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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

French-Style Pork Stew

A couple of weeks ago I watched America's Test Kitchen on PBS. The following is one of the featured recipes from the episode "French Style Dutch Oven Dinners." It is quite a meaty stew and in the future I think I will use less meat and add more cabbage and potatoes. But I will post it as appears on the website. I encourage you to search out the ham shank or hocks (or a left-over ham bone) since this ingredient adds both flavor and a silky mouth feel.


French-Style Pork Stew

Adapted from: America's Test Kitchen
Serves: 8-10 (easily halved if needed)

6 parsley springs, plus 1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
3 large sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 1/2 teas dried thyme)
5 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 bay leaves
1 T black peppercorns
2 whole cloves
5 c water
4 c chicken broth
3 pounds boneless pork butt roast (or shoulder) trimmed of fat and cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 meaty smoked ham shank or 2-3 smoked ham hocks (1 1/4 pounds)
2 onions, halved through root end, root end left intact
4 carrots, peeled, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 3/4 inch pieces (waxy potatoes are better than russet)
12 oz. kielbasa sausage, halved lengthwise and then cut into 1/2 inch slices
1/2 head savoy cabbage, shredded (8 cups) (savoy has a milder flavor but you can substitute regular cabbage, if necessary)

Preheat oven to 325F. Cut a 10-inch square of triple-thickness cheesecloth. Place parsley springs (fold or break to fit), thyme sprigs, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, and cloves in the center of cheesecloth and tie into a bundle with kitchen twine. (If you don't have cheesecloth, I suggest you tie the herb sprigs and bay leaves together with twine so they can be removed later. Smash the garlic and substitute ground pepper and cloves, although I'm not certain on amounts--use only a little powdered cloves.)

Bring water, broth, pork, ham, onions, and herb bundle to simmer in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, skimming off scum that rises to the surface. Cover the pot and place in the oven. Cook until the pork pieces are tender and a skewer inserted in the meat meets little resistance, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the ham to a plate. Add the carrots and potatoes to the pot and stir to combine. Cover and return to the oven. Cook until the vegetables are almost tender, 20-25 minutes. When the ham is cool enough to handle, remove the meat, and using 2 forks, shred into bite-size pieces; discard skin and bones.

Add the shredded ham, kielbasa, and cabbage to the pot. Stir to combine, cover, and return to the oven. Cook until the kielbasa is heated through and the cabbage is wilted and tender, 15-20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the chopped parsley. Ladle into bowls and serve with crusty bread. The stew can be made up to 3 days in advance.

Mike's Treats

I made these treats often during the years that my kids were teenagers. They were a hit at fundraisers and requested often for other occasions. In addition to its long-standing place in our nuclear family cooking history, the recipe has an even older connection to the Peterson side of the family.

I grew up in the most kid-friendly spot in United States. My dad and mom were one of the many American couples who married in the decade after WWII. When my dad got a job teaching at Carbon College in Price, Utah, they bought a little concrete block house in a neighborhood of affordable homes populated by other couples just like them. The baby boom was in full swing and our small street was home to about 45 children so my brothers and I always had friends to play with. Mothers stayed at home and watched out for all the kids on the street, not just their own, so to us it seemed we played outside without supervision. Our street was the last street in a small town offering open space for exploration.

My brother Joe's best friend was Michael Bryson, who sadly died of Hodgkin's disease before he turned 20. Years later, Mike's sister lived nearby another of my brothers, John, and his wife, Linda. She shared a recipe for one of Mike's favorites with my sister-in-law who shared it with me. Like his family, we refer to this confection as Mike's Treats.


Mike's Treats

Source: Linda Peterson
Serves: it depends on how big you cut them

1/2 c sugar
1/2 c light corn syrup
3/4 c creamy peanut butter
4 c crisp rice cereal
1 c bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
1 c butterscotch chips

In a roomy saucepan, heat the sugar and corn syrup and bring to a simmer, cooking just until the sugar dissolves (if you let it boil too long the cereal layer will be too hard).

Remove from the heat, add peanut butter and mix well. Add 4 c cereal and stir well. Press into a buttered 9X13 pan. Set aside. Over a very low heat, or in the microwave, melt together butterscotch chips and 1 c chocolate chips. Be careful that no water gets into this mixture or it will seize (no fun). Spread the melted chips over the cereal layer and allow to cool before cutting with a sharp knife.

Notes about chips:

Most of the time this recipe has been in my possession, I've made it with semisweet chocolate chips, but recently I've found I prefer using bittersweet chips. Mixing semisweet chips with butterscotch results in a milk-chocolate topping which is too sweet and lacking in chocolate flavor. Betsy has also found that Guittard Butterscotch Chips are the best to use if you can find them.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Taco Soup, with Homemade Taco Mix

There are many versions of this quick soup; this is the one I rely on, and it's perfect when I  need dinner in 30 minutes. It calls for a taco seasoning mix. Recently I started mixing my own, and I chose the recipe from the internet primarily because I had all the ingredients on hand. But the whole family enjoys it, both in this soup and on ground beef tacos, so it's a keeper.


Taco Soup

Serves 4-6

1/2 lb ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can kidney beans, undrained
1 17-oz can corn, undrained
2 T taco seasoning mix

Brown meat and onion. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer 15 minutes. Serve with warmed flour tortillas and top each bowl with grated cheddar cheese to taste.


Taco Mix


2 teas chili powder
1 1/2 teas paprika
1 teas onion powder
1/2 teas sea salt
1/2 teas garlic powder
1/2 teas ground cumin
1/2 teas oregano
1/4 teas freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together. For tacos, use 1-2 T on 1 lb ground beef.