Braised Pork Sugo

By Iron Chef Leftovers

One of the nice things about making pasta sauce is that it is a fairly simple process and can be used in a variety of ways. One of the things I tend to do with my tomatoes is to make a really simple sauce and freezing it so that I can use it as a base for a more robust pasta sauce later in the year. One of my favorite sauces is a sugo – a hearty sauce that I love in the cold of winter. It was part of one of my courses at a recent dinner party and it is a nice sauce to feed a crowd.


The Software

3 lb. pork shoulder, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 medium onions, finely sliced (about 2 cups)

3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch lengths

3 celery stalks cut into 1 inch lengths

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 can diced tomatoes (16 oz)

1 1/4 cup chicken stock

1 ¼ cup red wine

1 teaspoon minced garlic

5 cups tomato sauce

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon minced sage

1 teaspoon minced rosemary

2 teaspoons olive oil


The Recipe

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. In a dutch oven, heat one teaspoon of olive oil over medium high heat until just smoking. Add 1/3 of the pork and brown on all sides (about 4 minutes per side). Remove from the pot to a plate and reduce heat to medium and add 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Add onions and cook for 8 minutes until they start to become translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato paste and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add celery and carrots and cook for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Add stock, tomatoes and red wine and increase heat to medium high until liquid comes to a boil. Add the pork and cook until the liquid returns to a boil. Cover and put in the oven. Cook for about 2 hours or until the pork is fork tender. Remove from the oven. Pull the pork from the liquid and set aside to shred. Take the vegetables and add them to a blender. Strain the liquid to remove the fat and then add to the blender with the vegetables. Puree until smooth (you may need to do this in a couple of batches). Add the puree and the pork back to the pot and combine with the tomato sauce, oregano, rosemary and sage. Heat over medium heat for 15 minutes, add salt and pepper as needed and serve over pasta.



This recipe is better if you make it a day ahead of when you want to use it. I use an even split of marsala wine and dry red wine, but just about any red wine will work in this recipe. You can adjust the amount of tomato sauce depending on how much sauce you like. If it is too thick when you serve it, add a bit of pasta water to it to loosen it up. This would also be nice with a bit of red pepper flakes added to the initial braise.

This Little Piggy Went to Market…

By Iron Chef Leftovers

…and this little piggy came home, with me…

Thanks to the folks at Sea Breeze Farm, I was able to try something that I have always wanted to – roast a pig’s head. This is more of the FYI post rather than the recipe, since that is a much more involved writing process, so I will post the actual details of that later. They were kind enough to split it in half, leave the skin on (which is not easy to find) and even gave me the tongue, which I am looking forward to using at a later date. This meat itself was delicious and was probably one of the 5 best pork dishes I have eaten.

A few things I learned from doing this:

  • If the food is looking at me, I need to name it, so I named it Pig after the character from Pearls Before Swine (real original, I know).
  • A blowtorch is not the best way to remove any remaining hairs from the pig – buy a disposable razor.
  • I am not used to roasting pieces of meat that are terribly uneven and I need to work on the technique to better suit my oven.
  • When you don’t have a roasting pan that will fit something properly, heavy duty foil wrap and a baking sheet work really well.
  • Trying to carve a pig’s head with a knife is an interesting proposition – you really need to get a feel for where the bones are.
  • It is easier to tear the meat off the head rather than carving it – there is meat in places that you will never be able to get to with a knife.
  • Glazed pork skin has the consistency of rock candy and is sweet, salty, crunchy and fatty – basically the best thing you will ever eat.
  • The meat and fat under glazed pork skin remains volcanic for long periods of time.
  • A friend suggests that half a pig’s head will feed 2-3 people for 6 lbs.; mine was just over 7 lbs. and I could have fed at least 5-6.
  • There is less meat than you would expect, but there is a healthy amount of fat and fat makes you fuller quicker, so you eat less than you do with lean meats.
  • The snout and ears are still two of my favorites, but there is something special about eating the jowl and cheek.

More info and the happy pictures after the jump.

Continue reading “This Little Piggy Went to Market…”

Meal of the Apocalypse

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Well, the Mayans were wrong and what a better way to celebrate the fact than throwing a hedonistic feast in their honor. I will do this post in a couple of parts – this one with the menu, descriptions and any links to existing recipes that I used to make them (along with any tweaks) and a second set of posts with the remaining recipes (some of these are a pain to write out, so it will take a bit to get them out there). I really wanted to have fun with the meal, so I opted for simple preparations with fun plating and names. So, without further delay, I present to you “Meal of the Apocalypse”!

Cocktail: Heart of Darkness
I am pretty sure that I didn’t make this one up, but I have absolutely no idea where I would have come across it either. It is a champagne based cocktail, which are always delicious and refreshing and this takes about 1 minute to make.

