A formula recipe: Skillet gratin

Edited by: Ellie Sharp, first published in the CAFE newsletter

This time of year I crave hearty, deeply satisfying dishes like shepherd’s pie and baked au gratins. I turn to these and others time and time again, with just one regret: the inevitable stockpile of pots and pans that such recipes require when each component is cooked separately and then combined into a final baking vessel. With snow in the forecast this past week (it eluded us this time – boo!) I was hankering for a hearty, hot soup alternative that wouldn’t put my kitchen cleaning into overdrive. The result was combining the likes of a shepherd’s pie with an au gratin into a single skillet supper.

This meal is exceptionally adaptable and can be tailored to flavor preferences as well as meat or meat-free diets. Once a filling is chosen, it is topped with a starchy vegetable and cheese “crust”. With this basic formula as your guide, the resulting outcomes are truly limitless. Play around with what’s in season, try combining new-to-you ingredients with a familiar base, or switch up seasonings for Tex-Mex, Greek, Asian or Italian flair.

For my first creation, pictured here, I used bacon, leek, shiitake, and cabbage with a rutabaga topping: a true celebration of CAFE offerings these days!

Skillet Gratin 
The formula:

Protein: 1 lb ground meat, 8 oz chopped bacon, 1.5 cups leftover roast meat, OR 1 can of drained beans/lentils 

Vegetables: You need roughly 6 cups of chopped vegetables. Ideas include mushrooms, cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, etc.

Gratin topping: 1 pound starchy root vegetable such as potatoes, rutabaga, turnip, even beets. Slice chosen vegetables thinly with a mandolin.

Seasonings and Herbs: Start with 3-4 cloves of garlic chopped, freshly chopped herbs, salt and pepper. Nice additions include tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, wine, etc.

Cream and Cheese for Topping: Save the cream from the top of your raw milk or, as pictured here, the top layer of canned coconut milk. Nut milk might work, too, if you can make it thick enough (give it a whirl). You’ll need about ½ cup of the milk choice and ½ cup of preferred cheese.

In addition to the following specific recipe, here are some combination ideas to get you started:

  • Chicken pot pie inspired with chicken, carrots, mushrooms, peas and topped with Yukon gold potatoes.
  • Roast pork from the freezer with Brussels sprouts, mushrooms and topping with some potatoes and goat cheese.
  • Ground beef would do well with spinach or broccoli plus tomato and an addition of tomato paste.
  • Lentils! I can’t wait to try this with lentils and some kale topped with turnips. 

The possibilities are truly limitless or at least as far as your taste buds and imagination can take you!

Bacon, shiitake, leek, cabbage with rutabaga skillet gratin (pictured recipe):

  • 8 ounces bacon, chopped
  • 12 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 leeks washed and sliced into half moons
  • 1 small (or ½ large) cabbage head, quartered, core removed, sliced into ribbons
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 pound rutabaga, sliced thin with a mandolin
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (not shaken and poured from the cream on top)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. If using pre-cooked meat or beans continue to step 3. Otherwise, heat a 10-inch iron skillet over heat and brown the meat. Remove from the pan, place on a plate and set aside. Drain off all but 1 TB fat. Continue to step 4. 
  3. In a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, heat fat of choice.
  4. Add mushrooms and sauté until they release liquid, about 5 minutes (if using onions, I’d add them at this point too). 
  5. Add remaining chopped vegetables. Season assertively with salt and pepper. Sauté until they begin to cook and become slightly wilted/limp. Remember you will be cooking this in the oven for a time, so the vegetables don’t need to be entirely cooked, just get the process started, about 5-7 minutes.
  6. Add your herbs, garlic, and any other seasoning of choice at this point. 
  7. Add the cooked meat or protein of choice into the skillet and fold everything together until warmed and combined thoroughly. Turn off the heat. 
  8. Starting with your ragged looking slices (saving the pretty ones for the end) of gratin topping choice, began layering these over the mixture. Continue layering until all the slices have been used. Season with salt and pepper. 
  9. Slowly pour cream over the skillet, taking care to wet each slice and top with cheese, if using.
  10. Cover your skillet with aluminum foil. Bake covered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  11. Test your potatoes/topping for doneness by sticking a knife through them. If there is any resistance, continue baking another 5-10 minutes.
  12. Uncover the dish and bake another 5-10 minutes until the top has browned in spots.
  13. Let it cool for about 10 minutes while you throw together a salad. Slice and serve!     

What a half hog share looks like

We recently had another pork pickup day and took the opportunity to lay out a half hog share to demonstrate what it looks like and weigh how much exactly it is.

Hands down, the most common question we get is, “how much meat is a half share really?” With a the help of a 4-year old added for scale (and cuteness), below is what it looks like! We laid out the cuts in the shape of a pig, so that you can get a sense of where the cuts come from and how much to expect from each area.

aria-pork

As there is a lot of variability in a how you can get a half hog butchered, this is just a common example and each order looks a bit different.  This customer did a great job maximizing their order for how their family eats and is a great example of why buying a half hog share is a fantastic value for the pork-lover with sufficient freezer space.

