Pancetta-Sage Turkey With Pancetta Gravy

It’s almost that time of year again… time to cook up a storm, gather up friends and family in big embraces, eat, eat and then eat some more! It’s Thanksgiving!!!! Which is incidentally also my favorite holiday. Not only is it nice to take a moment and be thankful for everything you have in your life – – whether that be loved ones, your dream job, a cute dog or even just the best book to climb into bed with at night – – eating food and celebrating life with people you care about is just about as good as it gets in my opinion.

Last year Judd and I cooked our first turkey together. It was a special moment for a lot of reasons; first off, our parents were meeting which meant the food needed to be extra tasty. Second, and more importantly, did I mention this was our first turkey! With proud smiles on our faces and puffed up chests (I am only imagining this part happened), we presented our families with this beautifully magnificent bird! I mean, look at it… it was perfect.

The skin was crispy and golden brown while the meat of the bird was moist and oozing flavor. If the idea of pulverizing butter, pancetta and herbs into a thick paste doesn’t get your goat, then this might not be the recipe for you. As if pancetta butter wasn’t delectable enough… we smeared it on and under the turkey’s skin!!! It was essentially like wrapping an entire 15 pound turkey in bacon…. mmmmm. Stuffed with fresh sage and rosemary, this little feathered friend was certainly sacrificed for a worthy cause… my belly. We topped the entire meal off with a thick gravy of turkey stock, pan drippings, sage and more pancetta. Perfect. Just Perfect.

So, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there. And to my favorite person…. I can’t wait to cook more turkey’s with you!

Pancetta-Sage Butter
4 garlic cloves, peeled
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta (Italian bacon), chopped
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Turkey
1 14- to 16-pound turkey, rinsed, patted dry inside and out; neck, heart, and gizzard reserved for Shortcut Turkey Stock
8 fresh sage sprigs
4 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups Shortcut Turkey Stock or water

Gravy
1/2 cup diced thinly sliced pancetta (Italian bacon; about 3 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 cups Shortcut Turkey Stock
1 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage

Shortcut Turkey Stock
8 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 scrubbed unpeeled carrots, cut into chunks
2 celery stalks,cut into chunks
1 rinsed unpeeled large onion, quartered
stems from 1 bunch fresh italian parsley
Reserved turkey neck, heart, and gizzard

For pancetta-sage butter
With machine running, drop garlic down feed tube of processor and chop. Add pancetta. Pulse to chop finely. Add all remaining ingredients. Pulse blending to coarse paste. Transfer to small bowl. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.

For turkey
Set rack at lowest position in oven and preheat to 325°F. Sprinkle main turkey cavity with salt and pepper. Spread with 2 tablespoons pancetta-sage butter. Starting at neck end, slide hand between skin and meat of breast, thighs, and upper drumsticks to loosen skin. Spread remaining butter over thighs, drumsticks, and breast meat under skin. Fill main cavity with herb sprigs. Tie legs loosely to hold shape. Tuck wing tips under.

Place turkey on rack set in large roasting pan. Rub turkey all over with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour 2 cups stock into pan.

Roast turkey until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 165°F to 170°F, about 3 hours. Tilt turkey so juices run into pan. Transfer turkey to platter. Tent with foil; let rest at least 30 minutes (temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees). Reserve pan.

For gravy
Scrape juices and browned bits from roasting pan into large glass measuring cup. Spoon off fat. Reserve 2 tablespoons. Heat 2 tablespoons reserved fat in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; sauté until beginning to crisp, about 5 minutes. Add shallots; sauté 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium. Add flour; whisk until golden, about 4 minutes. Whisk in 3 cups stock, wine, and degreased pan juices. Bring to boil, whisking. Cook to desired consistency, about 5 minutes. Whisk in rosemary and sage; season to taste with salt and pepper.

For shortcut turkey stock
In large saucepan, combine low-salt chicken broth, carrots, celery, onion, parsley stems, and reserved turkey neck, heart, and gizzard. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to very low; simmer gently until gizzard is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer neck, heart, and gizzard to plate. Strain stock into medium bowl and cool. If adding giblets to gravy, pull meat from turkey neck. Chop neck meat, heart, and gizzard. DO AHEAD: Cover stock and wrap giblets. Chill up to 3 days.

