Pork Milanese with Arugula and Cherry-Tomato Salad

There are days when simple is wonderful, don’t you think?  When you want to savor a dinner without a big fuss, and enjoy a few moments with your family.  Tonight was that type of evening, and I’d love to say that it was all about our sense of togetherness, but I have to admit that we had a bit of encouragement from the weather.  Did I mention that it’s nearly 100 degrees outside?  Our Minnesota sensibilities have been rocked by this heatwave, and it was obvious that tonight we just needed to move slowly and speak in a leisurely manner.  This meal was a fantastic centerpiece for just such a plan.

The original menu called for hamburgers on the grill, but late in the afternoon a hot wind began buffeting the house and we knew it’d be tough to keep a grill lit for cooking.  Thank goodness!  I offered to give it a try, but Cath had a better idea: pork chops in a pan.  I have to admit that I was secretly relieved.  The scent of these chops frying in olive oil was heavenly, and the crunchy crust was a terrific complement to the savory moist meat.  The arugula salad was quite simple as well, but we very much enjoyed the peppery flavor.  Megan, our oldest, commented on how much she enjoyed the salad as well.  New tastes are developing here in the Solberg house!

This is an easy meal, perfect for an evening when you’re not driven to create culinary art.  Funny, it felt a little artsy as we plated it to serve, so maybe it was an example of a reductionist abstract with a – oh forget that, it was delicious.  And that’s good enough for me!

Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 8 1/4-inch thick boneless pork chops (1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds total), trimmed of excess fat
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • thick slices white sandwich bread
  • 3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for frying
  • 5 cups baby arugula
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • lemon wedges, for serving

Preparation:

1.  Season the pork shops all over with salt and paper.  Pulse the bread in a food processor to make coarse crumbs (you should have about 3 cups).  Transfer the breadcrumbs to a shallow baking dish and toss with the cheese, parsley and rosemary.  Whisk the eggs in a shallow bowl.  Put the flour in another shallow bowl.  Dredge each chop in the flour, then dip in the beaten eggs and coat in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing so the coating sticks.

2.  Heat 1/4-inch olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Working in batches, cook the pork chops until golden brown and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes per side.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

3.  Toss the arugula and tomatoes in a bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Divide the pork chops among plates and season with salt.  Serve with the arugula salad and lemon wedges.

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Cheesy Mac ‘n’ Bangers Bake

A quiet Friday night alone with my youngest, and dinner to be made.  What to do, right?  Actually, that decision was made for me when Cath left the recipe and ingredients for Rachael Ray’s Cheesy Mac ‘n’ Bangers Bake before taking off for a night out with her sister, Terry and friend, Dawn.  I’ll be honest, I’d heard the term “Bangers” before, but I really didn’t know much about them.  Turns out a banger is just a one of a variety of flavoured sausage made of pork or beef or a Cumberland sausage.  (That’s straight out of Wikipedia, so I really couldn’t tell you much about a Cumberland sausage.  If you do the research, get back to me and let me know!)  We don’t have great access to authentic Irish sausages, so we decided to use the sweet Italian sausage instead.

There were a few steps to the preparation, but once we had all our ingredients in place it was just a matter of assembling and baking the dish.  When I first heard the name I had a mac ‘n’ cheese type of picture in my head. When you look at the ingredients, however, you note that the cheese is cream cheese and grated parmesan.  Hmm, definitely not what I expected, but the flavor was terrific!  We cooked for the recommended time, and then made sure to let it rest for a bit.  Our reward was a perfect square that lifted nicely out the pan and looked beautiful on the plate.

Kelly looked a little bit nervously at the spinach when I was assembling the dish before baking, but after her first taste she exclaimed “Yum!  This is really good!”  I’m going to count that as a great review.  This was a simple, hearty dish of savory comfort food, and it was perfect for a Friday evening dinner at the kitchen island with my lovely young dining companion.

Yummo!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb elbow macaroni
  • 1 lb Irish bangers or sweet italian sausages, casing removed
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lb thawed frozen chopped spinach, squeezed dry
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated parmesan (4-1/2 oz)
  • 6 slices white sandwich bread, crusts trimmed

Preparation

In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the macaroni, stirring often, until al dente.  Drain and cool; do not rinse.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the sausage over medium heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and stirring occasionally until crumbly, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to paper towels to drain.  Melt the butter in the pan, then add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the cream cheese until blended; season with salt and pepper.  Let cool.

