food pairings

Saturday night eat-in: Pernil asado or roast pork with spicy saffron rice

Comfort food for the homesick NYer

Since we've moved to North Carolina, I've been craving Latin food.

There's a large Hispanic community here, but (despite the welcome sight of a Taco Truck) I've yet to find cocina casero like you find on every street corner in NYC.

When you're handed a big bag of lemons, you start making lemonade. 

So, this week's recipe for Saturday night eat-in is a quick and dirty version of pernil asado. Click here to see video instructions for another version.

Pair this meal with a youthful and fresh Portuguese Vinho Verde.

Leftovers can be used to make super delicious Cubanos, meaty and magnificent heroes made with roast pork, ham, swiss cheese and dill pickles on Cuban rolls.

Mighty good eating, I say.




Yummy pork deliciousness

* 2 teaspoons ground cumin

 * 4 cloves garlic, chopped

* 1 teaspoon salt

* 1 teaspoon dried oregano

* 1/2 cup orange juice

* 1/2 cup dry sherry

* whole fresh lime, juiced

* zest of  fresh lime

* 1 tbs cilantro, chopped

4 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed and tied


Mix all marinade ingredients in a glass or non-reactive metal mixing  bowl. Place the pork in a large resealable plastic bag and then pour citrus marinade over meat, and seal.

Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, turning the bag over occasionally to thoroughly marinate the pork roast.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Transfer pork and marinade to a roasting pan, and place in the oven.  Roast uncovered for half an hour, then cover and continue to oast for about an hour and 45 minutes, basting with pan juices occasionally, or until an instant read thermometer inserted in the center reads 145 degrees F (63 degrees C).

Add small amounts of water to the pan if it dries out.

Roast uncovered to crisp the pork roast, then transfer the pork to a carving board, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for 15 minutes before carving.

For quick and easy sides, serve with Mahatma spicy saffron rice and seasoned pinto beans.

Serves 8-10.

It's sauce season: ragu di carne

A big pot of simmering sauce

If the temperature dips even slightly below 70 at night, Iam ready to rattle my pots and pans to make hearty meat sauces and soups. It's not that I don't make sauces and soups in the warmer months, it's simply that there is something idyllic for me about simmering a large pot of sauce or soup on a long, cool afternoon or evenig.

Yesterday I made a ragu di carne in the Bolognese tradition. This meat sauce originates in the Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy. It is both familiar and comforting, and can be served with pasta - fresh or dry - as well as polenta and gnocchi. 

Variations of this sauce may be made with prosciutto, porcini or chicken livers.

Ragu di carneKey ingredients

3 oz pancetta

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1 stalk celery

1 small carrot

1 small onion

l/2 lb. ground beef

1/2 lb ground pork

1 tbs Italian seasoning mix (I bought mine in the Campo dei Fiori, but you can find yours at any well-stocked grocer or make your own.)

1/4 teas red pepper flakes

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 cup broth

1/2 oz butter

1 tbs tomato paste

1 32-ounce can crushed tomatoes (or 4-6 large peeled & seeded tomatoes)



Prepare a battuto (finely chopped herb mixture traditionally using a mezzaluna) with pancetta, celery, carrot and onion. Melt butter in a saucepan, add the battuto and the ground meats, brown well, then add the wine and half the broth as well as the Italian seasoning mix and red pepper flakes.

Continue to cook until the liquids are reduced, then add the remaining broth. Reduce again, then add the crushed tomatoes or peeled and seeded tomatoes as well as the tomato paste, and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

Cover saucepan and let cook over a medium heat for at least 2 hours. Add the cream, and correct salt and pepper to taste. The sauce is ready to serve over fresh or stuffed pasta.

Beer, beer, beer!  It makes me want to cheer!

Apparently, the Pilgrims felt the same way.

According to Mayflower's log, the ship might not have landed at Plymouth Rock if there ahd been plenty of beer on hand. 

Party on Pilgrims!  We have beer to thank for the birth of the colonies and ultimately the birth of beer-drinking nation, right. 

The popularity of brew has hardly waned. At the 2008 Great American Beer Festival in Denver, CO, more than 1,900 different beers from 400 U.S. breweries were featured.  That's a whole lot of brew.

With so many varieties available,  Americans are pairing beers with more foods and desserts then ever before. Doug Miller of the Culinary Institute offers some handy guidelines for pairing beer and food - and it's a lot more sophisticated than a frank and a brew.

 "When pairing food and beer, the first thing you want to think about is what types of beer you like and what kinds of foods would taste good with them," says Miller. "There are some basic rules that apply when it comes to pairings. One is you don't want the beer to outshine the food or the food to outshine the beer. Ideally both should harmoniously elevate each other."

Ales and lagers are the two primary beer types and each comprises many different styles of beers.

Beers that are crisp and refreshing, such as pilsners, light ales, and wheat beers, pair well with pizza, pasta, grilled chicken, and grilled fish. A hoppier beer such as an Indian Pale Ale is delicious with spicy cuisines such as Cajun, Mexican, and Thai food.

Belgium farmhouse-style ales that are slightly fruity and light have become popular in the U.S. Whether produced here or imported, they complement duck, pork chops, roasted chicken, turkey, and sausage.

Serve full-bodied stouts that have burnt malt flavors at clambakes, with oysters, shell fish, and crab boil. Stouts can also be a great beverage for desserts. An oatmeal or chocolate stout can be very tasty with oatmeal cookies or chocolate ice cream.

Pair heavier dishes like BBQ or smoked meats with dark brown Porter's smoky roasted flavor. You can even add some to your favorite barbeque sauce.

Miller reminds us that these are only some suggestions and encourages you to experiment with your own pairings, as long as you responsibly enjoy what you drink.