Weekly Winner: Another Pork Pasta Palooza!

pork pastaYou know you’re doing something right when your husband equates a Friday night dinner with “some of the best pastas I’ve had in any restaurant”. Boo-ya, Spatula-drop!

Admittedly, it’s hard to go wrong with pork shoulder, cheese, and pasta — not just any pasta either but egg pappardelle.  Pappardelle is definitely my “favorite” pasta (if it’s possible to have a favorite) and I truly believe that one can save the world with a pork shoulder.

Pork, Fennel and Lemon Ragu with Pappardelle comes from Cook’s Illustrated.  It is definitely not a quick meal to make, but it is relatively “hands-off”.  The trick is to let the oven work it’s magic on that pork shoulder, breaking it down and making it luscious.  The lemon really freshens up the ragu so that it seems lighter but who are we kidding, this is definitely not diet food, but it is supremely delicious, satisfying, apparently “restaurant-quality” food.  That’s good enough for me!

Pork, Fennel and Lemon Ragu with Pappardelle

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

4 oz pancetta, chopped

1 large onion, chopped fine

1 large fennel bulb, 2 Tbsp fronds chopped, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored and chopped fine

4 garlic cloves, minced

1-1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp minced fresh thyme

1 tsp pepper

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 (1-1/2 lb) boneless pork butt roast, well trimmed and cut in half across grain

1-1/2 tsp grated lemon zest plus 1/4 cup juice (from 2 lemons)

12 oz pappardelle

2 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1 cup), plus extra for serving

Procedure:

  1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat over to 350F. Cook pancetta and 2/3 cup water in Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until water has evaporated and dark fond forms on bottom of pot, 8 to 10 minutes. Add onion and fennel bulb and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften and start to brown, 5 to 7 minutes.  Stir in garlic, salt, thyme, and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  2.  Stir in cream and 2 cups water, scraping up any browned bits.  Add pork and bring to boil over high heat.  Cover, transfer to oven, and cook until pork is tender, about 1-1/2 hours.
  3. Transfer pork to large plate and let cool for 15 minutes.  Cover pot so fond will steam and soften.  Using spatula, scrape browned bits from sides of pot and stir into sauce.  Stir in lemon zest and juice.
  4.  While pork cools, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Using 2 forks, shred por into bite-size pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat or connective tissue.  Return pork and any juices to Dutch oven.  Cover and keep warm.
  5. Add pasta and 1 Tbsp salt to boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente.  Reserve 2 cups cooking water, then drain pasta and add it to Dutch oven.  Add Pecorino and 3/4 cup reserved cooking water and stir until sauce is slightly thickened and cheese is fully melted, 2 to 3 minutes.  If desired, stir in remaining reserved cooking water, 1/4 cup at a time, to adjust sauce consistency.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with fennel fronds.  Serve immediately, passing extra Pecorino separately.

Weekly Winner: Solitary Stir-Fried Noodles

stir fry udonI’m flying solo this week which means I usually fall back on old favorites or make something that I know my hubby doesn’t care for.  But this past week I came across this super simple noodle dish, Better-Than-Takeout Stir-Fried Udon, in Bon Appetit which has two of my favorite components:  Pork and big, fat chewy udon noodles. I had to try it.

I thought the cabbage was a strange add in this and honestly, I was very close to subbing in coleslaw mix rather than the big pieces of cabbage called for.  I’m really glad I didn’t.  Those big pieces were such a pleasant surprise.  The other surprise was how incredibly quickly this comes together since you use instant udon.  Leftovers, by the way… are fabulous the next day!

Better-Than-Takeout Stir-Fired Udon

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 4 cups very coarsely chopped green cabbage (from about ¼ medium head)
  • 2 7-ounce packages instant udon noodles, flavor packets discarded
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • 5 scallions, white and pale-green parts coarsely chopped, dark-green parts thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ⅓ cup mirin
  • ⅓ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, plus more for serving

Procedure:

  1. Heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high.  Cook cabbage, tossing often, until edges are browned, about 4 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, tossing often, until thickest parts of cabbage are tender, about 4 minutes longer. Remove from heat, set aside.
  2. Place noodles in a large heatproof bowl and cover with 6 cups boiling water.  Let sit then drain.  Transfer noodles back to bowl and toss with sesame oil.  Add reserved cabbage and wipe out skillet.
  3. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in skillet over medium-high and add pork, breaking up and spreading across surface of pan with a spatula or tongs.  Cook pork, undisturbed, until underside is browned, about 3 minutes  Break up meat into smaller pieces and continue to cook, tossing, just until meat is cooked through and no longer pink, about 1 minute.
  4. Add chopped scallions (the white and pale green parts), ginger and red pepper flakes and cook, tossing often until scallions are softened and inside of skillet starts to brown, about 1 minute.
  5. Add noodle mixture, mirin, and soy sauce and cook, tossing constantly and scraping up browned bits, until noodles are coated in sauce, about 45 seconds. Remove from heat and mix in sliced scallions (the dark green parts) and 1 Tbsp sesame seeds.
  6. Divide noodles among bowls and top with more sesame seeds.

