Sunday, June 22, 2014

Grandma's Pork Dinner

My Grandma, Eleanor Beitz Fisher, died in her own bed in 2006 at the ripe old age of 93. She was not a gourmand, but like many from her generation she made wonderful Sunday dinners for her family each and every week without fail.

Well, tonight, to honor my Grandmother, I made a traditional German roast pork dinner with dumplings and sour gravy. I've made this on several occasions for my friends, and I usually tell the story of how this was the big Sunday meal that my Grandma always used to make when we were trying to be fancy. Like for birthdays, etc.

When she started getting too old to cook but still young enough to remember, I asked her to teach me how to make this somewhat complex meal, since I was already missing it, and I wanted to keep the tradition going. She obliged, first giving me the recipes from her head over the phone and then coming over in person, tasting my very first attempt.

At the time it was a little haphazard, the dumplings were too gelatinous, the gravy was thin.. but now, after making it probably 20 times or more, I've gotten pretty good at the timing and essence of the thing. I wish I could have made it for her tonight so that she could tell me if I've learned enough to be the official Pork Dinner maker. I guess by default, now I am.

To torture you, I'll tell you we had (sadly, I don't have my camera on me!):

    Port roast covered with bacon
    Sauerkraut (drenched in the pork drippings... *drool*)
    Dumplings (not perfect, but just about there. Fluffy and firm, like I like them!)
    Roast potatoes (which turned out *excellently*, deep golden brown and creamy)
    Baked beans
    Sour gravy (this is a gravy made from the pork drippings mingled with the sauerkraut 'juice'.. don't wince, it's very tasty!)

By the end we were all barely mobile, as there were only three of us and that meal easily serves 6. We didn't even have dessert, we were so stuffed.

While not ordinarily a woman prone to excess in any shape or form, I don't think Grandma would have minded us making pigs of ourselves in her honor. I thought about her each step of the way.. even the steps where I did something different than she would have. It was a lovely tribute and it made me feel very connected with her, as it always does when I make that dinner. And I got to share it, which is the very best part.
Grandma Fisher’s Pork Roast Dinner

Roast Pork:

Pork roast or Pork Tenderloin
1 onion
Seasoned salt, salt, pepper
1small package bacon (if desired)

Choose a roast that has a good color.  If using pork tenderloin, you may want to strap two of them together to create a larger roast.

Preheat oven to 375.  Add meat to roasting pan or large baking dish.  Sprinkle seasoned salt, garlic powder, salt and pepper on the roast.  Drape bacon slices (if desired - a Gwynne addition) over roast to cover.  Slice the onion into wedges and add around the roast.  (Eleanor never did this - this step was added by Gwynne when she took over the pork-making duties in the family - it adds a wonderful smell to the house, as well as flavors both the gravy and sauerkraut beautifully.)
Cook for about an hour and 15 minutes, or until the bacon is looking good enough to eat.  CHECK it…   it sometimes takes longer than you think.

Remove the roast from the oven and let it rest at least 15 minutes while you’re making the dumplings.

Dumplings (to serve 3-4):

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
Salt to taste
1 egg, beaten in a 1/2 cup measure
Enough milk to fill measure


2 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
Salt to taste
2 eggs, beaten in 1 cup measure
Enough milk to fill measure

Add milk to egg
Add milk and egg to dy ingredients, knead a little
Drop by heaping serving spoonfuls into ROLLING boil water
Cover pan - 5-7 minutes

Sour Gravy:

Fat from roast, sauerkraut in pan to heat up
Stir until sauerkraut is coated with fat
Strain sauerkraut, reserve drippings and sauerkraut ”juice”
Add 1 Tbsp corn starch to a little cold water and add to juices to make gravy.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Skillet Apple Pie

This is a recipe I've made twice now, both times to excellent results. We have yet to carve into the second attempt, but it looks every bit as delicious as the first.

See for yourself...

I can highly recommend this pie the next day, and the day after and so on, and so on... it's like an excessive pan of everything you love about apple pie, but made EXTREME by the addition of yet more fat and sugar. Sounds frightening? That's because you've never had it. If you have a slice, you'll catch what I call "epicure's forgiveness" which is sort of a blend of amnesia, selective listening, and denial that comes with the ingestion of something absolutely delicious but wholly unhealthy. "That deep fried foie gras medallion smothered with endangered dodo-egg hollandaise is TO DIE FOR... I'm happy it's points free and earth friendly!"

Simply loosen your belt buckle and try it. Really, you'll forget you've ever heard the term "Bad Cholesterol."

