Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

ASIAN-STYLE ROASTED PORK

Posted: May 26, 2022 in Uncategorized

I love pulled pork, or pork roast…cuts that use inexpensive, fatty cuts of meat that are full of flavor as long as you roast them low and slow.

 

A very special cut of pork!

I recently received a gift of a very fancy cut of pork: Spanish Iberico, where the pigs roam freely, feasting on acorns. It’s some of the best pork you can buy.

But even with a much less expensive cut of pork, like a pork shoulder, you can achieve some delicious results as long as you give it time: time for the marinade to get absorbed into the meat, and time for the meat to cook slowly at a low temperature. Low and slow is key to melting the fat and gristle, and making the meat as tender as it can be.

The pork, before marinating.

Just like with a basic pulled pork recipe, the spices you use make all the difference. I usually make a spice rub that I generously rub all over a pork shoulder when I’m preparing pulled pork. Then it goes in the smoker for as much as 10 hours, depending on the size of the shoulder.

In this case, I’m using a marinade, which needs to be absorbed into the meat. So if I was using a larger cut, I would butterfly it, and marinate it that way. The Iberico pork that I used in this recipe was under 2 pounds, so I left it whole.

I combine all the marinade ingredients into a bowl…

3 tablespoons Chinese Five Spice powder
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon Chinese chili garlic sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (same thing as rice wine vinegar)
1/2 an onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped (optional)

 

Once the piece of pork has been trimmed of any obvious hanging fat (remember, you don’t need to butcher the meat…the fat and gristle will melt while cooking and add flavor), place in a Ziplock-type freezer bag, and pour in the marinade. Squish the bag around carefully, to make the marinade makes good contact with the meat. Place the bag in a bowl (to prevent accidents) and place the bowl in the fridge overnight. Squish the bag around every few hours.

 

 

Pre-heat the oven to 275 degrees. Use a baking pan large enough to hold the roast.

Remove the roast from the marinade, and wrap it in aluminum foil. Place the foil on the baking pan and into the oven. The amount of time you cook the pork will depend on the size of the roast, so use a thermometer to check if the meat is ready. My roast was ready in less than 2 hours, but it was a small one.

 

Halfway through cooking, while I was checking the temperature, I opened the foil and basted the roast with some of the marinade. Then I re-wrapped it, and placed it back in the oven.

 

I save the marinade to brush on the roast halfway through the cooking process. I could also use it as a dipping sauce when serving, but if I did that, it’s important to place the marinade in a saucepan and bring it to a boil to kill all germs! Remember, that marinade was swimming around raw pork! Once it has boiled for a bit, you can set it aside to cool to room temperature.

 

Done!

 

Pork should be cooked to a temperature of 160 degrees, so I remove it from the oven at 150 degrees, knowing the temperature will still rise as the meat rests.

 

 

Let the meat rest for at least 30 minutes.

 

These pancakes, based on a recipe from chef April Bloomfield (The Spotted Pig and The Breslin in NYC), are made from fresh homemade ricotta cheese. Light as air…and really delicious! I’ve made a few batches of fresh ricotta cheese in my day, but when the family has a craving for these pancakes at the last minute, a good-quality store-bought ricotta cheese will do.

 

 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use Cup4Cup GF flour if I want to make these gluten-free)
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups milk
2 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup fresh ricotta

 

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In another large bowl, whisk together the milk, ricotta,  and egg yolks. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

In a large stainless steel bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are stiff, but not dry. Fold gently into the batter.

Spray a non-stick griddle with a little cooking spray and drop about 1/4 cup of batter per pancake. Cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes per side, until golden and fluffy.

pancake

CHAR-GRILLED OYSTERS

Posted: May 19, 2022 in Uncategorized

I recently visited New Orleans, and it was great to see that many of the old food destinations were still there: the Napoleon House, Café Dumonde, Acme Oyster House, and across the street from it: Felix‘s Oyster House.

My friend, Rick, saw that I was in NOLA, and told me I had to try the char-grilled oysters at Felix‘s. He hadn’t been there, but he read a lot about them and they were supposed to be amazing.  Well, that’s all the encouragement I needed, and I made a beeline to Felix’s that very day.



