Friday, September 6, 2013

It's just food, Bella!

I suppose that could be a funny title for a blog post, but the fact is that a few years ago I could barely boil water. Yeah, there were many trips to my parents’ house or my grandparents or one of my aunts. There’s a lot of people in my family and most can’t cook for one but are more on the level of feeding the brigade. Still, I was eating more and more take-out. That wasn’t a good thing for me, the Type I diabetic. I recognized it pretty quickly. So, what did I do? Nope, I didn’t buy a cookbook or three. I didn’t start watching cooking shows on the television. Why? Because I am a diabetic and if you’ve ever watched some of the shows on The Food Network, they are cringe-worthy for a diabetic. A lot of diabetic cookbooks are designed for Type II Diabetes. But, most importantly, why would I shell out the money when I have a family who already cooks for someone like me. Truthfully, we are a family of diabetics.

So, I waltzed into my parents’ house bright and early on a Sunday Morning and asked my mother to teach me a few of her recipes. Here came the issue—I hate the feel of certain things like raw meat, raw fish, couldn’t crack an egg to save my soul, and I had no problem putting forth my disgust of the art of cookery.

“It’s just food, Bella!”

My mother about went ballistic on me. Seriously, I think back then I was more wanting to watch the act than participate in the process. Irish mom combined with non-cooking ½ Irish daughter= recipe for many an argument.

Still, if one wants to learn how to cook, one must get one’s hands dirty.

That fateful morning and after paternal intervention to cool certain hotheads, we sat down to make one of my favorites.

Braised Pork Roast with Whole Wheat Couscous. (This can be made in a slow cooker, braised in a pot on the stove, or cooked in a pressure cooker)

Spice Rub/Spice Blend:
1 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. cumin (ground)
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon (a little more or a little less. My mother uses 1 tsp. in her spice blend whereas I use a little less than that.)
½ - 1 tsp. cayenne pepper (a little more or a little less depending on your taste)
¼ tsp. ginger (ground)
Mix together in a bowl.

Take a 2-4 pound pork butt roast with the bone in (I know it looks super fatty, but you are going to need the marbled fat if you don’t expect it to turn to shoe leather). Pat your beautiful piece of pork dry then brush or rub it with enough olive oil to give it some shine—about 1 – 2 Tbsp.
The recipe for the spice rub is enough for a good-sized pork roast. Rub the spice rub into the meat covering all sides and ends. I also rub my pork on a plate as I will use the excess that falls off in the braising liquid.
Cover with cling wrap and put in the refrigerator for an hour or up to overnight. This is a very forgiving rub and it takes quite quickly to pork.

Time to braise. NOTE: I do, on occasion, sear mine off like my mother does, but it isn’t necessary.
Place rubbed pork roast in whatever cooking vessel you are using. For this recipe I prefer to do this on the stove top but as I stated before it can be cooked in a crock pot or in a pressure cooker.
Add to pork:

1 14 oz. can of reduced sodium tomatoes (truthfully, it doesn’t make a difference if you aren’t watching sugars and sodium what kind you use)
2 C. reduced sodium beef broth (again, if you aren’t watching your sodium then whatever is on sale will do) If you do not have beef broth, water works just as well.
1-2 bay leaf (depends on the size of the bay leaf)
1 Tbsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander powder
1 star anise (if you don’t like the flavor of black licorice, this can be omitted.)
2-5 dried red chilies (if you don’t like heat, then just sprinkle in a dash or two of dried pepper flakes or omit completely)
1 tsp. garlic powder or one clove of garlic minced.
Also, add whatever of the rub that has fallen to your plate.

Bring all ingredients to a simmer and cover. Turn roast several times during the cooking if you are using the stove top method. In the final hour you can add onions, peppers and/or brown lentils if you want this more stew-like. For the pressure cooker, make this on the side and add later.

On the stove, the pork roast will cook up to 6 hours, depending on the size of the roast. It cooks 8 hours in the crock pot. For a pressure cooker, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. The roast will fall off the bone when cooked. Do not let it go much further than this.

Whole wheat couscous or brown rice go well with this braised pork but we often eat leftovers on rolls as a sandwich. I can’t attest to whether it freezes well or not as we rarely have enough left to freeze. ;)

I do hope you enjoy what is one of our Sunday dinner favorites. 



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