Jamaican-inspired Pork and Rice

An old friend described for me years ago the flavors that he missed most from time spent in Jamaica–the combination of warm  and hot spices.  In his view, no other combination was as comforting.  Growing up, my daughters both grew to agree with him, although one favors the warm spices while the other likes a bit of heat.  This recipe combines both in one of our favorite weeknight meals.

This recipe can easily be doubled or even quadrupled to feed a crowd.

INGREDIENTS:

1-2 boneless or bone-in pork chops, or one half of a small pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1″ cubes

2 T. olive oil or vegetable oil

1 small onion

1 red pepper

1 green pepper

1 jalapeno pepper (optional if you object to a little spice)

2-3 cloves of garlic

3 T flour

2 cups white wine, preferably dry (if it is sweet you can skip some of the brown sugar)

1/2 cup tomato sauce

⅛ t. cinnamon

⅛ t. ginger

1 T. brown sugar

sturdy pinch of red pepper flakes

cayenne or hot sauce to taste

PREPARATION:

  1. Place trimmed pieces of pork and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with flour (and salt and pepper) and toss to coat.
  2. Chop onion and red and green peppers into approximately one-inch squares. Finely chop the jalapeno (use gloves if possible) and the garlic.
  3. Heat oil in a large fry or sauté pan that has a lid available over medium heat. When oil is hot, add pork and cook until very brown on all or most sides, turning occasionally. Some of the flour will stick to the pan, don’t worry about it. Remove pork to a dish and set aside.
  4. Add the onions and peppers to the pan and cook until wilted. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute or two until you can smell it.
  5. Add the wine and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, stirring vigorously.
  6. Add the tomato sauce, cinnamon, ginger, brown sugar and pepper flakes/cayenne/hot sauce. Mix well and return the pork to the pan. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Allow the Jamaican pork to bubble slowly until the pork is very tender when you pierce it with a sharp knife or the tines of a fork (20 minutes to 35 minutes depending on the size of the pieces).
  7. While the pork is cooking you can make the rice–see below.
  8. When the pork is tender, remove the lid and turn up the heat so the sauce boils and becomes thicker. Turn it off when you reach the thickness you like. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed.

STOVETOP RICE

Ingredients:

¾ cup of long grain rice

1½ cups of water

pinch or two of salt

Preparation:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a pan with a lid.
  2. Place the pan uncovered on a burner set to medium-high until the water begins to boil.
  3. Turn the heat to medium-low or low depending on how hot the burner, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. Check at ten minutes, if the rice is not tender and there is still some water, recover and cook for 3-5 minutes more, checking after a minute or two. If the rice is not tender but the water is gone add a few more tablespoons of water.
  4. Once the rice is cooked, remove from the heat and leave covered for 2-5 minutes. If you do not want sticky rice, fluff the grains with a fork to separate them.

Makes 2 servings

Sarah’s Chicken and Dumplings

We have a tradition in our family that on a birthday, you can ask for anything you want for dinner.  For Sarah, the answer is almost always the same–Chicken and Dumplings.  These are the old fashioned dumplings that my father used to make, spooned on top of the bubbling chicken and sauce to cook up and absorb flavor.

Note:  The basic dough for the dumplings is taken from Christopher Kimball’s Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook.

INGREDIENTS:
3/4 to 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast
1 T. olive oil (or butter if you don’t have olive oil)
2 T. sweet butter
1/2 small onion
4 T. flour
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup frozen peas (4 ounces or 115 grams)
green beans (optional), as many as you want cut into 1 inch long pieces and tips discarded
1 t . either dried tarragon or dried thyme
1 cup flour
½ t. salt
½ t. baking soda
1 egg (beaten and divided in half)
2 T. melted butter
1/3 cup of milk
1 t. lemon juice
PREPARATION:

1. Heat a fry pan over medium-low heat and add the 1 T of olive oil. Place the chicken in a fry pan and cook over medium-low heat covered (with foil if you lack a cover) turning once until breast is just cooked through (about 8-10 minutes)

2. While chicken is cooking, finely chop the half onion.

3. Remove chicken from pan and set aside covered with foil.

4. Prepare the dry ingredients for the dumplings. In a medium to large bowl combine the 1 cup of flour, the ½ t.  salt, and ½ t. baking powder. In a small bowl or cup beat the egg and divide roughly in half (save the other half to use for something else). Melt the 2 T. of butter in a small pan or microwave. Set aside.

