Crown Pork Roast with Mushroom – Broccoli Stuffing

Crown Pork Roast is an elegant, classic preparation. Most grocery stores with in-house butchers will prepare the crown-shaped rack of pork chops. Even better, if you have a meat market like Ream’s Elburn Market nearby, order your crown pork roast from them and get the highest quality of pork.

Preparing the roast is very simple. It mainly just takes time and a good instant-read thermometer, like the Thermapen, to make sure the meat reaches 150F and doesn’t go too far past that mark.

At the bottom of this post is a recipe for Cider Gravy, which is new for Ample Bites thanks to friend and fellow foodie George Manos. This gravy is outstanding and a perfect compliment for the pork or chicken. Give it a try even if you don’t make a crown pork roast this holiday season

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Crown Pork Roast with Mushroom – Broccoli Stuffing
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Serves 15 to 20

1 crown pork roast (15 ribs)
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp dried parsley flakes
1 tsp dried thyme leaves, divided
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
12 ounces button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 head of broccoli, cut into ½-inch pieces
6 cups firm unseasoned bread cubes
12 ounces low-sodium, fat-free chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine

Preheat oven to 325F.

In a small bowl mix the flour with dried parsley, ½ teaspoon thyme and ½ teaspoon pepper. Rub the inside and outside of the roast with salt, then coat the outside with flour mixture. Place the roast rib ends down in a large roasting pan for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, prepare stuffing in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons of oil to the skillet. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds. Add the onion and cook until tender and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms, broccoli, ½ teaspoon thyme and salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until the mushrooms are tender and beginning to brown and the broccoli is tender but still crisp. Stir in the bread cubes and chicken stock. Toss until mixed well.

When pork has roasted 2 hours remove it from the oven and turn the rib ends up. Fill the cavity with stuffing. Bake any leftover stuffing in a covered casserole during the last 40 minutes of cooking and standing time. Pour wine into the roasting pan to keep the drippings moist.

Return roast to oven and continue roasting about 1 ½ hours or until an instant meat thermometer between 2 ribs into the thickest part of the meat reads 150F. If the stuffing is browning too quickly cover it with a piece of foil

Let the roast stand for at least 15 minutes before carving.

Cider Gravy
(Recipe courtesy of George Manos and Epicurious.com, 2013)

1 cup apple cider
4 tsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp applejack brandy
1 1/2 cup low-sodium beef broth

Add 1 cup broth to roasting pan and scrape up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour juices into 2-cup measuring cup, freeze for 15 minutes. Spoon fat off top of pan juices. Transfer pan juices to medium sauce pan. Add remaining 1/2 cup beef broth and apple cider. Bring to a boil. Dissolve cornstarch into applejack in small bowl; whisk into broth mixture. Boil until gravy thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer gravy to a warm gravy boat to serve.

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Pan-Seared Shrimp and Scallops over Pasta with Vodka Sauce

Pasta with Vodka Sauce is a rich dish. When it is topped with pan-seared shrimp or scallops it is even better. To make an extra creamy vodka sauce use an immersion blender to make the marinara smooth before adding the cream and Parmesan to the sauce.

Penne pasta is a good shape to use for this dish because it holds so much of the decadent sauce. Ample Bites prefers using a rough, wide-cut homemade noodle similar to a linguine but a bit more rustic.

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Pan-Seared Shrimp over Pasta with Vodka Sauce
(Mark Kelly, 2013)

Serves 4

1 pound large pasta shapes
3 cups Marinara Sauce (see below)
1 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb large (20-24) shrimp, peeled and deveined
Extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350F.

Pat shrimp dry and season with pepper.

In a large heavy skillet or Dutch oven simmer the marinara sauce and vodka over low heat, stirring often, until the mixture reduces by one-fourth, about 20 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, in a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat, bring 2 tablespoons of oil to a shimmer. In batches, sear the shrimp on both sides until cooked through, adding oil as needed. Remove to a plate and keep warm in a 200F oven or warming drawer.

Also, boil and drain the pasta reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Stir the cream into the marinara and continue to simmer over low heat until the sauce is heated through. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the Parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Taste the sauce and season with more salt and pepper to taste.

Place the sauce back over low heat. Add the pasta and toss to coat. Add the pasta water and simmer, tossing occasionally until the sauce is thickened.

To serve, place a portion of the pasta on a plate. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and top with shrimp. Serve immediately.

Marinara Sauce

Makes about 2 quarts

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons, divided
½ cup dry red wine
2 small onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 (32 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1 pound dried whole-wheat spaghetti or linguine
2 dried bay leaves

In a large casserole pot, heat the ½ cup of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and the sea salt and black pepper. Sauté until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, wine, and bay leaves and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard bay leaves.

The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.

