Posts Tagged ‘Pork’

Sometimes a fun, if not a great, notion

March 8, 2015

Blame it on the weather induced cabin fever.

Dinner is served: Pork Roll Wellington, roasted potatoes, salad.

Dinner is served: Pork Roll Wellington, roasted potatoes, salad.

Or maybe it is a hyper awareness of all things pork roll. One friend is working on putting together his second festival honoring that local indigenous product and another has just released a book on the subject.

Whatever the cause, “inspiration” struck earlier this week and I just had to act on it: Pork Roll Wellington!

Right out of the oven!

Right out of the oven!

Don’t laugh (yet).

What if we dressed up this Jersey favorite pork product with some chicken liver pâté and mushroom duxelles and then wrapped the package in some puff pastry? Would it be edible? Tasty? Worth the effort?

2015-03-08 15.47.01OK. Laugh if you want, but it wasn’t that bad. And it wasn’t that difficult.

I adapted this recipe for Beef Wellington.  Instead of the beef tenderloin, I used one of those cute little 1 pound “chubs” of Cases’ Pork Roll. I made the chicken liver pâté last night from the recipe linked to from the Beef Wellington page (click here). The duxelles I made earlier today so they could cool down.

As per the recipe, I mixed the mushrooms and some of the pâté together. After rolling out a sheet of puff pastry, I spread the mixture over the pastry. Having removed the pork roll from its traditional canvas casing, I then set it on the “dressed” pastry dough and rolled it up. The seam and the ends were sealed with some beaten egg and pressed together. Placing the package seam side down on a baking sheet, I set it back in the refrigerator to cook later.

Have you ever seen a "naked" pork roll?

Have you ever seen a “naked” pork roll?

Since the pork roll comes “ready to eat” you only have to bake the dish long enough to heat it through and brown the dough nicely. I put mine in a 450 degree oven for about 10 minutes and then lowered the temp to 400 for another 15 or so.

Admittedly I didn’t know how this would come out but it tasted pretty good. I might try adding an “inner wrap” of phyllo dough (in place of the crepes in the original) to act as a vapor barrier and reduce the sogginess of the underside of the pastry crust. My wellington stuck a little to the aluminum foil I lined the baking sheet with. A bit of oil, Pam, or maybe using a silpat should remedy that.

Give it a try. It’s a fun way to dress up an old standby.

A little slice of pig heaven.

A little slice of pig heaven.


Barbecue dinner for an October evening

October 23, 2012

Barbecue pork loin, cheese grits and caramelized onions

“Write this one down,” Ann said.

“This one” was a pretty much off-the-cuff meal that just happen to hit some good notes.

It started with a stop at the grocery store while I was out running errands after a dental appointment. I went “fishing” for something to prepare for dinner and was almost going to pick up some beef for stir fry. In the case I noticed a piece of a pork loin that had been split lengthwise. It was labeled “Pork Loin for Barbecue” and that got me thinking, “What if…”

So, I snatched up the pork and headed for the checkout line.  On the way home a plan started to come together in my mind.

I threw together a dry rub and applied it to the pork loin. I put the meat in a glass dish, covered it with plastic wrap and set it in the fridge for the afternoon.

While I took the dogs on their evening walk, I started finalizing the menu and the plan of attack. Some cheese grits and a salad to round out the menu. Caramelized onions and a little sauce of some sort to add a little “pizzaz!”  It sounded like a plan.

By time I got back home with the dogs and fed them, I had the meal completely envisioned.

Judging from Ann’s directive, it worked. So I complied and wrote it down.

Barbecue Pork Loin

  • 1 piece pork loin, cut in half lengthwise (about 1.75 – 2.0 pounds)
  • Dry rub (make your own or use your favorite store-bought one), enough to cover the meat on all sides

Rinse and pat dry the pork loin. Lay the roast, fat side down on a cutting board and make a few shallow slits across it. Flip the meat over and apply a generous amount of rub and pat it in well. Lay the loin, fat side down, in a glass dish deep enough to contain the juices that will leak out of the meat. Apply a good coating of the rub to the top side, making sure to work it into the shallow slits you made earlier. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for four hours or overnight.

