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Archive for the ‘Pork’ Category

Bad Rap

My friend Suburbanite sent me a link yesterday.  I was not pleased.

The Egyptian government has ordered mass slaughtering of pigs since the outbreak of Swine Flu.  (Should Swine Flu be capitalized?  Seems it should be since it is the WORST THING TO EVER HAPPEN.)

Now I realize I am contributing to this problem, even mentioning the swine flu.  it is mass hysteria over nothing.  Kids, there is a better chance that you will get attacked by a gang of rogue monkeys on your walk home from work than contracting swine flu.  Speaking of monkeys, anyone remember the monkey pox? Didn’t think so…

Anyway, these mass slaughters are not the only thing to worry about.  Farmers in this country are taking a real hit because of misplaced fears.  Look, I can tolerate a lot of things–gladiator sandals, Ashley Judd, whisky dick–but if I start paying $15 for a pork loin, someone is going to pay.

So, drop your masks.  Buy some pork.  Start caring about things that really matter to you, whatever it may be.  The pork?  It is not your enemy.  It is your friend.  Embrace the pork.

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(The panko makes this really crispy, almost like a fried chop without the frying.  The soy sauce in the egg wash adds a nice touch.  Don’t tell me you don’t have time to make dinner..this took about 10 minutes. Try it.)

Panko Porkchops

Adapted from Cooking Light

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 large egg white (I used egg beaters)
1/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops
Cooking spray
1. To prepare pork, preheat oven to 450°.

2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a shallow dish. Combine soy sauce and egg white in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Place panko in a shallow dish.

3. Dredge pork in flour mixture; dip in egg mixture. Dredge in panko. Spray pan and heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork to pan; cook 1 minute on each side. Place pan in oven. Bake at 450° for 6 minutes or until done.

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Holy Trinity

A new friend recently espoused some deep wisdom.

“Men”, she said, “need three things: sex, praise and food”.

Could this be it? This is all it takes? Not loyalty or companionship or even love?  I felt the key to life was in my hands.  But then I started to worry…

As a virgin, I became fearful. (Shut up… ALL OF YOU.)

As a life long ball buster, I knew I was screwed.

But, I can cook. That counts for something. Perhaps not all is lost.

He did seem to like this though.  A lot.  Maybe you just need food?

Mustard. Herbs. Garlic. Not quite the trifecta of sex, praise and food, but at least a third of the way there. I just eyeballed everything in the marinade, but these are pretty decent estimates of the proportions. Just stick your finger in to check the flavors and take a taste before dumping it on the pork. Don’t be afraid.

This pork could be a vital part to your romantic happiness.  No pressure.

PS: Don’t forget to check out So Good. I am taking next week off, so go get your fix.

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Herb and Mustard Pork Loin with Onions

1 pork loin

3 tablespoons dijon mustard

1 tablespoon honey

2 cloves minced garlic

1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary chopped (or about half this amount dried)

1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme (or half this amount dried)

Salt and pepper

1 red onion, sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix together mustard, herbs, honey, garlic and salt and pepper. Place pork in a bag or bowl and cover pork with marinade. Allow to marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes. Bring pork to room temperature (about 30 minutes out of the fridge). Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add oil to oven proof saute pan over medium heat and cook onions for about 8 minutes, until softened. Add pork loin to pan and brown on each side for about 3 minutes per side. (It should cook for about 10-12 minutes) Place pan in oven and cook for additional 12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow pork to sit for about 10 minutes. Slice (it will be pink in the middle) and serve.

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Taking a Stand

I am about to say something I know is going to piss some people off.

I don’t get the whole bacon thing.

I think bacon has jumped the shark. There, I said it.

Everyone in this country has gone bananas for bacon. It has become a catch phrase, something to fall back on. You ask someone how their day is, and it is common to get a response such as “Well, would have been better with bacon”. At brunch, people make jokes about ordering bacon with their bacon. An obscene amount of space on the web is dedicated to this pork product. There are bacon shoes, bacon skateboards, and bacon band-aids. Even the Japanese have gotten in on the trend:

My foot…it is down. I am stomping it violently; listen closely and you can hear me. Seriously. We need to latch on to another food product with unabashed zeal. Don’t you think this hurts sausage’s feelings? What about all the other delicious meat products out there? They deserve our love, too.  It doesn’t have to even be meat. I think cauliflower is seriously underrated.  I say we start a cauliflower craze, a cauliflower t-shirt line.  Cauliflower Mania, bitches!

