I live to eat and love to cook. Welcome to my life!

February 1, 2010

It's all about the pork

By now you may know I have this little tiny fondness for just about anything made from a pig. From bacon to ham, chops, ribs and loins, cheeks, roasts, sausages and shanks, there is not much I won't go "gaga" over. Oh! and lets not forget the ever lovely and sinful chicharrone with a spritz of lime, sprinkle of salt and a dash of Tapatio sauce...Mmmmmmm.

Maybe it has to do with 5 years of raising pigs for market in 4H and selling them at the fair. Forgive the mullet, it was the 80's and I thought it was cool.

The only reason we got this picture is because someone was chasing the stupid thing past me....Note the pissed off face, Chunky ran by me several times before they got the picture. After chasing him through the midway at the fair you can begin to see why when the buyer gave my pig back to me after purchasing him, I told him we would have a BBQ.

Truly, if I ever in my lifetime had some sort of disposable ridiculous income, I might open a restaurant called PFR. Pork Fat Rules. And everything would have some sort of pork in it. Somehow. And vegetarians beware, I am not kidding when I say everything.

I love pork so much that after seeing a show on the Food Network that featured a shop in San Francisco that processes all of its own salami, prosciutto, bacon and other "Tasty Salted Pig Parts" that I made a pilgrimage to see, taste and buy. When I got there, the angels...they did sing a little for me over the din of the thousand other people in the Ferry Building. And the pork was good, yes....better than good! Mortadella with truffles and pistachios, thin sliced coppa salami and brown sugar and wild fennel sausage. This place was heaven for me, it would only get better if I was able to go behind the glass walls and help them make thier next batch of salami or prosciutto. Next time you are in San Francisco, check out Boccalone Salumeria and bring some lovin' home...don't forget to try the Nduja...it is a soft ripened salami with excellent spice. Think chorizo in a spreadable form....mmmmmmmmmm.

So really my friends, it comes as no surprise that I picked out a pork based recipe for a get together at my house featuring some of my favorite people. I was super torn between the cover recipe on the new Bon Appetit and this one and the deciding factor was simple. The short rib sandwiches sounded delish and I will probably make them very soon. But really? How can I resist a recipe that has not just one kind of pork......

not even two kinds of pork...

but THREE!!!!

Oh yes, you read right. Three kinds of pork. And porcini mushrooms, which come at a very dear price but are irreplaceable in a recipe because of the insane flavor they impart. And some other stuff that I will get to eventually. That you serve over.....Homemade potato gnocchi. OK really? Did I even have to think about that one? Nope! Done deal!

As I had never made gnocchi before, but enjoyed them in many a dinner, I was pretty excited about the prospect of trying something new. Generally I see gnocchi in restaurants in a cream or cheese based sauce which is altogether delicious, but it is also the reason my friends and I refer to the little boogers as "gut bombs". They are not the lightest of starches, and tend to plop right on my ass and make themselves at home. When paired with a lighter sauce, they somehow don't feel as heavy though. :)

I stuck pretty true to the recipe, the only change I made was to make a quick roasted pork stock out of the bones from my country ribs + carrots + onion + celery. I figured if I was having such a pork laden dish, why wreck it with chicken broth???

This is a little bit of a labor of love, you can make some stuff ahead of time and hold it, but it took me about 3 hours total to make the ragu and the raw gnocchi. This way I was ready to hang with my friends, eat appetizers and then just boil the gnocchi and grate some Parmesan when it was time to eat! And in just reading the recipe right now I realized I forgot to garnish it with the basil last night....it would probably be a very nice addition, but it wasn't missed.

I actually doubled the gnocchi recipe on accident and was able to freeze the leftovers for future use. The Ragu recipe fed 6 of us, with leftovers for a couple of meals waiting for me in the fridge. :)

And to top off the night my darling friend Sarah who loves food as much as I do (we met in culinary school) was charged with bringing a salad to dinner...my only request was to keep with the Italian theme. So she brought a gorgeous salad....layers of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and avocado. With boconccini (mozzarella balls), 2 kinds of salami, crispy Parmesan toasts and a sheet of melted crispy Parmesan cheese. I am not sure what we all liked better, the salad with cheesy pork goodness or the pork goodness wrapped around fluffy gut bombs topped with cheese.

