Category Archives: Pork

Beer and Sausage

Sounds like a winning combination, doesn’t it?  They are as delicious together as they are separately.  Although, I argue each is improved by the other.

Here’s a simple way to combine them in one dish.  It would be a great way to break out the grill this weekend.

Beer Braised Brats
Serves 4 to 6

6 uncooked bratwurst sausages (can be turkey)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
24 oz beer (cook’s choice)

Place bratwurst in a large saucepan.  Top with sliced onion.

Pour beer over top.  Use a beer you are willing to drink.

Turn heat to medium high and bring to a boil.  Once it starts bubbling, turn it down to low and let it simmer for about 8 minutes.

While the sausage are simmering, start your grill fire or preheat to high.

Remove the brats from the beer and place them on the grill.  Grill for 8 to 10 minutes, turning frequently until evenly brown.

They would be excellent served on hearty buns topped with spicy brown mustard and sauerkraut, but I dished them up with sauerkraut perogies and sauteed onions.  And more beer, of course.

Just trying to represent.  Toast to Cleveland.  Na zdravi.  (To your health.)

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October is Texas Wine Month

In honor of Texas Wine Month, I thought I would share a few tidbits of knowledge and give you a recipe that calls for a bottle with an apple in it.

Did you know that Texas has more than 220 family-owned vineyards covering 3,700 acres?  What about the fact that the Texas wine industry contributes more than $1.35 billion a year to the state’s economy and supports more than 9,000 jobs for Texans?  Are you surprised to learn that the Texas Hill Country is  the third largest American viticultural area, dwarfing any in California?

The first vineyards in Texas were established by Spanish missionaries in the 1600s, but the modern Texas wine industry as we currently know it began in the 1970s.  Because the industry hasn’t been around very long (relatively speaking), vitners are still determining which grapes grow best in the Texas climate.  Current front runners include traditional European grapes, such as  Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Merlot.  Texas wineries are also doing great work with grapes such as Sangiovese, Syrah, Blanc du Bois, Viognier, Malbec, and Tempranillo.  Plus, some of the cooler climate grapes such as Reisling and Pinot Noir have been successful in West Texas, where the elevation creates a cooler climate.

The major differences between the Texas growing season and that of California are that ours is much warmer with less sunshine and more heat and humidity.  Climate is the single most important factor in viticulture, and there are several grapes that are well-suited to the Texas heat, including Syrah, Tempranillo, and Viognier.

Viognier is an intense, slightly spicy white wine.  My favorite is from Becker Vineyards outside of Fredericksburg, Texas.   It has hints of floral, peach, and apricot, but still maintains a bit of crispness.

Andrea Immer Robinson, Master Sommelier and wine writer, said it is,
“One of the best viogniers made in America, so it’s worth the search.”

  I think it works pretty well with dishes that you might pair with a reisling,
such as these pork chops in a recipe modified from Saveur Magazine…

Stuffed Pork Chops with Roasted Apples and Calvados
Serves 6

10 Tbsp butter
10 small yellow onions, peeled and halved lengthwise
2 stalks celery, trimmed and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 tsp dried sage leaves
1 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 double-cut, bone-in, pork chops
6 cooking apples, peeled, quartered, and cored
3/4 cup calvados

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Melt 5 Tbsp of the butter in a large skillet over low heat.  Finely chop 3 of the onion halves and add to the skillet along with the celery, garlic, and sage.  Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until soft, probably no more than 5 minutes.  Remove skillet from heat, stir in breadcrumbs, and season stuffing to taste with salt and pepper.

Using a sharp knife, cut a deep pocket in the side of each chop.

Fill each with one-sixth of the stuffing, then close with a toothpick.  Season chops with salt and pepper.

Wipe skillet clean and return to medium-high heat.  Brown stuffed chops, 2 at a time, making sure that both sides and the edges get nicely browned.  It was about 3 minutes per side.  Transfer chops to a large roasting pan.

Reduce heat under skillet to low and melt remaining 5 Tbsp of butter.  Put melted butter, apples, calvados, and remaining onions in a large bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Toss well.  Increase heat to medium high, put apples and onions in the skillet, and saute until evenly browned all over.  It took about 10 minutes.

Scatter and spread the apples and onions around the chops in the roasting pan.  Cover pan tightly with foil and roast until chops are tender, about 3 hours.  Be sure to pull out the toothpicks before serving.

NOTE: Calvados is apple brandy from the Norman region of France.  Apples are pressed into a juice that is fermented into a dry cider, and then distilled into brandy or eau de vie.  After aging in oak casks for two years it can be sold as Calvados.  The longer the aging, the smoother it becomes and the more expensive the bottle.

You will notice that my bottle of Calvados Pomme d’Eve has an actual apple inside.  Cool, huh?  After the blossom, and once the apple has started to grow, carafes are attached on the apple trees, so that the fruit can grow inside.


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A Pot of Beans

Canned beans are a constant staple in my pantry, and are great at helping me get dinner on the table quickly.  But, if I have a little extra time or I need to feed a crowd, dried beans fit the bill.  Cooking the beans myself is cheaper, leads to a better texture and flavor, and a lower sodium content than canned beans.  (Although, I always rinse my canned beans to reduce the salt levels.)

Dried beans are not as hard to prepare as you may think.  Don’t steer your grocery cart away from the bags of dried beans!

First things first, I always wash dried beans before using.  Just rinse in a colander under cold water and remove any damaged or split beans.  You may also see little pebbles or other particles that should  be discarded.

The US Dry Bean Council (yeah, they have a council) recommends boiling the beans briefly and then soaking them.  Place the beans in a large saucepan and add water to cover.  Typically, you should use three measures of water to one measure of dry beans for soaking.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for about an hour.

