Double Cut Pork Chops Smothered in Chipotle Mushroom Sauce

For my husband and I, the sight of double cut pork chops smothered in mushroom sauce always brings a smile to our faces. This month will mark our sixth wedding anniversary, and in November, we’ll have made 11 years together. Eons ago, when John and I had first begun to date, we tried hard to surprise one another with thoughtful gifts and memorable eating experiences. One Valentine’s Day, we drove down to SoHo for dinner. I had scoured the internet for a great Cuban restaurant in New York City and my research led me to Cafe Habana. Not only were the reviews promising, but upon further reading, I learned Cafe Habana was a fusion of Cuban and Mexican cuisine. This little fact caught my attention immediately. John is Mexican and I’m half Cuban. I took it as a sign that we were meant to eat there.

It took about 45 minutes to make the trip from White Plains to lower Manhattan. Armed with MapQuest directions, I played co-pilot while John navigated the car through the city. When we finally found our way to the corner of Prince and Elizabeth streets, John was the first to spot Cafe Habana. My jaw nearly dropped. The place was a hole in the wall. Literally. Bohemians were spilling out the door of this un-spectacular, teeny restaurant. I remember groaning and slumping down into my seat. Despite my protests, John parked the car and we made our way down the block. I suggested we find somewhere else to eat, somewhere that looked a little more substantial, but John convinced me to at least peer through the window. We stood on the sidewalk, watching the restaurant patrons. It was like observing sardines in a can. Tables were crammed together and people were practically sitting on one another’s laps. Next to me, I heard a gasp. I looked over at John, who was staring through the window with wide eyes. “It’s my corn!” he said. I followed his gaze. Inside, a couple were sharing a plate of corn on the cob. When a look of confusion passed over my face, John explained that in Mexico, street vendors sell corn on the cob, or elotes, with crema, cotija cheese, chili powder and lime. “We have to eat here,” he said firmly. So, we did.

Even after all these years, I can still remember our first meal at Cafe Habana. It was the first of many. We shared a plate of grilled corn, which was every bit as delicious as John promised it would be. We each ordered the same entree, Chuleta de Puerco a la Pimenta, which turned out to be grilled, double-cut pork chops in a mushroom and chipotle au poivre sauce. Putting it mildly, this pork chop blew our mind. The pork was juicy and flavorful, cooked perfectly. The sauce had just the right amount of spice to cut through the creaminess. It was heaven.

It’s been five years since we made the move from New York to Connecticut. I love the quiet and calmness of living on the Connecticut countryside. If there’s one thing I miss, one thing, it’s Cafe Habana. After that Valentine’s Day so many years ago, Cafe Habana became “our” spot. John and I shared our secret place with few and far between. Somehow, bringing other people there made it less special. Once, after finding out some friends of ours had eaten there, we admitted to being a bit envious. Silly, right?

Since trekking to SoHo is no longer an option for us, especially with a three year old, I decided to attempt to recreate “the” pork chop. After a bit of experimentation and tweaking, I was finally thrilled with the results. For a true Cafe Habana experience at home, serve with frozen mango margaritas, tostones con mojo, rice and beans. Prepare to die and float to heaven.

Double-Cut Pork Chops Smothered in Chipotle Mushroom Sauce

What You’ll Need:

4 pork chops, 1-inch thick, bone-in
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup flour
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
2 chipotles in adobo sauce, finely chopped
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
parsley, for garnish

Put the flour in a shallow pan, add the salt and pepper, then mix with a fork. Pat the pork chops dry with a paper towel, then dredge them in the seasoned flour. Shake off any excess.

Heat a large skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat and coat with olive oil. Fry the pork chops for about 4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove the pork chops from the pan and set to the side. Add more oil to the pan, if needed. Toss the sliced mushrooms to the pan and saute for 10 minutes. Sprinkle some of the seasoned flour into the pan and cook for one minute. Add the chipotle peppers and chicken stock. Let the liquid cook for 5 minutes, allowing it to reduce and thicken slightly. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon black pepper into the sauce, more if you like it very peppery. Add the heavy cream and return the pork chops to the pan. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, until the pork chops are cooked through and the sauce has thickened. Serve and enjoy.