Take roast out of refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Prepare your grill (gas or charcoal, doesn’t matter) and once ready, put the pork on the grill over indirect heat, fat side down. Cover and let cook for 7 to 10 minutes. Turn over (fat side up) and let cook until meat thermometer reads 145 degrees farenheit (40 -45 minutes) . Remove from heat, cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes.

Slice thinly, garnish with some caramelized onions, a drizzle of your favorite barbecue sauce and serve with cheese grits and a tossed salad.   Serves four.

Cheese Grits

  • 1 cup yellow corn grits (polenta)
  • 4 cups stock, water, milk or combination (I used about a cup of corn cob stock and three cups water)
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon sweet butter

Bring liquid to boil in a saucepan large enough to hold it and the cornmeal with room to stir.  Add salt to taste…be careful if using canned stocks, they may be salty enough.

Slowly add the corn grits while whisking briskly to avoid lumps. Grits will start to thicken, turn down heat and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid sticking. Add cheese and butter and stir well. Remove from heat and cover. Will hold for a few minutes until serving. If it thickens too much, add a little more warm liquid and stir until well incorporated.

Caramelized Onions

  • 1 very large or 2 medium onions, peeled, cut in half and sliced thinly
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons light olive oil and/or sweet butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 to 4 ounces of good bourbon

In a skillet just large enough to hold all the raw onion, heat the oil/butter over medium flame. Add the onion and stir. Sprinkle in the salt, stir again until all the onion has been coated with oil and the pieces start to separate. Reduce heat to low – medium/low. Let cook slowly, stirring occasionally to make sure onions take on an even golden and then brownish color. Do not let them stick or burn, about 45 minutes or so. OPTION: after onions are soft and sweetly caramelized, you can add a little bourbon (be careful around an open flame) or beer to the pan and continue cooking until the liquid evaporates. Use to garnish plates.  Good on burgers, too. (Make a big batch and freeze some for later use).


Did too many cooks spoil the scrapple?

March 28, 2011


This favored pork product was traditionally made on local farms by the Pennsylvania Germans using the trimmings and offal left over after butchering a hog.

Let me be totally honest with you.  I can count on one hand the times I’ve actually eaten this misunderstood and much maligned Mid-Atlantic Pennsylvania Dutch specialty.  Even after you add in the breakfast order of Goetta, scrapple’s Cincinnati cousin, I’d still have a digit or two left over on that hand.

While I had certainly heard of scrapple growing up, it never appeared on our breakfast or dinner table.  A co-worker introduced me to it while we were on a business trip in Wilmington, DE.  It wasn’t bad. 

In the intervening years, I have taken the opportunity to add it to a breakfast plate another one or two more times.  I am by no stretch of the imagination an expert on the subject.

When friend, neighbor and fellow food adventurer Mark spotted a listing for a workshop on scrapple and sausage making, I invited myself along.

On a bright, breezy March Saturday, we joined with 10 other participants for the two hour class held on the grounds of the Mennonite Heritage Center in Harleysville, PA.

Our instructors for the day, Jim King and his uncle, Paul Longacre , continue the generations old tradition of an annual hog butchering and the subsequent making of scrapple and sausage with family and friends.  This was the second year that they shared part of their tradition with the public via the workshop.

Taking in the scene upon arrival, the first thing I noted was the large propane burner set up with a bathtub sized cast iron cauldron over it.  Inside was some kind of meaty broth…presumably what was left after boiling the pork trimmings, organ meats, and/or whatever other “scraps” left over from butchering.*

Sitting on a bench by the meat grinder was a plastic tub of cooked meat.  This was ground and added back to pot. Seasonings (black pepper, salt, coriander, sage, etc.) were added, and then slowly, cornmeal. 

