Thursday, January 14, 2010

.honey cider glazed pork.

My husband and I got sucked into another reality tv cooking show on Bravo called "Chef Academy". It is run by Chef Jean Christophe Novelli from France. Difficult to understand what he's saying half the time, but for me.. it's all about the food.

Each week he'd focus on different areas of cooking - bread, meat, seafood, desserts. The week he taught how to cook meat, he made a honey cider glazed pork that looked to.die.for. He used pork belly and let it slow cook for 4 hours in the oven. Heaven help me! *swoon*

I wasn't able to find pork belly so I used a Boston pork butt roast and it was amazing. I can only imagine how much better the belly portion would be. This was super super easy to make. If you're looking for something you can pop into the oven and forget about, this is the dish for you!

Take your piece of pork and, with the fat side up, rub liberally with cumin, kosher salt, and fresh cracked black pepper. Chef Novelli put 2 star anise on top, but I didn't have whole, so I sprinkled on anise seed. Don't use too much because it can be overpowering. Place on top of the roast 3 bay leaves, 5-6 sprigs of fresh thyme and 2 crushed cloves of garlic.

Put the roast into a pan and drizzle with a cup of honey and 1 1/2 cups apple cider. Slice up two onions and scatter those around the sides of the pork.

Pop into a 300* F oven and let it cook. Make sure you check on it every 30 minutes or so and baste with the juices in the bottom of the pan. The honey and cider will caramelize all over the skin of the pork. If it's looking too black, cover it with a piece of foil.

When it's done, remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Slice or shred and serve with your favorite side item. The flavors are a lot like a bbq sauce. So tender and juicy and aromatic. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Year's Eve Madness

Since I last posted back in October, a lot has been happening. We were in the process of buying a house closer to campus but that fell through, so we started looking again and found a beautiful new home only 25 minutes from the school. We're expected to close mid February and while I'm not looking forward to moving AGAIN, I'm excited to have a new place and start decorating.

This year, I catered and planned a wedding, catered and planned a birthday bash, catered and planned the Christmas party for church, *and* on top of it all, decided to throw a New Year's Eve party! I am completely insane. I'm just grateful my husband is so willing to go along with my plans and still keep a smile on his face. I just *LOVE* him! <3 id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5425885664440924354" style="DISPLAY: block; MARGIN: 0px auto 10px; WIDTH: 400px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 266px; TEXT-ALIGN: center" alt="" src="" border="0">Here's what my dining table looked like that night. When throwing a party, it's always a great idea to make the food and table the focal point. Putting food trays at various heights and angles is a great way to do that. If I removed that white tablecloth, you'd see how I did it. I used books, boxes, pots and pans upside down and towels. If I'm putting a basket at an angle, or want a salad tipped, towels are AWESOME because you can get the achieved look and it will keep the bowl/basket from moving too much. Once I put everything in the right spot, I drape it with tablecloths or fabric. I put a strand of white icicle lights on the table to give it extra lumination. A hurricane candle put on a tier and a vase of branches spray-painted white, help bring visual interest as well.

From this angle, let me tell you what I made. (left to right) Rosettes, Crab Rangoon, Meat and Cheese tray (I had a small tray of crackers on the other side), Lemon Tarts, Baked Santa Fe Dip, and Chocolate Cake.

From this side (right to left) I made a Parmesan-Artichoke dip (recipe below), Stuffed Mushrooms, Hot Wings, and on the far far end, you can't see but I had a tray of Soutwest Eggrolls.

The next time you decide to have a party, try out some of these recipes. Happy New Year!

Parmesan-Artichoke Dip

1 can (the size of a can of beans) artichokes, drained and roughly chopped
1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
8oz goat cheese
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cups fresh grated parmesan cheese
4 Tbsp basil (fresh), roughly chopped
3/4 c. panko bread crumbs (japanese bread crumbs)

Mix all the ingredients together and put in a baking crock. Put in a 375* oven for about 20 minutes or until the dip is bubbling and golden on top. Serve with crostini (toasted baguette chip).

