Saturday, March 19, 2011

St. Patrick and Cabbage

St. Patrick's Day is special - even if you're not Irish.  Growing up, corned beef was essential.  Yes, it was usually boiled to death, but it was still delicious.  Why the dish was limited to once a year, I will never figure out.  It feeds a crowd with the greatest of ease and always pleases.

This year following Michael Ruhlman's recipe and with the encouragement of the Charcutepalooza movement, I just finished corning my second brisket and am happy to report the recipe is not only incredibly easy but superlative to any supermarket pre-corned beef.  All you need is a week's forethought for the brining and you are home free.

But St. Pat's is not only about the corned beef.  Of course there is lovely skillet bread and clam pie but when you get right down to it, it's all about the cabbage for me.  I love cabbage.  Not my great aunt's cook it til the sulfur smell inhabits every corner of her Woodside apartment building.  Lovely pale green, crisp but not snappingly so, cabbage.  And a St. Patrick's Day meal to me means combining cabbage with the vegetable no Irish family could survive without - the potato.  Together they make the heaven known as Colcannon.

So follow Michael Ruhlman's recipe for corning the brisket.  When cooking the actual corned beef though, I recommend the following - and serve it with Colcannon and spinach.  No idea why spinach, just always had spinach on St. Patrick's day.  Maybe because it's green? And a green and white cookie for dessert couldn't hurt....

Corned Beef and Colcannon

For the Corned Beef

1 5lb. corned brisket (hopefully home-corned)
1 onion, quartered
2 carrots, cut into chunks
2 parsnips cut into chunks
3 sprigs rosemany
1 dried chile, I use chile d'arbol
stalks of a fennel bulb
2 tbsp. pickling spice - make Ruhlman's recipe and keep extra on hand
1 tbsp. fennel seed

For the Colcannon

4 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes
1/2 cabbage head, cut again in half
3 leeks, cleaned and slice lengthwise into quarters and then across in 1/4 inch slices
4 scallions, sliced cross-wise, white and clean green parts included
2 cups milk, half and half, cream in whatever proportions you can justify
1 stick butter, plus 1 tsp.
1 glug olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Place brisket in a pot large enough to allow it to lay flat. cover with water by 2 inches.  Add remaining ingredients, cover and place in the oven for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.  When a corner easily slices off - you're done.

2.   Remove pan from the oven, uncover and let cool in the brine for about 30 minutes.  Remove from the brine to a platter and let cool until colcannon is done.  Retain about a quart of cooking solution for moistening the sliced meat and for re-heating leftovers. 

3.  In a small skillet, saute the leeks in 1 tsp. butter and a parsimonious glug of olive oil until the leeks are translucent.  Add the scallions, stir for one minute.  Remove from heat and set aside.

4.  When you remove the meat from the oven, peel the potatoes and cover with salted cold water in a stock pot.  Add the two cabbage chunks.  Place over high heat for 20 minutes but keep an eye on it, you don't want to cook the cabbage to death.  Remove the two pieces of cabbage, they should still be firm and pale green and place on a cutting board.

5.  Continue cooking the potatoes until a knife easily slides through. Drain the potatoes and return to the stock pot.  Reduce heat to its lowest possible setting.  Sprinkle the potatoes with salt to taste.  Keep an eye on it so the potatoes don't scorch.  You want the liquid in the boiled potatoes to evaporate.

6.  Combine the milk mixture and butter in a heat-proof vessel and microwave for two minutes.  Stir and, if necessary, microwave for another two minutes.

7.  When cabbage is cool enough, cut each chunk lengthwise in half.  Then slice each piece cross-wise into 1/2 to 3/4 inch strips. Add the cabbage to the potatoes in the stockpot. Add the leeks to the cabbage/potato mixture and begin to mash drizzling in the milk and butter combination until the desired consistency is reached.  Add freshly ground pepper to taste.

8.  Thinly slice the corned beef against the grain and serve with just enough cooking liquid to moisten the sliced meat.  Horseradish sauce is excellent on the side.  If you are too lazy to make your own horseradish sauce, Boar's Head is acceptable but not optimal. Serve with the colcannon and spinach.  Sprinkle with parsley, yes, because it's green.