Prosciutto Wrapped Pork Loin with Roasted Apples

It’s officially Fall, my favorite time of year, and with Fall, comes slow roasted meats slathered in herbaceous marinades and rubs. When my Bon Appétit arrived last month, this dish beckoned to me… “make me, please… make me.” So I did and I found that the pork on pork on pork action is not as wrong as it sounds. In fact, it was a lovely precursor to the fast approaching Thanksgiving holiday.

Every year, we make turkey… delicious delicious turkey. If you are looking for a bird alternative this upcoming Turkey Day, I would say, this Prosciutto Wrapped Pork Loin is jam packed with holiday flavors. The smoky prosciutto casing is only the beginning on this dish. Jump in a little further and you’ll find a moist pork loin stuffed with sautéed mushrooms, dried applies, kale, fresh herbs and of course… butter. The filling alone can be eaten with a spoon (I won’t lie… I ate a little before building this log of goodness).

Make this. Eat this. Impress some folks. Enjoy!


Filling
1 ounce (1 cup) dried whole porcini mushrooms
2 ounces (3/4 cup) dried apples
1 pound kale, bottom stems trimmed
2 teaspoons kosher salt plus more
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary
2 tablespoons brandy or Calvados
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground pork

Pork
1 (trimmed) 2 1/2–3 pound pork loin
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more for seasoning
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
5 sprigs rosemary
4 medium apples (such as Granny Smith or Fuji), quartered, or 8 small apples, halved
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup dry hard cider
1/2 cup low-salt chicken stock

For filling
Place dried mushrooms and dried apples in separate small bowls. Add 1 cup boiling water to each bowl. Let mushrooms and apples soak until very soft, about 30 minutes. Strain mushrooms. Cover and chill soaking liquid (about 3/4 cup). Drain apples, discarding soaking liquid. Finely chop mushrooms and apples, combine in a small bowl, and set mushroom and apple mixture aside.

Meanwhile, blanch kale in boiling salted water just until wilted, about 1 minute. Using tongs, transfer kale to a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate until cool. Remove any large, tough ribs.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring often, until soft and lightly golden, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms and apples; cook, stirring occasionally, until flavors meld, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme, and rosemary; cook for 1 minute. Add brandy and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute. Stir in 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Transfer mixture to a bowl and let cool completely. Add ground pork and stir to combine well.

For pork
To butterfly, put pork loin on a work surface with short end facing you. Holding a long, thin sharp knife parallel to work surface and beginning along one long side, cut 1/2″ above underside of roast. Continue slicing inward, pulling back the meat with your free hand and unrolling the roast like a carpet, until the entire loin is flat. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet, pound to an even thickness.

Uncover pork. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Place kale leaves on top of loin in an even layer, overlapping as needed and leaving a 1″ border. Spread filling on top of kale. Roll pork into a tight cylinder. Wrap one layer of prosciutto around roast. Tie roast securely with kitchen twine in 1″ intervals. Tuck rosemary sprigs under twine, spacing apart. DO AHEAD: Pork roast can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before continuing.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place apples in a roasting pan. Melt 1 tablespoon butter with oil in a large skillet. Brown pork on all sides, about 5 minutes total, then set on top of apples in pan. Add cider and 1/2 cup water to skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Pour mixture into roasting pan. Roast pork until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of loin registers 140°F (it will be cooked medium but still slightly pink), about 1 hour 40 minutes. Let roast rest for at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Put roast on a platter. Reserve apples from roasting pan; spoon off fat from juices in pan. Place pan on top of stove over medium-high heat. Add chicken stock. Pour in reserved mushroom liquid, leaving any sediment behind, and cook, scraping bottom of pan to release any browned bits, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Strain sauce; slice pork. Serve sauce and apples alongside sliced pork.

Pan Seared Salmon with Lime Butter Sauce

I know… I’ve been away. I wish I had a better explanation for you than not being particularly inspired by any recipes as of late, but alas, sometimes it’s just easier to eat out or turn to trusted house favorites during busy weeks. Last night we broke our runt with a damn tasty meal that caused a fiesta in my mouth. Yes, I am serious… a fiesta.

If you have not noticed, we like salmon. So much so, that we often cook the same recipe over and over again. I decided it was time for a new twist on this staple fish and low and behold, folks, we have found another winner! Perfect for a light summer meal, this smoked paprika coated salmon was earthly, moist and jam packed with flavor. Topped with a lovely lime “butter” emulsified sauce (I substituted olive oil in place of an entire stick of butter), the smokiness of the fish balanced perfectly against the tart zing of the drizzled sauce. Paired with a refreshing roasted corn and tomato salad (recipe coming soon) and grilled asparagus, this effortless meal whipped up in no time, but your guests don’t have to know that!

