Archive for the pork Category

Sunday Dinner Part II – Tagliatelle with Pork Ragu & Tomato Cream Sauce

Posted in pasta, pork, slow cooking on 5 October 2009 by restaurant refugee

Tagliatelle with Pork Ragu & Tomato Cream Sauce

The first time I had a tomato cream sauce was more years ago than I care to recall while I was doing a three month stint in Boca Raton, Florida.  I worked 90 hour weeks, had a barely-existent social life, and generally hated my time down there.  Among the few highlights were a bartender who was particularly nice to me, and a semi-regular lunch at a little café a few blocks from my office.  At least once a week, I would watch an incredible sauté cook produce pasta after pasta in a postage stamp sized kitchen.  My favorite was the Linguini Beanie, the signature dish of Beanie’s Café.  It was sautéed veggies with a simple tomato cream sauce.

Since that summer I have made countless versions of that dish.  This recipe bears almost no resemblance to the initial but it is very much the product of those brief lunches watching the kitchen.  It continues to evolve and I may never stop making this pasta because it brings me so much joy and still reminds me of the sliver of light it brought to very dark times.  I show my love through food and this dish shows more than most.  It was a natural choice for the second course for Sunday dinner.

Tagliatelle with Pork Ragu & Tomato Cream Sauce

Serves 4-5 entrée sized portions or 6-8 midcourse portions.

1 pound ground pork – 80/20 is preferred but any with a fat content greater than 10% will work

10 cloves of garlic

1 dozen fresh basil leaves

1 shallot thinly sliced – have you purchased a mandoline yet?

1 tablespoon fresh oregano

½ cup of sherry

¼ cup of olive oil

30 ounces of tomato sauce

½ cup of half and half

6 ounces of Parmigianino Reggiano cheese

1 pound of Tagliatelle

1 stick of salted butter

Kosher Salt to taste

Fresh Pepper to taste

I used a slow cooker to make this dish but you can also do this in any pot that conducts heat well if you have a burner with a consistent and low flame.  Start the slow cooker on low and add the olive oil. Smash the garlic cloves with a knife Pork Ragu 1or other implement and add to the oil.  Roll the basil leaves into a finger and slice into ½ inch strips and add to the oil.  Add the oregano and a sprinkle of salt to the oil.  Let it cook for about 30 minutes while the meat comes to room temperature.  Failing to cook meat at room temperature is among the most frequent mistake people make with food.

Once the garlic and other spices has had a chance to soften and get to know each other, add the sherry and the ground pork.  You will need Pork Ragu 2to use a wooden spoon to separate the meat but wait just a minute until everything has come back to temperature.  Stir the meat around until it has the ground meat texture.  It will take about an hour to mostly brown and cook.

After the meat is mostly cooked, add the tomato sauce and the half&half.  Add a healthy sprinkle of salt and pepper and let cook for another hour.

The sauce now needs to be transferred to a stock pot and the temperature brought to a low boil.  Grate in the parmesan cheese but leave enough cheese to finish the bowls tableside.  Once the cheese is incorporated, lower the heat and return to the slow cooker.  Place the slow cooker on the Low setting for another 30 minutes.

The sauce is done at this point and the slow cooker setting should be set to warm until serving.

None of you need me to explain how to make al dente pasta or serve from this point, right?  OK, good, let’s move along.

A couple of things to note about this dish:

  • There are a few things that are on my Not Worth the Effort to Make from Scratch List, and unless you’re expert chef with an hankering to make your own pasta, Tagliatelle is on that list.  I am in love with the pasta from Severino.
  • Also on the aforementioned list is Tomato Sauce.
  • I am really sorry that I forgot to take a picture of the final product.
  • This dish can be condensed into a 30 minute cooking time by not using a slow cooker and doing all of the steps at higher heat.  It will still taste good but not nearly as good.
  • One really good time saver is to swap the ground pork with oven roasted sausage.

“I want champagne and eggs, how about you?”

Posted in breakfast, champagne, pork on 18 August 2009 by restaurant refugee

“I want champagne and eggs, how about you?”

It was a simple text message but from Sydney’s reaction you would have thought that I wrote “I have the winning Powerball numbers for next week, you want them?”