And for dessert....

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Little Now - a Lot Later

Mentioning that I have a crazy job is becoming a little bit of a theme here - but I do. Even with the crazy hours, I do still cook most nights – there is something satisfying and soothing about cooking dinner at the end of a long work day where nothing is ever finished. Cook a meal, finish a canning project – and there is the result. Even better, the "result" can often be the base for - or a great addition to - a future meal.

So I often look for meals that can be made at leisure on the weekend and recycled during the work week. Leftovers are great but it is a rare instance when the remaining food should be a duplicate of the prior meal - not when the opportunity exists to morph the remains into a whole new meal. 

This week, the wonderful people at Bobolink Dairy had a veal breast and veal leg roast available. The leg roast was a little too big for the two of us, even assuming leftovers. But the veal breast was perfect – for the two of us and at least two more meals to be named later with the help of the freezer. 

I don’t know why I never cooked veal breast until about ten years ago. It is delicious, comforting and amazingly cheap. Time is required but the only labor involved is peeling the icky connective tissue and bones off the cooked piece of meat. However, it takes way less than ten minutes to do and the labor is well worth it.

This meal is easiest cooked over two days, although you can do it in one if you get started early. So get started!

Veal Breast "Confit"

1 5lb. Veal Breast
2 cups Veal Stock (or a mix of chicken and beef stock)
1 2 cups white wine
4 shallots, peeled
1 head garlic, peeled and cloves separated
2 carrots, cut into chunks
1 parsnip, cut into chunks
1 small bunch fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 2 tsp. black peppercorns

1.  Preheat oven to 500E.

2.  Generously season veal breast with salt and pepper and place in a deep roasting pan.  You see I kind of squished into my Le Creuset braisier - it is better to let it lay flat.  Roast in oven for 20 minutes.

3.  Remove veal from oven and reduce temperature to 300E.  Add the broth, wine, shallots, garlic, carrots, parsnip, thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns.  Cover the pan with a lid or a double thickness of foil and return to the oven. Roast for 3 2 hours. 

4.  Remove meat from the oven and let cool slightly. Using two spatulas, place the meat on a baking sheet, moving it carefully since it may easily fall apart. 

5.  Strain the braising liquid and, when it is room temperature refrigerate it.

6.   While the veal is still warm, removes the bones, cartilage and connective tissue from the meat.  If shards of meat come off, don't worry.  Keep them to the side (or pop them in your mouth).

7.   Cut the veal breast in half (not lengthwise) so that you have two roughly rectangular pieces about the same size.  Place the shards of meat on top of the thicker piece and then place the other half on top.  Remove the stacked meat to a glass pie plate or other baking dish in which it fits.  Cover the meat and pie plate/baking dish with plastic wrap or foil and place a plate on top.  Place a heavy weight on top of the plate. Refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours.

8.   Remove the veal from the refrigerator and unwrap it.  Cut the meat into equal size square or rectangular shapes - usually six good sized pieces, about 2" square.  A serrated knife helps but is not necessary.  The veal is very rich so err on the size of small.  Keep two pieces out and rewrap the remaining pieces individually in plastic wrap and then put two pieces each in two quart size baggies.  Freeze for the future.  Pour about 1/2 of the braising liquid into a leak proof baggie and freeze.

9.   Back to tonight's dinner.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  In a cast iron skillet, add a knob of butter to the pan over medium high heat.  Quarter some cremini mushrooms and add to the skillet with 2 minced shallots.  Saute until the shallots are translucent.  Make a well in the center of the skillet and sear the two chunks of veal.  Flip the veal and place it in the oven for 15-20 minutes. 

10. Remove the skillet from the oven and plate the veal and mushrooms.  Add about 3/4 cup of the braising liquid to the skillet and bring to a simmer.  If the liquid is not thick, add a little butter. Ladle over the veal and mushrooms.

Serve the veal with mashed potatoes, maybe with a little marscapone thrown in, or polenta, or risotto and some green peas.  Also would be delicious serves over baby spinach or other greens.  It's almost spring - if asparagus are around, so much the better!  If you find you love this meal, it is not much more work to double the recipe which will give you an additional 6 meals for two in the freezer....

