Engaging stories of love, joy, comfort and friendship with proven scrumptious, healthy recipes, we celebrate LOVE as the secret ingredient for wonderful food!

Any season pork roast

I have been wanting to tell you about the first meal I served to our French graduate student who is going to be living with us for four months. Charlotte arrived on the Sunday before last. I wanted to make something super delicious, of course, but something that would keep in case she had issues in customs, and something with some French flavors. I figured a lot of thyme in a wonderful roast and we’d start with an adapted Jacques Pepin frisee salad with a little baby arugula added to it. I have this recipe noted in an earlier post.

Charlotte arrived about 2 hours late, but all was safe with the meal, EXCEPT that she tells me that she doesn’t eat salad!! And I’m telling you, this was a terrific salad. The rest of us scarfed down her portion. Fortunately I also had some carrots with the roast so she got some vegetables in her. (always the Mom – I can’t help it!)

This roast, however, I will make again and again. It was wonderful! Rich, savory and slightly sweet (from the apples) all at the same time, with the meat tender like butter (buttah)! Both my husband and son claimed it was better than my version of Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon. It was more complex and interesting and let me tell you, a whole lot easier! You just need the time to leave it in the oven for 4 hours.

I was so excited to have a Sunday to make this, I took pictures at every point while preparing it, but I forgot to take a shot of the finished dish! Actually, the process pics are prettier and the result was delicious and delectable. Give this a go before the weather gets really warm to envelope yourself in wonderful flavors and sink into pure goodness, with love.

I served this with polenta squares, browned in a little olive oil and butter. Really, really yummy. Make the polenta recipe noted in an earlier post, pour into a buttered 9” x 9” pan and chill until firm. Cut into squares and sauté in butter and olive oil (1 tbs. of each) until nicely browned and hot throughout.
Pork roast ingredients.
Browned Pork butt.
Browned garlic on a white plate.

Browned carrots and onions with red wine.

Browned vegetables with red wine

Red wine braised pork roast with apples and thyme in a white dish.

Right before going into the oven

RED WINE BRAISED PORK ROAST WITH APPLES AND THYME
Adapted from a recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Serves 8

One 4-pound boneless pork butt
2 tbs. kosher salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup grapeseed oil, divided
5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch lengths
3 medium onions, halved lengthwise (root end left intact) and peeled
1 head garlic, halved horizontally
1 cup medium-bodied red wine (such as Pinot Noir or a light Cabernet Sauvignon)
4 cups chicken broth
 (preferably homemade)
30 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tart apple (such as Granny Smith), cored and quartered
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 lemon, peeled using a vegetable peeler

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the pork roast on a cutting board so the long end faces you and slice through the middle horizontally and nearly to the other side of roast. Open the roast like a book (it should still be attached at one side) and season with about half of the salt and pepper. Close the roast and season the outside with the remaining salt and pepper, then use butcher’s twine to tie the roast at 1-inch intervals.

Heat half the oil in a large skillet over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the pork roast, browning it on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side (if it starts to get dark too fast, reduce the heat). Use tongs to transfer the pork to a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot and set aside. Pour the fat from the skillet into a medium bowl (cool and discard). Use tongs and paper towels to wipe out the skillet.

Pour the remaining oil into the wiped skillet. Heat the oil over high heat until it smokes, 1½ to 2 minutes. Add the carrots and place the onions and garlic halves cut-side down in the pan. After about 30 seconds, check the garlic and, if nicely browned, remove from the pan and place on a plate (or cook a little longer if needed). Continue to cook the onions and carrots until the onions are very dark (and almost threatening to burn), about 1 minute longer.

Turn off the heat and cool the pan for 1 minute. Turn the heat to medium, pour in the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.

Pour in the chicken broth, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and carefully pour the broth and vegetables over the pork in the Dutch oven. Add the thyme, apple, rosemary, peppercorns and lemon-zest strips.

Cover the pot, place it in the oven and cook until a long-pronged fork can be inserted into the center and twisted without resistance, about 4 hours.

Remove from the oven and transfer the pork to a large platter. Let the meat cool for 15 to 20 minutes before using a fork to break the roast into chunks. Meanwhile, boil the braising liquid and skim off the fat. Pour the jus over the pork and serve.

Fruit!

So after enjoying all these wonderful meals and special treats and drinks during the holidays, I am waking up to discover that I am really fat.

Not really. But, you know, when you put on a pair of favorite pants and think they’ve suddenly shrunk in length (even though they were fine the last time you put them on), then you have to fess up to the fact that it’s the size of your hips that’s hiking them up and you know, Spanx can only do so much. So I’ve gained a few pounds and it feels really uncomfortable.

I’ve now gone back to “clean eating” – less meat, little or no carbs and having a piece of celery or a half of apple if I’m starving before dinner. It’s working. I’ve already lost 3 of the 5 pounds.

