Slow-Roasted Pork with Apple Relish

Most meals, I can count on at least one thing that Miss H will like and eat without complaint. Cheese will always get eaten (unless it’s mozzarella). Bread and noodles will also be devoured without complaint. Certain vegetables like carrots and edamame. Sweet potato fries (or any fries, really). Greek yogurt. Any kind of fruit.

We ask her to try everything, within reason. When we had kale and artichokes with salmon on Monday, we encouraged her to try the vegetables, but we didn’t push it. They were a little weird, and I’m not sure she would have liked them anyway (although who knows – Miss H loves kale chips and marinated anything so one would think they were right up her alley). We did, however, encourage her to try the capers, because she has really liked them in the past, and all she needed was a reminder of that.

And then there are some nights when she eats everything on her plate without complaint. Usually those are leftover nights, because she gets a sandwich or noodles or something totally benign. Every once in a while, though, there is a meal that takes a little coaxing but ends with a clean plate.

Like this one.

The sure things on this plate were the egg noodles and the roasted parsnips. The pork was iffy, because Miss H does not always trust proteins. And the apple relish was a wild card. On paper, she should like it: fruit, lemon juice, fun to pick up and eat. In reality, you never can tell, especially with little specks of green (dried parsley) all over the apple pieces.

Then you go and get proved wrong, because Miss H took one taste of those apples and ate them all up. She went through the noodles and parsnips first and then agreed to eat a couple bites of pork. She wasn’t sure about the apples at first, but once she realized the green on the apples was parsley, she decided to give them a try. The husband and I were kind of surprised but also kind of not. The apple relish was quite sour because of the lemon juice, which accompanied the pork quite well but wasn’t fantastic by itself. Since I know Miss H likes sour, I figured the real challenge would be getting her to try it.

She eventually cleaned her plate, with help from daddy, who is always willing to eat leftover meat.

We liked this meal, obviously. The relish and the meat made a nice combination, although I’d serve the meat with more of the juice from the slow cooker, which was sweetened by apple cider. The parsnips made a nice accompaniment. If I were to make the meal again, I’d go with mashed potatoes (to catch all that delicious juice) rather than noodles, but it was still fine as it was.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5. I could see adding this to our rotation, especially in the winter. A juice, flavorful pork shoulder is always welcome at our table. The apple relish, though a little odd at first, went nicely with the pork and added some freshness to the meal. Easy to make and very tasty.

Recipe from “Real Simple: Dinner Made Easy.”

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Poultry Pot Pie

This may be one of my favorite recipes. I’ve made it so many times over the past six years, which is when I first started making pot pies. And surprise! I’m actually going to share the recipe with you, because it is one I’ve sort of developed on my own. It’s a combination of a number of other recipes, from which I took my favorite things and put them together to make the ultimate go-to recipe.

I call it a poultry pie because I throw whatever I’ve got in there. Chicken, turkey, duck – it’s all good. It’s perfect for using up leftover Thanksgiving turkey. In fact, I freeze 2-3 baggies of leftover turkey meat each just to use for meals like this. It’s why I do a 15-pound turkey even when it’s just the three of us for Thanksgiving. Turkey pot pie is perfect for the winter, and it’s meals like this that make me think it wouldn’t be so bad to have longer, colder winters. Fortunately, even warm(ish) Texas winters benefit from the occasional pot pie, so I still don’t have to put up with snow just to satisfy a pot pie craving.

Also, a note about the pie crust: I do a single crust on my pot pies. Double crusts are better, yes, but single crusts are easier and healthier. I don’t do a layer of crust in the pan, just on top of the filling. This makes things a little messier but does not effect taste. Often, I counter the messiness by making individual pot pies, which are much easier to deal with anyway. They’re a cinch to heat up for leftovers, and they freeze fantastically. I usually get 4 6″ ramekins and 2 4″ ramekins (all generously sized) out of one batch. The adults get one of the larger ramekins, and Miss H gets a small one.