I was not disappointed!

When you think about it, it’s no great culinary feat to grill an oyster. But yet, I never thought of doing it on my own. The dozen oysters I devoured that day were buttery, garlicky, with a hint of char and smoke that made them absolutely delicious, quite easily the best oysters I’ve ever had in my life.

I knew that as soon as I came home from this trip, I would have to try to make these myself. I have to say I came pretty darn close!

If you don’t use a charcoal or wood fire to make these, you’re simply leaving out one of the most important ingredients to the entire recipe. A gas grill or a kitchen stove can cook an oyster, but the only way you can take it to the next level is by putting it on open flame, a wood-burning flame.

This recipe is good for about a dozen oysters.

The first step is to get your hardwood charcoal fire started. I use a charcoal chimney and newspaper–never any lighter fluid.

Once the coals are lit, head to the kitchen…

 

4 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated (I use Parmigiano Reggiano)
4 tablespoons breadcrumbs






Combine the butter, garlic, parsley, and cheese in a sauté pan over medium heat. All you’re looking to do is to melt the butter, so once it’s melted, take the pan off the heat and this mix is ready to use.

Shuck your dozen oysters. Remember: they will shrink a little bit while cooking, so don’t be afraid to go for bigger ones.

Lay the opened oysters in a pan, carefully trying to preserve as much of the oyster liquor (liquid) in each shell as possible.

When the hardwood charcoal has heated up, and you’ve spread the coals evenly on your grill, you are ready to cook the oysters. You want the grill to be hot.

You don’t need to put the oysters directly on the hardwood charcoal. Putting a grill over the coals is fine, and it keeps the oyster shells from tipping over.

 



Before placing the oysters on the grill, sprinkle each one with some of the breadcrumbs. Then place the oysters on the grill, being careful not to burn your hands! 

 



Using a spoon, pour some of the butter mixture into each oyster shell. It will flame up! That’s OK. Use up the entire butter mixture for all 12 oysters.

 



The oysters are ready when you see that golden brown color all around the edges of the oyster shell, when most of the liquid in the shell has evaporated. Don’t let them dry out completely.

 



Using tongs, remove the oysters from the flame and enjoy! Just be careful…they can be lava hot!

 

Chicken thighs are the best: their fat content makes them perfect for the grill because they don’t dry out like chicken breasts do. And I always leave the skin on for extra crispy flavor. I bought a package of chicken thighs the other day and decided to go Asian with my flavors, baking them in the oven so that they cook evenly, and then finishing them off on the grill to get that delicious smokey flavor and char.

I marinated the chicken thighs in the sauce for several hours before cooking. If you have the opportunity to marinate them overnight in the fridge, that’s even better. Just remember that if you want to use the marinade as a dipping sauce later on, divide it in half from the very beginning. Use half to marinate the chicken, and save the other half for later. If any of the marinade touches raw chicken, you can’t use it as a dipping sauce. (Salmonella!) So keep them separated.

 

3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup Chinese chili garlic sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, mixing well. Use half of it to marinate the chicken, and save the other half for dipping sauce or brushing on to the chicken later.

 

The Bell & Evans chicken thighs that I bought came in a package that works perfectly for marinating. One less thing to clean up!

If you’re cooking the same day, let the chicken marinate at room temperature for three hours. If you’re marinating overnight in the fridge, let the chicken come to room temperature before cooking.

 

Preheat the oven to 325°.

Cooked. Now they go to the broiler or the grill.

 

Place the chicken thighs on a sheet pan and bake until they are cooked through.…but not overcooked. If you’re not using the grill, place them under the broiler and watch them carefully, as the sugars in the marinade could burn. Give them some nice char.

 

 

If you’re using the grill, light a fire and spread the coals so that you have a medium-hot flame. Grill the chicken thighs until they have a beautiful char on them, being careful not to burn them. Brush more of the marinade on them as they cook, if you like.

 

Serve the chicken thighs with the dipping sauce on the side.