Skillet Apple Pie


* 4-6 peeled and sliced granny smith apples
* 2 pie crusts (I usually use Martha's Pate Brisee, below)
* 1/2 c. of butter
* 1 c. of brown sugar (ish, I ususally use 1/2-3/4)
* 1 c. of granulated sugar (same ish as above)
* 2 tsp. of cinnamon


1. Preheat oven 350 degrees.
2. Next add butter to a large oven safe pan (or iron skillet) over medium flame.
3. Now add in the brown sugar, and stir until both are melted. (No need to brown the butter here, though I'm sure it would be delicious if you did.)
4. Roll out bottom pie shell (it's a good idea to make the bottom crust disc a tad larger than the one you'll use for the top!) Take the pie shell and lay it over the sugar mixture.
5. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon.
6. Add the apple slices into the pie shell, then sprinkle with the sugar/cinnamon mixture.
7. Cover the whole thing with the second pie shell. Seal crusts together if possible. Cut several slits with a knife.
8. Bake 45-60 minutes.
9. Serve this warm. (or cold, or lukewarm, or room temp. Doesn't matter, it's delicious.)

Martha Stewart's Pate Brisee Basic Pie Crust

2 8-10" tarts or single pie crusts


* 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
* 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
* 1/4-1/2 cup ice water


1. Secrets to a good pie crust: chilled ingredients and chilled dough. Margarine or shortening can be used instead of butter (but butter is my favorite!).
2. Put flour, salt and sugar in a bowl, blender or food processor. Add the pieces of butter and process approximately 10 seconds or until it resembles "coarse meal.".
3. Add ice water drop by drop while machine is running (or you are mixing)--- just until dough holds together without being wet or sticky. Do not mix longer than 30 seconds.
4. Roll dough out on a piece of plastic wrap. Press down slightly. Chill for at least one hour.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Perhaps I should call this the Pork Blog..

I will not lie, I love pork. I think I've had pork 4 times this week, in different iterations. Both lonely posts here have, in fact, been about pork. One might say I'm a bit obsessed. But I digress. This time it was chops done with my very favorite treatment, an Asian-style sweet and spicy glaze that, though different every time, always brings me the flavor that I want with my chops.

I was making dinner for my special someone, and wanted it to be something nice. I took two giant pork chops (from Costco, so delicious!) and got to work on the marinade. They really don't sit in the marinade for long, I mean, I suppose they could. But I usually only get it together a half hour before dinner, so it's more of a glaze and less of a marinade, really.

It consists of:

(all amounts completely approximate.)

1/2 cup jam (this time I used apricot, but have used pear and pineapple before)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp fresh ginger paste (I buy the tube in the herbs section, but you could finely chop or grate, too)
1 Tbsp chopped or pressed garlic
1/8 tsp (heavy pinch) cayenne pepper
Juice of 1-2 limes
Sugar to taste (I don't use much, if any, because of the jam.)

Mix all of the above together in a bowl deep enough to mostly cover the chops.

There! That's it! Couldn't be easier, huh?

Sure, you could add a little oil.. maybe some black pepper. Ooh - you could really shake it up and grate some onion or shallot into the mix! And really, go for it - that might be tasty. But it's just perfect as-is, so maybe try that first and then improve upon perfection next time. Because there *will* be a next time, I'm sure of it.

I pan-fried my chops in a light drizzle of canola oil for about 7 minutes a side, using the 'touch it, does it feel done?' technique to decide if it was edible. They were just about perfect this time, if I may say so myself. I am not afraid of pork-cooties as so many are - so ours were ever so slightly pink and extremely juicy.

We sauteed up some sweet yellow onions, and served the chops alongside some wild rice and roasted asparagus with balsamic vinegar. Overall the meal turned out swimmingly, and it had the intended effect. Afterall, the way to anyone's heart is directly through the stomach. Or so they tell me. :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Beer-Braised Cajun Pork Shoulder

Yes, if I had to choose one major weakness, it would be meat. Yes, red meat. I love it and find so many wonderful qualities in it, I can't imagine a vegetarian lifestyle for myself. Don't get me wrong, I love veggies too and couldn't imagine a world without them, either.. not only that but truthfully most nights it's chicken breast and steamed veg these days. But what would my world be without fond? Gravy? Drippings? Lifeless, I tell you.

Each time I go to the meat counter, I feel the possibilities of what to cook spreading themselves out before me - potentiality fileted like a sirloin ready to receive a generous stuffing of creativity and yum. Sometimes I'm uninspired, or the standing rib is the only thing calling to me and I lack the spare $45 it would take to feed the urge to roast. But sometimes I give in to just the right thing and magic happens. Which brings me to the beautiful pork shoulder at Safeway. It was $2.49 a pound, and I simply couldn't resist.

But pork is fatty, you say..
But pork isn't practical, you say..
Shoulder is a long-cook meat - and you have NO TIME, you say?!

Bah! We will make time, we will eat a reasonable portion, and we will make it work!

Defiantly, I bought an $8 roast that weighed more than many newborns, and vowed to do it justice and spread it over many meals to make the purchase and fat content justifiable. I had a friend tell me recently that he finds pork to be a little bit less than flavorful, and not a 'tasty meat.' Huh. I couldn't disagree more, and I set out to prove it. Not to him, but to myself.*

I did my usual thing - I went online and checked all of my usual sources for recipes and found a few that sounded like something that would deliver both flavor and accessibility. I'm sure that chipotle-starfruit glazed star-anise studded rotisserie pork shoulder would be a masterpiece *if* I ever kept any of those ingredients on hand. Sadly, the cupboards are a bit bare at the moment, so a beer braising it would have to be. (Note: don't leave anything in my fridge you're particularly attached to - it may be pilfered for culinary experimentation.)

