Archive | January, 2012

Going South (for dinner)

11 Jan

For some reason, I had a hankerin’ to make pulled pork for dinner this week. Jason and I stopped by Savenor’s on Sunday to pick up a few things to make this happen. I had gone to a few other places looking for pork shoulder but wasn’t too pleased with what I found and knew Savenor’s would have it. They cut a 5 lb piece for me on the spot. Slow roasting isn’t something to do after work. It takes time – this particular recipe takes 9-10 hours start to finish. Here’s how its done (recipe adapted from Cooking Light)…

Slow Roasted Pulled Pork

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper
1 (5-pound) boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), trimmed
Cooking spray
2 cups water, divided
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup ketchup
your favorite BBQ sauce

  1. Mix the first 8 ingredients in a small bowl. Rub this mixture into the pork shoulder evenly and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 225°F. Spray the rack of a roasting pan with cooking spray. Place pork on the rack in roasting pan. Pour 1 cup water in bottom of roasting pan. Bake uncovered at 225° for 1 hour.
  3. Combine vinegar and ketchup in a small bowl. Brush pork with this mixture. Bake an additional 3 hours uncovered, basting every hour with ketchup mixture. I know my oven is uneven temperature-wise in different spots so I also rotated the pan every time I basted.
  4. Pour remaining 1 cup water in bottom of roasting pan. Cover pork and pan tightly with foil. Bake an additional 3 3/4 hours or until a thermometer registers 190°. Remove from oven; let stand, covered, 45 minutes. I used an instant-read (probe) thermometer and it only took an additional 2 3/4 hours to reach 190° so keep an eye on the internal temperature so the meat doesn’t dry out.
  5. Shred the pork with 2 forks or your hands. It should look something like this when you’re done. And this was only half of what we got. 5 lbs of pork shoulder can easily feed 10-12 people.
  6. Serve with your favorite BBQ sauce. I was going to make my own and then we saw Savenor’s had their own BBQ sauce so we thought we’d give it a shot. It’s pretty awesome. We heated the pork and BBQ sauce together before serving it on potato rolls with slaw and pickles.

    Pulled pork and BBQ sauce

    The final product. The buns were like sliders so two each seemed appropriate!

I made the pickles earlier in the year that I took out, and a Jicama-Apple Slaw earlier in the day. Here’s how I made the slaw:

Jicama-Apple Slaw

1/2 red onion, julienne
1/2 green cabbage, julienne
1 jicama, julienne
1 green apple, julienne (leave peel on)
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
3/4 cup mayonnaise (or to taste)
splash of apple cider vinegar
kosher salt and pepper to taste

  1. Wash and julienne the cabbage, onion, jicama and apple. Here are all my ingredients ready to go.
    Carrots and/or peppers make good slaw ingredients as well, or you could just use cabbage to keep it simple.
  2. Mix vegetables in a large bowl. Add mustard, mayo and vinegar. This is where using the largest bowl you have comes in handy. Make sure all the vegetables get coated with the dressing, using your hands to toss. Here’s my slaw after being tossed.
  3. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Celery seeds are also nice in a creamy slaw dressing. I don’t like my slaw too wet because I like the vegetables with a little crisp still to them. If you like yours creamier, add more mayo. Less creamy, add less. It’s pretty easy to adjust the flavors to your liking. I’ve also made slaws that don’t have any mayo at all. The slaw will keep in the fridge for several days. I love the colors and different textures going on!

    Beautiful and Delicious (and dare I say somewhat healthy!)

It was a pretty amazing dinner and we have leftovers to last us the week or at least a couple lunches/dinners. I can’t wait to do more BBQ like this in the summer and use our grill to cook the pork. I don’t want to get ahead of myself but I bet I could make a smoker in our backyard!?!


Holiday Baking Madness!

10 Jan

Hey everyone! Wanted to share some of the sweet treats I made last month for the holidays. With extra time on my hands, I wanted to take full advantage of my kitchen and bake up some homemade gifts to give out and bring to holiday dinners. I spent a lot of time looking at magazine and cookbook recipes and calling family members for recipes. In addition to the baking I did at home, I spent an afternoon at my grandmother’s house baking with her too!

