Peasant Stew (a simple cassoulet)


Fall brings braising back into my kitchen, and my favorite thing to braise is pork shoulder. Not only does it make a spectacular meal in it’s own right, but it gives you the perfect material for follow-on dishes, whether chili or tacos or in last week’s case, a cassoulet-inspired peasant stew.

There are a myriad of ways to braise pork. Two weeks ago, I did a dry rub of fennel seed, mustard seed, salt and black pepper, and braised the meat in white wine and onions for about 6 hours at 300F. This time around I did a simpler version of this chipotle port braise. For this recipe, I’m going to skip past the braising part and assume you have some delicious leftover pork shoulder to use.

1 lb braised pork shoulder meat
1 turkey thigh
1 kielbasa sausage
1 lb good white beans
1 large onion, diced
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
Bouquet garnis of parsley, oregano, bay leaf and rosemary

You’ll want a large dutch oven to make this dish.

For the cassoulet, soak and then cook a pound of white beans — in my case, I used Rancho Gordo cassoulet beans which had a lovely size and texture. To cook, put the beans in a large pot, cover with about an inch of water, bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered until the beans are tender. Reserve a couple cups of the cooking liquid.

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.

Sear but do not fully cook a turkey thigh. Remove the skin and cut the turkey meat into bite-size chunks.

If the kielbasa is pre-cooked, slice it into 3mm pieces. If it is not, brown the sausage in the dutch oven and then set to the side.

Chop the pork into bite-size chunks.

In the dutch oven, warm up some olive oil and saute the onions on medium-low heat until they start to turn translucent, and add in the garlic. Stir and do not let the garlic brown or burn. Gently stir in the beans, the meat (no need to do fancy layering), and the reserved cooking liquid from the beans. Stir in a half teaspoon of table salt or almost a full teaspoon if kosher salt. You will likely add more salt, but start here and add to taste.

Tie up your bouquet garnis with kitchen string (or wrap in cheesecloth) and push into the middle. Add water — enough that it comes almost to the top level of the beans (some white wine would be nice too).

Shift the pot, covered, to the oven. Cook for 20-30 minutes and lower heat to 325F. Cook for a couple of hours, tasting for salt level (just be careful that as the water level decreases, the salt intensity will increase). Sometimes with a dish like this, I will cook it uncovered to form more of a crust (with this approach, you will likely need to add more water), or I will add a layer of browned breadcrumbs, but I didn’t do either here and the dish still came out beautifully.

Mussels in Ginger Coconut Milk Broth


(serves 2 people)

1 lb mussels
1 small onion, thinly sliced then roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 thumb-sized knob of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 TSP tomato paste
1 can of coconut milk
1 fresh hot pepper (or dried hot chili pepper flakes)
1/2 cup of dry vermouth or white wine
1/2 cup water
large bunch of cilantro, loosely chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper

Clean and de-beard your mussels under cold water. Discard any that are open or have broken shells. If you bought wild mussels, soak them in cold fresh water for 20 minutes before cooking.

In a large soup pot, heat up the olive oil on medium-low heat. Saute the onions, garlic, ginger and tomato paste, stirring regularly so that the garlic does not burn. Add the coconut milk, vermouth, and water. Add in a few slices of your hot pepper (I used 4 thin slices of a jalapeno, but if you want it really hot, add more. If you use dried pepper flakes, start with just a pinch). Add a pinch of salt and the same of freshly ground pepper.

Simmer for 15 minutes so that the flavors blend. Add a bit more water if it starts to thicken too much.

Taste for salt and pepper, but leave it just slightly under-salted.

Stir in the mussels and cilantro, cover and simmer until all the mussels are open.

Serve in a bowl with lots of the broth and good bread on the side.

p.s. fun tip for eating mussels: use an empty shell as your utensil to pinch the meat out of the other shells.

Littleneck Clam and Watercress Soup


This is a riff off of my grandmother’s oyster stew recipe, which I’ve adapted for clams and lightened up a bit. Lisl loved it. Great with a crisp white wine.

24 littleneck clams
1 onion, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
watercress, loosely chopped
2 tb of butter
1 cup of light cream
2 cups of whole milk
dry white wine
worcestershire sauce

Rinse the clams. Heat up a soup pot, place the clams in the pot on a high flame, and pour in a bit of white wine to create steam. Cover and cook for a few minutes — just long enough for the clams to open. If most are open, turn off the heat and keep covered for another minute or so for the rest to fully open.


Remove the clams from their shells and chop up.

Save the brine-y liquid from the soup pot and put to the side.

Rinse the soup pot. Put back on the stove on medium-low heat. Melt the butter and add the diced onion and minced garlic, stirring to make sure they do not brown. When the onion is translucent, add the celery and cook until the celery softens.

