 hours when I pulled two cups of the meat out for the sauce. When I mixed the pork into the sauce, I shredded it as much as I could (still felt a little “under done”), then turned down the temperature to low and have left it bubbling away on the stove. I am planning on letting it do its thing until dinner time, so the total simmering time for the sauce will be about 3 hours, give or take. So far the sauce, while still a little loose, tastes pretty yummy and will be even better served over pasta with the parmesan cheese and glug of olive oil.

Experimenting…

Tonight is Family Dindin and so really I have no need to be making any food.

Thing is, I had this pork shoulder in the freezer that needed some paying attention to. The Hubbs ate the last of the pulled pork sandwiches at least a couple of months ago, so he no longer has quick grab’n’go lunches left for work.

I’ve done what I normally do for my pulled pork: remove the pork skin, generously over season the meat with the dry rub, drop it into the crockpot with 1 roughly chopped onion, 4 cloves of garlic and top it with about 1-1.5cups of whatever liquid is on hand. Today I used the last of The Hubbs’ cran-blueberry juice. Once that’s all done, set the crockpot to high and let it go til I’m feeling ambitious enough to remove the meat from the crock and then leave the liquid to cool overnight so I can remove the layer of fat. Tomorrow I’ll put the meat back into the crock on low and probably leave it again a good portion of the day until we’re ready to eat.

I still haven’t quite decided on how I’m going to serve the pulled pork. I’m really not a fan of BBQ sauce and The Hubbs isn’t a fan of my pseudo-Mexican attempts where I eat the pork with corn tortillas, salsa and sour cream. I was considering the idea of perhaps making pork springrolls or maybe a pork rillette… but I’m not slow cooking the pork in fat, so technically it can’t be a rillete, could it? Hrmmmm… I may be able to pull off the rillette after all, I gotta check out my Les Halles cookbook by Anthony Bourdain first.

Anyhow, I’ll figure something out. I would just like to eat the same meal without having to make two different variations. OH! Maybe a British pork pie in a Ploughman’s Lunch??? That sounds like a really good idea, too, now that I think about it. The pulled pork juices always end up super gelatinous which is a requirement of pork pie.

Or maybe even pull off a “Peking Pork”, instead of Peking Duck, dinner! Hrmmmmmmm… so many decisions! ^_^

With the skin, as opposed to just throwing it away this time, I thought I might be able to turn it into some crispy roast pork skin like the Chinese Crispy Roast pork my mom buys at the cooked meat counters. It’s my favourite part of crispy roast pork!

What I did: Scored the skin into a diamond fashion to the best of my abilties, seasoned all over generously with salt, pepper & a little thyme, put it into a 9×9″ pan with a little bit of water in the bottom of the pan and cooked it for 1hour @350F. I checked on it at that point and the colour was beautiful, but the skin was still pretty soft so I jacked up the temperature to 450F and left it in the oven for 25 minutes. It probably would’ve been better at 30 minutes, but I didn’t want to risk burning it so there’s only a couple of places (where it was pretty thick) where it’s perfectly coloured, but not quite rock hard crispy.

So yea, that’s it. That little portion of crispy roast pork is cooked to what looks to be perfection, visually, at least. I dunno how it tastes. I’m too scared to even touch it given I managed to accidentally give myself a wonderful oil burn on the inside of my wrist. It’s staying on the stove until completely cooled. I think I will save the rendered pork fat for a miniature attempt at rillette later on.


Super crispy pork skin!

Hrmmm….

So while I was grocery shopping, I thought that I might try shopping more ‘locally’ and/or organically.

It made me sad.

It’s summertime and we have BC orchards, but none of the tree fruits at IGA are from BC.

They’re all from California!!

ALL OF THEM!!

The tomatoes are from Mexico, as are all the organic carrots, celery and green onions that I purchased. I was just so incredibly disappointed :(

I suppose to some degree this means that I should consider changing where we buy our groceries… but… I dunno. I can’t decide. We really like the stuff that IGA sells.

Anywho, dindin tonight was very very tasty. I made Jamie Oliver’s Sweet Cherry Tomato & Sausage Bake served with a whole roasted garlic, some crusty bread for sopping up juices and a big ol’ salad topped with sunflower seeds, peanuts, cashews & raisins for interest.

The sausage bake was fantastic, instead of buying individual fresh herb packets from the grocery store, I bought one package of poultry mix which included sage, thyme and rosemary. The salad, I was actually really impressed with, other than the interesting nut & seed mixture I threw overtop of all the greenery, I made it including: mesclun greens, baby spinach, alfalfa sprouts, carrot & cucumber strips, some green onion and sliced radishes. It was a pretty darn impressive salad and I’m not generally a salad kina girl.

The Hubbs & I had a long talk over the weekend on the drive back home from Canmore about our diet and I’m trying to make a much, much more concerted effort to encorporate more greenery into our diet. Portion-wise, we’re not big eaters, but the greenage department definitely needs improving on, so this is the start of what we’re hoping to have keep on going.

Proud of myself, I am!!

Baby Bro’s been having dindin with us for the last couple of nights since Mom & Dad are in Montreal doing the family obligation thing.

He was actually out of town for work last week and finally got back home on Saturday afternoon.

Sunday I made a long overdue batch of lasagne, with a three hour simmered sauce, lots of cottage cheese and of course spinach. I had originally planned on adding some sliced zucchini, but I’m not doing so well on these antibiotics. They’re kicking my ass as usual and so I’ve been bogged down with complete exhaustion on top of the never ending soreness and pain — so no grocery shopping for me to get the little extras I wanted for the lasagne. It was still tasty, but I admit, it’s not as mind-boggling as when I make the sauce and noodles from scratch-scratch. There’s nothing that can top that.