If I asked you to name a cocktail that defines New Orleans, you might say The Hurricane. After all, it’s a tourist favorite at the famous Pat O’Brien’s on Bourbon Street.

But the official cocktail of New Orleans is the Sazerac, a potent concoction that was created early in the 19th century by Antoine Amédée Peychaud, a Creole apothecary who emigrated to New Orleans from the West Indies and set up shop in the French Quarter. He was known to dispense a proprietary mix of aromatic bitters from an old family recipe, now famously known as Peychaud’s bitters.

Sazerac ingredients.

Around 1850, Sewell T. Taylor sold his New Orleans bar, the Merchants Exchange Coffee House, to become an importer of spirits, and he began to import a brand of cognac named Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils. Meanwhile, Aaron Bird assumed proprietorship of the Merchants Exchange and changed its name to Sazerac Coffee House

Legend has it that Bird began serving the “Sazerac Cocktail,” made with Sazerac cognac imported by Taylor, and allegedly with bitters being made by the local apothecary, Antoine Amedie Peychaud. The Sazerac Coffee House subsequently changed hands several times, until around 1870, when Thomas Handy became its proprietor. It is around this time that the primary ingredient in a Sazerac changed from cognac to rye whiskey, due to the phylloxera epidemic in Europe that devastated the vineyards of France.

At some point before his death in 1889, Handy recorded the recipe for the cocktail, which made its first printed appearance in William T. Boothby’s “The World’s Drinks and How to Mix Them” in 1908, although his recipe calls for Selner bitters, not Peychaud’s. After absinthe was banned in the United States in 1912, it was replaced by various anise-flavored liqueurs, most notably the locally produced Herbsaint, which first appeared in 1934.

In March 2008, Louisiana state senator Edwin R. Murray filed Senate Bill 6 designating the Sazerac as Louisiana’s official state cocktail. The bill was defeated on April 8, 2008. But, after further debate, on June 23, 2008, the Louisiana Legislature agreed to proclaim the Sazerac as New Orleans’ official cocktail.

The Sazerac, served at the Sazerac Bar in New Orleans.

It’s always more fun when someone makes your drink for you!

Peychaud’s bitters are now owned by the Buffalo Trace distillery, home of many a fine bourbon, and also the makers of Sazerac rye, a registered trademark. So the Sazerac Bar has to pay a fee to use the name. That also explains why they use Sazerac rye in their version of this classic cocktail.

But like many popular drinks, everybody has their own version of a Sazerac. In fact, if you Google the drink, you’ll find dozens of versions: with cognac, rye, or bourbon (or even a combination)…with a sugar cube or simple syrup…and with a variety of absinthes.

Note: you can buy simple syrup–I prefer it in this recipe over sugar cubes–but it’s easy to make at home. Simply combine a cup of sugar with a cup of water in a saucepan and heat it until all the sugar dissolves. I keep my simple syrup in the fridge in a sealed container.


2 oz. rye whiskey (I use Old Overholt )
1/2 oz. simple syrup
3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Absinthe, to rinse, about 1/4 oz. (I use Herbsaint)
garnish lemon peel

Add ice to a rocks glass to chill it. (I also put it in the freezer.)

While it’s chilling, get a cocktail mixing glass, add some ice, and combine the rye, simple syrup, and the bitters, and stir. (Thirty times, according to tradition.)

Take the rocks glass out of the freezer, pour the ice out, and pour the Herbsaint into the glass, swirling it around to coat the glass, then pouring out the excess.

Strain the mix of rye, simple syrup, and bitters into the rocks glass with the Herbsaint.

Run a lemon peel around the rim of the glass and garnish with it.

For me, rye, specifically Old Overholt, is the down-and-dirty way to go. After all, this is not a kiddy drink. A few sips, and you’re feeling no pain.

A Sazerac at the Napoleon House in New Orleans.

Though sipping a Sazerac in New Orleans is an amazing experience in itself, and I’ve had it at the Sazerac Bar as well as the Napoleon House and other bars in NOLA…perhaps my craziest Sazerac experience happened at the famous White Horse Tavern in New York City, the Big Apple’s second oldest continuously running bar. (It opened in 1880.) I think this is where I was told to use Old Overholt in my Sazerac, and have ever since.

