February 12, 2007

In the beginning... there was comfort food

So after a year of spending hours reading other peoples' food blogs, I have decided to take the plunge and begin a journal of my own culinary adventures. What is the raison d'être for this foray into an already crowded space? Honestly, I hope it serves as a record of what I've read, what I've tried, and a record of what works and what doesn't.

Now the name I've chosen may imply that this blog will be specific to a particular type of cooking or may be specific in some other way, but that is not the case. I spent a considerable amount of time contemplating what I would name my blog, but in the end it was my in-house marketing guru who came up with Roasting Rambler (I think the latter inspired the former). Instead of covering one single topic, my goal is to see where I've been and push myself to try new things. I seldom choose the simple path, if a recipe calls for puff pastry, I plan ahead and make it. If I want lard for cooking potatoes, I buy pork fat. Partially, this is from necessity, as living in central Iowa I do not have access to a variety of specialty stores, butchers, or bakeries, but I also enjoy knowing about my food and how to prepare it.

I will also celebrate the great restaurants, farmer markets, and local food producers that populate my tiny corner of America. I am not a skilled photographer, but I will try to include photographs whenever possible. So for my first blog, I present a Pork and Orange Stew. This is a reworking of a recipe from Parade magazine (sometime Fall '06), which I was asked to test drive for someone. I pulled my version together on a snowy night when I wanted something rich and warming.

If you don't want to try my recipe, then try the Spiced Candied Walnuts from Heidi of 101cookbooks.com (click the photo for the recipe). I made these the next night, sent some home with friends, and took the rest with me when I flew to Tennessee. I'll have to make more though since Dana made me leave the rest with her when I flew home.

Pork and Orange Stew

Serves 4

1.5 pounds boneless sirloin chops
Salt and pepper
2-4 Tb lard or neutral oil
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 cup or about 4 chopped plum tomatoes (from a can of peeled whole plum tomatoes)
1 Tb brown sugar
Zest of 1 orange (in long strips – see notes)
1 ½ cups chicken broth
½ cup white wine (I used a Viognier)
4 carrots, halved and cut into 1 to 2 inch lengths
2 Tb chopped fresh mint

Egg noodles (see notes)

2 Tb butter soft
3 Tb all purpose flour

Cut the pork into 1 to 2 inch cubes. Season well with salt.

Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat and when hot add the lard. Brown the pork in batches, moving the browned pork into a bowl to reserve for later.

When taking out the last of the pork turn the heat down to low, adding more lard or oil if needed, and add the onions and garlic. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the tomatoes, orange zest, chicken broth, wine, some ground black pepper and sugar. Turn heat up to medium-low and add the pork back to the pot, making sure to add all of the juices that have leaked out while the meat was resting. Simmer for 30 minutes and then add the carrots and mint and cook for about another 30 minutes or until pork is tender and carrots are your preferred texture.

After adding the carrots and mint, prepare the beurre manié. In bowl large enough for the flour and butter plus one to two cups of liquid, work the flour, a tablespoon at a time into the butter until it is a smooth and consistent paste. When the carrots and pork are nearly done, ladle about ½ a cup into the paste and whisk until smooth. Add more liquid, as necessary to make the liquid pourable, about 1 cup.

Pour the thickener into the dutch oven and stir to incorporate throughout the dish. Bring the pork to a simmer until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Remove the large pieces of zest and chop or break up and add them back if desired. Serve over egg noodles.


  • A vegetable peeler can be used, but I find the best tool for getting the zest off in large pieces without a lot of the bitter white pith is a paring knife. Do not use a zester or a microplane.

  • This is the time to buy a nice uncoated, organic orange, if you can.

  • I like a few small pieces of zest to be left behind, they give a quick blast of orange flavor, but you'll want the pieces small.

  • Homemade egg noodles are best here, but if you use store bought make sure that they are thick, high quality noodles (homestyle).


Freya said...

Good start to your new blog! It looks lovely and comforting! Look forward to reading more!

Manda said...

Pizza would be great on a day like today! Looks delicious!