*To make the crostini, slide a french baguette on the diagonal. Lay on a cookie sheet and brush the tops with olive oil. Put in a 400* oven for about 5 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Store in a large ziploc to keep fresh.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

.beef stew.

Happy New Year! I'm embarrassed that I haven't updated in so long but truth be told, I have been so busy the past few months. I'm hoping for a reprieve once we get settled into our new house next month.

I trust you all had a good holiday season? Ours was wonderful. During the time my husband had off work, we watched the movie Julie & Julia. Have you seen it? It's such a great movie and it helped to inspire me all over again! One of the recipes the main character makes is Boeuf Bourguignon and it had me craving (craving!) a rich beefy stock with cooked vegetables.

Growing up, my mom would make stew quite a lot trying to use up the odds and ends of vegetables in the freezer (She can make a mean soup!) and I would have used her method, but I was looking to do something richer... something better (sorry mom!).

I remembered back to when I made Shepherd's Pie. The rich sauce from that dish was exactly what I wanted so I took a little from that recipe and a little from my mom's and went from there.

Something about stew, is you can't rush it. The beef needs to be seared and then braised in liquid until it's so fork tender it literally melts in your mouth. This pot sat on the stove to simmer for at least 2 hours. Trust me... if you give it the proper time it needs, the results will be well worth it!

Begin by taking a package of beef stew chunks, found in any grocery meat department and cutting off as much fat and sinew as possible. Sinew is that muscle layer that sticks to the meat and makes it tough and chewy.

Stew meat is perfect for this. It's rather cheap since it's pieces of meat that are remaining once all the big, regular cuts are made. Since the butcher can't actually sell it as a steak, they sell it for occasions when you need small, bite-sized pieces of meat. The downside is you have to cut off all the undesireable stuff.

Put the cut up stew meat in a bowl or in a large ziploc and sprinkle with flour and salt and pepper. In my case, I used Lawry's seasoned salt. Coat well.

Prep your vegetables. I used one onion (sliced into quarters), 4 carrots (left in their round shape), and 3 white or gold potatoes. You want about 1 1/2 cups of all your vegetables. I also quartered mushrooms to add in later.

Slice up approximately 1/2 cup pancetta. You could use bacon, but the smoky flavor of the bacon is not what we want and will probably overpower the soup. Pancetta is usually found in the deli area of your grocer.

Make your bouquet garni. We want to add a lot of flavor to the stew and this is a great way to do it. In my bouquet, I put thyme, bay leaf, and some flat leaf parsley. In addition to the garni, I minced 1 clove garlic and set it aside.

Heat a soup pot and drizzle in some olive oil. Add a third to half the stew meat. Don't overcrowd the pan. Sear the beef as best you can on all sides. My meat tends to stick together because of the flour so it's difficult browning on all sides. Don't worry about that. Just make sure you get as many sides browned. This will lock in the juices, resulting in tender tender steak! When one half is done, remove from the pan and set aside. Repeat until all meat is seared.

Add the vegetables to the pot with the pancetta and garlic. Saute for a 4-5 minutes. When the onions are nearly translucent, add 2 cups red wine, 4 cups beef stock, and 4 cups chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring the soup to a boil and scrape along the bottom of the pan to bring up those baked on bits of delicious goodness. When the liquid begins to boil, add the bouquet garni and mushrooms, and reduce the heat down to low. Cover the top part way with a lid.

There will be a lot of broth, and we want to reduce it down a little so it leaves you with a rich sauce that has a lot of flavor. If you put the lid on all the way, the evaporated moisture won't have a way to escape and your sauce can't reduce down.

After it simmers on the cooktop for 2 hours, it's time for the last step. Remove the bouquet garni and discard. In a bowl, mix together 1 cup milk with 1/4 cup flour. Whisk well to remove all lumps. To ensure I don't have any, I strain with a sieve. While stirring, add the milk/flour mixture to the pot. Turn the heat to high and keep stirring until the sauce thickens a little. Taste and re-season if necessary.

This stew is the perfect dish on a cold winter night. Serve with salad and rolls, if you like. As Julia Child would say.... Bon Appetit!

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