Sunday, April 10, 2011

Original recipe! Some herbs, a Crock Pot, and a Roast.

On a day when you want something fancy for guests coming over but don't want to spend a lot of time, a braised piece of meat is a versatile and forgiving dish provided you have a crock pot! An oven alongside an oven proof pot with a lid would work as well. With minimal prep and actual working time and a lot of waiting around, the crock pot allows you to have a savory tender main dish that you can honestly say "took all day," even if it doesn't feel like it. 

Ingredients are approximate
4 lbs of pot roast (in this case, a 7 bone roast)

2-1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1/2 tbsp dried and crumbled chervil
1/2 tbsp dried and crumbled oregano
1 beer - used in several situations, see recipe notes
4 cloves garlic, cut into "spears"
1 onion, halved and quartered (eighthed?)
1/2 cup soy sauce + a few more splashes
Water to cover

Recipe as follows:

Get the herbs, salt and pepper together. Crumbling them together by hand is fine, but I felt like pretending to be fancy today so I used a mortar and pestle.

Here's the glorious piece of meat. Notice all the rich fat. I actually cut off quite a bit but I didn't want to go overboard. Considering how falling apart the meat is after 6 hours, it wouldn't really have mattered if I cut off too much fat.

The garlic gloves are soaked in a little bit of the beer to absorb some flavor and firm up.

This makes it easier to insert the spears into incisions all over the roast. 

The meat is then rubbed with the salt pepper spice mix and splashed with half a cup of beer and the soy sauce. Cover, set in the refrigerator and turn a few times over a few hours. When you take it out, reserve the soy sauce.

Later, brown the roast on all sides. I rendered a bit of beef fat in vegetable oil and raised the heat to get a good sear on all the sides.

Use a little bit of beer to deglaze your pan or pot.

When that's done, place the roast on top of the onions in the crock pot. Pour in the beer from the pan, soy sauce from the marinade and cover with water. A few extra splashes of soy sauce would help to ensure a savory and well seasoned roast. Let the pot roast go on hot for 1 hour at least, and then you can set to low if you are willing to wait for at least 4 more hours.

The end result, a meltingly tender dish of meat and juices. Serve with vegetables and potatoes, or perhaps a good loaf of crusty bread.

I made a quick gravy using the ratio in Ratio by Michael Ruhlman.

10 parts of the hot liquid from braising, and 1 part roux, whisked together quickly. This was fantastic with potatoes.

I apologize for this rather sad picture. By the time I thought of photographing most of the dish was wiped out! Success!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lasagna, Lasagna, I love you, Lasagna, you're only a few ingredients away.

One of the dishes that has been on my "to do" list for a long time has been Lasagna. This has been something I've put off for years, but after one too many hints from mom, I decided to just go for it. After seeing a few more elaborate recipes online, I decided to try one of the "easy" recipes first to ease into the wonderfully gooey world of lasagna.

After looking through a few recipes I opted to go for the version on Diana's Kitchen (check out the recipe there!). 

I made a few changes: 

  1. Used my own sauce!
  2. Mozzarella cheese instead of Monterey Jack.
  3. Fresh garlic instead of powdered, and used earlier to help the flavors meld sooner. 

Everything else was kept the same.

I set up the ingredients diligently. Also note the beer: The beer is very important (for my own enjoyment).

The all important basic tomato sauce. With the slight substitution of using organic sauce rather than whole tomatoes, it's the same sauce that I use for my pizzas, which I've described quite a while ago.

Water is brought to a boil then salted, and the noodles cooked according to the package. Pops said he'd prefer a slightly softer noodle but didn't have a real problem with it.

Poured gently into a strainer to drain and cool.

Chopped onions

Chopped mushrooms.

To be tossed into the browning meat.

Cook it all down and add the sauce and the seasonings.

I laid the lasagna noodles by threes..

And layered with sauce, cheese...

..and more cheese!

This is repeated a twice more.

An errant extra noodle was laid across, as my motto is waste not. I suppose it could have been added to the layer before without much ill effect.

A final layer of cheese:

After baking.

Wonderfully delicious.

Friday, April 1, 2011

New ideas and lessons learned: Pork chops with Sweet potato and Apple

Heylo Cast Iron Therapy readers! Sometimes you take a chance, see a good idea, and decide to go for it. Sometimes circumstances make those ideas seem pretty good. This was one of those nights. Having some extra pork chops thawed out in the refrigerator that mom demanded that I make use of, I found an interesting recipe in the KitchenAid Best-Loved Recipes: Pork chops with Sweet Potatoes and Apples. 

I've always liked sweet potatoes, and apples, and hadn't ever really thought to put the two together. The combination sounded good, and bacon always works well in a meat dish. The reality was slightly off from what I wanted. It was still a good recipe but I'd definitely tweak it quite a bit. I was rushed as well, so that may have played a factor. The sweet potato and apple combination was a bit too sweet, and lacking that savory quality. The small amount of salt I think relied on a better quality bacon than I had, resulting in a slightly blander chop than I'd like as well.

Here are some of the changes I'd make:

-Brine the pork chops, they were a little on the bland and dry side
-Reduce the number of sweet potatoes and/or replace half with regular potatoes
-Soak potatoes in water and let drain to remove some starch
-Cook the potato/onion/apple mixture in batches to make it easier to cook, and increase the browning
-Add more salt!
-I think some better quality or thicker bacon with more fat would have helped.

Full recipe adapted after the photos!

Mise en place: 

The shredded potatoes, onions and apple. This was a serious amount of work to do, especially with a not so great peeler. Chopping the apples probably would have been fine too.

Pork chops rubbed in lemon juice!


Pork chops didn't brown as nicely as I wanted to! Next time, more time, more heat!

All the veggies and some seasonings cook down in the pot! I have no idea how this would fit into a pan.

Artistically served the chop on a mound of the potatoes. Not bad, not bad. Still, I'd make some changes!

Pork Chops with Sweet Potatoes and Apples

Adapted from KitchenAid Best-Loved Recipes:

4 slices of bacon
4 pork chops
Half of a lemon
2 medium sweet potatoes (original recipe calls for 3)
3 apples
1 small onion
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp chervil
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1. Peel and shred the sweet potatoes. Core the apples, then peel and shred them too.
2. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
3. Take your lemon half and rub it all over the pork chops, giving everything a good coat.
4. Cook bacon until crispy, and keep a good amount of fat in the pan, then chop bacon into bits. Keep the extra fat just in case actually.
5. Make sure the pan is still hot and brown the pork chops in the bacon fat, then set aside.
6. Pour the fat into a large pot, enameled cast iron would be the best! If it looks inadequate, add in the extra reserved fat, or some vegetable oil works.
7. Toss in onion, apples and sweet potatoes into the pot, add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and chervil. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, but not too much to give the potatoes and good crisp.
8. If using an oven safe pot, toss the chops on top, if not put mixture into a greased oven safe pan and top with chops. Top chops with bacon and parsley. Cover with lid or foil, place in oven for 50 to 60 minutes.
9. Serve chops on a mound of potatoes, enjoy!