Weekly Winner: Silken, Spicy, Sumptuous … Swine!

IMG_0836So in my mind there is very little better than pig, noodles, and peanut sauce.  For me, that’s the trifecta of tastiness.  Guess what??  I found all of that in one recipe with some nice, bitter greens added to it.  Full disclosure, I didn’t have collard greens for this recipe so I substituted lacinato kale, which was awesome.  I’m guessing the collards would have been great as well.

This silky, spicy dish needs a hearty green and any would work just fine.   Peanut Rice Noodles with Pork and Collard Greens comes from Bon Appetit and is quick, easy and totally delicious.  Seriously, whichever green you like, buy it and make this dish!

Peanut Rice Noodles with Pork and Collard Greens (or Lacinato Kale)

serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 12 oz. regular-width rice stick noodles
  • ¼ cup smooth natural peanut butter
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 1½” piece ginger, peeled, cut into match sticks
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch collard greens, (or Lacinato Kale) ribs and stems removed, leaves thinly sliced

Procedure:

  • Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Remove from heat; add noodles. Let sit, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 4 minutes (time may vary by brand). Drain and rinse under cold running water.

  • Meanwhile, whisk peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, and 1 cup water in a medium bowl. (Sauce will look a little broken and lumpy.)

  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Cook pork, breaking up with 2 forks, until nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add ginger and garlic; cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add collard greens (or kale) and cook, stirring occasionally, just until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add sauce and noodles and bring to a simmer; cook, tossing occasionally, until sauce is reduced by half and coats noodles, about 3 minutes. Season with salt.

Weekly Winner: Pretty(dang) Perfect Pork – With Pasta!

chinese porkMy love of pork knows no bounds.  I’m also pretty dang fond of noodles in any way, shape or form.  Put them together with a zingy little sauce and keep it all relatively low-calorie and healthy so that I can feel good about eating it, and I’ve found myself a “Winner, Winner, Piggy Dinner”!

Chinese Pork and Noodles comes from Food Network Magazine and has renewed my love with pork tenderloin.  I always think it’s the “safe” choice so I tend to look elsewhere – pork butt, chops, ribs, bacon.  Too often the tenderloin can be dry and not very flavorful.  The spiced hoisin marinade and glaze certainly takes care of that problem and the fact that it is the tenderloin makes it a cinch to prep and cook. I am officially back on the “tenderloin bandwagon”.

Chinese Pork and Noodles

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 pork tenderloin (1 to 1 1/4 pounds)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 heads baby bok choy (about 12 ounces), leaves separated
  • 8 ounces dried Chinese egg noodles
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • Sliced scallions, for topping

Procedure:

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven; preheat to 475 degrees F. Set a wire rack on a foil-lined baking sheet; set aside. Mix the honey, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, ginger and five-spice powder in a small bowl. Cut the pork in half crosswise and prick all over with a fork; rub with 2 tablespoons of the honey-hoisin marinade, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Place on the wire rack.

Roast the pork until the surface looks dry, about 10 minutes. Remove 3 more tablespoons of the marinade to a separate bowl and brush all over the pork (save the remaining marinade for topping). Return to the oven and cook until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 145 degrees F, 16 to 18 more minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the bok choy and boil until crisp-tender, 30 to 45 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate. Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook as the label directs. Drain thoroughly, then toss with the sesame oil and season with salt.

Slice the pork. Divide the noodles among shallow bowls. Top with the pork and bok choy. Drizzle with the reserved honey-hoisin marinade and top with scallions.

Weekly Winner: Parcels of Porky Pasta Perfection

Who doesn’t love stuffed shells? I mean, it’s pasta….. stuffed with…stuff! Usually cheese, sometimes ground beef, but wait… pork?? Yes please!’

Pork Stuffed Shells is a surprisingly elegant-tasting dish. The pork and bechamel (or in this case, the Italian term “Balsamella” sauce combine to make a luxurious filling for your standard-issue large pasta shells. Set them on a bed of homemade roasted tomato sauce and you’re in for quite a tasty treat.

The recipe, which comes from Cuisine at Home is not difficult but it is a bit time-consuming. Worth every minute, if you ask me. Technically you certainly could use jarred tomato sauce but really, if you’ve got the time, you can definitely manage this recipe.  Besides, the garlicky, roasted tomato sauce is the perfect bed to nestle these porky parcels into before tucking them in with a nice blanket of cheese.

Pork Stuffed Shells

Serves 6 (the recipe says it serves 8, but seriously?? These things are tasty… you will eat more than three per person!)

