Friday, June 18, 2010

Pork Stew with Hard Cider, Pearl Onions, and Potatoes

The February 2010 issue of Bon Appétit offers a decidedly wintry concoction called Pork Stew with Hard Cider, Pearl Onions, and Potatoes. However, I loves me some stew any time of year, and given that my husband is a die hard meat-n-taters man, I figured this would be a good choice. It was, but I'd make some changes for next time.

We thought the finished product was a little too sweet, probably due to the inclusion of a chopped Granny Smith apple. I'll leave that out next time. I'll also leave out the thickener, a paste of butter and flour whisked into the finished stew. It wasn't necessary.

A delectable mix of root veggies was used. The purple onions came out of my vegetable garden. For some reason, they all came out really small, but since this recipe calls for pearl onions, they were the perfect size!

Chopped bacon is cooked and removed to be added back later. I love bacon!

Cubes of boneless pork shoulder, also called Boston butt, are seasoned with salt and pepper before being browned in the bacon fat.

The cider I used was a kind I drink regularly, Hornsby's Hard Cider Amber Draft. I'm not a beer drinker, but this stuff tastes deliciously apple-y. I halved the recipe, so part of the cider was for cooking and part of it was for drinking. My kinda dinnertime!

This was the first time I've ever cooked parsnips, which were sautéed with chopped shallots.

The photo of the finished stew keeps winding up funky on the post's layout, so I'll try to add it again later.

Pork Chops with Peppers and Green Beans

The May 2010 issue of Everyday Food offers a recipe for Pork Chops with Peppers and Green Beans that is simple and tasty. I'm always looking for ways to sneak more vegetables into our meals, and this is a good one. You simply grill bone-in pork chops with some salt and pepper, and make the veggies separately to pile on top of the cooked chops.

I substituted garlic for the ginger because I forgot to buy fresh ginger, and I left out the jalapeño because I was feeding a 3 year old. The green bean and roasted pepper combination was unexpectedly good. I love roasted peppers, and fresh green beans are welcome on my plate any time.

This was one of the dishes I knew my husband would complain about, so I served him a plain pork chop and made some Rice-A-Roni wild rice pilaf on the side, which he likes. I'd prefer to ditch boxed sides altogether, but we compromise with rice and I often make my own with onion, garlic, parsley, and chicken broth instead of the plethora of unpronounceable crap that goes into a box of rice mix.

Operation: Expand Horizons - The Moral of the Story

I'd have to say that Operation: Expand Horizons was a blessing and a curse. The blessing part was that I got to try some new recipes, cook some interesting dishes, and clean out the recipe collection a bit.

The curse part was that my picky-eater husband pretty much bitched the entire month. How dare I ruin a perfectly good pork chop by putting stuff on top of it, and why can't we just have rice or potatoes or green beans for every side dish?

There were some good things in the process, too. I realized that planning a menu ahead of time, even just week by week, helps reduce stress tremendously. The simple act of having a list on the fridge of what's on deck for that week makes things easier.

I realized that despite my husband's pickiness, I am a pretty good cook, and even though feeding him for the rest of my life will most assuredly be a pain in the ass at times, I do thoroughly enjoy cooking and baking and feeding my family good food. I'm damn stubborn and I can't shake the feeling that I will change this man's mind eventually.

At any rate, I'm still going to throw in a new recipe once or twice a week, and when I feel like eating something really weird, I'll make it for lunch.

The blog goes on. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Day Twenty-Five: Creamy Lemon Squares

Day 25 of Operation: Expand Horizons brings another dessert from Everyday Food- Creamy Lemon Squares from the June 2008 issue.

This simple yet delicious dessert comes together quickly and easily. The crust only has four ingredients: butter, salt, flour, and powdered sugar. The filling has only three: lemon juice, sweetened condensed milk, and egg yolks. After briefly baking the shortbread-like crust, whisked-together filling is poured in and the whole thing gets baked until set. Chill, cut, and dust with powdered sugar, and you have a dessert that's sure to please.


Equipment Corner: Mandoline Slicer

I'm not usually one for expensive kitchen gadgets. My husband, however, thought I should have a mandoline slicer and bought me one for my birthday a few years ago. He got me the De Buyer Pro-V Mandoline V Professionelle, which retails for around $230.00. It came with a carrying case, two horizontal slicing blades (one flat and one ridged), and three different sized julienne blades.

This is an item that I thought I'd never use. That all changed when I realized just how great it is. It saves time, creates perfectly even slices, and multi-tasks. You can cut not only slices of varying thickness, but you can make waffle cuts, ridged cuts, and juliennes with precision.

There are other models out there for a lot less money, and I'm sure you can find a decent one for around fifty bucks.