Photo courtesy of Mark Stradling

 All the while the mixture was stirred with a large paddle to prevent lumps from forming and the thickening mass from scorching.

The dozen of us crowded around the huge cast iron cauldron and were given forks so we could sample the porridge and advise on the seasonings.  On the cue from Jim King we dipped our forks into the bubbling, steaming ‘pudding’ in the pot.

“Does it need anything?” King asked.

A variety of answers were uttered. 


“{Black} Pepper!”

“Maybe some more sage or coriander.”

While this might have been good for instructional purposes, I’m not sure it benefited the end product.

After adjusting the seasonings, buckwheat flour was stirred in. This ingredient surprised me, but you could see how it softened and smoothed the texture of the finished scrapple as well add an earthy character to the overall flavor.

Once the mixture was cooked enough, it starts to pull away from the sides of the pot while stirred.  At that point, we formed a little assembly line to scoop the hot mixture into loaf pans that were then left to cool and set up. For the sausage part of the workshop, we began by trimming and cutting up pieces of what Paul referred to as “pork sirloin” (generally speaking, meat from the upper hip or the butt end of the loin). This was such a lean cut of meat that it really required little trimming.  In fact, I would have left the fat in place and think the resulting sausage would have been much better for it.

With the trimmed meat collected, we started taking shifts running it through the grinder.  The ground pork was collected in a tub and the seasoning began.  Salt, pepper, coriander, sage and some fennel seed were added to the meat. Paul took a small handful, made a patty and fried it off in an electric skillet.  Once again, the communal tasting took place and additional seasonings were added.  We repeated the patty test, made final adjustments to the seasonings and then moved right into the stuffing process.

Earlier, a tub of natural hog casings had been opened and run through a few changes of water before being left to soak a bit.  One of us was assigned to cut the casings into lengths about four feet long while another loaded up the hand cranked sausage stuffer.

With two people holding down either side of the board the stuffer was mounted on, a third person cranked the press while a fourth “caught” and guided the freshly filled casing as it slipped off of the stuffing horn.  Each length of sausage was then taken over to a makeshift rack…a board suspended between two limbs of a nearby tree, and draped there to set and dry slightly while we cleaned up and made ready to leave.

We divvyed up the days production and made our way home.  The next morning, I fried up a couple of pieces of scrapple and a patty I’d made out of some of the sausage mixture and served them with a couple of eggs over easy.  The scrapple was pretty good…I could see where a more planned seasoning program would improve it.  The sausage was rather dry and bland.  I certainly would add more fat to the “paste” and significantly increase the seasonings.

Still, it was a good afternoon that provided the opportunity to meet new people and try our hand at something out of the ordinary with edible results.

This is the recipe for scrapple that we were given at the workshop. (NOTE: I would only use this as a guide to the process and leave measurements, ratios, etc. up to the individual cook).

In a large kettle or farmer’s boiler, over a good fire, cook pork bones, heart, liver, and any other meat until the meat falls off the bones.  Stir often. Dip meat out onto a tray and let cool until it can be picked off the bones. Sort meat from bones; discard bones and grind meat. Dip broth from kettle and strain to remove any bones. Measure the broth. Lower the fire. Combine the following:

  • ½ part ground meat
  • ½ part broth
  • 1/8 pound pepper (to taste)
  • 2 – 3 tbsp salt
  • Handful of coriander (ground)
  • Extra hog fat if pork is lean
  • 4 pounds cornmeal (added when the above is hot)

Heat to boiling and cook 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Add six pounds buckwheat flour gradually (sprinkle by hand slowly and stir so lumps do not form). Cook until boilng. Add whole wheat flour as needed to thicken. Entire contents will separate from sides of put. Quickly scoop scrapple into pans and let cool. Have hot water ready to pout into pot, so it doesn’t burn or crack. This will also help with clean-up.

