Musing: An Epic Failure

What should have been a great dish

After numerous requests from my husband for stuffed cabbage, I set out to make the dish. The recipe is from a now cancelled series on the Cooking Channel that featured Laura Calder, a Canadian chef who focused on French cuisine. In fact, I had made this dish with some success about five years ago; however, last night’s attempt was an epic failure.

Some of the responsibility for my culinary mega flop is mine. Rather than buying the savoy cabbage called for by the recipe, I mistakenly purchased a Napa, or Chinese, cabbage since it was marked “Savoy” on the shelf.

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Potenza-Style Pork Ragu with Farro

Farro with Pork Ragu

Over the past holiday week, it’s been chilly here in San Diego and the cool weather made me long for a hardy winter dish. Looking through my cookbooks, I came upon a recipe from Lidia Bastianich’s Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy for a pork ragù with farro Potenza style. The combination of pork shoulder simmered low and slow in a spicy tomato sauce and then combined with nutty farro sounded most appealing.

Fortunately, our local grocery store was having a great half-price sale on fresh bone-in pork shoulder roasts, which added even more appeal to the recipe. Even though I only needed two pounds of meat, I picked up a six-pound roast that would allow me to practice my butchering skills and provide me enough meat for a couple of meals.

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Pork Rib Ragu

pork ragusmall

One of the dividends from slow cooking is definitely the leftovers. Even if you’re simply reheating them, they can often be even better than the first time you served them.

Yesterday, I pulled from the fridge some slow-cooked pork ribs in smoked Spanish paprika sauce that we had on Sunday. On their own, there wasn’t enough left for two portions, so I decided to turn them into a ragu for pasta. (See my May 26th post for more about the ribs.)

For almost any rich, meaty sauce, my favorite variety of pasta is pappardelle. The name for these broad, flat noodles comes from the Italian verb “pappare,” which means “to gobble up.” Their heft and shape make them the perfect carrier for a thick ragu.

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After skimming the congealed fat from the ribs, I removed the meat from the bones and shredded it, discarding any thick pieces of fat. I placed the meat and the sauce into a heavy-bottomed sauce pan with a little water and heated it over a low flame, with occasional stirring, for about 30 minutes. After 10 minutes, I also added some milk to the sauce for a creamier texture.

I then transferred the sauce to a skillet wide enough to accommodate the pasta and placed it over a low flame

I cooked the fresh pappardelle for 2 minutes in heavily salted water. Just before they reached the al dente stage, I transferred the pasta from the pot to the skillet with a spider-style strainer and tossed the noodles with the sauce for about 30 seconds to coat and finish cooking.

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Off the heat, I added a handful of grated Romano and some parsley.

Wine Pairing: Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Franc