Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 32

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.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 6

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.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 9

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.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 5

Use a mandoline to shave off super thin slices.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 10

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.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 11

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

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 12

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.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 23

MIDDLE:

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

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 2

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.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 3

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.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 4

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

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 14

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.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 13

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

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 15

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

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 17

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.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 19

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.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 18

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

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 21

Season it with salt and pepper and set it aside.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 22

CRUST:

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

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 20

ASSEMBLY:

Smooth the pulled pork over the sweet potatoes.

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 24

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

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 25

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

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 26

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

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 28

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!

Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese 29

Advertisements

Wingin’ It Wednesday: Rooty Toot-Toot Soup

Root Soup 3

I made this as a fridge clean-out soup back before Christmas.  I had some beets left over from making lip gloss and I sure as heck wasn’t going to eat them as-is (because beets, to me, taste like dirt).  Couldn’t waste them, though.  Nope.  So I thought I would chuck them in a soup, hide the flavour that way, while revealing the lovely colour that they do have going for them.

First I chopped up an onion and sautéed it with garlic in olive oil until it was soft.  Then I added in chopped carrots, parsnips, and a sweet potato.

Root Soup 2

We’d had some steaks the night before and I’d fried up three from the package.  The leftover one had been rather runty and was so marbled I thought the Pie might find it too tough, so I basically minced it and chucked that in as well, with some beef broth.

Simmer that down until the vegetables are soft, then purée them with an immersion blender and shazam, cheery, rosy soup! If you find it a little thick, feel free to thin with water or more broth.

Root Soup 1

Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie

This is what we commonly refer to in our house as shepherd’s pie.  However, due to this usage, the Pie is convinced that traditional shepherd’s pie is made with ground beef, regardless of the fact that shepherds are generally focused on sheep, not cows.  There have been several arguments over the years.  He won’t even take Wikipedia as a definitive answer.

So.  Cottage pie.  A good way to use up leftover meat of any kind, and to encourage people to eat lovely potatoes.  This one we’re making with ground beef, and adding a few sweet potatoes to the mix.  The amounts I’ve used below are approximate, but make two good-sized dishes of the pie.

Start with 4 or 5 sweet potatoes.  Peel them, chop them up, and then boil them until they’re soft and mashable.

Cottage Pie

Then of course mash them, with a bit of butter.

Cottage Pie

While that’s on the go, you can finely chop 2 or 3 small onions and toss them into a large saucepan with some minced garlic and cook that until the onions are tender and translucent.

Cottage Pie

Add in about 1lb lean ground beef and stir that around until it’s cooked through.

Cottage Pie

Now, what I’m doing here is sprinkling about 1/4 cup flour onto my beef mixture.  For a gluten-free version, use corn starch.

Cottage Pie

Then use that same cup to scoop some of the cooking water out of your boiling sweet potatoes and add it to moisten the mix.

Cottage Pie

Chop up a few small carrots.

Cottage Pie

Add them, together with some frozen corn and frozen peas, to the meat mixture and stir around until they’re all separated and thawed.

Cottage Pie

Add some rosemary if you’ve got it.

Cottage Pie

Now you’re ready for assembly.  Gren seems to think that he is a viable receptacle for cottage pie.  He could be right. If it wasn’t for the corn and the wheat flour, and the fact that he is allergic to beef.

Cottage Pie

Spoon the meat and vegetables into the bottoms of your casserole dishes, filling about 3/4 of the way up. Then take your mashed sweet potato and smooth that over the tops.

Cottage Pie

Everything in there is cooked, so you will just need to heat it thoroughly when you cook it.  Using a glass casserole makes it easy to see if the mixture is bubbly.  These ones I froze for our parents to eat later.

Cottage Pie

Wingin’ It Wednesday: Sausage and Sweet Potato Stir-Up

Wingin' It Wednesday

This is an easy way to make sure you’re getting all your veggies in the winter time.

For this I diced up half an onion and chucked it in a large frying pan with some olive oil and a scoop of minced garlic.  Then I added one very large hot Italian sausage (in little bits) and cooked it through.  Toss in two finely sliced carrots, two handfuls sugar snap peas, and a finely sliced red pepper, and you’re almost there.  Let that cook a little until things are tender-crisp. Then I added in two small sweet potatoes that I had previously parboiled and stirred everything around with some salt and pepper.  Mmm, boy, it was good!

