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    Friday
    Feb132015

    Braised Pork Shoulder with Creamy Polenta

    As you probably know by now, Hubby and I are somewhat anti tradition.  For instance, at Christmastime, rather than getting a tree and decorations and exchanging gifts, we take a nice trip to the ocean.  The past two years we went to Virginia Beach and Atlantic Beach, but this year we were back in Utah, so we went to our very favorite place, San Diego.  Why is it our favorite?  Well, because of this,

    And this,

    And this,

    Well, you get the idea. San Diego is beautiful, and at that time of year, it feels like paradise. In addition to enjoying the perfect weather and taking in the awesomeness that is the Pacific Ocean, there are a couple other things that are a must on our to do list. We always go whale watching, because seriously, why wouldn’t you?

    And we always eat lots of fabulous food. Most mornings, we eat breakfast at the Broken Yolk Café. Their food is fantastic, and because oranges are in season that time of year, I never pass up the fresh squeezed juice. 

    For dessert, Extraordinary Desserts is THE place. You’d think a place with a name like that would be your typical pretentious, overpriced, disappointing dessert café, but you would be wrong. Their Au Chocolat is simply to. die. for.

    When it comes to dinner, however, we eat all over the place.  We’ll usually go into Little Italy a few times during our trip and wander into some random restaurant. This year we wandered into a little place called Davanti Enoteca.  Their menu items are served family style, so we got a couple of things to share.  One of them was the mascarpone polenta + ragù of the day.  The day we were there, it was made with pork shoulder, and it was one of the most amazing dishes I have ever eaten.  When we got home, I had to try to recreate it.  To be honest, I didn’t have high hopes of being able to match the fabulousness from that restaurant, but the end result blew me away.  Even Hubby said it was every bit as good as theirs, and maybe even better. Now you can make and enjoy this wonderful recipe, as well. 

    Here’s what you’ll need: 

    • 1.5 – 2 pounds pork shoulder
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 1 medium onion, diced
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
    • 3 teaspoons ‘secret ingredient’
    • 2 – 3 bay leaves 

    The Whole Foods by me sells these pork shoulder steaks which work really well for this, but a whole pork shoulder will be fine, as well.  It’ll just be a little more work. 

    Whichever you use, you’ll need to cut it into small pieces, maybe ¾ - 1 inch.  I removed some of the fat from mine, but you definitely want to leave a good bit of it on because it helps the pork to become nice and tender.

    Place a pan (not a nonstick pan) over medium high heat. When it’s hot, add a tablespoon of oil and the diced pork.

    Sprinkle over ½ teaspoon of salt.  Move the pork about with a spatula giving it a chance to brown on all sides. 

    When the pork and the pan have a nice brown color on them, add the diced onion.

    Give it about a minute to sweat and then pour in 2 cups of water.  It should help you to scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.

    Go ahead and turn off the heat.  Now it’s time for the secret ingredient, Better than Bouillon’s Au Jus Base.  Sure, you could probably get away with using one of the other flavors, but if you can get your hands on the Au Jus one, I highly recommend it.

    Add 3 teaspoons to the pan.

    Stir until it is dissolved, then sprinkle over the dried parsley. 

    Stir that in and then slide in 2 or 3 bay leaves, making sure they’re completely submerged. 

    On goes the lid, and into a 300° oven for 3 hours.  (I like to turn the temperature down to 275° for the last hour, but I’m not sure it’s strictly necessary.)  When it’s done, remove it from the oven, but leave the lid in place and just allow it to sit while you make the polenta. 

    For the polenta you’ll need: 

    • ½ cup Fine Grain Polenta
    • 2 cups water
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 2 Tablespoons butter
    • 2 Tablespoons cream cheese 

    Add the salt to the water and bring it to a boil.  Keep some extra water handy.  Slowly sprinkle in the polenta while briskly whisking. (say that 10 times fast)

    Turn the heat to low and continue to whisk.  If it gets too thick, add a little more water.  Continue stirring, allowing it to cook for about 5 minutes or so. 

    Turn off the heat and add the butter and cream cheese.  Feel free to substitute mascarpone or goat cheese if you prefer.  Whisk them in until the polenta is nice and smooth and creamy. 

    Spoon a nice puddle of it onto your dish.

    Then, remember the pork? When you remove the lid, scrape any brown stuff from the lid and stir it in.  I know, that doesn’t really sound good, but trust me, it is serious flavor goodness that you don’t want to waste.

    Remove the bay leaves, then spoon the pork, with all its luscious juices, over the waiting polenta.  Prepare to be blown away by what an amazing chef you are. 

    What restaurant dish would you like to be able to replicate at home?

     

    Sunday
    Feb012015

    We're a Big Blog Now!

    That’s right, we’re turning 4 today! It doesn’t really feel like it’s been that long, until I stop to think about all that has happened in that time.  Seeley nearly liquefied her brain with never ending crazy math, but survived, and even graduated! (See we are all grown up!) I moved from Utah, to Massachusetts, to Virginia, and eventually back to Utah again.  (Always in May, mind you.  What’s with me moving in May?) And on top of all of that, in the four years since Authors Kitchen was born, we’ve posted somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 recipes! That’s a lot of cooking and food porn!