“I’d blow Quasimoto for Champagne and eggs right now, Mick Jagger too, if I don’t have to leave my house to get them.”

Sydney and I have always had that kind of relationship – irreverent, a little profane, but mostly platonic.  As I was feeling generous, and knew that Syd was hung-over, I grabbed a bag and made the relatively short trip to her place by way of the market.

All Sunday morning shopping list should be simple:

  • WaPo, New York Times
  • Eggs
  • Pork in some form
  • Champagne (juice optional)
  • Biscuits
  • Cheese

One hour and seven minutes after the first text Sydney opens her door.  She has managed to splash water on her face, tie a robe around her nearly six foot frame, and start coffee.  Sydney never has food in her kitchen, but coffee, is a given.

“You’re my hero” she says as she leans forward to kiss me on each cheek – a gesture I usually consider an annoying affectation, but she somehow makes natural.

“Good to see you too” I reply before heading to the kitchen.  “How much time do I have to feed you before ‘Cranky Syd’ emerges from that desperately hungry and dark part of your soul?”

“I’ll be fine for a bit once I get some coffee” she says and I believe.

I’m unpacking groceries as Sydney grabs to mugs and the sugar.  Depressing the plunger on the Frieling French Press Sydney suddenly asks with hint of animation “Do you remember this birthday?”

I have very clear memories of it.  Sydney and a gaggle of her girlfriends took over the bar at the restaurant I was running.  Three courses (served family style,) and copious amounts of wine served as prelude to Girl’s Night unleashed on an unsuspecting city.  It was the evening I knew that there would never be anything romantic between us, but I will never forget the look on her face when she unwrapped the French press I gave her.

“Was that the one you had at Anonymous Restaurant” I asked feigning uncertainty about the answer.

“Sure was.”

“You wanna open the champagne” I ask to change the subject, “I’m read for a mimosa.”

“So what are we having for breakfast?”

Fried Pork Tenderloin, Egg, and Gruyere Biscuits, and cantaloupe.”

“Oh my God, what do I have to do to get you to come over every Sunday morning?”

“You could start by changing the music; this techno stuff is giving me a headache.”

Sydney swaps the electronic whatever for an opera I don’t recognize and brunch is served on her patio.  We sit – mostly without words passing – reading newspapers and eating.  I’ve always known that our mutual recognition that every silence is not a void is among the reasons we work as friends.

I have just popped the top on the second bottle of champagne when Sydney asks in a more contemplative tone “Seriously, Refugee, why can’t we do this every Sunday?”

I read the subtext of her question.  This is normally one of the moments when I would have deliberately and deeply inhaled before answering, but I didn’t need extra time to think.  “You’d tire of me Sydney.  I know it, and what’s worse is that you know it too but you asked the question anyway.  We have a friendship that has a lovely balance, do you really want to mess with that?”

We both went back to our newspapers and back to our silence.

Fried Pork Tenderloin, Egg, and Cheese Biscuits

1 pork tenderloin, cleaned and dressed

1 cup Buttermilk (half and half can be substituted)

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon pepper

1 teaspoon of ground mustard*

1 teaspoon garlic powder*

1 teaspoon of dried rosemary*

3 eggs

4oz of Cheese – just about any decent (non blue) cheese will do, but I prefer Gruyere

1 package of biscuits (One of the very fewe things I refuse to make from scratch are biscuits – the ready to cook Pilsbury Grands are my favorite)

* nice to haves but do not buy them just for this recipe.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (according to manufacturer’s instructions) to bake the biscuits.

Cut the tenderloin into two four inch pieces.  The smaller half should be wrapped in saran wrap and stored for later use.  Slice the larger half into ½ inch thick discs.

To make your dredging station, use three cereal sized bowls.  In the first bowl, pour the buttermilk.  In the second bowl, crack one egg and beat until smooth.  In the final bowl, add all dry ingredients and stir until well mixed.

In a pan suitable for frying or preferably in a deep fryer, heat oil over medium flame just prior to the point of smoking.

While the oil is heating and the biscuits are baking, prep the other two eggs.  If you have a two or three inch metal round that is best.  If not, then use a large sauté pan coated with cooking spray and over medium heat.  In a bowl, beat the eggs until smooth adding salt and pepper to taste.  Spread ¼ of the eggs onto the sauté pan.  When cooked enough to fold, fold the egg in twice and remove.  Repeat until you have four neatly folded egg segments.

