Using the diverse cultures and foods of Astoria, NY to feed one man's imagination in the kitchen.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pork ragu casserole with Tuscan bean crust

Today I finished a two day process of cooking down pork shoulder into a pork ragu sauce. Yesterday I slow roasted the shoulder with bones and rind, crushed tomatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves and olive oil. All in a lg roasting pan for 8 hours at 250. Today I shredded the meat, chopped the rind and discarded the bones. Back into the cleaned roasting pan with more olive oil, crushed tomatoes and a bottle of red wine. Salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes for basic seasoning. Slow roasted at 250 for another 6 hours. The result was dark, rich and succulent. All into freezer for future meal but saved 2 qts for a new idea.

After reading her blog and talking with Judy Witts about her new recipes and seasonal cooking in Tuscany I came up with this dish. Also inspired by the pork cassoulet we did last week that was such a hit.

Pork ragu casserole with Tuscan bean crust
-Basically a left overs dish. Be creative, it's really all about the dark rich meat in sauce and the creamy yet crusty topping.
2 qts prepared pork shoulder ragu in tomato sauce (or similar recipe)
2bs dried white beans. Cooked with bay leaf, garlic and olive oil till softened then drained.
- Save liquid and remaining beans for soup.

Mix beans with chopped garlic, olive oil, bread crumbs, chopped parsley, chopped sage or rosemary, lemon zest, salt and pepper. You want a moisted mix but not mushy broken beans.

In casserole dish coated with olive oil, lay in the pokr ragu and smooth down. Layer over the bean mix. Pat down and sprinkle over more bread crumbs for crust. Drizzle over olive oil.

Into a preheated 350F oven for 30 minutes or until crust is browned and bubbling.

I promise you will love this one. Hearty, rich, delicious.
Good one pot dish with little clean up.
Left over beans and liquid can be pureed and used as base for soup with chopped chard and chicken stock.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Red snapper stew a la greek

All porked out and tired of long cooking times this past weekend. Decided on healthy Greek fare for tonight's meal.

Red snapper stew in the Greek style
Covers all the bases.
1. One pot meal
2. Fast cooking. 20 minutes from hot pan to table.
3. Cheap.
4. Fish not pork, very healthy.
5. Wife loves feta and olives.


Good olive oil
1 medium onion fine chop
2 lg zucchini cubed
2 cloves garlic sliced
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 lemon. Half for squeezing, half for wedges.
2 cups puttanesca sauce OR 2 cups crushed tomato, 4 anchovies, 1 bay leaf, red pepper flakes.
2 lbs red snapper fillets cut into large cubes. Can use almost any fish or seafood for this dish.
1 tablespoon fresh dill plus more for garnish.
1/2 cup feta cheese

Use a heavy bottom 18" pan or similar. A large wide pan will let you cook faster as the stew is spread out over more surface area.
Over high heat saute onion in plenty of olive oil till translucent.
Add garlic and zucchini. Season with touch of ground black pepper. Saute till softened.
Add olives and puttanesca sauce. 5 minutes on high heat covered.
Stir up and push fish down into the mixture.
Crumble on feta, dill and squeeze of half lemon.
Cover and simmer 10 minutes.
Gently stir then plate in bowls with more dill as garnish and a lemon wedge.
One grind of black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Serve with bread for sopping up the extra sauce.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

All pork cassoulet

It’s cold, really cold so why not a cassoulet, an all pork cassoulet. I have my farm raised pig but we also need good ingredients to round out the dish. Right here in Astoria, New York we have a shop called Munkin. An Eastern European pork store where they produce 30 types of smoked and cured pork products in house. Just being there is like strolling through heaven, if your into that sort of thing. They might use commercial pork BUT it’s a local artisanal smoke house and that's good enough for me. They care, they know, they make darn good stuff.

All Pork Cassoulet. Inspired by our Czech neighbors at the Beer garden.
Feeds 8-10 people.
Recipe: Jonathan Forgash

Over all an easy dish. Lots of cooking time but really just a couple of 1 pot dishes with little clean up and big pay off. Serve with wine or beer.

2lbs dry Italian white beans (or similar). Soaked overnight and drained.
Bouquet garni
6 links smoked fresh sausage
Bone from shoulder
Pork rind (skin and fat) from 1 pork shoulder
1 medium carrot, 2 rib celery, 1 head peeled garlic, 1 onion with three cloves stuck in.

Cover with water, bring to boil then low simmer for 1hr or until beans or softened, not mushy.
Remove sausage after the first 1/2 hour to a plate.
When beans are done, remove from stove and let cool with lid off.
Remove the pork rind and add it to the meat roasting in the oven, why? Because it adds more gelatinous goodness to the dish.