I think fruit is a wonderful thing. Some doctors have told me it’s too sweet, it has too much sugar. But it’s a natural sweetness, right? It’s refreshing, satisfying that sweet tooth craving and makes all things “right”, as my mother used to say. She would have a piece of fruit at the end of her lunch every day as well as pack an apple, orange or pear in our lunch for school. I have kept that habit up, only we have a small bowl of fresh fruit salad at the end of our breakfast everyday. What I do is make a very large fruit salad on Sunday morning, and then it lasts us for the week, making it super easy to serve up for a workday morning.

You can, of course, combine all sorts of things but I don’t recommend bananas, unless you eat them right away, as they don’t hold up. Leave your strawberries whole so they don’t break down as quickly and serve them up sooner than the rest. A pineapple is wonderful, along with grapefruit, oranges, apples, and red or green grapes. Blueberries, blackberries, mangoes and kiwi are nice as well, but need to be eaten first too.
Fruit salad with grapefruit, blueberries, bananas, and basil.

And here’s a great tip, squeeze some fresh lime juice all over your salad and then top it off with torn fresh mint leaves. I have found that the mint leaf edges will not darken as quickly if you tear them, as opposed to cutting or chopping them.

So start your new year with fruit!
Fruit salad with kiwi, orange, grapes, grapefruit, and pineapple.

My favorite Thanksgiving stuffing

Thanksgiving is my all-time favorite holiday. I love the weather, fires in the fireplace, the family is all together and no pressure with gifts. In full disclosure, it is also around my birthday – Nov. 26th – but these days I could do without remembering that!

I have been making this stuffing for more than 20 years now, tweaking it until I think it’s just right. Every once in a while I have veered off and done a chorizo dressing or something with chestnuts and this one is the one we always go back to and is requested by everyone in my family. I forgot that I shared this with some of my friends years ago, only to discover recently that yes, they are still using it too. The basis of it comes from the very first Silver Palate cookbook. I used that cookbook so much in the 80’s, that my cover fell off. I think my good friend, Deb, cooked every recipe in there. We used to tease each other, we were both making our way through it! Good stuff!

Now some people and the government think you shouldn’t stuff the bird. I say nonsense! If your bird is really fresh, you’ve washed and dried it very well, let the dressing cool completely before stuffing, you will be fine. At the table, remove the dressing into a covered casserole before you carve the bird and start passing it. Then when the feast is over, totally clean out the cavity of all the stuffing and carve all of the meat off of the bird (makes it easier for leftovers the next day) and make stock with the carcass or throw it away. This way, you will have no problems and everything will be tastier.

I hope this will become your go-to favorite stuffing recipe as well!

IMG_3976

CORNBREAD SAUSAGE STUFFING WITH APPLES & PECANS
Serves 12-14 people or more than enough stuffing for a 20 lb. bird

1 ½ sticks of sweet butter (12 tbs.)
2 3/4 cups of finely chopped yellow onions (use your food processor for this)
3 tart apples, cored and chunked, not peeled (Jonathan are good)
1 lb. lightly seasoned bulk sausage (I use breakfast sausage with sage)
3 cups coarsely crumbled cornbread (bake a Jiffy cornbread mix for this)
3 heaping cups of crustless, cubed, day old whole-wheat bread
3 heaping cups of crustless, cubed, day-old white bread (I prepare and cut my breads the night before so they can dry out a little.)
2 rounded tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp dried sage
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
¾ cup chopped Italian parsley
1 ½ cups shelled pecan halves
1 raw egg
Chicken broth to moisten

Melt half of the butter in a skillet. Add chopped onions and cook over medium – medium/low heat, partially covered, until tender and lightly colored, about 25 minutes. Scrape onions and butter into a very large bowl. The biggest you’ve got!

Melt remaining butter in the same skillet. Add apple chunks and sauté over high heat until lightly colored but not mushy. Transfer the apples and all of the butter to the same mixing bowl with the onions.

Squeeze the sausage out of the casing if necessary. Crumble it into the skillet and sauté over medium heat, continuing to break up the sausage into small pieces, stirring until no pink remains and it’s lightly browned. With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to the mixing bowl and throw away the fat.

Add all remaining ingredients to your large bowl and fold together with a large spatula, gently combining everything. Beat an egg in a separate small bowl and fold that in as well. Moisten with homemade or low sodium chicken broth. Salt and pepper to taste. Cool completely before stuffing the bird.

With leftover stuffing, or if you choose not to stuff your bird, spoon stuffing into a casserole, cover with a lid or aluminum foil, and set in a large, deeper pan. Pour hot water around the casserole to come halfway up the sides. Bake for 30 – 45 minutes at 325 degrees. You will LOVE it!