I am trying to understand, though.  I mean, a whole country cannot be wrong.  I couldn’t let healthy eating month pass by here without a salad, so I decided to tempt all of you by throwing some bacon on there. The presence of the bacon means you have to love it, right? Following trends always pays off.  My tramp stamp and Women’s Studies degrees worked out well…ahem.

I have to admit…maybe bacon does deserve some of the attention it is getting lately. This was a darn tasty salad; simple to make, yet interesting and sophisticated.  I know what you are thinking: bacon is not healthy.  Well, in excess and alongside an omelet, yes.   I used two slices of center-cut bacon here, which is leaner, and it is the only fat.  If a few slices of bacon can convince you to eat a huge salad, I can get on board with that. I used balsamic glaze as dressing, which is 20 calories and 0 fat per tablespoon, which also keeps it healthy.  I am obsessed with this balsamic glaze, which I found at Whole Foods, and really recommend you try it, but a balsamic vinaigrette would work great here as well. And the figs?  Awesome.  They are in season and tasty as all hell.  I finished this salad wondering why I don’t eat them more.

So, bacon, I gave you your due.  You are tasty…oh yes, you are.  Still, I am kind of over you.  It is not you, it’s me.  Sorry.

(Note: this is a pretty classic salad, but this recipe reminded me I really needed to make my take on this.)

Bacon and Fig Salad

2 strips center cut bacon, cut into bits

2 figs, quartered

2 cups mixed greens

2 Tbs balsamic glaze

Salt and pepper

Brown bacon and drain on paper towels. Place bacon bits and figs on greens. Drizzle with glaze. Salt and pepper salad.

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Fire Starter

I am often asked to name my worst injury in the kitchen, a question I always find myself hard pressed to answer. For someone who spends as much time in the kitchen as I do, I am exceedingly lucky; besides nicking my fingers a few times, inadvertently trimming my nails via knife and a few stray burns, I have remained largely unscathed.

I don’t know how I have done this, frankly. I can, at times, be extremely absentminded and become totally wrapped up in my thoughts. Like an 8-year-old without his Ritalin, I become totally unable to focus. I think this is one of the reasons I am such a horrifically awful driver; something pretty catches my eye and I am swerving the whole car as I turn to get a better look. Then again, sometimes “Paradise City” comes on and I dare any of you to tell me that you don’t feel every note of that in your soul, and you just want to scream and dance in the privacy of your own car. Oh? You don’t? Well, that’s why you should be driving and I should be your co-pilot, your singing, dancing co-pilot.

My easily distracted nature almost lead to my first kitchen catastrophe while making dinner the other night. I was famished, having made a trip to the gym before heading home and was trying to rush dinner while answering emails and putting away groceries. I threw these skewers on the grill pan and slopped the glaze on with a heavy hand. Before I you could say “fire hazard” the whole apartment was filled with smoke. Like a frog in a pot that slowly comes to a boil, the whole apartment was engulfed in the choking haze and I had not even sensed it happening. I ran around, turning on the vent, throwing open windows and cracking the front door of the apartment.

Luckily, though, it was not all for naught; these garlic mustard glazed pork skewers were definitely worth the slight inconvenience of a smoky apartment. As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it and it did not let me down. The grainy, tangy mustard is complemented perfectly by the salty soy and sweet honey. And all the garlic and rosemary? Perfection. I don’t think it is completely necessary to cut meat into chunks, except cubing the meat gives more surface area, which means more delicious glaze. If you have a few extra minutes, it is a worthwhile step, thought not at all necessary. I plan on using the leftover marinade on a chicken breast tomorrow. I cannot think of anything that wouldn’t be enhanced by a thick slathering of this glaze.

Enjoy, just keep one eye on the stove…

Garlic Mustard Pork Skewers

Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/4 cup whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey (brown sugar can be subbed if you are out of honey)
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves (or 1 tsp dry)
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 pinch kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 porkchops, cut in to 1″ cubes (other protein options: beef tips, shrimp, chicken…maybe even tofu?)

Whisk together all of the ingredients in a small bowl, cover, and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours before using. While glaze sits, cut meat in to cubes and skewer. Cooking pork until done–about 8 minutes–brushing with glaze every time you flip. (note: this makes a lot of glaze…you will have leftovers. Split it in half BEFORE you stick your brush in the mixture. You want to avoid contamination. Remaining glaze will keep for aout a week. Believe me, you will use it.)