Dylan Thomas was a regular there, and other celebrities, like Norman Mailer, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, and Hunter S. Thompson also had drinks there. So it’s probably not surprising that my buddy, Lee, and I overindulged on Sazeracs at this historic tavern.

It was a very cold winter’s night in the late 1980’s–a blizzard, in fact–and we decided to go out drinking in the city, because I was back home in New York on holiday vacation from Alabama, where I was working at the time. We had more than our share of Sazeracs, when we decided we would walk to a new eatery called the Gulf Coast, located on the west side. (All we knew was that the restaurant was about 10 blocks from where we were, but after 4 Sazeracs, “where we were” was questionable, to say the least.)

Now, this was before the internet–before cell phones–before Uber–and no cabs were running (because it was a blizzard, after all)–so we decided we would walk! Not the smartest thing we’ve ever done. It only took a few blocks for us to realize, even in our drunken stupor, that we made a very bad choice! We were certain that we would be found, huddled and frozen in an alley somewhere, only after the spring thaw.

The storm was so bad, we couldn’t even find our way back to the bar. Miraculously, somehow, we did make it to the Gulf Coast, and we lived to tell the tale.

As Homer Simpson once said: “To alcohol…the cause of, and cure for, all of life’s problems!”

Sazeracs. Try your first one at home. Or take an Uber!

The 148th running of the Kentucky Derby is today, Saturday, May 7th, 2022, and although I’m not a big horse racing fan, I am a huge fan of the official drink: the Mint Julep!

The Mint Julep is such a perfect, classic and historic bourbon drink, it seems silly to wait until Derby Day to have one. Of course, as any aficionado of spirits will tell you, there are as many right ways as wrong ways of making one.

The first step in my Mint Julep is making the simple syrup. Learning from one of my old radio buddies, my pal Rick O’B, I infuse mint into my simple syrup to take my cocktail to the next level. I use the standard ratio of 1 cup of clean, filtered water to 1 cup of sugar, using an organic product like Woodstock Farms Organic Pure Cane Sugar. I place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until just boiling. I’ve found that it needs to reach this stage for the sugar to really dissolve. As soon as it starts to boil, I remove the saucepan from the heat, and throw in a handful of freshly picked mint leaves, stirring to make sure the mint gets in there, and then I leave the saucepan to cool to room temperature. Once it’s at room temp, I strain the simple syrup into a bottle with a tight sealing lid, and place it in the refrigerator to cool. It will keep for about a week.

An equally important ingredient for a perfect Mint Julep is the ice: specifically, crushed ice from clean, filtered water. Don’t even think of using tap water for any cocktail much less this one. Why ruin an expensive bottle of bourbon by going cheap on the ice? I make my own ice cubes, then put them in an untreated canvas ice bag and bash them with a mallet to the perfect crushed size. Untreated canvas bags for crushing ice can be purchased online from bar supply companies for about $30. I got an untreated canvas tool bag (the exact same shape and size) at Home Depot for 3 bucks.

Da bag.

The next step is a little tougher: which bourbon to choose. The explosion of choices on the bourbon market has made it all but impossible for the average imbiber to know which bourbon is best for their tastes. If you’re a beginner, I suggest you go to a trusted bartender and explain that you’re new to the bourbon world, and could you have the tiniest of tastes and sniffs of what he’s got at his bar. Chances are, you’ll get a sampling of some of the better known brands: Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, perhaps Buffalo Trace or Bulleit, and the standard Jim Beam. This is a very good start. If you have deeper pockets, go to the manager of a trusted higher-end liquor store and explain that you’ve had all the rest, now what does he think is the best? (Also, hinting to wife and friends that “I’m trying new bourbons” around your birthday or Father’s Day inevitably gets you a few bottles as well!)

My go-to bourbon for Mint Juleps is the very affordable Eagle Rare 10-year-old at $32.99 a bottle…and you can never go wrong with the classic Maker’s Mark. It’s always on sale around Derby Day.

