Friday, February 26, 2010

Pork Roast

It was always hard for me to cook a big piece of meat in the stove or on the grill. I knew if I let it cook for hours in the crock pot it would be done and tender but I was always afraid of under cooking the meat in the oven and making everyone sick or overcooking and ruining the meat. I am married to a PMT and part of his job in the Navy is a health inspector so the last thing I wanted to do was send him to the ER with food poising because I served him undercooked pork!

I bought a cheap meat thermometer years ago and it did what it was suppose to do. But this Christmas I asked "Santa" for a digital probe thermometer and I GOT IT!!! WOOHOO I have been trying to break myself of the crock pot habit when it comes to meat, it is a great thing but I wanted to teach myself to be confident in working with meat in the oven.
So when I saw this bone in pork roast at the store the other day I grabbed it up... I didn't know what to do with it so I did a little research and here is what I came up with. (Partially thanks to Martha Stewart)

1 pork roast I am sure you could do this without the bone in but it may change the cooking time (even more important to get a thermometer)
5-6 large cloves of garlic
about a teaspoonish to a tablespoon of
a big pinch of salt
about 20 grinds of pepper
olive oil (about 1/4 cup)
Heat your oven to 450 Yes you read that right it is 450 this cooks in about an hour /hour and a half so you need your heat high.

Put all of your spices and garlic into a mortar and pestle and...

get all of your frustration out while making a paste of sorts. You can do this in the food processor as well but I love my mortar so I used it.

Take a paring knife and make a bunch of slits in the meat you want the slit big enough to stick your finger in because you want to get the herb paste deep inside the meat this will make it taste better and is pretty darn impressive at the end of the day.

Add the oil to the garlic/herb paste and rub all over the meat and make sure you get some pushed way down in the holes...

Put in a roasting pan with rack, if you don't have a rack to put it on it should be fine. The underside may get a little darker than you want it so watch out for that. A cheap cooling rack set over a pan should work for you too.

Roast it for about an hour you want the internal temp to be about 135-140 you will see in the pic I had mine set too high luckily I did a little more research before I actually cooked it and turned it into pork jerky.

And before you know it you have a very tasty and quite impressive pork roast. Now doesn't that look pretty enough to eat?!?

You can see in the picture below how pretty the herbs are going through your meat thanks to your magic fingers.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Panko, Parm and Pancetta oh my!!

Nothing makes an ordinary dish extraordinary like a crunchy, cheesy, salty topping! Today when we made this we put it on top of our mac and cheese then baked it until the topping is golden and delish. But you can use this to top many things... I love to top fish, thinly sliced chicken breast, mashed potatoes, potato gratin... the list goes on and on. So lets see how to make it..

It is 3 simple ingredients that turn to magic somehow...

Panko bread crumbs.
If you have never used these they are great! They are super crunchy bread crumbs and you can usually find them in the Oriental section of your market but they are becoming so popular these days that some times you can find them with the regular bread crumbs.

Here is where I stand on Parm if it comes in a can it isn't real cheese! It does cost more but there are somethings you need to splurge on. In this house this is what we splurge on. Cheese is very important to us and it needs to be real cheese.

Pancetta is kind of a mix between bacon and prosciutto it is very salty and a little goes a long way. I use Pancetta because I love bacon and if I were to cook a pound of bacon by the time everyone in the house came and took a piece we wouldn't have enough left to use here. Where I shop Pancetta isn't much more than bacon and I can buy just what I need for any given meal. If you can't find it (mine is at the deli counter) you can use bacon (cooked) or prosciutto (although prosciutto is much more expensive than bacon so that may not be the best option)

You mix panko and parm... how much??? Well it depends on what you are topping there is no right or wrong here.

It absolutely helps to have such a cute sous chef mix this together... maybe this is where the magic comes from.

Then dice and brown the pancetta and add the pancetta and some of the fat to the bread crumbs.

You need to add enough fat so that the bread crumbs get golden when you bake them if you don't put a little fat in there then the bread crumbs will just burn and that isn't good. So you don't need to over do it a few drizzles should do you good.

Here is the mac and cheese we made tonight topped with this out of this world topping. So Delish!!

Comfort Food at it's BEST!!