Leftovers:  With the two remaining meals in the freezer, you can treat them the same way.  Before leaving for work, remove 2 chunks of veal from the freezer and place them in the refrigerator.  Or maybe even better, turn the veal into a sauce for pasta.  Simply saute the mushrooms,  add the veal and braising liquid, break up the veal chunks, add 2 tsps. of minced fresh rosemary and serve over pasta (you can toss frozen peas into the cooking pasta about 2 minutes before it is done).  Pass grated Parmesan cheese.  The sauce is delicious so if you have the ability to spring for one of the delicate Cipriani pastas, this is the time to do it.  If there is not enough braising liquid, add 1/3 cup of vermouth (or white wine) and 2/3 cup of stock to the existing braising liquid and enrich the pasta sauce with a little knob of butter.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Remains of the Brining Charcutepalooza Day

I love the Charcutepalooza Challenge.  I was definitely late to the game but have caught up with my Duck Breast Prosciutto, awesome thinly sliced with Sweet and Sour Pickled Cherries (more on that when the sour cherries come in!), and the delicious corned beef that I brined and cooked way too soon for St. Patrick's Day.  We've had two homey dinners from it and a sandwich or two, but there was still a lovely slab that needed to be consumed.
I may have mentioned I was a little too enthusiastic grating beets from the garden for beet risotto the other night.  So this morning, when I opened the refrigerator and stared blankly at its contents, a plan started to form that would finish the corned beef, use up the beets and make a lovely colorful start to an otherwise gray day.  And I can actually look forward to brining another brisket for St. Pat's.....
Corned Beef Red Flannel Hash with Eggs
2 tbsps. butter
Glug of olive oil
1 large sweet onion, diced
4 Yukon Gold or similar potatoes, peeled and cubed, about 2 - 3 cups
2-3 cups corned beef cut in small cubes
2 cups grated beets, it's ok to include some stems while grating, use the grating disk of a food processor to make it easy
1 tsp. fennel seed
1/2 dried chile with seeds, I use Chile de arbols
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2.  Saute onion in olive oil and butter in a 12 inch (preferably) cast iron skillet over medium heat until translucent.  Add cubed potatoes and coat with the butter/oil.  Add fennel seeds and break up the 1/2 chile into tiny pieces over the mixture.
3.  Add the grated beets and cubed corned beef and stir well to incorporate.  Everything should just plain look pink, alright magenta.  Salt and pepper to taste.
4.  Place the skillet in the oven for 25 minutes.  Stir the contents to make sure things crisp up a little and roast for another 20 minutes.
5.  Make a well in the hash for each egg you want to cook.  Crack an egg into each well and return the skillet to the oven until the eggs are to the required doneness - about 5-6 minutes for runny eggs but keep an eye on it.
6.  Remove from the oven, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

March and Beets

It's March.  It is still freezing cold, but at least it's March.  And the ground has thawed a little giving up some carrots, parsnips and beets that I missed last year when the frost caught me by surprise as it does every year.  You can smell the dirt again though and that is a very good sign.  Time to make sure you have sugar snap pea seeds ready for direct sowing the weekend after St. Patrick's Day.  And kale and new beets. And to turn over the compost to amend the beds before planting.  But not today, it's too cold.