Finally, a Mint Julep needs a metal–not glass– Julep cup. Made of pewter or aluminum, it frosts on the outside as you stir your drink, keeping your beverage ice-cold on even the hottest of days.

3 oz. bourbon
1 oz. mint-infused simple syrup
crushed ice
Julep cup
Fresh mint for garnish

Crush the ice and pack it into the Julep cup, even letting it dome slightly over the top. Don’t worry…the alcohol will melt it.

I like to add 1.5 ounces of bourbon, then the ounce of simple syrup, then another 1.5 ounces of bourbon on top. Break off a few mint leaves from the stem and push them into the ice. Using a long spoon, stir the drink well. A beautiful layer of frost will form on the outside of the cup. Add more ice, if necessary, and garnish with a sprig of mint.

A nice selection of bourbons. This is an old photo: that Pappy Van Winkle is long gone…but I saved the bottle!

5 NIGHTS IN NEW ORLEANS

Posted: April 22, 2022 in Uncategorized

New Orleans is an amazing town, full of wonderful music, food, and people. No matter how many days or nights you have there, it’s never enough. But we recently did the best we could to see it all. It started with the best fried chicken I’ve ever had at Willie Mae’s Scotch House.

Fried chicken, fried okra, red beans and rice, and cornbread.


We had dinner at Antoine‘s, the oldest restaurant in New Orleans. They are famous for inventing oysters Rockefeller, which, I have to say, was a bit disappointing. There’s a lot of history here, but it doesn’t make up for some of the lack of service or quality of the food. Excellent filet mignon, however.

Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters was fabulous, just as I remembered it from 30 years ago. How can you not love a breakfast that includes Eggs Benedict, shrimp, and crawfish?

We always visit the Hard Rock Cafe in every town we go to, and NOLA was no exception. It was my daughter‘s 10th Hard Rock. An espresso martini in the afternoon was perfect.

Pascal’s Manale is famous for inventing Louisiana BBQ shrimp. It was messy, and absolutely delicious! I must’ve eaten two loaves of bread, just dipping it in the sauce.

Sometimes you need a break from all the Cajun food. Sushi at Tsunami fit the bill!

Lunch at Luke, a John Besh restaurant, was delicious and cheesy. But their baked oysters had nothing on the char grilled oysters at Felix‘s. Those were the best I’ve ever had!

What would a visit to New Orleans be without the classic cocktail called the Sazerac? And the only place to get it is at the Sazerac bar at the Roosevelt Hotel!

If you haven’t been to Café Dumonde, you haven’t been to New Orleans!

These are just a few of the places we ate and drank. Of course we did a lot more than just that. New Orleans has great museums, an awesome aquarium, and tons of shops and bars to enjoy.

MY FAVORITE LASAGNA

Posted: April 4, 2022 in Uncategorized

Who doesn’t love lasagna? It’s clear, when you look for recipes on line, that there are many versions of this incredibly delicious classic Italian dish. So many have the title “World’s Best,” “Mama’s Best,” or “Most Incredible.”

But as they said in the movie “Highlander…” There can be only one!

In this case, it’s simply a matter of preferences. 

I took my favorite parts of several recipes and weaved them together to make one incredible lasagna.

For me, lasagna has to have a great meat sauce, it has to have ricotta, and it has to have a bechamel sauce. This recipe includes them all.

It takes a bit of work, and a bit of love, but it’s all worth it in the end!

My lasagna starts with the meat sauce…

1 cup minced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, out of the casings
1 lb. lean ground beef (I use 93/7 grass-fed beef)
1 (28-oz.) can of crushed tomatoes
2 (6-oz.) cans of tomato paste
2 (8-oz.) cans tomato sauce
1 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
5 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley (use 4 here, save 1 for the ricotta)

In a a large pot, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and stir for about 10 seconds.

Add the pork and beef and sauté until the meat has browned.

Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water.

Season with the sugar, Italian seasoning, basil, salt, pepper, fennel and 4 tablespoons of the parsley.

