Weekly Winner: It may be time for a Pork Throwdown!

My husband and I are a pork loving couple.  There is nothing you can do with or to pork that generally, we are not a fan of. You may remember that a while back I posted “The Best Thing I Ever Made” and yes, it was pork.

This past week my husband did a lot of the cooking.  Yes, I do — occasionally — allow him to cook.  He is a fabulous cook and the funny thing is that for the first 12 or so years of our marriage, he was the primary day-to-day chef in the house.  I only cooked on special occasions.  All that changed a while ago when I suddenly discovered a true love of cooking.  But as I said, this week he decided to stake his claim back in the kitchen.  He made this Porchetta-Style Roast Pork last Sunday and declared that it was, quite possibly, “the best thing he’s made”.

Yep, it indeed might be time for a good, old-fashioned Pork Throwdown.  Which sounds so much better than a Pork-Off, don’t you agree?  Anyway I digress.

The recipe comes from Bon Appetit Magazine.  And yes, we are taking applications for judges if and when this Pork Throwdown takes place!

Porchetta-Style Roast Pork


  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 5 1/2- to 6-pound boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), excess fat trimmed with thin layer left intact
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth


  • Stir fennel seeds in small skillet over medium-high heat until slightly darker in color and fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer seeds to spice mill and cool.  Add kosher salt, peppercorns, and dried crushed red pepper. Grind to medium-fine consistency (not powder).
  • Place pork in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Rub garlic all over pork, then coat with spice mixture. Loosely cover pork with waxed paper. Refrigerate overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 450°F. Brush large rimmed baking sheet with oil. Place roast, fat side up and coating intact, in center of sheet. Drizzle evenly with 2 tablespoons oil. Roast pork 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.  Roast pork until very tender and thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 190°F, about 3 hours 15 minutes longer. Transfer pork to cutting board; reserve baking sheet. Let pork rest 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, pour all pan juices into 2-cup measuring cup. Spoon off fat that rises to top. Place reserved baking sheet across 2 burners. Pour wine and broth onto baking sheet and bring to boil over medium-high heat, scraping up any browned bits. Boil until wine mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup, about 4 minutes. Add degreased pan juices and whisk to blend. Pour pan sauce into small bowl (sauce will be thin).
  • Thinly slice  roast. Serve with sauce.

Weekly Winner – Reigning Champ Since 2006

Who doesn’t like a good Chinese chicken salad?  I know I do.  This one’s name may sound like hype, but trust me – it’s true.  This honestly is the Best-Ever Chinese Chicken Salad!

I know I’ve loved this particular recipe and realize that I’ve been making it for quite some time.  I had no idea till I looked at the recipe that I had cut it out way back in 2006.  It is sensational and remains in very high rotation on my menus.  That is quite a feat in itself since I tend to tire of things and purge recipes that start looking a bit rough around the edges.  But I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of this one.  It is one of the few salads that I crave.  The recipe came from Sunset Magazine and I have made a few tweaks here and there which I have noted in the recipe.  My alterations make it a bit quicker and easier to prepare, and therefore a snap to whip up whenever the craving strikes… as it did this week.  Enjoy!

Best-Ever Chinese Chicken Salad

Serves 6-8

For the salad:

1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces

11 oz can mandarin oranges

6 cups pre-packaged cole slaw mix

2 cups cubed cooked chicken

Spicy soy-ginger dressing (recipe follows)

1 large avocado, cubed

4 green onions (including green tops), sliced diagonally

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Chow mein noodles

Spicy Soy-Ginger Dressing:

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1-1/2  tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon Asian red chile sauce (such as Sriracha), and 1-1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger. Slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup vegetable oil or grapeseed oil, whisking constantly. Season with salt to taste.


  1. 1. In a 2- to 3-quart pan over high heat, bring about 1 quart water to a boil. Add asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain, then plunge asparagus into ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a large serving bowl, toss the cabbage, chicken, and asparagus with the dressing. Top with avocado, oranges, and chow mein noodles, then garnish with green onions and sesame seeds.

Weekly Winner – Best Ever Grilled Chicken

I was able to purge quite a lot of my chicken recipes this week.  Basically, if it was a recipe for any kind of chicken on the grill, it was trashed.  Once I discovered this week’s Weekly Winner – Cornell Chicken –  there was no need for another recipe.  This is the best. Ever.  End of story.  The recipe is from Cook’s Country Magazine and it was straightforward, easy and most of all perfectly delicious.  And now I have lots of room in my chicken recipe binder for yet more experiments not done on the grill.


