Sunday, December 26, 2010

Braised Pork "Country Ribs"

A few days ago, getting away from the intensive pre-Christmas cooking that involved me both at home and at our restaurant, I prepared an inexpensive cut of pork I often see at the supermarket but rarely use. "Country-style" pork ribs are the lower side of the loin when the more expensive ribs and surrounding meat are cut off. The section contains some bone and lots of meat, along with some marbling of fat that predicts moist tenderness. The portion is cut crosswise into five to six strips, each containing some rib.

I got a 3-pound portion and braised it like I would beef short ribs. The difference was that the meat was more plentiful, the price considerably lower and the cooking time shorter.

This went with mashed potatoes, since there was meat with some vegetable and a lot of thick gravy-like liquid. I just had some of it leftover after several days of rich Christmas fare. It tasted homey, delicious, if I say so myself, and satisfying.

I did not try a wine with this, but would go for a medium-bodied red, such as a fruity Merlot or Tempranillo, or even a dry Riesling or a Viognonier.

The recipe serves six, generously.

Braised Country-Style Pork Ribs

3 pounds "country-style" pork ribs, as meaty as possible
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Rendered fat or olive or canola oil
1 medium-small onion, chopped
1/2 large stick celery, chopped
1 medium-large carrot, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons red wine
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup unsalted chicken broth or water, plus more as needed
1 whole clove
2 bay leaves
Small pinch of thyme
1 10-ounce bag frozen French-cut green beans

Trim any large pieces of fat, if present, off the ribs. Dust ribs evenly with mixture of salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Select casserole pan or dutch oven big enough to hold meat in one layer. Over medium heat, melt a little of the trimmed fat, or use a tablespoon olive or canola oil. Gently fry meat pieces, turning them frequently until lightly browned on all sides.

Prepare vegetables and add to fried meat, turning meat pieces. Vegetables will settle to bottom. Fry gently about 5 minutes, turning frequently and scraping bottom of pan.

Add soy, ketchup, wine and Worcestershire. Turn pieces while frying gently several minutes.

Add half a cup of broth or water, the clove, bay leaves and thyme. Simmer, covered, turning meat from time to time. Add a little broth or water as needed to keep half an inch of liquid around meat.

As meat becomes tender (total cooking time of 40-50 minutes), add frozen green beans, without thawing. Stir and cook another 10 to 15 minutes, until beans are tender and meat is beginning to fall apart.

Taste sauce from time to time during the later stages of cooking. Add salt, if necessary. Remove bay leaves and clove, if you can find it.

Serve with mashed potatoes or potatoes boiled, lightly salted and buttered.

Friday, December 10, 2010

"Terra Cotta" Dip for Maria

The third of a trio of appetizers I created for open house gallery events for my daughter Maria, this one also has a linkage to Maria's pottery,

Terra Cotta is the Italian term (literally baked earth) for the type of low-fired pottery that Maria does. Actually she makes "majolica," which is terra cotta covered by white slip then decorated with colored slips and glazes. But turn majolica pieces over and the characteristic earthy brick red pottery shows on the bottom.

This spread or dip is made from seven red to redish brown ingredients, which come out a rich earthy red color.

The dip is remotely a Mexican bean dip, so low-salt tortilla chips or crackers go with it.

The recipe makes enough for a large appetizer table for many gallery visitors. Serve it in a terra cotta dish.

"Terra Cotta" Bean Dip for Maria

2 pounds dry pinto beans
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
3 large dried mild red chilies (California or Guajillo)
3/4 cup red wine
2 large red bell peppers
1/2 cup olive or canola oil, divided
1 medium red onion, cut in chunks
1 large clove garlic
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Pick over, rinse, then prepare beans. Either do the soak then boil (in fresh water) until tender, or pressure cook dry beans in plenty of water, 30 minutes at full pressure. Let cool.

Discard seeds and stems from chilies. Simmer chilies and dried tomatoes in the wine, until softened, about 10 minutes.

Place chili mixture and liquid in food processor. Puree them, scraping down the side of the container.

Seed red bell peppers, and fry flesh in part of the oil until softened. Add peppers and their frying oil to processor and puree.

Add onion, garlic vinegar, salt and pepper. Puree.

Add part of the cooked beans, lifted from cooking liquid with slotted spoon, to food processor. Puree the mixture and remove to a bowl.

Puree the remainder of beans, along with the remaining oil. Stir into first batch. If too thick add a little of the bean liquid.

After 10 minutes, stir mixture again, then taste it. Add salt, if needed, to make the mixture faintly salty (beans will soak up some more).

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Braised Turkey "Pot Roast"

After the turkey load at Thanksgiving, it seems inauspicious to propose yet another turkey dish. However this one is different. And as a savory and substantial dish, it goes well in winter.

It was an effort at copying (I'll admit it) a dish that the "Flying Biscuit," our neighborhood comfort food place, has offered for years. They accompany it with a hearty mashed potato dish called "pudge," said to be a family recipe of the original chef.

That creative chef is long gone, the restaurant has been bought by a corporation and replicated elsewhere, but -- or maybe, therefore -- the menu at the Flying Biscuit doesn't seem ever to change. For some of their dishes, their salad and their biscuits, that's fine with me.

Here's the way I worked out the dish. I received no tips from the cooks at the restaurant, but I didn't ask.

It's been a while since I thought of this dish, but I was reminded of it by having cooked a lot of turkeys recently for catering and family.

The recipe will serve 4 to 6 people.

Braised Turkey Pot Roast, after the manner of The Flying Biscuit

2 turkey thighs, about 2 pounds total
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 large stick celery, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup unseasoned chicken broth, or water
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon thyme
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Minced parsley for garnish

In heavy pot, gently fry turkey thighs (skin still on) in oil. (More oil will come from turkey.) Fry over medium-low heat, turning frequently, until browned all over.

Lift thighs out of pot to a plate. Sprinkle all over with a mixture of the salt, black pepper and nutmeg.

Meanwhile, fry diced onion and celery in drippings remaining in pot, stirring frequently, until golden brown.

Stir in garlic, and fry 1 minute. Stir in flour, and fry 2 minutes.

Add pre-fried turkey thighs and wine. Let boil gently, scraping bottom of pot.

Add broth or water plus all the seasonings. Simmer, covered, turning thighs occasionally and scraping bottom of pot, until meat is very tender.

Remove thighs, scraping off any sauce and returning it to the pot. Discard skin and bone and tough parts from meat.

Return lean meat to pot, pull it apart somewhat with two forks. Simmer the mixture briefly. Taste and add salt, if needed.

Serve with mashed potatoes or with boiled, buttered potatoes or noodles. Dust top with minced parsley.