It is so exciting to have something fresh from the garden - well, partially naturally frozen but still fresh.  The thyme and rosemary was the last to go in early February.  And February has been a dreary month.
The carrots and parsnips went into some incredible Halibut in Cilantro Carrot Broth loosely based on Jerry Traunfeld's recipe in The Herbfarm Cookbook (a must for anyone who loves good food and grows lots of herbs).  I posted the recipe on food52.  Doesn't appear anyone likes it but me.  Try it though - it is a delicious fast meal.
Last night I was tired from a long week of work - but still starving.  Beets beckoned.  Beet risotto.  Beet Risotto with Humboldt Fog.  Yes, there is a tiny bit left from a cheese plate long ago.  Served with a duck confit leg from D'Artagnan that is the ultimate fast food. Just defrost and broil on both sides until crisp.
Preparing the beets with the grating disk of a food processor makes life easy.  I was a little over exuberant on the beet grating so I have a significant amount of leftover beet shavings but - I've got an idea, tune in tomorrow.
Beet Risotto with Humboldt Fog
3 tbsps. butter
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large leek, white and light green part only, cleaned, quartered lengthwise and sliced thin
1/2 fennel bulb, diced
1 tsp. fennel seeds
4 beets, peeled and grated
1 parsnip, peeled and grated
1 orange, zested and juiced
1 1/2 cup Arborio rice
1 cup white wine
4 cups of hot vegetable or turkey stock (if I'm out of home-made, I use R.L. Schreiber liquid bases and find them acceptable)
Some crumbled cheese - preferably Humboldt Fog
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1.  Melt the butter with the olive oil in a medium size Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the leeks and fennel and sauté until translucent but don't brown them.  Add the fennel seeds and stir for 2 minutes.
2.  Stir the grated beets and parsnip into the leek fennel mixture and sauté for 1 minute.  Add the Arborio rice and coat with the mixture.  Continue to stir the rice until the edges become translucent.  Add the wine and orange zest and bring to a light boil.
3.  Continue stirring the risotto.  When the wine evaporates, add a cup of the broth and stir.  Mix the orange juice with the remaining broth.  Continue adding a ladleful of liquid as the broth evaporates, stirring to prevent sticking.  If the risotto is still hard when the broth is done, add an additional half cup of water. When the risotto is al dente, ladle into shallow bowls and top with the crumble cheese and parsley.
Leftover tip:  If there is leftover risotto, mix a beaten egg into the risotto and shape into patties.  Brown in a little butter and olive oil and serve as a side dish.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Griswold Cast Iron Skillet and Osso Buco with Lemons and Olives

When I was in high school, my parents bought a beautiful lodge in West Wardsboro, Vermont – the Green Mountain House – these days it would have been called a rustic bed and breakfast, then it was more like a skiing dormitory.  My dad purchased it with two friends sometime around 1970 but eventually bought them out when their visions inevitably clashed.  There was one thing I loved about the Green Mountain House (besides the barn and adjacent stream, Grout Pond and Fat City) – the 12 inch cast Iron skillet that came with the purchase of the house and which I stole – that plus my lovely Stickley hutch and armloads of old books which, ditto.
As it turned out, stealing from GMH was a good move.  Ending an era, it burned down in May 1979.  But most of the relics we lifted under our parents’ less than watchful gaze, live on.  Sadly, not my 12” skillet which one of my sisters stole  when I moved home in the winter months before my first marriage.
But by then I was convinced shiny Revere ware was the future - not from my mom but from my eccentric ex-mother in law - and I did not protest too much.  It did not take long before Revere ware disappointed and my fascination with the electric wok waned – actually less time than the very abbreviated first marriage.  Right after my divorce and long before I could afford it, I splurged for a Calphalon set after carefully researching the most economical package available – Bloomingdale’s, would you believe it?  I loved my Calphalons. They were not pretty after multiple uses but the 7 quart sauté pan was my go to dream pan for years and I still use the 8 quart stock pot almost daily 20 years later.
Yet cast iron beckoned.  When I learned about the magic of eBay, the first search I undertook was to look for a reasonable facsimile of my lost love – and I found her.  A Griswold 12” cast iron skillet with the extra bonus of a self-basting lid.  It needed work but the internet is a great teacher and, with use, I had a shiny black skillet (and lid) that was as non-stick as Teflon without the sensitive and potentially deadly chemical coating.  It took practice to keep it shiny but not much. A swish of water, dry it and – the secret – spray the tiniest bit of canola oil (Pam or equivalent) and rub it into the skillet with a paper towel.  In the event you do something outrageous causing a sticky burnt-on mess or the skillet is excessively greasy, a shake or two of baking soda will cut right through – rub in a little extra oil afterwards. Or if you were really murderous and left your baby in a sink of water overnight causing copious rust – again, there was still a remedy (pay attention only to the self-cleaning oven method0.
Now, everyone will tell you not to use your cast iron pan for acidic dishes containing tomatoes or lemons.  But if your pan is properly seasoned, a sauce even liberally laced with tomatoes or lemon is not an issue.  Furthermore, most braises start with an awesome sear and there is nothing like cast iron for creating the perfect brown crust.  And the shallow wide skillet is just the right size for the optimal slow braise.
So against all conventional wisdom – here is my favorite unconventional cast iron skillet recipe, Osso Buco with Lemons and Olives . . . (proudly an Editor's Pick at
I will never, ever, pretend to you that Osso Buco is practical for a run of the mill dinner.  Veal shank is very expensive.  But it is a vitually fool-proof great meal and if you shell out the $30 or so for four shanks a couple of times a year (two for dinner, two for awesome weeknight leftovers that totally rock), well – it’s explainable at least.
Now go get yourself a real skillet.

