One of the things that we enjoy when we travel is tasting all of the different ways that places use seasonal fruit with wild game. Although pork isn’t game food like the elk, duck, or goose, it does stand up to bold flavors like the food that we find during our travels. This isn’t an Asian plum sauce, but an actual reduction made with this seasonal fruit. We chose to make this with thick-cut pork chops, but it could just as easily be done with a pork tenderloin as well. It is certainly the type of meal that can be served for a holiday or special occasion, but it also works for a weekday meal as well. As usual, this recipe serves two, but it can easily be increased for more.
2 Large Pork Chops – about 1 1/2 inches thick
1 cup Beef Stock
2 tsp Fresh Ginger – peeled and grated
1/4 cup Rice Vinegar
1/3 cup Honey
4 sprigs Fresh Mint
3 Plums – cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tbsp Unsalted Butter
3 tbsp Vegetable Oil
2 tsp Garlic Powder
2 tsp Dried Rosemary – chopped
2 tsp Dried Thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste
Using a vegetable peeler or pairing knife, remove the zest of the orange into wide strips. Squeeze the juice of the orange into a medium sauce pan and add the zest. Heat the sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the vinegar, honey, and beef stock and whisk the ingredients together. Add the mint and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the plums and continue to cook until the plums are soft, adding the butter after about 10 minutes. Continue to cook for about another 20 to 25 minutes until the sauce thickens. Remove the mint, season with salt, and keep warm while the pork is cooked. Season both sides of the pork chops, which should be at room temperature, with the garlic powder, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper. Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the pork chops in the skillet until browned and cooked to the desired doneness, about 6 to 8 minutes per side. Place the pork chops onto plates and spoon sauce over the top. Serve with your favorite side dishes.
Needless to say, there are hundreds of restaurants in New York, many of them Italian. Many, if not most, of them serve wonderful food from family recipes that they brought with them from the Old World. During our stay in Manhattan, we came across one of these small, family owned and run, restaurants and stopped there for lunch as we walked the streets of the city. We ended up trying a couple of their daily specials, one ravioli and the other fettuccine. Both of them were wonderful, but we especially liked the fettuccine as it was different than most pasta dishes that we have had. In our attempt to replicate it, we had little to go on other than the picture that we took during our meal, but it turned out to be delicious as well as very simple to prepare. As is often the case, simple dishes with only a few ingredients can often be some of the best.
1 lb Fresh Fettuccine
1 lb Baby Spinach
1 lb Ground Pork – unseasoned
2 tbsp Italian Seasoning
1 tbsp Garlic Powder
1 tbsp Red Pepper Flakes – more or less depending on how spicy you would like it
1/2 cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
4 tbsp Unsalted Butter
6 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Be sure to use plain ground pork and not a seasoned pork sausage. In a large bowl, combine the pork, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, red peppers, salt and pepper and be sure to incorporate the spices throughout the meat. It is best to work the meat and spices with your hands as you would if you were going to make meatballs. Set the pork aside for about 30 minutes to let the seasonings infuse the meat and allow the meat to come to room temperature. Heat a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil to medium-high heat. Add the pork, breaking it up into rough bite size chunks as it browns. Sauté the pork until it is fully cooked and slightly browned, about 10 minutes while stirring frequently. Remove the pork, leaving as much of the oil and fat, and set aside on a plate with a paper towel to drain. Add the baby spinach in batches and heat until it is wilted and soft. The spinach will reduce to about 1/4th as it wilts. Once all of the spinach has been cooked, reduce the heat to low and combine the pork and spinach. Cook the fettuccine according to the package directions, being sure to reserve about a cup of the pasta water. In a large bowl, combine the butter and the fettuccine and mix thoroughly until the pasta is coated. Combine the pork, spinach, and pasta water and toss gently together. Divide onto plates and shred the parmesan cheese over top and serve.
We have often heard about people taking cooking classes during their travels, but we have never done that ourselves. We truly enjoy eating like a local and have been trying to replicate some of our favorite meals over the past few months. As we make our final preparations for our trip to Ecuador in three weeks, one of the things that we are considering is taking a cooking class while we are there. If we do take the class, we will eat a variety of local favorites and end by making our own empanadas using fresh, local ingredients.
We enjoyed the variety of foods that we ate during our trip to Bolivia last year and look forward to tasting the cuisine of Ecuador. We are expecting them to be rich with starches and have a variety of pork and beef dishes. Have any of you taken a local cooking class during your travels? Would you recommend it?