All posts by LynnHoll

About LynnHoll

I have been an artist and designer all my life incorporating graphic design for websites, gardens, publications, fabrics, interior design and cooking. I am now retired from my professional job, but still create artistic visions in all forms on a daily basis.

Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Chive-Thyme Pan Sauce

Here’s turning a conventional cooking method upside down. Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, the salted pork chops are first cooked in a low oven, then seared in a smoking pan. Slowly cooking the meat allowed enzymes to break down protein, tenderizing the chops. The salted surface gently dried out in the oven and became beautifully caramelized in the pan.

I know this recipe calls for bone-in loin pork chops, but we happened to have four, thick boneless loin chops in our freezer and went ahead and used them. It’s essential to keep an acute eye on the temperature when using boneless chops since they tend to take a bit longer to come to temperature, however, this method didn’t tend to make a difference.

TIP: Buy chops of similar thickness so that they cook at the same rate.

Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Chive-Thyme Pan Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 4 bone-in rib loin pork chops, 1 1/2 inches thick (about 12 ounces each)
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Garlic and Thyme Pan Sauce

  • 1 large shallot, minced (about 4 Tbsp.)
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tsp.)
  • ¾ cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
  • ¼ tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 3 pieces
  • Table salt and ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 275°F. Pat chops dry with paper towels.
  2. Using sharp knife, cut 2 slits, about 2 inches apart, through outer layer of fat and silver skin. Sprinkle entire surface of each chop with 1 teaspoon salt. Place chops on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and let stand at room temperature 45 minutes.
  3. Season chops liberally with pepper; transfer baking sheet to oven. Cook until instant-read thermometer inserted into centers of chops and away from bones registers 120° to 125°F, 30 to 45 minutes.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until smoking. Place 2 chops in skillet and sear until well browned and crusty, 1½ to 3 minutes, lifting once halfway through to redistribute fat underneath each chop. (Reduce heat if browned bits in pan bottom start to burn.) Using tongs, turn chops and cook until well browned on second side, 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Transfer chops to plate and repeat with remaining 2 chops, adding extra tablespoon oil if pan is dry.
  6. Reduce heat to medium. Use tongs to stand 2 pork chops on their sides. Holding chops together with tongs, return to skillet and sear sides of chops (with exception of bone side) until browned and instant-read thermometer inserted into center of chop and away from bone registers 140 to 145 degrees, about 1½ minutes.
  7. Repeat with remaining 2 chops. Let chops rest, loosely tented with foil, for 10 minutes while preparing sauce.
  8. Pour off all but 1 teaspoon oil from the pan and return pan to medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until softened, about 1 minute.
  9. Add the broth and wine, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce measures 1/2 cup, 6 to 7 minutes. Off heat, stir in the thyme and vinegar; whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with the pork chops.

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Adapted from a recipe in Cook’s Illustrated

Cider-Braised Pork Ragoût over Creamy Polenta

Just so we’re all clear, ragoût is a French word for stew. However there is nothing terribly French about this dish. The recipe hails from Molly Stevens‘ latest cookbook “All About Dinner” where she explains the title comes from the verb ragoûter which means “to perk up, to revive the taste of,” and that’s exactly what the hard cider does here.

We were lucky enough to have a growler of son Dan’s homemade hard cider that he gifted us over the holidays. The sharp, lightly appley taste brings out the porks natural sweetness and balances the acidity of the tomatoes. The depth of flavor overall was astounding!

While it was fabulous from the get-go, like most stews and braises, this tastes even better a day or three later. That fact makes it a good choice for company, because you can make it a day or two ahead and then just gently reheat the ragoût while making the polenta. Yes, we did have leftovers, and were loving them a few days later…

Cider-Braised Pork Ragoût

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 2″ chunks
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 oz. pancetta or bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 med. yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 med. carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped rosemary
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
  • 1 heaping Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cups hard cider, preferably dry
  • 1 14-oz. can tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 ay leaf
  • 2 strips orange zest, removed with a vegetable peeler (about 3 ” x 3/4″)
  • 2-3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Directions

  1. Arrange the pork chunks on a tray and pat dry. Heat a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (4-6 quarts) over medium heat, then add the oil.
  2. While the oil heats, sprinkle salt and pepper on half of the pork (you will season in two batches and prevent the meat from sweating as it sits). When the oil is hot, add the seasoned chunks without crowding the pan.
  3. Cook, turning the pieces with tongs, until nicely browned all over, 12 to 15 minutes per batch. Transfer the browned pork to a plate and repeat with remaining pork.
  4. Examine the empty pot and discard all but two tablespoons of fat, if necessary. Wipe out any black areas, but leave the meaty drippings and browned bits.
  5. Once all the pork is browned, return the pot to medium heat and add the pancetta/bacon and cook, stirring once or twice with a wooden spoon. until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes.
  6. Add the onion, carrot, fennel, garlic, rosemary, coriander and fennel seeds, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in the tomato paste, working it through the veggies so it is evenly distributed. Let cook for 1 minute, then add 1/2 the cider.
  8. Increase the heat to medium-high, scrape the bottom of the pot with the wooden spoon to dislodge and dissolve all browned bits, and cook at a rapid simmer until the cider is reduced by about two-thirds, about 8 minutes.
  9. Add the remaining cider, return to a simmer, stir and cook for another 2 minutes.
  10. Add the tomato puree, bay leaf and orange zest strips, and bring back to a simmer.
  11. Return the pork to the pot, lower the heat so the liquid barely simmers, and cover. Cook gently to maintain a quiet simmer with bubbles slowly rising to the surface, stirring occasionally to ensure that nothing is sticking, until the pork is fork-tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  12. Meanwhile, make the Creamy Polenta as per the recipe below.