Serves 4 – 6

For the Chicken:

2 quarts water

3-1/2 cups cider vinegar

¼ cup Kosher salt

4 half chickens (or 2 whole chickens, spatchcocked and cut in half)

For the seasoning and sauce:

1 Tbsp poultry seasoning

Salt and pepper

½ cup cider vinegar

3 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage

1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

½ cup olive oil


  1. For the Chicken:  Whisk water, vinegar, and salt in a large bowl until salt dissolves.  Add chicken and refrigerate, covered, for 1 to 2 hours.
  2. For the Seasoning and Sauce:  Combine poultry seasoning, 2 teaspoons salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper in small bowl; set aside.  Process vinegar, mustard, sage, rosemary, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper in blender until smooth, about 1 minute.  With blender running, slowly add oil until incorporated.  Transfer vinegar sauce to small bowl and reserve for basting chicken in step 4.
  3. Heat all burners on high for 15 minutes, then turn all burners to medium-low (For charcoal grill, light 75 coals; when covered with fine gray ash, spread evenly over bottom of grill.  Set cooking grate in place and heat covered, with lid vents open completely, for 5 minutes.)  Scrape and oil cooking grate.
  4. Remove chicken from brine.  Pat dry with paper towels and rub all over with poultry seasoning mixture.  Arrange chicken skin side up on grill and baste with vinegar sauce.  Grill, covered, until chicken is well browned on bottom and meat registers 120 degrees, 25-30 minutes, basting with sauce halfway through cooking.  Flip chicken skin side down and baste with sauce.  Continue to grill, covered, until skin is golden brown and crisp and thigh meat registers 170-175 degrees, 20-25 minutes longer.  Transfer chicken to platter (do not cover) and let rest 5 minutes.  Serve.

Weekly Winner – “Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!”

I am a big fan of chicken and I think boneless, skinless chicken breasts get a bad rap.  Yes, dark meat and chicken skin are tasty; however you simply can’t beat the ease and convenience of boneless, skinless breasts … especially when you dress them up like I did this week for Baked Chicken Imperial.

I got this recipe from Cook’s Country, a magazine I truly enjoy.  It’s relatively easy, totally luscious and just a bit decadent for a midweek dinner.

Baked Chicken Imperial

Serves 4

 Do not salt the chicken for longer than the recommended hour or it will become too salty. Don’t worry if some of the crumb topping falls into the skillet in step 3. It will disappear into the sauce.


  • 4 (6- to 8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 ounces French baguette, cut or torn into 1-inch pieces (4 cups)
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus 2 tablespoons melted and cooled
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard


 1. Sprinkle chicken all over with 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.

 2. Meanwhile, process bread in food processor until coarsely ground, about 20 seconds. Add Parmesan, softened butter, 2 tablespoons parsley, garlic, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and process to combine, about 15 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.

 3. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with pepper. Arrange chicken, skinned side up, in 12-inch oven safe skillet with narrow ends pointing toward center of skillet. Brush chicken with melted butter. Top each breast with equal amount (generous 1/2 cup) crumb mixture, pressing firmly to adhere.

 4. Whisk cream, broth, wine, shallot, and mustard together in 4-cup liquid measuring cup. Carefully pour 1 1/2 cups around chicken breasts, taking care not to wet crumbs on top of chicken. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until crumbs are deep golden brown and chicken registers 160 degrees, 30 to 35 minutes.

 5. Using spatula, carefully transfer chicken to platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Pour remaining 1/2 cup sauce mixture into skillet and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Cook until thickened and reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, passing sauce with chicken.

Weekly Winner – Soup so good you’ll wish you were sick

Last night I made Chicken and Egg Soup with Pastina (small pasta) for dinner.  It was wonderful.  The only problem was I felt totally fine.  Not a bit of a sore throat, no fever, no aches or pains whatsoever.  This soup is so rich and satisfying that you sort of wish you were down with the flu and someone had lovingly whipped this up for you to make you well.  Regardless, it’s a fine soup.  I got the recipe from Food Network Magazine and altered it a bit.  Those changes I’ve recorded in my version of the recipe below.


Serves 4


  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 (2-1/2-to-3-pound) rotisserie chicken (on the bone), shredded
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup pastina (small pasta)
  • 2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh dill
  • Crumbled feta cheese, for garnish (optional)


Heat the 1/4 cup olive oil in a large pot over high heat. Add the onion, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste; cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken, the broth, 4 cups water and the juice of 1 lemon; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, add the pastina and simmer until the pasta is cooked and the soup thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.

Remove the soup from the heat. Whisk the juice of the remaining lemon with the whole eggs and yolks in a medium bowl until frothy. Gradually whisk a ladleful of the hot soup into the egg mixture, then stir the warm egg mixture into the soup and return to medium-low heat. Cook until creamy, about 1 minute. Stir in the spinach and dill, and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls; garnish with feta, if desired.

