If you can’t stand the heat…

Pork Blanquette with Spring Vegetables

Pork Blanquette with Spring Vegetables

If someone had told me two weeks ago that I’d be braising pork on a sunny 75-degree day, I’d tell them they were crazy. I don’t stick to strictly seasonal meals but heating up my kitchen to slow cook something doesn’t make any sense when it’s already hot enough out there.

Nonetheless, I was so captivated by a recent recipe from Gourmandistan that I couldn’t help myself from doing just that. The recipe in question was a blanquette of pork, or braised pork shoulder in a happy broth of stock, cream and lemon. While the pork and the cooking liquid sounded lovely on their own, it was the pretty and colorful spring vegetables that called out to me. Just look at Michelle and Steve’s version of this Pork & Sons recipe and tell me it doesn’t look mouth-wateringly delicious.

And so, eager and excited, I thawed out a little two-pound pork butt that was nestled in my freezer and got to work. While I was clearly easy to convince, here are a few words of encouragement in case you need some enticement  to turn on your stove and make this:

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Pork fried rice finds perfection, Pok Pok style

Khao Phat Muu (Thai fried rice with pork)

Khao Phat Muu (Thai fried rice with pork)

I’ve made a decent amount of fried rice in my life. On this blog alone, I’ve posted it three times — once made with farro, once with potato chips and again with pork and pineapple. And each time it’s delicious, but I’ve always felt like the seasoning wasn’t quite right. Often it would taste a bit flat and so I’d tinker with it — adding more and more things and then it would have too much soy or sesame or lime and yet somehow it would still lack “oomph.”

That all changed when I cooked my second recipe from the Pok Pok cookbook — Khao Phat Muu (fried rice with pork). Next to the fried egg salad, this is probably one of the easiest recipes in the book which brought it to the top of my “must make” list.  More encouragement came from a girl at work who kept telling me it was the best fried rice she had ever eaten.

And once I took a bite, I totally agreed. It was spot-on fried rice perfection and the best part was the amount of ingredients and fiddling is kept to a minimum. Simplicity is key — as is the great unbeatable umami flavor.

While I still think you should buy the book, I’ll give you a rundown on the basics of the recipe.

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Baked Taquitos and Misadventures with DayQuil

Baked Carnitas Taquitos

Corn tortillas stuffed with beer-braised pork, 3 cheeses and green onions. Served with sour cream and a Brussels sprout, radish and sprouted mung bean slaw

I have no problem admitting that I only watch the Superbowl for the commercials and the food. This year the hitch in that giddy up was that I’ve been sick for more than a week and didn’t feel like going anywhere. I also didn’t feel like inviting anyone over — that would prevent my husband and I from spending all day on the couch in pajamas under a pile of blankets and kitties (which basically describes all of my favorite Sundays, sick or not).

So I took the anti-social and lazy way out. I planned an easy all-day menu for two based around a Mexican theme and starring one main protein — beer-braised carnitas.

A petite pork butt (around 1.5 pounds) came into play and using this super simple recipe from Bon Appetite, I braised it with dried chiles, beer and garlic. It was pretty much all I could handle in my cold medicine haze.

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Sometimes cleaning the fridge can lead to delicious things…

Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Onions

This fall I went a little overboard with apples. I just kept accumulating them — I bought bags from the farmer’s markets, a box from a co-worker for a school fundraiser and random ones on sale at the grocery store. Around November, I couldn’t even look at apples anymore and just avoided glancing at the full-to-the-brim fruit drawer in my refrigerator.

Finally a few weeks ago I decided to revisit those apples and use them up, one way or another. While they had lost some of their “crisp,” they were still great for other applications. I grated a few into some batches of hot cereal and was surprised at how tasty the outcome was – sweet, slightly tart and perfect with cinnamon and a touch of maple syrup.

Thursday night I got the opportunity to use up a few more.

I was totally at a loss at what to make for dinner. I hadn’t had a chance to go to the store but rooting around in my fridge I came up with a pork tenderloin, some brussels sprouts, half a head of cauliflower and (of course) a handful of apples. After adding an onion and some home-dried thyme to the mix, my findings suddenly seemed like a cohesive dish rather than just a hodge-podge of ingredients.

