Pork and Fennel Ragout

pork and fennel

Photo Credit: Antonis Achilleos, 2017.

 

The sweetness of fennel and caramelized shallots pairs perfectly with shredded pork. This comforting dish is perfect for a cold night.

 

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Three 1-inch-thick boneless pork loin chops (1 pound total), trimmed and sliced into 1/4-inch-wide strips

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup sliced shallots
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cups red or white wine

Directions:
Grind the fennel seeds with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a spice grinder or chop with a knife. Transfer to a medium bowl; mix with the lemon juice and pork. Add the flour and toss to coat. In another bowl, mix the lemon zest with 2 tablespoons parsley.

Heat a deep skillet or pot over high heat and add the olive oil. Brown the pork in batches, 1 minute per side; transfer to a plate. Add the shallots, fennel bulb, the remaining 3 tablespoons parsley, and salt to taste to the skillet. Reduce the heat and cook until the vegetables are wilted, 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, 3 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, wine and 1/2 cup water; scrape up any browned bits. Cover and simmer over low heat until the fennel is tender, 12 minutes. Add the pork and heat through, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and top with the lemon zest-parsley mixture.

 

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Champagne Jellies

champagne jellies

Photo Credit: Giant Foods, 2018.

 

For a festive touch, try these champagne jellies, and serve these gummy-like champagne treats during your New Year’s Eve party. Your guests can eat them on their own or try dropping them into a glass of wine for a fun treat.

Serves 8

Ingredients:
6 tablespoons unflavored powdered gelatin
3 cups pink champagne or sparkling apple cider
½ cup granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon edible gold glitter

Directions:
Sprinkle the gelatin into ½ cup water and let stand 5 minutes. In a medium pot, combine the champagne and sugar and heat to a simmer on medium-high. Add the gelatin mixture and whisk until fully dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Line a 9×13-inch baking dish with parchment paper. Pour the champagne mixture into the dish and refrigerate 30 minutes or  until chilled but not set. Sprinkle glitter over the mixture. Return to the refrigerator and chill another 30 minutes, until fully set.

Using a sharp knife, cut the jelly into mini squares. Place on a platter and serve with decorative toothpicks.

Cook’s Notes:
Each gelatin packet equals 1 tablespoon.

For a more polished look, use star-shaped cookie cutter to cut the jelly with crisp clean edges.


Sausage and Clams With Polenta

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Serves 4
Ingredients:

For the  polenta, See the following recipe
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 bunch broccoli rabe, florets chopped, or 1/2 head escarole, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 pound sweet Italian sausages, cut into chunks
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup dry white wine
16 littleneck clams, scrubbed
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions:
Prepare the polenta and keep warm, until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and broccoli rabe, season with salt and pepper and cook until the broccoli rabe is slightly tender, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the sausage to the pot and cook until just brown, breaking it up with a spoon, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil and cook 3 minutes.

Add the clams; cover and cook over medium-high heat until the clams open, 5 to 7 minutes (discard any that do not open). Return the broccoli rabe to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Divide the polenta among bowls and top with the sausage-clam mixture and cooking liquid. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

 

Creamy Polenta

 Serves 6

 Ingredients:
5 cups water, milk, or chicken or vegetables stock (See Cook’s Notes)
1 cup medium or coarse yellow cornmeal (See Cook’s Notes)
Kosher salt, to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil

 

Directions:
Pre-soak the  cornmeal, which requires advance planning but cuts cooking time roughly in half, combine water with cornmeal in a large mixing bowl and let stand, covered, at room temperature overnight. When ready to cook, scrape soaked cornmeal and water into a large saucier or saucepan and set over high heat.

Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Let boil, stirring frequently, until polenta thickens enough that it starts to  sputter or “spit”. Lower heat immediately to prevent spitting and continue to cook, stirring frequently with a spoon or silicone spatula and scraping bottom to prevent scorching, until polenta becomes thick and pulls away from side of saucepan, for  about 30 minutes. Taste and season with salt.

Stir in butter or olive oil using either a spoon, silicon spatula, or whisk. If the polenta forms lumps, beat vigorously with a stiff whisk to remove the lumps. If polenta becomes too firm or begins to set, add a small amount of water, stock, or milk, and beat in with a whisk until fully incorporate and no lumps remain.

Serve right away with accompaniment of your choice, or scrape into a vessel and chill until set, then cut into pieces for grilling, searing, or frying.

Cook’s Notes:
Any medium or coarse cornmeal will work here, whether the package says “polenta” or not; avoid instant polenta, which promises a quick cooking time in exchange for sub-par flavor and texture.

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