Pork Chile Verde

Pork Chile VerdeNetflix and Chile Verde
Last week I made something I haven’t made in…forever. Pork Chile Verde. I love Chile Verde but it takes a while. So, it’s not something that frequently graces my dinner table. I tend to only order it when we go to a restaurant for Mexican. In this instance, I had boneless pork shoulder in the freezer that kept getting in my way and driving me nuts. And I wanted to figure out what to do with it beyond the usual pulled pork.

On impulse, I bought a bunch of tomatillos and brought them home for no other reason than I was bored with the usual stuff, (And, they were in a basket next to the jalapeños and Anaheim chiles which are a veggie drawer staple in my house.) I had no idea what I was going to do with the tomatillos but having them on hand must have lead me to the whole Chile Verde epiphany.

The urge to make Chile Verde sent me into this somewhat manic desire to create an entire experience like going to our favorite Mexican restaurant. I made the Mexican rice and the refried beans as well as the tortillas. I even went so far as to make flan for dessert. (So worth it!). I mean, it’s not like I had anything else to do so why not? If we can’t go out to eat, then we’ll do it at home with plenty of margaritas in the blender.

The key to this dish is meat that isn’t too lean which is why pork shoulder is great. You gotta have the fat or it will be dry.

Pork Chile Verde
Adapted from The Food Network 
Yields 4 to 6 servings Read more…

Sophie’s Steamed Pork Buns

Sophie’s Steamed Pork BunsChopped: Family Style
If we let her, my daughter would be totally happy to spend her days watching the Harry Potter movies for the eight hundredth time or binge-watching whatever is on Food Network. She has a number of Food Network favorites which is why last Saturday my family found us split into teams standing in front of a basket of “random” ingredients for our shelter-in-place version of Chopped.

It was a blast. I was in charge of coming up with the ingredient basket as well judging the final product. The ingredient list was difficult. I really struggled with it and it took me days to decide. What made it so hard were the different levels of culinary skill involved which ranged from “I’m awesome at pouring cereal” to “I make French Macarons just ‘cause”. I had to make sure that my husband and sons had a fighting chance. After wracking my brain and one sorta sleepless night, I came up with the following ingredient list: Ground pork, baby spinach, balsamic vinegar, wonton wrappers, and a condiment called Chile Crunch.

After a week of trash talk and posturing, the contestants were given 90 minutes to come up with their recipe and then make it happen. Dishes would be judged on a scale of one to ten for Execution, Creativity, Flavor, and Presentation. I got nervous watching my husband and son struggle to decide what to make with what they were given as my daughter literally pulled every bottle and spice she could out of my pantry and got to work. Eventually, everybody got to work and it was fascinating and at times frightening to watch.

My son, the cereal king, was paired with my husband. I was surprised and happy to see that said son took the lead and was more willing to take a chance on certain combinations. On the other side of the island, my daughter was channeling Gordon Ramsey (with fewer F-bombs) while telling (ordering loudly) her brother to chop the veggies. (NO! The carrots have to be julienned! You know, like little sticks!) She’ll either end up as Chef de Cuisine at some Michelin starred restaurant or as head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It could go either way. Somewhere along the line, my husband liberated the wine which may account for a large part of the creative cooking techniques that were used.

When time was up I was presented with two dishes that were actually fantastic. The first plate held some spinach and ricotta ravioli with a spicy pork Bolognese and sourdough garlic breadsticks. So good! The second had a steamed pork bun on a bed of stir-fried vegetables with crispy won tons. Yum!

Not going to lie, judging was difficult. Both had great flavor. Both were impressive in execution. Ultimately, Mini Gordon and sous chef were the winners with their pork bun based mainly on creativity and presentation. Both teams put in great effort. The best thing to come out of this though besides a great dinner? The kids have asked if they each can make dinner one night a week…glory hallelujah! My work here is done…

Sophie’s Steamed Pork Buns Recipe
Read more…

Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Spring Gremolata

Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Spring GremolataHoled Up for the Holiday
Easter is going to be different this weekend. To be fair, we’ll still do most of the same things we would normally do. There will be Easter baskets and chocolate bunnies (though they may be a bit smaller). There won’t be any fancy clothes, which frankly, won’t upset too many of us. We’ll just put on our “good” pair of sweats. There will be Easter dinner but there will not be the traditional purple goblets that my grandmother always used. Well, at least not at my house. My sister will probably use them while also wearing her “good” sweats.