4. In a pan or pot that is at least 4″ deep, melt the 2 T. butter over medium-low heat and add the chopped onion. Cook just until the onion is translucent. Add the 4 T. of flour and mix until the butter and the flour are thoroughly combined.

5. Add the chicken stock and raise the heat to medium-high bringing the mixture to a low boil, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Reduce heat back to medium-low and allow to simmer for 5 minutes to finish cooking the flour.

6. While base is simmering, cut the chicken into bite size pieces.

7. Also, while the sauce is simmering, mix the dumplings: add the 1/2 egg, 2 T. melted butter, ⅓ cup milk and 1 t.  lemon juice to the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir to combine with a large spoon.

7. Add the chicken, peas, green beans (if using) and the tarragon or thyme to the pot and mix throughly to combine. Taste for salt and pepper.

8. Using your large spoon, scoop very large egg-sized portion of the dumplings onto the top of the sauce (they may sink a little). Cover and lower heat to gentle simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes until dumplings are cooked through but still tender.

9. Serve and enjoy.

Makes approximately 3 servings.

Risotto

My daughter Sarah started making risotto when she was in second grade.  She was asked to write down a recipe that she made at home and since she had only been my assistant to that time, she wanted something that was her own to cook.  Since she loved eating risotto and we had a stool tall enough to let her sit at the stove and stir it, a small chef was born.

Note:  This recipe is adapted from one that was created by the great Judy Rogers and appears in the Zuni Cookbook.

INGREDIENTS:

2 T. sweet/unsalted butter (1 ounce or 28 grams)
1 small onion
2 pieces of American style bacon or a small piece of ham or 1-2 slices of prosciutto
2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
1/4 cup white wine (or 60 ml)
4-5 cups of chicken stock (or just over 1 litre)
1/4 -1/2 cup of grated parmigian cheese (preferably parmigiano reggiano)

PREPARATION:

1. Chop onion into fine dice.

1. If using American bacon, cut into small dice and cook in a deep wide pot (Dutch oven or similar) until fat has rendered and bacon is crisp. Remove bacon pieces and  reserve.  Add butter to pot to melt. If not using bacon, begin by melting butter in pot.

2. In either case, add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook just until the onion is wilted and translucent.

3. Add the rice and stir until the grains are coated with the fat in the pan.

4. Add the wine and about 2 cups of the chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir as needed until the liquid is absorbed.

5. Add another cup of liquid and follow the same process. After this liquid is absorbed check the risotto for salt (even though the rice is still hard) and add salt now if needed.

6. Continue adding liquid 1/2 cup of the stock at a time until the rice is just tender.

7. Add the parmigian, along with the crisp bacon, the ham or the prosciutto (cut into small pieces, if using), and the pepper and serve.

Makes 4-6 servings so you can have risotto cakes the next day.

Creamy Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese is one of those dishes that can easily grow up with us (and has with my daughters)  with the cheese changing (and improving) and the pasta choices becoming more interesting.  it can also play host to a range of other foods, making it a really versatile recipe to have in your repertoire.

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb. (450 grams) short dried pasta (elbow macaroni, rotini, etc.)

5T (or 5 c.s.) of sweet (unsalted) butter

5T (or 5 c.s.) of all purpose flour

2-3 cups (475-700 ml) of milk

6 oz. (or 170 grams) of cheddar cheese (you can substitute another

cheese like Gruyere for up to 2 oz. (55 grams) of the cheddar)

1/3 cup (75 grams) of grated parmagian cheese

1/8 t. (or 1/8 c.c.) cayenne pepper

1/4 t. (or 1/4 c.c.) ground nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

½ cup of panko or other very dry bread crumbs (optional)

2T of salted butter, melted (optional)

PREPARATION:

  1.  Preheat the oven to 300 deg. F (gas mark 2).
  2. Grate the cheddar cheese and set aside.
  3. Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil.
  4. Add the pasta and cook until just barely done. Drain well (shaking to get extra water out) and set aside
  5. In a large pot or pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and mix with a whisk until fully incorporated with the butter.
  6. Add 2 cups of the milk slowly, whisking or stirring constantly to prevent lumps.
  7. Raise the heat to medium and keep stirring until the sauce begins to bubble (the flour is through thickening at the point the sauce reaches a low boil).
  8. Reduce the heat to low and add the grated cheddar, the parmesan, the cayenne and the nutmeg. Stir until the the cheese is fully melted. If the sauce is too thick add more milk until it is the consistency you want.
  9. Add the drained pasta to an oven safe dish, pour the cheese sauce over the and stir until the pasta is thoroughly coated.