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Slow-Braised Beef and Acorn Squash Stew

Ample Bites saw this recipe in a newspaper insert and just had to give it a try. The recipe originated from Chef Will LeRoux of the Wayfarer Restaurant and Lounge in Cannon Beach, Oregon. This hearty dish transforms stew meat into a silky stew that is perfect with a loaf of warm crusty bread and a bottle of cabernet.

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Slow-Braised Beef and Acorn Squash Stew
(Adapted from recipe by Chef Will LeRoux, Wayfarer Restaurant and Lounge, 2013)

Serves 6 to 8

2 pounds beef stew meat
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup canola oil
4 strips bacon, cooked and diced
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
1/4 tsp dried thyme
3 cups red wine
3 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
1 cup diced carrots
2 cups chopped potatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 cups chopped acorn squash

Pat meat dry with a paper towel. Place the meat in a bowl and sprinkle with flour, salt and pepper. Toss to coat.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven. Add meat and brown in batches over medium-high heat. Remove browned beef to a plate. Add bacon, onions, garlic and thyme to the pot and cook over medium heat until the onion is transparent, about 5 minutes. Deglaze the pot with wine, scrapping up all of the browned bits. Add broth and return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pot. Simmer until the meat is tender and the sauce thickens about 30 minutes. Add carrots, potato, celery and squash; cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Ladle the stew into bowls and serve with warm crusty bread.

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Crab and Sweet Potato Hash

Crab and Sweet Potato Hash is a versatile dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Using roasted sweet potatoes from the previous nights dinner shortens the preparation process considerably.

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White potatoes can be substituted for the sweet potatoes and if you prefer shrimp or lobster over crab, go ahead and make that substitution.

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Crab and Sweet Potato Hash
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Chef Sarah Lee Meyers, 2013)

Serves 4

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
16 ounces lump crab meat
10 ounces baby spinach
4 fried eggs
Sriracha to garnish
Cojita or finely grated Parmesan cheese to garnish

Preheat oven to 350F.

Place sweet potatoes and shallot on a large, foil-rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt, paprika and pepper. Drizzle olive oil over top and toss to coat. Place in oven and roast 20 to 30 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are tender.

Melt butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and lemon rind, Old Bay seasoning and crab. Cook 1 minute. Add lemon juice and spinach. Toss until coated with butter. Add potato, shallot mixture. Serve warm topped with a fried egg and warm crusty bread.

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Caramelized Onion Dip – A Perfect Holiday Appetizer

Are you looking for a different appetizer to serve at your holiday dinner or cocktail party? Do you need a creative new appetizer to bring to a friend’s party or a potluck? Ample Bites is sharing an old favorite with you for the holidays. Caramelized Onion and Shallot Dip is a rich, sophisticated appetizer that can be served with potato chips, pretzels, pita crisps or raw vegetables.

Caramelized Onion and Shallot Dip
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit magazine, October 2012)

2 lb. large yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
4 sprigs thyme
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp Sherry vinegar
2 cups low-fat sour cream
¼ cup minced fresh chives
¼ cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
2 tsp onion powder

Preheat oven to 425F. Mix onions, Shallots, thyme sprigs, and oil in a large roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast onion mixture, stirring and scraping down sides of pan every 10 minutes, until mixture starts to break down and turn golden brown. 45 – 55 minutes.

Discard thyme sprigs. Add wine and vinegar; stir to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of pan. Return onion mixture to oven. Continue roasting, stirring occasionally, until deep brown and completely caramelized, about 15 minutes longer. Spread onion mixture out on a rimmed baking sheet to cool.

Transfer onion mixture to a work surface and mince. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in sour cream, chives, yogurt, and onion powder. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped chives. Cover and chill.

Dip can be made up to 3 days ahead.

The dip will be somewhat chunky. For a smoother dip, pulse in a blender or food processor to desired consistency. Serve with potato chips, roasted pita chips or fresh vegetables.

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Le Creuset or Lodge?

If you are stumped about what to give a loved one who is a cooking enthusiast this holiday season consider Le Creuset or Lodge cookware. You cannot go wrong with either companies products. To learn more – read on!

Ample Bites loves to make one-pot dishes, such as stews or gumbos, and braise meats and vegetables. The best vessels to use for these cooking methods are the enameled cast-iron pots made by Le Creuset and Lodge.

These types of pots are also sometimes referred to as Dutch ovens – in fact. Le Creuset, which is a French word meaning crucible, refers to some of their products as “French Ovens”. Both companies manufacture pots spanning a wide range of sizes, shapes and colors. Enameled cast-iron pots can be used on a cooktop or in an oven. These heavy pots hold and efficiently radiate heat during the cooking process. When properly cared for Le Creuset and Lodge can be used for decades or even generations.

