Sunday, March 30, 2014

Farmers Market Find: Braised Pork Shank

Ready for the oven. See you in
three hours!
I went to the Carboro Farmers' Market for eggs yesterday.  Came home with a pork shank to boot.  I guess that's what happens when Cain Creek Farm, the people who raise some of the best pasture raised eggs in the area, also raise hogs.  I'm not complainin, just 'splainin.  

I've never cooked a pork shank, but I'm thinking it will work a lot like my signature dish, oso buco.  And, flash back to last Sunday's pot roast.  Big hunk of meat.  Sear. Saute some veg.  Add liquid. And letter rip, so to speak.  Low and slow for about 3 hours.

The eggs I went to the Farmers
Market to buy.  Yes - pasture raised
chickens raise superior eggs!!
Turns out pork shanks are pretty fatty, so I'm making this one way early and then I'll chill the resulting liquid in an ice bath in the fridge so I can skim off all the bad stuff.  I'll also be able to remove any visible fat from the meat before I serve it.  I know the cooking show folks revel in fat.  But not quite part of the lifestyle we're living.  While there will be some residual fat, but hopefully the wind will die down and I'll get some tennis in this afternoon.  Otherwise, to the treadmill we will go.  Hi Ho.  

Here's how I'm doing it... posting early, but I'm quite confident that it will be yummy.  I will make adjustments tonight if necessary

  • Pre-heat the oven to 325
    • Trim any excess fat from the shank, down to about a quarter of an inch to half inch if necessary.  Liberally season the pork shank with salt and pepper
    • Heat a medium sized Dutch oven and place the shank, fat cap down and leave it there without fussing with it until it is well browned, and a good amount of fat has been rendered.
    • Turn and repeat until the entire shank is well browned. Remove and set aside. Pour off the grease and toss in the trash. (Note, do not pour the hot grease into an empty plastic yogurt cup.  Yes, they melt down to nothing.)
    • While the browing magic is happening, chop up half an onion, about six cloves of garlic, two stalks of celery and three carrots.  I had some frozen sliced leeks in the freezer, so I thawed them, squeezed out the liquid and added them as well. Saute these until they are just getting soft.
    • Now for the herbs and spices:
    • As the veg sauteed, I added a pinch of kosher salt and some fresh cracked black pepper; a bout a teaspoon of fennel seeds, about a half teaspoon of celery seeds, a scant palmful each of dried sage and dried oregano, and three dried bay leaves.  
    • Now place the browned shank back into the pot.
    • Next comes the liquid
    • If I'd had an open bottle of dry white wine, I would have added a cup or so, but since I did not I added about two cups each of chicken stock and enough vegetable stock to come up just over half way up the shank.  If you don't have veg stock, use whatever stock you have.  Seriously, do not over think this!
    • Now bring it to a bubble, clamp on the lid, put the whole thing into the oven and set your timer for 90 minutes.  
  • Figure out and do what extra exercise you will do today so you don't feel guilty.  Write blog post.

  • At the 90 minute mark, flip the meat.  
    • Adjust the liquid if necessary (this is rarely needed) and set the time for another 90 minutes.
  • Do that exercise if you didn't do it earlier.
  • When it is all done and the meat is literally falling off the bone, remove the shank and let cool, then refrigerate until you get ready to serve. I
    • f you are doing this the day before, put the braising liquid in a bowl, and let cool, then put in the fridge over night.  If you are serving the same day, put the bowl of liquid in a larger bowl filled with ice and water to speed up the cooling process.
  • When the fat has congealed remove it and throw it away.  
    • Feel good about doing what you an to make this a more figure friendly dish.
  • When you are ready to serve, pop the shank into a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until it is headed through.  

    • Meanwhile, heat the liquid in a sauce pan and puree it with a stick blender to make a velvety sauce.  
  • Enjoy.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

When Life Gives You a Winter that Won't End - Make a Pot Roast (Low and Slow Italian Pot Roast)

We kicked off Spring with a World Team Tennis Tournament Friday night.  With temps in the mid 60s and the sun still shining at 6 o'clock in the evening, it was a perfect evening to shake off the winter cobwebs.  As I heading to my first game, my friend Laura noted how much she enjoys this blog and I promised her to post this weekend.  