The Heart of Darkness is looking a little lighter and more refreshing these days.

Here is what I wrote about the drink on my menu:
The story Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is the inspiration for one of my favorite movies, Apocalypse Now. It seemed appropriate to make a drink based on that, given the theme of the night.

Since I like you, I will give you the recipe here.
The drink is 1.5 oz. blood orange juice or soda, 4 oz. sparkling wine, 3 drops Scrappy’s Chocolate Bitters and a frozen strawberry, served in a wine glass.

I would recommend using a drier sparkling wine for this so that you don’t get overloaded with sweetness. I personally used Washington produced Treveri Pinot Gris sparkling wine in this version.

First Course: My Last Meal
Being Italian, it seemed logical to start off the meal with pasta. I did a meat ravioli with a taleggio, shallot and sous vide egg cream sauce and topped it with a sprinkle of guanciale, just because I could. It was decadent and over the top, but it pared nicely with the 2010 Wilridge Pinot Grigio, which has a bit of sharpness to it that cut the richness of the dish.

Since it seems I didn’t actually take a picture of the pasta, I give you one of the cats sunning himself on the couch. This was the general happy response to the pasta, so let’s just call this the after picture.

My notes on the dish:
One of the components of my last meal on earth, if I got to choose it, would be something that my dad made for me when I was growing up. This is my adult version of the meal that I enjoyed as a kid.

Second Course: The Mayan Slaughter
I wanted to make mole without making mole, so I basically took a bunch of the spices that are used in mole and made a spice rub for some pork tenderloins. Then to get the chocolate component of the dish, I made a chocolate gastrique as a side sauce that was meant to be eaten with the pork. I really felt like I nailed this one as the combination of the spices and the chocolate really reminded me of a mole, although a more complex one than you might expect since the fruit notes in the chocolate really came out. I served it with a toasted quinoa hash (quinoa, black beans, queso fresco) that I got the basic idea from Modernist Cuisine at Home. I pared this with a completely killer Argentinian Malbec from my cellar that a friend brought me back from Argentina – 2006 LaGarde Riserva Malbec.

Too bad the Mayans hadn’t actually invented this dish, they might be remembered for something other than they amazing grasp of astronomy and a faulty calendar.

There was one problem with calling this dish the Mayan Slaughter:
The Spanish brought pigs to the new world and they became a main protein of Mexican cooking well after the Mayans. A deconstructed mole sauce is a tribute to the Mayans, although the Mayans didn’t really invent it and quinoa is actually from South America. We will just ignore those little details.

Third Course: Side of the Road Salad
Just a simple salad of wild arugula, dandelion greens, truffle oil, 30 year old balsamic vinegar and alder smoked sea salt. I wanted to add some sun chokes to this, but my attempt at making a sun choke crouton didn’t work. I served this with a 2009 NHV Rose which wasn’t a fan favorite by itself, but worked well with the salad.

No picture of this since: A) salads are boring and B) I forgot to take a picture of it before I started eating.

My story about the salad:
You could, in theory, survive in Seattle eating nothing but foraged food (there are people who do this willingly), if you know where to look. This just proves that you can do it and still eat well.

Fourth Course: Raid the Emergency Supplies
This was one that I went really creative with the presentation. What better to celebrate the world not ending then with eating your stockpiles of emergency supplies? I made my Belgian Beef Carbonnade recipe, topped it with a potato slice and served it in a tin can. Of course, since I went with the really classy presentation in a can, I had to serve a great bottle of wine, in this case the 2001 Conti Sertoli Sforsato in a mason jar.

Here are my thoughts on this:
You should have a stockpile of emergency supplies including canned goods in the event of a natural disaster. If Dinty Moore beef stew tasted this good, I probably would be eating it every night. When serving stellar food in a can, it is only appropriate to serve a killer wine in a mason jar, just to keep it classy.

Dessert: Last in Line for the Human Sacrifice
I really needed to have a human sacrifice as part of this meal; it just seemed fitting and, after much debate, decided that it would be at the end of the meal. So how do you have a human sacrifice without killing an actual human? Well, you first take an altar made out of chocolate pudding. You then take a human made of a sugar cookie and place him on the altar. Then you take some raspberry blood and dot that on the plate. Then you take a spoon and kill your cookie man and enjoy. Just for the hell of it, you pair this with a Maison de Pagett Pillow Talk Vanilla Port. Human sacrifice has never been as fun or delicious as this one.

Our vicitm just before he meets his untimely end. In an interview just before the sacrifice, he was quoted as saying, “No thanks, I would rather be lost.”

The gory details:
A line from a George Carlin bit about being lost. No proper post-apocalyptic meal would be complete without a sacrifice at the end. There was also much debate among my friends about where in the meal the sacrifice belonged. We will try it here.

In case you were wondering, here is the actual Carlin bit.