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Creamy Polenta

According to Molly, the difference between mediocre polenta and superb polenta is starting with stone-ground cornmeal and allowing plenty of time for it to cook—45 to 60 minutes. The extended simmer allows the grains to swell into a soft, fluffy porridge redolent of corn flavor. Made with part milk instead of all water, it creates a softer, creamier porridge.

Creamy Polenta

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 5 cups liquid, half water, half milk
  • Salt
  • 1 cup polenta (cornmeal) preferably stone-ground
  • 1 to 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 to 2 oz. Parmesan, grated
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Heat 4 cups of the mixed liquid (milk and water) in a heavy-bottomed 3- to 4-quart pot over medium-high heat until just warm. Add a good pinch of salt, then add the polenta in a steady stream, whisking to avoid lumps, and let come to a gentle boil.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer as you whisk occasionally. Once the mixture begins to thicken, switch to a wooden spoon and stir regularly—once every few minutes at first, less frequently as the polenta gets thicker, scraping the bottom as you go, and continue to adjust the heat as needed so that the occasional fat bubble breaks the surface but the polenta does not boil and splatter like hot lava.
  3. Add the remaining one cup liquid (milk and water) in 1/4 cup increments as need to keep the polenta smooth and creamy. (I used only a 1/2 cup total in this instance.) Continue to to simmer and stir, until the polenta is fluffy and tender, about 45 to 60 minutes total.
  4. Stir in the butter and parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve in shallow bowls and ladle the pork ragoût over the polenta. Garnish with chopped parsley.

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Both recipes come from Molly Stevens “All About Dinner” cookbook

Butterflied Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Fennel, Rosemary and Orange

First order of business for this scrumptious recipe from Molly Stevens is to butterfly—aka spatchcockthe chicken (or have your butcher do it for you). A method we use often because the flattened bird cooks more evenly than a whole one, where the slower-cooking dark meat gets more heat exposure and the lighter breast meat remains protected at the center of the pan.

This recipe arrangement allows for a marvelous flavor exchange as the chicken bastes the fennel-orange-rosemary mix with savory juices, all while absorbing its sweet-citrusy-woodsy aromas. Just writing this is getting my juices flowing! And everything on just one pan, who doesn’t love that?!

If at all possible, try to get blood oranges, with their sweet, yet tart, exceedingly aromatic and juicy fruit. Along with their lovely, jewel-like red color, blood oranges tend to have a noticeable and delicious raspberry edge to their flavor.

With the potatoes around the perimeter of the baking sheet, they get the full brunt of the oven’s heat, producing brown crispy exteriors while maintaining creamy interiors. This approach to cooking a variety of elements all in one pan (with different handling) results in a complementary alliance of flavors and textures. A good bottle of wine would be the only other accompaniment needed…

Plan Ahead: For the best flavor and texture, season the chicken at least 4, and up to 24 hours in advance.

One follow up note, some of the fennel wedges were still not completely cooked through at the end. To solve this issue, first make the fennel wedges only 1/2″ thick, and then slice off some of the inner triangular core of the fennel, but leave enough to keep the wedges intact.

Butterflied Roast Chicken with Potatoes, Fennel, Rosemary and Orange

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp. black pepercorns
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika, smoked (pimentón) or regular, sweet or hot
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 4-lb. chicken, butterflied and patted dry
  • 2 large fennel bulbs (about 1 1/2 lbs. untrimmed)
  • 1 3/4 lbs. med. red or white potatoes, scrubbed
  • 1 small blood (or navel) orange, scrubbed
  • 2 Tbsp. EVOO
  • 2 3- to 4-inch fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth

Directions

  1. Combine the coriander seeds and peppercorns in a mortar or spice grinder and coarsely grind. Transfer to a small cup and add the pimentón (paprika) and 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and stir to combine.
  2. Pat the chicken dry all over and sprinkle half of this mixture on the underside of the chicken, rubbing in so the spices adhere. Flip and rub the remainder of the bird, including legs and wings, with the spices. Set the chicken, skin side up, on a rimmed baking sheet or tray. Tuck the wingtips under the back of the chicken, and the thighs are not flopped outward. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 4, and up to 24 hours.
  3. When ready to roast, heat the oven to 400° (375° convection) with a rack near the middle. Let the chicken sit at room temperature while the oven heats.
  4. Meanwhile, cut the fennel into wedges just over 1-inch across at their widest. Cut the potatoes into 1-inch wedges.Cut the orange crosswise in half and set one half aside for juicing later. Cut the remaining half in half, and then crosswise into 1/4-inch quarter moon shapes.
  5. Place the fennel and orange slices in the center of a large heavy rimmed baking sheet. Arrange the potatoes off to one side. Drizzle the olive oil over everything and season with salt and pepper. Toss the fennel and oranges together to coat with oil and seasonings. Do the same with the potatoes but keep them separate.
  6. Spread out the vegetables in a single layer, grouping the fennel and orange toward the center and the potatoes around the perimeter—this will allow the chicken to protect the quicker-cooking fennel and oranges from burning, and ensure crisp brown potatoes.
  7. Place the rosemary sprigs on the fennel and squeeze the juice from the reserved orange half onto it.
  8. Place the chicken on the vegetables, skin side up. The potatoes should be fully exposed or poking out and the fennel mostly tucked under the bird. Pour the vermouth or the wine around the potatoes, avoiding the chicken.
  9. Roast, stirring the potatoes and rotating the pan about halfway through, until the chicken skin is crisp and well-browned in spots. The juices from the breast should run almost clear when you prick it with a knife. An instant-read thermometer inserted in the thigh (without touching the bone) should register 170°, in 45 to 50 minutes.
  10. Remove chicken to a cutting board with trough to catch the juices, and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
  11. Stir the vegetables, combining the fennel, potatoes and oranges and coating them with the pan drippings. If the fennel and potatoes are not tender, return them to the oven to finish roasting while the chicken rests.
  12. Halve the chicken by cutting straight down the center bone. Cut each whole leg away from each breast half and cut the legs into thighs and drumsticks. Cut each breast half crosswise in half, leaving the wing attached to the upper portion, creating 8 total pieces.
  13. Pour any carving juices over the vegetables and serve immediately.

