Posts tagged pork

pan-roasted pork with couscous

Let’s make this clear: although I LOVE bacon, ham, sausages, I have never liked pork chops or pork roasts in particular.  I only heard about pork tenderloin a couple of years ago, and I never thought I would like that either, seeing as how it wasn’t smoked or salted to within an inch of its life.  I was surprised to find it was really good, and since then I have had it a couple of times, grilled as well as pan-roasted, the way I made it tonight.  As mustard goes well with pork, I made a pan sauce with grainy German mustard and golden syrup.

Pan-Roasted Pork with Couscous (3 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 1 tbsp. grainy mustard
  • 1 tbsp. honey or golden syrup
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. each dried basil, thyme, and oregano
  • 1 1/4 c. boiling water, divided

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a pan over medium-high heat.  Season pork tenderloin on all sides with salt and pepper, and then sear for a few minutes on each side to brown it.  Place the entire pan in the oven for 15-20 minutes, then remove the pork tenderloin to a cutting board to rest.
  3. Pour 1/4 cup of water into the skillet along with mustard and honey.  Whisk until thoroughly combined and then boil down to desired consistency.  Watch carefully to prevent burning.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in another pan over medium heat.  Add vegetables and dried herbs and saute for 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through.  Add couscous and stir for a moment to toast the grains.  Add 1/2-1 cup of boiling water and stir until couscous is cooked.
  5. Slice pork tenderloin and serve over couscous.

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Best Meaty Spaghetti Sauce

Where we live, there is a local Italian-American restaurant chain that serves truly excellent food.  True, you can pretty much tell from ingesting it that it isn’t a paragon of health food, but it’s far from other national chains I could mention, but won’t.  This particular local joint serves up tasty pizzas, salads (the caesar salad alone is incredible), and a variety of pasta dishes, many of which come with this savory, unctuous meaty sauce.  This is by far the most delicious pasta sauce I’ve ever had, seriously.

On your plate, this sauce settles between your noodles with a minimum of orangey grease like you see in some places, but a few shiny puddles here and there tell you that there’s definitely some fat, and you can taste it – in a good way.  Everything is minced up so finely that you’re never really sure what’s in it, whether there’s actually a carrot stashed away in there, or if it’s just the onions you are pretty sure are there.  This, oh parents, is a place where you could very easily chop up some extra veggies finely and stuff it in the sauce, as long as you are able to mince finely.

All of my homemade sauces pretty much paled in comparison, so I wanted to try a little harder to figure out exactly what makes their sauce so delicious, and replicate it.  The recipe is relatively simple, and I relied on these three principles:

  1. Fat is flavor: I’ve read several places recently about an almost ethereal marinara sauce made with an entire stick of butter.  I’ve never tried it, partly because I just can’t countenance using that much butter in something that isn’t even supposed to taste like butter.  I compromised by using slightly less than that amount, and using half butter, half olive oil.
  2. If the best mix of meats for meatballs is pork, veal, and beef, then why not also in a spaghetti sauce?  The local Whole Foods has started to stock veal products (humanely raised – this was really important to me, and I made sure to ask them in detail to be sure), and so I was actually able to get all three meats.
  3. When I’d gotten a fairly decent sauce, it still felt like it was missing something, some depth of flavor.  On a whim, I dropped in some homemade beef stock reduction (homemade beef stock that you reduce until it is somewhat syrupy and then store in the fridge – note that if you do this, the reduction turns into a rather hard and bouncy gelatin and is a bit difficult to get out of the jars).  That was the magic key for me.

So, I still don’t know how this particular restaurant makes their sauce, but I know how I’m making mine from now on.  Sure, it’s a little exacting, and it takes a while, but it’s definitely the best meat sauce I’ve ever made.

Best Meaty Spaghetti Sauce (makes one big pot, or about 12 cups)

We made this sauce and then froze it in 2-cup portions, perfect for two to defrost and enjoy any weeknight.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 lb. ground veal
  • 1/2 lb. ground pork
  • 2 28-oz. cans low-sodium crushed tomatoes
  • 1 c. concentrated beef broth (low-sodium), or 1 c. water and low-sodium beef base/bouillon

Directions:

  1. Melt butter in olive oil, in a large pot over medium-low heat.  Add minced onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion has softened, becoming translucent.  Add minced garlic, and cook another minute or two, until very fragrant.
  2. Add beef, veal, and pork to the pot, and cook them, breaking up the meat into very small pieces, essentially making crumbs out of it, so that there are no chunks.  This ensures that the meat and tomato will mingle as much as possible, and that the different meats are evenly distributed.
  3. Add the canned tomatoes, stir until thoroughly combined, and simmer.  This step can take as little as 20 minutes, or for maximum depth of flavor, four hours, or more.  What you really want to see is the sauce getting to the texture you like for your spaghetti sauce.  In this case, I wanted something very loose and fluid that would coat each spaghetti noodle without clumping up, as meat sauces often do.  I believe I simmered for two or three hours with the lid on, and then another hour with it off, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the beef broth/bouillon/whatever-you’re-using, and again, simmer until your sauce reaches the desired consistency, probably about another hour or so, if you leave the lid off.  Taste for seasoning, and if the sauce tastes unbalanced, try simmering a little longer.

