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Thursday, February 9, 2012


I've been laid up with a bad back for the past couple of weeks. It's been manageable as long as I'm not standing, sitting, sleeping, cooking, walking, coughing, or laughing. Joy. Thankfully, I'm between special events at work, so the cooking load has been light. Unfortunately, I haven't cooked much at home, either. Michael has stepped up to the plate by preparing most of our meals.  He's a great cook. His tacos, meatloaf, chili, and pot roast are amazing. One day last week, he texted me asking about making lasagna. "How about I make lasagna? Sound good?", he wrote. "Don't go to a lot of trouble", I replied. His response? "Will do an easy one one."

I came home from work and found  Fresh Market bags strewn all over the kitchen countertops.  His easy lasagna turned into a day long love affair with cooking. Bliss.  Perfectly cooked al dente lasagna noodles lightly bathed in Scarpetta Marinara sauce, dotted with  fresh basil, Italian sausage, ricotta cheese, and parmigiano reggianno oozed with melted fresh mozzarella cheese. It was brilliant. It made me happy.  Play hurt.

I was still gimpy last Saturday, but we managed to schlepp down to the winter market to pick up a few black radishes and a gallon Chaney's whole milk. Simple task.  They had neither. When I asked about the black radishes, I was told that someone had beaten me by a nose and bought the entire stock of  ugly black radishes.  Really?  Weird.

We loaded our bags with turnips, sweet potatoes, onions, salsa, cabbage, jam cake, and a lone pear ginger raspberry scone before heading home.

Last night, after T-minus lasagna day 4, I hobbled back into the kitchen to throw  together a simple week night  supper.  I thought about making  turnip soup with sweet potato dumplings. I thought about it for a nanosecond.....until my culinary insanity gene kicked in.  Why settle for sweet potato dumplings when I could stuff them, fry them, and glaze them with maple syrup-infused red eye gravy? I had clearly lost my mind.

I poured myself a huge glass of wine and had a ball.

 I baked 2 sweet potatoes for an hour in a 350 oven until they were soft and tender. When they were cool enough to handle, I scraped the orange potato flesh into a mixing bowl before adding an equal amount of flour, 1 egg, salt, and pepper. After kneading the sweet potao dough until the flour was incorperated, I pinched off dough sections, formed them into golf ball-sized dumpling balls, and stuffed them.......with minced leftover barbecued pork  and mascarpone cheese. Yup.

I cranked the deep fryer to 375 degrees,  coated the stuffed balls with  egg wash, rolled them through seasoned panko bread crumbs flecked with fresh chives, and  carefully dropped them into the hot oil to fry until golden brown. As each batch browned, I slid them into a warm oven to hold.

The barbecued pork and mascarpone cheese stuffed sweet potato balls needed a sauce. I'm a saucy kind of guy. To gild the lily,  I sauteed shaved country ham slices in butter until they crisped and caramelized. After removing the ham candy to drain on paper towels, I deglazed the skillet with 1 cup of strong coffee before adding 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup, orange zest, and snipped chives. After the molten mocha madness bubbled,  reduced and thickened, I pulled it from the heat to cool.

After tossing the fried country ham back into the gooey maple-red eye gravy suace/glaze, I plated the cheesy pork filled balls and covered them with sticky the sauce.

Pork with pork. Double pork.

To counter the rich maple mocha pork sweet potato insanity, I whipped steamed tangy turnips into clouds and served them over sauteed turnip greens with crisp sliced red bell peppers for wet freshness.

Crunchy barbecued pork-filled sweet potato balls drizzled with maple-infused  red eye gravy, topped with grassy fresh chives on a bed of caramelized salty sauteed country ham.

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