But what to cook?

During the first full week of the shelter-in-place order, I was thrilled to know that HoneyBaked Ham was still up and running. So I walked up the street and bought a bigger ham than I needed and a couple of their soup and chili mixes. We ate ham for dinner and had sandwiches for days. I used the bone to make a fantastic soup and put the rest of the ham in the freezer for later use. We happily devoured that ham but it left me with a problem for Easter. We normally do ham on Easter but at this point, my family can’t even look at it. And, I agree which means we’re going with door number two…leg of lamb.

Lamb for Easter is a no-brainer. It’s springtime—and few things are more synonymous with springtime than lamb. There are a number of ways you could choose to prepare your lamb. I’m opting for a butterflied leg, to make it easier to slice. Growing up my grandmother would do a full, on the bone, very traditional leg of lamb that she studded with garlic cloves and then roasted in the oven. (Yes, there was mint jelly.) It was fantastic. But, I’m just not feeling it. Maybe I’m bored, maybe I’m rebellious. But, I want something with brighter bolder flavors so I’m throwing mine on the grill.

This recipe has a decidedly Middle Eastern flavor with Aleppo pepper and lemon. Feel free to substitute what you don’t have. I’ve had to do a lot of that lately. Every meal has been a bit of an adventure. The pepper can be swapped for hot paprika or even straight-up red chili flakes. I would encourage you to use as many of the fresh herbs as possible though I get it. They may be hard to come by. If you can find them rejoice. That bright, happy, fresh flavor is something that everyone could use a little of right now!

Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Spring Gremolata
Yields 12 servings
Adapted from NY Times Cooking Read more…

Mom’s Lamb Chops

Mom's Lamb ChopsMom Knows Best
You’ve stocked your freezer to the best of your ability. So now what? This has actually been one of my biggest challenges because this is totally different than how I normally cook. Generally, I stock up on things like cereal, lunch meat, snacks, etc. on the weekends. And then during the week, I make dinner according to what I feel like bringing home that day. I don’t store a whole lot of stuff in my freezer. Now that people are sheltering in place, food supply is good in some areas but bad in others, and despite the fact that I am still coming in to work, I can’t operate in the same way.

So, dinners have been pretty basic and ingredients have been limited to what I have on hand. I have noticed that I have subconsciously reverted back to my childhood and what my Mom used to make for weeknight dinners. Mom didn’t shop for food every day so what was in the fridge and pantry was what we had for dinner. Cream of mushroom soup was turned into a chicken and rice casserole. (Very old school…but total comfort food.) Pork chops with Shake & Bake on them and applesauce on the side appeared regularly. (I still make this. Though, I admit I have swapped the Shake & Bake for seasoned Panko.) But if there was one recipe that reminds me the most of my Mom, it would be her lamb chops.

I have posted this recipe before and I felt compelled to post it again after I made them for dinner the other night. Making this dish made me feel better. It was the very definition of comfort food. Which was probably why I had lamb chops in the freezer to begin with. These couldn’t be simpler and the recipe calls for three pantry staples: soy sauce, garlic powder, and rosemary (fresh or dried, though fresh is better). For me, they have to be served alongside mashed potatoes and peas or it’s just not right but feel free to do what you want.

They say, food is memories and my suggestion for everyone as we shelter in place to protect our physical selves, don’t forget to protect our mental selves. If that means making grandma’s special cake or Dad’s killer chili, I say go for it…I’ll be over here with my lamb chops and chicken casserole.

Mom’s Lamb Chops
Yields 4 servings

The amount of marinade Mom made depended on how many chops she had. You can use whatever lamb chops you can find: sirloin chops, loin chops—whatever works.

Mom always used loin chops and we always got exactly two on our plate. And, always with mashed potatoes and peas. Read more…