Speaking of Miss H, she likes pot pies, for the most part. What she eats depends on her mood. Sometimes the meat, sometime the veggies (but not the mushrooms), sometimes the potatoes, always the pie crust. The recipe I use for the pie crust is one from Julia Child, and it is the best pie crust I have ever had. I’ve been making it for four years, and it’s comes out perfect (almost) every time. The times it has not come out perfect has been from my own error. I love this pie crust. I could eat it by itself. So could Miss H.

Anyway. Pot pie. Here it is. Feel free to play with it. Add onions or celery if you like. Parsnips would be a nice addition. The husband occasionally gets nostalgic for frozen peas. Sometimes I leave out the corn. And I’d really like to try it with sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes.

Poultry Pot Pie
6 servings

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 16 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 2 cups shredded cooked poultry
  • 1 disc of uncooked pie dough (~12 ounces)
  1. Heat oven to 400.
  2. In a saucepan, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms and saute until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add the potato and carrots and saute until tender.
  3. Stir in the flour until blended. Gradually add broth. Bring to a boil. Simmer, cooking and stirring for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in corn, cream, and seasonings. Stir in poultry.
  4. Spoon into an ungreased 2-quart casserole dish or into individual ramekins. Roll out pie dough to fit over top of the casserole(s). Place over the filling and trim, seal, and flute edges. Cut slits in pastry to vent. Bake until golden and bubbly, about 45 minutes for a large casserole or 30 minutes for ramekins. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Pork & Udon Soup

Every Friday or Saturday, usually as we’re nearing the end of dinner, I say to my husband, “So, what do we want to eat next week?”

It’s a habit of ours to talk about food while we’re eating. It seems an appropriate time.

Often during autumn or winter, my husband will say, “Udon!” Sometimes he says it even during summer, when soup doesn’t always make an appearance on the weekly menu. My response is usually, “I’ll check the weather,” because I prefer a cold evening for udon soup, because it’s a meal that will warm you up and keep you warm for a good long while.

This weekend, we’ve had freezing temperatures, a not-so-common occurrence in our area of Texas, even in winter. My go-to Pork & Udon Soup recipe seemed like a perfect meal to end a cold weekend, especially since we’d be getting back up into more reasonable temperatures in the coming week.

What is Udon? Besides fantastic? Udon is a thick wheat noodle of Japanese origin. And by thick, I mean thick. It’s not like an Italian noodle, or even a ramen noodle. Think much thicker. As a result, it’s doughier and heartier, and it’s delicious. There are a dozen ways to make udon soup, depending on how you flavor it and what you add to it. What I use is a simple recipe that’s overflowing with vegetables and pork. It’s probably not an authentic udon soup – it is Food Network, after all, and though the effort is sometimes there, authenticity doesn’t always follow. But, it is a tasty udon soup recipe, and the pork – while not cha siu levels of delicious – still delivers on taste and is really simple to make.

I will note that I don’t follow the recipe 100%. First, no onions, because we are a no onion household. Second, I use whatever stock I happen to have. This time around, I used three cups of seafood stock and five cups of water. Still tasted fine. Third, I don’t use just soy sauce to add flavor to the broth. I also add toasted sesame oil and rice wine vinegar. I just like the depth they add to the flavor. Makes it a little more interesting. Fourth, I don’t usually bother with the cilantro (because I don’t like it) and the bean sprouts (because they only come in large packages and we don’t need that much of them). Fifth, regular cabbage and mushrooms are fine. No need to get fancy.

This recipe makes a ton of soup. It says 4 servings, but those must be huge servings, because we can get almost twice that much out of a batch. Or maybe we’re just eating smaller servings. Either way, for us, there is more than enough for lunch and dinner leftovers. It’ll keep us warm and full for days.

Udon noodles go into the bowl first and then are topped by ladles of hearty, flavorful broth.

Udon noodles go into the bowl first and then are topped by ladles of hearty, flavorful broth.

A nice big bowl of warming udon soup.