The weather man promised nice warm temps, so
Italian influenced pot roast with
orange fennel carrots and
brown/wild rice
I figured that I’d be cooking up something light, filled with springtime veggies and maybe some fish…. Then after a glorious day yesterday the weather took a nasty turn.  Chilly, rainy, gray… a perfect day for a Sunday pot roast!

A wonderful California red
from our favorite winery builds
the sauce and accompanies
the roast; plus cute little
oranges to saute with
carrots and fennel seeds
We love slow braising all kinds of meat and poultry, but a good pot roast is such a comfort food.  I keep things simple and use what’s in the house to fill the pot with whatever flavors float my boat.  Today, we took a bit of an Italian bent with red wine, stewed tomatoes, oregano and fennel seeds.  I made some brown and wild rice, and sautéed up some carrots with orange segments and fennel seeds to serve on the side; and called it a day.

I like to flip the roast at the 1/2 way mark.  After 90 minutes
the sauce is starting to form.  And the house smells AMAZING

  • 3 - 5  lb roast of beef.  Ask your butcher what is best that day for a slow braise. 
  • 14.5 oz can stewed tomatoes. (I like Del Monte California Style – of course - with basil, garlic and oregano.)
  • About ¾ to a cup of good red wine – today I went with a Rancho Sisquoc Tre Vini, which is 55 Sauvignon, 25% Petit Verdot and 20% Syrah.  Yum.  You can use any good dry red… we just happen to love this vineyard in Central California and look forward to enjoying it with the roast tonight.
  • Enough chicken broth to bring the liquid up to just under ¾ of the way up the roast. Resist the temptation to submerge the mean.  Flip it half way instead.
  • Large onion sliced
  • 5 large cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed (use the side of a chef’s knife to do this)
  • A scant palm full Dried oregano (yes, dried…. I love fresh oregano and grow some every spring/summer.  But dried works best for a slow braise.)
  • Teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • Olive oil to lightly coat the pan two times - once when you brown the meat and again when you saute the onions.
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

  • Preheat the oven to 350
  • Liberally season all sides of the roast with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper.  Set aside.
  • Heat a medium sized Dutch oven until very hot and add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom.  Now over a medium to high heat, sear the roast on all sides.  You need to be patient.  Set the roast down and don’t move it until it has a good crust; then turn and repeat the process until you have browned the entire roast.
  • Remove the roast from the pan; and set on a plate.  Turn off the flame and gently wipe out any fat from the bottom of the pan, leaving any brown bits. 
  • Now turn up the flame to medium, add a tad bit more oil, the onion, a healthy pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, plus the oregano, and cook the onion slices until they are just starting to become soft.
  • Next come the liquids:  Pour about a quarter cup of the wine into the pan and scrape the brown bits with a wooden spoon.  Then add the rest of the wine, the stewed tomatoes and their juices, the garlic, and enough chicken broth to bring the level of the liquid to about ¾ of the way up the roast. 
  • Raise the heat to bring the liquid to a boil.  When it is bubbling, turn off the heat, put the lid on the pot.
  • Now pour yourself a glass of the red wine, place the roast into the 350-degree oven for 3 hours, checking to turn the roast and add liquid if necessary at the half way mark.  Watch golf while drinking the wine.
  • Once the roast is done, remove it from the pot and cover it lightly with foil to keep it warm while you make the sauce.
  • To make the sauce, reduce the liquid on a medium high heat for about 5 minutes, then use a stick blender to blend the tomatoes, onions, garlic and liquid into a velvety gravy.  There's no need for flour or any other thickener.
  • To serve, slice the meat, add a little sauce and dig in.  Note: this is even better the next day.  And if your meat is quite lean, you might want to reduce the cooking time a tad.