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Roasted Picnic Shoulder with Fingerling Potatoes

Although it’s mid-May, there’s still enough of a chill in the air to turn on the oven without making the kitchen uncomfortably hot. Knowing there would be few opportunities left to make a roast, at least until next Fall, I had my little brother, Stephen the Butcher, bone out a beautiful picnic shoulder of pork. I fantasized about smothering the pork in herbs, drooling before I even brought it home to actually season it.

Picnic shoulder comes from the lower part of the pig’s shoulder. It can be a fatty piece of pork, so be sure to have it trimmed. Picnic shoulder is an inexpensive cut of meat and is extremely versatile. It can be barbecued, braised, roasted, used in stews or kabobs. This is the cut most commonly used for one of my favorite dishes, barbecued pulled pork. Picnic shoulder is also used to make smoked hams and ground pork. In many Spanish-speaking countries, especially those in the Caribbean, picnic shoulder is extremely popular during the holidays and special occasions, used to make pernil, a slow-cooked roast richly seasoned with salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, a splash of bitter orange, and lots of garlic.

When I first thought about bringing home a picnic shoulder, I immediately thought about making pernil. I could almost taste the succulent pork, which would have tasted even better dipped in mojo. I quickly dismissed that idea, deciding to think outside the box, using some flavors I had never tried before with pork. I came across a recipe for an easier, American-ized version of porchetta, and decided that rosemary and sage were the way to go. It proved to be a fantastic decision.

Roasted Picnic Shoulder with Fingerling Potatoes

Roasting the pork shoulder on a bed of fingerlings results in tender, flavorful potatoes that require almost no work!

Boneless Picnic Shoulder

If you’re uncomfortable boning out a pork shoulder, or any cut of meat for that matter, just ask your butcher. They’ll be more than happy to help!

Prepare to get your hands dirty! You’ll want to rub the seasoning into every nook and cranny of the pork!

Stuffed with goodness, this pork smells delicious before it even goes in the oven!

Pork Crackling is Gooooooood!

Don’t be afraid of roasting this baby at high heat. Keeping the skin on protects the rest of the meat, leaving it juicy and flavorful. The added bonus is the pork crackling, a delicious treat!

Roasted Picnic Shoulder of Pork with Fingerling Potatoes

Adapted from Anne Burrell

What You’ll Need:

For the Pork:
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves finely chopped
1 bunch fresh sage, leaves finely chopped
20 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 picnic shoulder of pork with the skin, bone removed
Kosher salt
black pepper
 
For the Potatoes:
10 garlic cloves, smashed
2 pounds fingerling potatoes, cut lengthwise
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
Kosher salt
1 bundle fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Combine the rosemary, sage, garlic and crushed red pepper in a small bowl. Mix with enough olive oil until a paste has formed. Cut the sides of the pork so it opens and lies flat on your cutting board. Rub the paste all over the inside of the pork shoulder, then sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roll the pork and tie tightly with butcher’s twine.

Place the potatoes at the bottom of a large roasting pan. Season with salt, then toss in the bundle of thyme. Rest the pork roast on top of the bed of fingerling potatoes, making sure the pork skin faces up. Rub the top of the pork with a bit of oil and put in the oven. Roast for about 30 minutes. By this time, the skin should start to become a gorgeous brown color. Don’t be afraid of browned pork skin – it’s tasty!

Add the wine and chicken stock to the roasting pan. Roast for another 2 to 2 ½ hours, basting the skin occasionally with the pan juices. Tent the roast with aluminum foil if you feel the skin is becoming too dark, but be sure to remove the foil during the last half hour of cooking.

Once the roast is done, remove from the pan, cut the string, and let the pork rest for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the skin and cut into large squares. Slice the pork and arrange on a platter with the fingerling potatoes, making sure to spoon lots of the the pan juices on top. Garnish with pork crackling and serve. Prepare to chow down!

A Great Use of Leftovers: Pulled Pork Panini

I love it when a delicious dish can be morphed into even more delicious leftovers. Earlier this week I slow-cooked some Mango, Ginger, and Habanero Pulled Pork. It’s one of my favorite slow-cooker dishes and the leftovers make a great panini. Slather some Dijon mustard onto some plain white bread, pile on some pork, then top with Cabot’s Habanero Cheddar Cheese, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a satisfying sandwich.

Pulled Pork and Habanero Cheese Panini

A Butcher’s Daughter Original

What You’ll Need:

1 cup Mango, Ginger, and Habanero Pulled Pork
1/3 cup shredded habanero cheddar cheese (Recommended: Cabot’s Habanero Cheddar Cheese)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 slices white bread
olive oil cooking spray

Preheat your panini press to medium-high heat.