Pork & Wild Mushroom Ragu
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/2 cups boiling water
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 ounces sliced crimini (baby bella) mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
Coarse kosher salt
2 1/2 cups dry white wine, divided
1 pound boneless country-style pork ribs, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 ounces 1/4-inch-thick slices coppa or prosciutto, chopped
6 ounces fresh mild Italian sausages, casings removed (about 2 links)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 cups crushed tomatoes or crushed tomatoes with added puree
1 cup (or more) low-salt chicken broth (Or Pork broth if you are so inclined!!!)
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Potato Gnocchi
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Place dried porcini mushrooms in medium bowl; pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water over. Let stand until mushrooms are soft, about 45 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer mushrooms to cutting board and chop coarsely. Reserve soaking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add crimini mushrooms and garlic; sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper and sauté until beginning to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup wine and simmer until crimini mushrooms are soft, about 4 minutes. Set aside (there may still be liquid in skillet).

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle pork with coarse salt and pepper. Add pork to pot and sauté until browned in spots, about 6 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to medium bowl. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot. Reduce heat to medium. Add coppa/proscuitto and stir 1 minute. Add sausages and cook until brown, breaking up into small pieces with back of spoon, about 3 minutes. Add onion, carrot, and celery. Cover pot and cook vegetables until soft, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add remaining 2 cups wine; bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Simmer until almost all liquid is absorbed. Add tomatoes, 1 cup broth, bay leaves, reserved pork, and porcini mushrooms. Pour in reserved porcini soaking liquid, leaving any sediment behind in bowl. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until pork is tender, adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls if dry, about 1 hour.

If it is super liquid-y, you can pull out some of the liquid and reduce in a saucepan until it is a bit thicker, I did this and it turned out perfect.

Stir crimini mushroom mixture in skillet into ragù. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon off fat from surface of ragù stir in basil. Add Potato Gnocchi; toss gently to coat. Simmer over medium heat until gnocchi are heated through, 3 to 5 minutes.

Potato Gnocchi
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed
1 cup (or more) all purpose flour
1 large egg yolk, beaten to blend
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon olive oil

Special equipment: Potato ricer or food mill

Preheat oven to 400°F. Pierce potatoes in several places and bake until soft, about 1 hour. Cool slightly. Cut potatoes in half. Working in batches, scoop hot flesh into potato ricer or food mill. Rice potatoes onto rimmed baking sheet; spread out and cool to room temperature.

Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer potatoes to large bowl. Add 1 cup flour; toss to coat. Form well in center of potato mixture. Add egg yolk, coarse salt, and nutmeg; stir with fork until mixture is evenly moistened (mixture will look shaggy).

Turn mixture out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until dough comes together, sprinkling dough with flour very lightly only if dough is very sticky. Form dough into ball; divide into 4 pieces. Roll each piece between hands and work surface into 3/4-inch-thick rope. Cut each rope into 3/4-inch pieces. Place gnocchi on prepared baking sheet.

Working in batches, cook gnocchi in large pot of boiling salted water until gnocchi rise to surface of water. Continue to simmer gnocchi until cooked through and tender, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Using slotted spoon, carefully transfer gnocchi to bowl. Drizzle gnocchi with olive oil and toss to coat.

The only thing I did different here was in the shaping of the gnocchi....the recipe says just to cut them, which is fine. But I wanted mine to look like the gnocchi I see in restaurants and stores. So I individually pressed each little "pillow" with the tines of a fork to give it the characteristic ridges that gnocchi are known for. It is not necessary by any means and is pretty time consuming, but it made me happy. :) If you make too many and want to freeze them, toss them with a little flour and place in a ziploc bag to freeze. You may never buy gnocchi again, this was too easy!

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