Apple Cinnamon Roasted Pork Shoulder with Sweet Seasonal Vegetables and Fruit

As promised, a carnivore's holiday dream-sweet and juicy meat, falling off the bone. Served with sweet, flavor-infused seasonal veggies and fruit, which you'll roast in the same pan. Generally, calculate ~40 minutes per pound of meat when cooking at 350F. However, when cooking at a lower temperature, remember to increase the cooking time (serves 4):
4.5 lb pork shoulder
2 t olive oil
1 large onion-minced
6 medium carrots-cut into 2 inch lozenges
4 medium sweet potatoes-medium dice
2 Granny Smith apples-each cut into 8 wedges
1 Anjou pear-cut into 8 wedges
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup fresh thyme-minced
2 cloves garlic-minced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup Grand Marnier
salt-to taste
pepper-to taste
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
1. Trim any excess fat from the pork (you may leave as much or as little fat as you'd like; it adds a whole lot of flavor!); score the skin with your knife (by making a criss-cross pattern).
2. On med-high heat, heat oil in a roasting pan; season pork, generously, with salt and pepper and brown on every side; once nicely browned, remove and set aside.
3. Turn the heat down to medium and add onions, carrots, sweet potatoes, apples, pears, and cinnamon stick to the pan and coat in the fat; cook for 2 minutes; add thyme, garlic, and cranberries and season with salt and pepper.
4. Add Grand Marnier to the pan and bring to a boil.
5. Put the pork back into the pan, cover, and place into a 325F oven; cook for approximately 4.5 hours-turning the pork ~2-3 times (uncover for the last 25 minutes of cooking); oven temperatures vary-be sure the meat is extremely tender; the internal temperature should be 160F.
6. Allow the meat to rest 12-14 minutes before cutting. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with the fruit and veggies-which will absorb the flavor of the meat and be extremely aromatic.


Holiday Matzos Cheese Pie

In an acknowledgment of the current holidays, enjoy a matzos cheese pie. Eliminate the cheese for kosher sake (however, it's super delicious with it)! Don't worry, Easter carnivores, something for you is forthcoming (serves 4):

6 matzos squares
3 cups boiling water 
2 eggs-separated
1.5 t paprika
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t garlic powder
1 t dried oregano 
1 T butter (or cooking spray)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup shredded Gruyere
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
Optional: 1/2 cup tomato sauce
 Optional: sour cream, apple sauce, honey, cranberry sauce, tomato dipping sauce, spicy salsa or chutney.
1. In a large bowl, break up matzos into 2 to 3 inch squares.
2. Pour boiling water over matzos; once soft, strain excess water.
3. In a separate bowl beat egg yolks; add paprika, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne, garlic powder, and oregano.
4. Whip egg whites to very soft peaks.
5. Pour egg yolk mixture over matzos; fold in egg whites (do not over mix).
6. Butter (or spray) a baking dish and place half of the matzos inside.
7. Spread ricotta (and tomato sauce, if using) on top and sprinkle with Gruyere and Parmesan.
8. Please the other half of the matzos on top of the cheese and pat down.
9. Bake in a 375F oven for 12-15 minutes, or until cooked through and the top is golden.
10. Serve warm with optional ingredients.


Six Pizzas, One Night

With pizza cravings emerging faster than current foreclosures, I decided to test a new dough recipe by Cat Cora. This recipe makes six, ~8 inch pizza pies. Feel free to freeze any extra dough…I didn’t face that problem, as all six pizzas were consumed in one evening…by two of us…don’t judge:

1 1/8 t dry yeast
 1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup room temperature water
2 T olive oil
2 cups AP flour
1.5 t salt
1/2 lb eggplant-sliced into 1/8 inch slices
1/4 cup olive oil
oregano-to taste
cayenne pepper-to taste
paprika-to taste
3 T olive oil 
1 red onion-thinly sliced
8 oz mushrooms-sliced
2 t sherry vinegar
3 cups fresh spinach-washed
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella cheese
salt-to taste
pepper-to taste
1. Dissolve yeast in warm water for 10-15 minutes (in the warmest part of the kitchen). Add room temperature water and 1 T olive oil and mix. In a bowl, combine flour and salt. Add wet ingredients into the dry and form a dough. Kneed 5-8 minutes, on a floured surface or in a stand mixer. Form the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise for 1 hour, in the warmest part of the kitchen (until doubled in size)
2. While the dough is rising, place eggplant slices on a sheet tray and brush liberally with olive oil. Season well with oregano, cayenne, paprika, salt, and pepper. Roast in a 375F oven until tender through (~50 minutes). Remove from oven and reserve.
3. Heat 3 T olive oil in a skillet, on med-low heat. Add onions and season with salt (this will release their moisture). Cook on low heat for 15-20 minutes, until the onions are nicely caramelized and sweet. Remove and reserve.
4.  Heat 2 T olive oil in a skillet on med-high heat. Add mushrooms and toss to coat in oil. Continue tossing until golden brown and all the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and turn off heat. Add sherry vinegar to the pan and toss once more. Remove from pan and reserve.
5.  Remove the dough from the bowl and separate into 6 balls. Roll out each dough ball to ~8-9 inches. Place rolled out dough onto rack-lined sheet pans and brush lightly with with olive oil. 
6. This is where you can get creative-mix and match toppings (tomato sauce, roasted eggplant, caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, fresh spinach, and cheeses) and bake pizzas 10-12 minutes in a 375F oven.