In a large bowl, using a fork, beat together the eggs, heavy cream, 2/3 cup parmesan and 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper.

In a 9-inch square baking dish, evenly layer the macaroni and cover with the bread slices.  Top with the spinach mixture in an even layer, then the sausage.  Pour the egg mixture on top and sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup parmesan.  (Cover and refrigerate overnight if desired.)

Let the casserole stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and bake until browned and crusty on top and set in the center, about 20 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes before cutting.

Pork Stew with Butternut Squash

 Pork Stew with Butternut Squash

 This was the perfect meal for a cool autumn afternoon.  We awoke to a light dusting of snow on the ground (October 10th!), and I spent a good part of the early afternoon splitting and stacking firewood.  Afterward, I could smell this wonderful stew, well, stewing.  On a day like this comfort food is the rule, and this recipe certainly filled the bill.  Butternut squash is a staple in our house, and as you might imagine the flavor melded perfectly with sage and pork loin, red peppers and tomatoes.  An interesting addition was the grated orange peel, whose citrus notes really gave a contrasting spark of flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1  tablespoon  olive oil
  • 1 1/2  pounds  boneless pork loin, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1  cup  finely chopped onion
  • 1  cup  finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 3/4  cup  finely chopped celery
  • 2  teaspoons  dried rubbed sage
  • 1  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1  (14.5-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 4  cups  (1/2-inch) cubed peeled fresh butternut squash
  • 1  (10-ounce) package frozen whole-kernel corn
  • 2  teaspoons  grated orange rind
  • 4 1/2  cups  cooked egg noodles (about 3 cups uncooked)
  • 6  tablespoons  chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preparation:

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add pork; cook 4 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Add onion, bell pepper, and celery; cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in sage, salt, black pepper, tomatoes, and broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Stir in butternut squash and corn; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour or until pumpkin is tender. Stir in grated rind. Serve over noodles; sprinkle with parsley.

Grilled Pork with Arugula and Grape Salad

grilled-pork-with-arugula-and-grape-salad

You’ve gotta try this when you want to serve a play on the traditional ham dinner.  Admittedly it’s not ham at all, but pork chops were close enough for us, and the results were fantastic!

Our family was on its own for Easter this year, as various outside events caused our usual larger family gathering to be cancelled.  No problem, but we still needed to do something a little special to commemorate the day.  We didn’t have any great urge to do the traditional ham, but I spied this alternative in the Nov/Dec issue of Food Network Magazine.  Wow!  The pork chops themselves were juicy as could be, and the bed of arugula, vinaigrette, gorgonzola and red grapes provided a contrasting taste counterpoint that was a huge hit with the entire family.  We paired it with a loaf of homemade peasant bread and a bottle of syrah, and it made for a wonderful meal.  We’ve agreed, it receives four stars!

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 5-ounce boneless pork chops
  • 3/4 cup red seedless grapes, halved
  • 4 heaping cups baby arugula
  • 1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola

Preparation:

1.  Combine the shallot, vinegar, 1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper in a medium bowl.  Gradually whisk in the oil, starting with a few drops and adding the rest in a steady stream.

2.  Place the pork chops in a shallow dish and season all over with salt.  Add the remaining 1 tsp thyme and 3 tbsp of the dressing.  Coat the pork and set aside to marinate for five minutes.

3.  Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.  Grill the pork until cooked through but still moist, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

4.  Add the grapes and arugula to the remaining dressing and toss to coat.  Transfer the pork chops to a serving platter or individual plates; top with the salad and sprinkle with the gorgonzola.

Tuscan Pork Stew with Polenta

tuscan-pork-stew-with-polenta

This was an incredible dish from an article about Sting and his Italian estate in Food & Wine Magazine.  Apparently they have wild boar running about on the property, so every now and then they’ll hunt one, and the chef serves it up in this delicious dish.  Now that’s the life I’m hoping to lead!  At the moment, our English Pointer Jazz roams the grounds here in Burnsville, so we don’t have a lot of wild boar on hand for dinners.  Not to worry, we substituted the boneless pork shoulder as the recipe recommended, and the result was fantastic.   There are obviously a good number of ingredients, but the preparation itself was not that difficult.  In the end, the meat was tender as could be imagined, and the richness of the sauce was a fantastic counterpoint to the simple polenta over which it was served.  We enjoyed it with a fresh loaf of rustic peasant bread, and it was a stunner!