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Easy Baby Back Ribs + Polenta Fries

Ever since I discovered that baby back ribs are easily purchasable in two-person quantities from Whole Foods, I was excited to try making them at home.  They tend to be a restaurant-only dish, but the tender, savory meat would be great to have any night of the week.  At around $10 for a rack, it’s not the cheapest dinner to make at home, but it’s cheaper and almost as fast and easy as going to out to get it – plus, you get to use your own sauce!

I’m still on the search for my perfect barbecue sauce: a little sweet, a little spicy, a little smoky – so I won’t share with you the sauce I did use on these.  The beauty of this is that you can use whatever you have on hand and it’ll probably come out great.  Seriously, the sauce I had is better on the ribs than by itself.

As for the oven fries, this was the first time I had the opportunity to make them, as I always make just enough for two with no leftovers.  I was skeptical at the recipe I had for oven-baked polenta (no stirring, yay!) being six servings, and indeed I had about twice that!  So, I spread out the remainder in a baking dish, then sliced and baked tonight.  Voila, something vaguely fry-like!

Easy Baby Back Ribs (2 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1 rack baby back ribs, about 1 pound
  • salt and pepper (or, your favorite spice rub – tonight, I kept it simple)
  • barbecue sauce, about 1/2 c. plus more for serving

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300.
  2. Turn the rack of ribs upside-down.  You should see a thin, white membrane covering most of the back of it.  Slide the tip of a knife underneath the edge, then grip with a paper towel and pull.  The entire membrane should pull off.  If it doesn’t, you can cook it anyway (I did!), but it does make the meat easier to bite and slide off the bone.
  3. Sprinkle both sides of the rib rack with salt and pepper.  Seal in a double layer of foil and place on a baking sheet.  Bake without disturbing for 2 1/2 hours.
  4. Remove ribs from the oven, open the foil, and spread barbecue sauce all over the top of the ribs.
  5. Preheat the broiler.  Broil ribs for about ten minutes, or until sauce has caramelized and thickened.

Oven-Baked Polenta Fries (2 servings)

These were just fine in terms of taste and texture, but I think they would be even better cooked in a pan with oil or butter.

Ingredients:

  • leftover polenta, spread in a dish and cooled until firm – we used a piece about 6″x 9″, 1/2″ thick, or I would estimate the amount made by cooking approximately 1/4 c. cornmeal and 1 1/4 c. chicken stock (or water)
  • salt and pepper, any other seasonings you desire

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 (or broiler, which is what we did)
  2. Cut cooled polenta into french-fry-sized slices.  Arrange on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with plenty of salt and pepper.
  3. Bake about 20 minutes, then flip and bake another 10-15 minutes.  You want fries to be crispy on the outside, and starting to brown in some places.

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Cubano Sandwiches

I have always loved the idea of a cubano sandwich – roasted pork, ham, cheese, pickles, mustard.  I’ve never had one, never been to a restaurant that served one.  The one you see there in the picture is not exactly an authentic one.  It uses Dijon mustard, salami, provolone instead of swiss, and was pressed in a waffle maker, because I don’t have a panini press.  I may never get one – who needs one, when you can press sandwiches with such a cute design in a waffle maker?

But I digress.  This sandwich was tasty.  I’m not saying it was perfect.  Next time I would probably give a quick sear to the deli meats before placing them on the sandwich, to heighten the flavor and shorten melting time for the cheese.  I’d shred the pork so it’s easier to eat.  That being said, I’d make it again, and for seeming so complicated, it was actually quite easy – about half an hour, tops, if you use pre-roasted pork.

Cubano Sandwiches (4 servings)

Ingredients:

  • juice of one orange
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano (or 1 tbsp. fresh, chopped)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. pork shoulder roast, cooked
  • 8 slices ham, about 8 oz.
  • 8 slices provolone, about 8 oz.
  • 12-16 slices salami, about 8 oz.
  • mustard (I used dijon but I think yellow is traditional)
  • pickle slices (I used a mild garlic dill)
  • 4 French rolls, submarine style

Directions:

  • Whisk together orange and lime juices, oregano, and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.  Thinly slice or shred roasted pork and mix into this sauce.  Let sit 5-10 minutes, and drain, reserving sauce.
  • Split rolls and toast if desired.
  • Spread one or both halves of each roll with mustard.  Layer one-quarter of pork, two slices of ham, two slices of provolone, 3-4 slices salami, and as many pickles as desired on bottom half of the roll.  Top with the other half.
  • Brush if butter if desired.  Press in a panini press or waffle maker.

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