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Recipe from from Molly Stevens cookbook “All About Dinner”

Slow-Cooker Southwestern Bean Soup

What’s better than a good soup for lunches during the cooler months, or for a quick, healthy dinner in a time crunch? This Slow-Cooker Southwestern Bean Soup is a load-and-go crock pot recipe adaptation from one we found on Eating Well.

While there is really nothing “quick” about it because you first have to soak the beans overnight, the “fast” method in a slow cooker takes four hours on high, and the “slow” method takes seven or eight hours in the crockpot. Not exactly my idea of a quick turn-around. But the prep is quite simple and then its hands off for hours, allowing you to do other things.

As with many recipes, we alter them to suit or own personal preferences. In this case, we increased each of the three bean types from one-third cup to a half cup each. Then we included 4 pressed garlic cloves and a can of crushed tomatoes to address the moisture for the extra beans. All of these changes are noted below.

Bump up the Southwest flavors like we did with all, or some, of these garnishes of chopped fresh cilantro, some crumbled Cotija (or ricotta salata) cheese, sliced scallions and a squeeze of lime, if desired.

To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Slow-Cooker Southwestern Bean Soup

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced 
  • 1 large stalk celery, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 2 cups water 
  • 4 cups chicken broth, (or vegetable broth)
  • 1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup pearl barley
  • ½ cup dried black beans
  • ½ cup dried great northern beans
  • ½ cup dried kidney beans
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • ¾ tsp. salt

Directions

  1. Soak black beans, great northern beans and kidney beans in water for at least 6 hours or overnight. Drain and boil in fresh water for 10 minutes. Drain and add to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker.
  2. Add oil, onion, celery, carrot, garlic, water, broth, tomatoes, barley, chili powder, cumin, oregano and salt to the slow cooker. Cover and cook until the beans are tender, about 4 hours on High, or 7 to 8 hours on Low.

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Recipe adapted from Carolyn Malcoun for EatingWell.com

Japanese Ginger Pork

Japanese Ginger Pork (Shogayaki) is a recipe hailing from Milk Street. They explain that shoga means “ginger” in Japanese, and yaki translates as “grilled,” though the term is sometimes applied to foods that are fried or griddled. In the popular dish known as shogayaki, thinly sliced pork is cooked with a lightly sweetened, very gingery soy-based sauce.

Here, pork tenderloins are cut into quarters and pounded into thin cutlets. A quick soak in a marinade that later becomes the sauce ensures the cutlets are thoroughly flavored. Shredded green cabbage and steamed rice are the classic accompaniments so we paired them with the entrée.

In Japan, the meat of choice for shogayaki is thinly sliced pork loin. The thin cuts of meat cook quickly and make it easier for the seasonings to penetrate. But because making thin, even slices requires some challenging knife work, the thin slices of pork tenderloin are pounded even thinner. As a bonus, the pounding breaks apart the muscle fibers, making it even easier for the meat to season. Additionally, ginger has an enzyme called zingibain that helps tenderize meat.

After another recipe once-over, we decided to double the sauce—soy sauce through fresh ginger. We’re glad we did, but would not double the white sugar next time, it was a tad too sweet. Another major change we made was to coat the shredded cabbage with a one-to-one mixture of rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil with a pinch of salt. Overall, we feel the cabbage should be increased by utilizing the entire head, especially if this meal is to feed four. Finally, we also added an extra half bunch of scallions.

TIP: Don’t crowd the skillet when cooking the cutlets. It’s usually best to cook them in two batches so they brown rather than steam. But how they fit in the skillet depends on their shape after pounding. If you can fit all four in your pan without them touching, cook all at once using the 2 tablespoons of oil.

Japanese Ginger Pork (Shogayaki)

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. mirin
  • 2 Tbsp. sake
  • 1 Tbsp. white miso
  • 1½ Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1¼ 1b. pork tenderloin, trimmed of silver skin
  • 2 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 2 tsp. white sugar
  • 1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch piece
  • ½ small head green cabbage, cored and finely shredded (about 3 cups)
  • 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • Cooked Japanese-style short-grain rice, to serve

Directions

  1. In a wide, shallow bowl whisk together the soy sauce, mirin, sake, miso and ginger.
  2. Cut the pork tenderloin in half crosswise, making the tail-end half slightly larger, then cut each piece in half lengthwise. Place 2 pieces of pork between 2 large sheets of plastic wrap. Using a meat pounder, gently pound each piece to an even ¼-inch thickness. Repeat with the 2 remaining pieces.
  3. Add the cutlets to the soy mixture and turn to coat, then let marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  4. Mix the rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil together then add to a large bowl with the shredded cabbage and a pinch of salt. Mix well, and set aside.
  5. In the meantime, cook the Japanese rice according to package directions.
  6. Remove the cutlets from the marinade, letting the excess drain back into the bowl; reserve the marinade. Pat the cutlets dry with paper towels.
  7. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the cutlets in a single layer and cook undisturbed until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip each piece and continue to cook until the second sides are well browned, about another 2 minutes.
  8. Transfer to a large plate, then wipe out the skillet with paper towels. Repeat with the remaining oil and cutlets.
  9. Return the skillet to medium-high and add the reserved marinade, the sugar and ¼ cup water. Bring to a simmer and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the mixture thickens and a spoon drawn through it leaves a 1- to 2-second trail, about 3 minutes. (Because we doubled the sauce, it took twice as long to thicken properly.)
  10. Stir in the scallions, then add the pork and any accumulated juices. Cook, stirring gently, until the scallions are wilted and the pork is heated through, about 1 minute.
  11. Serve with the shredded cabbage and cooked rice.