Osso Buco with Lemons and Olives
Serves 44 veal shanks, about 2 inches thick
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green part, rinsed and sliced into half moons
4 good-sized cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
2 lemons, zested and then juiced, preferably Meyer lemons
16-20 large green Sicilian olives, pitted unless you trust your eaters and warn them about pits. If you can't find the large green ones (I think they are called Cerignolas), try with Kalamatas which are easy to find
1 teaspoon rosemary, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
3 cups veal or chicken stock (if I don't have homemade on hand, I use a veal base from R. L. Schreiber which I think is good for cooking and keeps forever)
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Place flour on a plate and season with salt and pepper. Dust veal shanks with the seasoned flour.
3.  Add olive oil to a flameproof baking dish with a lid and heat over high heat until almost smoking.
4.  Add the shanks and brown well on all sides. Do not be a scaredy cat - brown well.
5.  Reduce the heat and add the leeks and garlic. Saute for about 2 minutes. Add the white wine and boil about four minutes. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, olives and enough stock so that the veal shanks are almost covered.
6.  Cover pot with lid and bake for 30 minutes. Add rosemary, return to oven covered and bake for an additional hour until veal is tender.
Serve with lemon and leek risotto, maybe with some artichoke hearts - frozen are ok. 
Leftover tip:  Warm leftover osso buco and risotto in a covered casserole at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Seafood-a-Palooza - Happy President's Day!

After yesterday’s awesome pork-fest, today I was feeling virtuous (read decadent) and took another ride to Cor-J Seafood in Hampton Bays. Bless Mondays off.  Like every other time I have set foot in this beyond compare seafood market, I over indulged. Yet the thing about pristine seafood is – you have to eat it now. And this is how my President’s Day Seafood Marathon was conceived.

So let the games begin. This has been a year for local bay scallops that I will never forget and I pray will continue forever. It is February and still they are available – for a price to be sure – but available. To my mind it is tragic to cook these beauties. Remove the muscle from one-half pound of local bay scallops (yes, it’s worth it). Slice each scallop in thirds and divide into two piles on two plates. If you pop every fifth scallop into the slicer’s mouth, this is not a chore. Being a nut, I have lovely Meyer lemons growing on my porch. Pick one. Halve the lemon and squeeze an equal amount over each pile of scallops. Drizzle olive oil over scallops. Now here is the time to brag. My sister, Dolores, and her family gave us the ultimate Christmas gift this year – olive oil from our own olive tree in Tuscany for a year – and this is the occasion to break it out. Thank you, Dolores! A couple of grinds of salt and pepper over the scallops (I use my incomparable saffron fennel salt and lavender fennel pepper but ordinary is more than fine). Here is the odd ingredient – halve a head of Romaine lettuce (or a mix of Romaine and Treviso) and slice horizontally. Pile the sliced Romaine and Treviso next to the scallops. The crispness of the lettuce makes this. If you have chervil growing on your window sill, pick a few leaves and scatter on the scallops. Eat, dragging the scallops, lemon juice and olive oil into the lettuce. Mmmmmmm. Seriously.

Okay, watched the original The Producers devouring scallops and ginger martinis – there is nothing like it (the Producers, that is, although the ginger martinis were pretty awesome –"No way out. No way out.") Time to prepare future courses. 