Simmer the sauce, loosely covered, for about 30 minutes.

That gives you enough time to move to the next step.

1 lb. of lasagna sheets

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When salting pasta water, think: the saltiness of ocean water. Add the lasagna sheets and carefully push them down into the water as they soften. Don’t break them!

Cook the lasagna sheets for 8 to 10 minutes, until they are even firmer than al dente, and drain them. Separate them and set them aside.

Next, the ricotta….

1 lb. whole milk ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, the last tablespoon of parsley and salt. Mix well, and set it aside.

A bechamel sauce is a white sauce that adds even more creaminess to the dish.

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Melt the butter in a sauce pan, then remove the pan off the heat and add the flour. Whisk the flour to incorporate it into the butter, about 30 seconds, making a roux. 

Bring the pan back over the heat and slowly add the milk, whisking all the time to avoid lumps.

Keeping the heat on medium, keep whisking until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon.

Take the sauce off the heat, and mix in the Parmigiano Reggiano. Season with salt and pepper and let the cheese melt into the sauce. Set it aside.

It’s time to put it together! (Don’t panic if you have leftover sauces or pasta at the end of assembly. Everyone makes their lasagna differently, and you can make a mini with all the combined leftovers.)

3/4 pound of mozzarella grated, and standing by

I use a large lasagna pan, about 11 x 14 inches.

First, I put down a layer of the meat sauce to keep the pasta from sticking.

Then I lay down the lasagna sheets in a single layer, overlapping a little so there are no spaces.

A little more meat sauce on top, followed by a layer of bechamel, and a light sprinkling of mozzarella.

Next another layer of slightly overlapping lasagna sheets. More meat sauce…more bechamel…more mozzarella. And now a layer of the ricotta mixture.

Next, one final layer of lasagna sheets, pushing down a bit to make good contact. This layer can be a bit heavier on the pasta, if you want to use the sheets up. Top it with the meat sauce, and a final generous topping of mozzarella. 

Season the top with a little oregano.

You might notice that I put the ricotta on the top of the lasagna. That’s because I forgot to put it in the middle! Thanks goodness my daughter caught the mistake, so I simply put dollops of the ricotta mixture on the top and it came out great! I think I’ll do it this way all the time!

Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for about 40minutes, or until it’s bubbly and golden brown. Let it cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

This dish can be gluten-free if you change only 2 things: use GF pasta, and GF flour in the bechamel.

So good and gooey!

ASIAN-STYLE PORK CHUNX

Posted: March 20, 2022 in Uncategorized

These delicious “chunx” of pork are full of fantastic Asian flavors and go great with broccoli and rice…or just by themselves. Plus, I used inexpensive boneless pork sparerib meat, which saves a few bucks.

3 pounds boneless pork ribs
1/2 a large onion, diced
1/2 cup soy sauce
4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese chili garlic sauce
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup maple syrup
4 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade

This recipe is similar to my Asian bacon recipe, only it uses a cheaper, easier to find, cut of pork: boneless sparerib meat. You can usually find packages of this meat in a 3-pound size at most supermarkets.

The rib meat is fatty, however, and often has some gristle. So I trim as much of that away as I can to keep the tasty bites tender. 

I cut the pork into 1-inch cubes, and toss them in a bowl with the diced onion. I add the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and Chinese chili garlic sauce to the bowl and mix everything really well.

I will let the pork marinate for 2 hours at room temperature, remixing every half-hour or so. (If the pork needs to stay out longer, I put it in the refrigerator, bringing it back to room temperature when I’m ready to cook.)

I preheat the oven to 350°.

I line a baking pan with nonstick aluminum foil and place the pork and onion pieces on it in a single layer, reserving any leftover marinade for later.

I bake the pork and onions for 30 minutes.

While the pork is in the oven, I get a large pot and place the lemon zest, lemon juice, star anise, cinnamon sticks, maple syrup, and chicken broth in the pot. I bring it to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer.

After the pork and onions have cooked for 30 minutes, I remove them from the baking pan and place them in the pot, pouring in all the juices that might be in the baking pan. At this point, I can add any leftover marinade into the pot as well.