Nana and I baked up a storm in her kitchen

Nana had already made quite a few cookies the week before, but we made some together for both of us to share. She gives out a lot of cookie boxes around the holidays piled high with delicious fruit-filled cookies, pizzelle, an frosted anise cookies. The day we baked together we did three different cookies – two biscotti and a lace cookie. One kind of biscotti had lemon and orange zest in the almond dough and the other also included chocolate and dried cherries. Both were delicious.

Two kinds of biscotti

Next up, Almond Oat Lace Cookies, which are from Bon Appetit. I actually made these for my friend Cari’s cookie swap a week earlier and wanted to try them again. Once the cookies are cooled they are delicious brushed with dark chocolate.

Here are the cookies cooling on parchment. You can really see the lacy texture here.

I was really ambitious one day and did the next three things: Anise Pizzelle, Peppermint Meringues, and Cherry-Pistachio Nougat. Everyone in my family makes pizzelle for Christmas. They can be made with different extracts (vanilla, anise, almond) and are sometimes dusted with confectioner’s sugar once cooled. You need a special press to make them – it kind of looks like a waffle maker. I got mine as a Christmas gift from my dad last year – such a great gift. They are pretty easy to make too.

Lots of pizzelle - they look like snowflakes.

The Peppermint Meringues were really easy to make as well and this was another recipe I got from Bon Appetit. It’s basically sugar and egg white whipped into a meringue which is piped and then baked at a low temperature. These had a red swirl to them which were perfectly festive for Christmas.

I liked how these came out and may try different flavorings next time.

The Cherry-Pistachio Nougat were another relatively easy recipe to make (again from Bon Appetit). Next time I make them, I’ll take the recipe’s recommendation to use edible rice/wafer paper on the top and bottom of the nougat to hold everything together. I had to put the nougat into paper cups because they were so sticky. I love the combination of cherry and pistachio and used orange blossom honey in the nougat which gave it great flavor also.

These nougat may not have looked perfect, but it tasted great.

Last, but certainly NOT least, I made Italian rainbow cookies. These really deserve a post of their own, which I’ll do shortly because it is quite the process to make them, but totally worth it. They are Jason’s absolute favorite “cookie,” though they’re more cakey than cookie-like. I really enjoyed making them and am pretty sure they were the overall favorite of everything in my dessert containers. They may be a Harty holiday staple from now on. Rainbow cookies are made up of three layers of almond cake with raspberry jam in between, all covered in melted chocolate. OMG is right!

What's not to love?! Almond cake, raspberry, chocolate - a killer combination.

Now that my baking extravaganza was complete, I wanted to find a decorative way to package everything up for gifting. I found awesome tags on etsy and the rest of my supplies at Michaels. I filled each “take-out” container with an assortment of cookies, wrapped them in holiday ribbon and bells and attached a tag to each. I fell in love with the packaging and couldn’t wait to give them away!

An assortment of delicious confections!

Here's one of the containers all wrapped up and ready to go.

Here's one with a tag that had a space for writing. So cute!

Our dining room table was full of red and silver containers - I made approx 20 containers of sweets!

It was so much fun to make and give edible gifts this year. I’d love to do it every year. If you live near us or saw me around the holidays, hopefully you got some and I’d love any feedback! If you has questions about any of these recipes, give me a shout. And in case you’re not done looking at pictures, here’s a picture I have to share. I didn’t actually make the cookies below (Dad and Barb did), but thought it was worth sharing anyway. How happy does Collin look?! Happy baking!

A New Years Eve Feast

9 Jan

Happy New Year everyone! What a crazy year 2011 was for the Hartys – between planning our wedding and deciding to leave my job, it’s been a roller coaster. I for one am looking forward to an exciting 2012! Jason and I kicked the new year off with a dinner party hosted by our friends Mike and Jennifer in their home in Rhode Island. I was so happy to plan the menu with them and cook for the party which included 10 of our closest friends. The six-course sit-down dinner included appetizers, soup, salad, entree, cheese course and dessert! Yes, a cheese course. What can I say, I’m fortunate to have friends who love cheese as much as I do!