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Recipe by Courtney Hill for Milk Street

Perfect Reverse-Seared Leg of Lamb

What many don’t realize is that prepping and cooking a big cut of meat can actually be easier and more forgiving than working with smaller cuts. According to chef Alan Bergo, you just need to know a few basic principles, and a have a simple trick or two up your sleeve. Here he shares his favorite method for serving up a flawless roast leg of lamb on your first try. It employs a surprisingly simple kitchen hack known as the reverse-sear.

Truth be told, while we’ve done the reverse-sear method on a number of cuts of beef, this was our maiden voyage with lamb. In this case, the recipe called for a 3-4 pound leg of lamb, but ours was nearly 5 pounds so the cooking time was actually 2 hours and 20 minutes. We used an internal thermometer to measure the temperature the entire time it was roasting.

One ingredient not included in the original recipe was garlic, so we included 4 cloves and mashed them in a large mortar with salt. Next we added the herbs (which we increased from 1/4 cup to a 1/2 cup since our roast was larger), and mashed it altogether to make a paste.

The lamb entrée was paired with Smashed Sage-Butter Potatoes that were so tender and creamy and Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Shallots. A word to the wise on the potatoes: make sure to get the small baby Yukons. This time around the store wasn’t carrying them, and we picked up 3+” potatoes, shown below. They came out wonderfully creamy, but the sagey butter didn’t really penetrate into the interiors as much.

Perfect Reverse-Seared Leg of Lamb

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 Boneless leg of lamb (3-4 pounds)
  • Flavorless high heat cooking oil, like grape seed
  • 1/2 cup aromatic herbs like rosemary sage and thyme, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and mashed in a mortar with salt
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt or more to taste
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper or more to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. In a large mortar, mash the garlic cloves with kosher salt until pulverized. If using rosemary, mash that with the garlic and then finish with the remaining herbs.
  2. Season the meat with salt, pepper and the garlic-herbs paste inside and out. Roll the leg up tightly and tie with kitchen twine to ensure even cooking. Let it sit uncovered in the fridge overnight.
  3. The next day, 1 1/2 hours before you want to serve (assuming a 3-4 lb leg) preheat the oven to 250 °F and place the leg in the oven. Insert an internal thermometer if you have one and set it for 130° for medium-rare. If all you have is an instant-read thermometer, start checking after one hour to monitor the meat doneness.
  4. When the internal temperature comes up to your target temperature (which could be 2 hours or more), remove the leg from the oven and allow to cool on its rack loosely tented with foil in a warmish location for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Finally, rub some extra-virgin olive oil all around the roast and heat a few tablespoons of grape seed oil in the sauté or cast iron pan on high. Turn on the hood, and or open a window, since you’ll be using some high heat for a few minutes. When the oil is just starting to smoke gently, reduce the heat to medium-high and brown the roast deeply on all sides.
  6. After the roast is browned, transfer to a cutting board, remove the twine, cut into slices with a sharp knife and serve immediately.

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Original recipe by Alan Bergo

Sear-Roasted Salmon Fillets with Chive-Shallot Butter

For deep flavor and a handsomely browned surface, the practice of pan-searing fish fillets on a hot stove and finishing them in the oven is your best bet. This luscious recipe is very simple and takes very little time to prep and cook.

The idea for the butter mixture is that the heat from the salmon will melt just enough of the butter to sauce it lightly and leave a small amount unmelted so it’s apparent when served at the table. Our side dish of Roasted Fennel with Orange-Honey Dressing was a perfect complement to the salmon.

TIP: A metal fish spatula is a great kitchen tool to have, especially if you often cook fish at home. The thin-gauge, flexible metal head is designed to flip and lift delicate fish fillets without tearing them.

Sear-Roasted Salmon Fillets with Chive-Shallot Butter

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 4 center-cut salmon fillets, about 6-8 oz. each
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. peanut oil, grapeseed oil, or other neutral tasting oil

Chive-Shallot Butter

  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped shallots
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped chives
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground balck pepper

Directions

  1. Position a rack near the center of the oven and preheat to 425° (400° convection). Let the salmon sit at room temperature as the oven heats.
  2. Set a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat and heat for 1-2 minutes. Meanwhile, pat the fish dry and season it liberally on all sides with salt and pepper.
  3. Add the oil to the skillet. When it begins to shimmer, lower in the filets one by one, skin side up. Sear, without disturbing, until one side is nicely browned, lifting with a metal spatula (or fish spatula if you have one) to check that it’s well seared before committing to flipping, 1-2 minutes. Flip the filets and immediately transfer the skillet to the oven.
  4. Roast until the thickest part of the filets are just firm to the touch, 5-7 minutes (or when an instant-read thermometer reads 130-135 for medium-rare). Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and serve the fish right away.
  5. For the Chive-Shallot Butter: Combine the wine or vermouth and shallots in your smallest saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until the liquid is mostly evaporated, about 5 minutes; keep an eye on it so that the shallots don’t scorch. Set aside to cool.
  6. Pound the chives with a 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large mortar to make a coarse paste (or grind in a small food processor).
  7. Place the butter in a mixing bowl and, using a wooden spoon or paddle beater, beat until smooth.
  8. Add the wine-shallot mixture, the pounded chives, and the mustard and lemon juice and stir until everything is incorporated. season with salt and pepper.
  9. If you plan to serve the butter within a few hours, scrape into a small ramekin; other wise cover and refrigerate. Let sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before serving.

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Recipe from Molly Stevens “All About Roasting” cookbook.

