Category Archives: Pork-a-licious

Recipe Retry of an All-Time Favorite


Milk Braised Pork Shoulder with Semolina Gnocchi (Photo by Elinor Carucci)

I can’t even begin to tell you the love I feel for this Milk-Braised Pork Shoulder with Semolina Gnochhi from Olivia restaurant right here in Austin. I made this dish exactly as directed some time ago and it is still one of my favorites. In fact, when someone ask me the one recipe they should make that I’ve tested, this one is always my first recommendation.

We are in full kitchen remodel mode and as anyone knows who’s been through one, an 1/8 of an inch off of one thing can derail you for days. We had plans to have our Wolf oven hooked up and ready to go – it’s a gas stove I can’t wait – but alas the cabinets threw us off. Thanks company-that-shall-not-be-named, thanks ever so much for making cabinets that require you to alter with a chainsaw, fairy dust and some Vaseline. I kid but only a little.

Since I already had the pork sitting in the nice combo of salt and cinnamon and didn’t want to waste it, I chunked cooking inside the lines out the door and threw all  of the ingredients from the butter to the tomatoes (I didn’t add the flour since I wasn’t making a roux but could not skimp on the butter, do you blame me?) into a large Dutch oven. I cooked this bad boy for 2 hours in our convection microwave and then let cool and sit overnight in the fridge. The verdict? AWESOME. DELICIOUS. PORK.

Sure, the depth of flavor was slightly better in the original but hey, in a pinch and less time in the kitchen this worked! I couldn’t make the semolina gnocchi so I served this as a stew with a Caesar side salad. David mentioned this has been his favorite dish that I’ve made so far…with that poodles make this, make this right now. Try the slow version (it’s seriously not that much trouble) or go rogue and try it my way. Either way, for the love, make this. Now if I could actually go eat at Olivia…

Midnight Tortas – Updated

As one reader pointed out in my previous post this recipe was missing a few key items such as rolls, cilantro, cotija and tomatoes in its ingredient line-up – always read the instructions before heading to the store poodles. Regardless, I had pork belly sliders last weekend at the always-fantastic Odd Duck food trailer here in Austin and was dying to try and make pork belly on my own. Plus, this Midnight Tortas recipe featuring delicous pork belly had been calling my name for sometime anyway.  I mean how can you beat a recipe from the food truck in Los Angeles, Kogi, from Best New Chef Roy Choi? He just looks like a muy badass doesn’t he? The only hitch was I would need to make the gentle belly in the convection oven/microwave that I already have a huge crush on, but was a little hesitant since we are only a few dates into our culinary relationship.

Chef Roy Choi

We stopped by our local HEB off of Oltorf and Congress and I assumed they would have pork belly given they have trotters, feet and cow tongue, but they had just run out of pork belly…sigh. I grabbed short ribs instead as I thought it would make a nice stand-in. Who am I kidding, I love short ribs but nothing replaces pork belly. David then recommended we go to Whole Foods Market to see if they might have the delicious pork product. I was loving David’s commitment to the mission at hand. Whole Foods did have some and then I suggested why not do the sandwich with pork belly and the short ribs – we both started drooling at the same time. Once again, you’ve got to love dating a fellow food lover.

I seasoned the pork belly and short ribs with smoked paprika, pepper and Herbes de Provence to follow along the lines of  this recipe. I placed in the oven at 400 degrees for an hour and then cooked for another two or so at 200 degrees all on the high mix roast setting.

Pork Belly and Short Ribs Prior to Their Trip to the Convection Oven

After letting the short ribs and pork belly rest, I went on to split the bolillo rolls (love the local HEB so, so much for having these) and decided that since I had put my pinky toe outside the cooking lines why not just go all out lambs? I broiled the jalapenos and a hatch chile (’tis the season and nice call by David to add in!), let them cool, peeled and cut into thin strips. I decided instead of just mayonaisse to blend the juice of one lime, a pinch of cumin and mashed one avocado into the mayonnaise and then sprinkled in the cotija cheese – that way the bits of the crumbly cheese would stay on your sandwich and not on your plate. I also decided to keep the spinach fresh to provide a bit more texture to the sandwich and sliced the tomatoes. For the eggs, we don’t have a an application to cook the eggs stove top so I oiled a few ramekins, cracked an egg in each and placed one tablespoon of heavy cream to bake instead.  I baked at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, which was a bit longer than we wanted but due to the cream in the eggs the whites looked not cooked through yet…they were and the eggs turned out creamy and delicious but the yolks were a little overdone. Key learnings with the new oven!

I shredded the pork belly and short ribs together and placed the jalapeno/hatch chile strips in with the meat. I smeared one half of the roll with the avocado mayonnaise then topped with the meat mixture. Next came the sliced tomato, fresh spinach, creamy eggs, a dollop of my cilantro salsa and then topped with the other half of the roll. Needless to say this sandwich was EPIC folks.