Wingin' It Wednesday

Lovers’ Sweet Potato and Mushroom Ravioli

Lovers' Ravioli

We don’t tend to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  We’re totally broke, for one thing, and for another, we’d rather not have to spend a day doing obligatory and clichéed things to tell each other how we feel.  We do that on a daily basis anyway.

States of Gren

I am of course talking about our love for Gren.  Duh.  He’s so smooshy.  In the words of Cait, “I want to smoosh him.  With smooshes.”  We definitely smoosh him regularly.

States of Gren

In any case, because it’s expected of us (and because nobody ever wants to do anything with us on Valentine’s Day), we usually have a nice meal together and talk about how stupid this Hallmark holiday is.

If you are of the same bent, or if you love to do smooshy romantic things for your true love, why not make up some fresh pasta and go from there?

I figured I would give ravioli a try.  Why the heck not?

The ingredients for each component of this are so simple. The only one I really measured for was the pasta dough, because I’m not yet at the eyeballing stage for that.

For the ravioli filling:

Lovers' Ravioli

You will need sweet potatoes, dried shiitake mushrooms (you can use fresh ones but I like the chewy texture of the dried ones), and roasted garlic.

Plop a handful or two dried shiitake mushrooms in a bowl of warm water and leave them for 30-60 minutes, or until all tender.  I find that placing a small plate on top ensures they all get evenly exposed to water.

Lovers' Ravioli

While those are percolating, peel and cube a large sweet potato.  This one weighed in at 1 3/4lb.  Plop that in a pot full of water and boil until tender.

Lovers' Ravioli

Drain the sweet potatoes and mash ’em.

Lovers' Ravioli

Take your hydrated mushrooms out of the water, cut off the woody stems, and chop them finely.

Lovers' Ravioli

I found that after chopping, a quick sojourn in the food processor got them to the size I wanted them.

Lovers' Ravioli

Save the water from your mushrooms — it makes a great vegetable stock.

Lovers' Ravioli

I made this roasted garlic last week from three heads of garlic.  If you click on the link above you can see how I did it.  I’m going to use all three heads, because the Pie and I have been together for almost eight years, so it’s not going to matter how much garlic we consume.  Do exercise some caution if you’re new to the relationship and you’re still trying to impress … Though I suppose if you both consume the same amount of garlic it really doesn’t matter, does it?

Lovers' Ravioli

Anyway, I plopped that in the food processor as well (with a drop of olive oil) and came out with a lovely aromatic paste.

Lovers' Ravioli

In a bowl, combine your mashed sweet potato, the minced mushrooms, and the garlic paste and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Lovers' Ravioli

Stir that around and set it aside.

Lovers' Ravioli

For the ravioli pasta:

Lovers' Ravioli

For this you need durum semolina flour, salt, and eggs.  Semolina is perfect for making pasta because it has an extremely high gluten content, which means that your pasta will stay cohesive even when immersed in boiling water.  That is kind of important.

So take 3 eggs and whisk them together with a pinch of salt.  I like to add in a few drops of olive oil, as well, for smoothness.

Lovers' Ravioli

Pour 2 cups durum semolina flour on a clean work surface, make a well in the centre, and pour in the eggs.

Lovers' Ravioli

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  I wish I’d thought of it sooner so I could have made a better heart.

Lovers' Ravioli

Using a scraper and/or a fork, gradually incorporate the eggs into the flour until you have a coherent ball.

Lovers' Ravioli

I used some regular all-purpose flour at the end, just to reduce the tackiness of the dough a bit.  You will want to knead it for about 10 minutes, just to get all the gluten working for you.

Lovers' Ravioli

Wrap up your final ball and let it rest for about 20 minutes.

Lovers' Ravioli

Cut your dough into manageable sections.  I cut mine into four.  Flatten out your first section enough so it fits into your pasta machine.  If you are rolling it out by hand, have fun with that.

Lovers' Ravioli

I prefer my pasta maker.

Lovers' Ravioli

I cut my strips in half, so that I could fold the second half over the top half like a mirror image.  Though it does help if your top half is slightly bigger than your bottom half.

Lovers' Ravioli

Put little dollops of your filling on your bottom sheet with enough space in between so you can cut them easily.

Lovers' Ravioli

Carefully line up the top half and lay it over the filling.

Lovers' Ravioli

Working from the inside out, gently stretch and press the top dough over the filling to form little pockets.

Lovers' Ravioli

When each pocket is sealed, use a knife or a ravioli cutter to separate them.