With Fall rapidly approaching, it’s time to squeeze in as many last minute summer meals as possible. Before you know it… I will be talking about pumpkin bread!

Makes 6 servings

Lime Butter Sauce

1 large garlic clove, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted or 1/2 cup olive oil (I went with the lighter option and it was delicious)

Salmon

6 (6-oz) pieces center-cut salmon fillet (about 1 inch thick) with skin
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lime zest

To make the lime butter, purée garlic with lime juice, salt, and pepper in a blender until smooth. With motor running, add melted butter and blend until emulsified, about 30 seconds.

*Note: Lime butter sauce can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Stir before using.

To make the Salmon, warm the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Season the salmon pieces with paprika, salt and pepper. Sear the skin side down, about 3 to 4 minutes on the first side. Flip the fish and continue cooking until medium-rare, about 2 to 3 minutes more depending on the thickness of the fish. Sprinkle fillets with zest and top each with 1 tablespoon lime butter sauce.

Bulgogi Kimchee Pizza

Are you ready to have your world rocked? The very foundation of all beliefs shaken? This pizza might do just that.

If you like Korean food (Yum!) and Pizza (who doesn’t), then this bizarre creation might just become your new favorite indulgence. Bulgogi Kimchee Pizza does sound crazy, but I promise your mouth will thank you for nibbling on such a weirdly delicious treat. Weeks ago I stumbled upon a vague recipe for this pizza and the idea sort of lodged itself in the back of my brain waiting for the right moment to act. Judd loves bulgogi, so I knew swaying him into this adventurous undertaking would not be difficult. So, this past Sunday we decided to have a low key day… watched a little Women’s World Cup Soccer (Oh USA, sigh), lazed about the house, and made pizza. We started by marinating thinly sliced sirloin in a delightfully easy bulgogi sauce. The meat alone was a winner and promised only good things for the pizza’s final outcome. Once you cook the meat and sauté the spinach, all that is left to do is assemble the pie. We picked up the Trader Joe’s pizza dough (in a bag) and began forming our crust. Top the dough with tomato sauce (and a few pinches of kosher salt), grated fresh mozzeralla, sautéed spinach and onions, kimchee and bulgogi beef. Pop the beautiful disk of goodness into the oven and 15 minutes later you have heaven on a plate. Seriously… heaven.

The USA might have lost to Japan on Sunday, but in our house, Korea was the real winner. Well done Bulgogi Kimchee Pizza. Well Done.

Bulgogi Marinade:

This makes enough for the pizza and leftovers!

1 lb. of thinly sliced rib-eye steak purchased from a Korean market. Or you can slice your own rib-eye or sirloin steak across the grain in paper thin slices.
1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 of a medium yellow onion, halved and sliced into slivers
2 green onions including the white parts, finely sliced
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 pinches black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ginger, finely minced

Whisk all the ingredients together in a medium bowl except beef and onions. When most of the sugar has dissolved, add beef and onion slices to the bowl and massage the marinade with your hands into each slice of beef. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. To pan fry, place a few slices of beef in single layers and completely flat on a hot oiled frying pan and fry each side until cooked, medium, about 3 minutes per side.

Bulgogi Kimchee Pizza:

Makes 8 slices

Store pre-made fresh pizza dough (we used Trader Joe’s)
8 ounces tomato sauce
2 pinches kosher salt
5 ounces fresh mozzarella, grated
2 cups uncooked spinach, stems removed
Store bough Kimchee
1/2 lb. beef bulgogi (see recipe above)
Semolina or white flour

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Follow the instructions of the store bought dough. Form dough into 12″ disk. Top with tomato sauce and kosher salt. Spread until evenly coating top of dough. Add mozzarella, sautéed spinach and onions (from bulgogi recipe), kimchee and beef bulgogi. Toss semolina flour directly onto the pizza stone, bake 10-15 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is bubbling.

Slice, dig in and ENJOY!

Rosemary Steak Florentine

Tomorrow marks the first day of summer as well as the longest day of the year! It will actually be hot in San Francisco this Summer Solstice, which got me thinking about barbecues and meat. We all know those two words are synonymous with one another and the perfect combo for a damn tasty meal… so, in honor of summer and the many BBQ’s to come, I thought I would whip out the big guns and share my new favorite steak preparation.