How could I have resisted the Maine shrimp? I know, they are tiny. A pain to shell. But the sweet meat, raw, lightly cooked, always wonderful. So today a little ceviche. Shell the shrimp. Don’t be a crybaby, every tenth shrimp you can pop in your mouth with a little salt and lemon squirt or lime zest and olive oil. Now the "ceviche" mix here is going to be used for two courses here: did I mention the oysters? Take the zest off one grapefruit – you are not going to need it all but stick some in vodka for a future beverage course.

Section the meat and juice of an awesome grapefruit into a bowl. Don’t worry about the amount unless it is a desiccated old grapefruit in which case don’t use it. Squeeze all the juice out into the bowl. Sliver the leaves from two sprigs of mint, about 20 leaves (you know you can grow mint inside during the winter? Just take the roots from some new growth in late fall and bring inside in a pot. Use often to keep leaves from mildew). Add 1 teaspoon pink peppercorns; a few grinds of salt (or need I say again the saffron fennel salt); ½ diced fennel bulb; 1 diced small shallot; ¼ good sized jalapeno, minced; ¼ orange pepper, minced; ¼ red pepper, minced; 3 tablespoons lovely green olive oil (thank you again, D). Halve the mixture and put half aside for the oysters. Mix remaining mixture with ½ pound of shelled shrimp, plus add a handful of minced cilantro. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, spoon the remaining mixture judiciously over two dozen shucked oysters, top with wasabi fish roe (again from Cor-J), squirt with additional Meyer Lemon juice. Slurp! Wow, the Vinho Verde is excellent with this. Just so you know, I am an oyster purist but sometimes you just have to play with it.

Okay, I am seriously going into decadentville here: Jonah crab claws with honey mustard scallion sauce. Cook crab claws for 15 minutes in salted water. Jonah crabs are similar to Florida Stone crabs but way cheaper if they are available. Luck was with me today! Cool the claws in the little bit of snow left. Immediately. When cool, crack with a hammer – no way around this step. Mix mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and honey in proportions that please you and sprinkle scallions throughout. Pick out meat and eat!

Watch another movie – I chose Summertime with Katherine Hepburn. No doubt about it - I would have stayed in Venice and ruined everything. Nevahtheless. Now it is time to pull those Maine Shrimp out of the fridge and serve as is, over slivered endive. If you have any leftover wasabi fish roe, now is the time to finish it  - and put a spoonful of the honey mustard mayo sauce on the side and drag it on into the juices.

By now one should be slumped on the couch. However, once Summertime is over, it’s Razor Clam Time. Never had them before. I have always seen the shells on the beach but never intact. So imagine my surprise when they were on sale at Cor-J the same week that Florence Fabricant at the New York Times wrote about them. I picked the Sweet and Spicy Razor Clam recipe from Mary’s Fish Camp. In truth, I was not crazy about the texture of the razor clam meat - may take some getting used to - but I could envision the sauce thinned with a little coconut milk and seafood stock having a future over a pound of mussels.

What a wonderful night – total bill at Cor-J for tonight’s extravaganza - $70. In the interests of full disclosure I also bought a piece of halibut to poach in carrot juice but that must await a weeknight. And there are still leftover bay scallops and shrimp for manana - thinking a prelude to Osso Buco with Lemons and Olives. Add the cost of my ginger martini and a bottle of Vinho Verde and its still not even $100 for a dinner I could never duplicate – even at my favorite restaurants. At least for that amount of money. Happy President’s Day!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Charcutepalooza and Whey Fed Pork

Have I mentioned I have a crazy job? I do – but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Yet when I finally caught my breath this morning after a week of deadlines and travel and began to catch up on reading at one of my favorite sites, Food 52, I learned about Charcutepalooza, an incredible project conceived by bloggers Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen and The Yummy Mummy, based upon meat preserving techniques contained in Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing Michael Ruhlman, Brian Polcyn and Thomas Keller. And I learned I’m two months late! Having missed the Duck Prosciutto and Pancetta/Bacon challenges, I’m running out today to pick up a brisket. St. Patty’s Day, here I come. I’ll keep you posted on my effort. 