Lovers' Ravioli

For this first round, I went all the way up to the #7 setting on my pasta maker, which made the pasta sheets very thin — a little too thin.  You can see how they have torn and I had to patch them.

Lovers' Ravioli

The next round, I only went up to the #5 setting, which was much more manageable, and I prepared the ravioli on waxed paper, which made peeling them up much easier. I probably could have gone as high as #6, but I’m still new to this.

Lovers' Ravioli

I separated each round of pasta with waxed paper to prevent sticking.

Lovers' Ravioli

I had some leftover filling, which I froze.  I would gladly make this again.

Lovers' Ravioli

Now, set a pot of water to boil with a pinch of salt and a few drops of olive oil, and get started on your sauce.

For the sauce:

Lovers' Ravioli

You will need butter, sage, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese.

Slice 10-12 sage leaves finely to ensure all their lovely aromatic juices get released.

Lovers' Ravioli

To save time and my sanity (I really hate grating cheese), I cubed up about 1/3 cup of my extra-hard parmesan and gave it a go in the food processor.  Totally worth it.

Lovers' Ravioli

So for your mis en place you have your sage, chopped, your cheese, grated, about 1/2 cup lemon juice, and about 4-5 tablespoons butter.

Lovers' Ravioli

By now, your pasta water should be boiling, so carefully tip all your ravioli in and cook them for about 8 minutes.

Lovers' Ravioli

While that is going on, in a large, wide, deep frying pan on medium-high heat, melt your butter.

Lovers' Ravioli

Continue to cook the butter, scraping the bottom with a spatula to prevent burning, until it starts to foam up and the clear liquid turns a lovely light caramel brown colour.  Add in your sage leaves and remove the butter from the heat.

Lovers' Ravioli

See the brownness?

Lovers' Ravioli

Pour in your lemon juice and give that a stir. Oh man does that ever smell good. Like all the best parts of everything.

Lovers' Ravioli

Drain your pasta and plop them in the frying pan with the butter.  Pour in your cheese and toss the lot to coat.

Lovers' Ravioli

Lovers' Ravioli

Serve it up, with plenty of leftovers.

Lovers' Ravioli

Though  none for Gren.  Much to his disappointment.

Lovers' Ravioli

Wingin’ It Wednesday: Salmon with Roasted Veg and Israeli Couscous

Wingin' It Wednesday

Most of the time, I don’t photograph every step of what I am cooking.  Hard to believe.  But the majority of my days are spent in getting home a little after dark, walking the fiend, and then trying to create dinner out of what’s left in my fridge.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes if it works, I remember enough about it to recreate it another time.  Sometimes.

So I’m introducing Wingin’ It Wednesdays to you here.  These are meals that I haven’t paid enough attention to, ones I couldn’t tell you what I did to make them.  But they turned out okay, and usually they were a spur-of-the-moment concoction of the dregs of my pantry.  They might help to inspire you when you’re looking for that middle-of-the-week meal at the last minute.

This dinner was Atlantic Salmon that I pulled out of my freezer (the Pie was out).

Wingin' It Wednesday

I had picked up some Israeli couscous from Auntie Crae’s back before it shut down, and I’d never tried it, so here was a good opportunity.  After having tried it, I think I prefer regular couscous, though this would be good in a soup.

Wingin' It Wednesday

I also roasted a sweet potato and a buttercup (not butternut) squash with a little bit of olive oil.

Wingin' It Wednesday

Tasty, tasty.

What’s in your pantry/fridge/freezer that you’ve been meaning to try but haven’t?

O Canada: Quebec Three Bean Soup with Bannock

Three-Bean Soup with Bannock

When you type in searches for French-Canadian soups on the internet you get a plethora of results.  “Plethora” is one of my favourite words.  That and the Spanish “desafortunadamente,” which gets me every time.

Jess sent me this beauty, passed down from the Iroquois nation.  I decided, however, that the ingredients were slightly too close to the hodgepodge I made earlier, and I want to give you guys some variety.

There are also a ton of recipes out there for a yellow split pea soup that is quintessentially French-Canadian.  Turn the peas green and you get pea soup from the Maritimes.  Thicken it up a little and steam it in a wee bag and you get pease pudding from the Atlantic.

I dislike all pea soups.  Sorry.  You won’t see one here.

