Slow Cooker Ramen

No one who lives in DC is actually from here.  “Home” is always a word for another state, another city, another place – even if that’s somewhere in the DMV area (so, I admit I don’t think Fairfax counts as DC).  Somehow, almost 14 years have passed since I first moved here, and when I talk about going home, I always mean Boston.

However, there are some signs that my son will mean “DC” when he talks about home.  Like the fact that we just bought a house here. (Side note:  Yea, so that happened, and it was terrifying.)  And he owns more DC-onesies than can fit in his chest of drawers.  And most importantly, the local ramen guy knows his parents, and always manages to squeeze them in ahead of the long line.  Thanks, Tony.

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Slow Cooker Ramen, inspired by Cooking Light

  • canola or olive oil
  • 2 pounds pork roast or loin
  • salt, pepper
  • crushed red pepper
  • 2 onions, peeled and halved horizontally
  • 8 cups chicken stock (can also use some water instead)
  • 1/4 cup  soy sauce, divided
  • 2 containers shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • about 2 inches of fresh ginger, sliced thinly
  • 1 package fresh udon noodles
  • one egg per servings planned (i.e., one egg per bowl)
  • 1/2 bunch scallions, sliced
  • a handful of sesame seeds
  • optional – 1 sheet nori, cut into very thin strips; 1 cup or so corn kernels

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add oil to pan. Season the pork with salt and pepper, and then add pork to the pan and sear on all sides.  Place in the slow cooker.

2. Increase the heat of the skillet and add onions, cut side down.  Cook until charred, and then transfer to slow cooker. Add the stock and about two tablespoons of soy sauce to the slow cooker.  Shake some red pepper in there for heat. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and add those to the slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 7 hours.

3. Remove pork from cooker and let rest while you thinly slice the mushroom caps.  Strain the mushroom caps from the brother.  Add 2 tablespoons soy sauce, mushroom caps, sesame oil, and ginger to slow cooker. Cook on high for 20 minutes. Add noodles and corn to slow cooker; cook 5 minutes.

4. As the noodles cook, poach an egg or two to serve. Serve with the soup, sprinkle with sesame seeds, scallions, and nori, if using.

The Verdict:

No one will be replacing Sakuramen anytime soon, but goodness this was good.

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Sweet & Sour Meatballs with Polenta

No offense to T.S. Eliot, but I firmly believe March is the cruelest month.  It’s long, for one.  There are no holidays.  It still gets dark early, and it’s still cold.  The tourists are in full force, so you’re actually avoiding the cherry blossoms, at all costs.  And someone chose March to be Women’s History Month – which don’t get me wrong – this is important – but how come we’ve got to cram all the events and all the meetings and all the speeches and all the things into March?  I’m pretty sure – actually I know – that women are awesome all year round.  (AKA, I’m really lucky and work on issues that I feel incredibly passionate about, but I’m also le tired.  Growing a human is hard.)

However, despite the lack of posts and despite whining above, rest assured, we’ve been dominating Cooking Light’s March issue.  No one is going to call these meatballs pretty – but they were delicious.  And polenta…it’s the new staple in our house.

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Sweet & Sour Meatballs with Polenta

for the polenta:

  • 3-4 cups chicken or veggie stock
  • salt, pepper
  • 3/4 cup ground polenta
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • shredded cheese of your choice

for the meatballs

  • about a pound of lean ground meat (we used turkey)
  • splash sesame oil (this stuff is powerful)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • splash soy sauce
  • pinch of panko or breadcrumbs

for the sauce

  • about 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup ketchup (yes, really)
  • big dash sriracha or hot sauce
  • about 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • big dash of worcestshire sauce
  1. Make your meatballs.  Combine the turkey, onion, garlic, sesame oil soy sauce and breadcrumbs.  Roll into about 15-20 meatballs.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the meatballs and cook until brown on all sides, about six minutes.  Remove the meatballs from the pan and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, get your stock boiling for your polenta.  (Note: you may need way more liquid at the end.)
  4. Add water, ketchup, sriracha, oyster and worcestshire sauce to the pan and whisk it up.  Return meatballs to the pan and cover, simmering until cooked through, about 5-8 minutes.
  5. When the stock is boiling, add salt and pepper.  Gradually whisk in the polenta.  Depending on what kind you use – it may take up to 25 minutes.  Add butter and cheese and season to taste.
  6. Serve the whole shebang with a healthy side salad – this kind of heaviness needs a little greenery.

 

The Verdict:

We are the converted.  Polenta – never again pre-prepared.  Ever.  THIS is the way to go.

Slow Cooked Pork with Spicy Squash

We all know that chez nous, we have a strong, strong affinity for the slow cooker.  One might even say it’s a deep, passionate love, if that weren’t a somewhat odd thing to say about something you plug into the wall.

However, I do have a bone to pick with some slow cooker recipes. I’m looking at you, Williams Sonoma.   As in: the whole POINT of the slow cooker is so you can fix it and forget it and still have a delicious meal at the end of the day.  So while I love you, WS, think about this the next time you suggest an ingredient addition at the two hour mark, or a quick pass through the oven at the 90 minute mark, or removing the meat and adding some separately cooked vegetables about 3 hours in.  Just, no.  No one has time for that.  If they did, they’d be actively cooking, and not plugging their dinner into the wall.

Now that the rant section is over, let’s get on with the rave section.  As in this pork recipe.  Adapted from WS, this is a (really) good one, folks. And it’s a (mostly) fix-it-and-forget-it situation.