Jennifer and I did all the grocery shopping (all 2.5 hrs of it) on the Friday morning before New Year’s and spent the rest of the day prepping. Mike and Jennifer were a huge help in the kitchen. We got so much done Friday that Saturday was pretty stress-free and relaxed. After working in a restaurant, you realize how much can be prepped ahead of time and then finished right before it’s time to eat. The party started at 7 and lasted well into the wee hours of the morning – everyone had so much fun. Jennifer did an amazing job outfitting her dining room into an intimate setting using heirloom china and gold and maroon accents. Our guest list included friends Amy and Ken, Phil and Danielle, Jacq and John, Mike and Jennifer and Jason and I. Here’s a look at the dining room and the tablescape!

In addition to what you see here, Amy and Ken brought a gorgeous centerpiece of flowers and candles.

Here are the highlights of our soiree menu…

Signature Cocktail – We decided on serving a signature cocktail when everyone arrived, something fun and seasonal. I think it’s nice to have a drink already made for a party so everyone can enjoy the party and nobody is stuck mixing drinks. In comes The Long Hello Punch. I found this in Bon Appetit magazine and thought it sounded delicious. And it was. Jennifer even made the fruity ice ring to float in the punch and our friend Cari let us use her beautiful punch bowl set.

Appetizers – We served several bite-sized apps while people were hanging out before dinner. The mix of colors, textures and cuisines made for a good looking table too!

Shrimp Cocktail with Homemade Cocktail Sauce

Dried Figs, Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto and Aged Balsamic

Tilapia Ceviche served with Sweet Potato Chips

Chorizo and Mushroom Croquettas with Saffron Aioli

Butternut Squash Bisque with Creme Fraiche, Spiced Pepitas and Fried Sage – For a warm, comforting first course, we served a creamy squash bisque that was garnished with creme fraiche, spiced pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and fried sage leaves. The soup started with a base of celery, carrot and onion. To that I added lots of butternut squash, fresh vegetable stock and herbs. It simmered until the squash was completely tender. I then pureed it and finished with butter and cream.

The finished bisque.

Here's Jennifer helping me garnish all the plates!

Winter Greens with Scallop, Avocado, Citrus and Tequila-Lime Vinaigrette – Our next course was a beautiful salad of winter greens (arugula, romaine, radicchio and endive) with blood orange, grapefruit and tangerine segments and a seared sea scallop. This was all tossed in a tequila-lime vinaigrette. Jennifer loves avocado and Mexican flavors so I thought this would be a fun second course! The radicchio and arugula were somewhat bitter but the buttery-ness of the avocado and scallop balanced it out and the citrus gave brightness to the whole dish.

I didn't realize how colorful this salad was until I started plating - gorgeous!

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs, Parmesan Risotto, Glazed Mushrooms, Roasted Root Vegetables – This was our main course and certainly a labor of love! I think this was everyone’s favorite dish too. Braised short ribs aren’t a quick dish to prepare, but if you’ve got the time they are 110% worth the effort. The short ribs were the only thing I actually used a recipe for. I used Barbara Lynch’s recipe from one of my favorite cook books, Stir. I served the short ribs with Parmesan Risotto topped with glazed oyster and shitake mushrooms and roasted vegetables (rutabaga, parsnips, carrots and acorn squash). Once the short ribs were cooked (they took 6 hours total) I strained and reduced the braising liquid with butter and thyme to make the sauce that finished the plate. If you want a melt-in-your-mouth unctuous dish that everyone will love – try making short ribs. If I didn’t serve it with risotto, I would’ve probably served it over polenta. It screams for a creamy grain to be served over. I for one can’t wait for an excuse to make them again!

A wonderful winter meal to have with friends...

Unfortunately, I didn’t photograph the cheese course (gasp) or dessert, but both were magnificent. Our friends brought a few different desserts (chocolate-dipped orange madelines, cheesecake and cookies) while Jennifer and Mike hand-picked a 5-cheese plate from one of my favorite places around, Formaggio Kitchen. We served the cheese with a kumquat mostarda, pear compote, sunflower honey and water crackers. The night continued much past dessert ending in fireworks and, of course, dancing. Here’s hoping 2012 is as delicious as it started!