Creole Okra with Chicken and Tomatoes

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I don’t really know that much about southern food except that I like it a lot, and whenever I’m down south (I’m talking the southern US states here) I eat as much of it as I can. This dish started because I found okra at a good price at the grocery store and is more Creole-inspired than actually authentic (because again I don’t know much). It is adapted from something I found on The Kitchn. I doubled the amounts, prepared half this recipe in the pan and then chucked half of it in the freezer for later, like the clever person that I am†. Not that this recipe isn’t dead simple. I’m just lazy.

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I accompanied this one-dish meal with another dish: steamed beet greens.

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Preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Zest 1 lemon.

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Gather your spices. Creole spice blends tend to run to mixtures of the following, so make one to suit your own taste (this one is about 1 teaspoon of each): onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, parsley, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne. The recipe I was looking at didn’t use creole spices; instead it called for a bit of cumin and coriander. So I just used everything. Set that aside for a few minutes.

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Start with your okra, about 1lb, and slice the tops off before cutting it in half lengthwise. Apparently people either love or hate okra, because it’s a bit slimy. I am ambivalent so far.

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Lay that on your baking sheet and sprinkle with about 1 cup (canned/drained/rinsed) black-eyed peas.

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Next, slice up a small white onion.

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Sprinkle that onto the pan, together with a few cloves crushed or minced garlic.

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Give that a good drizzle with some nice olive oil.

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Now here’s where I kind of diverged from the recipe. This dish is a good meal all in itself as a vegetarian option, but I feed boys (boys who are not vegetarians) so I had to chuck some meat in here somehow. In a large bowl, I threw 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs together with a 14oz can of diced tomatoes and your lemon zest.

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Then I chucked in all those lovely spices and gave it a good mixing.

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Spread the chicken and tomatoes evenly across the top of your peas and okra and shove it in the oven for about an hour. Give it a stir once or twice to make sure everything is browning evenly.

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We served ours over rice with the beet greens and it was pretty good. The Pie thought the okra was a little slimy (#1 reason why many people dislike it) but I thought it was pretty good!

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If you plan to freeze this recipe for later, I would recommend freezing it in two parts: in one bag goes the okra, peas, garlic, rice, and oil, and in the second bag goes the tomatoes, chicken, and spices. It just seems like a logical thing to do to tenderize the meat and prevent the peas and okra from getting too soggy.

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Slow Cooker Texas Beef Chili

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Do you hate beans but like chili? Do you like beans but also like chili that’s a little different? Do you like chili? If you answered yes to any of the previous questions then this chili is for you. It’s beanless and beefy and incredibly satisfying, which is good because though it may be spring SOMEWHERE, in Ottawa we’ve had some major flooding and on Monday it stopped raining enough to SNOW. ALL. DAY. So we kind of need something cockle-warming. This chili is adapted from one my parents found on the internet and printed out and that I stole off their fridge in Florida and smuggled across the border.

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Start with 2lbs cubed beef chuck or stewing beef, and huck that in a non-stick skillet on high to sear all the sides. Chuck the browned beef into a large slow-cooker pot.

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Next, add in 2 tablespoons Worcestershire (“wooster”) sauce, 1 cup beef broth, a 28oz can of diced tomatoes, and 2 tablespoons tomato paste. Now, the recipe did not say to drain the tomatoes so I didn’t and I found my chili ended up a bit on the watery side (I also added twice as many tomatoes as the recipe asked for). I thickened the sauce with some cornstarch later on and it turned out super awesome, but I’ll leave it to your discretion to either drain the tomatoes or use a smaller can.

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Dice up the following: 1 white onion, 2 red bell peppers, 2 large carrots, 2 celery stalks, and a couple large green chilis. I used Anaheim chilis because they are huge and not too hot and I wanted to be able to feed this to LongJohn. Gather as well 1 tablespoon chili powder, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika (ours is smoked), 1 teaspoon onion powder, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon salt. Chuck all that in the slow cooker.

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Don’t forget to give it a bit of a stir.

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Cook that sucker on low for 8-12 hours, or on high for about 6.

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Before serving, juice 1 lime and add the juice to the mix.

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Serve garnished with either grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, or chopped cilantro (or all of the above, who are we kidding?).

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Fancy Pants Sammiches

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For my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary party I made a large number of cocktail sandwiches – those are the ones where you cut all the crusts off the bread, or you buy the long, already crustless tramezzini (which is what I did). I’m going to give you all my sandwich filling recipes in one post, and I’ll leave it up to you to do with them what you will!

Fancy Sammiches 181: Smokey Egg Salad Fancy Sammiches 6 Start with about a dozen hard-boiled eggs. Smush them up good. Fancy Sammiches 2 Mince up some chives and tip that into the eggs, together with some salt and pepper, a scoop of Hungarian smoked paprika, and a dollop of mayonnaise. Stir to combine. Fancy Sammiches 52: Lemon-Dill Tuna

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Mince up some celery.

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Grab some herbs as well, like sage, and of course dill. Mince those too.

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Add them in a bowl with your canned flaked tuna, and the juice and zest of 1 lemon.

