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Evolution of a meal – braised pork, pork quesadillas, pork & chickpea stew

Next up in project clean out my parents’ freezer: pork loin

Back when I was buying cheap meat, a pork loin was one of the best bargains out there – almost all lean meat, no bones, and could be found on sale as cheaply as $1.88/lb

Being just one person, I’d cut a whole loin into three roasts and freeze them. Even then, it’s quite a lot of meat. And it has a tendency toward being dry and flavorless.

The cooking method I learned from my mother was to pick the roast with the thickest outer layer of fat as possible, embed some garlic cloves in the meat and threat some rosemary sprigs between the fat and the meat, coat the outside in garlic salt, and roast it in a slow oven. This produced a lovely, and usually juicy, meal. But the leftovers still tended to be dry.

So ever since I discovered carnitas, I’ve taken to braising this cut. And that means I can even trim off the fat layer.

Braised Pork w/ tomatoes and orange peel

Put the following things into a pot:

  • Pork roast, trimmed of exterior fat and freezer burn (cause I live a classy life)
  • 1 quart of (homemade, home-canned nyah nyah nyah) stock
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes (okay, so this was storebought, but it was a great sale)
  • thinly sliced orange peel – now this one requires some explanation because I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this, but last year I started keeping my citrus peels in water. That simple: eat fruit, put clean peel into a container, fill container with water all the way up to the top so there’s minimal oxidization, refrigerate. I should probably worry about bacteria, but the citrus is fairly resiliant on its own and the peels never developed an off smell. If you change the water every couple of weeks, then the peels are less bitter with each successive change of water, and the pith softens so it can be easily scraped away. Seriously – this is amazing. Why isn’t everyone doing this? Right, so I had these from last winter and they still smelled fine, and I knew I’d be cooking the stuff for hours, so I sliced it into little orangey ribbons and delicious flavor.

And then cook it for a few hours. I went to OutFest with it on low, and then turned the heat up for a few hours once I came home and could supervise it.

I considered it done once the meat was falling apart and almost all of the liquid had been cooked out (as much as I felt confident cooking out without burning it to the bottom of the pan)

So now I had a tasty meat base, so what was I going to do with it so I didn’t get tired of it?

Well, I made half a cup of white rice, and I froze some lunch portions with the rice and about half of the braised pork.

And I had a we smidgeon of rice left, so I took another wee smidgeon (1/4 cup) of pork and made quesadillas

Braised Pork Quesadillas (pork is braised, not the quesadilla)

They key to a good quesadilla (and a good filled crepe) is to not put too much in. If it’s still flat, then you’re I’m going to enjoy it more.

So throw a tortilla in a heated skillet. Once the tortilla is warm, flip it over and start working very quickly (that is – have a mis en place).

Add the thinnest layer of cheese you can.

Pick a half of the tortilla. Cover it with a little leftover (but warm) rice that has been tossed with lime cilantro dressing, a little of the braised pork (drain the liquid away and have a mostly dry filling), and some shredded kale (some sharp onions would have also been good here).

Fold the bare (i.e. with just cheese) half of the tortilla over the filling and make a nice even sandwich. Press flat. And flip it over to brown the outside of the tortilla and wilt the kale. Peek under to see when you have a few burnt spots on the underside of the quesadilla. Decide whether you want the (now) top crisped up anymore (if so, flip and cook a little more). Then serve. Have sour cream on the side.

And I still had about half of the braised pork left. So I made a stew-type dish.

Pork and Chickpea Stew

Add a little oil to the bottom of a pot and sweat an onion, diced. Once the onion is translucent, add a drained can of chickpeas (or soak them overnight and cook them a bit longer than is called for in this recipe… since this here cooking is mostly just getting everything warm enough for the flavors to intermingle).

Now my braised pork was pretty intensely flavored, but if it hadn’t been, I would start adding seasonings here – some cumin seeds, maybe a stick of cinnamon, marjoram, and maybe some raisins would have been an interesting choice. But I didn’t do that.

