Monday, January 21, 2013

Slow-Cooked Apple Cider Pork on the Stove

There is a reason I don't post a lot of savory recipes on this website.  Quite simply: I don't have a lot of recipes.  By that I mean, I make different savory things to eat all the time, but I just don't keep track of what I'm using and how much of it went into the pot.  I do almost everything by eyeballing it or taste-testing; I don't use measuring spoons or cups except when I bake.  This, of course, makes it very hard to share recipes, because I don't even remember all the time what I put into my food.  If I think something needs some curry powder, I add some in.  If I think garlic would be a nice addition, in goes some garlic.  Because I cook for myself, I don't have to worry too much, because I know I'll eat whatever I put on the table.

What I am giving you here is my best effort at actually creating a recipe for other people to follow.  I had some country-style boneless pork ribs on hand that I used as the meat, but you can make this with pork shoulder or loin or such.  This inspiration for this meal was just that I wanted to get more flavor and moisture into the meat.  I don't actually like white meat, so I really shouldn't have bought it, but I did not realize how little dark meat there was in this cut.  Also, it was on sale.

I marinated the pork overnight with soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and honey, and then I baked it in an oven at 350F until it was done (about 30-40 minutes).  Then, I decided to slow cook it on the stove, to really get the meat soft and tender, so that it would melt in my mouth.  I wanted that fall-off-the-bone pork texture, except that there was no bone for the meat to fall off of, but you know what I mean.

Pork and apples are a classic combination, and balsamic goes wonderfully with pork, so I made up a little recipe with what I had in my kitchen. The end result was absolutely delicious.  I love the way the meat just falls apart - it is perfect for a sandwich or with a salad - and the reduced cooking liquid makes an incredible sauce.  The apple flavor is so faint, it's almost like a homemade barbeque sauce, and who wouldn't like something like that?

Slow-Cooked Apple Cider Pork on the Stove

3 splashes of balsamic vinegar (probably about 2 tbsp)
1 splash of red vine vinegar (probably a scant tablespoon)
roughly 1 teaspoon of salt
2-3 cups of chicken stock (I used a homemade stock made with only chicken bones, breast meat, salt, garlic cloves, and water)
2 packets of instant spiced apple cider (I used Alpine brand, which contains sugar, malic acid, mltodextrin, tricalcium phsphate, apple juice solids, caramel color, sodium citrate, ascorbic acid, natural and artificial falvors, spice extractive... and now that I've written those ingredients, I'm horrified)
1/2 cup of unsweetened apple sauce (I used Motts because it was on sale)
3-4 cups of water
4 lbs of cooked pork (see above)
3 cloves of garlic
a splash of fish sauce because I'm Vietnamese  (optional)

Combine everything in a large Dutch oven or non-stick pot.
Bring the pot to a rapid boil on high heat, while stirring occasionally.
Once the mixture has come to a boil, lower the heat to medium so that it is still simmering.  For me, on an electric stove that goes from 1-2-3-4-5-6-high, I left the heat around 4.  Allow the mixture to cook for at least 1 hour and 30 minutes, with the lid on.  The meat will be tender at this point, but not falling-of-the-bone (if you have no bone, they it will not be at the point of pulled pork yet).

Stir occasionally and check the level of your cooking liquid, especially after about 45 minutes.  The liquid will reduce as it cooks, but if the sauce gets too thick and the level gets too low, it can burn; just add a bit of water (about 1/2 cup) if you see this starting to happen.  You can reduce the braising/cooking liquid at the end, after pulling all the meat out, if the sauce isn't thick enough for you.  In my case, I had to add more water 3 times during a total cooking time of 2 hours, and the sauce was perfect at the end (I had no need to reduce it).

After 1 hour and 30 minutes, reduce your heat to low.  If you like your meat to be very tender, crush the pieces of meat with a fork and allow to continue to cook for another 30-50 minutes, depending on the size of your pieces of meat.  I was working with pieces about the size of half a hockey puck and had a total cooking time of 2 hours.

Serve with veggies and some sort of carbohydrate for a complete meal.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Life, love, and some germs

I'm so out of it right now, I just read a recipe for "Chicken Liver Pate" thinking that it said "Chocolate Liver Pate."  I was fascinated, and it wasn't until I had read through the entire recipe and wondered to myself how the author could possibly put "chocolate" in the name and neglect to include it anywhere in the recipe that I went back and re-read the title and realized that was the one who was terribly mistaken.

Anyhow, I've been busy, as I always tell you.  But I have a very legitimate excuse (as I always do): I've been away in Paris.  I spent a lovely holiday with both my family and B.'s family.  I'm always amazed by how wonderful it can be to just do simple things with the man that I love.  Eat breakfast.  Go to the movies.  Go grocery shopping.  Clean an apartment.

But blissful as I may make our holidays sound, the reality is that for two days that we were together, I was truly, horribly sick.  I mean the kind of sick where I was sitting on the floor, unable to keep food or water down, and his brother and sister had to go out on Christmas morning to find a pharmacy that was open in order to buy me medicine.
Yet, even though I have never been so miserable in my life, it was also so nice to be taken care of by him.  He was wonderful to me.  I kept apologizing for being sick, and he stopped me at some point and told me, "I don't want to choose just the good moments. I am your partner."

It is those moments that I realize how lucky I am.  I know that with B., I will be taken care of.  I have someone who will hold back my hair, sit on the floor with me, and hand me toilet paper to use as tissues when I need it.  I have someone who will make me tea, heat up soup for me when my appetite returns, and carry me up the stairs when I'm too tired and in too much pain to do it alone.  I know that he will be there when I am at my worst, my least attractive, and my most vulnerable.  And for all this, I love him.

Of course, the way life is, in return for all his sweetness, I gave him my virus, and then he was horribly ill, but the point of this story is that what we have is great, germs and all.

As for any food news, before you know it, B. will be here again (long distance love is all about counting down the days in between seeing one another).  Hopefully, there will be no more germs and no more stories about sickness in the near future.

Happy belated new year, to all my readers.  Here's to hoping 2013 is even better than 2012!