Midnight Tortas - Courtesy of Food & Wine (Anna Williams)

Another key learning from the convection oven, the pork belly turned out a little too crispy because I think I did it for too long, but the short ribs were perfect. Overall, I really liked this sandwich and would like to troubleshoot my mistakes for next time since the flavor combinations were delicious together and I could see this being a perfect tortas recipe to enjoy…well, maybe once in a blue moon given the decadence of it all.

If you have any tips or recommendations let me know and I’ll give this tortas recipe a try again. Oh, I almost forgot! I served this sandwich with this very simple but quite tasty Orange and Red Onion Salad and Red Pepper from Cooking Light. Great little side dish if I so say so myself.

Orange and Red Onion Salad with Red Pepper - Courtesy of Cooking Light (Randy Mayor)

Thai Curried Noodles with Pork and Basil

Last week I got home and was totally mouthbreathing. After a long, hectic day I had the foggiest on what to cook; I was at a loss lambs! Thankfully, Food & Wine has their handy, dandy color-coded system that breaks recipes down into categories including Fast, Staff Favorite and If You Are Totally Mouthbreathing. Yeah that last one not so much but you know I would go to those recipes stat if they were labeled that way!

David scanned the magazine and voila! found the Thai Curried Noodles with Pork and Basil recipe. Not only did it sound delicious but it was labeled as Fast – meaning 45 minutes or less – and a Staff Favorite. It was also convenient because I had many of the ingredients on hand…see you never know when you might just need Thai red curry paste.

This was incredibly easy to assemble and what I enjoyed while putting it together was the layering of flavors as you went. The lemon grass, ginger and sugar mixture when thrown in the skillet perfumed the house!

WE LOVED THIS. I see why this was a staff favorite for sure. It was easy breezy, had fantastic, well-rounded flavor and was quite unique for a weeknight meal. For an added bonus, you have leftovers for days and trust me it’s one of those dishes that just gets better as it sits and does its thing. I couldn’t find the recipe online so here you go!

Thai Curried Noodles with Pork and Basil
Food & Wine
August 2010

Total: 45 minutes
Servings: 4

3 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks (I bought these already done at the store)
2 large lemongrass stalks, tender inner bulbs only, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
3/4 ground pork
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha chile sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
10 ounces, fresh thin egg noodles, preferably Chinese
1/2 up chopped basil, preferably Thai
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Add the carrots and cook until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the carrots to a plate. Reserve the carrot cooking water.

2. In a mini food processor, puree the lemongrass with the ginger and sugar.

3. In a large, deep skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring until golden brown. Add the lemongrass mixture and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the ground pork and cook, breaking up the meat, until no pink remains, about 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk and reduce the heat to moderate. Stir in red curry paste, Sriracha and lime juice and turn off heat.

4. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the noodles until al dente; drain well. Add the noddles, carrots and carrot cooking water to the skillet and toss over moderate heat until the noodles are thoroughly coated. Add the basil, season with salt and pepper and serve.*

*Tester’s note: We added more Sriracha at the end as it gave it a bolder, spicier flavor.

Recipe Retry

Let’s go back almost a year when I made this Chile-Dusted Pork Chops with Strawberries and Grits recipe and to date, has still been one of my favorites since I started this blog. With the multitude of cooking magazines, web sites and blogs I read almost every day it’s so tempting to keep trying new recipes without ever looking back. However when talking about successes and complete and utter recipe failures with David, I kept coming back to this dish, then, it became an obsession. Would it be as good as I had remembered? Could I recreate it again for two?

Well…it did lambs! Making this for two was twice as nice and we both really enjoyed it. I’m going to be doing these a little more often now so stay tuned for further updates on some of my favorite recipes of last year. Up next is the Cod with Mussels, Chorizo, Fried Croutons and Saffron Mayonnaise dish…

Dulce de Leche. That’s All I Have to Say!

The new Bon Appetit created a schuper mix-and-match section called The Ultimate Summer Menu Grilling Guide for all of the delicious grilling that’s bound to happen this summer. For a gentle get together of a few friends this past Memorial Day, I selected a few recipes from the sides and desserts sections including the Roasted Fingerling Potato Salad, Roasted Mix Peppers with Capers and Marjoram and Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars. For the protein choice we decided to do one of our friend Adam’s agave-glazed pork tenderloin recipe that is to die for. Keep reading poodles.

First, the Bon Appetit recipes…rockstars, all of them. Both the salads were easy to assemble and the flavors were amazing. If I had to choose one over the other to make again I would go with the roasted pepper salad. Something about the blend of roasted peppers, capers and marjoram, which has such a delicate floral note, really hit the spot. For leftovers you could easily use this on top of a pork chop or grilled fish for a super quick weeknight meal.

The Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars have to be one of my favorite new dessert recipes. I’m usually not the world’s biggest caramel fan but when mixed with salt, especially fleur de sel, I’m hooked. I really enjoyed making these bars and they were quite simple to make, especially since I don’t bake/make desserts too, too often. These were an instant hit with my friends and random new friends we made by the pool who were snarfing them up too. They were also still great a few days later, late at night on the couch. Yes, total fat kids.

For David’s birthday one of our friends made an amazing pork tenderloin recipe that we decided to recreate for our get together. We simply brined four (about a pound each) tenderloins in kosher salt for a few hours, then created a rub of chili powder, garlic, cumin and cinnamon and then poured agave syrup on each loin. We then grilled until it was slightly pink, let it rest and then did a final glaze of agave syrup to finish. Simple. Awesome. Delicious. Since we had leftover pork, the next night we placed them in a dutch oven with two cans of mild Ro-Tel tomatoes and chiles to give it a little different flavor. We let it sit for about 45 minutes and then shredded to make soft tacos. Combined with my favorite salsa and some avocado we had a great little weeknight meal.I’m on cooking fire eh?

Pork and Peaches

Hello lambs! It’s a Christmas miracle as I cooked again this week! I’ve been thumbing through the new Cooking Light with all of the summer harvest bounty gracing the pages – this truly is one of my favorite food times of the year. The summer fruits section really piqued my interest and then when I saw this Brined Pork Tenderloin with Plum and Jicama Relish I had to give it a whirl. I mean it’s pork tenderloin and fruit, how can I go wrong?

After work I drove to Central Market and found everything on my list except for plums, which I was told I was about a week off but there were some lovely peaches I could pick-up if I was in a pinch. I happen to love peaches and was actually a little more excited about the dish than I would be with plums. For the win!

I got home and immediately placed the pork in the salty brine. As the pork did its thing I assembled the relish which was super easy and quite delicious at first taste. While I made the potato salad, which I’m not going to mention here because it was a bit of a disappointment, David walked up to the grill and cooked the pork. Who’s David? Well, the new (amazing, gentle and total foodie) guy in my life that I hope you can get to know better as my little blog continues on. :) I happily digress. So David cooked the pork on the grill and had to do a bit longer than originally called for, about 4-5 minutes, and then we let it rest.

We plated the pork with the relish on top and then the disappointing potato salad. Obviously the salad was “meh” but the pork was fantastic. The sweet and spicy relish complemented the salty, juicy pork perfectly. I have leftovers sitting in the fridge right now calling my name and can’t wait to dig in. This is an easy and delicious summer night meal and next time I will try it with plums darnit. Enjoy!

Say it with me now: Ata-ulf-o!

Yesterday we were working on a project for the National Mango Board that highlights the juicy, creamy Ataulfo variety and we had a few to spare here in the office. What is a mango-loving girl to do? Well! I was in the mood for a juicy pork tenderloin and lo-and-behold came across this Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Mango Sambal from Cooking Light.
I wanted to share what the Web site says about this recipe because after enjoying this delicious dish, I completely agree: Sambal is a generic name for any paste-like condiment made with chiles. Authentic versions tend to be extremely hot. This Malaysian-influenced mango sambal works well with the Southern-style barbeque spice rub. The vinegar gives the condiment a flavor that’s reminiscent of a North Carolina mop sauce.

This dish came together in no time and the sambal (which I’ve never made before) was a simple dump and pour like a fruit salsa. The spice rub on this was wicked. With the sweet brown sugar, spice from the chili powder and savory garlic and onion powder it rocked the tenderloin. Enjoy this any time of year with any kind of mango variety or try it with Ataulfos now!

Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin

Last night we wanted an easy, breezy meal that would come together in a snap and for some reason I had a hankering for pork tenderloin. Enter this Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin from Cooking Light.

I was working late last night so the gentle Alex made the tenderloin from start to finish. I’ve got a trained chef totally following the Cooking Inside the Lines style, I love it! Alex mentioned she followed the recipe exactly (I’m so proud) and it turned out to be DELICIOUS. It was perfectly cooked and the spice-rub was just amazing.
Alex also made some sautéed asparagus and a creamy mushroom risotto and voila! an awesome Monday night meal that came together in a flash. I wish I would have saved some pork for today’s lunch to make a sandwich but we ate. it. all. Thanks Chef Alex for an amazing meal!

