Vietnamese “Get Real Into It” Pork Chops

It’s been a while since we posted anything of substance, and it’s beyond time for this one because we have one particularly loyal reader and friend who deserves more than a list of what we’re eating for dinner each week. I don’t promise that it will be our best post, and it certainly won’t compare to the literature our friend is reading these days, but it’s written with love, admiration and respect for a guy going through something incomprehensible, with intractable grace and dignity. (Yes, I had to look up the definition of “intractable,” and yes, if there is anyone who embodies “difficult, stubborn” grace and dignity more than our friend, such a person would be a good one to know.) Although I haven’t been inspired to write much lately, dusting off the blog as a way to let our friend know we’re thinking of him seems like the right thing to do, and I know I’ll be glad that I did. Similarly, I am often uninspired in the kitchen, yet the meals I’ve made when cooking is the very last thing I feel like doing tend to be the most satisfying. Like that time I spent all day painting our living room and dreaded having to cook dinner, until I remembered this delicious, quick and crazy-easy pork chop recipe. I whisked up the marinade, cleaned up my paint supplies while the chops infused with Asian flavor, and about half an hour later we enjoyed a meal that tasted like I’d spent hours in the kitchen. Totally worth it.
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Parmesan Pork

When we think pork, we generally don’t also think about pork pairing well with cheese (unless of course we’re thinking about a cheese plate, in which case there better be some prosciutto on there, alongside a soft and creamy goat cheese and maybe a bit of sharp cheddar.)  But when the pork is thinly pounded and the cheese is salty/nutty grated Parmesan that forms a crispy outer coating when the pork is cooked in a skillet, pork and cheese go together pretty well after all.  We found this pork recipe in one of our most-used Cook’s Illustrated magazines, “30 Minute Suppers” (Fall 2011), and like how easy and quick the dish is to make with simple ingredients:  pork, flour, eggs, Parmesan cheese, panko, vegetable or canola oil and salt & pepper.  While not necessary, a lemon/butter or white wine pan sauce might take the pork to a whole new level (but could also take longer than 30 minutes to cook, with greater degree of difficulty if you’re not particularly gifted at making sauces.)  This basic version is perfect for a busy weeknight, and when garnished with lemon wedges, fancy enough on its own to not need no stinkin’ sauces.

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Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork

Barbecue is a quintessential summer meal.  From pulled pork to brisket to ribs, cooking meat low and slow practically defines lazy summer days.  While unquestionably worth it, one doesn’t always have the time, inclination or equipment required for some of the more hard-core barbecue recipes (Kansas City-style ribs, for example, can take up to 20 hours to prepare — at least the recipe we used took that long.)  Enter the slow-cooker and this recipe.  The meat still takes a while to cook (6-8 hours), but needs less tending (just pat it down with the dry rub, place it in the slow-cooker with some onions, add the vinegar sauce, set the cooker on low and let it cook.)  Barbecue doesn’t get much easier, and although it won’t have the signature smoke ring and flavor from pulled pork cooked in a smoker, the tender and tangy end result belies the simple preparation and cooking method.  Perfect for a truly lazy summer day.

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Pork and Black Bean Stew

My mom found this recipe in her local newspaper and shared it with us.  It’s one that she has been cooking for her and my dad for many years, from the version that she cut out of the paper.  Although we found the recipe online, I love that she also scanned her newspaper version into an email and sent it to me as well, just to make sure the versions were the same (they are), particularly because the print version includes her notes (an underlined notation of “good” and a reminder to use brown rice instead of white.)  The dishes we post here are ones we consider “keepers,” in that we will definitely make them again.  With its cooked-all-day, but ready-in-less-than-an-hour flavor, this healthy and hearty stew is no exception.  Because we use this blog as a virtual recipe box to preserve and catalogue our “keeper” recipes, we usually throw away printed recipes once we’ve written them up here.  But sometimes it’s nice to hang on to a physical piece of paper with a recipe printed in old-school newspaper format, especially when it has your mom’s handwriting on it.

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Kansas City Ribs

When we think Kansas City, we think ribs.  Not barbeque or smoked meats generally, but ribs specifically.  We’re not sure why, since we’ve never been there.  Maybe it’s because Kansas City is renowned for slow-smoked meats finished with a tangy/sweet sauce, and ribs in particular are at their best when cooked via those methods.  No matter the reason, we knew we would be cooking ribs in the smoker for the Steeler Opponent-City Challenge when the Steelers played the Kansas City Chiefs.  And since Dan prefers to go Flintstones-style with quantity on the rare occasions we have ribs, we made them when my parents were in town for a weekend visit so we could share the smoky BBQ goodness.  And my parents were gracious enough to don some Steeler garb for that weekend’s game and the S.O.C.C. feature photo (thanks guys!)  While they are not die-hard Steeler fans per se, my parents are definitely big fans of their son-in-law (as he is of them) and were happy to support the team.  And we were all super-fans of the delicious, mouth-melting Kansas City ribs.  We didn’t as much enjoy the tough game the Steelers had against the Chiefs (even less so after Big Ben got hurt), but they managed a win nonetheless (in overtime, which is so not my favorite), bringing the current S.O.C.C. record to:  Steelers 6-3, Foodie Lawyer 8-1