MEAT: Start this section while beans are cooking.
4lb butterflied pork shoulder (salt and pepper) seared on all sides in roasting pan or lg Dutch oven. Remove pork to plate. Leave fat and drippings in pan.
Sautee 2 sliced onion till translucent. Add 1 cup brandy or beer, scrape up bits from pan and reduce.
Add 1 head peeled garlic, 1 medium carrot whole and 2 ribs celery whole.
6 juniper berries and 6 peppercorn
Cover with 28oz canned whole tomatoes
Put the seared leg and the pork rind (added after beans are done) into the mixture. Baste throughout cooking process with sauce.
Season with salt and pepper.
Into a preheated 400F oven for 30 minutes uncovered. Then lower heat to 300F, cover and cook 1.5 hours or until meat is fork tender (170-185F internal temp).
Remove meat to plate and continue to cook sauce and rind covered until rind is easy to slice and almost falls apart.
Remove from oven and let cool in sauce.

NOTE: Beans and meat can be prepared up to two days earlier. This will make for a richer dish. Same is true for all stews and other similar dishes.

Cube pork shoulder, slice skin into ribbons, slice sausage into rounds.
Strain beans and reserve liquid for another dish. Throw out the pork bone.
Chop veggies in meat sauce or use a stick blender. Mix veggies into sauce.
Mix meats into sauce and set aside.
Prepare 2 cups bread crumbs with 1 cup parsley leaves chopped in.

In 2 large casserole pans, layer beans on bottom, layer meat and sauce, top with layer of beans. Sprinkle on breadcrumb mix to create crust. Drizzle over plenty of olive oil to coat the crumbs. Cook in oven at 350 uncovered 30 minutes. or till interior is hot and crust is dark and bubbly.

NOTE: Do not layer too high. You want a balance between meat, soft beans and crust.

NOTE: If dish components prepared previous day, bring everything to room temp before assembling the casseroles. Cook uncovered 1hr at 350 or till interior is hot and crust is dark and bubbly.

Creamy sauerkraut sauce. Served as a condiment or side dish.
8 slices bacon
4 tablespoon butter
2 lg onions thin sliced
1 teaspoon caraway seed
4 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons stone ground mustard. Look for Czech or German style.
2 qt rinsed and drained store bought sauerkraut
½ cup chopped parsley
Cook bacon till crisp. Chop bacon and back into pan with drippings.
Add butter.
Over high heat, cook onion with caraway seed. Cover pan to sweat onions. When translucent and liquid reduced add flour. Cook till lightly browned.
Add mustard and sauerkraut. Mix well and cover over low heat for 15 minutes. Continue stirring to incorporate. Taste for salt, mustard and caraway. Adjust as needed. Stir in parsley.
Dish should be creamy and smooth. If too dry add water and cook a bit more.

Serve along side the cassoulet.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pig part 2.

Got my first heritage black breed pig Thursday night from This pig was roughly 70lbs so I split it with my Diabolical Friend (mentioned in previous pig posting). Brought it into our local butcher for well, butchering. Split that baby right down the middle and then into parts.

My share included (and what I plan to do with it).
1 leg boned and skinned to be used for a cassoulet dish on Saturday.
1 shoulder skin and bone on but with bones cracked for easy cutting. Pork ragu with fresh pasta.
1 belly and loin boned out. Porchetta.
Spare ribs for an app.
1/2 of the head. Slow roasted

Remember it's a smallish pig so the loin is small and the ribs are not big or very meaty.

We are hosting the family Chanukah party this year and want to do something different. I think pig would fall into the different catagory. Italian Chanukah with the porchetta and ragu. Good thing we're not kosher. Does cooking in pork fat count for "fried in oil" Chanukah fare?
More to come...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Porchetta baby!

porchetta & salasa verde
Recently purchased a couple of 22lb farm raised all natural pigs. Took the full belly and loins, boned them out and made an Italian porchetta.

porchetta rub
A paste of fresh rosemary, salt, lemon zest and garlic made the dish aromatic and delicious.

porchetta tie up
Tied it up and let it air dry in fridge for 24hrs.

porchetta whole
TA DA!!! 3hrs later and crispy aromatic goodness. And yes a snipped of a bit of the end as soon as it was cool enough to put in my mouth. Damn that's good stuff.

porchetta slice
A parsley salsa verde that I prepared with a stick blender for a smooth bright green finish.