NOTE: To make this a heartier or more interesting dish you can add crumbled, cooked bacon or pancetta, small pieces of cooked chicken, or cooked vegetables such as broccoli or chopped spinach or anything else that strikes your fancy that is not too wet.

  1. In a small bowl mix the panko and the melted butter, if using, until well blended.  Sprinkle over the mac and cheese
  2. Place in the oven for 15-25 minutes until the crumbs are brown and the mixture is bubbling.  Serve.

French Onion Soup Redux

Onion soup is one of my daughter Sarah’s favorite things and so, in self-defense, I needed to come up with a way to make it for dinner more often than Julia Child’s stunning recipe would let me.  As a result, I adapted the recipe to make it a bit quicker.  If you have the time, though, certainly use the original, classic recipe.

INGREDIENTS:

2 T. butter
1T .olive oil
4 medium or large yellow onions thinly sliced (about 1 lb. or 1.5 kg)
½ t. salt
½ t. sugar
2 T. flour
3 cups of beef stock (preferably low sodium)
1/2 cup red wine (or dry white can s]be substituted but it will not have the lovely crimson color)
salt and pepper to taste (be careful of salt if the stock is high in sodium)
1 baguette or similar crusty loaf
4 oz. (about 100 grams) of Gruyere or Swiss cheese, shredded
1/4 c. of freshly grated parmesan (preferably parmigiana reggiano but domestic parmesan is okay too)

PREPARATION:

1. Melt the butter and the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pan with a cover over moderately low heat.
2. Add the sliced onions and stir to coat with the butter. Cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and very soft.
2. Uncover the pan, raise the heat to medium and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook stirring frequently, until the onions have turned a deep golden color (10-20 minutes depending on your stove).
3. Lower the heat again and stir in the flour. Continue stirring until it forms a paste with the onions.
4.  Add about 1 cup of the stock or bouillon to the pan stirring with a whisk to prevent prevent lumps. Add the rest of the stock and the wine.
5. Simmer the soup for 20-30 minutes and then season with salt and pepper as needed.
6. Slice the baguette and toast lightly. Place the baguette in the bottom of a soup bowl and immediately top with the shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese helping the cheese to melt a bit.
7. Ladle the hot soup over the cheese toasts and sprinkle the parmesan over the top. Allow to sit for a few minutes for the cheese to fully melt.

[If you happen to have a broiler available AND oven proof bowls (most are not), you can reverse this and pour the soup into the bowls, topping with the toast and cheeses and then broil until the cheeses are bubbling and slightly browned.]

Apple Crisp

Sometimes you just want what you had growing up, not something different or even something better–just what is familiar and comfortable. That was true of my husband and his memories of apple crisp. He didn’t want all of the healthy (rolled oats) or tasty (nuts) additions. He just wanted the silky, caramel apples and the crunchy sugar and butter topping of his youth. To bring his memory to life, we had to reach out to the wife of his best friend in England. She shared her recipe for apple crisp more than twenty years ago and it is made throughout the summer, fall and winter in our house. With both deep thanks and credit to Jane Price!

INGREDIENTS:

2 lbs. cooking apples (preferably Honeycrisp)

12 T. dark  brown sugar (2 T. for apples and 10 T. for crisp)

4 T. water (or apple cider or apple juice if you happen to have it in the house)

1 cup all purpose flour

1 t. baking powder

6 T. butter at room temperature

 PREPARATION;

1. Preheat over to 350 degrees F.

2.  Peel, core and slice apples.

3.  Place sliced apples,  water (or cider/juice) and 2 T. of brown sugar into a medium saucepan and cook gently until apples are fluffy.  Spoon apples into a pie plate or other oven safe dish.  The shallower and wider the dish, the crisper the topping will be; the narrow and taller the dish, the more the topping will be soft underneath and crisp on top.  It just depends on how you like it.

4.  Place flour in a large mixing bowl, sprinkle in baking powder, then add the butter and rub it in to the flour lightly using your fingertips.  When it looks crumbly, add the remaining brown sugar and mix.

5.  Sprinkle the topping over the apples, spreading it out with a fork.

6.  Place crisp on a high shelf in the oven (place on a baking pan if the container is very full and may spill over) and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until topping is crunchy and juice from the apples is bubbling up around the edges.

7.  Serve warm or at room temperature, with whipped cream, ice cream or plain.