Spread the Dijon mustard onto both slices of bread. Pile the pulled pork onto one slice of bread, then sprinkle the cheese evenly over the shredded pork. Top with the second slice of bread.

Spray your panini press with the cooking spray, then place your sandwich onto the press. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted. Enjoy!

Mango, Ginger, and Habanero Pulled Pork

Despite the use of “habanero” in its title, this deliciously sweet pulled pork isn’t overwhelmingly spicy. The habanero that simmers slowly along with the pork gives a spicy hint to this addictive dish.

I have to admit, I purposely waited until the husband was away at work to make this dish. Usually, he’ll eat almost anything, but this slow-cooked pork is not one of those things. John is a firm believer that two things should not be sweet — vegetables and meat. I, on the other hand, absolutely love this pulled pork. Even better are the leftovers, which make great sandwiches. Yum.

I usually cook this dish in my Crockpot, but it can very easily be made in a Dutch oven or large pot. I used a boneless pork shoulder for this dish. The sauce is extremely versatile and can be used on chicken or even fish.

Sweet and Spicy Deliciousness

Mango, Ginger, and Habanero Pulled Pork

Adapted from Aarti Sequeira

What You’ll Need:
1 boneless pork shoulder, about 3 pounds, excess fat removed
 
Rub:
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Sauce:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 onion, finely minced
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 habanero pepper, sliced down the center, top half together, stem intact
Kosher salt
2 ripe mangoes, pureed
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
 

Combine the rub ingredients in a small bowl and massage it into the pork, then set aside. This can be done and refrigerated up to a day in advance.

In a large saucepan (or Dutch oven if you plan on cooking the pork on your stovetop), warm the oil over low heat until hot. Add the cumin and fennel seeds. Keep a lid or shield handy – they’ll splutter upon contact and try to pop out! Once they settle down, add the onions, ginger and habanero pepper. Sauté until softened. Add a bit of salt, to taste. Add the remaining sauce ingredients, then simmer for about 5 minutes.

If using a Crockpot, transfer the ingredients into the pot and add the pork shoulder, making sure to coat it with the sauce. If you’re cooking your pulled pork on the stovetop, add the pork shoulder to your Dutch oven or pot, cover with a lid and gently simmer for about three hours, until the pork starts to fall apart.

Once its done cooking, remove the pork from the pot and shred it. You can use forks or your fingers, it’s up to you! Put the shredded pork on a bun and spoon some of the sweet sauce on top, or eat this deliciousness alongside one of my favorites, Indian Spiced Potatoes. Enjoy!

Mustard Braised Pork Belly

Ever heard of or seen pork belly and wonder, “What the heck is that?” Yeah, me too.

At work, I go through dozens and dozens of invoices each week, looking over the product sent to us by wholesale distributors. We go through hundreds of boxes of pork belly each month and I always used to wonder, “What do people use this for?” It wasn’t until fairly recently that I discovered most of the restaurants and cuchifritos we supply cut the pork belly into small chunks and deep fry. Talk about a coronary on a plate!

Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia

Pork belly is exactly what it sounds like — the meat from the belly of the pig. It’s very fatty and definitely not diet food. Besides being commonly used in cuchifritos, I discovered that pork belly is extremely popular in Korean and Chinese cuisine. Hmmm, I guess I’ll have to check for that the next time we order from Oriental House!

When I saw Anne Burrell braise a piece of pork belly on Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, I said to myself, “Hey, I’ve seen pork belly! I know what that is!” My inner foodie jumped at the chance to make it. This is definitely not part of a low calorie, low fat diet. Don’t check your Weight Watcher’s Points Calculator, unless you want to pass out. This is a delicious, once-in-a-while, “wow, I made that?” dish. Start it in the morning and let it braise while you do a few loads of laundry, mow the lawn, whatever. The result will be a succulent piece of pork that falls apart in your mouth. Yum.

Mustard Braised Pork Belly

Mustard Braised Pork Belly

Adapted from Anne Burrell

Dry rub:
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons dry mustard powder
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 tablespoon sugar
zest of one lemon
2 sprigs rosemary, picked and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
3 pounds pork belly, skin removed
Pork belly:
extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
kosher salt
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
2 cups chicken stock
fresh thyme bundle
3 bay leaves

Combine all the dry rub ingredients in a bowl. Massage the rub all over the pork belly, then cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Coat a large, high-sided pan with olive oil and put over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic. Season the vegetables with the crushed red pepper and salt, to taste. Cook the vegetables until they start to soften, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add the wine and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Stir in the mustard and chicken stock. Add the pork belly, then toss in the thyme and bay leaves. Cover and put in the preheated oven. Braise the belly for 6 hours, checking occasionally and rotating the pan half way through the cooking process.