*Mark and I were grinding up the last of the pork loin for the sausage and so missed the explanation of what all had gone into the scrapple pot before hand.

Photo courtesy of Mark Stradling

Momofuku this!

February 21, 2011

Even with all of my eclectic food experiences growing up, “Chinese” and other Asian cuisine was a stranger to my palate.  That is, unless you count frozen and canned “treats” from the likes of La Choy and Chun-King. 

It wasn’t until about 30 years ago when one of my friends from high school suggested an evening out in Philly’s Chinatown that I experienced the real deal and liked it.  From there, the doors to my stomach were opened: sushi, curries, and tandoori, love it all.  

As pretty much of a late comer to the various types of Asian cuisine, I have very little experience preparing it at home.  Yeah, we have a wok…an electric one that we dig out of the cabinet and use every so often.  And we’ve been known to toss a package of frozen samosas into the toaster broiler on occasion.  But most of our consumption of “eastern” foodstuffs is done at restaurants or from those oh so typical cardboard takeout cartons.

So when friend Mark passed along a link  to the blog “” that detailed how to make steamed pork buns ala Momofuku,  I took it as much as a challenge. 

At first, I was going to attempt to prepare the buns from scratch but it seemed like a bit more work than I wanted to delve into at the moment.  It was suggested that one could find the buns in the frozen food section of any good Asian grocer.  

A quick Google search turned up a likely spot…the Asian Food Marketin Plainsboro, so off I headed up Route 1. 

The store is part of a chain and sure enough, the frozen food aisle was a treasure trove of frozen goodies, including the Mantou I was searching for. 


Then it was on to the produce section for the fresh Kirby cucumbers and the green onions.  On the way, I swung by the meat case and found very nice packages of sliced pork belly.  This would be slow roasted for the filling of the buns and the veggies used for garnish.

The greatest challenge was locating and deciding upon the jarred hoisin and sriracha sauces. The aisle was long, the shelves head high, and filled with multitudes of dipping and seasoning sauces.  I could have spent all day pondering the selection but urged myself to get on with it. 

Finally, I gathered up all my goodies, checked out and headed home.

Arriving back at the house, I gave Mark a call and invited him and the Mrs. to lunch the next day.  He set me on this path…so he was going savor or suffer the result. 

The pork belly slices were rinsed and patted dry.  Then I put them into a plastic bag with a mixture of  1/3 cup each of sugar and kosher salt.  The meat was tossed and rubbed in the sealed bag until thoroughly coated then placed in the fridge overnight.  

In the morning I got up early and removed the pork from the bag.  Some recipes suggest rinsing off the sugar/salt rub. (I didn’t but it is an option.) I placed the pork slices, fat side up, in a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil.  This went into the oven preheated to a very low 250 degrees. I slow roasted the pork for about three and half hours and then finished by cranking up the oven to 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.                

About a half an hour before my guests were due to arrive, I sliced the Kirby cukes and tossed them in bowl with a mixture of 3 parts sugar to one part salt.  I also sliced up some green onions, set the table and sliced up the pork. 

About 15 minutes before my guests were due, I poured some water into my (electric) wok and brought it to a boil.  I steamed some frozen shrimp shumai that I had also purchased on my trip to the market and served them as starters while I steamed some of the frozen mantou.

Steamed pork bun with shrimp shumai


We took out places at table and assembled our steamed buns. 

I’ve not had the original or any other version of this dish but found it pretty tasty.  I think my guests did to…we finished off the package of buns and about two thirds of the pork belly.   


The best part came the next morning.

 I opened another package of mantou and cooked one in the microwave (it wasn’t much different than steaming them and since I was only doing one…).  I dressed the split bun with a schmear of hoisin on each half.  Then I laid on a single egg, fried over easy.  Topped that with some of the leftover pork belly and  chopped scallion and a dash or two (or three or five!) of sriracha.

Voila!   MomofukoMcMuffin!