I had a winter-long love affair with this book four years ago which led to my devouring everything Michael Ruhlman has ever written. I would so have loved to have the resource of Charcutepalooza to vent about my many failures and to gloat about the success that to this day have ruined me for store bought pancetta and guanciale. Congratulations for thinking of such a perfect project – I’m so looking forward to seeing how everyone fares. 

But what to do tonight? Last week, Nina White at Bobolink Dairy was kind enough to ship one of their whey fed pork shoulder roasts and a fresh ham. Although to me Bobolink’s veal shoulder roasts are amazing – they are almost impossible to get this time of year (but spring is coming). Fortunately, their whey fed pork is beyond wonderful as well. Fresh ham into the freezer – pork shoulder, you are tonight’s centerpiece. 

Pork shoulder (also known as pork butt, go figure) can be cooked in so many delicious ways. With the wind whipping today, I’m going comfort food all the whey (get it?) – Maiale al Latte, pork braised in milk. Now, I know this sounds out there if you have never tried it before but it is more than delicious. Although Bobolink’s pork shoulder often comes with the skin on – this particular one did not so it’s perfect for this dish. Had the skin been there, I would have been forced to cook something else. No way could I cook a pork recipe that started with the instruction to remove the skin! 

And by the way – Food 52 – thanks for the Editor’s Pick on what is one of my favorite osso buco recipes Osso Buco with Lemons and Olives! Your site is an amazing resource.

Maiale al Latte
Serves 2 with tons of leftovers

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher or sea salt and pepper for seasoning meat
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 (4 1/2- to 5-pound) boneless pork shoulder roast (without skin), tied or not
3 juniper berries, crushed (if you don’t have them, don’t obsess – skip it and pick up a jar next time you are in the market)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chucks
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
2 stalks of celery, peeled and cut into chunks
1 leek, white and light green part only, cleaned and cut into chunks
Peel of one lemon, preferably a Meyer lemon (but, again, don’t obsess) removed with a vegetable peeler,
   taking care not to include the white pith
2 large rosemary sprigs (dried from last summer is fine)
2 large sage sprigs (same)
1 sprig fresh or 4 dried California bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup dry white wine you would be happy to drink
3 cups whole milk (or if you are not the kind of family with milk in the fridge, 2 cups half & half and 1 cup water)
1.  Preheat oven to 325°F with rack in middle.
2.  Heat oil in a 6-quart ovenproof heavy pot over medium heat until it shimmers – I use a Le Creuset dutch oven and it’s perfect.
3.  Season pork roast with salt, pepper and fennel seeds.
4.  Brown roast on all sides with juniper berries, 8 to 10 minutes total. Remove roast – there should be a little fat/oil left in the pot. If not add a little more olive oil and heat to shimmering.
5.  Add garlic, herb sprigs, carrots, parsnips, celery and leeks and sauté until lightly browned – about 5 minutes. Return roast and accumulated juices to the pot.
6.  Pour wine over roast and simmer until reduced by half. Pour milk over roast.
7.  Cover pot and braise in oven, turning roast occasionally, until tender (milk may form curds), about 2 1/2 hours.
8.  Remove the roast and place on a platter. Tent with foil.
9.  Strain the cooking sauce through a sieve pressing down on any curds that formed. Discard solids. Return juices to the pot (skim off any fat or use one of those fat separating measuring cups). Boil sauce until reduced to about 2 cups.
10. Slice the roast and serve with the sauce.
Serve with soft polenta. Broccoli rabe sautéed in olive oil with garlic and chile de arbol contrasts nicely with the rich sauce.

Leftover weeknight tip: If you have leftover sauce and meat, sauté a leek, some carrots, parsnips, whatever, in a little olive oil with garlic. Add leftover sauce, 2 quarts of chicken stock (homemade is best – or Easter Broth from Marco Canora’s awesome book Salt to Taste known in my house as Freezer Emptying Stock), juice from a Meyer lemon and simmer for thirty minutes. Cube leftover meat and add. If substantial is what you are looking for, add a handful of cooked egg noodles and heat through, but it's not necessary.  Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with a baguette for sopping up good soup.