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Slow Cooked Pork with Spicy Squash

for the pork

  • large (2-3 pounds) pork tenderloin
  • salt, pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • big splash white wine or sherry
  • about 1/2 cup chicken stock

for the squash

  • 1 package pre-cut butternut squash
  • olive oil, salt, pepper, crushed red peppers
  • asian-lime vinaigrette:
    • olive oil (about 2 TBs)
    • soy sauce (about 2TBs)
    • juice from 1 lime
    • sherry or red wine vinegar (about 2 Tsp.)
    • pinch sugar
    • salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
    • Sriracha (about 1 TB)
    • big handful basil, chopped
    • big handful cilantro, chopped
  1. Season the pork with salt and pepper and then sear each side in olive oil, over medium-high heat, in a large saute pan.  (This is important for flavor.) Transfer to the slow cooker.
  2. In the saute pan, add the onions and let them cook down a bit, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic when the onions are nice and soft and cook about a minute or two; add the wine/sherry.  Scrape up the nice brown bits, add the stock, cook it off for about a minute and then add to the slow cooker, over the pork.  Cover and cook on low about 6-7 hours (Note: if you’re using a fattier cut of meat, such as pork butt or shoulder, you could let it roll for longer.)
  3. About 30 minutes before the pork finishes, get your squash roasting.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  On a large jelly roll pan, spread out the squash, drizzle olive oil, and then season with salt, pepper and crushed reds.  Make sure it’s nice and tossed through, and then pop it in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is nice and roasted.
  4. While the squash and pork finish, make your vinaigrette.  Combine all of the ingredients, whisk them together, and set aside.  You could also add jalapeno or chilis, if you have them on hand.  Reserve a bit of vinaigrette, as well as cilantro/basil for sprinkling on top of the pork/squash.
  5. Shred the pork in the slow cooker and spoon some of the liquid over it, to keep it moist.  Add the vinaigrette to the squash separately, and give it a good toss.
  6. On a plate, make a bed out of the squash and serve the pork on top.  Drizzle with a bit more vinaigrette and top with basil and/or cilantro.

The Verdict:

Hello, delicious!  The vinaigrette and fresh herbs really make this one pop, so make sure you have that on hand and ready to go for this meal.  (After, of course, you enjoy 6-7 hours away from your plugged-in dinner!).

 

Asian-inspired Grilled Salmon Salad

This past weekend is now officially known as the Epic Weekend of Fun.  Just to run some of the numbers quickly:

  • One dip in an ice cold river.
  • Not one, but two epic cover bands.
  • The trifecta of lunches: brisket, burgers, and fried chicken.
  • Four amigos.
  • Five mile hike somewhere 45 minutes from the city, which felt like it was about 4500 miles from the city.
  • (Far too many) bottles of wine.  Let’s not put a number on this one.

This week, I’m thinking about atoning for our sins (side note: this seems to be a theme around here).  To the Husband’s chagrin, this means hitting up the fish train.  Honey: welcome to tonight’s dinner.

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Asian-Inspired Grilled Salmon

  • about 4-5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha
  • 1/2 inch ginger, grated
  • salt, pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound salmon fillets, skin on
  • 1 bag arugula/baby kale/spinach
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • cilantro, to serve
  1. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce through garlic and mix well.  Set aside about a third of the mixture to act as your dressing later on.  In a large flat bottom bowl, pour the soy sauce mixture and lay the salmon, flesh side down (to increase absorption).  Let it sit for about 20-30 minutes – any longer and the soy sauce will start to toughen up the protein.
  2. Heat a grill pan over medium heat and coat with cooking spray.  Add salmon, flesh side down, and grill about 4-5 minutes.  Using tongs, flip to the other side and grill until the middle is no longer pink.  The skin will sort of neatly fall away from the fish as you remove it.
  3. Assemble your salad ingredients (arugula through avocado) and lay your cooked fish on top.  Dress with the reserve soy sauce mixture + feel virtuous.

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The Verdict:

This is a super easy, super quick way to feel super virtuous and healthy.  Of course, we’ll be taking our nightly trip to Mr. Yogato right after this.  We finally have enough stamps for a free fro-yo! #theepicweekendcontinues

Grilled Asian-Inspired Chicken & Peach Salad

This weekend was that rare weekend when we had very little we needed to do.  We listened to jazz in the sculpture garden.  We ate ramen.  We drank one too many vodka sodas and danced our faces off.  We ate Italian and maybe drank too much wine.  We went to the movies – I even got to pick, since it’s my birthday week . Crushed it.

Sort of like this salad.  And the Barden Bellas.

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for the marinade

  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoon sambal oelek or other chili paste
  • about 1/2 cup soy
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • a few cracks black pepper
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound chicken breasts

for the salad

  • arugula
  • 3-4 peaches, sliced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 big handful cherry tomatoes
  • about 6-8 green onions, sliced
  • 2 oz goat cheese, crumbled

for the dressing

  • a few quick zests of ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili pasta
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/3 cup soy
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • a few cracks of black pepper
  1. Whisk together your marinade.  Place chicken in large ziplock bag and pour the marinade over it; make sure the chicken really bathes it all in.  Place in the fridge and let it rest for about 2-3 hours – any longer and the soy sauce will start to really toughen up the meat.
  2. Heat two large grill pans (jealous of those of you with REAL grills); coat with nonstick spray.  Cook the chicken 3-4 minutes on each side over medium heat.  In a separate pan, toss together the peaches & tomatoes and grill those about 3-5 minutes total; add the green onions at the end, so they don’t overcook.
  3. Add all salad ingredients together – arugula, avocado, chicken, & grilled fruit.  Whisk together a little dressing using (most of) the same ingredients as the marinade and toss the whole salad with the goat cheese.

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The Verdict:

There’s going to be a tussle tomorrow for who gets to bring the leftovers for lunch.