A nice big bowl of warming udon soup.

Pear-Apple Crumble Pie

Source: Food Network Magazine (Pear-Apple Crumble Pie)

I made this for a pre-Thanksgiving playdate potluck. I had already decided that I was going to make the Sweet Serenity Apple Pie (which I posted about already) for Thanksgiving, but I thought it would be nice to give something else a try.

I don’t often make pies, even though I do like them. I don’t mind working with pie crust dough now that I’ve had more experience with it and feel much more comfortable with it. I make big batches of four at a time and always have some hanging out in the freezer. It’s doing all the rolling and the pre-baking and the cooling that adds time to even simple pie recipes and puts me off a bit. Mostly, there’s just something holiday-ish about pies. I bake cakes and cupcakes and cookies quite often, but pies are truly special occasion desserts. I like them for holidays, they just seem to fit.

I chose this pie because I had everything I needed on hand, and it didn’t require too much effort. I usually make treats for playdates in the morning, so I wanted something that wouldn’t take too long or be too difficult. This still took quite a bit of time, mostly in the cooking time and the prep work. It baked for an hour and a half.

Three pounds of fruit went into this pie in the form of three apples and four pears. It was too much. When the pie came out of the oven, it was mounded like a little fruit-crumble hill. It deflated as it cooled, but it was still quite large. It was difficult to manage, in both cutting and eating. There wasn’t a lot of distinction in the flavors, which might have had more to do with my fruit than the recipe itself. With the amount of filling I had, I felt like I should have made two pies instead of just one. Also, there was too much lemon juice for my taste.

On the plus side, it wasn’t an overly sweet pie, so a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream would have helped it out a lot without ruining the balance by adding both a little flavor and sweetness. Overall, though, I wasn’t impressed. It went over well at the playdate, but sometimes I wonder if they just tell me they like it so they don’t hurt my feelings.

(For the record, it doesn’t. Nobody can be more critical of what I make than I am. Also, food is totally subjective. What I like is what I like.)

Rating2 of 5 stars. This just didn’t work for me. I didn’t really like the flavor, I didn’t like the bulkiness, I didn’t like the texture much. Almost everybody else liked it, so maybe it’s just me. I just feel like it could have been better – or I could have made it better. I don’t know.

Would I make it again? Nope. It’s nice to try something new every once in a while, but sometimes, it just doesn’t pan out. I’d rather stick with a classic old favorite.

Guinness Beef Stew

Source: Tracey’s Culinary Adventures (Guinness Beef Stew)

Every so often, usually when summer in our area lasts twice as long as it should and it’s still 90 degrees in October, I think wistfully about how nice it would be to live someplace where seasons actually exist. And then the first cold night of the season arrives, and I think, nope, I’m good. I make some cold weather comfort food, which is really one of the only reasons I like cold weather.

I find it nearly impossible to enjoy pot pies and stews before October and after March. These are meals that are meant for cozy evenings, enjoying the warmth of home when it’s too cold to think about going outside. Which is too bad, because I love cold weather meals. I love autumn and winter vegetables. I look forward to October every year because I’m so sick of salads and dishes that aren’t uncomfortable to make when it’s 100 degrees outside. Nobody wants to have the oven going for three hours when the AC unit is rumbling all day long in an attempt to keep the house at a livable temperature.

And this stew takes about three hours in the oven. It actually could have stayed in for a bit longer, but the meat was still fall-apart tender, the potatoes were cooked through but not mushy, and the carrots added a bit of crunch.

Everything blended together so well in this one-pot dish. The Guinness didn’t overwhelm any of the other flavors, though my husband did comment that the gravy tasted “like root vegetables,” so maybe a little more Guinness was called for. But my husband will always say yes to more beer, so I’d be surprised if he didn’t approve of that idea.