    The inspiration for this recipe comes from a place in Virginia called The Icing. They make the most amazing cupcakes, and my very favorite flavor was grapefruit. I know, grapefruit cupcakes sound more weird than wonderful, but trust me, they are fantastic. Since I can no longer just run down to The Icing and pick some up, it was time for me to figure out how to make my own.

    Here’s what you’ll need: 

    • 1 ⅓ cups flour
    • ½ teaspoon baking powder
    • ½ teaspoon baking soda
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • ¾ cup sugar
    • ½ cup whole milk
    • 6 Tablespoons butter
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 2 eggs
    • 2-3 grapefruits depending on size
    • Grapefruit buttercream (recipe below) 

    Everything for this recipe should be at room temperature, including the fruit. First up, pour ¾ cup sugar into some kind of a container with a lid.  I like to use a 1 pint mason jar for this purpose. (Add that to the long list of uses for those.) Set that aside and zest your grapefruit.  I like to use organic citrus when I know I’ll be eating the zest.

    Give it a good wash, and make sure you just take off the very outside layer.

    Now, because grapefruits vary so much in size, I was diligent and actually took measurements as I worked. You want 2 Tablespoons of zest. And when I say Tablespoon, it should look something like this. Don’t pack it down or it will just all stick together. 

    Add that to your sugar, put on the lid, and give it a good shake. (remember the lime sugar?)  Not only does this mix the sugar and zest together, but it also makes the zest release some of its oil, which is where all the flavor is, so don’t wimp out. Shake, shake, shake. 

    Now on to the juicing. Grapefruits are too big for my press juicer, so I like to use one like this for them. You need 1 ½ cups of juice. That took 2 medium sized grapefruits for me, but if yours are very small, you might need 3.

    When you’ve got the juice, pour it through a mesh strainer to remove any pulp.

    Then, in a small saucepan over medium high heat, bring it to a boil.

    You want to cook the juice down from 1 ½ cups to ¼ cup. The reason for this is to concentrate the grapefruit flavor while reducing the amount of water that will be added to the recipe. This process will probably take about 15 minutes, and you’ll need to stir almost constantly. I like to use a silicone spatula for that. They do a good job of scraping the bottom and moving stuff around without making a lot of noise. As you near the ¼ cup mark, it will start to become somewhat syrupy in consistency. You’ll know you’re close when the bubbles start to stack up on each other like this:

    Pour the grapefruit concentrate into a glass measuring cup.

    See, it really did cook all the way down to ¼ cup.

    While that’s cooling, go ahead and drop paper liners into your muffin pan and turn your oven to 350°. Then, in your mixing bowl, whisk together all of your dry ingredients, including the grapefruit sugar.

    To that, add the milk, butter, vanilla, and 3 Tablespoons of the grapefruit concentrate (the remainder is for the frosting).

    Mix on low speed until everything comes together, then scrape everything down really well. Increase the speed to medium and allow it to mix for 2 minutes, after which, the batter should be fluffy and beautiful. 

    Give it another scrape and add the eggs. 

    Mix until they are fully incorporated, then one more scrape, and a quick final mix. Gorgeous!

    Scoop the batter into your prepared cups, filling them just over half full. The scoop I use is about 3 Tablespoons. 

    When you place the pans in the oven, increase the temperature to 425°.  After 5 minutes (set a timer) turn it back down to 350°, and continue baking for an additional 15 – 18 minutes. That’s a total bake time of 20 – 23 minutes. When they’re ready, they’ll be beautifully domed, and a toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean. After just a couple minutes, transfer them to a rack and allow them to cool.  Aren’t they lovely?

    Otto found some sun under the dining room table and decided to have a nice nap while I was baking. I already had the camera in my hand, so I couldn’t just pass up the opportunity to capture the aww. As you can tell by all the white in his face, he’s no spring chicken anymore, so I try my best not to take these precious moments for granted. 

    Now for the buttercream… Here’s what you’ll need: 

    • ½ cup butter, softened (1 stick)
    • 2 cups powdered sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1 Tablespoon grapefruit concentrate
    • 1 – 3 Tablespoons cream (or the highest fat dairy you have on hand) 

    Put the butter in a mixing bowl.

    Give it a whirl until it’s nice and soft and fluffy.

    Sift in 1 cup of the sugar.

    Starting on low speed, stir until it all comes together, then scrape it down and give it a good mix on medium high speed for 45 seconds or so. Add the grapefruit concentrate and vanilla and mix until they are thoroughly incorporated.

    If you used pink grapefruit, it’ll give the frosting just a hint of color.

    Sift in the remaining cup of powdered sugar and go through the stirring, scraping, mixing process again.  Add the cream, 1 Tablespoon at a time, until you reach buttercream perfection. 

    Then just spread or pipe it onto your waiting cupcakes.

    So, how do they compare to the ones from The Icing? I’m going to say, equally fabulous, but different.  They use a regular vanilla buttercream which makes for a fairly subtle flavor, whereas my grapefruit version has a fabulous citrusy of tang to it. The cake itself is probably almost a dead ringer. Just look at that texture. The crumb on this recipe couldn’t have been better.

    What’s your favorite flavor of cupcake?