Tag Archives: cooking with wine

Spice-Rubbed Pork Shoulder with Radicchio and Balsamic Vinegar

I made it back from my trip to the East Coast safe and sound and will share my experience after it settles and I’ve had time to savor it all.   In the meantime, I have many recipes to share and ideas for more.  I guess there’s nothing quite like time away to clear my mind and realize again that inspiration lies in unexpected places.  I need time to process that as well which makes me envious of those of you who can seize an idea in no time and move to the next while I’m still mulling over the inkling of my first.  It’s a good thing I enjoy process, I suppose.  What is it they say about the sum of parts being greater than the whole?

That would be me.

Speaking of parts, today a book caught my eye that comes as close to my philosophy about food as I’ve seen.  It’s called Culinary Intelligence:  The Art of Eating Healthy and Really Well.  And no, this isn’t a review, because I haven’t read it yet.  But Barry Esterbrook’s review provides me enough information to agree that flavor above all else is what helped me lose weight earlier this year.  Good, fresh ingredients with excellent flavor always work for me.  Long after I’ve enjoyed something tasty, I think about it and realize the satisfaction of a good meal without having to ingest portions well beyond what someone of my age and size should — or anyone for that matter — is perfect.  Cost comes up in this matter, and it should.  My family roots are meager at best, and so the cost of anything will never be taken lightly.  But I’ve learned that when something is just right, when it satisfies without over indulgence, the memory lingers without having to deal with a full stomach.

It sounds like I’m selling something and that isn’t the case.  I just love it when I find a perspective that makes me feel as if I’m not alone.  Doesn’t everyone?

With that in mind, this recipe for Spice-Rubbed Pork Shoulder with Radicchio and Balsamic Vinegar is so very good.  It’s not a challenge to prepare if you spend some time ahead to prepare the pork — but that’s the best kind of recipe.  Do a bit ahead of time for enjoyment later.

And if you’re not familiar with radicchio, then know that it has a lovely bitter taste to it.  I enjoy bitter “greens” quite a bit, but understand that others don’t.  I usually enjoy radicchio in salads — it adds a different flavor and color.  But if you’re not sure, then use red cabbage instead.  The flavor will not disappoint.

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Cassoulet


I think the first time I heard anyone mention cassoulet, it was Martha Stewart years ago in the first version of her television show.  Outside of remembering that the main ingredients were white beans and a huge amount of meat for what could be classified as a one pot meal, I know she described it as one of her traditional holiday party menu items.  I also remember wondering how a preparing a pot of beans could be so involved.  Really?

Now I know.

To say that cassoulet is simply a bean stew or “dried beans and meat” is humorous because I grew up eating what could be called bean stew.  Beans go in a pot with few additional ingredients and not much attention.  Time goes by and a tasty dinner is served.  Bear in mind in this scenario, the bean to meat ratio is in favor of the legumes.  Cassoulet is anything but that, but I’m thinking it shouldn’t have to be.  At the same time, if I set out to make one of the many recipes I glanced at for “easy” cassoulet I’d feel I’d cheated somehow.  Perhaps I’d have something with flavor similar to cassoulet, but I’d miss out on what I often enjoy so much about tackling an involved recipe for the first time:  all the thinking I do.  There’s something very gratifying about methodically working through a recipe that takes some thought and effort.

I’ll confess this all began with a small jar of duck fat I brought back from England recently.  I saw it and knew it would remind me of all the possibilities, so tucked it well into my suitcase until we arrived home, then stored it in the fridge to think about.  Many traditional versions of cassoulet are made with duck fat, but I needed a recipe that wasn’t swimming in it, which means I would need to choose a recipe lacking in, well, duck — or more specifically, duck confit.  My little jar’s quantity wasn’t nearly enough to make that.

Some may say a duckless cassoulet is sacrilege, but I know the recipe I chose, which uses tomatoes and a bread crumb topping, could also invite that complaint.  Cassoulet is a dish originally from the Languedoc region in Southern France, with the towns of  Castelnaudary, Toulouse and Carcassonne all claiming credit for its creation and there are as many variations as there are village cooks in that region.  Originally, I’d considered floundering through a Toulouse Cassoulet until I came to my senses realizing I hadn’t the time I needed to construct it.

I made the cassoulet, but I confess that I did not break the “film” that develops over it while it cooks seven times, so evidently, I did not create anything perfect.  Rich, yes.  Perfect, no.  With respect to all that’s good about home cooking, and for someone like me who truly enjoys the process of constructing a dish like this, it’s a great reason to gather a group of special friends for a special meal just because.

Especially on a cold winter’s day.

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