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    Entries in fancy schmancy (12)

    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?

     

    Monday
    Jan202014

    Scrambling for Breakfast

    When it’s cold outside, I tend to want something warm for breakfast.  Oatmeal is great and all, but I also like having more savory options.  For that, one of my favorite things is a scramble.  What’s a scramble?  Think omelet, but all mixed up.  I’m going to show you how to make everything you need ahead of time so you can throw it together in just a few minutes.  It’s more of a technique than an actual recipe.  Here’s what you have to ask yourself.  “What do I like in an omelet?”  For me, the answer is broccoli, zucchini, and ham. 

    Your answer might be something completely different, and that’s ok.  Onion, bell pepper, spinach, mushrooms, bacon, chicken, sausage… you can use any combination of ingredients you like.  Just make sure any meat is cooked before you begin.  Then, just cut everything into little pieces.  I had about 2 cups each of the zucchini and broccoli, and maybe 1 ½ cups of the ham. 

    In a pan, melt 1 Tablespoon of butter over medium heat. 

    Add your veg. 

    Sprinkle on ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.  Stir it all together and pop on the lid. 

    Allow it to cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  You want the vegetables to just begin to soften and give off a bit of their liquid.  You don’t want them cooked all the way because they’re going to do a bit more cooking later.  Remove the lid and add the meat. 

    Stir that in and turn off the heat.  Allow it to cool, and then separate it into individual portions.  Scoop out ½ cup of the mixture. 

    Then just put it into a little zip top bag.  The snack size ones work great for this.  They’ll be fine in the fridge for 2 or 3 days, or in the freezer for probably a month or two. 

    When you’re ready, you can pull them straight from either the fridge or freezer.  Butter a pan over medium heat and dump one in.  Place the lid on and give it a couple minutes to warm up.  When everything is nice and hot, pour in two scrambled eggs. 

    Stir until the eggs are cooked.  For me, there is a fine line between cooked and overcooked.  My eggs cannot show the slightest sign of slime, nor can they be even remotely browned.  This is why I prefer scrambles over omelets.  It’s hard to get an omelet cooked all the way through and not browned at all on the outside. 

    I like to add a little sprinkle of cheese.  Do this right at the end after you’ve turned off the heat.  Then just stir briefly and place on the lid.  Allow it to melt while you’re waiting for the toaster to do its thing. 

    Serve with some whole wheat toast and a glass of fresh squeezed juice and you have a fabulous, (dare I say gourmet?) breakfast, and it took less than 10 minutes to make. 

    What do you like in your omelet?