Roasted Fennel with Orange-Honey Dressing

Fennel is a love it or hate it vegetable because of the intense anise flavors. But roasting the bulbous veggie helps mellow the licorice notes and turns its fibrous texture luxuriously creamy. For this roasted fennel, Cook’s Illustrated (CI) began by cutting the bulbs into wedges, which had two benefits: It provided good surface area for browning, and the attached core kept the pieces intact.

Covering the pieces with foil for most of the cooking time allowed them to steam and turn creamy; then remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of roasting so that they can turn golden and deliciously caramelized. Toss the wedges with salted water before covering them, which provides moisture for steaming and helps get seasoning between the layers.

Arranging the pieces on the long sides of a rimmed baking sheet ensures that all the pieces get equal exposure to the heat and browned evenly. However, the original recipe did not specify what size rimmed baking sheet and we used the smaller quarter sheet pan instead of a half sheet pan. Because of that, we think it took much longer for the liquid to evaporate, thus much longer for the fennel wedges to brown. In fact, we even put them under the broiler at the end for a minute or so.

The tart dressing made with orange juice and honey is the perfect complement to the sweet fennel. WOW, we practically swooned when eating it! And it was a great side dish to complement our Sear Roasted Salmon entrée, but I changed the number of servings from 4-6 to 3-4; we almost finished it off between the two of us.

CI Note: Look for fennel bulbs that measure 3½ to 4 inches in diameter and weigh around 1 pound with the stalks (12 to 14 ounces without); trim the bases very lightly so that the bulbs remain intact.

Roasted Fennel with Orange-Honey Dressing

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed of stalks (but save some fronds for garnish), bases lightly trimmed
  • 2 Tbsp. fronds chopped coarse, stalks discarded
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • ¼ tsp. pepper

Dressing

  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 1 ½ tsp. white wine vinegar
  • ⅛ tsp. grated orange zest plus 1 tablespoon juice
  • Pinch kosher salt

Directions

  1. FOR THE FENNEL: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Spray rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil spray.
  2. Cut each fennel bulb lengthwise through core into 8 wedges (do not remove core). Whisk water and salt in large bowl until salt is dissolved. Add fennel wedges to bowl and toss gently to coat. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with pepper, and toss gently to coat.
  3. Arrange fennel wedges cut side down along 2 longer sides of prepared sheet. Drizzle any water in bowl evenly over fennel wedges. Cover sheet tightly with aluminum foil and roast for 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the foil from the sheet and continue to roast until side of fennel touching the sheet is browned, 5 to 8 minutes longer (this may take even longer than that), rotating sheet halfway through roasting.
  5. Flip each fennel wedge to second cut side. Continue to roast until second side is browned, 3 to 5 minutes (or more) longer. Transfer to serving dish.
  6. FOR THE DRESSING: While fennel roasts, whisk all ingredients together in small bowl.
  7. Whisk dressing to recombine when ready to use. Drizzle dressing over fennel, sprinkle with fennel fronds, and serve.

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Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated

Double Chocolate Cake with Honey-Rosemary Syrup

This unique syrup-soaked chocolate cake was the perfect dessert for our Christmas dinner, however you don’t have to wait for a special occasion to make it.

Floral honey and piney, resinous rosemary combine for a surprisingly delicious match for chocolate, their flavors and aromas complementing and lifting the dark, bittersweet notes.

Erika Bruce for Milk Street

The cake has a fine crumb similar to pound cake, yet is tender and light, and the syrup makes it extremely moist. If you can, plan in advance and make the cake a day ahead; its texture improves as the syrup slowly soaks in. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days.

Tips: Don’t measure the ¾ cup water and then bring it boil it or too much will steam off as it heats. Instead, boil a larger quantity of water in a kettle or saucepan, then measure the ¾ cup. Don’t underbake the cake or it will sink as it cools. When testing doneness, make sure the toothpick comes out clean and dry from the cake’s center. Finally, to ensure even absorption, drizzle on the syrup in four applications, with a brief rest between each. If applied all at once, the syrup will pool on the surface and turn the top soggy.

Double Chocolate Cake with Honey-Rosemary Syrup

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

For the Cake:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¾ cup boiling water
  • 10 Tbsp. (1¼ sticks) salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk

For the Honey Syrup:

  • ⅓ cup white sugar
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Directions

  1. To make the cake, heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Mist a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray, then dust with flour; tap out the excess. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the chocolate and cocoa. Pour the boiling water over top, jiggling the bowl to ensure all the chocolate is submerged. Let stand for 1 to 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth; set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1 cup sugar on low until just combined. Increase to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Reduce to medium and add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl once halfway through.
  5. Reduce to low, then add the chocolate mixture and vanilla; scrape the bowl. With the mixer running on low, add about a third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk, then scrape the bowl. With the mixer running, add half of the remaining flour mixture, followed by the remaining buttermilk, then finish with the remaining the flour mixture. Fold the batter by hand to ensure it is homogenous. The batter will be thick but pourable.
  6. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until the cake forms a thin, crisp center crust and a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, make the syrup. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, honey, rosemary, salt and ⅓ cup water. Bring to a boil over medium, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Transfer to a liquid measuring cup and cool to room temperature.
  8. When the cake is done, cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove and discard the rosemary from the cooled syrup, then drizzle about a quarter of the syrup onto the warm cake. The syrup will not be immediately absorbed; let stand for about 5 minutes to allow it to soak in. Drizzle on the remaining syrup in 3 more applications, allowing a 5-minute rest between each.
  9. Cool the cake completely in the pan, at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight (if storing overnight, wrap the pan in plastic and store at room temperature). To serve, run a paring knife around the pan to loosen the cake, remove the sides of the pan and cut the cake into wedges.