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Shredded Pork Tostadas (w/ leftover pork)

Over the summer, we cooked an entire pork shoulder in the smoker, which resulted in a ton of delicious pulled pork, a lot of which we froze for later use.  Always keeping an eye out for creative uses of leftover pork and other proteins (this sugo was a good one), we were excited to find a recipe using shredded pork in Cook’s Illustrated’s “Mexican Favorites” magazine.  (What?  You don’t get your thrills searching through magazines and cookbooks for innovative ways to transform leftovers into new dishes?  Well then, you’re seriously missing out.)  The original recipe calls for braising a pork roast with some onion, garlic, thyme and salt to make “tinga,” or Mexican shredded pork.  Whenever we run out of leftover pulled pork (next year sometime?), we’ll try the tinga recipe, but until then, the smoky flavor of the pulled pork adapts well to the chipotle-infused tomato sauce for a flavorful tostada topping.   In fact, we loved these tostadas so much that the next time we thaw some of our pulled pork, we’re going directly to this recipe.  Do not pass go, do not collect $200, do not seek out other uses of pulled pork. Continue reading “Shredded Pork Tostadas (w/ leftover pork)”

Breaded Pork Chops w/ Arugula Salad

We appreciate any recipe that incorporates a protein and a vegetable for a well-balanced meal in a single dish, especially on a weeknight.  Although the combo of a protein and greens with a light vinaigrette isn’t all that original (we’ve made similar versions with beef, chicken and veal before), the components work well together, and when we find an easy, (relatively) healthy meal solution, we’re not afraid to run it into the ground by trying each and every possible variation.  We found the original recipe in a magazine (“Glamour,” if you must know.  So I should clarify that I found it, to preserve at least a little of Dan’s dignity) and adapted it slightly by using more shallot in the vinaigrette and adding tomatoes to the salad.  We like how the arugula salad livens up the otherwise potentially plain pork and balances out the meal.  And yes, I realize that this dish is basically just pork chops with a side salad, but combining the two in the recipe and on the plate fancies up the meal into more of a one-dish wonder, if you will.  And we will.

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Orecchiette w/ Pulled-Pork Sugo (w/leftover pulled pork)

“Sugo” means sauce.  Cooking an entire pork shoulder on the smoker means a lot of leftover pulled pork.  Combining the two and adding veggies and delicate, ear-shaped pasta seemed like a pretty good idea.  So we adapted this recipe and were delighted by the resulting dish that is reminiscent of bolognese, but with different texture and more smoky barbeque flavor.  We also appreciated how easy it was to make — especially using leftover pulled pork (although the original recipe includes instructions for roasting the pork if you don’t have any leftovers) — with basic ingredients:  onion, celery, carrot, garlic, dried oregano, tomato paste, white wine, chicken broth, cannellini beans, cider vinegar, a bay leaf and orecchiette pasta (you could use other types of pasta, but the little orecchiette cups soak up the sauce really well.)  As delicious as pulled pork is on its own, we really liked the flavor and texture that the shredded pork brought to this unique pasta dish.

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Smoked Pulled Pork

Anyone else feel a little nostalgic this time of year?  The beginning of a new school year signals the end of summer, even while temperatures remain hot and sunny days abound.  Although we have long since outgrown the months-free, schools-out summer vacations we enjoyed as kids, summer’s end brings a sense of wistful yearning for those long, lazy days.  The upcoming Labor Day 3-day-weekend is an excellent time to bid farewell to summer with cooking that epitomizes the season:  low and slow barbeque.  Transforming a giant slab of meat into tender morsels of smoky pork perfection is just reward for the 20 or so hours it takes to get there, and is a fitting ode to the warmest season with the longest days of the year.  We adapted this recipe, and highly recommend the dual seasoning techniques of injecting the meat and applying a dry rub prior to smoking.  No matter your personal barbeque style, cook some meat over open flame or coal at the lowest temperature you can go, take your time to get it done, and enjoy the heck out of your Labor Day weekend.

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Slow-Cooker Japanese Pork and Ramen Soup

The dog days of summer can also be the dog days of television.  With many of our favorite shows on haitus or running seemingly endless re-runs, “there’s nothing to watch” is a common refrain around our house these days.  When all else fails, we can almost always count on Anthony Bourdain’s show “No Reservations” for entertainment, even when it’s an episode we have previously seen, and especially when it involves one of Bourdain’s trips to an Asian country.  Of all the different cuisines from all over the world featured on the show, it’s the noodle bowls from Asian regions that always seem most appetizing.  With rich steaming broth, thin slurp-worthy noodles, succulent pork (or other protein) and fresh indigenous greens and vegetables, watching Bourdain enjoy the heck out of these noodle bowls like it’s his job (it is!) always makes us want to travel immediately to that location and eat what he’s eating.  In the meantime, we’ll make do with this substitute, adapted from a recipe in the book “Slow Cooker Revolution.”  It’s easy to make with the following ingredients — onion, garlic, ginger, chicken broth, shiitake mushrooms, pork, ramen noodles, white miso, soy sauce, mirin (rice wine), sesame oil, spinach, green onions and sesame seeds — and consuming it involves zero jet lag.

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