Saturday night – 03/30/2013

Twas the eve before Easter and all through the land many friends were scurrying to finish their plans.

Sorry for the bad rhythm. We knew several of our friends would be joining us this week so we went with a slightly simpler menu. The weather was lovely; had it been 10 degrees warmer I would have made use of the grill.

Menu
Maple-Glazed Pork Tenderloin (Cook’s Illustrated – requires an account)
Home Fries (potato with onion & pepper)
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Homemade wheat bran rolls

Ice cream from the local ice stand for dessert

Notes under the cut

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Guinness-braised Pork Shoulder

After searching the Internet for recipes and/or inspiration I came up with this recipe for a braised pork shoulder. There’s nothing fancy here however it came out quite tasty and was a hit.

One key, to any braise, is a pot large enough to hold your meat on which the lid will sit properly. This traps the liquid in the pot and helps cook the meat in a moist environment. I have a Calphalon dutch oven I picked up a decade ago that works well, especially for larger pieces of meat like this pork shoulder. We also have a Le Creuset that works great.

Guinness-braised Pork Shoulder
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 3.5 hours

Ingredients:

  • 7.5 lbs. bone-in pork shoulder
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1 bottle Guinness or other stout (12 oz.)
  • 12 oz. water (just use the Guinness bottle)
  • 1 onion, skin removed and halved top-to-root
  • 2 carrots, topped and cut into 3″ pieces
  • 2 stalks celery, trimmed and cut into 3″ pieces
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 Tbsp. black peppercorns, crushed
  • 6 juniper berries, crushed

Directions:

  1. Remove all racks from the oven except one and place it in the lowest rack location. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Pat the pork shoulder dry and trim off any excess fat. Rub it with a generous amount of kosher salt and cracked black pepper.
  3. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Place the pork shoulder in the dutch oven, searing each side of the meat. This took me 15-20 minutes total.
  4. Transfer the pork to a plate and add the Guinness to the pan. Scrap up any bits of meat that have stuck to the bottom of the dutch oven. Add the remaining ingredients. Return the pork to the dutch oven and nestle it among the vegetables. The liquid will probably only come about 1/2 way up the meat; don’t sweat it.
  5. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover the dutch oven and move it to the oven. Cook for around 3 hours, turning the meat over every hour.
  6. Other than turning the meat just ignore it. Read a book, watch a movie, go for a walk. At around 2.5 hours check the temperature of the pork, making sure to avoid the bone. You want the internal temp. to hit around 160°F. Check a few spot to make sure the pork is fully cooked.
  7. Remove the pork from the oven and place the pan on a heat-safe surface like a cooking rack. Transfer the pork to a cutting board to rest for at least 15 minutes; cover loosely with aluminum foil.
  8. Taste the cooking liquid. If it is flavorful and not overly salty you can serve it with the meat. Remove the vegetables; they’ve given their all and really aren’t worth serving with the meat. Strain the cooking liquid to remove the spices. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to your liking.
  9. When the meat has rested you can try slicing the meat. That didn’t work for me so I just pulled chunks of meat off the bone. I cut the bigger chunks into slices. Arrange the meat on a platter; pour a little of the cooking liquid over the top if you decided to use it. Enjoy.

Notes:
One frustration I have when following a recipe is that you can never find the same size piece of meat the author recommends. So ignore the size and try to get the same type. In this case you want a medium size bone-in pork shoulder. If the one you get is much less than 6 lbs. then you’ll probably need less liquid. Have a bit of the Guinness (or I suppose you could leave out some of the water).

You can go with a boneless pork shoulder if you want however I don’t think the end product will be quite so tasty. Bones provide a lot of flavor, even in a moist cooking method like this.

I think I’ve sung the praises of the Oxo Fat Separator before. If you like to cook braises and you don’t have one I think you are working too hard. The built in strainer catches the odds and ends of spices. Let it sit a few minutes and the fat rises to the top. So much easier than skimming fat off with a spoon.

Final note… in an ideal world I could have made this the day before, let it cool and refrigerated it overnight. I then could have easily sliced it and reheated it with the strained cooking liquid. I’ve never managed to find the time to do that however it sounds lovely. 🙂

Honey-glazed Rutabaga

I was looking for an alternative preparation for rutabaga; boiling or roasting get a tad boring after a while. A bit of web surfing brought me to a dead link for “honey rutabaga” and eventually I found Honey-Honey Rutabaga. I have not idea what that name means however I thought I’d give it a try.

Here’s my take on it with a bit of tweaking and rewritten in my own words.

Honey-glazed Rutabaga
Servings: 10-12
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes (give or take)
  • 4 Tbsp. Rye Whiskey
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 4 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 tsp. candied tangerine peel, chopped fine
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Directions:

  1. Place the rutabaga in a sauce pan and add water. Fill the pan so that the rutabaga is covered by at least 1″ of water. Add about 1 Tbsp. kosher salt to the water and heat over high heat until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 15-20 minutes. Check periodically to see if you can pierce a largish piece with the tip of a paring knife. If you can reach the center the piece with a minimum of pressure then it is done. Drain and hold.
  2. Wipe the sauce pan clean with a paper towel. Off heat add the whiskey, butter, honey and tangerine peel. Return to medium heat and stir until the butter melts. When all ingredients have combined cook at a slight boil until the sauce thickens slightly.
  3. Return the rutabagas to the pan and toss to coat with the sauce. Taste, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy.

Notes:
I’ve found that the best way to “peel” a rutabaga is to split it in half and then “shave” off the peel with a chef’s knife. A vegetable peeler usually doesn’t work well for me.

I’m a home cook. While I try to make my cubes 1″ square they often range anywhere from 1/2″ to 1 1/2″ with a bunch of odd bits from the rounded parts of the vegetable. Cut yourself some slack (unless you are asking someone to pay you for your cooking, then make it pretty).

The original recipe called for the unspecific “whiskey”; I used Russell’s Reserve Rye because it is what we keep in the house. You could substitute something like apple juice if you wanted to skip the booze.

Saturday night – 03/16/2013

St. Patrick’s Day is tomorrow. In the past I would have made a modified boiled dinner (cooking the corned beef separately from the veggies so our vegetarian friend could enjoy dinner with us). A couple of years ago another Saturday regular discovered they were allergic to beef; corned beef was out. So below is my vaguely Irish themed dinner.

Menu
Guinness-braised Pork Shoulder au jus
Boiled red potatoes with butter
Honey-glazed Rutabaga
Braised Cabbage
Irish Soda Bread

Apple Crisp

Notes under the cut

Saturday night – 03/09/2013

I picked up a turkey breast before the last snowstorm thinking I would cook it up on Sunday. Instead we drove in the snow to Ikea. So I had this turkey breast sitting around and when Saturday night came into view I knew what was for dinner. Basically Thanksgiving dinner in March.

Menu
Roasted turkey breast
Herb dressing
Mashed potatoes
Gravy
Butternut Squash with Spinach and Cranberries
Cranberry sauce
Homemade bread

Notes under the cut