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Add in just a wee bit of yogurt or mayonnaise for cohesion.

3: Classic Cucumber and Herb

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Grab a small handful each of fresh mint and chives. Mince those up.

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Beat those into softened plain cream cheese and season with salt and pepper. Serve with sliced cucumbers.

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4: Curried “Coronation” Chicken

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Dismantle and shred a small roasted chicken from the grocery store. Mix in a large amount of fresh chopped pineapple sage, as well as a little bit of onion powder, cumin, yellow curry, and a pinch of cardamom. Tip in plain yogurt or mayonnaise for cohesion.

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5: Peanut Butter & Jelly “Sushi”

Fancy Sammiches 24Smear your bread with the peanut butter of your choice (the all-natural stuff is a mite runny, be warned).

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Top with jelly.

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Roll the whole thing up and slice into discs.

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Made-up Macaroni Salad

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Pasta salads are ideal for summer parties.  You can make them ahead of time and you don’t have to worry about heating up the house.  This one came together on the fly, as most of them tend to do.  I stuck with a reddish theme and it worked out.

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Start with a bowl of cooked pasta.  I used cavatappi, or Scoobi-do pasta.

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Chucked in a diced onion, tomatoes, garlic, red peppers, and green olives.

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Then some fresh oregano, chives, and some cubed feta.

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Then I decided to throw in a few bocconcini as well.  I also tossed in some tandoori spice and some Hungarian paprika for kick.

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When you make a pasta salad, make a lot of dressing to go with it, because the pasta will absorb so much extra liquid.  The base of this one was olive oil, maple syrup, Tabasco, and rice vinegar.

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As I said, make a lot.

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Put half in now and then the other half right before you serve it.

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TADA.

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There was enough left over that I added some pasta sauce to it, topped it with cheese, and baked it into a casserole afterwards.  Waste not!

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Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

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I’ve gotten into the habit of occasionally buying those hot roasted chickens from the grocery store.  They’re just so darned cheap and handy, not to mention tasty.  Last weekend, the Pie was out of town, and sometimes I forget to actually eat when he’s not around, so I bought the chicken to give me some incentive.  One leg at one meal, one leg at another, and I was set.  But I still had the body of the chicken left to deal with.  I dismantled the remainder of the carcass, including the breasts, and whipped up this quick pasta dish to greet the Pie when he came home.  He went back for seconds so I think I did a good job.

So.  Chicken.  You’ll need about 2 cups shredded chicken.

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About 1 cup ranch dressing.

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An onion, some garlic, and a head of broccoli.  Chop those up.

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Cook 4 slices bacon.

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Make them super crispy and then put them somewhere to drain.

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Start your pot of boiling water to make your pasta.  You’ll need enough noodles for four.  I used linguini.

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Grab a pot and chuck in a few tablespoons olive oil.  Add in the onions and cook until translucent and smelling fabulous.

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Then add in the broccoli and garlic and stir that as well.

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Next, add in a few pinches dry mustard and pepper and paprika (you’ll see the paprika added in a later photo but that’s because I had to wait for the Pie to pick it up from the store on his way home).

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Pour in about 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup cream, and the 1 cup ranch dressing.

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Chuck in the chicken, then cut up the bacon and chuck that in as well.

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Stir that to heat things up.  You’re not really going to want to cook this for a long time.

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Then add in a few tablespoons pesto.  And some more cream if you want it thicker.

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Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.  Dump the sauce over top and toss to coat.  Serve immediately, although it’s equally fantastic the next day.

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Aw Yiss. Some Motha. Flippin’. Tomato Soup.

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I don’t know why I felt the need to use that title.  I just DID.  Also, in case you didn’t recognize the meme, Canadian comic artist Kate Beaton is awesome and you should read her stuff.

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What do you do when you are moving and you have too many cans of tomatoes in your pantry, and your husband has left an open can of tomato paste in your refrigerator?

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I think we all know the answer to this.  It’s in the title after all.  Besides, nothing says summer in Newfoundland like a big bowl of hot soup.  And I’m not even kidding.  I haven’t seen the sun in a while and as I write this it is raining and 7°C.  Now you can use fresh tomatoes in this soup, and I’m sure there’s a good argument for doing so, because the taste is so much better and whatever.  Personally, if I have a nice fresh tomato in my hands, I’m going to want to eat it as is, not simmer it in a soup.  But to each his own.

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If you do decide to use fresh tomatoes, I recommend blanching them first to get the skins off.  Put a put of water on the boil and when it’s a-rollin’, submerge your tomatoes in the water for about a minute and a half, until the skins start to split.

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Remove the tomatoes from the pot and plunge them into a bowl of cold water (to stop the tomatoes from cooking and going mushy).

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Then you can just peel them easy as you please.

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Take a few carrots, peel them, and chop them up.

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Do the same with a large sweet onion.

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You know when you are reading real estate listings and you have to sort of translate them to understand what the sellers are trying to tell you?  Like, “cozy” means “small”, “quaint” means that none of the doors are level and won’t shut properly, and “rustic” means “broken”.  I think you can apply almost the same principle to food.  At least in terms of soups.  When I read that a soup is “hearty” that tells me that there’s more stuff in it than liquid.  And when I read “rustic” I understand that the creators were just too lazy to cut everything up extra small.  So by that logic pretty much everything I ever make is “rustic.”