Sausages are Fun

One wouldn't think that a simple homemade sausage or hot dog might be an embarkation on a linked journey like no other...that one would think wrong. During a recent stroll down sausage/hot dog lane, I discovered how consuming the tender cylinders really are. 

The process, consisting of meticulous levels of measurement, is similar to tempering chocolate (a bit of Godiva with your dog?) After a lengthy butchering session of removing all tendons and silver skin from the meat, eliminating the skin from the fat back, and cutting both into small dice, you might have had your share of carnivorous activity for the evening...but wait, the fun has just begun. 

The meat and fat are cured, seasoned, and chilled until almost frozen (a close approximation between 28F-30F). If you are lucky enough to have invested in a Kitchen Aid, you might have the meat grinder attachment-for which you are a fortunate soul. Otherwise, you'll be hand cranking the meat and fat while working on your Popeye arms. Once your workout is complete, depending on your sausage, you're either re-tempering your meat (by adding fat until the temperature reaches 40F) or re-grinding once more, through a finer blade. Once the concoction reaches 45F, you're safe to add non-fat dry milk, any additional seasonings or garnishes (such as dried fruit, nuts, or cheeses), and you're ready for encasing. Did I mention part II of the workout? 

The casing devise (cleverly branded here) consists of a cylinder, which houses the ground meat, and a tube, onto which you'll be strapping on your animal intestine (or synthetic) casing. With a swift grind of the handle (which pushes a plate into the cylinder), your meat emerges from the opposite end, filling the casing similar to...a skin-tight glove (many metaphors came to mind while planning my explanation of the process, the aforementioned was my most non-controversial). 

Once you've fully stuffed the casing with the meat ("That's what she said," Michael Scott), you must proceed to twist the links to a desired size, making individual, fare-skinned, 4-6 inchers (the entire process lends to a high school teenager’s humor heaven). 

You can now breathe a sigh of relief, as you’ve almost reached the fruitful reward you’ve been yearning for.  Once you’ve made a taste test (by blanching a pinch of the mix and adjusting the seasoning), you’re ready to boil the sausages to an internal temperature of 145F-165F, depending on the contents. Now simply grill, broil, pan fry, bake, or smoke your labor and invite some friends over for a sausage festival. Indulge…you deserve it!


Quick Fluffy Apple Cinnamon Blinchiki

Enjoy these culturally inspired, quick, and fluffy pancake alternatives for breakfast or an afternoon snack. Try substituting Green Anjou, Seckel, or Asian pears for the apples and buckwheat flour for the wheat flour (serves 2):
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup AP flour
2 T brown sugar
1/4 t baking powder
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 cup + 1 T Granny Smith apples-shredded
1/2 cup milk
1 egg-separated
1/4 t vanilla extract
cooking spray or butter
1. Mix flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
2. Mix apples, milk, egg yolk, and vanilla.
3. Add wet ingredients to the dry and mix well (batter should be smooth).
4. Beat egg white to medium peaks and gently fold into the batter.
5. Heat skillet and spray with cooking spray (or melt butter) and ladle in the batter; cook 1-2 minutes on each side, until cooked through.
6. Serve warm with sliced apples (sprinkled with lemon juice to prevent oxidation) and organic vanilla yogurt.


Review: Tutt Cafe

Brooklyn Heights is one of many charming neighborhoods which is pleasant to stroll through on a lightly cool March evening. With its historic, high-sealing-brick row homes, sporadically scattered bars, and quaint cafes, it's a calmly romantic excursion.

Tutt Cafe is nestled on a quiet street between the gorgeous, extravagantly mortgaged apartments. As we walk in we're a bit hesitant due to the initial, Chinese take-out atmosphere (aka non-atmosphere). With a flashy green awning, empty dining room with few tables (half of which were nude, while the others sported a double layer of cloth), random Christmas lights throughout, a soda fridge, and explicitly cheesy menu item photos, our initial reaction was plan B...which, due to its non-existent nature, left us with the opportunity to sit wherever we pleased.

The pleasant waiter/phone attendant/cashier/expediter/host rushed to our table with two menus and asked us if we might be interested in...


Dijon Encrusted Mustard Lamb Chops Au Jus with Rutabaga Puree and Braised Mustard Greens

Serves 4:
Mustard Greens:

1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups onion-julienned
2 cups Granny Smith apples-pealed, cored, sliced into batonettes
3 cloves garlic-minced
2 t Grey Poupon Country Dijon Mustard
8 packed cups mustard greens-trimmed of stems, roughly chopped
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves-minced
salt-to taste
pepper-to taste

1. Heat olive oil in a large pan.