This particular half share had a hanging weight of: 127.5 lbs. which is an average weight, perhaps even a little on the big side.  Here’s the breakdown of weights from each section listed above:

Loin:

2 roasts – 2.12, 3.13 lbs.

Chops (4 packs of 2 each) – 2.5, 2.6 ,2.6, 2.3 lbs.

Shoulder:

Boston Butt – 11.3 lbs!

Picnic – 9.1 lbs.

Ribs – 2.8 (a lot smaller than most people assume that they are getting)

Belly (Bacon) – This adventurous customer chose to have the belly cut into 2-3 lb packs to cure and smoke at home: 3.4, 2.1, 3.5 lbs.  Most customers have the butcher cure, smoke & slice their bacon for them

Leg:

Ham 9.8 lbs.

Ham Steaks – 2.7, 2.8, 2.4, 2.5 lbs.

Sausage – 17 lbs. of various flavorings

Extras:

Hocks – 2 lbs.

Leaf Lard – 1.1 lbs.

Fatback – 7.3 lbs.

Bones – 2.1 lbs.

Neck/back bones – 1.6 lbs.

Ear – 0.6 lbs.

Extras that this customer didn’t take, but are available: Head, Liver, Skin, Heart, Tail…

Lastly, here’s a roundup of Callywood Farms pork on the plate from us and customers!

From top left to bottom right: Pork chop, pork meatball soup, pizza with ground sausage, fried pork chops, farm girl eating porkchop with bare hands!, braised pork with tomato-mushroom gravy, BACON, onion smothered grilled chop, bacon and apple cinnamon rolls, braised country ribs in tomatoes, pork roast in crockpot with herbs and figs, braised pork with tomato-mushroom gravy, boston butt and hocks/feet on the smoker, pork and beans stew with collards, homemade chorizo with blackbeans over pumpkin polenta, rendering lard, a whole hog on the smoker, grilled pork loin, rendered lard.

Cocoa and Chile Rubbed Pork Chops

Music: Sublime, 40 oz. to Freedom…went a little old school on you
Menu:
Cocoa and Chile Rubbed Pork Chops, roasted green beans & mushrooms, cheesy grits

Let’s talk about spice, baby. Let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the sweet and spicy things that make these pork chops…that includes a little S & P. Was that too chessy?!? Maybe…but these pork chops surely are not. The recipe (courtesy of Food & Wine) calls for pure ancho chile powder. Well, I did not have ancho chiles, but I still have a TON of cayenne peppers from a few years back when I tried making my own chile spiked vodka as a Bloody Mary base for X-mas gifts one year…let’s just say the vodka is killer…and I mean that literally and not in a “dude” way.

N-E-ways. I grounded up some cayenne pepps, combined some cocoa powder and brown suga’ and wall-la! Friggin’ amazing! These were spicy, like really spicy. If you don’t like spice I recommend a basic mexican chile powder or as the recipe suggests ancho chile powder. Here in Denver, you can find whatever chile your heart desires – fresh or dried – in the regular supermarket. But in case you aren’t sure what the h-e-double hockeysticks an ancho chile is, it’s actually just a dried poblano pepper. Poblano are the long, wide dark green chiles. Ancho is the dried version and like a poblano they are much milder than a cayenne.

Oh, oh, oh…one of my fave side dishes! Roasted green beans and mushrooms with garlic, shallot amazing-ness! Add some EVOO and S & P and pop in the oven for 12 minutes and literally one of the best side dishes…at least on the Callahan scorecard.

Lastly, I must tell you that grits for dinner is perfectly acceptable. This is coming from the household that goes through a canister of grits in about 1 week (does that qualify as an obsession?!?). I will share my most perfect grits recipe, but later. Time for the spicy sweet pork chops that look oh-so-delish.


Cocoa-and-Chile-Rubbed Pork Chops
from Food & Wine

Ingredients:

  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 1/2 tspn crushed red pepper
  • salt
  • Pork chops – 4 thick boneless pork loin chops
  • 1 TB unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 TB light brown sugar
  • 1 TB pure ancho chile powder
  • EVOO

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl or your regular marinating dish, combine water, red pepper, and 1 1/2 tspn. of salt and stir until salt dissolves. Add pork chops and let brine at room temp. for at least an hour.
  2. Light a grill (create an indirect heating scenario: if you have a charcoal grill, move all coals to one side or for a gas grill, just light one side).
  3. In a bowl, mix cocoa, sugar, and chile powder, with 1 TB salt.
  4. Drain pork chops and pat dry. Brush or drizzle with EVOO.
  5. Press pork chops into cocoa rub and press to help adhere. Repeat on both sides and with each pork chop.
  6. Grill over moderate-high heat for 4 minutes, turning once, until lightly browned on each side. Move chops to cool side of grill and cover and let sit for 10 – 15 minutes. Thermometer should read 135 for medium meat. Let chops rest before digging in.
  7. Serve with veggies, grits, and water to cool down the heat!