I did, however, have a baked sweet potato in my fridge, and that seemed like a good addition, so I pulled it out, peeled it, sliced it a couple times against the grain, and mixed it in with the chickpeas.

And then I added the braised pork.

Cooked it for a couple minutes until the smells mixed, and then I dished it up into containers to freeze for lunches.

Beef Black Bean Soup as a Work In Progress

There’s a good chance I’ll be moving into a house! A real house! (with hardly more counterspace than my current apartment, which wouldn’t be nearly as charming without owning this URL – but there’s lots of room to add furniture, shelving, and counters)

As part of looking forward to moving all of my belongings, I have a goal of not buying any groceries all month. I’ve already caved with a packet of soba noodles, but they’re small and light and I was in Chinatown.

So I’m going through my mind and reviewing what’s in my pantry, refrigerator, and freezer and pondering how they’d match together.

Okay, so I’ve been overeating because as soon as I come up with another plan for food, I have to do it right away, but still.

I’ve finished off three lingering containers of loose tea. Yay!

And I’ve started a plan for soup –

  • I have a bunch of leeks
  • I’ve pulled a random/unidentified cut of beef from the freezer to thaw
  • I have several large cans of black beans
  • I have an open jar of pipian sauce

Simple, right?

Only I was pondering this potential soup in my mouth, and I think it will not be pleasing to have chunks of meat in this soup.

My first thought, of course, was, “Oooo… if only I had bought a meat grinder for my recently acquired Kitchenaid.” (thanks, @geeksdo1tbetter) And, yeah, that would be lovely… but let’s be honest that it probably isn’t really something I want until I also own a dishwasher. And, either way, I don’t have one.

So the only other way I know to get a pleasing texture will be shredding the beef with slow braising. And, ~whine~ … I don’t want the soup to take that long.

But, on the plus side, it will help heat the house.

So here’s the rough draft of the soup plan:

Beef Black Bean Soup

In medium saucepan

  • beef
  • can of tomatoes
  • red wine
  • 1 tsp pipian (to get the flavor started in the meat, but I’m not sure about its pH and texture and all, so not too much)
  • -> braising

in large saucepan

  • whites of leeks
  • carrots
  • big can of black beans
  • quart of stock
  • -> cooked until beans are soft
  • -> add beef
  • -> add more pipian to taste

in large skillet

  • greens of leeks
  • 2 tsp oil
  • -> fried hard over high heat for greasy, salty, delicious garnish of joy

busy day

So far today, I have

  • shoveled out 2/3 of my car (Back end with enough rooms to maneuver an exit; foot and a half strip to the left, with hopefully enough black top showing to melt down some of the impenetrable crust from the plow; a little bit around the corner to the front; and most of the chunky stuff off the car itself)
  • pouted over the newly acquired blisters on my hands
  • Made a pot of tea
  • Started a big pot of beef & bean chili (huh, which hasn’t been properly written up on the food blog yet)
  • bought groceries and produce
  • washed the dishes
  • removed the stinky garbage from my freezer and yet forgotten to take the bag out to the cans – Yay! (actually, I’m not too worried – I have the heat turned off in my house right now)

What I have not yet done:

  • bought 1 can of tomato paste
  • vacuumed the floor of the bedroom
  • cleaned the bathroom
  • started the vegetarian chili / black bean soup
  • wiped the worst of the crud off the stove & kitchen floor (different types of crud)
  • put down paper bags or a towel for people’s shoes tomorrow
  • go to ATM so I can pay people to finish digging out my car for me
  • buy salt for the icy spot in my alley

To do tomorrow:

  • Cook beef & bean chili some more – add flour slurry
  • Cook vegetarian chili more
  • oil up baking potatoes and wrap them in foil
  • free car from snowbank
  • drive to Bryn Mawr
    take with me

    • bag with containers and stuff
    • spare car key
    • 2 canvas bags & bookbag to carry stuff back
  • meet parents for lunch at 1pm
    get stuff:

    • 2 tablespoons corn flour
    • package from knit picks
    • another package
    • box of bowls
    • cat food
    • cat treats
    • something I am forgetting
  • take train home (they’ll get my car fixed up before I try to drive it Baltimore)
  • vacuum floor again
  • make Cincinatti chili
  • 3:30pm start baking potatoes
  • prep chili condiments: grate cheese, open sour cream, mince purple onion, slice scallions, hard boil an egg (?), put out hot sauces, slice jalapenos

Soup, second try – Turkey Lentil Squash soup

Okay, so the second try was also a big shameful and full of weird miscellaneous condiment selections. And yet also tasty.

Turkey Squash Lentil Soup

Okay, so roast squash and have some sitting around in your refrigerator all cooled and diced.

Also, leftover turkey, cut into chunks.

And this time, I’m trying it without soaking the lentils first. Rinse/wash them in three vigorous changes of water before using.

Oh, and I’ve made both turkey stock and vegetable stock. You can go with all of one or the other or just water – but they shouldn’t be at least warmed up to room temperature.

So brown 2 teaspoons of flour in a pan. Dice an onion pretty finely and stir that into the browning flour. Once the onions are limp and the flour is getting toasty, add a teaspoon or so of butter (or lipid of choice).

Now add some turkey stock and stir it all together until you have a gravy base. Add a teaspoon of red wine, a shake of Worcestershire sauce, and a little bit of browning sauce.

Add lentils and minced garlic with some vegetable stock. Once it reaches a simmer, add the cubed winter squash. And then a couple minutes later, the turkey leftovers.

Season with ground black pepper, ground ginger (I was bizarrely generous with this, but luckily the soup absorbed it well), a sprinkling of cinnamon, and some hot pepper.

Because these are all leftovers that have been sitting in the fridge, you really should have the soup boil for about 20 minutes, but my lentils were already pretty mushy by the end of that.

food planning for my week – Chili, Coconut Rice

Okay, so after this weekend, I have a lot of meals ready to go:

already cooked
mashed potatoes
coconut rice

vegetable lasagna
2 chicken leg quarters in an indian marinade

1 large sweet potato
collard greens (leftovers)
1 zucchini

Monday: George Takei talk
(buy more cheese)

Tuesday: not going to dance practice, possibly going to Film Festival closing night part 6-7pm
cook chicken
coconut rice
spinach or zucchini on the side

Wednesday: not watching Lost, first night of Passover
cook greens with bacon rind (for Passover)
bake sweet potato
leftover chili

Thursday: second night of Passover
vegetable lasagna (buy cheese)

Friday: third night of Passover
mashed potatoes
cook greens with bacon rind (for Passover)
any leftover veggies

Wow – I totally lose at Passover.

Now do I want to buy a box of Matzoh so I can look pious in front of my two jewish coworkers? Sliced ham and mayonnaise is really good in a matzoh sandwich.

ETA: And we have Godiva chocolate at work today because it was a gift from the dental librarian. Later in the week, my boss has promised truffles because she has to clean them out of her house before Passover – score!

ETAA: Why don’t I also give you some recipes?

I make chili from a mix. But it is the best packaged chili mix ever because it doesn’t come out as a single powder. Instead, they put each spice in its own little packet.

I always use chunks of meat instead of ground beef. And I always have to add real onions and garlic.

Then, when I am adding the spice packets, I have started not using the salt packet and only adding a little salt by taste at the end. I’ll add extra black pepper, powdered thyme, worcestershire sauce, a bay leaf (removed later), and a pinch or two of sugar. This time, I also added a couple cap-fulls of Manischewitz wine.



Coconut Rice
Yeah, I totally made this up with no idea whether it would work.

1 part long grain rice
1 part water
1 part (whole) milk
no butter
instead, a chunk of coconut cream, well – a chunk of the fatty solids on top and a dollop of the liquid below. Note – this is different from coconut milk
a pinch of salt
more sugar (about 2 tsp sugar/cup rice… but I didn’t measure)