Now you are ready to cook the beans.  Drain the soaked beans and return them to the pot.  Cover with fresh water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until tender, 1 to 3 hours depending on the type of bean.  Cooking beans in a slow cooker will take at least 6 to 8 hours, or you can set it up overnight.

Ingredients that contain sugar, such as molasses, and acidic ingredients, including tomatoes, vinegar or wine, slow down the softening process, so add them toward the end of cooking.  If you live at a high altitude or have hard water, you might need to increase cooking time.

Beans that refuse to soften may simply be too old.  Make sure you purchase beans from a store that has a quick turnover.  Inspect the package and look for firm, clean, whole beans with a minimum of cracks and broken seed coats.  The color should be bright, not muddy, and the beans should have a slight sheen.  Opened beans should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place and used within in a year.

A heaping half-cup of dried beans is equivalent to a 15.5 ounce can of beans.  Sometimes, I’ll make a pot of beans on the weekend, and then package them in sealed containers for my freezer to help make meal preparation a little easier.  The beans keep in the freezer for 3 to 4 months.

Black Beans with Chorizo
Makes about 12 servings

1 Tbsp olive oil
about 1 lb chorizo sausage
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 lb dried black beans, rinsed and soaked
4 cups chicken broth
at least 2 cups water
3 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
salt, to taste
sour cream, optional for serving
fresh tomato, option for serving

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot with a lid.  Brown sausage, remove any casings and break up into pieces.

If the sausage is fatty, pour off all but about 3 tablespoons of grease.  Return the pan to the heat, and add garlic, onion, and celery.  Saute until onions are translucent, maybe 2 to 3 minutes.

Put the rinsed and soaked beans in the pot with the meat and veggies.

Cover with chicken broth and water.

Add herbs and spices and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently until the beans are very tender.  If you’ve soaked the beans, it should take about 90 minutes, if not, probably around 3 hours.  Add additional water as necessary to keep the beans moist.  Taste near the end of cooking time and add salt or additional flavorings, as needed.

Serve the beans by themselves, over rice or grilled vegetables, stuffed in roast acorn squash or pumpkins, or to fill tortillas.  My husband likes his garnished with sour cream and fresh tomatoes.

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Toast with a Tenderloin

While we were in Cleveland last weekend, my husband and I hosted an outdoor party for his family and friends who were not able to join us in Texas for our wedding.  We were joined by some of our good friends from Washington, DC, too.

It was a whirlwind trip – lots of fun, but not really relaxing.  We really didn’t have a chance to truly appreciate all the well wishes and special conversations that we had while we were there.  Both of us feel so lucky to have so many fun and considerate people in our life, and we worry they don’t realize the depth of our gratitude.

Because of that we decided to plan a relaxing evening at home to go through the congratulatory cards and presents we received and share our thoughts about the success of the party.  I wanted to make something special for the two of us, but nothing too taxing.  We were both still tired and we wanted time to sit back and absorb what we just experienced.

I decided on a pork tenderloin from Niman Ranch and I was inspired by a bottle of tequila sitting on our bar.  I made a margarita-like marinade, let the pork soak it in for a couple of hours, and tossed it on the grill.  I served it with chipotle-spiced beans and rice with green onions.  Then, we toasted our good fortune with a couple of beers.

Margarita Marinated Pork Tenderloin
Makes 3 to 4 servings

2 green onions, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
2 Tbsp flat parsley, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp tequila
2 Tbsp orange juice
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 lb pork tenderloin

Place all ingredients, but pork into a large zip-top plastic bag and combine.  I dropped the limes in after squeezing to enhance the citrus flavor.

Add pork to mixture in bag and seal.   Using your hands work the marinade around and rub it into the pork.

Let it marinate for at least one hour, but not more than 5 hours in the refrigerator.

When ready to grill, remove the pork from the marinade and discard the marinade.

Grill, with grill lid closed, over high heat.  It will likely take not more than 5 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of your tenderloin.

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A Secret Wrapped in a Tortilla

My family has a secret.  We don’t always make our fajitas wholly from scratch.  We sometimes use a pre-marinated package of fajita meat from the Texas grocery store, HEB.  If you live in Texas and haven’t tried them yet, you are missing out on something good.  Don’t get me wrong, I make my own marinade for fajitas and it is delicious.  But, they work really well when you have a craving for fajitas for dinner, but it is already evening and you don’t have time to marinate.  We all know that unmarinated fajitas just won’t do.

You can choose from beef skirt steak, chicken thighs or breasts, and pork loin.  Pick them up with some fresh corn and flour tortillas from the HEB bakery, and you are set for a feast.  They come out of the plastic in large pieces for easy grilling and turn out tender and ready to slice and serve.  I wish for these easy fajitas pretty regularly here in DC.

During our long weekend visit, we made the beef and pork.  My dad grilled the meat over mesquite wood.  It smelled absolutely wonderful and just glistened when he brought it inside to slice.

We picked onions and bell pepper from my parents’ garden to saute. 
With guacamole and grated blanco queso for additional toppings and spanish-style rice as a side, we stuffed ourselves silly.  Each mouthful was tender and rich in flavor.  These premarinated meats avoid some of the pitfalls you find with other fajitas…the marinade doesn’t overpower the meat flavor and you don’t have trouble tearing into each bite with your teeth.
I prefer beef fajitas with cheese and guacamole in flour tortillas and pork meat with onions and bell peppers in corn tortillas, but everyone has their individual preference.  
I’m completely dissatisfied with the tortilla selection here in the DC area, so I’m going to start practicing to make my own tortillas soon.  You will be able to read all about it here.  Advice is welcome.

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