Tag Archives: pork

Meatball and Kale Soup

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Saturday was probably my favorite date of the year.  Not day, necessarily; there was nothing particularly eventful, and it wasn’t full of great friends, great food, or everything going exactly as planned.  (Yes, that would be a requirement of my Type-A personality “Perfect Day.”  Pathetic.)  But more a perfect date, being one of the elusive longest days of the year.  It was sunny and warm and slightly humid but not oppressive.  The farmer’s market finally exploded with leafy greens and herbs, radishes and green garlic and pea shoots.  I made progress on goals and crossed things off lists, one by one, satisfying that Type-A personality.  A friend brought over a hand-picked peony bouquet.  We dug a hole and planted a tree in our front yard and wiped the sweat from our brows, warmed from the sun, sticky and dirty but satisfied.

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Funny that just a few weeks before was almost exactly the opposite.  A light drizzle had been falling for four days straight, and the damp and chill had permeated.  Cooped up in the house alone, I listened to melancholy songs on repeat and devoured a lovely book, story by short story, each one highlighting the inevitable disappointments of meaningful relationships.  The weekend required a long solo hike, a strong bourbon drink, and a bowl of steaming soup.  I granted it all three.

One bright spot was finding the first bit of leafy green at the farmer’s market, tucked away in a far corner.  A small Hmong woman was selling bunches of petite kale, freshly picked, roots and all.  The morning was gusty and cold, spitting rain and angry gray, and I was one of the few straggling around.  Not many seemed to make it back to the kale corner.   I considered myself lucky and in the solitary walk back home, decided I would consult my not-so-new but new-to-me favorite vegetable book for inspiration.

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As soon as I saw the recipe, I recognized it from a handful of food blogs, and my mind was made up.  There were green onions, mint, and the kale from that morning’s market; pork and chicken stock in the freezer.  No fresh chiles this time of year, so dried would have to do.  One soggy hike later and I was prepping meatball soup for supper.  The recipe came almost straight from the book, with the addition of a few potatoes cubed over the pot, thrown in to appease my deep-seeded and ever-present longing for carbs in all forms.  It was filling, but not in a extra-couple-of-pounds-in-winter kind of way.  After a bowl of soup and a whisky smash, the gloomy spring weekend didn’t seem so bad after all.

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Nigel Slater’s Chicken Broth with Pork and Kale from Tender (aka meatball and kale soup)
Serves 4

Even though it’s summer, I’ve made this twice since, once with fresh spinach in place of the kale, thrown straight into the soup pot (skip the blanching).  I highly recommend either variation.

1 pound ground pork (I used half pork and half beef)
3 green onions
a small handful each of fresh mint and fresh parsley
2-3 green garlic, or 2 garlic cloves
2 tsp. red pepper flakes (original calls for 2-3 thai or similar chiles)
2 tablespoons oil
4 cups chicken or veggie stock
2 small-medium potatoes, scrubbed
1 bunch kale, rinsed and coarsely chopped (approximately 3-4 cups)

Place the meat in a medium bowl.  Slice or chop the onions, fresh herbs, and mince the garlic or slice the green garlic.  Throw all of it, along with the red pepper flakes or diced chiles, into the bowl with the meat. Mix well with your hands.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saute pan.  Form the meat mixture into small balls, no more than 2 inches diameter, and place in the pan.  Brown well, in batches if needed- don’t crowd the meatballs or they’ll steam each other.  Once well browned, set aside on a plate.

Put the stock in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Cut the potatoes over the pot into bite-sized pieces (not on a cutting board- a lot of the starch is left on the board, and I like it in the soup to thicken things a bit) and carefully place in the hot stock.  Simmer for 5 minutes or so, then add in the meatballs and the drippings from the meatball plate.  Season with salt and pepper, and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.  Blanch kale leaves for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how thick or tough they are.  (More delicate kale may only take 2 minutes, so be flexible and watch the pot.)  Depending on the size of the pot, you may want to blanch in multiple batches.  As the kale is blanched, lift from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and drop directly into the soup pot.  Once all the kale is in the soup, bring to a brief simmer, stir, salt to taste, and serve.

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Clean Eating, Gluten-Free, Main dishes, Soups, Spring, Summer, Vegetables, Winter

Carnitas

Anybody who has dinner at my house will eventually have carnitas.

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There’s something kind of magical about carnitas.  The sweet-savory aroma as they cook is irresistible, and guests smell it as soon as they walk in:  salty, fatty pork; sweet cinnamon and orange; the smell of cumin and oregano from a pot of beans; corn tortillas frying on the stove top.  It’s welcoming, but not overwhelming.  They’re not too fancy, and each person gets to add what they want.  It’s like a grown-up taco bar. (And I love a good taco bar, believe me.)

