Happy fall, friends!
I’ve always been of the mind that my world would be a happier place if there were only two seasons – 6 months of summer and 6 months of winter. I feel cheated, this year, of my summer, so it’s only logical to want an extra couple of months of it. Sadly, that’s not going to happen in Vancouver. Alas, alack.
That being said, I’ve learned to embrace fall. It means scarves and warm drinks and pumpkin things (yeah, yeah, I know, we talked about this already), and lovely colors, etc. Gotta fatten up for winter, too, you know…
So I was talking with my friend Chuck yesterday, about beer-n-mac, and I suddenly had an idea for our next culinary adventure: pork-n-mac. I know, it’s been done before, but this time, we’re going to do it a little differently than the original pulled pork mac-n-cheese that you might see in restaurants. That one is usually extra-smoky and packed with BBQ sauce. It would also be made from all day roasted pork shoulder, but I don’t have one of those, so we’re going to (again) use the contents of my refrigerator to try something new.
Remember how we talked about the beer? Well, Josh and I don’t drink beer, so we don’t have it readily available. I do, however, have a single solitary strongbow in the fridge, which made me think, “Okay, no beer, but there’s an apple cider thingy in there…hey wait, what goes with pork? Apples!” Good thing, too – another friend of mine, Dan, just gave me a big bag of apples (I promised to bake him a pie) from his parents’ orchard. Into the pot they go!
The original recipe for my homemade mac-n-cheese came from this cookbook I got when I graduated from high school. Called “Munchies”, it contains dishes for one or two people that can be easily made on a budget. For me, this cookbook has been pivotal in expanding my one-person cooking horizons. I like to make notes in the margins; for example, this Italian Egg & Muffin Sandwich recipe says, “This is really good, but it’s dry without butter, and makes two full sandwiches. 4 servings is a lie – it only serves me.” My gluttony is unparalleled.
This is a wonderfully easy recipe for homemade mac-n-cheese. Blows the ol’ KD out of the water any day. I tried to find the recipe online to share, but alas, type “munchies” into the Google search bar and all you get is stoner recipes. Not helpful if cooking for children.
We’re starting with the crock pot (duh – when don’t we?), and a small pile of lovely things to braise the pork. We’re leaving the chops whole, rough-chopping our other ingredients, and then we’re going to douse the lot of it in Strongbow. Please note that I am woefully out of garlic and that I only used 2 VERY small cloves. I’ll add a bit of garlic powder later if it’s not enough.
Add some oil to your pot, just to give it a bit of fat. You can put butter in if you want. I also threw in some thyme, because it’s Josh’s favorite, and I don’t mind it either. Use whatever YOU want, though; dried, fresh, whatever. Thoroughly salt and pepper, then give it a stir. Set the chops on top of the apples & veg, and pour the cider over.
We’re going to set this for 6 hours on low. Time for house cleaning…
I’ve decided to take the meat out of the liquid and give it a bloody good shredding. It doesn’t need to be hot when we add it to our pasta, as we’re going to cover the whole dish in cheese and bake it in the oven, so this pork scenario can happen beforehand, OR EVEN USE LEFTOVERS (this just occurred to me – I’ll stop yelling).
Onto the cheesy pasta bit! Put your pasta pot on with some salt and set it boiling. In a big ol’ saucepan, saute your shallot and garlic for a minute or two, just to start the flavors. You can take this out of the pan before making the roux, or you don’t have to bother (because I definitely don’t).
If you’ve never made a roux before, that’s okay! All you’re going to do is melt a couple tablespoons of butter in your pan. Once it’s melted, sprinkle in a couple tablespoons of flour and cook. It’ll make a paste as it cooks, and it’ll darken in color, turning a caramel shade.
Once you’re satisfied with the color, slowly pour in your milk, stirring constantly. Add your cheese. Once it’s melted, stir in your shredded pork and your pasta, and any veggies you feel are necessary. Today, I’m using halved cherry tomatoes. And then I added sriracha.
Dump all this awesomeness into a baking pan. If you’re using a saucepan that is oven-friendly, feel free to leave it as is and just toss it into the oven. 15 minutes should do it, just to get the top a little crusty.
I’d also like to mention, before leaving you to explore new worlds of cheese on pasta, that the braising can most certainly be done in other ways – you don’t always need a crock pot. I just like it ’cause it’s easy. If you have a dutch oven or a metal roasting pan with a lid, you’ll do just fine. I was going to type out instructions, but here, let me google that for you…
- pork chops
- fresh herbs
- olive oil & butter
- grated cheese
- salt & pepper
Half shallot, garlic, apples, oil, strongbow and meat in crock pot. Season liberally. Braise 5 hours on low, one hour on high. Shred meat and set aside.
Saute shallot and garlic in 1 tbsp. butter & 1 tbsp. oil. Add 2 tbsp. butter, melt. Add 2. tbsp. flour, stir into paste and cook 2-3 minutes. Pour milk slowly into pan, stirring constantly. Add cheese and sriracha, meat, veg and cooked pasta. Stir well, pour into oven-safe pan and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.