Friday, February 27, 2015

Shallow-Braised Chardonnay Pork Shoulder Steaks

When I was growing up, one of my mother's signature dishes was shallow-braised pork shoulder steaks. She didn't call it that, and I doubt she thought in terms of signature dishes, but it was something that she made quite often.

When I watched my mother make those pork steaks, it was the most puzzling bit of cooking alchemy that I ever witnessed. She used a huge wobbly frying pan that had warped from abuse, so it was impossible for the bottom to heat evenly.

Sometimes the pan was covered, sometimes it wasn't. Sometimes she'd let the liquid cook out, and then she'd add more and cover it again. Sometimes she'd turn the heat off and just let it sit, and then turn it on again later.

It was almost like she had no idea what she wanted to do, or that she had no idea how long it would take to cook properly. But in the end, the dish turned out exactly the same every time. She probably knew what she was doing, but it confused the heck out of me.

Or maybe she was just lucky.

I still love pork shoulder chops, but I don't make them exactly the way mom made them. Hers typically had green peppers, maybe some onion, and they were finished with just a little bit of a cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce at the end of cooking. And that's about it. They were simple, but good.

On the other hand, I tend to add extras.

If you think it's unusual to cook with Chardonnay, as far as I'm concerned, you can cook with pretty much any wine that you like - you just need to make sure the flavor of the wine pairs well with the food. And a glass of wine to go along with the meal would be a great idea!

This post is sponsored by Sutter Home, who sent me Chardonnay to work with. Other participating bloggers received other types of wine. Sutter Home also provided the giveaway items.

Shallow-Braised Chardonnay Pork Shoulder Steaks

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pork shoulder steaks
4 stalks celery
1 onion
1 cup Sutter Home chardonnay
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 generous cup bell pepper strips
1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional)

Heat the vegetable oil on medium-high heat in a large frying pan with a lid or other wide shallow pan that will easily fit the steaks.

Add the shoulder steaks and brown on both sides.

While the pork shoulder is browning, you should have time to slice the celery into 1/4-inch pieces and to quarter the onion and slice it into a similar thickness.

When the steaks are browned, add the celery, onion, chardonnay, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and paprika, and give it all a little stir.

The shoulder steaks shouldn't be submersed in the liquid, but there should be at least 1/4-inch of liquid in the bottom of the pan. If you have a very large pan, you might need more liquid. Add more wine, or you can add water, if you prefer.

Bring the liquid to a low simmer and cover the pot. Let it simmer slowly for 60 minutes, then add the parsley and bell pepper strips (I used frozen multi-colored pepper strips, but you could core, seed, and slice fresh bell pepper, if you prefer.

Cover the pan and continue cooking on a low simmer for another 15-20 minutes, The pork should be fork-tender. Remove the cover and continue cooking until the liquid has evaporated and thickened to create a sauce.

If you like (and it's what mom did) add a teaspoon of cornstarch to 2 tablespoons of cold water and add it to the pan, Cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens even more and coats the meat and vegetables.

Serve hot. I served it with rice, but it's also good with simple boiled potatoes.

Thanks to the nice folks as Sutter Home, we're doing a giveaway of these items - all to one winner!

  • Napa Valley Olive Oil    
  • Sutter Home Wine Koozie
  • Sutter Home Logo Tote
  • Napa Valley Cabernet Portobello sauce
  • Napa Valley BBQ sauce
  • Sutter Home VinoAir
  • Napa Valley Peach Salsa
  • Napa Valley Garlic Mustard
  • 2 Sutter Home Logo Vino
  • Capabunga Sutter Home Logo
  • 4 Napa Valley Chocolate Bar
  • Sutter Home Ahso wine opener
  • Sutter Home coaster
  • Napa Valley soaps x 2
  • Sutter Home Bubbly stopper
  • Napa Valley Lotion

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post, as well as the giveaway, is sponsored by Sutter Home.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bourbon GingerMint Cocktail - and home made ginger simple syrup

My lastest book from my Cook My Book group is Smoke and Pickles by Edward Lee. While I was browsing for something more complicated to make, I paused for a moment in the cocktail section.

Okay, it was a long pause.

I've been dabbling with cocktail-making lately, and the ginger simple syrup Lee used in one of his recipes caught my eye. I thought it would be a pretty thing to have in my arsenal.

And, fortunately, I had a good amount of ginger in my freezer. I had gotten a big hand of it from Frieda's Specialty Produce a while back, and I used some right away then froze the rest.

The recipe is so simple, it's barely a recipe:

Ginger Simple Syrup

1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
3 ounces of chopped ginger

Combine the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, make sure the sugar is melted, then let it steep. The book suggested 20 minutes, but longer is fine. You can let it steep until it's cool, if you like. Then strain out and discard the ginger and refrigerate the simple syrup.

I'm trying to think of a use for the ginger - it still had quite a bit of "bite" to it - but so far I haven't thought of anything stunning. If you use a lot of ginger, you might have some ideas.

So, once I had the ginger syrup, I started brainstorming some ideas. First, I made a simple ginger soda with the ginger syrup and some freshly made soda water.

Then I moved on to an actual cocktail.

Bourbon GingerMint

1 ounce Bulleit bourbon
1 ounce ginger simple syrup
1/4 ounce peppermint schnapps

Combine all in ingredients in a short glass with ice. Stir. Garnish as desired - I used a cherry. Serve.

Note: I receive a lot of samples from Diageo brands. The Bulleit bourbon was one. I'm not required to post, but I'm sure they appreciate it. The ginger came from Frieda's Specialty Produce.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fastest Fudge Cake

I was having a bit of a cake crisis. I wanted to make a cake. I tried to make several cakes. But the recipes I tried weren't working. First, I tried something called "Wonder Cake" from a cookbook written in 1894. It was pretty horrible.

Then I tried a couple more modern recipes that failed.

It happens sometimes at high altitude - cakes can be pretty finicky up here.

I probably could have fixed those recipes with some troubleshooting, but I wasn't in the mood for that. I just wanted to find a recipe that worked from the beginning. Without testing and tweaking and re-testing.

I decided to turn to a cookbook that had worked for me before - Fine Cooking Cakes and Cupcakes. I make a crumb cake from the book a while back, and it was pretty danged good. So I browsed through the book to find something else.

I was temped by a few different yellow cakes, but went in the opposite direction and chose a chocolate cake instead. The title made me happy: Fastest Fudge Cake. I like fast and I like fudge. And, I had all the ingredients I needed to make the cake.

While several of the other cakes I made had risen and then fallen - either in the oven or while cooling - this one rose politely and didn't collapse. It was perfect.

Fastest Fudge Cake

1 cup 4 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour
1 ounce (1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons) natural cocoa powder (not Dutch)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter, melted and warm
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup hot water

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with baking spray.

In a small bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together. If it's lumpy, sift it. If it's not lumpy, you're good to go.

In a large bowl, stir the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs and vanilla and stir until well blended. It will take some stirring, but it will blend. Add the flour all at once and stir until all the flour is moistened. Add the water and stir until it's incorporated and the batter is smooth.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it out of the pan.

Let the cake cool completely before frosting - I used a poured ganache, but use whatever you like.
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