What is your comfort food?? Mine is always pasta, could be mac and cheese, lasagna or just a nice hot plate of garlic pasta. But it is always pasta. I seem to have passed that on to my daughter, she lives for Mac and Cheese so some days for dinner we have a big ol' thing of mac and cheese... today is one of those days... here is what we did....

I start with a little bit of butter and olive oil about maybe a teaspoon of each.

Let it melt down then add flour (about equal parts flour to fat)

Let this cook a few minutes, you want it to turn an ever so slight golden. It is hard to see in this pic because of the lighting but it did change color here.

Then you add your milk. Whole milk will work here but we never drink whole milk so I only have skim on hand and if I am going to buy a fattier version I would rather buy heavy whipping cream (not to be confused with whip cream:o) so I usually put skim milk and heavy cream. I know this is a total oxymoron but if you read this blog you know I don't believe in rules when it comes to cooking and I don't believe on spending money on stuff you will not use. We will use the cream we will not use the whole milk. anyway back to the food... add the milk products you are using and let it cook on med until it thickens a little then add your cheese...

what kind of cheese??? Well this is what was on sale when I went to the store so this is what I used.

Toss the sauce with your pasta and set aside. Now you can eat it like this it is yummy and perfectly acceptable.. or you can take it to another place of comfort...

Take a look at the Panko, Parm and Pancetta post for the topping we used on this mac and cheese.

Cheese balls

There is nothing more simple to make than a cheese ball/log. If you own a food processor you are just moments away from one right now. Getting hungry yet?!?

I remember the first time I wanted to make one of these I felt a little overwhelmed there was something about it that seemed a little mysterious to me. So I did what I do when ever I want to learn how to cook something new... I read and read and read recipes. I noticed that aside from the fact that they seemed far more simple than I had thought they all had basically the same thing a soft cheese, a dried meat of some sort, and usually onions of some kind.

The first one I made called for dried beef you can find it in a jar in the grocery store it is the strangest thing ever but it worked.
I got on a cheese ball kick and I tried some rather strange combination some were fabulous and some were well... not so much. Here are a few things I like to use...

The meat I like (I would only use one type per ball)
hard salami or

I use add ins like
roasted garlic
oven dried tomatoes (or the more $$ sun dried work well too)

I only use green onions/scallions

For the cheese I usually stick to cream cheese it is most reasonably prices soft cheese I do sometimes use a goat cheese and mascarpone mix but only because we LOVE goat cheese in this house. But good oll Philly cream cheese works just wonderfully.

In this cheese ball I used salami I threw it in the processor before I added the other stuff so that there were not big bites of the meat. How much meat... well I used about a hand full of slices there is also a half a bunch of green onions and a blob of roasted garlic...throw the cheese in the processor after you have chopped the other stuff together. Chill mixture in the fridge for about an hour until it has firmed back up a little then roll it into a ball or log and roll in chopped nuts (I like pecans) This is a great thing for Superbowl parties...

or just a stay at home date with your special someone. A bottle of wine, a cheese ball and some grown up crackers makes for a nice break from the craziness of the day.


It is crazy how much they charge for a can of broth when you realize that all "Stock" "Broth" is, is scraps and water. I always have home made chicken and beef stock in the freezer, I use it all the time and it saves me a nice chunk of change, making it myself. If you want to go virtually "free" you can save your scraps, toss them in the freezer along the way. I don't go that far, I normally just save my meat scraps. If I am cooking a roast I will save my meat trimmings for broth. And with chicken just toss the neck and all the stuff that is shoved inside the bird in the freezer until you need it. I didn't have many beef scraps today so I bought a bone to use with the little meat scraps I did have. As you can see no prep really, just chop the onion in quarters, the garlic head in half and toss it all in the pan. I add pepper corns and bay leaves as well as what you see here.

Bring it to a boil then simmer it a bout an hour or two. Strain it and let it cool all the way then I toss it in baggies and freeze it. If you don't use large portions you can pour it into ice cube trays but in this family that is never enough so I always use quart size freezer bags.

Now that you have home made stock... try adding it to things that call for water (cause we have made it almost as inexpensive as water!) Use half stock and half water when you are cooking rice, use it to de-glaze a pan and make a gravy. There are so many uses for stock.

Just a side note here you can also throw all of this in the crock pot and let it cook on low for a few hours works just as well.