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    Entries in homemade is best (62)

    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
    Jun022014

    Easy Peanut Buttery Goodness Bars

    I apologize for my absence.  I’ve been traveling, well moving, across the country.  We are temporarily settled in Salt Lake City until we decide on a final destination.  In the meantime, I’ll be posting recipes that I threw together before I left.  Most of them will be quick and easy because I didn’t have a lot of spare time around my packing, and today’s is no exception.  These bars come together in just a matter of minutes.  Then they just sit in the fridge overnight and in the morning, you have a chewy, sweet, salty, peanut buttery treat.

    Here’s what you’ll need: 

    • 1 cup peanut butter
    • 1 cup honey
    • 3 cups oats
    • ¼ - ½ teaspoon salt
    • ½ teaspoon vanilla 

    Ok, so I didn’t manage to get the salt or vanilla in the picture.  The truth is, I didn’t initially intend to put them in, but decided along the way that they would make a nice addition. 

    Here’s a little trick for you.  If you spray your measuring cup with a bit of oil, it will make the honey come out a little easier. 

    Now, add the honey to a mixing bowl. 

    See, it almost all came out.  Now you can just put the peanut butter in there without even having to scrape it first. 

    For the peanut butter, I used a natural one, which had not yet been refrigerated, so it was of pouring consistency.  If you’re using something more conventional or something that has been refrigerated, just warm it in the microwave for a few seconds to make it nice and soft.  You’ll also notice that I’m using a crunchy variety.  I recommend that because of the texture, but you can certainly use whatever you have on hand.  I imagine this would work well with any other kind of nut butter if you have a peanut allergy in your house. 

    To that, add the salt and vanilla. 

    Stir until everything is thoroughly combined. 

    Now it’s time for the oats.  I used a combination of quick oats and old fashioned rolled oats.  Either of those will work just find on their own, but if you have both, the mix makes a really great texture. 

    Stir until the oats are evenly coated in the peanut butter mixture. 

    Pour into a parchment lined 8x8 pan.  If, like me, you’ve used all of your energy doing something else (I did mention I was packing, right?) and you can’t be bothered to actually lay the parchment neatly in the pan, don’t worry.  Just plop the mixture into the middle of the parchment. 

    Then, as you press the mixture down and spread it into the corners, the parchment paper should work itself out. 

    Cover this and place it in the fridge overnight.  After that you’ll want to continue to store it in the fridge so they don’t get too sticky.  I was surprised by the fabulous texture of these bars.  They remind me a lot of a chewy, nougat kind of candy bar.  For being so simple, they are amazingly delicious. 

    What is your least favorite part about moving?  I'm pretty sure mine is actually the unpacking, but I haven't gotten to that part yet.