Holiday decorations are already out and that’s a good thing. Every bit of extra cheer is welcome. These recipes and wines are precursors for the joys of those special moments on the way.
Manhattan Clam Chowder
1/4 cup finely chopped bacon or salt pork
1 small onion, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
2 cans (6.5 oz each) minced or whole clams, undrained*
2 medium potatoes, diced (2 cups)
1/3 cup chopped celery
1 cup water
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 can (14.5 oz) whole tomatoes, undrained
In 4-quart Dutch oven, cook bacon and onion over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until bacon is crisp and onion is tender; drain off fat.
Stir in clams, potatoes, celery and water. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Stir in remaining ingredients, breaking up tomatoes with a fork. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally.
Edna Lewis’ Bay-Studded Pork Shoulder with Wild Mushrooms
Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock, “The Gift of Southern Cooking”.
Long, slow oven-braising in red wine or tawny port is an excellent way to cook a big cut of pork so that it’s moist and succulent. This pork is particularly good served with creamy grits. Try to get a shoulder butt or picnic with the bone in and the skin attached. If you can’t find one, a boneless, skinless shoulder roast is still very good.
7- to 8-pound pork shoulder, picnic or butt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely cracked black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thinly lengthwise
12 whole bay leaves
2 small whole onions, peeled and thickly sliced
1 bottle red wine or tawny port, or half each
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups mushrooms, or a mixture of wild and cultivated mushrooms, cleaned and cut into 1/3-inch slices (or, if very small, trimmed and left whole)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 shallot, minced
2 small garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons finely snipped parsley
Reserved liquid from cooking the pork shoulder
1/2 cup heavy cream
To make the pork shoulder:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Rinse the pork shoulder and pat dry. Using a sharp paring knife, cut 12 slits in the skin side of the pork shoulder, about 1 inch wide and 1 1/2 inches deep. The slits should be in three rows of four each, spaced equally apart.
Mix together the salt, cracked peppercorns and thyme. Sprinkle approximately 1/8 teaspoon of the seasoning mixture into each slit, then insert 1 garlic sliver and 1 whole bay leaf. (The bay leaves should protrude from the shoulder so that you can easily remove them before serving.) Sprinkle any remaining seasonings all over the pork shoulder.
Scatter the sliced onions over the bottom of a baking dish or roasting pan that will just hold the meat. Place the seasoned pork shoulder on top of the onion slices and pour the wine into the bottom of the pan. Lay a piece of parchment paper directly on top of the pork shoulder and wrap the pan tightly with a double thickness of foil.
Put in the preheated oven to cook for 4 1/2 to 5 hours, until the meat is very tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. If you have a roast that has its skin intact, raise oven temperature to 425 degrees. If not, disregard.
Remove the onions and cooking liquid from the roasting pan and strain through a sieve, pressing gently on the onions with the back of a wooden spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Skim any visible fat from the surface of the cooking liquid and reserve for the sauce.
Meanwhile, remove the bay leaves from the pork shoulder and discard. Using a sharp knife, carefully separate the skin (rind) from the top of the pork shoulder and remove in 1 piece. Transfer the pork shoulder to a heated serving platter and keep warm.
Gently scrape any soft fat from the underside of the pork rind. Place the rind on a baking sheet and put into the 425-degree oven until crisp and deep golden brown, about 10 minutes. While the rind is crisping, make the wild-mushroom sauce.
To make the mushroom sauce:
Heat the butter in a large skillet until hot and foaming. Add the mushrooms and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Season with salt and a small amount of freshly ground black pepper. Add the minced shallot, garlic and snipped parsley and cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often. Pour in the reserved cooking liquid and boil until the liquid is reduced by one-half. Add the heavy cream and simmer briefly. Taste carefully for seasoning and adjust if needed. Serve hot.
Cut the crisped pork rind into 1/2-inch strips and arrange on top of the pork shoulder. At the table, slice the pork shoulder against the grain and serve with a piece of crisped pork rind (or crackling) on the side and the wild-mushroom sauce spooned over the sliced meat.
2 cups sugar, white, granulated, divided
1 quart whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
Place 1 cup of sugar in a 2-Quart saucepan and gently caramelize until golden brown. I like to do this over low heat. It’s very important that you DO NOT STIR the sugar as it melts. It’s OK to tilt the pan a tiny bit to swirl the sugar into to caramel. Just watch that you don’t let it burn. Depending on your pan and your skill at melting sugar this will take about 20 minutes.
Sir Verde’s Wine Suggestions: Let’s visit Switzerland. Enjoy the 2016 Castello Di Morcote Merlot Tinco, a smooth red that fits the soft flavors of pork roast. We’re getting near the holidays. Begin the mood with NV Villa Wolf Sparkling Rosé. Any Madeira in the cellar? Perfect with Flan.
Stay Safe. Eat and Drink well. Love One Another.