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On Kindness

I spent the summer of 2005 in a catatonic heap, defeated and broken. I was homeless after a shitty breakup and reeling from the brute force of the emotional blow. I spent the better part of a month willing myself to my lunch break so I could go cry in the bathroom. The 5th floor bathroom of the Hart Senate building was stained in my tears.

Through all this misery, my friend, the Divine Miss O, stood there and rubbed my back and patiently reassured me it would be ok. We were already growing close before Summer Hellfest 2005, but this time in my life solidified our friendship. She was always kind, never condescending, patient even in my moments of utter ridiculousness, and steadfastly compassionate. I don’t think I can ever fully explain how much faith she restored in me that summer. I remember one morning sobbing in to a fritatta her equally awesome husband had lovingly prepared for me; I don’t know how they didn’t smack me silly with a hot frying pan. It was all a bit dramatic, but very real to me at the time.

This weekend I went to visit both of the Os and their new baby, DarlingO. If you heard a humming in your ear this Saturday, it was the buzz of my uterus. Folks, I believe I ovulated as she peacefully slept on my chest. A more beautiful baby has never been born, nor are there many babies in world as lucky as her; her parents are the best of the best. My one hope for her is to know how good she got it right from the start.

Never one to go empty handed, I brought these chipotle pork meatballs for the lovely little family to enjoy. They both love spice and bacon, so, really there was not much of a question when I saw this recipe. The original recipe calls for two cans of chilis, but unless you are a masochist, I would advise against it. These were pretty spicy with just one can in the sauce. I upped the garlic levels and reduced the beef stock for a thicker sauce. If you don’t have a food processor, dice the bacon really fine and it will be just as good, though a bit chunkier. The Os tell me these were great on rolls with swiss cheese; I think that is a genius idea.

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Chipotle Pork Meatballs

Adapted from Simply Recipes

3 slices bacon in 1-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 large eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Salt
1 ¼ pounds ground pork
1/2 cup (loosely packed) coarsely chopped mint leaves, more for garnish
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted), drained of all but ¼ cup juice
1 can chipotle chilies in adobo, stemmed, seeded and sauce reserved
1 teaspoon dried oregano
About 1 cup beef

1 Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a food processor, combine bacon and 1 garlic clove. Process until finely chopped. Add eggs, bread crumbs and 1 teaspoon salt. Pulse several times to combine thoroughly, then add pork and mint. Pulse a few more times until well combined but not a paste. Remove meat from processor.
2 With wet hands, form meat into about 16 plum-size balls and space them out in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.
3 While meatballs bake, combine tomatoes, ¼ cup tomato juice, chipotles, 1 to 2 tablespoons chipotle sauce, oregano, remaining garlic cloves (cut in half) and ½ teaspoon salt in a blender or food processor. Process to a smooth purée.
4 When meatballs are ready, spoon off rendered fat from baking dish, then pour tomato mixture on top, covering meatballs evenly. Bake until sauce has thickened somewhat, 15 to 20 minutes.
5 Heat broth in a small saucepan. Divide meatballs among four dinner plates, leaving sauce behind. Stir enough broth into sauce to give it a spoonable consistency. Taste and season with salt, if necessary. Spoon sauce over meatballs, decorate with extra mint leaves, if you wish, and serve.Serves four.

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Back on the Wagon

As I watched “9 1/2 Weeks” this weekend, I found myself contemplating several things. Things such as “What in the hell did Mickey Rourke do to this face?”, “Styles in the 80s were horrifically figure unflattering” and “I don’t understand the fuss”. Maybe in 1986 that was was considered scandal, but it all seemed pretty pedestrian, truth be told. It’s a fine way to kill two hours on the Lord’s day, though.

This time on the couch with the formerly hot Mr. Rourke was needed after the birthday celebrating that has gone down over the past two weekends. (Yes, I am one of those people that turns my birthday into an event.) This Friday night, after dinner with some pals at Source–which I cannot recommend enough–Cinderella and I got rowdy, which kind of happens with us. Let’s just say I felt more like a college kid than a 27-year-old woman…

Luckily, despite all the celebrating as of late, I have managed to eat somewhat healthy. There was some cake Friday, but that’s required by law on your birthday. I plan on this trend continuing the past few months. Irish Lebowski and Waspy Wasperson kicked off “Lemmonexapalooza” this Monday with a great birthday dinner. Where as most people don’t want to work for their food when it comes to birthdays, I asked Irish to hold off and let me help her prepare the meal. She kindly obliged. She did a great job picking the menu, and these pork chops were the star. Irish and I are going through a huge pork phase (insert joke here) and these chops did not disappoint. They are limey without being overpowering and the cilantro adds to the Mexican flair. It is simple enough for a week night dinner, but delicious enough for a nice little party.