PS: Took half of this porchetta and simmered it in a pot with crushed tomatoes, red wine and fresh garlic for about 4hrs. Chopped the skin, fat and meat and back into the sauce. Have to say that this ragu competed with any grandma pork neck bone ragu and the rosemary paste put it onto a whole other level. Served the sauce over another Tuscan pork roast later on in the week at another dinner.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Mrs. Charles Darwin’s Recipe Book

A new book is coming out with Emma Darwin's recipes. The wife of Charles Darwin and Daughter of the Wedgewood china family. Apparently quite the famous hostess and cook.

For me, there are three special highlights in this book.
Photographs by Adam Forgash (brother)
Recipes executed by Jonathan Forgash
Editor: Signe Bergstrom (sister in law)

Signe was the editor on this book and asked Adam and me to join the project. Lots of fun and my first book credit. We worked long and hard over two days with the book designer, Sara Morgan Karp, to cook, style and shoot the images. A fun experience and interesting to watch my brother work with Sara to create the layout and technical aspects of each image.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Raise your own pig! Genius!

Read this and thought, hey, why not in Queens. I've even got a little garden that piggy could help take care of and get fed at the same time. Is it legal???

From the website Sugar Mountain Farms

Raise your own piglets

Our pigs are easy to keep, fast growing, long bodied, wonderful tasty pigs. Piglets typically achieve 200 to 225 lbs in six months. Sows were over 300 lbs at one year, over 400 lbs at two years and 600 lbs at four years. Our original boar topped out at 1,062 lbs. Buy piglets to raise yourself. It is almost as easy to raise several as one so get several. In the snow free months they can forage on pasture, clearing brush, tilling garden and turn grass into pork for you. In the Winter, corral them in your garden and feed them hay plus some grain and milk if you like or go with commercial bagged feed. They don't need fancy housing, a lean-to with a thick bed of hay works very well in the Winter. Pigs are very rugged and do well even in our Vermont winters. They'll clean up last summers plant remains, fertilize the soil and till it up to get it ready for spring planting. Regular help mates! They can turn poor soil into rich organic growing space in just a winter's time. They're easy to house and care for. Since they are pastured pigs they'll eat inexpensive hay in the winter.

Pigs and piglets are available pretty much year round. Note that in the spring there tends to be a high demand for piglets so consider either reserving yours very early or raise winter pigs if you want to raise your own. Fall piglet prices are much lower than in the spring. Pigs are rugged and do wonderfully in our cold Vermont winters. We do it year round outdoors. You don't need a barn or anything special. Just provide them with protection from the wind and dry bedding - we use hay because they also eat the hay which improves their digestion and manure.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Farm rasied pig

A surprise email popped up a few weeks ago from one of my diabolical food friends. This friend might be the death of me one day but for now he hooked me up with Jake from Dickson Farmstand, upstate New York. Check the above link for more information. So I end up getting two 22lb pigs, gutted, cleaned and hair free. Had my butcher cut it up and invited some friends to a Sunday pig pickin' pot luck dinner. Started doing some research and decided on 2 dishes to start with.

The first little pig was going to brined and then slow roasted for a Carolina bbq meal with two bbq sauces. A mustard based South Carolina sauce and a North Carolina vinegar based sauce.

Brined piggy with basic brine, liquid hickory smoke and green market apples. He sat overnight and then removed to air dry in walk in fridge for another 12hrs. Laid out flat on sheet tray skin side up to get the skin going and then flipped to belly up half way through to finish. After about 4hrs at 225F I flipped him back over and cranked up the heat to crisp the skin. during the whole process I basted piggy with a mix of White and apple cider vinegar, pepper flakes, liquid smoke, touch of sugar.

*For those of you upset about the liquid smoke, have to say it's the first time I used it and was pleasantly surprised. There was no in-kitchen smoking option available this time around.

The results were amazing and delicious. Was happy with the simple and straight forward cooking method and the way the meat just pulled apart so soft and tender. The skin was perfect after scraped and recrisped in the oven later on.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Been busy but I'm back

Hey folks, yes it's been a while but for a good reason.

We had little Leo on August 23rd and he is doing just fine, so are we for that matter. Loving it and finally settling in to the new routine and having a new center of the universe in our lives. Cooking has been a joy for many reasons. Maybe part of it is making my wife happy with good foods and warm delicious smells in the apartment. Leo sits in his bouncy chair watching me cook each meal. I talk as I go, explaining everything from ingredients and technique to the evils of manufactured foods and why real food is made by real people. At the very least I think he picks up on the happy vibes of family together and the smells of good cookin'. I'll save the knife skills and saute training for later.