If you happen to Google “French-Canadian bean soup” you get further interesting results.  Apparently, Arthur Flegenheimer (who went by the name of Dutch Schultz), was a rum-runner and all-out nasty mobster during Prohibition in the US in the early part of the 20th century (as a bit of Canadiana for you, pretty much all the contraband booze smuggled onto American soil during that time came from Canada, which wasn’t really into teetotalling).  Anyway, while using the men’s room at a New Jersey hotel, Schultz was repeatedly shot.  It took him about two and a half hours to die of his wounds, and when the police arrived to arrest the dying man, one of the officers recorded his words.  One sentence involved “French-Canadian bean soup.”  Who knew?  These words have been turned into all sorts of literature, most notably that of Hunter S. Thompson.  Weird stuff.

But we’re making soup here, not discussing books.

I cobbled together a recipe from here, here, and also from Jess’s suggestion above.

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

First, I got myself some local fall vegetables, some sweet potatoes and an acorn squash.  Use whatever squash you like.  Or none at all.  Soups are pretty fluid, both conceptually and literally.  Ha.  Ha.

Slice up your squash and remove the seeds.

Three-Bean Soup with Bannock

Slice up some sweet potato too.

Three-Bean Soup with Bannock

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

Three-Bean Soup with Bannock

Roast them until they’re browning at the edges and fragrant, about 45 minutes.  Remember to flip them every once in a while.

Three-Bean Soup with Bannock

Meanwhile, drain and rinse 3 cans of beans.  I used romano, white kidney, and chickpea.  Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) seem to be consistent throughout these recipes, so I would make sure to use that one.  But other people use cannelini beans and lima beans and whatever else they have on hand.

Three-Bean Soup with Bannock

Dice up an onion.  I have two halves of a red and a white so I’m going with that one.

Three-Bean Soup with Bannock

Chuck the onion in a large saucepan with some minced garlic and some dried herbs, such as basil, and sauté until tender.

Three-Bean Soup with Bannock

Dice up some carrots and celery and add those to the mix.

Three-Bean Soup with Bannock

Plop in the beans as well.

Three-Bean Soup with Bannock

Add 1 can diced tomatoes.

Three-Bean Soup with Bannock

When your roasted vegetables are ready, peel off their skins, cube them up, and chuck them into the pot. Don’t fret too much about cutting up the squash super small — it will fall apart and smush itself as it simmers in the pot.

Three-Bean Soup with Bannock

Cover with vegetable or chicken stock and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and allow to simmer for 30-40 minutes.

Now for the bannock.  As a child, on every field trip we went that involved learning some aspect of Canadian history (the Goldrush, the Fur Trade, the Potlatch, the Salmon Fishery …) we ended up making bannock on green peeled sticks over a campfire.  Every.  Time.

As a result, bannock in my mind will forever taste of ashes and stick.

But you can make it in a skillet too.  To avoid the taste of raw stick and ash.

Apparently, bannock is a Scottish flatbread, stolen from the Romans so very long ago.  If you squint your eyes you can kind of see how the Latin panecium can be bastardized into the Gaelic bannock.  Sure.  But remember that so many different cultures make a form of flatbread.  It’s some form of grain or bean flour plus water and heat and boom – flatbread.   The First Nations people of Canada, in the course of their various interactions with European settlers (good or bad), adopted and adapted bannock such that it is also recognized by many to be part of a bunch of First Nation food traditions.  Because it’s bread.  Everyone eats bread.

Some recipes for bannock use dried milk powder and shortening to fluff up the bread, but I firmly believe that this should be a flatbread, made with the barest minimum of ingredients.

So.  Dry ingredients.  Mix together 1 cup flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 tablespoon sugar, and a pinch of salt.

Three-Bean Soup with Bannock

Add enough water to form a dough and mix thoroughly. This will be dependent on the moisture content of the air and your flour. I added probably half a cup to this one. You want the dough to be slightly tacky.

Three-Bean Soup with Bannock

Divide the dough into appropriate serving sizes and flatten into patties.  Feel free to wrap a patty around a stick and shove it into a fire.

Or you can slip the patty onto a hot buttered skillet and fry, flipping halfway through, until both sides are golden brown.

Three-Bean Soup with Bannock

Serve with honey, butter, jam, salsa, soup, spaghetti … whatever you want. It’s bread.  It’s flexible.

Three-Bean Soup with Bannock

More Words on Bannock

Art of Manliness: Baking in the Wild

Family Oven: Bannock

M.E.C. on Bannock

WikiHow on Bannock