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Sauté the onions in a large saucepan with a gob of vegetable oil until they are soft and transparent.

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Now you can huck in your spices.  I used some minced garlic, smoked paprika, and then some powdered chicken stock.  Give that a good stir.

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Now you can add in your tomatoes (I used 2 cans plus the 2 fresh ones I blanched) and your carrots.  I didn’t drain my canned tomatoes because I wanted the liquid.  If you’re using fresh tomatoes you may want to add in a bit of water. Plop in a can of tomato paste as well, to thicken it up.

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Simmer that for a while until the carrots are soft.  Now you can leave this in its hearty, rustic state, or you can give it a whaz with your handy immersion blender and mix it up.

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I chose the latter, obviously.

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Then I took a can of evaporated milk that Mrs. Nice had purchased for undisclosed reasons and poured that in. Uh, don’t, you know, confuse evaporated milk with condensed milk. I don’t think that would end well.

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Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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I would have loved to serve it with fresh basil but dried had to do.  Yum!

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Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese

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Ando made this for Thidz’ birthday last week and it went down so well that he suggested I put it on the blog.  So here it is, adapted to his standards.  While the whole thing takes a little while to prepare, it’s all easy stuff that you can do in stages.  I ended up having most of it ready in the morning and then just chucked it together at the end and baked it.  But we’ll work from the bottom up on this layered casserole.  Also, the recipe says it serves 8, but really it serves 4 because you are going to want seconds.

BOTTOM:

Preheat your oven to 425°F and spray a 9″ springform pan with cooking spray.  My pan was a little wider, but that’s fine.

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In a teeny bowl, mix together 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and some salt and ground black pepper to taste.

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Peel 2 medium sweet potatoes.  I only had large ones, so I opted to just do one, but I could have used both and it would have been fine.

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Use a mandoline to shave off super thin slices.

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Chuck those pieces in a bowl, drizzle with a few tablespoons vegetable oil, and add in your spice mix.  Toss with your hands until the oil and spices evenly coat all the potato pieces.

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Layer the sweet potato slices evenly in the bottom of the pan.

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Bake for 15-20 minutes until they are softened and starting to brown.  Ando wanted to bake them longer to make them more crisp, so I tried that, but I found that once you piled the rest of the ingredients on top they went soft again anyway, so don’t worry too much about that.  The Pie hoped for a thicker layer of sweet potatoes (because I only used the one potato and my pan was wider), so next time I would go for two.

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MIDDLE:

Grab yourself some pork tenderloin.  I had a boneless pork loin rib here that was on stupid sale so I used that.

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You’ll need 2lbs pork, cut into 2″ chunks.  If I did this again, I would cut the chunks larger, just so your pulled pork strings end up being decently long.

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Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and add in the meat.  It goes gray almost immediately, which is kind of gross.  Reduce to a simmer and leave that on the go for about an hour.

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Drain the pork and use 2 forks to shred it into little pieces.

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Then you’re going to need some barbecue sauce.  Ando expressed concern that the sauce tended to overpower the more delicate flavours of the macaroni and cheese on top, so we picked out a milder apple butter sauce and it worked out fantastically.  The sweetness of the apple really worked well with the pork.

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So you pour 14oz barbecue sauce all over your pork and mix it in.

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Then you add in 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and stir that in as well, then set the whole thing aside.

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TOP:

Bring another saucepan of water to a boil and add a pinch or two of salt.  When it’s boiling, add in 8oz elbow pasta (MACARONI) and cook according to your package instructions.  When it’s ready, drain the water, saving about 1/4 cup of it.  Add the water back to the pasta in the pot.

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Add to the pasta 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (I think the sharper the better), 1/2 cup grated Gruyere (we used Jarlsberg), and 1/4 cup creme fraiche (which is next to impossible to find in Newfoundland, so we used sour cream instead).  Because Ando suggested boosting the flavour of the mac, I added a few crumbles of blue cheese (Rochefort) as well.

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Stir that up until it’s all melted, then add a few drops of hot sauce (we used Tabasco) to taste.

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Season it with salt and pepper and set it aside.

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CRUST:

Melt 1/4 cup butter and stir it up with 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and 1 cup panko breadcrumbs.

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ASSEMBLY:

Smooth the pulled pork over the sweet potatoes.

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Dollop the macaroni on top of that and flatten it down a bit.

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Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture on top of that to completely cover the macaroni.

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Bake for 15 minutes, until the casserole is hot through and the bread crumbs are browned.

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DISASSEMBLY:

Ideally you should be able to pop open the springform pan and cut this puppy like a cake.  My pork ended up being supremely saucy and thus too slithery to be architecturally sound in terms of casserole structure.  Meaning I tried to pop off the frame and then the whole thing went sideways — literally and figuratively.  So we just scooped it out with spoons, hence the lack of presentation.  Didn’t matter.  Ate it anyway.  And it was awesome.  Thanks Ando!

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