Pork

Dinner Party Menu: October

dinner-party-menu-october

I’d like to give a shout out to whoever was responsible for coming up with the idea of Fall. I mean I guess it was probably God (or whoever you believe in), but the idea is so genius I’m thinking there was probably more of round table group doing a bunch of brainstorming. I think the concept of being able to change the leaf colors to super bright red, orange, and yellow plus injecting the air with that crisp/smokey smell..sealed the deal. Hats off guys and gals (oh who are we kidding, there definitely wasn’t any gals included in the round table discussions back then).

So what’s your favorite part of fall? Leaves? Halloween? Football? Tailgating? Pumpkin Spice Lattes? Crisp mornings? Sweaters and leggings? Yeah, I thought so.  I will say that Fall in Texas isn’t quite what it was in Wisconsin…it doesn’t get as crisp, the leaves don’t get as bright, the mornings aren’t quite as cool…but I still love it and at least I still have the memory of the beautiful Wisconsin Autumn.

Anyway, this dinner menu obviously includes pork. Pork is fall. As are sweet potatoes, apples, and cranberries. And this menu includes some of my FAVORITE recipes for my favorite season. Enjoy.

 

Appetizer:  Trader Joe’s Cranberry Chevre Log with ginger snaps or pita chips

Main:     Slow Roasted Pork with Creamy Apple Gravy or Apple Stuffed Pork Loin with Apple Butter Glaze

Side 1:   Roasted Fall Vegetables or veggies that come with the Slow Roasted Pork

Side 2:   Kale Salad with Poppyseed Dressing

Dessert:Store bought pumpkin or carrot cake

To Execute:

  1. Several hours before guests come over, start the pork (start cooking if slow roasting, start butterflying/rolling if doing the stuffed recipe)
  2. Prepare the apple butter or apple gravy
  3. An hour before dinner, prepare and dress the salad (this salad tastes better with time to marinate)
  4. About 30 min prior to dinner, roast the veggies (if doing the stuffed pork)
  5. Pour some nice cozy red wine and start a fire

 

sausage-stuffed-peppers

I love these things for SO many reasons, but the #1 might be because they’re sausage! That means they’re not chicken, salmon, or beef, which take up about 99% of our diet around here. Sausage is such a fun change-up, and we keep it light by stuffing it in a pepper. No rice in these because you just don’t need it. These are inspired by my mother-in-law, who makes them on a regular basis. I’ve had them in the back of my mind for a long time, and now that I see how easy and delicious and different these are, we’ll be making them often.

Recipe

  • 4 yellow bell peppers
  • 1 lb mild italian sausage
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes (the regular size – ~10 oz I think)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano
  • 1.5 cup homemade bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan
  • Pepperidge Farm crispy breadcrumbs (or any store bought version)

First make the breadcrumbs. Cut about 2-3 slices of bread (any kind) into 3/4 in pieces. Place them on a baking sheet and bake at 300 for about 15 minutes until they are dried out.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Cook the sausage in a large skillet until cooked through. If necessary, drain the fat if there is a lot of excess. You need a little left in there to cook the onions and celery. Add in the garlic, onions and celery and cook for about 8 minutes. Mix in the tomatoes, salt, basil and oregano. Stir to combine. Add in the homemade breadcrumbs and chicken broth to moisten and bring to a low boil until the broth is gone (you don’t want a liquid-y filling). Turn off the heat.

Cut the stems off the peppers, slice the peppers in half, and remove the seeds and veins. Place them in a bowl with a splash of water, cover and microwave for 2 minutes. Place the 8 pepper halves in a shallow baking dish and fill with the stuffing (do not add cheese or crispy crumbs yet).  Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Uncover, top peppers with the cheese then the bread crumbs (a pinch or two per pepper for an extra crunch) and bake for another 15 minutes.

blackberry-balsamic-pork-tenderloin

Just when I think having twins couldn’t possibly be any more amazing, I discover something new that just makes my heart explode. Last week it was the babbling they do at each other, apparently understanding what the other is saying. The week before that it was that when one learned to climb the stairs, the other one insisted he do it too (with much less ease, grace, and a lot more grunting). And the week before that it was their love for chasing each other around in their walkers. Can you imagine anything cuter than two tiny babies chasing each other with extraordinarily fat legs? Heart explosion.

But this week I came to an extra extra special realization.  From now until who knows how long, probably the end of time, when one gets sick – so will the other. Awesome. Sure, regular siblings have similar challenges, but twins just CONSTANTLY gravitate toward one another. They play with the same toys. In fact, the only toy they ever want is the one that the other one is currently playing with/slobbering all over. So the germ swapping is immediate, unavoidable, and miserable. And yet somehow it was so cute to watch them respond so differently to the same cold…one acted like someone amputated his leg and that there was no way he was coming out of this alive, while the other just continued smiling, squealing, and stuffing his face with McDonald’s pancakes. Two very different boys, two very distinct heart explosions.