I understand that this simple marinade and steak dressing might not be new to everyone, but I can assure you that my taste buds were a flutter when I was first introduced to olive oil poured on steak. My lovely cousins to be, Ian and Masha, grilled up some T-bones and unabashedly drenched their steaks in a nice heap of rich oil. Judd and I were immediately converted! Deciding to give this new found recipe a go, we lathered some raw steaks in extra virgin olive oil, fresh rosemary and salt and pepper. Voila… we had ourselves an AMAZING piece of grilled tasty! Because we are BBQ-less (sadly) we cooked these steaks in a pan, but I want all you summertime grillers to go for the gusto and pop ’em on an open flame.

There is only one rule you must adhere to when making this dish… there is no such thing as too much olive oil, so ahead…. pour a little more on, crack open a beer and enjoy the beauty of summer.

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped rosemary
Two 1-pound steaks, about 2 inches thick
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper

In a sturdy resealable plastic bag or baking dish, combine the olive oil and the rosemary. Season the steaks with salt and pepper and add to the marinade. Let the steaks marinate for 1 hour or refrigerate over night.

Heat a grill pan. Grill over moderately high heat until nicely charred on the top and bottom, about 5-8 minutes per side. Alternatively, build a fire on one side of a charcoal grill or light a gas grill. Grill the steak over moderate heat for 5 minutes on each side. Transfer the steak to the cool side of the grill, close the lid and cook for 5-10 minutes longer. Transfer the steak to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice the steak across the grain and serve immediately.

Salmon in Lemon Brodetto with Pea Purée

Last night Judd and I celebrated our 2nd anniversary with a delicious home cooked meal! We just got back from a visit to New York in which we ate the obligatory slice of pizza, bagels, pastrami on rye, as well as a Peter Luger’s burger (I could taste the butter oozing out of the meat), rich Italian food and an AMAZING meal at Momofuku Ssäm Bar (my personal favorite). So, suffice it to say… we stuffed ourselves REAL good and thought it might be time for a slightly lighter meal.

After many years of watching Giada de Laurentiis cook simple food with a giant goofy smile on her face, I thought… hey, it might be time to actually try one of her recipes. Turns out that woman can cook! This dish is full of unexpected and delicious flavors that absolutely surprised me. Peas puréed with mint, garlic, olive oil and parmesan create a lucious and fresh side dish that embodies the flavors of springtime. Top off the purée with a silken broth of sautéed shallots, chicken stock, mint and the zest and juice of a lemon. The mint and lemon flavors are the perfect compliment to a fillet of expertly cooked salmon (let’s all give Judd a round of applause) seasoned with only salt and pepper.

What’s better than cooking a lovely meal with my lovely fiancé on our anniversary? Nothing. This dish was pure bliss and left us both with big smiles on our faces… just like Giada’s!

Makes 4 servings

Lemon Brodetto
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, diced
2 lemons, juiced
1 lemon, zested
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves

Pea Puree
2 cups frozen peas, thawed (about 10 ounces)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Salmon
1/4 cup olive oil
4 (4 to 6-ounce) pieces salmon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

To make the Lemon Brodetto, warm the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until tender, about 7 minutes. Add the lemon juice, zest, and broth. Bring to a simmer, and keep warm, covered, over low heat.

To make the Pea Puree, combine the peas, mint, garlic, salt, and pepper in a food processor and puree. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a steady drizzle. Transfer the pea puree to a small bowl and stir in the Parmesan. Set aside.

To make the Salmon, warm the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Season the salmon pieces with salt and pepper. Sear the salmon until a golden crust forms, about 4 to 5 minutes on the first side. Flip the fish and continue cooking until medium-rare, about 2 minutes more depending on the thickness of the fish.

To assemble the dish, add the tablespoon chopped mint to the Lemon Brodetto and divide between 4 shallow dishes. Place a large spoonful of Pea Puree into the center of each bowl. Place a salmon piece atop each mound of Pea Puree. Serve immediately.

Tandoori Chicken with Saag

Tandoori Chicken is super difficult and requires special equipment right? Not this recipe.

Having a penchant for Indian food, and a large bunch of spinach in the fridge, the wheels began turning and next thing I knew… we had an Indian feast in store for us. I have made many a marinade during my cooking adventures and often times, they lack that extra oopf of flavor. So, when I whipped up this lovely marinade chalk full of warm spices, I only expected the flavor to live on the surface of the meat not deep in its fibers. Wow, was I ever wrong! By poking holes in the meat and rubbing the marinade into the chicken, the aromatic spices penetrated deep into the poultry. Combining onion, ginger, garlic and a serrano pepper in a food processor, a thick paste formed providing a nice base for the spice mixture (paprika, cumin, turmeric, coriander, garam masala and cayenne). Thickened by greek yogurt and a splash of citrus juice, this marinade packs a full punch!  Tender, juicy and incredibly tasty, this tandoori will impress all your friends at upcoming summer BBQs.