To a healthy path…

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Grilled Pork with Garlic Lime Sauce

Adapted from Gourmet

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 teaspoon lime zest

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Salt and Pepper

6 (1/2-inch-thick) boneless pork chops, trimmed of any fat

Whisk together lime juice, zest, garlic, red-pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking well. Whisk in cilantro.

Prepare a gas grill for direct-heat cooking (or a grill pan) over medium-high heat. Pat pork dry and season with salt and pepper. Oil grill rack, then grill pork chops, covered, turning over once, until just cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes total. While grilling, brush each side with vinaigrette that has been placed in a separate dish to avoid food contamination. Serve drizzled with some vinaigrette, and with remainder on the side.

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When my parent’s decided to pack it up and move to Florida during my sophomore year of college, I didn’t really have much of an opinion on it. As I had not gone home for the summer between my freshman and sophomore year, my ties to Rhode Island were already waning. Also, I think once you reach a certain age, you realize if you are going to be friends with some one, you will be; doesn’t matter if your parents remain in your home town or not. I keep in touch with two people from high school and that is perfectly fine with me. In my mind, everyone else is miserable, balding and has six children.

I miss one thing about my parents no longer living at “home”: New England Christmas. Seeing as I don’t particularly care for the holidays, this is somewhat of a contradiction. Yet, there is something that screams in my blackened, Rhody-girl heart when I see a palm tree strewn with Christmas lights. Also, it seems a crime to wear short sleeves instead of a sweater this time of year.

The past few days, though, I have found myself wishing I were in Florida again. The knob on my radiator was stuck shut, leading to some shivering nights and some incredibly creaky mornings. These are the times where I feel like I am being tested; I find myself wishing I had some sort of man servant or husband to take care of these things. Not progressive, but whatever: I hate dealing with this shit. My independence, along with my resistance to playing the damsel in distress, kept me working on conquering the radiator. During this struggle, I did what any rational, resourceful gal would do: I grabbed my sharpening steel and some vegetable oil and attacked that bitch with reckless abandon. As I sat on the floor, hunched under my desk, I whacked at the knob for 15 minutes in an attempt to loosen it and then used the oil to finally turn it open. I may have called a gentleman friend regarding a confusing “lefty loosey, righty tighty” situation, but that does not take away from my victory. I slept a warm, fitful sleep.

After all those cold nights, I was almost missing Florida. Perhaps I was just missing all the food I consumed over the holidays, instead. It certainly warmed the soul. I was charged with making Christmas Eve dinner, a difficult task after I took into account dietary restrictions, including a father with diabetes, and some seriously picky eaters. I roasted a chicken, made this polenta, threw together some peas with lemon, and called it a day. This polenta is always a winner, as is anything containing bacon and cheese. It was a tad runny, as I am almost positive I added an extra half cup of water when someone was talking to me; I am the kind of gal who cannot walk and chew gum at the same time. The slightly looser polenta made no difference; it still tasted rich, creamy and salty. I sopped every last grain of corn meal off my plate with my bread. This is a great alternative to mashed potatoes and it really does not take much more effort; make it for guests and they will love you. Also, I have never done this, but a little birdy told me that leftovers can be refrigerated, breaded, and pan/deep friend. Fried bacon, cheese and corn meal? This makes me believe there is a heaven.

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Polenta with Bacon, Sage and Corn

From Bon Appetit

1 cup coarsely chopped bacon (about 7 slices)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

1 10-ounce package frozen corn kernels, thawed

5 1/2 cups water
1 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal)

1/2 cup whipping cream (I used full fat because it was Christmas)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook bacon in heavy large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 1/2 teaspoons fat from skillet. Add sage; sauté 1 minute. Add corn; sauté 1 minute. Add 5 1/2 cups water; increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil. Gradually whisk in polenta. Reduce heat to low; cook until polenta begins to thicken, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes. Stir in cream, cheese, and bacon. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

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