Neither Le Creuset nor Lodge cookware is inexpensive with products starting just below $100, for the smaller Lodge models, and going upwards of $400, for the largest Le Creuset pots.

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Lodge is an American company based in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, where one of their outlet stores is also located. Lodge makes both enameled cookware and plain cast-iron items, including traditional Dutch ovens which are designed to be used in a fire, as well as a full array of accessories like insulated handles and spoons.

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Le Creuset is a French company based in Fresnoy-La-Grand in the North of France. Le Creuset also produces a vast catalog of accessories but all of their cookware is enameled.

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Regardless of whether you choose to acquire Le Creuset or Lodge cookware you simply can’t go wrong. Your decision is likely to come down to what size pot and what color to select. Happy shopping!

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Adelle’s – Wheaton, IL

The other night Ample Bites was introduced to a great local restaurant. Adelle’s – Fine American Fare is located in an unassuming one-story building on the South side of the tracks in the heart of downtown Wheaton, Illinois. Adelle’s is highly acclaimed locally including an appearance on WTTW’s Check Please! TV program.

Adelle’s menu includes a number of comfort food items like meatloaf, parmesan-crusted chicken breast and braised short ribs but their approach to these items, and everything else on the menu, is to use excellent ingredients and bold flavors. The chef punches up the flavors with spices, sauces and fresh herbs in a way that is noticeable but not overpowering.

Adelle’s entree and small plates menu is solid from top-to-bottom, which makes selecting a meal difficult for the diner. Their nightly specials compound this pleasant problem. Our waiter was excellent. He described the specials in detail and helped us understand some of the subtleties of the main menu. He was also observant enough to notice that a birthday was being celebrated and made mention of it.

Our group started with glasses of wine from a well-balanced wine list that includes an impressive selection of domestic and imported varieties by the glass or bottle. Our group chose a 2011 Dark Horse Chardonnay, a couple 2011 Las Lajas Malbecs, and a 2011 Hybrid Petite Sirah to accompany our fish taco and mini-burger appetizers and entrees.

All of our entrees met or exceeded our expectations. The entrees included a traditional Pork Tenderloin Schnitzel with spatzle and red cabbage, a beautiful Pan-roasted Wild Pacific Cod with potato latke, grilled asparagus, Hollandaise and Tobiko caviar, a golden-brown Parmesan-crusted Chicken Breast with cheddar mashed potatoes, onion strings and grilled asparagus, and a medium-rare Hoisin Glazed Duck Breast with purple sticky rice.

Adelle’s service was excellent. The waiter and bus-staff were attentive but not overly so. Our meals were served in a timely manner and at the proper temperature.

Although we were too full for dessert we chose a Chocolate Truffle Brownie from a very strong dessert menu. The brownie was rich and suitably decadent.

Adelle’s was impressive on all levels and Ample Bites will certainly return to this fine restaurant.

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Asian Tuna Burgers

Asian Tuna Burgers have most of the taste elements of a sushi roll combined in a burger form. The wasabi-lime mayonnaise can be made ahead of time as can the pickled cucumbers and red onions. The tuna mixture should also be prepared long enough ahead to allow the flavors to develop.

The burgers can be grilled as the recipe says or cooked on a stovetop griddle or flattop.

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Asian Tuna Burgers
(Adapted from recipe Cooking Light Crave, 2013)

Serves 6

6 Tbsp mayonnaise
½ tsp wasabi paste
½ tsp grated lime rind, divided
1 ½ tsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp agave nectar
4 ½ Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar, divided
1 ½ cups thinly sliced English cucumber
¾ cup sliced red onion
1 ½ pounds tuna steaks, cut into 1-inch cubes
½ cup minced onions
½ tsp toasted sesame oil
1 ½ Tbsp lower-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp grated peeled fresh ginger
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
Cooking spray
6 sandwich buns
½ cup small cilantro sprigs

Combine first four ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate.

Dissolve ¼ teaspoon of agave nectar in 3 tablespoons vinegar in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add cucumber and red onion; toss to coat. Refrigerate.

Place tuna in a food processor; pulse until finely chopped. Combine chopped tuna, green onions, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and salt, 1 ½ tablespoons vinegar, ¼ teaspoon lime zest and ¾ teaspoon agave nectar in a bowl. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions. Shape the tuna mixture into 6 ½-inch-thick patties. Indent the center of each with your thumb. Refrigerate.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Brush the grill rack with oil. Grill the patties for 4 minutes. Turn the patties over; grill for another 4 minutes or to desired doneness. Remove from grill and allow to stand for 5 minutes before serving.

While the burgers stand, spread the mayo mixture evenly on the cut side of each bun. Place a tuna patty on the bottom half of each bun. Spoon cucumber-onion mixture evenly on the top of each patty. Arrange cilantro over all. Cover with top buns and serve immediately.

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