In the midst of all this sickness, I decided to make grilled marinated pork tenderloin.  Why? Because it tastes great with wine.

If you decide to make this – and you won’t regret it – make sure you leave enough time for marination. Is that even a word? I doubt it. Pork is one of the few meats that really does take on a 24 hour marinade perfectly; it infuses flavor without making the meat gummy or overly saturated.  I recommend at least 8 hours, but if you can swing 24, do it. Plus, if you’re making this for a summer BBQ, how great to have your main dish basically done before guests arrive? All you have to do is pop it on the grill. You will LOVE this sweet and flavorful pork.

Recipe (serves 4-6)

  • 2 pork tenderloins
  • 1 cup blackberry preserves
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 crushed bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all the marinade ingredients in a large ziploc bag, add the pork and refrigerate for as long as you can, up to 24 hours. Mine was probably actually more like 27 when it was all said and done.  Then, you can grill the pork tenderloin perfectly and easily using this 7-6-5 method. It works perfectly.  Heat the grill to high. Remove the pork from the marinade (reserve the extra if you want to reduce to a sauce).  Place the pork on the grill, cover, and leave undisturbed for 7 minutes. Flip the pork over, cover and grill for 6 more minutes. Turn the grill OFF, and let sit in the covered grill for 5 minutes. The pork should register about 140, then you can remove from grill, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes (it will keep cooking a bit here and raise about 10 degrees).  Our grill gets SUPER hot – like hard to keep below 500 hot – so I usually only leave it in the last phase for about 4 minutes. If your grill stays closer to 400, I would do the full 5. But even when I do the full 5, the pork is not too overcooked or dry.  Anyway, that’s the way to do it. If you want, you can reserve the extra marinade and reduce down on the stove for 10 minutes or so and serve with the pork. Make sure to bring it to a boil for at least 10 minutes since it was hanging out with the raw pork.

pulled-pork-stuffed-sweet-potatoes

I just got back from a baby music class. It was super cute, but I think my main takeaway is that it might be time for me to go back to work. I knew 1.7 out of 20 songs that we sang (itsy bitsy spider and twinkle twinkle), I couldn’t quite match the singing intensity or commitment of the other moms, and quite honestly I didn’t feel totally comfortable dancing around in a circle to Ring-Around-The-Rosy (which I didn’t know the words to). What does that song even mean, anyway? I actually think my face turned red while I was prancing.

The babies seemed to love it though, so they’ll definitely go again. Sounds like a great job for Dad.

Moving on to food, pulled pork+sweet potato+BBQ sauce+other stuffing stuff is the most fun and delicious weeknight meal. Or weekend meal, I suppose. I shouldn’t pigeon hole it. I have a couple pulled pork recipes here and here, but honestly I just made a really simple version for this recipe. Then I stuffed the sweet potatoes with corn, avocado, cheese, and drizzled with BBQ sauce. Heavenly.

Recipe

  • 4 large sweet potatoes
  • Toppings of choice: avocado, cheddar/jack cheese, corn…
  • 2.5 lb boneless pork shoulder
  • Pork/poultry BBQ seasoning (optional; store bought)
  • 1/2 can beer
  • 3-5 cups beef broth, depending on size of pan
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse/kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • Pepper to taste

Coat the boneless pork shoulder in BBQ seasoning (I just use a store bought version- you can skip this and just do S&P if you want).  Preheat the oven to 300.  Heat some olive oil in a large dutch oven.  Brown the pork on all sides. Deglaze the pan with the beer (anything you like the flavor of), then add in enough beef broth to almost cover the pork (about 1/2 inch out is good).  Throw in the rest of the seasonings, bring to a boil, then cover tightly and place it in the oven for 3.5-4 hours.  It will probably be done around 3, it will just keep getting a little more tender after that. I usually do close to 4…it just needs to be easily shredable. I know shredable isn’t a word.  Take the pork out and remove the lid; place it over high heat and boil down the liquid until it thickens and reduces quite a bit. You can skip that step and just strain the pork to get rid of some of the liquid too. Shred the pork.

Cook the sweet potatoes however you want. I usually poke them and bake them in a 350 degree oven for about 45-60 minutes for a really big sweet potato. It will be less if they are more normal sized (honestly I would like to know where Central Market gets their mammoth sized produce).  Slice open the potatoes, top with cheese, avo, corn and anything else you’re using. Top with the pork and then drizzle with BBQ sauce (I like a sweet sauce here like Rufus Teague or Sweet Baby Ray’s).