In my opinion, chicken needs a friend on the plate… something that can be scooped up on the same fork for layers of flavor. Saag seemed like the obvious sidekick. This was not our first rodeo show when it came to saag, but it was by far the winning dish. Simple, spicy and texturally pleasing, this Indian classic added vibrancy to the plate in both flavor and color. If you like spinach (and you should because it’s awesome), then you will love the creaminess of this dish. Serve with rice and naan or just toss it on a plate and chow down!

Grilled Tandoori Chicken

8 boneless-skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped white onion
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
1 teaspoon finely chopped serrano or jalapeno pepper, stem and seeds removed
1 tablespoon paprika
11/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

With a fork, prick holes in the chicken pieces. Using a knife, cut diagonal slices 1-inch apart, and 1/2-inch deep into the larger pieces. Place the chicken in a baking dish.

In a blender, combine the oil, onion, garlic, ginger, pepper, and process on high speed to a paste. Add the paprika, salt, cumin, turmeric, coriander, garam masala, and cayenne, and process until well blended. Add the yogurt and lemon juice, and process to a smooth sauce, scraping down the sides to combine all the ingredients. Pour the marinade over the chicken. Turn to coat evenly, rubbing the marinade into the holes and slits. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and up to 24 hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat a grill.

Remove the chicken from the marinade. Place on the grill and cook for 8 to 10 minutes on the first side. Turn, baste as needed, and cook on the second side for 5 to 10 minutes. Turn and continue cooking, as necessary until the chicken is cooked through, but still tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. (Alternately, bake in a preheated 425 degrees F oven on a baking sheet for 35 minutes.)

Saag

8 oz fresh spinach, washed but not dried (frozen will work)
1 inch piece ginger root, grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 green chili, chopped (jalepeno works well)
about 1 cup water
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon chili powder
3 tablespoons plain greek yogurt

Cook spinach in covered saucepan on medium heat for about 5 minutes using water clinging to leaves. Place the cooked spinach, ginger, garlic and chili with about 1/4 cup water into food processor or blender. Blend spinach mixture to a thick puree and set aside.

Heat oil in large heavy-based saucepan. Add bay leaves and black peppercorns, fry for 2 minutes over medium high heat. Add onion and saute for about 6-8 minutes or until browned. Add tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in curry powder, salt, and chili powder and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the spinach puree and about 2/3 cup water, simmer the mixture for about 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to a very low simmer and add the yogurt, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring after each addition.

Pork Lettuce Wraps with Ginger Dipping Sauce

In an attempt to get healthy (and perhaps wedding dress ready), Judd and I decided to temporarily cut flour and grains out of our diet. Now relax… I said it was temporary. Quietly missing our sandwiches and rice side dishes, we surged foreward and have been pleasantly surprised by the deliciousness of our carb-less dinners.

Everyone has eaten a lettuce wrap of some sort before… I’m guessing. These flavor packed pork fillings are amazing wrapped up or simply just gobbled down on their own. Marinated in duck sauce for sweetness, hoisin sauce (or as my chinese friend calls it, “the white person’s BBQ sauce”), and sriracha for a zap of heat, the cooked meat crisps ever so slightly under this saucey glaze. Paired with the freshness of chopped carrot, red pepper, cilantro and scallions, these wraps are almost perfect…

Enter the dipping sauce. Easy to whip up and seriously tasty, this soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, scallion and ginger root sauce is salty, nutty and spicy. Pour a spoonful over the pork and veggies and you’ve got yourself one hell of a dinner!

Starch, you are delicious, but…. it turns out veggies and protein can live without you.

Makes 4-8 appetizer portions; 2-4 dinner portions

1 tablespoon duck sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon sriracha hot sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 scallion, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 pounds thin-cut pork chops, pounded to 1/8-inch thickness
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 heads butter lettuce, leaves separated
1/2 bunch cilantro, washed and leaves separated
3 carrots, shredded or julienne (3 cups)
1 cucumbers, cut into 3-inch matchsticks
1/2 red pepper, cut into 3-inch matchsticks

Make the ginger sauce by whisking together the soy sauce, vinegar, water, sesame oil, scallion, and ginger. Set aside.

