Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Meat and Fruit: Two Juicy Pairings

While I am still indulging my grilled pomegranate pork passions, I have been exploring some other meat and fruit pairings. I suppose it's a way to lighten up meat dishes during the warmer months and to give them some sweet, summery flavor twists. To begin with, I came across a luscious-looking recipe on Simply Recipes for rosemary-marinated chicken skewers with a fresh blackberry sauce (doesn't that just SOUND delicious??). Instead of doing skewers, though, I just made boneless, skin-on thighs. Although I reduced my sauce a little too much (it should be syrupy, not jammy!), it was a delicious dish and super-easy to boot. I served the chicken with garlic and chive mashed potatoes and a green salad on the side, and it was fun to be able to use so many freshly-picked, seasonal ingredients in one meal, many from my own garden! This recipe is perfect for summer, and I highly recommend that you give it a try. Everyone could use a sweet new take on chicken, right?

Rosemary Chicken Skewers with Berry Sauce
Simply Recipes)

For the chicken:
4-6 boneless chicken thighs or breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds), skin on or off
2 tablespoons chopped, fresh rosemary
1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil


For the sauce:
1 3/4 cup fresh or frozen blackberries or boysenberries
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons red currant jelly (or berry jam or jelly--I used purple raspberry jam)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Cut the chicken into 1 1/2 inch pieces and place in a bowl. Mix with the wine, oil, rosemary, and pepper. Cover and set aside to marinate in the refrigerator for one hour. (Unfortunately, we ran out of propane after hours, so my chicken marinated for about 24 hours to no ill effect.)

Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Thread the chicken onto skewers and season generously with salt. (Tip: If you're making skewers and not whole chicken pieces, make sure to soak wooden skewers in water for about 30 minutes before grilling so that they don't burn.)

Preheat the grill for direct high heat. Brush the grill grates with olive oil. Place chicken skewers on grill and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Place on a platter and cover with foil to allow the chicken to rest.

To make the sauce, place the marinade and the berries in a sauce pan and simmer gently until the berries are soft. Press through a strainer and discard the pulp. Return the juice and marinade mixture to the pan. Add the vinegar, jelly, and nutmeg and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered until it has reduced by about 1/3 to a light syrup-like consistency.

Plate the skewers and spoon the sauce over the chicken. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 (Um...who eats just one chicken thigh for dinner? This serves TWO!)

Secondly, this past weekend, I got creative with a lonely pork roast that I unearthed from the freezer and a jar of Trader Joe's mango sauce (like applesauce, but with mangoes) that had been languishing in the pantry for far too long. Normally, I do pork roast with onions, applesauce, and/or sauerkraut, but that's far too autumnal for this time of year! So I lightened up those rich fall flavors with mangoes and chilies for a scrumptious, Caribbean-inflected, sweet and spicy pulled pork sandwich. To dress the sandwiches, I toasted some poppy seed buns, spread them with a little mayo, added thinly-sliced Vidalia onion and some of that great kraut relish that I made awhile back (which gave it that pulled pork and chow-chow feeling), then I topped the whole shebang with creamy, perfectly ripe Haas avocado slices that had been sprinkled with lime juice to keep from browning. SO GOOD!

I served the sandwiches with a simple macaroni salad that I zhoozhed up with my spicy house rub to somewhat emulate the fine mac salad that I enjoyed at the BBQ joint in Albany recently. This was a great summer meal despite that fact that I used the crock pot. At the time, the grill was still propane-less and out of commission. Moreover, I often have other things going on that dominate the summer kitchen, like big canning projects. So it's nice to have dinner simmering away--out of the way--in my faithful old slow cooker. This is another dish that you should definitely make, especially on a busy summer day crammed with activities--it'll be ready when you get home, and the sandwiches can be thrown together in minutes after that.

Mango Chili Pulled Pork

3-4 pound bone-in pork roast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup (or so) your favorite BBQ/chili spice rub
25 oz. jar mango sauce (or you could use chunks of fresh or frozen mango)
2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped (or 4 if you like it HOT!)
1/2 very large onion, peeled and chopped
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder (preferably, dark)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

In a large pan on medium-high, heat the olive oil. Season the pork roast liberally with the chili spice rub, then brown the roast on all sides in the oil.

While the roast is searing, add the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker and stir to combine. When the roast is sufficiently browned, add it to the crock pot and cook for 4-6 hours on high (8-10 hours on low?) or until tender enough to easily pull apart with two forks. Take the roast from the pot, remove the bones (they should pull right out or it's not done!), and shred the meat in large chunks. The meat is pretty tasty as is, or you can mix it with some of the sauce in which it cooked.

Barbecue Macaroni Salad

1 lb. elbows, boiled until tender then cooled under cold running water and drained
4 eggs, hard-cooked, peeled and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons BBQ seasoning/spice rub (or to taste)
3-4 green onions, ends removed and sliced
1 smallish carrot, peeled and finely shredded
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise (more or less, as you like it)
good pinch salt (to taste)
black pepper (to taste)

Combine all ingredients, stir gently to incorporate everything, cover and refrigerate at least a couple of hours.

Note: This makes an enormous, picnic-sized batch, so you may wish to halve the recipe.

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