By Cheryl Shaffer, Cooking School Instructor
It’s autumn here in Alaska. There’s a definite nip in the air at night, though our days are still relatively nice by the noon hour. The sun is finally setting in the sky in the evening, treating us to the delight of a Northern Lights show over the mountains, while the fireweed has lost it’s purple hue and is releasing its white floss, free-floating through the air. Leaves are changing colors, here and there, amongst the green of the trees and our gardens are putting on their shows with the bushels of potatoes, onions and carrots finally ready for the harvest. The zucchini plants have given over their tender little fruit and now we are finding the gigantic courgettes hidden under the leaves, too tasty to let go to waste. (And yes, though we treat zucchinis as a vegetable, they are technically a fruit.)
So what to do with the garden surplus that overflows our refrigerator crispers and the vegetable stands while knocking out a mid-week dinner in quick measure? I found the following items in our kitchen today and was thinking about how I could take these and make something delicious before they exceed their freshness, and not take too much of my time from the sales floor. I had purchased Hollywood-style pork rib strips the day before, which are boneless, so that would be my meat base. Sometimes I find that I am more inspired by simply gathering all of my basic components and consider them for a moment, than by racking my brain for a specific recipe to meld all of the flavors and textures.
Ok, here’s what I found in the coffers:
2 lbs. Hollywood style pork rib (no bones, remove excess fat and cut into 1” chunks)
4 medium carrots, cut into small coins
1 large onion, diced
2 potatoes, small dice
1 Tbs. fresh parsley, minced
3 sprigs fresh thyme, (remove the stems)
1 huge zucchini – I used about 4 inches off one end, small dice
1 cup chicken stock
2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
2 Tbs. butter
1 teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper seed
½ teaspoon garlic based seasoning blend
2 teaspoons dry mustard
½ teaspoon Summit Spice Smoked Paprika
½ teaspoon Summit Spice Smokey Maple Fish Rub
½ teaspoon dry dill weed
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
I used the 15” Swiss Diamond sauté pan, placing it over medium high heat. Once the pan was warm, I drizzled in one tablespoon of the oil and added the onions, potatoes and carrots and allowed them to start browning. Season the vegetables with the kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Sprinkle in the thyme, celery seed and dill weed.
In a bowl, place the cut pieces of pork and pour the second tablespoon of oil over the meat. (It’ll help the seasonings stay on the meat.) Add the crushed red pepper, garlic blend, the paprika, maple fish rub spice and dry mustard. Mix to coat the meat well. Remove the vegetables from the sauté pan and place them in a bowl on the side. Add the pork to the pan and begin browning, then add in the zucchini. (Adding the zucchini in with the pork will allow it to absorb the flavors of the pork as it cooks, and it does not require as long a cooking time as the other vegetables.).
Once the pork has a just a touch of pink left in the middle of a piece, return the potato, onion and carrot mixture to the pan, stir and add the chicken stock and butter.
Bring the ragout to a gentle simmer. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. In just a few minutes, the stock will be hot and will have picked-up any of the browned pieces from the bottom of the pan, making an incredible broth to serve with your ragout, and practically screams for fresh rolls or biscuits to sop up all that delicious goodness. I served this in a bowl. You could easily use two or three cups of the stock and change the ragout into a rich soup. Adding a cup of wild rice and letting it simmer, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes longer will extend the yield.
Whatever you choose, this is a nice way to clear out the surplus vegetables in your larder as well as a make a fairly quick homemade dinner from scratch, saving almost as much time as using a box meal from the store, yet you know exactly what the ingredients were used to make it.