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Recipe from Briana Holt of Tandem Bakery + Coffee in Portland, Maine

Brined Honor Guard Rack of Pork with Cider-Bourbon Sauce

This delicious entrée, fancy enough for a special occasion (in our case Christmas), was derived from a few separate recipes; and the Honor Guard Roast was chosen over a Crown Roast. Both are show-stopping menu centerpieces but, chef-author Molly Stevens claims that the honor guard method is smarter and easier. And since we were not making a stuffing, we didn’t have to worry about arranging the two racks into a crown, which often then becomes too big to fit a normal size roasting pan.

The honor guard line up refers to the image of two rows of ceremonial guards standing facing each other with weapons, lifted and crossed to form a covered pathway. We preordered two 7-rib racks for a party of seven, allowing for a very generous two ribs per person (although most of us only had one rib each). Not to mention we grazed on this large charcuterie platter a couple of hours before dinner…

The Cider-Bourbon Sauce hailed from Allison Ehri Keitler for Fine Cooking, and was originally paired with a fennel-apricot stuffed crown roast of pork. As the sauce reduces down from two quarts of liquid to 1 1/4 cups of very concentrated deliciousness, you swear you might have copped a buzz from the bourbon! This Sauce is Boss, so don’t omit it.

Brined Honor Guard Rack of Pork

  • Servings: 7-10
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

For the sauce:

  • 1 quart apple cider
  • 2 cups bourbon
  • 2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbs. cider vinegar; more to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the brine:

  • 5 cups cool water (about 50 degrees)
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, 4-5 inches each
  • 2 garlic loves, smashed and peeled
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

For the roast:

  • 2 7-rib roast of pork racks, chine bone removed and bones frenched
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Make the sauce reduction

  1. Put the cider, bourbon, and chicken broth in a 3- to 4-quart (preferably 8-inch-wide) saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Reduce the heat to maintain a very brisk simmer and cook until the sauce has reduced to 1-1/4 cups, about 1 hour. Set aside until the roast is done.

TIP: Sauce can be made a day ahead of time. Store in sealed container in the refrigerator. Reheat over low in a small saucepan. Continue with “the finish” as noted below.

Brine & cook the roast:

  1. Brine: In a large bowl or 2-quart measuring cup, stir together the water, salt, brown sugar, and honey and stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Stir in garlic, rosemary and red pepper flakes.
  2. Place roast racks in a large ziploc plastic bag. Add the brine and zip close the bag. Press out extra air, seal, and set in a deep baking dish to catch any leaks that may occur. Chill for 18-24 hours.
  3. One hour before cooking, remove the pork from the brine and let the roast sit out at room temperature.
  4. Preheat oven to 250°.
  5. On a wire rack set into a rimmed baking sheet, assemble the two racks with bones up, leaning into each other and interlaced.
  6. Transfer to the oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the pork registers 140°, about 2 hours. (Ours actually took an additional 45 minutes to reach 140°.)
  7. Remove from oven and tent with foil for at least 15 minutes and up to 45 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, increase oven temperature to 500°, and when ready return the roast to oven cook until crisp and browned on the exterior, about 10 minutes; turning the pan halfway around after 5 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and tent with foil again, allowing to rest for 15 minutes.
  10. Carve by slicing between the rib bones to divide the racks into chops.

Finish the sauce:

This sauce was AMAZING!

  1. Shortly before serving, reheat the sauce in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove the sauce from the heat and whisk in the sour cream and vinegar.
  2. Season the sauce to taste with salt, pepper, and additional vinegar. Transfer the sauce to a serving bowl.

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We paired the pork with sides of Whiskey Glazed Carrots and a Potato Gratin with Gruyere, Bacon and Leeks, also by Molly Stevens.

Potato Gratin with Gruyere, Bacon and Leeks

This rich, creamy gratin gets a note of smokiness from the bacon between the layers of tender potatoes. A hand mandoline positioned over a large bowl makes an excellent tool for which to create perfectly sized potato slices.

Definitely company-worthy and impressive, not to mention sinfully decadent and flavorful, these were a big hit for all of us.

Potato Gratin with Gruyere, Bacon and Leeks

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled & sliced into 1/8-inch thick rounds
  • 2-1/2 cups heavy or light cream
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 oz. bacon
  • 3 medium leeks, white and light-green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 6 oz. grated Gruyère
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • Sweet paprika, for topping (optional)

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Butter or oil a 3-quart gratin dish; set aside.
  2. Put the potatoes, cream , 1/2 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper in a 12-inch skillet. Simmer, partially covered, over medium to medium-low heat, stirring often and gently with a rubber spatula until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a fork or skewer, 8 to 12 minutes.
  3. In a medium skillet, cook the bacon until browned and fully cooked. Set aside to cool, reserving 2 Tbs. of the fat in the skillet. Heat the reserved fat over medium-high heat and sauté leeks until tender, fragrant, and lightly browned. Season to taste with salt and pepper. When the bacon is cool, crumble it into small pieces.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer half the potatoes to the prepared gratin dish, spreading them evenly. Layer on the leeks, bacon, Gruyère, thyme, and nutmeg. Top with the remaining potatoes spreading them evenly, and pour over any liquid remaining in the pan.
  5. In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and melted butter. Evenly scatter the topping mixture over the potatoes. If using, sprinkle a light layer of sweet paprika over the breadcrumb topping.
  6. Bake the gratin until it’s bubbly, the top is brown, and the potatoes are completely tender when poked with a fork or a skewer, 25 to 30 minutes. Let the gratin sit for at least 10 and up to 30 minutes before serving so the liquid is fully absorbed and the layers are cohesive.