 

the-most-delicious-pulled-pork

I could have titled this post ‘Spicy Pulled Pork,’ or ‘Pulled Pork in a Spicy Dark Beer Sauce,’ or ‘Pulled Pork Tacos,’ but none of them were as fitting at ‘The Most Delicious Pulled Pork.’

Seriously, I will never make pulled pork any other way again.  This is my recipe, forever and ever until the end of time.

I’ve made pulled pork several times before, and I’ve loved them all. But, this time I tried to get creative by creating a darker sauce, a bit more spice, and the addition of a Pasilla pepper.  And that, my friends, it what threw the flavor over the edge.  Slight smokey and medium heat, the Pasilla pepper did something very special to this pork and I will forever be grateful.  Now, if you don’t have access to a Pasilla pepper, which you probably don’t unless you live in Texas, you can substitute for an Ancho chile.  Both a Pasilla pepper and Ancho chile are dried versions of a poblano-type pepper.  And that’s all the education I’m going to give you on this topic, because it’s all I know.

Do yourselves a favor, and MAKE THIS FOR YOUR FAVORITE PERSON THIS WEEKEND.

Recipe

  • 3 lb boneless pork shoulder
  • 1 teaspoon ground pasilla pepper, if you can find it (otherwise ground poblano)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1.5-2 teaspoons kosher salt (2 if using low-sodium broth, 1.5 if using regular)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1.5 teaspoons chile powder
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (I used a food processor)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 can Mexican beer (I used Tecate)
  • 1-3 cups Beef broth

Preheat the oven to 300.  Mix together the chopped up Pasilla pepper (in many grocery stores you can find pasilla in a bulk spices section – the flavor is very rich and often used in mole sauce…it is GOOD), cocoa powder, brown sugar, salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, and chile powder.  Cut the pork shoulder into about 4 large chunks, and rub all over with the seasoning (reserve all the extra seasoning that doesn’t ‘stick’).  Heat a large dutch oven (or oven proof covered pot) over medium high heat, with plenty of olive oil.  Sear all sides of the pork until browned, working in shifts if you need to. Reduce the heat to low and transfer pork to a bowl. Add the onion, and cook for several minutes. Add the pork back in (and any remaining seasoning that fell off), and add the beer (use GF beer if cooking gluten free).  Pour in enough beef broth to pretty much cover the pork (you can use half broth and half water here to cut down on the salt content).  Bring to a boil for a few minutes, then cover the pot and transfer to the oven.  Cook for about 4 hours, remove, and shred!! To reduce the sauce a bit, you can place it on the stove top and bring to a low boil for 10-15 minutes (if you want a thicker sauce to pour over the meat). Otherwise, just use a slotted spoon to transfer pork to a serving bowl. Serve on tacos with avocado, corn salsa, cheese, sour cream, and thank your lucky stars that you’re not a vegetarian.

barbecue-pulled-pork-sandwiches

You won’t find these photographs published anywhere in Food
& Wine magazine or Bon Appetit.   Not
because they weren’t the most delicious thing ever, but because I was behind
the iPhone. I mean camera. I need to care. I need to take a photography class.

 

But quite frankly I am most interested in the cooking and
eating part of blogging. Those are the most fun.  And let me tell you  – pulled pork is fun. I’ve said it over and
over, but it might be the perfect meat.
I got 3 lbs for less than $10, I spent about 10 minutes preparing it
before slow roasting it, it made the house smell amazing, and then you can
smother it in whatever you want. In this case, barbecue sauce.

 

I used a store bought spicy brown sugar pork rub, a store bought BBQ sauce (Rufus Teague’s), and I also bought the pork and buns.  Wonderful Sunday dinner and lots of leftovers
for BBQ quesadillas throughout the week.

 

Recipe

 

  •  2-3 lb pork shoulder (this was for two people
    plus leftovers)
  • Brown sugar rub
  • Beef broth
  •  ¼ cup brown sugar
  • Worcestershire
  • BBQ sauce
  • Hamburger or slider buns

 

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Drizzle a little olive oil
into a large dutch oven, and heat to medium-high.  Prepare the meat with plenty of your dry rub
of choice, then brown on all sides. Pour in enough beef broth to almost cover
the meat (an inch or two exposed), and mix in the brown sugar and
worcestershire.  Cover the pot, then
place in the oven and cook for 3-4 hours, until fork tender. I think I did
about 3.5 hours.  Remove the meat and
shred.  Place on toasted buns and top
with TONS OF BARBECUE sauce.