Ingredients

pork marinade

  • 1 bottle dry red wine
  • 4 rosemary sprigs
  • 4 sage sprigs
  • 1 red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, coarsely chopped
  • 1 carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries
  • 2 teaspoons whole cloves
  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes

stew and polenta

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon very finely chopped sage
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons very finely chopped rosemary
  • Salt
  • Crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 2 whole cloves, 8 juniper berries, 2 bay leaves and 4 peppercorns, tied in cheesecloth
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups polenta (not instant)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preparation

Marinate the Pork:  In a large, resealable plastic bag, combine the wine, rosemary, sage, red onion, celery, carrot, bay leaves, peppercorns, juniper berries and cloves. Add the pork and seal the bag, pressing out the air. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Make the Stew and Polenta:  Rinse off the pork and discard the marinade. In a medium enameled cast-iron casserole, cover the pork cubes with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, then drain. Pat the pork dry.

Wipe out the casserole, add the olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the pork cubes, celery, carrot, red onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat and vegetables are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the sage and rosemary, season with salt and a pinch of crushed red pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine and simmer over moderate heat until it’s nearly evaporated, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the chicken stock and spice bundle and bring to a boil.

Partially cover the casserole and cook the stew over very low heat until the meat is very tender and the liquid has reduced by half, about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the 8 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Whisk in the polenta in a thin stream. Cook the polenta over low heat, whisking constantly, until it begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Continue cooking over low heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the polenta is very thick and no longer gritty, about 30 minutes. Stir in the butter and season the polenta with salt.

Skim the fat from the stew and discard the spice bundle. Stir in the parsley and season with salt. Spoon the polenta into 6 shallow bowls, spoon the pork stew on top and serve piping hot.

Pork Roast with Whiskey Sauce

pork-roast-with-whiskey-sauce

I’ve nominated this as the best pork roast we’ve ever made in our humble kitchen.  The meat was succulent and tender, and as juicy as I’ve ever tasted.  It’s a slow-cooker recipe, so as the day went on the pleasant aroma of the whiskey sauce continued to build, teasing our noses.  As we sat down to enjoy, we knew that all the waiting would be worthwhile.  I was especially pleased with the combination of the Dijon mustard and the Jack Daniels, which perfectly accented the flavor of the roast.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Medium onion, peeled and sliced
  • 3-1/2 pounds, boneless port butt, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 Tbsp Montreal steak seasoning, McCormick Grill Mates
  • 3 Tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1/2 Cup Jack Daniels Whiskey
  • 2 Tbsp salt-free citrus herb seasoning, Spice Islands
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard, Grey Poupon

Preparation:

Place onion in a 5-quart slow cooker.

Season all sides of port butt with Montreal steak seasoning.  Place in slow cooker on top of onions, fat side up.

In a small bowl, stir together remaining ingredients.  Pour over pork roast.  Cover and cook on LOW setting for 8 to 10 hours.

Strain and defat cooking liquid.  Serve as sauce on the side.

Firecracker Pork Ribs

Mmmm…ribs…..  This has always been a winning recipe, but I think tonight’s rendition was the best we’ve ever done it.  The preparation is very easy, and the results are basically “no fail”.  The resulting ribs were soft and fall-off-the-bone tender, and served with a potato salad and a frosty glass of Sam Adams Boston Lager, it was 4th of July in the Solberg house!

Ingredients:

Preparation:

Prepare the Powderpuff Rib Rub one day prior to cooking.  Place two sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil on the counter, to form a double layer.  Optional: remove the membrane on the underside of the slab.  This is not required, but may result in a more tender final product.  Place the slab on the aluminum foil, and sprinkle the rub generously over both sides.  Pat the dry rub into the meat.  Fold up the aluminum foil to form a packet around the ribs, and seal tightly.  Refrigerate the meat for at least one hour, preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

Open one end of the foil on the slab, and carefully pour in the 1/2 cup of warm water.  Seal the foil once again, and tilt back and forth to evenly distribute the liquid.  Braise the ribs in the oven for 2-1/2 hours.

When braising is complete, carefully open the foil and remove the slab of ribs.  Apply a layer of the Still House Barbecue Sauce

Optional:  Preheat grill.  Grill the slab over medium heat for approximately 8 minutes, turning once.  Remove from grill, and apply a fresh layer of sauce.  Carefully cut slab into two rib sections, serve and enjoy!