Add the cream, milk, a cup of wine, half a cup of the reserve liquid from steaming the clams, and a cup of water. Add the clams. Turn the heat down to low and simmer very lightly so that the cream does not curdle.

Add 4 drops of worcestershire sauce (or to taste) and a pinch of fresh pepper. After 15 minutes, taste. If you want more of that briney flavor from the clams, add more of the reserve steaming liquid (I ended up using about 1 1/2 cups).

Serve with a bunch of the chopped watercress, and a nice baguette.


p.s. oh it’s nice to sneak a moment to food blog again…

Summer Three Bean Salad


When picnic season rolls around, this is always my most requested dish. I’ve had a number of requests to update the recipe here, so with no further ado:

The Basics:
1 can kidney beans, rinsed (1)
1 can chickpeas, rinsed
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
half a red onion, finely diced
1 or 2 ears of corn, niblets cut off the cob (2)
large handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
large bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
juice from 6 or 7 limes
1/2 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper (3)

4 or 5 tomatillos, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, stem and seeds removed and minced
handful of spring onions, diced
1 yellow or orange pepper, chopped (for more color)

The instructions are as simple as “combine it all together”, but it is always better if you make it a couple hours ahead of time so that the lime juice permeates more. A few additional notes:

1. I always rinse canned beans really well under cold water, and drain them well

2. for the corn, you can boil the corn for 4 or 5 minutes, but I usually microwave them for no more than 2 minutes in the husk. Then I slice the niblets off with a chef’s knife and then break up the niblets by loosely running the corn through my fingers

3. add salt to taste, but the beans will want a fair amount of salt. If you are using fine table salt, start with about 1/4 tsp, and add to taste. If kosher salt, start with about double that.

Chipotle Pork Shoulder Braise


Chipotle Pork Shoulder Braise

1 3-4 lb pork shoulder, bone-in
1 tbsp mexican oregano
2 chipotle peppers, in adobo sauce
2 ancho chiles, seeds removed
1 tin of fire roasted tomatoes
1 beer
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1.5 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp coriander seed
1/2 tsp cumin seed
10 whole black peppercorns
Lime slices

Tonight’s dinner was an off-the-cuff mental mashup of braises I have historically done and some flavors I’ve been trying via Rick Bayless recipes. The results were delicious. The spicey sauce was rich and delicious — very much like a mole sauce but without chocolate. For tonight’s meal, I worked with a 3lb pork shoulder but I’ll often do these kinds of dishes with a bigger piece.

Preheat your oven to 290F or 300F. (it will be fine at either, but lower and slower is better if you have the time)

Heat up your dutch over on a high flame. Once the pot is hot, add a little oil and sear the sides of your pork shoulder. By the way, if your butcher leaves the fat on the pork shoulder, score it with a knife first one way, then perpendicular to the first cuts, but don’t take it off!

Once seared, remove the pork shoulder, turn the heat down to low and toss in the onions. It is actually a good thing for this dish for you to let the onions brown a bit with the very hot surface, so don’t over-stir them, but make sure they do not burn.

With a mortar and pestle, loosely grind the coriander seed, cumin and peppercorns, and mix those in along with the mexican oregano (a different herb from Italian oregano). Then add the garlic (you want to wait to this point to add the garlic so that the pot has cooled a bit and doesn’t instantly burn the garlic turning it bitter). Add in the ancho chiles and chipotle peppers (with a little of the adobo sauce if you got them from a tin).

Turn off the stove top heat and place the pork shoulder on top of the onions, fat side down.

Sprinkle the salt around, and add the tomatoes around the pork. You can fire roast your own tomatoes simply by charring them underneath your broiler, but I was pressed for time so simply used a tin of Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes, which supermarkets around here have started to carry.

Pour in a beer — in this case I used a mexican-style lager. You want the liquid to be about a third of the way up the side of the pork. Add more beer or water if needed.

Cover your dutch oven, place in the oven and cook. About half-way through, turn the pork so that the fat side is up.

If you have a 2-3 lb pork shoulder, about 4 1/2 hours is enough. For a 5-6 lb shoulder, expect about 6 hours. You want the meat falling off the bone and easy to pull apart with a fork.

Move the pork to a cutting board and use two forks to pull it apart. Sprinkle with salt (and taste for salt).

Skim excess fat off the top of the liquid and vegetables in the pot, and then puree it with an immersion blender to create your sauce.

Serve with white rice and some lime pieces. The lime sweetens the dish and brings out the flavors even more.

Chicken Poached in Milk

Serves 3 or 4

1 yellow or vidalia onion, diced
large handful of white mushrooms, sliced
3 chicken breast halves, sliced into 1 inch (or so) thick “tenders”
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 or 2 pinches of hot chili pepper flakes
1 tbsp flour
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup of dry vermouth or white wine
approx 2 cups milk
1 cup of white rice

I winged this dish on Friday night and enjoyed it enough that I wanted to record the essence. The ratios are not battle-tested, but one of the prime purposes of this blog is to help me remember stuff like this.

