Friday, January 27, 2017

Pork ragu with creamy polenta


This dish is the food equivalent of sliding into cozy pajamas and curling up in front of a fire with a glass of red wine.

So when your boss is all over you, you have one kid in a wheelchair with a broken leg and the other kid suddenly develops double pink eye, I highly recommend it - in a large warm bowl, with an equally large glass of red wine (Chianti, please). Did I mention I am glad it's Friday?

But don't wait for your kid to break a leg to make it. It's unbelievably easy. Just let it simmer on the stove til it practically falls apart. And put away the air fresheners because this will make your house smell good. Heck, even your yard will smell good.

Pork ragu with creamy polenta
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Make the pork ragu a day ahead then just whip up the creamy polenta and dinner is done. It makes enough for friends (or leftovers). And it's also yummy on pasta (which is how the kids ate it.)

    Pork Ragu
  • 3 lbs. skinless, boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), cut into 3 pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup full-bodied red wine
  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
    Creamy polenta and assembly
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups coarse polenta (not quick cooking)
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped parsley

Cooking Directions
  1. Season pork with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium. Cook pork, turning often, until evenly browned, 10–12 minutes. Transfer to a platter and pour off pan drippings.
  2. Wipe out any burned bits from pot, but leave the golden-brown pieces (doing this will keep the finished sauce from tasting bitter). Add onion and garlic to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is starting to brown and caramelize, 12–15 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly darkened in color, 5–8 minutes.
  3. Add wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until reduced by about half, 5–8 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes, crushing with your hands as you go, then add thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves; stir in 2 cups water. Add pork with any juices accumulated on the platter; season with salt and pepper.
  5. Bring liquid to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until pork is falling-apart tender, sauce is thickened (it will be thicker than a typical pasta sauce), and flavors have melded, 2½–3 hours.
  6. Using 2 forks, shred the pork; taste and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Pork can be prepared a few days ahead. Let it cool, cover and chill. Reheat gently before serving.
  8. To make the polenta, bring chicken stock and milk to a simmer in a large pot. Whisking constantly, gradually add polenta; reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, whisking often, until polenta is tender and creamy, 20–25 minutes (if polenta becomes too thick too soon, loosen mixture by adding a little water and continue cooking). Add butter and ½ cup Parmesan to polenta and whisk until melted; season to taste with salt and pepper.
  9. Spoon polenta into bowls or onto a platter and top with pork. Scatter parsley and more Parmesan over top.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Cabbage rolls with lamb, rice and a hint of cinnamon


January is a month of resolutions and I've got a few of my own. One is to get back to my blog - and here I am. The other is to play more with my kids. To find a way to not be "too busy". Well last week I got a sure fire way to make that a reality. My 6 year old broke her leg. She is in a cast for 6-8 weeks and is navigating our world in a wheel chair. So we play Uno; we do puzzles; we build Legos. As much as I hate seeing her like this, it has forced me to slow down and spend more time with her. I might just stick with these resolutions...

Now for the blog - this could be a challenge given the unexpected doctor appointments and extra care my little Éclair will need. On the other hand, we will be eating out less.

As you may have figured out by now, I tend to cook based on ingredients I have on hand. In this case, it was a bigger-than-my-head cabbage (and that is pretty darn big). It was perfect for cabbage rolls. Oh, and I may have gotten a Polish cookbook from Santa...

I'd make these again for sure. The lamb and cinnamon are a new take on the cabbage rolls my Great Aunt Millie used to make. Hers were more traditional - stuffed with pork, sauerkraut and rice. These have lamb and short-grain rice and a hint of cinnamon, which reminded me and my husband of Greek foods we love. Next time, I'll make them a day or two ahead as they seem to taste better after the flavors mix for a couple days.

And this is not as hard as it looks. If I can do it, so can you. If you don't like lamb, go with beef or pork.


Cabbage rolls with lamb, rice and a hint of cinnamon
Adapted from Polska by Zuza Zak

I had a very large head of cabbage so I doubled the original recipe and made 2 dishes of cabbages rolls. I froze the second for a quick dinner later on.


  • 1 large head cabbage
  • grapeseed oil, for frying
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, divided
  • 3 cups cooked short grain rice (about 1 cup dry)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • salt and white pepper, to taste

Cooking Directions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, leaving enough room so it won't boil over when you put the cabbage in. Blanch the cabbage for a few minutes then remove from the pan and separate the larger leaves. If the inner leaves are still crunchy, I dunk it back in the water for a couple more minutes after removing the outer leaves. I find it easier to cut the leaves at the core and peel from there; they are less likely to tear. Drain the leaves on paper towels while you make the filling.
  2. Add about a tablespoon of grapeseed oil to a large sauté pan and sauté the onion for a few minutes until softened. Add the lamb and continue to cook for 4-5 minutes, until the meat is browned, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Halfway through cooking the lamb, add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and season well with salt and white pepper. Remove from the heat and stir in the rice. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the stocks, bay leaves, tomato paste, peppercorns, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a pot and bring to a simmer to let the flavors combine. Simmer 10 minutes then remove from the heat.
  4. Preheat oven to 300F.
  5. lamb-cabbage-rolls3

  6. Take a cabbage leaf and place a scoop of the filling in the middle. Fold it over lengthwise, fold in the ends, then roll it over to make a neat parcel. Place in an ovenproof baking dish, then continue with the remaining cabbage leaves and filling. I made about 10 large rolls, but it will depend on the size of your cabbage leaves. Pack the rolls closely together in the pan.
  7. Pour the stock over the rolls. I used two smaller baking dishes so I split the stock between them.
  8. Lay a couple of extra cabbage leaves over the top of the dish to keep it moist while baking.
  9. Bake for 1 hour and serve with the broth, discarding the bay leaves and peppercorns.

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