After the 6 hours, remove the lid and set the oven to broil. Broil the pork belly for a few minutes, until it gets a nice golden color. Transfer the pork belly to a cutting board and cut into portions. Arrange the pork on a platter, or serve onto plates and pour some of the braising liquid on top. This goes nicely with mashed potatoes or rice, and some wilted greens, such as kale or mustard greens.

Game Day Chili

Chili can be a very debatable subject among aficionados. Beef or pork? Beans or bean-less? Green or red? I know several people who claim theirs is the best. I certainly don’t claim to make the best, but I sure do make some darn good chili!

Chili originated in the late 1800’s in San Antonio, Texas. Hispanic women would gather in public places and sell bowls of chili to passersby. Cattle were cheap and plentiful in San Antonio, so chili was often made with beef. As the years went by, chili parlors opened up throughout Texas. Soon, the craze expanded to nearby states. Since beef wasn’t as abundant or inexpensive in other regions of the United States, people started adding beans to their chili, to act as a “filler.” So, as it turns out, the original chili did NOT include beans. Well, I have nothing against beans, so they make an appearance in my chili. More fiber, right?

For this recipe, I use a blend of ground beef and pork. I asked my brother, a butcher, to grind some chuck. I prefer chuck because it has a great balance of meat and fat. Fat is essential for lots of flavor. For ground pork, I use boneless pork loin. The combination of beef and pork, along with some smoky bacon, makes for a hearty, satisfying chili.

Game Day Chili

The Butcher’s Daughter original recipe

 

What You’ll Need:

olive oil
½ pound bacon, diced
1 pound ground pork (recommended: pork loin)
1 pound ground beef (recommended: chuck)
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups water
¼ cup brewed coffee
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 large onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
grated cheddar cheese, for serving

Cook bacon in a 6 to 8 quart heavy pot over medium to high heat, until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon from pot and set aside. Leave the bacon fat in the pot! This is valuable stuff!

Add the diced onion and green pepper to the pot, using the bacon fat to cook the vegetables until tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the vegetables and set aside. If the vegetables have absorbed all the bacon fat, add some olive oil to the bottom of the pot. Add the ground pork and beef and sauté until brown. Return the onion and bell pepper to the pot. Add garlic, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper, and smoked paprika. Cook for about a minute. Return the bacon to the pot. Add the tomato paste to the mixture, making sure to blend it well throughout the meat. Add the crushed tomatoes, coffee, and water, and bring to a simmer. Stir in the kidney beans. Cook the chili for about 2 to 2 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. Ladle chili into bowls and top with shredded cheddar cheese before serving. Enjoy!

Braised Country-Style Pork Ribs

You don’t see country-style ribs often on restaurant menus. Well, at least I don’t. I’m not sure why, since they are a lot meatier than your traditional beef or pork ribs. Country-style ribs are cut from the sirloin or rib end of the pork loin. Since they’re perfect for those of us who want to use a knife and fork, I often use this cut for braising or cooking with Spanish-style rice. Today, I’ve decided to braise them with some onion, celery, and carrots. Deglazing the pot with apple cider vinegar results in a tangy sauce that’s great to sop up with some crusty bread.

Braised Country-Style Pork Ribs

Adapted from Melissa d’Arabian

What You’ll Need:

3 pounds bone-in country-style pork ribs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
2 1/2 cups chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Pat the ribs dry and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and brown the ribs on all sides. Remove the ribs and set aside. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the Dutch oven and reduce the heat to medium. Add the onions, carrots, celery, salt, and pepper and cook until soft, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the tomato paste and cook an additional 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the apple cider vinegar, then add the red pepper flakes and bay leaves.

Add the ribs back to the pan and add enough stock to reach halfway up the sides of the ribs. Bring the pan to a simmer, cover, and place in the oven. Braise until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. During the last half hour, uncover to allow the liquid to reduce. Remove the bay leaves. Plate the ribs and spoon the sauce and vegetables over them. Enjoy!