Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Spice Must Flow Again - Vaguely Mediterranean Pork, Apple, and Sweet Potato Stew

Thursday - My past two miserable weeks are taking a toll on my efficiency (ha ha). This has been my concern all along, since the CPS began flaring with annoying regularity.  Or irregularity.  But annoyingly frequent.  So maybe that should be annoyingly frequent irregularity?  Yeah, that's it.

I have been sitting on this unforgiving wooden bench since 8:30 this morning, and it is now 11:11 a.m.  I am waiting for my 10:00 a.m. case to be called.  And that's the way it is.  My back is starting to protest the less than optimal treatment.  I would love to head out to get something to drink (more coffee!!) and to be able to take my midday Gabapentin. Not that I have been taking a midday Gabapentin, but I am supposed to be and perhaps this would be a good time to start. Oh wait, the morning cases were not all called, have to come back at 1:30 p.m. for my 10:00 a.m. hearing.


And now I am sitting in a much more comfortable chair at counsel table, and I am deep in thought about ... banana muffins.  Well, my morning case has come and gone and I am just waiting for other counsel to review the order I just prepared.  So I am permitting my mind to wander, not that it ever needs my permission, and in addition to banana muffins I am thinking about Rachael Ray's recipe for Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin Mac n Cheese.  I am thinking about getting rid of the broccoli, for starters.  I love broccoli but not in my macaroni and cheese.  Cauliflower, though, that's another matter.  Cauliflower and cheese sauce is one of my favorite food combinations, and I look forward to combining it with some macaroni, and the other stuff in Rachael's recipe, like sour cream, Dijon mustard, and chives.  I make no representations about completing or even starting either of these recipes.

Instead, let's talk about Vaguely Mediterranean Pork, Apple, and Sweet Potato Stew.  Like the asparagus, prosciutto, and bananas, I had picked up the ingredients for this particular crockpot recipe on Sunday.  Today is Friday.  While the bananas have clearly benefitted from their room temperature rest on my kitchen counter, the pork is nearing its expiration date.  Time to rock and roll.

Last night I put the stew ingredients together in the large 6 quart crock insert, covered it and put it into the refrigerator overnight.  This morning, just before I leave the building like Elvis, I will turn the crockpot on low setting for six hours until I can check it for doneness.

The inspiration for this recipe came from one of 37 crockpot cookbooks (okay, maybe only nine.  Or eleven).  I made some changes (surprise!), mostly additions or increases, and one notable substitution of sweet potatoes for white potatoes.  What makes this dish vaguely Mediterranean is the use of cinnamon and cumin, a combination you see in Greek cooking, for one.

1 tablespoon roasted garlic extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds pork cubes for stew (best price was boneless pork ribs, which I cut into nice big cubes), seasoned with black pepper and granulated garlic.
1 1/2 medium sweet onions, halved and sliced, divided use
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 - 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 large sweet potatoes, prepared as below
1 1/2 cups baby carrots, cut crosswise into halves or thirds
2 medium Golden Delicious apples, cut into cubes
1 - 10 1/2 oz. can Campbell's chicken broth
1/4 cup Gulden's spicy brown mustard
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 generous tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 generous tablespoon ground cumin
kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
dried thyme
dried chopped chives
1 1/2 cup frozen butter beans

Prepare the sweet potatoes: poke a couple of holes in each side of the potatoes, then place them into an aluminum baking pan.  Bake at 400 degrees for just 30 minutes, turning halfway through.  Remove from the oven and cover the pan with aluminum foil.  After about 15 minutes, remove the foil and pull the softened peel off.  Let the sweet potatoes cool completely (even better if you refrigerate overnight) before cutting them into cubes.

Assembling the stew: in a large deep skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the pork.  Cook and stir until browned on all sides, then add one sliced onion (reserve the remaining half onion) and the garlic.  Cook for just 10 minutes, then transfer contents of skillet to a 6 quart crockpot insert.

Add the tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, and apples on top of the pork and onions.  Pour the chicken broth into the can from the tomatoes.  Add the mustard, brown sugar, cinnamon, cumin, salt and pepper to the can, and stir with a wooden spoon to combine everything, scraping up any remaining tomato.  Pour this over everything in the crockpot, and sprinkle with the thyme and chives.  With a metal serving spoon, carefully turn the ingredients in the crock over and over a few times to completely combine and evenly distribute everything.  Cover the crockpot and cook on low for six hours, carefully stirring after 3 hours (if you are not there to stir, don't worry about it.)

With cool water, rinse off any ice on the frozen butter beans and add them to the crockpot.  Cover and cook another hour, just until the carrots are done.  Try to avoid overcooking, or else the pork will start to shred and the sweet potatoes will disappear into the sauce.

You could serve this without anything more than a salad and maybe some bread, but I like the idea of making some couscous with chickpeas, and vegetables like zucchini to go with this really flavorful stew.

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