Saturday night and the fancy grocery stores with helpful butchers have closed. I’m standing in front of the pork section trying to remember the various cuts and what they are good for. I want something that won’t be too expensive and will enjoy a good long slow cook. I don’t need much – I’m looking for flavor rather than substance. I’ve just about resigned myself to buying the smallest shoulder I can find, cutting off what I need and freezing the rest, in what spot in my jam-packed freezer I couldn’t say. Then my eyes land on a pork neck. Intriguing. Cheap. I’ve never cooked with a pork neck but I think it will do the job just nicely.
This recipe was inspired by a tin of Smoky Paprika Chipotle Seasoning I picked up on impulse a couple weeks ago. I try to avoid spice mixes. It’s more useful to have the separate ingredients and blend my own as needed, but lately I’m a sucker for anything chipotle. And paprika. So there it is.
A word about the cumin and coriander. You can skip the toasting and grinding by hand. That’s the joy of being able to buy the pre-ground. But if you can spare a few minutes, that moment you inhale the scent of the freshly ground and toasted spices will remind you why you cook instead of buying frozen dinners. Incomparable. The freshest jar of pre-ground spices can’t offer you that.
This is a simple soup. Hearty and filling and subtle on the spices. Top with a dollop of plain yogurt and a squeeze of lime. (There are few dishes that can’t do with a dollop of yogurt and a squeeze of lime.)
Chipotle Bean & Pork Soup
3/4 lb black beans, soaked overnight and drained 1/4 lb navy beans, soaked overnight and drained 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds 1/2 lb pork neck 1 Tablespoon olive oil 1 can diced tomatoes 1 onion, diced 2 cloves garlic, crushed and diced 1 tablespoon smoky paprika chipotle seasoning* 1 1/2 cup chicken stock 1 tablespoon salt
In a small skillet (cast iron is best for this), toast the cumin and coriander until fragrant. Remove from heat and crush in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy skillet. Brown the pork neck on all sides. Place pork in the slow cooker. Add freshly ground spices and the rest of the ingredients, adding more stock if needed to cover everything. Turn the slow cooker to high for one hour. Reduce to low and cook for four to five more hours, until the beans and pork are tender. Add salt to taste.
*A blend of chipotle chili powder, paprika, garlic, sea salt, sugar and smoke flavoring.
This was supposed to be soup. This was supposed to be soup because it’s November and there is a chill in the air and I love soup and so of course I was going to come home from church and make a big pot of something to simmer. Because a big pot of something simmering on a chilly Sunday afternoon is just about the best thing in the world.
Also, I just bought some new smoked paprika. And this soup was supposed to be all about an excuse to use the paprika. A smoky paprika-flavored soup simmering for an hour or two on my stove to celebrate (yes, celebrate!) the cold weather. Hibernation food.
Then I got to the moment when I needed to add my chicken stock and the intense scent of bacon and onions and paprika hit my nose and cried out to remain undiluted and I realized I was using canned beans so there is no need to simmer for hours. So I thought – stewed beans!
If you’d prefer soup, increase the chicken stock by a cup. Toss in some chopped greens for a more nutritionally complete one pot meal.
Beans with Paprika & Parmesan
Serves: 3 or 4
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil 1 1/2 slices bacon 1 Onion 2 Tablespoons Smoked Paprika 2 Carrots 1 15 1/2 ounce can of Navy Beans, rinsed and drained 1/2 cup Chicken Stock piece of Parmesan Rind* Salt and Pepper to taste
In a heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil. Meanwhile, dice the bacon and onion. Sauté the bacon until the fat starts to render. Add the onion. Dice your carrots.
When the onions are translucent and beginning to brown, add the paprika. Stir and heat through – about a minute. Add the diced carrots, beans, chicken stock and parmesan rind. Simmer until the carrots are tender, adding liquid if needed.
Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Be careful of over salting. Between the bacon and the parmesan and the canned beans, you may already have plenty of saltiness.
Remove the parmesan rind. Serve.
*if you don’t have a parmesan rind, simply throw in a piece of parmesan or even some of the grated stuff
The microwave, it has to be said, has not been pulling its weight around here. It’s a small kitchen, and the bigger the appliance’s footprint, the more it needs to produce to earn that footprint. The blender understands this. After all, everyone saw what happened to the toaster that used to occupy the blender’s corner. The microwave…well, the microwave is a pain to clean. It takes up the entire top of the refrigerator and makes the cupboard behind it all but unusable. And the microwave is really used for just one thing – reheating this porridge.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Or at least, I know what I thought. Porridge is for punishing fairy tale characters. And could leftover oatmeal ever be appetizing? Then I realized how easily this reheats – beating hands down any instant version of oatmeal you’ve ever tried. And the quinoa gives it a lightness you wouldn’t believe possible of porridge.
Make a big pot of this. Have your fill and put the leftovers away. Spoon it into a bowl every morning with a splash of your favorite milk. Give the microwave one more day’s reprieve and zap it for a minute and a half or so. Fill your belly with this hearty warm goodness. See if it doesn’t make you happier to face the chill of November.
Oat & Quinoa Porridge
Serves 3 or 4
1/3 cup Quinoa, rinsed
1/3 cup Rolled Oats
1/3 cup Steel-Cut Oats
1 1/2 cup Milk
1/2 cup Apple Cider
1 cup Water
1 pinch Salt
Combine milk, water, and cider in pot. Bring to a boil. Add quinoa, rolled oats, steel-cut oats and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until tender.
Variations: This recipe grew out of my playing around with April Bloomfield’s English Porridge. Try playing with it yourself. Total one part grains or seeds with 3 parts liquid. I’m going to try Wheateena (toasted cracked wheat) in the mix next.
Topping ideas: toasted almonds, berries, a dollop of yogurt, apple butter, jam, butter, honey, syrup, toasted coconut….