Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Pork Casserole

Who doesn't love a casserole? It's hearty and comforting (just right for sitting in front of the TV on a winter's night); it's cleanup friendly (a one-dish meal); and you can make one with just about any conglomeration of foods from your fridge and cupboard.

Tonight, I had a few boneless pork chops sitting in the fridge, a couple leftover red potatoes (too few for mashed or roasting), and an assortment of veggies. Taking inspiration from a few online recipes, I thinly sliced the potatoes, pan-fried them briefly to help start the cooking process, then layered them in the bottom of an 8x8 baking dish. I seasoned (garlic salt and pepper) and seared the chops on both sides, laid them on top of the potatoes, then topped them with sauteed onions and mushrooms and a scattering of chopped red bell pepper. I wanted to smother all of that with cream of mushroom but, not finding any in my cupboard, I used a creamy potato/bacon soup instead, thinned with a bit of milk. A couple of handfuls of shredded cheddar finished off the dish before it went into the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

The result? Moist, flavorful pork with a savory sauce, tender potatoes, and a delicious assortment of veggies with surprisingly still-crisp red peppers. The best part is: you can never make a one-serving casserole, which means lunch (and dinner?) tomorrow will be very tasty.

Monday, February 26, 2007

A Light Supper

A few weeks ago, I made what is (for me) a rather healthy dinner. Having spent three weekends in a row away, I was sick of fast food and takeout, and I was craving something green. An indulgent trip to the grocery store resulted in the following meal:

heirloom tomato salad with garlic croutons
parmesan stuffed mushrooms
fresh-baked baguette with butter (Smart Balance)

The picture above does not do justice to the vibrant, fresh flavors of the juicy, sweet tomatoes, savory yet earthy mushrooms, and delightfully chewy bread. With tastes like this, who needs meat?? Maybe I should become vegetarian...

Disclaimer: TOTALLY kidding. I need meat. Badly.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Chinese New Year

Happy Year of the Pig! The Chinese new year officially began Sunday, February 18. I was in New York City over the weekend and met up with my mom to have dinner at an auntie's house in Brooklyn. The grandfather is apparently a very good cook so we were treated to an assortment of authentic Chinese dishes such as salt-baked chicken, stewed Chinese mushrooms with abalone, and roast pork with that salty, crispy skin. The latter was Tom's favorite as he is a lover of all things pig. They didn't have one of my favorite dishes though, so my mom made it during her visit here in D.C. this week. The following is a very sketchy description of how to make it. There are no exact measures as everything is "to taste".

Braised Pork with Taro

pork belly (with skin on if desired), cubed
Chinese cooking wine
five-spice powder
soy sauce
fish sauce
vegetable oil
taro, peeled and cubed
beef broth or water

Mix first five ingredients, adding a bit of cornstarch and oil to coat the pork. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan, then saute pork until browned on all sides. Add enough beef broth or water to cover the bottom of the pan, cover, and let simmer for 1.5 hours or until the pork is tender. Add cubed taro and simmer another half hour till taro is soft enough to stick a fork through. Add more broth/water as necessary. The sauce should thicken as the taro cooks until it becomes the consistency of a sticky gravy. Serve with rice!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Love Bites: Romance in Hawaii

Five Palms
Mana Kai Resort
2960 South Kihei Road
Maui, Hawaii

In honor of Valentine's Day and Well Fed on the Town's Love Bites event, I wanted to mention the most romantic dinner I've ever had. I've been on dates at many fancy restaurants, but they've all been fairly similar - white tablecloths, dim lighting, good wine, mood music, ingratiating waiters. The one that tops them all is the dinner Tom and I had at the Five Palms in Maui, with the sunset as a backdrop and some of Hawaii's tastiest dishes on the table, including the aptly named Ono fish ("ono" means delicious) and the best rack of lamb I've ever had, with a brilliantly purple side of mashed sweet potatos and a savory saute of shelled edamame with peanuts. While it was also one of the most expensive dinners I've had, it was worth every penny for the opportunity to eat sumptuous cuisine practically on the beach while watching the fiery orange sun descend behind the head of my dining partner, who is not so hard to look at either!