Sunday, January 08, 2012

Salt-baked potatoes

There used to be a restaurant within walking distance that I loved.  It was a good steakhouse, but what I really craved were the salt-baked potatoes.  I've searched for years for a method to produce those potatoes...slightly crusty on the outside, salty but not over-salted, fluffy and creamy on the inside...I finally hit upon it tonight.

For 2 medium-to-large Idaho potatoes, scrub them and then bury them in rock salt in a large metal loaf pan.  It takes about 2 cups of rock salt.  Bake them at 350 for at least 90 minutes.  Remove the potatoes and brush off all the rock salt.  You can re-use the salt, so keep it for the next time.

Simple perfection.  I may never eat potatoes another way again.  We roasted them at the same time we were roasting some beef, and frankly we much preferred the potatoes to the beef.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Orange Pork Stir-fry

Cooking for my family is tricky.

  • B (8) would subsist on dessert, if he could.  He eats like a bird, and always, ALWAYS leaves at least one bite on the plate.  The trick is to give him small portions so there isn't so much wasted.  He's underweight and pretty small, and only somewhat physically active.  He does like spicy food, though.
  • Kiddo (8) would subsist on carbs and cheese if he could.  And ketchup.  He cannot stand even the hint of spiciness.  He's a little overweight but very physically active and never seems to stop growing.
  • E (12) toys with vegetarianism, is growing like a weed, and worries overmuch about food safety.  She's prefers simple spices.
  • Meli is tall and thin and could stand to gain some muscle weight.  He seems to be able to eat anything and not gain weight -- 7 donuts in a sitting?  Check.  Double cheeseburger and fries?  How about two?  An entire large pizza?  Why not?  His cholesterol could be better, though.  He's currently cutting out most carbs.  I'm not entirely sure why.  He's a great cook, but it tends to be heavily fatty and saucy comfort food.
  • I've gained 15 pounds since I met Meli, yikes!  I love to cook and get bored with the kid's preferred foods.  I work out about 4 days out of 7, if not more, and count calories, but hey, I'm over 40 and it's hard to get that weight off and keep it off.  My cholesterol could also be better.  Meli and I both love spicy foods from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds.

So I was thrilled when what I made last night pleased EVERYBODY.  I kept the veggies and the meat separate and didn't put any sauce on them, and served the sauce separately.  I didn't measure or write it down while cooking, sadly, but here's the gist.
  • 1-2 cups rice
  • 2 thick boneless pork chops
  • 1 navel orange
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 small knob of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 2 Tbs soy sauce
  • 3 Tbs mirin
  • salt
  • 1 bell pepper, red or orange or yellow
  • 1 small head broccoli
  • 2 cups snow peas
  • 1 Tbs sesame seeds
  • 1 container shitake mushrooms
  • Sesame oil and peanut oil
  1. Start the rice cooking
  2. Put the chops in a glass dish
  3. Zest and juice the orange into the dish
  4. Mince the garlic and ginger, add to the dish
  5. Add the soy sauce and mirin and a pinch of salt per pork chop
  6. Set the pork aside to marinate while you're preparing the rest
  7. Heat a wok
  8. Slice up the bell pepper into thin rounds
  9. Break up the broccoli into flowers
  10. Chop the mushrooms
  11. When all the ingredients are prepped, add a splash of sesame oil and enough peanut oil to the wok for stir-frying...about 2-3 Tbs?
  12. Add the bell pepper to the wok, stir-fry for about a minute
  13. Add the broccoli, stir-fry for about 2 minutes
  14. Add the snow peas and the sesame seeds, continue stir-frying until all the vegetables are crisp-tender
  15. Transfer the vegetables to a serving dish and keep warm.
  16. Add the mushrooms to the wok but keep them to the sides of the pan
  17. While they sweat, remove the pork from the marinade and slice it somewhat thinly...about 1/2 inch slices.  Save the marinade in the dish.
  18. Add the pork to the wok and stir-fry with the mushrooms until it's done, it should spring back when pressed.  About 5 minutes?
  19. When it's done, put it into a serving dish
  20. Pour the marinade into the wok and boil it for a minute, then transfer to a sauceboat.
Serve everything separate -- the carb-lovers get lots of rice, the kids who can't stand spice get fairly plain veggies that taste great because of the sesame oil and seeds, the sauce is amazingly good for those who can stand a little spice, everyone loves the pork which is juicy and tender and only very slightly flavored by the orange sauce, and since it's all cut up small not much went to waste.