Ingredients:

24 large pasta shells (conchiglioni)

1 cup diced onions

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic

1 lb ground pork

1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

1/4 cup dry sherry

Salt and red pepper flakes to taste

1 recipe Balsamella (recipe below)

1 recipe Roasted Tomato Sauce, divided (recipe below)

1 cup shredded Romano

1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

Roasted Tomato Sauce:

2-1/2 lbs Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1/2 cup chopped onion

3 cloves garlic, smashed

3 Tbsp olive oil

Salt and red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 450F. Toss tomatoes, onion, and garlic with oil; season with salt and pepper flakes. Transfer mixture to a baking dish; roast until tomatoes blister, 35-40 minutes. Puree mixture in a food processor or with a handheld blender.

Balsamella Sauce

4 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2-1/4 cups whole milk

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Salt & white pepper to taste

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in milk and nutmeg, bring sauce to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook until thick, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes. Season Balsamella with salt and white pepper.

Procedure:

  • Preheat oven to 400F
  • Parboil shells in a pot of boiling salted water until pliable, 7 minutes; drain, rinse with cold water, then drain again.
  • Cook onion in oil in a skillet over medium heat until softened, 4 minutes. Add garlic; cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add pork and rosemary; cook until browned, crushing pork with a potato masher until fine, 8-10 minutes.
  • Stir in sherry and cook until nearly evaporated, 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper flakes, let cool completely, then stir in Balsamella.
  • Spread 3 cups tomato sauce in the bottom of a 3-quart baking dish. Divide pork mixture among shells, arrange on top of sauce, cover with foil, and bake 15 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle shells with Romano, and bake until cheese is golden, 15 minutes; let rest 5 minutes, then garnish with basil and serve with remaining 1 cup tomato sauce.

Weekly Winner:  Keeping it Simple – Pork, Peas & Pasta

I’ve been getting a bit “fussy” lately with my cooking.  Lots of ingredients, some of them a bit hard to find or not things you normally have lying around.  I was thinking it was definitely time to dial it back and keep it simple.  That, in my opinion, is best done with two things: steaks and pasta. As it was Friday night which means a pre-run pasta dinner for hubby, I went for an old favorite:  Bucatini with Sausage and Peas.  The title just about gives you all the ingredients.  It is sensationally simple and stupidly delicious.

The recipe comes from Food & Wine Magazine and I’ve been making this for years.  I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned it here in the blog before and I also can’t believe its been so long since I’ve made it.  Lucky for me (and hubby) I made a double batch and froze half. We’ll be enjoying this stunner of a dish again soon.

Bucatini with Sausage and Peas

Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 small shallot, minced

2 1/2 cups prepared tomato sauce

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup frozen baby peas

Salt

1 pound bucatini or perciatelli

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2 tablespoons shredded basil

Procedure:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil.  Add the sausage and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned, about 8 minutes.  Add the minced garlic and shallot and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.
  2. Partially cover the saucepan and cook the tomato sauce over low heat for 30 minutes.  Stir in the cream and peas and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes longer.  Season with salt.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente.  Drain and return the pasta to the pot.  Add the tomato sauce and 1/4 cup of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and toss over low heat until the pasta absorbs some of the sauce.  Transfer the pasta to bowls, top with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese and the shredded basil and serve.


Weekly Winner:  Better (and Prettier) Than Takeout — Stunningly Simply and Sensational Sweet & Sour Sesame Pork

In general, I’m a fan of takeout (or, as is the case here in Chicago) ordering in.  We are fortunate here, because we can get basically any type of food delivered to our door.  Italian, Mexican, Asian, Brazilian, Peruvian, Indian… you name it.  Go online and within an hour, someone is ringing your doorbell with dinner.  The problem I have with ordering in is that while all of this is generally tasty, it can be expensive, is not usually healthy, can take a frustratingly long time, and generally is not too attractive by the time it arrives.

If I do order in, it is usually Asian food.  However, that may soon change. Sweet-and-Sour Sesame Bok Choy with Pork is ridiculously easy, amazingly tasty and is on the table in less than a half hour.  And it’s beautiful to boot!  The recipe comes from Cooking Light and might just take the place of my local Asian takeout menu.

Sweet-and-Sour Sesame Bok Choy with Pork

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese hot mustard
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 12 ounces ground pork
  • 1 pound baby or small bok choy, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 cup matchstick-cut carrots
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 3 cups hot cooked brown rice
  • 2 teaspoons black or white sesame seeds (optional)

Procedure:

  1. Whisk together stock, soy sauce, honey, vinegar, mustard, cornstarch, and crushed red pepper in a bowl.  Set aside.
  2. Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high.  Add pork; cook, stirring often and scraping bottom of pan with a wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, until pork is browned and crumbled, 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove pork from pan with a slotted spoon.
  3. Add bok choy and carrots to drippings in pan; cook over medium-high until slightly wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add stock mixture and pork.  Bring to a boil; cook until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Stir in sesame oil.
  4. Serve over rice, and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.

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