In a large saute pan, melt the butter and olive oil on medium low heat and then add the onion. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent. Add in the mushrooms, thyme, a pinch or two of hot chili pepper flakes, and some salt and pepper and saute until the mushrooms are soft.

Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the vermouth (or wine) and after a few minutes add the milk. I don’t know exactly how much milk I put in but I would guess about 2 cups. Bring the milk to a very gentle simmer, stirring fairly frequently, and control the heat so that it does not start to simmer more aggressively. Stir in the mustard and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 10 minutes or so, giving the sauce time to thicken and come together.

Don’t forget to start the rice.

Add the chicken, cover, and poach until they are cooked through (probably 5 to 10 minutes, depending on thickness of pieces).

Serve the chicken on top of the rice, heaping on the sauce.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Roasted Pork Loin

I’m always a fan of the combination of taste and simplicity, especially these days when my schedule does not allow for extended adventures in the kitchen.  This dish was a snap to make, and tons of flavor. The oregano and prosciutto combine beautifully and seep into the roast.

a boneless pork loin
enough imported prosciutto to wrap the loin
oregano (fresh or dried)
ground pepper

Pre-heat the oven at 350F. Sprinkle the loin liberally with freshly ground pepper and fresh or dried oregano. Because the prosciutto has so much salt, I would argue not adding any salt at this point.

Wrap the loin in prosciutto, overlapping each layer. Do not use cheap domestic (US) prosciutto — it has weak flavor and your results will be boring.

Roast the loin in the oven — it can take 30 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the loin. Remove the loin when an instant-read thermometer shows 135 degrees. Loosely cover in foil and let rest for 5 minutes, then slice and serve. Taste and only add salt at this point if you think it is needed.

We served this with a nice green salad, roasted brussel sprouts, and a hearty Italian wine.

A Lemon Spin on Mignonette

Last night, we had our annual family lobster feast. While much of my family still goes for the butter-lemon sauce, I have taken to the sharper taste of mignonette. This year, we played around with the ingredients a bit and I really liked the outcome.

Lemon Mignonette
1 large shallot (or 2 small ones), finely chopped or minced
1/2 cup of red wine vinegar
juice from 1 lemon
splash of balsamic vinegar
pinch of black pepper

Mix the ingredients together and let it rest for 20 minutes before serving so the shallots have a chance to sweeten the vinegar.

Chickpea and parsley salad with lemon-shallot dressing

Ah to be on vacation and have time to food blog again!  I tend to eat a lot of salad for lunch in the summer time.  I love tabouli but on its own, tabouli would leave me hungry.  So I created this salad in the same vein (tons of parsley!) but going for a heartier meal. It uses my “go to” salad dressing, of which I never tire.

Salad Ingredients
1 large bunch of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
a handful of halved cherry tomatoes or sliced larger tomatoes
half a cucumber, halved and sliced
1 can of chickpeas, thoroughly washed
1 green pepper, sliced into thin, bite-sized pieces
large handful or arugula

Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl, and then add the dressing. Taste for salt — the chickpeas might want a bit more salt than a typical green salad.  One twist is to make the dressing first and pour over the chickpeas, letting them marinate before you add the other vegetables.

Lemon-Shallot Dressing
1 lemon
dash of red or white wine vinegar (not balsamic)
1 shallot (minced) or part of a red onion (finely chopped)
mustard (grey poupon or grain mustard)
olive oil
salt and pepper

To make the dressing, first squeeze the juice of a lemon into a bowl or mug (remove any seeds). Add a dash of vinegar (about a teaspoon). Mince up a shallot (or the red onion) and add to the liquid and let sit for 10 minutes or so.

With a fork, stir in a little olive oil (start with about a teaspoon).
Whisk in a little mustard to taste (start with about 1/8 of a teaspoon).
Adjust oil, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.


Summertime salsa

In summertime, there are few things I like more than fresh salsa and a good beer. I make variations of this recipe, as evidenced in this blog’s history, and can never get enough of it. It goes great with chips, on toasted bread, on fish or hamburgers… or just straight up !

1 red pepper, finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced
1 to 2 jalapenos, depending on heat
4 plum tomatoes, finely diced
5 spring onions, finely diced
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
large bunch or cilantro, finely chopped
several limes
optional: niblets from 1 ear of corn
salt and pepper

Chop it all up, toss in a bowl, squeeze the juice from two limes on top and add a dash of red wine vinegar (maybe half a teaspoon’s worth). Taste for the level of lime, and add salt and pepper to taste.