About three-quarters of the way through making the stew, I was a bit concerned about the thickness of the gravy. Beef stew needs a nice, thick gravy, otherwise you’re just eating soup, right? I resisted the urge to do any doctoring, placing my trust in the ingredients and the wonderful magic that happens to them by adding heat. Good thing too, because the stew came together beautifully with a lovely thick gravy that tasted amazing.

Rating: 5 stars. Yes, this was a very tasty meal. I don’t like pot roasts, but I do like stews. There are a couple of daubes in Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table that are absolutely terrific and should be made at least once a year. But this was an excellent meal in its own right and should certainly be considered a fine example of the humble (but delicious) beef stew.

Will I make it again? You bet. I would make a couple of minor changes. I’d cut the carrots smaller to allow them to cook a bit more. I’d serve it with a nice, soft roll to help soak up all the tasty Guinness-rich gravy. I’d even consider leaving out the potatoes and serving the stew over mashed potatoes instead, because seriously, the gravy is pretty awesome.

This one is going into my “saved” recipes file, and I’ll be happy to make it again in the future.

Lemon Chicken with Roasted Kabocha and Brussels Sprouts

Source: Food Network Magazine (Lemon Chicken with Butternut Squash)

I have a soft spot in my heart for Food Network Magazine. In the days before I had a toddler dancing around my legs and stealing my free time, I could start cooking at 3 in the afternoon. I could take my time, and it wouldn’t matter if we ate at 6 or 7. I could skip over the “Weeknight Meals” section of the magazine and move on to more advanced fare that usually involved time and technique.

Now, I don’t usually start cooking until my husband gets home, which is roughly 90 minutes before dinner time, which I aim to have on the table at 6. Or at least by 6:20. If I don’t wait for my husband to come home and distract our toddler, she stands at my side and shouts, “See? See! See?!” until I give in and let her bring her step-stool over or I give up and wait for Daddy to come home.

In other words, the “Weeknight Meals” section of Food Network Magazine has become my favorite part of the magazine. I go for the lower-calorie ones (in my world, 600 calories or less, which rules out about 25% of the recipes) that use seasonal ingredients or are easily adapted to them. And, of course, they have to past certain tests: does the recipe require onions, peppers, or other things we do not like? Can those ingredients be replaced without the dish completely falling apart? Does the husband agree that this would be nice to eat? Does it fit into the weekly meal plan? Will the toddler consider eating it, or will she be having a dinner consisting of Greek yogurt and a veggie pouch?

This recipe passed muster, with two changes: I used kabocha squash instead of butternut squash, and I added Brussels sprouts, because green vegetable.

We like butternut squash, but we like kabocha better. Kabocha is a Japanese pumpkin with a green, edible skin and orange flesh. It’s the only kind of pumpkin I ever saw while living in Japan, but that was okay, because it’s delicious. It’s sweeter than a butternut squash and can be used in a variety of dishes, including soups, stews, and stir-frys. In Japan, it’s often served in tempura dishes (and it is awesome this way) or as nimono, which is simmered in a stock of soy sauce and sake (also very tasty). But sometimes simplest is best; more often than not, I just sprinkle it with salt and pepper, apply olive oil, and roast it. Perfect.

The toddler loved it last year, and it took a little prodding before she remembered that she loved it. She ate her fair share of this time around, though she would not touch the Brussels sprouts, which were roasted along with the kabocha. I don’t blame her for that. I was 30 before I realized Brussels sprouts could be worth eating. She did eat the chicken but only after I gave her ketchup, which is pretty much the way things work around here. She ate the meat, that’s the important thing.

Overall, this got 3 stars out of 5. The veggies were a 5, the chicken not so much. Partially my fault for over-cooking them a bit, but the seasonings didn’t do much. Chicken with lemon is alright but not mind-blowing.  A little lemon cream sauce would have been a nice addition and would have gone with the veggies too. It was very easy to make (other than the tedious job of cutting up kabocha and trimming Brussels sprouts), so that’s always a plus.

Would I make it again? Nah, probably not. I can roast vegetables on my own, and I can do chicken better than this. I might do variations, but this recipe won’t be a repeat.