The Rogue Gumbo

When I think of a traditional gumbo I immediately think of Louisiana, sausage, chicken and/or shrimp, okra, rice and spice! You can imagine my surprise when I came across this Shrimp and Okra Gumbo in Cooking Light that of course has shrimp and okra, but also has smoked ham and instead of rice, creamy yogurt grits. I’m not going to lie, I think the creamy yogurt grits is what got me hook, line and sinker.

As my fun little Chef friends pointed out, the roux for this was very interesting indeed. It consists of canola oil, all-purpose flour and chicken broth (instead of the usual butter for the added fat). Making this together was a whole lot of fun and Alex even mentioned she liked it better over the creamy grits – awesomeness on its own or with the gumbo – than rice. Now that’s saying something.

This was pretty amazing gumbo if I do say so myself. The smoked ham, obviously, gave it a smoky flavor along with the paprika and all of the vegetables and spices blended together to create a lovely, spicy balance of flavors. One thing is that we did not have okra. Quelle horreur! I went shopping after work and they had everything BUT okra, not even frozen. Being good Southern girls we knew what we were missing without the okra but we still loved the dish.

I can’t find the recipe online so check it out below for a spicy gumbo night of your own!
Cooking Light
April 2010
Shrimp and Okra Gumbo with Creamy Yogurt Grits
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
10 tablespoons fat-free, less sodium chicken broth
1 cup chopped onion
4 ounces smoked ham, chopped
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
2/3 cup diced celery
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound fresh okra pods, sliced
1/4 cup of water
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
3/4 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour; cook 1 minute or until lightly browned, stirring constantly with a whisk until thick. Pour into a bowl; set aside. Wipe pan clean with paper towels.
2. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in pan over medium heat. Add onion and ham; cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add bell pepper and next 4 ingredients (through okra); cook 5 minutes or until vegetables are almost tender, stirring occasionally. Add broth mixture, water, and next six ingredients (through tomatoes). Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in shrimp; cook 4 minutes or until shrimp are done. Spring with parsley. Yield: 4 servings.
Creamy Yogurt Grits
Bring 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in 3/4 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits; cover, cover reduce-heat, and simmer 8 minutes or until thick. Stir in 1 cup fat-free Greek-style yogurt, teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.

The Dark Horse

Well, well, well Cooking Light look who just took the coveted (shhhh…in my head it is coveted) winner of the cover recipe smackdown away from my favorite grilled cheese/short rib goodness. The Maple-Mustard Pork Chops with Winter Squash Puree, created by none either than the lovely Ellie Krieger, was so excellent the only thing left on the plate were our finger smears and pork chop bones.

After a conversation with Lex about this “situation” we both felt that this recipe won due to a few things:

  1. While decadence is always a good thing, this recipe felt decadent without adding a lot to our bums unlike a grilled cheese sandwich. It was full of delicious flavors and good for you goodness like butternut squash. I could eat that sauce on almost anything. Two low-fat points for pork.
  2. The grilled cheese was easy to prepare but if you think about it, it’s also a sandwich and that can be a lot of work – for some – to make a sandwich. Point deduction grilled cheese.
  3. This came together in a New York minute and utilized many pantry staples, except frozen butternut squash which I found at Whole Foods Market. Point addition.
  4. This dish just plain rocked, so there. Point for pork.
  5. That sauce, oh dear that sauce! I think we’ve confirmed plenty of times here I’m a sucker for sauces. Five points for sauce.

I would like to clarify that I do not hold tight to these standards when judging all cover recipes, but when it came down to a game time decision the comments mentioned above helped the pork chop dish beat the grilled cheese by thismuch. Don’t get me wrong little lambs that grilled cheese will live on in my heart like Leonardo DiCaprio does but you’ve got to give the pork chops recipe a try. Heck make both and let us know if we are dead wrong!

I could not find the recipe online (come on people!) so you can find it below.

Maple-Mustard Pork Chops with Winter Squash Puree
Cooking Light, March 2010
4 (6-ounce) bone-in center-cut pork chops
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1/4 cup fat-free, less sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1. Sprinkle both sides of pork with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper
2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add pork to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until cooked through, but with a slight blush in the center. Remove from pan; keep warm.
3. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add butter to pan, swirling pan to coat. Add shallots; saute 3 minutes or until tender and translucent. Add broth; bring to boil, and cook 1 minute. Stir in mustard, syrup, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute or until slightly thick. Return pork to pan. Cook pork 1 minute on each side or until thoroughly heated (be careful not to overcook pork). Serve pork with sauce. Garnish each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons parsley.
Quick Winter Squash Puree
1/3 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 (12-ounce) package frozen cooked butternut squash
1 tablespoon of butter
1/2 teaspoon orange rind
1 1/2 teaspoons maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1. Place broth and squash in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cover and cook 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Add butter and remaining ingredients*; stir until well combined.
* We added a smidge of heavy cream to give this a little more body. :)