Heat broiler to high. Brush both sides of the pork chops with the olive oil, duck sauce, hoisin and sriracha, sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Let sit for 10 minutes. Broil 2 minutes on each side. Cool and slice thinly.

Arrange the lettuce leaves on a platter and fill each with some cilantro, carrots, scallions, cucumbers, red peppers and sliced pork. To eat, drizzle with the ginger sauce and roll the lettuce leaves to close. Serve with plenty of napkins.

Chicken Cacciatore

Sometimes I get these ideas that we need to cook new recipes that we have never made and in this case… never eaten. Chicken Cacciatore rolls off the tongue with such panache that for a brief moment you feel compelled to lift your fingers in the air with mock Italian flare (think Joe Pesci in any gangster movie ever made). While researching different recipes, I found out that Chicken Cacciatore translates to “chicken casserole prepared with tomatoes, mushrooms and herbs in the Italian style”. Sounds good to me!

Like any stew, the flavors only get better the longer you let it do its thing on the stove. The meat starts to fall apart as the sauce thickens into a rich broth. The onions and mushrooms provided a nice hearty base for the wine and tomatoes to glom onto. I tossed in 4 or 5 sliced pickled hot peppers and was happily surprised to find that these little buggers added a nice spicy undertone. Piled high atop polenta and garnished with fresh basil, this meal left us impressed and incredibly satiated!

Makes 4-8 servings

1 (2-3 lb) chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces (we used 6 chicken thighs, skin on)
1 3/4 teaspoons table salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, sliced thinly
1/2 cup crimini mushrooms, sliced
5 hot pickled peppers, sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 (28-oz) can whole plum tomatoes in juice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 fresh basil, chopped

Accompaniment: polenta, cooked brown rice or buttered noodles

Pat chicken dry and sprinkle on all sides with 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and pepper. Heat oil in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then brown chicken in 2 batches, turning over once, about 10 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken to a plate.

Reduce heat to moderate and add onion, mushrooms, hot peppers and garlic to skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally and scraping up any brown bits, until onion and garlic are golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add wine and simmer, scraping up brown bits, until liquid is reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice and simmer, breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon, 5 minutes. Add chicken stock and nestle chicken pieces in sauce.

Simmer, loosely covered with foil or with lid slightly ajar, until chicken is fork tender, 3o to 4o minutes. Season with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. For a thicker sauce, transfer cooked chicken to a platter and keep warm, covered, then boil sauce until it reaches desired consistency.

Roasted Pork Chops & Peaches

It’s Springtime! How do I know? Well, Cadbury Creme Eggs are abundant (even though I have yet to eat one this season), we have an hour more sunshine each night and most importantly… fruits and vegetables are bright, fragrant and oh so delicious!

Last year I stumbled upon this super easy pork chop and peaches recipe and was instantly hooked. I’ll be the first to admit, I was shocked to find how flavorful and juicy 2 little peaches could become when cooked alongside seared salty meat. Shopping at the market last week, Judd and I spied ripe peaches across the produce section that upon closer inspection, smelled of summertime. Naturally, we sniffed the pile for the ripest of the ripe and headed to the butcher for some thick cuts of pork.

Making this tasty meal simply couldn’t be easier. Savory piggy cooked in a skillet until both sides are brown and crispy. Peach and red onion wedges sautéed in meat drippings and white wine vinegar until they soften and create… you got it, more juice. The combination of pork, fruit and onion balanced atop your fork is enough to make even Punxsutawney Phil beg for an early spring every year! (Wow, I’m a huge nerd).

We gobbled up our pork and peaches with a side of Judd’s ever so tasty Sautéed Brussels Sprouts (recipe link coming soon) and a side of couscous. Open some chilled white wine and dig in!

Makes 4 servings

1 10-ounce package couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 pork chops (3/4 inch thick; about 2 pounds total)
kosher salt and black pepper
2 peaches, cut into wedges
1 small red onion, cut into thin wedges
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (optional)

Heat oven to 400° F. Cook the couscous according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season the pork with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook until browned, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Add the peaches, onion, vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper to the skillet and cook, tossing, for 1 minute. Return the pork (and any accumulated juices) to the skillet. Transfer to oven and roast until the pork is cooked through and the peaches are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Sprinkle pork chops and peaches with basil (if you’ve got it). Serve with the couscous.