I started with a recipe called "Loli's Liquid Pork" from a food writer in New Orleans. I then messed around with it a bit and got the following. I'm not sure what to call it, since the idea of "Liquid Pork" makes even me throw up a little in my mouth. So we'll just call it...

    Gwynne's Beer-Braised Pork Shoulder

    4 to 10lb pork roast (mine was about 4.5 lbs)
    favorite Cajun seasoning mix (I used a mix from Charleston, SC called, simply, "Tasty.")
    3 Tbsp flour
    1 tsp ground black pepper
    1 tsp salt (optional - if your Cajun spice mix is salty, no additional salt is needed)
    4 cloves of garlic per pound of roast
    About 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
    1 onion per 2 pounds of roast, coarsely chopped
    24oz broth or beer (2 bottles - I used Anchor Steam and it was perfect. But any beer that isn't super bitter will do well, I bet.)
    1 cup apple cider or juice
    1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

    Heat a heavy dutch oven (just larger than your roast if possible) on medium high on the stove. Add oil. Preemptively turn on your fan and/or open a window - this process gets smoky at first.

    Put flour, pepper, and spice mix in a large plastic bag (produce bags work great, or a ziploc is cool too.) Pat the roast dry and place it in the bag, free of any string or binding and shake, coating the roast with the flour mixture.

    Cut slits into the roast and fill each with a peeled, half-smashed garlic clove. Brown all sides of the roast. Add the rest of the flour mix from the bag to the pot. Brown the flour and allow it to soak up all of the oil and juices in the skillet. Scrape the bottom of the pot to make sure any of the brown bits on the bottom end up as a part of the flour & oil mixture (mmmmm... fond & roux, what a team!)

    Pick the roast up with a fork and throw down half the onions to make a little bed for it. Put the roast back in on top of the onions, and arrange the rest around and on the roast. Add the beer and the apple juice/cider; it should come about 1/2 way up the sides of the meat.

    Cover it with a nicely fitting lid, and keep the heat on high until the whole thing is at a rolling boil. Leave it there for a few minutes to get your dutch oven good and hot, then turn down the heat to medium low - I was at about 4 on my electric stove. You want it simmering rather briskly, not 'blooping' (as my mom used to say.) Feel free to bloop or leave it in a slow cooker all day if you want - I'm sure that would work just fine if you had 8-11 hours to spare. I wanted mine in 6, so I kept an eye on it and kept it agitated. (It ended up being 5.5, because the house smelled so good we couldn't wait another minute.)

    Keep an eye on it, and turn the roast over once or twice an hour to prevent it sticking in the hot spots on the pot once the onions have disintegrated. Then go about your day as planned (mine was housecleaning and decorating in prep for my big Stone Soup party next weekend) and enjoy the smell of sweet, glorious meat wafting from your kitchen.

    At about the 4.5/5 hour mark, you'll notice that the roast loses its connective tissue completely and turns the corner from 'roast' to 'lump of soft meat'. This is good - if you serve it before that point, you won't be nearly as happy with the tenderness. Anytime after that release point is fine to take it off, but it will only get better with time. The key is to make sure that you don't let your juices run dry. It's a good idea to have some broth handy in case you're running too hot and you burn off your liquid too quickly.

    Eventually you won't be able to stand it anymore, and you'll have to eat the darned thing. Remove the roast bits gently with two big forks to a separate bowl, and either use the pan gravy as is, or if it needs to be reduced further, go ahead and do that in the open dutch oven over a medium heat. The roux we made in the first step should be enough thickener. Note: This is where the oversalting will rear its ugly head if it was done in the first step. The meat won't care and will be better for it, but the sauce (having been reduced to within an inch of its life) will be inedible if you didn't take it easy in the dredging.

    Et voila! A lovely Sunday dinner replete with aromatic house. And I didn't even have to turn on the oven. I served it with some quickly done mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. Both let the pork and sauce shine as the star of the meal.

The heat of the black pepper came through with the cajun spices, which I really liked. Not overpoweringly so, but enough to wake me up a bit. The apple juice lends just a tiny hint of sweetness, which is always welcome with pork. But not enough to trigger my "no sweet with meat" issue. (More about that another time.) The pork itself was amazingly tender (you would be too if you took a 6 hour bath in 212 degree soup) but still retained a lot of its porky flavor - one of the glories of shoulder, I suppose.

I wish I had photo-blogged this, as it's the inaugural post and everything. But I'm just beginning, and hopefully I'll get more creative as things progress. Thanks for reading! Please comment if you try this or plan on it - I'd love to hear about your results.

* Okay - you caught me - I really didn't have anything to prove, I just wanted more pork. Can you really blame me?