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The thing that puts them solidly in the “Entertaining” column is that almost all of the prep is done ahead.  The only thing you’re doing when your guests arrive is sliding them under the broiler, just above a stack of freshly-fried tortillas.   Little bowls of cilantro, queso fresco, diced onion, and avocado are already on the table.  You’ve got time to mix a couple of cocktails, pull a bowl of red cabbage slaw out of the fridge, and then dinner is served.

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I had tried crockpot carnitas, but they were always a bit dried out and dusty by they time they made it onto our plates.  At the same time, I refuse to fry 4 pounds of pork cubes in a vat of oil in my kitchen, and definitely NOT when I have people coming over.  Then I stumbled on this article by Serious Eats’ The Food Lab, and things got real.  Instead of cooking the pork in water-based liquid, you still cook the pork in fat- it’s own fat.  By packing it tightly in the dish and cooking it slowly, the fat is rendered out of the pork, filling the dish and effectively frying the meat.  It’s genius, simple, and deliciously fatty while being not at all messy.  The best part is that the pork can be cooked ahead – days ahead! – and all it needs is a quick crisping-up under a hot broiler.  Brilliance!  I use the fattiest pork shoulder I can find, and although that means I have to buy a heavier cut and thus pay more, it’s worth every penny.

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Carnitas
Serves 4-6
Adapted (barely) from Serious Eats

3.5-4 pounds pork butt roast (shoulder)
1 medium onion
1 orange
1 lime
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 or 2 cinnamon sticks, broken into 3-4 small pieces (1 if you have new/pungent cinnamon; 2 if it’s older)
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup vegetable or peanut oil
2-4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2-3 teaspoons kosher salt

To serve: tortillas and any extra condiments you want.  I serve queso fresco, cilantro, diced onion, avocado, tomato, salsa, lime wedges, and cabbage slaw.

Preheat oven to 275 F.  Cube pork into 2-3 inches pieces, trimming away large hunks of excess fat, but not being too picky.  Place in a 9×13 baking dish; the pieces should form fit in one layer, but should be touching. Quarter the onion and nestle the quarters into the baking dish.  Juice and orange and lime over the pork, then nestle the pieces into the dish as well.  Place the garlic, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick pieces throughout the dish.  Drizzle the oil over the top of the pork, then sprinkle with cilantro and salt.

Cover the dish with foil and bake until the pork is fork tender, approximately 3.5 hours.  Remove from oven and allow to cool a bit.  Remove the onion, garlic, lime and orange pieces, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks.  If serving later, place the pork in a covered container in the fridge. Dispose of the grease remaining in the dish.

Before serving, heat broiler on high.  Break up pork slightly and place on a baking sheet.  Broil for 5-6 minutes, until the edges are crispy.  Shake or stir and broil for 1-2 minutes more.  Serve with warm tortillas and accoutrements.

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Filed under Clean Eating, Gluten-Free, Main dishes

easy cornbread porkchops (with applebutter bbq)

A couple of porkchops. Your favorite meat seasoning.  An egg. And leftover cornbread.

Okay, so I realize that some people will say, “Leftover cornbread?! What is the heck is that?!”  I know, I know. Almost a travesty not to eat it all, every morsel, regardless of however much else has been eaten when you’ve got fresh, warm cornbread right there in front of you.

If you’re slack-jawed and hog-tied at the idea of leftover cornbread, work with me here.

I came up with this spontaneously, working quickly with what I had in my fridge and cupboards, and it’s pretty good. Not fantastic, but great for an under-30-minute meal. Pair with potatoes or rice, a veggie, maybe a slice of re-fried cornbread, and you’re golden.

I did not get a picture of the applebutter sauce I whipped up in a small saucepan, but no matter- it looked like any other thick barbeque sauce.
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Cornbread Porkchops
Serves 2

2 large porkchops (or 3 small chops)
salt and pepper
2 T. oil (or nonstick spray)
1 cup leftover cornbread, broken into crumbs
1 heaping tablespoon meat seasoning
1 egg
splash of milk (optional)

Salt and pepper porkchops well; set aside. In a small shallow dish or bowl, combine cornbread crumbs and seasoning. In another small dish, whisk egg and milk until light and fluffy.

Heat oil in a large skillet or frying pan until crackling.  Wash or dip one pork chop in the egg mixture, sure to soak all side; dip into cornbread crumbs, again coating all side and even pressing on breadcrumbs to make an even, thick crust. Lay breaded chop in the oil; repeat with the second porkchop. Brown on each side for 3-4 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium-low and fry until cooked through. Serve with applebutter sauce or other favorite bbq sauce.

Applebutter Sauce

1/2 c. applebutter
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. minced onion
1 clove minced garlic
1 T. brown sugar
1 T. worcestershire sauce
1 T. water

Whisk all ingredients together in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low until warmed through, stirring occasionally.

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Condiments, etc., Main dishes