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Adapted from a recipe from Molly Stevens for Fine Cooking

Sous Vide Steak with Caper-Anchovy Butter and Italian Green Beans

Thickness matters. It’s not just about portion control because without an adequately thick steak, it’s very difficult to get that perfect contrast between exterior and interior. Start with good quality rib-eye or strip steaks that are 1 1/2″ to 2″ thick (ours was 1 3/4″), and weigh in at around 1 1/2 pounds.

Very thin steaks will tend to overcook before they can finish developing a nice crust, even over the hottest fire you can build. With sous vide in particular, using a thicker steak will help you maintain more of that perfectly cooked interior during the searing process.

So the question begs, which cooking option will you use to make the steak for two: in a sous vide bath, cast iron skillet or grill? Cooking steak the traditional way, in a cast iron skillet or on the grill, leaves lots of room for error, and an over- or undercooked steak is a big mistake to make when there’s a prime-grade piece of beef on the line. Plus, the fact that it was Winter with snow on the ground sort of dissuaded us from grilling…

Sous vide cooking takes all of the guesswork out of the process, delivering steaks that are cooked to precisely the temperature you like each and every time. Not only that, because sous vide is such a gentle cooking process, you’ll be able to achieve steaks that are evenly cooked from edge to edge. As you might have guessed by now, we chose the sous vide method.

In a water bath, the doneness of a steak is by and large determined by the maximum internal temperature it reaches during cooking. For instance, so long as a strip steak does not rise above 130°F (54°C), it will never cook beyond medium-rare. With traditional cooking methods, there is a very short window of time during which your meat is perfectly cooked. A minute too long will mean overcooked meat. With sous vide cooking, on the other hand, that window of time is stretched into hours, which means your steak will be hot and ready to go whenever you’re ready to sear and serve it.

Remember this: It’s better to cook one large steak for every two people than to cook two smaller steaks.

Sous Vide Steak with Caper-Anchovy Butter

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

For the Compound Butter

  • 1 anchovy fillet, rinsed and chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. chopped garlic
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. capers, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the Steak

  • 1.5 lbs. rib-eye or NY strip steak, 1 1/2 to 2-inches thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, split in half
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Mash the anchovy fillet into a paste on a cutting board with the side of a chef’s knife. Sprinkle the garlic with a pinch of kosher salt and mash it into a paste.
  2. Put the butter in a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave it on high in 10-second bursts until it just begins to melt. Mash the butter with a fork and stir in the anchovy, garlic, parsley, capers, lemon zest, and a few grinds of black pepper. Set aside.
  3. Fill a large pot about 3 quarters of the way full with water. Attach a sous vide unit and set for 129°.
  4. While the water is heating, salt and pepper the steak and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes. Put steak in a gallon ziploc bag, add garlic, thyme bay leaf and olive oil. Seal the bag, removing as much air as possible and massage contents to distribute evenly.
  5. Place the bag in the heated water once it reaches temperature. Allow to cook for 1 1/2 hours. Remove steak from bag.
  6. Heat a dry cast iron or carbon steel skillet over high heat. Sear the steak until you achieve a nice crust on all sides and edges; about two minutes per side.
  7. Cut the steak at a diagonal against the grain into 1/2-inch thick slices on a moated cutting board to catch the juices.
  8. Move the sliced steak to a serving platter, drizzle with accumulated juices and serve the sliced steak topped with dollops of the butter, passing around any remaining butter.

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Italian Green Beans with Tomatoes and Balsamic

This is a speedy version of slow-cooked Italian green beans, elegant in its simplicity. Sauté the haricots verts quickly to preserve their delicate texture, then toss them with a sauce of plum tomatoes and balsamic vinegar.

Italian Green Beans with Tomatoes and Balsamic

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 3/4 lb. haricots verts, trimmed
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 large plum tomatoes, roughly chopped and puréed in a food processor
  • 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano,for garnish (optional)

Directions

  1. Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the beans and cook until bright green and just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge in a large bowl of ice water. Let cool for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and set aside
  2. Heat the oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute.
  3. Add the tomatoes and vinegar, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper, and cook, stirring until the mixture reduces by half, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the beans to the pan and cook until warmed through and coated with the tomato mixture, about 1 minute.
  5. Taste the beans and season with salt and pepper if needed; garnish with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano if desired. Serve immediately.

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This recipe is excerpted from Big Buy Cooking.

Kielbasa Skillet Dinner

“Kielbasa,” the Polish word for “sausage” typically carries a more pronounced garlic flavor and is lightly smoked. When you purchase kielbasa in the grocery store, it has already been smoked and pre-cooked so you are automatically saving cooking time with this ingredient.

While microwaving the potato pieces also saves time, the results are uneven. In fact, they were nowhere near done after four minutes, so I zapped them for another four. If you can spare a bit of extra time, I suggest boiling the potatoes in water until soft for a more uniform tenderness.

After the fact, we thought the softened potatoes should have been browned with the onion to get a crisp on the outside. It’s nearly impossible to do so in the crowded pan with all of the sausage.

Our conclusion? The original recipe (as listed below) was too sweet with two tablespoons of brown sugar. If like us, you prefer a more savory flavor, cut back on the brown sugar to—at most—one tablespoon; and increase the amount of Dijon mustard. Finally, using only half an onion seemed a bit underwhelming so an entire onion was chopped.

Kielbasa Skillet Dinner

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb. red potatoes (3-4 medium), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 Tbsp. water
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1-1/2 tsp. minced fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 3/4 1b. smoked kielbasa or Polish sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 5 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled

Directions

  1. Place potatoes and water in a microwave-safe dish. Microwave, covered, on high until potatoes are tender, 3-4 minutes (ours took 8 minutes); drain.
  2. Meanwhile, mix brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, thyme and pepper. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; sauté onion and kielbasa until onion is tender.
  3. Add potatoes; cook and stir until lightly browned, 3-5 minutes. Stir in brown sugar mixture; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Stir in spinach until wilted. Stir in bacon.