Tonight, I made: Risotto with peas, pork chops with sour cream sauce and braised romaine lettuce.

For some reason, I’ve always had a tough time with making risotto. I’ve tried and tried and tried, but I’ve never been able to get it perfectly cooked. I’ve always had one or two grains of rice here or there that are still kina hard or else it’s been super stodgy and gloppy from sitting too long.

Well, I can now confidently say that I can make a tasty risotto bianco. It just took me downloading Jamie Oliver’s iPhone app and watching a 10 minute risotto tutorial from start to finish to completely understand how to do it and not be afraid of it. Yea, go figure. I’ve watched tv shows before in the past about doing risotto, but for some reason, this time it finally clicked.

So tonight I made for the three of us, too much food, but that’s neither here nor there: risotto with peas. I had originally thought I would make risotto with peas & pesto, but after awhile I figured it would just be too many flavours going on with the pan-fried pork chops and the braised lettuce. Yes, braised lettuce has flavour, though apparently not a flavour that Baby Bro enjoys.

The recipe I used is from the iPhone App, but here’s a basic risotto recipe from Jamie’s website which doesn’t look too much different from what I used tonight, I just added just under a cup of frozen peas to the rice when it was done. I have to say, totally unrelated to anything, the man definitely has himself a cooking empire now. Wowsers.

The biggest thing that made me understand how to make risotto was not being afraid to add liquid. LOTS of liquid, in my case. I dunno if it’s because of our climate here or perhaps my rice is super dehydrated or what, but it’s always seemed to me that the quantity of stock that recipes call for has never been enough to get the proper consistency. Watching the video and being told that you can keep adding more liquid until it looks right made a huge difference. You won’t kill a risotto by adding too much liquid as you go along. Hurray! And now knowing that once you’ve finished up all the stock, using hot water to get that perfect consistency makes everything taste better, too! The flavours balance themselves out properly when you do that. Hip! Hip! Hurray! I really am quite proud ^_^

For the pork chops with sour cream sauce, I’ve been using this recipe from a Youtube channel of this guy named Freitas-Ex. His recipes rank in the comfort food category and I’ve been pretty impressed by the episodes he’s posted so far (there are quite a few). The recipe is super simple and really doesn’t take that long from start to finish, especially if you use thinner cut chops. Having made this recipe a couple of times now (oddly enough, both times I had already made friends with The Moose… hmmm), I would highly recommend using thicker cut pork chops, there’s less of a chance they’ll become overcooked and if they’re bone-in chops, even tastier.

As a side note — I’ve found over the last few times of making pork chops that a good substitution for white wine that tastes really good in a recipe is diluted apple cider vinegar. Just pour a splosh or two of vinegar into some stock or hot water and use that, it made the pork chops taste absolutely amazing and it did pretty well in the risotto, too!

Now, the whole braised lettuce thing? I was trying to get rid of lettuce and I happen to like my lettuce when it’s cooked… especially when it’s at the bottom of one of those Chinese sizzling hotpots with deep fried bean curd, bbq pork and seafood. The lettuce just sucks up all the cooking juices and becomes wonderfully juicy and flavourful. It’s just wonderful. But anyhow. Apparently my attempt today fell kind of short of the mark in Baby Bro’s opinion. Cooked lettuce, just isn’t his thing. Perhaps next time I will have to add a little soysauce. As far as I’m concerned, it tasted alright. I just warmed a little olive oil in the pan with some garlic, added 2 coarsely chopped romaine hearts, seasoned the whole lot with some salt and pepper and added maybe a quarter to one-third cup of chicken broth before I clamped on a lid and let the pot do its thing on medium low until everything was wilted down.

On the whole, dinner was a success. I’ll have to work on the braised lettuce, but as far as The Hubbs was concerned, he was quite pleased that I managed to get up the energy to make my risotto from scratch. He did buy 2 boxes of instant stuff, just in case, but the homemade was definitely a much better choice. Now I just have to decide on what to do with the leftovers. Nuke’em with some hot water so it’s like normal? Or perhaps scoop them into balls, stuff’em with some mozzarella and then pan fry til crispy? I’m thinking that last option sounds rather promising.

Aloha, pork!

Or perhaps it should be something more asian-esque.

Whatever.

Tonight, we are having pork for dindin — specifically, with pineapple.

I have all these snack-sized pineapple containers in the fridge that need consuming. For as much as I really, really enjoy pineapple, I have cold issues. So tonight, given that I am getting slightly tired of the usual panfried pork chop, route, and The Hubbs is tired of seeing those little plastic containers of pineapple languishing in the fridge, we are having pineapple pork.

The recipe’s pretty simple. I have to admit, I’ve never been huge on the fruit with pork thing nor am I a rabid fan of sweet & sour dishes. But this tastes alright. It’s not to sweet, it could do with a little more sour, but on the whole, it’s a pretty satisfying dish.

I will admit, even though I don’t much care for sweet’n’sour, I do have a soft spot for rice with oodles amounts of drowning sauce. So even though the original recipe served 4 people, I kept the proportions for only 2 pork chops. It’s kind of embarassing.

Pineapple Pork

1 Tbsp oil
2 boneless pork chops
1 onion, sliced
garlic
ginger
salt & pepper
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup pineapple chunks
1/2 cup pineapple juice

1. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and brown the pork chops about 5 minutes on each side. Remove chops from the skillet, and set aside.
2. Mix the chicken broth, soy sauce and vinegar into the skillet, and bring to a boil. Return the pork chops to the skillet, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes, to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F (70 degrees C). Remove chops from the skillet, reserving broth mixture, and set aside.
3. In a bowl, blend the brown sugar, cornstarch, and pineapple juice. Mix into the skillet with the chicken broth mixture. Bring to a boil. Serve with the cooked pork chops.