I  actually think it was the thyme that tipped the scales in my favor. Normally I steer away from anything too sweet for dinner since my husband prefers things as savory as possible. I wasn’t sure if he’d liked the roasted apples, but I hoped the thyme and the onion would balance out the sugar. And hey, if he didn’t like it, more for me, right?

I roasted the cauliflower, onions and apples all separately. While they were cooking away, I shaved the brussles sprouts continuing to check the items in the oven. The apples were done first:

Apples, peeled, quartered and toss in some butter. Roasted until soft, deglaze  pan with apple brandy. Yum!

Apples, peeled, quartered and tossed in some butter with a sprinkling of salt. Roast until soft but not mushy, deglaze pan with apple brandy. Yum!

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Cider brined pork roast, yet another reason to love autumn

Cider Brined Pork with Roasted Onions and Potatoes

Cider Brined Pork with Roasted Onions and Potatoes

Every fall I buy a bottle of Applejack as my way of welcoming in the season. Last weekend I not only bought the requisite bottle of booze, somehow I also ended up buying three half-gallon containers of different apple ciders. I just couldn’t help myself. Every store I went to seemed to have cider for sale and I am (clearly) incapable of refusing it. Even though I knew I had a full gallon waiting at home, I still bought a final jug as a reward for surviving the Haunted Corn Maze on Saturday night.

Side note: If you want to know what type of person you are deep inside, go through a Haunted Corn Maze in the dark. I discovered I am the type of person who will sacrifice their friends in order to get away from the guy with a chain saw. I’m not proud of that, but it’s the truth.

At any rate, a fridge full of cider is never a bad thing. In fact it allowed me to make this beautiful dish which was a delicious way to fully embrace autumn’s arrival. Since cider is unavoidable this time of year, it only seems right to also use it in a brine.

This particular recipe is the October cover recipe for Bon Appetite and I’ve been staring at it for a few weeks waiting for a good night to make it. Maybe all that cider was getting to me — I just couldn’t hold out any longer.

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A sauce so good I could live on it…

Roasted Pork w/ Spinach Yogurt Sauce

Roasted Pork w/ Spinach Yogurt Sauce

One of things I find funny about my life is that people assume I eat so well simply because my husband is a chef. I will admit that we both love food to a point of almost obsession, and that certainly affects my eating habits. After all, he is the one who has planned our dinners to the Herb Farm, the French Laundry, Au Pied de Cochon and (coming soon) Willows Inn. But unless I visit him in at his restaurant or guilt him about buying a new cookbook, he rarely cooks more than ramen at home.

And, since I spent many years cooking professionally, I totally understand why. Even on your days off you’re exhausted and, quite frankly, sick of looking at food unless it’s something someone else has made.

For us, this seems to work out perfectly though — I love being the one to cook. I get to play around with new recipes and slip in more fiber (and less butter!) without him there to interfere.

But every once in a while, he surprises me by cooking something epically delicious on a day off. I will come home to the the thermal circulator chugging away, the pressure cooker giving a quiet whistle or homemade raviolis being pressed together with a fresh egg yolk in the center. And it’s always so good, I get a wave of, “I can’t believe I get to eat this at home!”

For example:

Iberico solomillo (tenderloin), with sous vide egg, scallions and nasturtiums

Iberico solomillo (the tenderloin from Spanish acorn-fed hogs ), with sous vide egg, scallions and nasturtiums

The dinner he made for me a few weeks ago was one of those meals — though it was incredibly tame by his standards. Nothing was dehydrated or fried in duck fat, and yet it made a serious impression on me, mainly because of the sauce. I guess you could call it a spinach-yogurt sauce, which is totally boring, but perfectly accurate. I don’t know of what else I could name it, but I do know this stuff rocked.

The raw garlic gave it just a little kick, which was tempered by the creamy tangy coolness of the yogurt. The spinach and parsley added a grassy herbaceous quality but gave a lovely vibrancy to the finished product.

This was a sauce that could be almost anything you wanted it to be — make it a little thicker and spread it on a sandwich. Thin it out with more lemon juice and use it as a salad dressing. Drizzle it in a soup or on a plate of grilled vegetables. It was one of those creations that just seemed to taste good with anything — well anything that would taste good with garlic.

Spinach Yogurt Sauce

Spinach Yogurt Sauce

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