Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Father's Day Feast

I know it's a few days too late, but I do hope everyone enjoyed Father's Day.  There probably aren't too many fathers who are regular readers of this blog, but if you're a father and you are reading this, then I hope you had a great one.  For those of you who aren't fathers, I hope you enjoyed a day with the men you love in your life.

One thing I love about Father's Day is that it's a great excuse for me to cook up the kind of hearty, meaty dishes that the fathers in my life love.  My husband, is, as you well know Sir Pickypants.  He requires a fish or chicken dish.  My mother has a more delicate and sensible appetite and it's the same with my mother-in-law.  They are best served by going out to dinner.  My father and my brother on the other hand, are real guy's guys when it comes to food.  For them I can cook all of the foods I normally have to leave off the menu.

I love pork shoulder and it's so easy to prepare because you can stick it in the oven for a few hours and forget about it.  While the typical way to prepare it is barbecue style (which I have done before) I was thinking of trying something different.  I was inspired by Debby and her pork ragu` recipe.  Two years ago I made a ragu` from short ribs.  Why not try one from pork shoulder?  I thought that rather than repeat myself and serve it over pasta, I would serve it over polenta, which would be perfect for those with likely gluten sensitivities.

My recipe was rich, thick and hearty.  Grated cheese is optional, but it does take this over the top.

For dessert I wanted to make the most of seasonal fruits.  I decided to rework my strawberry lemon cake recipe with farmer's market strawberries.  I made a basic vanilla butter cake, but flavored it with some lemon and then layered it with fresh strawberries and lemon curd, and then covered the outside with Swiss buttercream flavored with pureed fresh strawberries.

Why are my layer cakes always lopsided?  This is why I don't bake for a living.

Want to see what the inside looked like?
I think everyone enjoyed the meal.  My niece even ventured to try the pork (although the children preferred to eat ice cream rather than try a cake filled with noxious fruit).  To me, cooking someone a meal is one of the ultimate expressions of love, so I hope the important fathers in my life enjoyed this Father's Day gift.

So for the recipes...

Pork Shoulder Ragu`

  • 1 4-Pound Pork Shoulder Roast
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1  large onion, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 16 oz. cremini mushroom, sliced
  • 2 28 oz, cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 bay leaves*
  • 1 Tbl chopped fresh thyme
Heat oven to 325 degrees

Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper.  Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and brown the pork on all sides.  Remove from pot.

Turn heat to low and add olive oil to pot.  Add fennel seeds and cook until fragrant.  Add onion and cook until soft and transparent.  Add garlic and cook another minute until fragrant.  Add mushrooms and cook until soft and give off their liquid.  Stir in the tomatoes and wine along with the bay leaves and thyme.  Return pork to the pot. 

Cover the pot and cook for five hours in the oven. 

Remove pork from the pot.  Place in a bowl or large plate and use 2 forks to shred it.  Return it to the sauce and keep warm over low heat for another 30 minutes. 

Serve over your favorite hearty pasta or polenta.

Strawberry Lemon Cake

For Cake

  • 2 stick of butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 Tbl lemon juice
  • 3 ¼ cups cake flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
Heat oven to 350 degrees. 

Grease and flour 3 9” round cake pans (or use flour cooking spray)

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.   Set  aside.

Cream the butter until fluffy with an electric mixer.  Add sugar and continue creaming for about 6-8 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one.  Add vanilla, juice, and zest.

Begin to add the flour and milk alternately.  Start and end with the flour. 

Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. 

Cool in pans for 10 minutes.  Invert onto wire rack to cool completely before assembling cake.  

For Strawberry Frosting

  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 sticks of butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup strawberries, hulled
Puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Set aside.

Place the egg white and the sugar in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water (it's best to use the same bowl that you will be mixing the frosting in for convenience).  Whisk the egg whites and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture feels uniformly warm.  Remove from heat.

Using a mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg white mixture until it is stiff, fluffy, and glossy, but not dry.  This should take about 10 minutes.  Start the mixer on low but gradually increase the speed.   

Begin adding the butter a few pieces at time, making sure each addition is incorporated.  When all of the butter is added, add the vanilla.  Switch to a paddle attachment and continue mixing until smooth and then add the strawberries at a low speed and mix until well incorporated.

Chill if you aren't going to use it right away, but bring it to room temperature before using as this type of frosting hardens when cold.

For assembly
  • 1 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 2 Tbl liqueur such as framboise or limoncello
  • Lemon curd (You can use store bought, or make your own.  I use Ina Garten's recipe.)
Brush each cake layer with a small amount of liqueur.  Spread some of the lemon curd over the top and then top with strawberries before adding the next layer.  

Make sure your lemon curd is very cold so that it stays firm and doesn't drip out the sides of the cake.  Make sure your frosting is at room temperature.

Frost the entire outside of the cake with strawberry buttercream.

*Confession time.  I truly intended for this recipe to contain bay leaves.  Unfortunately, I assumed I had bay leaves in the kitchen, but when I went to put them into the sauce, I found out I didn't have any.  I did without.  If you want to use bay leaves, I'm sure they would be delicious.  If you don't, this sauce is still good.


bellini said...

I have no doubt that everyone enjoyed the meal immensely!!!! Wish my own dad were closer, but then again, he would blow the pants off of Mr. Pickypants being a very fussy vegetarian.

EZ said...

As a father lucky enough to enjoy this mean I am here to tell you it was delicious! I want to make the pork shoulder myself. My wife can bake the cake!