Weekly Winner – Good to the Bitter End

The pickings for this week’s Weekly Winner were a bit slim.  Not because I cooked anything that wasn’t tasty, (gasp!) but because we were on vacation and I didn’t do much cooking at all.  Also, when I do travel, I always prepare ahead of time and have some tasty leftovers in the freezer that can be quickly thawed and reheated upon our return.  But last night I did make Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe Pesto & Sausage and this week’s winner was decided.

It doesn’t take much for me to like a pasta … I mean, it’s pasta!  What’s not to like?  However this dish was surprising because of all the somewhat bitter notes going on from the broccoli rabe and the pistachios in the pesto.  Trust me.  It works.  This recipe is from Anne Burrell and I think I got it from the Food Network Magazine.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe Pesto & Sausage


  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, tough lower stems removed
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, toasted
  • 3/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 pound orecchiette pasta
  • High-quality extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing (optional)


Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Set up a bowl of well-salted ice water. Cook the broccoli rabe in the boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes and then immediately plunge in the salted ice water. This will prevent the broccoli rabe from being overcooked and will set the lovely green color.

Drain the broccoli rabe and squeeze out any excess water; coarsely chop. Place the broccoli rabe in the bowl of a food processor and puree until it is a coarse paste. Add the pistachios and parmigiano and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning; you probably will need more salt. Add the ricotta and pulse until combined. Taste for seasoning once again-it should be full-flavored, slightly bitter and creamy at the same time. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. (If you are making the pasta right after the pesto, just use the broccoli rabe blanching water.) Cook the pasta 1 minute less than the cooking time on the package.

While the pasta is cooking, place the pesto in a large skillet and add about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the pasta cooking water; place over medium-high heat. When the pasta is ready, drain and add to the skillet with the pesto. Stir vigorously to combine and cook until the sauce is creamy and heated through, 1 to 2 minutes; add salt to taste. Remove from the heat, add 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, if desired, and stir vigorously. Garnish with more parmigiano.

Weekly Winner – The Rebranding of the Prune

Have you noticed you can’t buy prunes anymore?  They are now “dried plums”  I guess the time has come to make the lowly prune a bit more hip and sexy.  Let’s face it, there really is nothing sexy about a prune.  However I love them… both in the original plum version and the dried state.  Which brings me to my Weekly Winner recipe for Double Plum Baked Chicken.  I made this for a “Girls’ Night In” dinner this week and it was a big hit.  Incredibly easy and surprisingly moist and flavorful.  The recipe comes from Cooking Light Magazine.










Double Plum Baked Chicken


Serves 4

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1/3 cup sliced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup plum wine
  • 3/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon chile sauce (such as sambal oelek)
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese mustard
  • 1/2 cup halved dried plums (about 9)
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (1/2-inch) slices green onions


  1. 1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. 2. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon oil to pan; swirl. Add shallots and ginger; sauté 1 minute. Add wine; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute. Add broth, chili sauce, and mustard; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 3/4 cup (about 8 minutes). Stir in plums. Remove from heat.
  3. 3. Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat; swirl. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan, and sauté for 3 minutes. Turn chicken over; pour plum mixture over chicken. Bake at 425° for 6 minutes or until done. Let chicken stand 5 minutes. Sprinkle with green onions.


The Salad Stands Alone

I made this salad for the first time a couple of weeks ago and it made me very happy.  My husband and I each took our first bite and sat back and said “Wow!  This is better than it should be!”  This was definitely a case of the final product being surprisingly better than the sum of its parts.  Now, understand… my husband is totally not a “salad” guy…. and the fact that we had a lovely grilled steak with this and he even noticed the salad speaks volumes.

The original recipe comes from Eating Well magazine and is designed to have the sliced steak served on top.  As I said, we did do that the first time, but this salad is definitely tasty enough to stand on its own.  As a matter of fact, I made the salad, sans steak, last weekend for Easter dinner with friends.

Spinach Blueberry Salad  – serves 4

1 cup fresh blueberries, divided

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

3 Tbsp fruity vinegar (I used a raspberry vinegar)

1 Tbsp minced shallot

1 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp salt

3 Tbsp walnut oil or canola oil (I used walnut)

8 cups baby spinach

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Pulse 1/4 cup blueberries, 1/4 cup walnuts, vinegar, shallot, sugar and salt in a food processor to form a chunky paste.  With motor running, add oil until incorporated.  Transfer the dressing to a large bowl.

Add spinach to the bowl with the dressing and toss to coat. Divide the spinach among the 4 plates.  Top the spinach with feta and remaining walnuts and blueberries.  Enjoy!