Monday, January 5, 2009

Panko breaded pork with vinegared peppers and onions over butternut squash, parsnip, and carrot puree

I've been experimenting with root vegetable purees lately. Usually I do some combination of potatoes, sweet potatoes or yams, carrots, parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas. Last night I decided to try combining butternut squash - I know, its not a root - with the carrots and parsnips that were sitting in my fridge. I won't go into the details of how I made it since I didn't really like it. The flavor combination just wasn't very good, so I won't make this combination again.

While the puree was a throw away, the rest of the dish was actually really good. I used some of the pork loin chops, onions, and bell peppers that were left over from when I made chili the day before. The thing the really makes this dish work are the panko bread crumbs, fennel pollen, caramelized onions, and good quality vinegar. Fennel pollen is not a common ingredient. If you live in Boston, you can get it at Formaggio. Otherwise, you can order it online. A little bit goes a long way and it is great on pork. This is the first time I've used it, and I'll try featuring it on more dishes in the near future.

  • Boneless pork loin chops, sliced thin
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Fennel pollen
  • Panko crumbs
  • flour
  • egg

  • (2 servings of peppers and onions)
  • 1 half white onion, sliced lengthwise into strips
  • 1 half red bell pepper, julliened
  • 1 T capers
  • 3 T red wine vinegar or a fairly tart balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T Marsala
  • 1 t sugar
Start by cooking the onions over moderate heat with a little oil and a pinch of salt. Let the onions cook down for at least 30 minutes. You want to watch the heat, keeping it low enough so the onions don't cook too fast. You want to caramelize them, not fry them, so if you hear the onions sizzling, the heat is probably too high. After 30 minutes, take the onions out, add a little more oil and cook the peppers over medium high heat for about 5 minutes. Once the peppers begin to soften, return the onions to the pan along with the capers, vinegar, marsala, and sugar. Let this mixture simmer while you prepare the pork. If the liquid reduces to much, just add a splash of water to the pan.

To prepare the pork, start by pounding out the cutlets between sheets of plastic wrap until they are very thin. Sprinkly with salt, pepper, and a little bit of fennel pollen. Next, put together a breading station. You want to have flour for dredging on the first plate, a shallow bowl with an egg in the middle, and panko crumbs in the last plate. At the end of the line, place a wire rack or another plate for holding the completed pork. Once this is set up, just dredge the pork in flour, shake off the excess and dip it in the egg wash, then set it in the plate with the panko, pressing and turning to cover both sides. Let sit for a minute or two, then fry over medium high heat for a minute of two on each side. Since the pork cutlet is really thin, it should cook quickly.

Serve covered with the pepper and onion mix, and garnish with some nice, thick, sweet balsamic vinegar. This forms a nice contrast to the more tart vinegar that is used in the peppers and onions.

Classic paella

I've made paella on this blog before, but it makes another appearance for two reasons. First, Sharlene got abby and I a nice paella pan as a wedding gift, so we had to have her over and give it a spin. And, second, the last time I made paella there was definitely room for improvement. The last attempt was a sort of vegetarian version in the sense that I, used a veggie broth, cooked everything separately, and served all the meat in side dishes. This isn't the best way to do paella. What makes paella great is the flavors that the various ingredients infuse into the rice, especially the shellfish. To do this, you need to either cook the shellfish with the rice or use the broth from cooking the shellfish to flavor the rice.

I used a recipe that I got off the internet, I don't remember the link, but the ingredients were rice, onions, garlic, tomatoes, peas, saffron, chicken stock, clam juice, chicken legs, jumbo shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, spanish chorizo, salt and pepper. Just google Paella for a more precise recipe.

Start cooking the proteins separately. You don't want to cook everything to completion since you will finish off the paella in the oven. I roast the chicken with some olive oil, salt and pepper.
And saute the shrimp, chorizo, and scallops. If you cook the this stuff in the paella pan first, you minimize the dishes that you need to clean, and all of the leftover drippings will stay in the pan and help flavor the rice. Cook the chorizo last since it will leave a red oil that will stain that shrimp and scallops. If you want to, you can also steam the mussels and clams separately. This is what I did. An advantage of this is that you can use the liquid from steaming the shellfish to flavor the rice. A drawback is that you finish the shellfish long before the rice is done, so by the time everything is complete, the clams and mussels are a little dried out. The next time I make this, I might just try adding the clams and mussels when I throw the paella in the oven and baking it long enough for the shellfish to open up.
After you are done cooking the shrimp, scallops, and chorizo, add the onions and garlic to the paella pan and saute over medium heat until translucent. Stir in the rice and tomatos until everything is coated with oil.
Meanwhile, heat up some liquid (I used a mix of chicken stock and clam juice) with a healthy pinch of saffron. Add the liquid to the rice mixture and cook, stirring occasionally until the rice is al dente. Keep adding liquid if the rice dries out. When the rice is ready, stir in the chorizo and peas and arrange the shrimp, scallops, chicken, clams, and mussels around the pan.
Finish cooking in the oven for about 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Chili is one of those dishes that has an infinite number of variations. Everyone has their own recipe. I tend to make chili a few times every fall/winter, and after several years of tweaking, I've more or less settled on a recipe that I like. You can cook up a big batch, and keep a bunch in your freezer for later. This soup, like most, tastes much better the next day.

  • 2/4 lb pork loin chops, small dice
  • 1.5 lb ground beef
  • 1 28oz. can kidney beans
  • 1 28 oz. can pink beans
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper, small dice
  • 1 green bell pepper, small dice
  • 1 onion, small dice
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 t oregano
  • 3 T chili powder
  • 1 T cumin
  • 1 T paprika
  • 1/2 - 1 t cayenne powder
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 bottle dark beer
  • beef stock or broth
  • Optional ingredients:
  • 1/2 small can chipotle en adobe
  • Mexican chocolate, to taste. The amount I use comes out to about 3-4 T when chopped.
*This recipe is moderately spicy. If you really want to up the heat, just add more cayenne powder or throw in another jalapeno. If you don't like spicy food, leave out the jalapeno and just add 1/2 teaspoon cayenne.

It's easiest if you prep all of the ingredients ahead of time. Mix together the chili powder, cayenne, cumin, cinnamon, and paprika and toast them in a pan. This step enhances the flavor of the spices. In general, you should always toast spices before using them, but I think this is especially important for a dish like chili, which is really built on the spices.
Once all your ingredients are together, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot and cook the ground beef.
Remove the beef once it looks done and add the onions and garlic. Cook over medium heat until soft, then add the peppers, spices, oregano, pork and tomatoes. Cook for about 1-2 minutes.
Add the beans, a bottle of beer, the bay leaves and, if you are using, the chipotle en adobo and/or the chocolate. Add beef stock until everything is covered and you have the amount of liquid you want. Since the beans will release some starch, this will naturally thicken over time.
Let the chili simmer for at least an hour.