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Adapted from a recipe for TasteOfHome.com

Pork Shoulder with Guinness, Dried Cherries and Sweet Potato

Pork shoulder is a classic for braising. The meat turns nearly spoonable but still slices nicely, and leftovers are great for sandwiches. In this recipe the pork is combined with dried cherries and sweet potatoes, balancing their sweetness with the slightly bitter taste of Guinness stout and molasses. Odd combination? I thought so too, but OMG, it was fantastic!

It hailed from renowned Chef Daniel Boulud’s cookbook “Braise, A Journey Through International Cuisine” where all of his recipes are influenced with a global perspective. We know that braising transforms inexpensive, tough cuts of meat into succulent soft morsels. And as Daniel writes “In fact, the cheaper, more sinewy, and more chewy the meat is to begin with, the more delectable it’s texture and the thicker the sauce after cooking.”

The original recipe, which is depicted below, calls for a 5-1/2 pound shoulder roast. We happened to have a 3-1/2 pound pork roast on hand, so that’s what we used and adjusted the other ingredients to follow suit. Then we completed the meal with roasted cauliflower and carrots.

Don’t forget to make the Guinness stout and cherry sauce ahead of time. It needs to sit for at least an hour or be refrigerated overnight for the flavors to meld.

Pork Shoulder with Guinness, Dried Cherries and Sweet Potato

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 5 cups Guinness stout
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (51/2-lb.) pork shoulder roast
  • Coarse sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large red onions, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 5 whole allspice, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 3 Tbsp. packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 lbs. sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and roughly chopped

Directions

  1. Bring the stout, cherries, and vinegar to a simmer in a saucepan. Transfer to a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let sit for at least 1 hour, or refrigerate overnight.
  2. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F.
  3. Warm the oil in a large cast-iron pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Season the pork shoulder with salt and ground black pepper and sear on all sides until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the pork shoulder to a platter. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat in the pot.
  4. Add the onion and the crushed black pepper to the pot and sauté for 7 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer.
  5. Add the pork shoulder, the marinated cherries and liquid, allspice, bay leaves, molasses, brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 cups water. Bring the mixture to a simmer.
  6. Cover the pot, transfer it to the oven, and braise for 1 hour, turning the pork once during cooking. Add the sweet potatoes and continue to braise for 2 more hours, turning two more times. If the sauce is too thin or is not flavored intensely enough, ladle most of it off into another pot and simmer it until it thickens and intensifies. Then add it back to the first pot.
  7. Slice the pork and serve with the sauce on top.

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Recipe Courtesy of “Braise: A Journey Through International Cuisine,” ECCO/Harper Collins – 2006

Braised Lamb Shanks, Celery Root Purée and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Our long-time friend Merry Sue was going to be staying overnight with us so we wanted to prepare an elegant, yet simple meal. After assuring that she did indeed like lamb, we went to one of our tried and true braising wizards, Molly Stevens, and found this Braised Lamb Shanks with Garlic & Vermouth (Souris aux Aulx) recipe.

Given that I was gallery-sitting all afternoon the day she arrived, and wouldn’t be home until the evening, The Hubs smartly braised the shanks the day before (see tip below). The entrée was paired with two other tried-and-true side dishes: Dorie Greenspan’s Celery Root Purée and a most recent Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Shallots.

As there were only three of us and the recipe fed six, we halved only the number of shanks but kept all of the other ingredients at full throttle. In fact, if you are making six shanks, you may want to double everything else for the extra sauce. The recipe enhances the flavor of lamb. It is truly delicious and so simple to make; elegant enough for a dinner party or special occasion, yet it’s quick to prep, and is almost effortless as a casual supper.

TIP: The dish can be made up to three days ahead. After braising, transfer the shanks to a baking dish. Strain and season the sauce as directed in the recipe. Pour a little strained sauce over the shanks to moisten them. Refrigerate the shanks and the sauce separately, both tightly covered. Before serving, reheat the chilled sauce, pour it over the shanks in the baking dish, cover the dish with foil, and warm in a 325ºF oven for about 30 min. Finish with the herbs and black pepper, and serve.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Garlic and Vermouth

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 6 lamb shanks (3/4 to 1 lb. each)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup dry white vermouth, preferably Vya or Noilly Pratt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 heads garlic, separated into cloves (unpeeled)
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice; more as needed
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, preferably a mix of mint and parsley (chervil and chives are also good)

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. If necessary, trim any excess fat from the lamb shanks, but don’t trim away the thin membrane that holds the meat to the bone (we mistakenly did). Season the shanks all over with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven or other heavy braising pot large enough to accommodate the lamb shanks in a snug single layer. When the oil is shimmering, add half the shanks and brown them on all sides, 12 to 15 min. total. Set the browned shanks on a platter. Repeat with the remaining shanks. When all the shanks are browned, pour off and discard the fat from the pan.
  3. Set the pan over medium-high heat and add the vermouth. As it boils, stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve any drippings. Return the shanks to the pan, arranging them as best you can so they fit snugly. Tuck the bay leaves in between the shanks and scatter the garlic over them. Cover and braise in the oven, turning the shanks every 45 min., until fork-tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
  4. Transfer the shanks to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Tilt the braising pot to pool the juices at one end and skim off and discard any surface fat. Pour what remains in the pot into a medium-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Discard the bay leaves. With a rubber spatula, scrape over and press down on the garlic cloves so the pulp goes through but not the skins; be sure to scrape the pulp clinging to the bottom of the strainer into the sauce. Whisk in the lemon juice. Taste and add salt, pepper, and more lemon juice if needed. To serve, pour the sauce over the shanks and shower them with the chopped herbs and a little freshly ground pepper.

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Original recipe compliments of Molly Stevens