The biscuits should be just about ready to remove from the oven.  Dredge the pork discs through the milk, then eggs, then coat evenly with the flour mixture.  Drop each disc in the oil.  They will cook in 2.5 minutes.

Remove the biscuits and make your sandwiches.

Slow Roasted Pork Cigars with a Warm Apple and Spinach Salad and Reduction of Braising Jus

Posted in apples, pork, slow cooking, spinach on 17 August 2009 by restaurant refugee

Slow Roasted Pork Cigars with a Warm Apple and Spinach Salad and Reduction of Braising Jus

There are few flavor combinations as natural as pork and apples, and this dish brings together some of my favorite elements of those flavors.  Total cooking time is 10-11 hours, but only requires about 2 hours worth of active work, assuming you use a slow cooker.  This can be done in a regular oven using a small dutch oven, but a slow cooker is easier. Makes 10-12 cigars.


1 Small Pork Picnic (aka Pork Shoulder, aka Boston Butt) bone in is always better but boneless is fine too

1 medium shallot thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic thinly sliced, or run though a garlic press

¼ of a red onion thinly sliced

¼ cup of carrots thinly sliced

32 oz of booze for braising (I have made this with sherry, brandy, and full bodied red wines.)

2 apples peeled and diced (whatever is in season will be fine)

1 bunch of fresh spinach cleaned and dried

2 tablespoons of pine nuts

2 tablespoons of wildflower honey

Salt and pepper

One package of wonton wrappers

1 egg

1 stick of butter

A splash of half and half


Medium to Large cast iron skillet (any large pan that is shallow and conducts heat very well)

Slow Cooker (if you don’t have one, go buy one.  The number of things you can do with a slow cooker are too varied to list and they’re cheap.  My travel slow cooker was less than $20, and the one that I use at home was less than $75)

A mandoline will save you time but is not required

A good set of tongs

The Pork

If your pork picnic comes with the skin (a good thing,) score the skin (make deep cuts in the skin down to the meat and one inch apart.)  Liberally coat the skin and other surfaces in coarse salt and fresh pepper.

Place half a stick of butter in the cast iron skillet and melt over medium–high heat, but do not reach the flash point.  Once fully hot, sear the picnic on each side – the thicker the crust the better.  You will need the tongs to hold the picnic to sear all sides of the pork.  Once fully seared place the pork in the Slow Cooker and cover, but do not turn on the heat.

Turn the heat down to medium, add the garlic, onions, shallots, and carrots to the cast iron pan, and deglaze with Sherry.  Let the vegetables simmer until the onions and shallots become translucent.

Add the vegetables and the liquid to the slow cooker and add enough Sherry to cover the picnic at least two thirds.  Turn the slow cooker to low and cook for ten hours, turning once anytime after the third hour.

Once the shoulder has finished cooking remove from the slow cooker and let cool a bit.  Remove the skin and bone if applicable and use a fork to shred the meat into strips. Set the meat aside and let cool further.

Using a ladle, remove about 1 ½ cups of the braising liquid and add to a small sauce pan.  Over low heat, add a healthy pat of butter, and whisk in some half and half. Let simmer until slightly reduced, and add salt and pepper to taste (probably not necessary.)

With the pork no hotter than warm to the touch, spread out the wonton wrappers on a cool dry surface – I prefer wax paper.  Add enough pork to one end of the wonton wrapper for the “cigar to have the diameter of a $1 coin.  Spread room temperature mascarpone cheese on the wonton, roll it, and brush the end with egg-wash to bind the wrapper.  If you have a sushi rolling pad, feel free to use it to get your cigars perfectly round.

In a sauté pan, melt a healthy pat of butter over low to medium heat.  Place the cigars seam side down in the pan and cook on each side until golden brown.

Spinach and Apple Salad

In a large sauté pan, warm a healthy pat of butter, and add the diced apples with a dusting of cinnamon and a tablespoon of honey.  Before the apples are completely cooked, add the spinach, pine nuts, and more honey and salt to taste.

Putting It All Together

One cigar per plate with a drizzle of the braising reduction over each and a small mound of salad on the side