Bringing the heat under the pot back on high, I continue cooking until the liquid in the pot starts reducing. As it reduces, I turn the heat down as well, so I don’t burn any sugars in the pot. I stir the pork pieces once in a while.

Soon, the liquid will be reduced to a glaze. I keep tossing the pork in that glaze until it looks nice and shiny and gooey and sticky. And that’s when they’re ready!

Serve the pork chunks immediately!

RETRO CHICKEN PASTA CASSEROLE

Posted: March 17, 2022 in Uncategorized

My daughter likes to find new recipes on line for us to try. And although they might look like new ideas to her, the ingredients tell me these recipes came from somebody’s cookbook from the 70’s.

Hey, maybe I’m the exception to the rule, but I haven’t opened a can of cream-of-anything soup in at least 30 years…and that includes cream of mushroom for the classic Thanksgiving bean casserole. (I’ve never made one.) Maybe it’s because I wasn’t raised on Betty-Crocker-midwest-American fare. My parents were from Lithuania, and we had our own list of favorites that would probably raise a few American eyebrows.

But my daughter had friends coming over this past weekend to hang out for a few hours, and I always like to cook something for them. (I learned from my mom and grandmother a long time ago that you don’t invite someone over without feeding them.)

 

This casserole recipe my daughter chose, originally called something like “Chicken Spaghetti,” had some good ideas, but wrong ingredients for a group of teenage girls who could be a bit finicky. For example, it called for 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup. I decided to ditch the mushrooms and I substituted one can each of cream of celery and cream of onion. The recipe called for green peppers. I chose to use peas and corn. And since it was all going into a casserole dish, spaghetti seemed like the wrong pasta. We went with smaller penne instead.

We made it a day ahead…keeping it wrapped in the fridge. But if we needed less than what this recipe made, we would’ve divided it into two smaller casseroles, freezing one of them (before cooking) for future use.

1 lb. pasta
1 can (10.5 oz.) cream of celery soup
1 can (10.5 oz.) cream of onion soup
1 cup chicken broth
2 to 3 cooked chicken breasts (about 3 cups shredded)
1/2 cup peas (frozen is fine)
1/2 cup corn (frozen is fine)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon seasoned salt (I use Lawry’s)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
2 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar, divided

Homemade chicken stock is the best. If you don’t have any that you’ve made from the leftovers of previous chicken dinners, and you don’t have any store-bought stock in your pantry, here’s any easy cheat…

Get a pot and fill it with about 6 cups cold, clean water. Put the pot over high heat. Chop up a carrot, a stalk or two of celery, and 1/2 an onion and toss them in the pot. Then add the raw chicken breasts you’re going to use in this dish.

Bring the pot to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium until the chicken breasts are thoroughly cooked and the liquid in the pot has reduced by at least half.

Strain the veggies out, and what you have left is basic chicken stock.

If you’re going to cook this dish the same day, pre-heat the oven to 350.

Grease a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray. (Two smaller pans if you’re dividing the recipe.)

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, but stop the cooking even before the pasta reaches the al dente stage. (It will cook more in the oven, so you don’t want it mushy.) Drain the pasta and set it aside.

Sauté the onion in a bit of olive oil until it’s translucent.

Get out a large bowl and add the can of cream of celery, the can of cream of onion, the sautéed onions, the peas and corn, the shredded chicken, the chicken stock, the cooked and drained pasta, the seasoned salt, the cayenne, and 1 1/2 cups of the cheese. Season with the salt and pepper, to taste. Mix well.

Pour the contents of the bowl into the 9 x 13 pan (or between the 2 pans if dividing), and top it with the rest of the cheese. This is the point where you wrap and freeze or continue to the oven.

Bake for 40–45 minutes, until it’s nice and bubbly. (If it looks like the cheese might burn, cover it with foil.)

If you’re freezing this recipe for later, wrap it tightly in plastic and foil before placing it in the freezer. A day before you want to cook, take it out of the freezer and thaw it in the fridge for 24 hours. Then cook as usual.