Weekly Winner: Spice, Swine & Spaghetti

sambal porkYou know I’m going to like any dish that combines pork and pasta.  Add to it a punchy kick of sambal and I am all in.  Spicy-Sweet Sambal Pork Noodles was the perfect “welcome home” meal after traveling this past week.

The recipe comes from Bon Appetit and is more spicy than sweet.  The heat is definitely there but because it is simmered in the sauce for quite a while, the spice is milder than if you just added the sambal oelek right at the end.  There’s also some sugar and vinegar in there to help tame it a bit.  While this is an easy dish, unlike a lot of pasta and noodle dishes, it’s not super quick — the sauce needs to simmer for close to an hour but is basically hands-off except for a quick stir now and then. Well worth the time — it will make your house smell fabulous while its simmering away!

Spicy-Sweet Sambal Pork Noodles

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lb. ground pork, divided
  • 1 2″ piece fresh ginger, peeled, cut into thin matchsticks or finely chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 sprigs basil, plus more for serving
  • ⅓ cup hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1½ lb. fresh ramen noodles or 16 oz. dried spaghetti
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Procedure:

  • Heat oil in a large wide heavy pot over medium-high. Add half of pork to pot, breaking apart into 6–8 large chunks with a wooden spoon. Cook, undisturbed, until well browned underneath, about 5 minutes. Turn pieces and continue to cook, turning occasionally, until pork is browned on 2–3 sides, about 5 minutes longer. Add ginger, garlic, sugar, and remaining pork to pot and cook, breaking up pork into small clumps, until meat is nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Add tomato paste and 2 basil sprigs. Cook, stirring occasionally, until paste darkens, about 2 minutes. Add chili paste, soy sauce, vinegar, and 2 cups water. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened and flavors have melded, 30–45 minutes.

  • Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until 1 minute short of al dente. Add to pot with sauce along with butter and a splash of pasta cooking liquid. Simmer, tossing occasionally, until sauce begins to cling to noodles, about 1 minute. Pluck out basil sprigs.

  • Divide noodles among plates. Top with torn basil.

Weekly Winner: Dark Horse Champion Cheeseball

First things first — what has happened??  Apparently I’ve been too busy cooking to write about the things I’ve cooked!!   Which would explain why this entry does not have an accompanying picture.  But then again, we all pretty much know what a cheese ball looks like — close your eyes, visualize a cheese ball — yep, that’s it!  So here’s why this Antipasti Cheese Ball is so special.

I wanted a “little something” for munching prior to our Thanksgiving dinner.  We were having a very intimate gathering and I had seen this recipe in my stack of “ideas” and honestly don’t even remember where I pulled it from.

What bugs me about most cheese balls is that they are rolled in something — nuts, herbs, crumbled bacon (well, that would be OK), which makes it difficult and messy to cut and spread.  Not this one!  This recipe was just jam-packed with everything that makes a usual antipasti platter so good: spicy salami, peppers, olives, cheese.  The recipe made way more than I’d need for Thanksgiving but we were also hosting a larger football party later that weekend.  Voila! Two birds, one stone!  Or maybe two gatherings, one dish!

Anyway, this was a MAJOR hit!  I got a ton of compliments on it and for good reason — it was amazing!!  Also several people asked me for the recipe so they could make it and so, without further ado — here it is!  And I will definitely try to be a bit more regular with my posts from here on out!!

Antipasti Cheese Ball

Serves 12

Ingredients:

8 oz cream cheese

1 cup grated Parmesan

2 Tbsps. olive oil

2 Tbsps. minced fresh garlic

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp. anchovy paste

Black pepper to taste

2 oz hard salami, finely diced

1/4 cup finely diced pimentos or roasted red peppers

1/4 cup finely diced pepperoncini

1/4 cup each finely diced Kalamata and Castelvetrano olives

Procedure:

  1. Beat together cream cheese, Parmesan, oil, garlic, vinegar, oregano, pepper flakes, and anchovy paste in a bowl with a mixer until combined; season with black pepper
  2. Stir in salami, roasted peppers, pepperoncini, Kalamata and Castelvetrano olives
  3. Line a 3-1/2 cup bowl with plastic wrap, press cheese mixture into bowl, smooth top, then cover and chill overnight, or up to 1 week.