Pork Shoulder with Guinness, Dried Cherries, and Sweet Potatoes

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What’s the difference between a home cook and a chef? For me, the answer lies right there in the pages of Daniel Boulud’s braising book which came out back in 2006. I’m a big believer in braising; nothing makes me happier than to sear a tough piece of meat, stir in some aromatics, add a cooking liquid, and then to let thing go for three hours, only to have the meat melt beneath the tines of a fork when you’re done, the sauce right there without any extra labor. But as for those individual elements–the meat, the aromatics, the liquid–the best I could come up with, if pressed, would be all the usual suspects: chicken thighs, onions, garlic, white wine, etc. That’s because I’m a home cook. Chef Boulud, on the other hand, fills his pages with the most startling combinations: beef shank with coconut and avocado, pork belly with pineapple and plantains, lamb shanks with mint, prunes, and bourbon. And so on Saturday, I decided to channel my inner-chef and make the recipe that called out to me the most: Pork Shoulder with Guinness, Dried Cherries, and Sweet Potatoes.

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Say Hello to Fall: Spiced Pork Stew with Polenta

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It was so hot here in L.A., last week, I couldn’t bear to go outside. Then, quite abruptly, the heat went away and this morning I found myself turning off the A/C early, chilly under our light summer blanket. A change of season is afoot–especially in places that aren’t L.A.–and mood-wise, that might be kind of depressing, but food-wise? This is my favorite transition, from light summer salads to hearty winter braises. Consider this particular recipe, adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, the perfect transitional tool.

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Melissa Clark’s Spicy Pork Stew with Hominy and Collard Greens

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Here’s a cooking tip: if you have something in your pantry that requires a long soak (dried beans, for example, or dried chickpeas), rip open the bag in the morning, pour them into a bowl and fill it up with water even if you have no idea what you’re going to do with them later in the day. What’s great about this approach is that it narrows the field for you after 5 o’clock; instead of choosing from endless recipes, you know you need to find one that features soaked-beans or chickpeas. It’s a win-win because you have a component that’s normally a pain in the butt and some direction for your dinner.

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Four-Hour Lamb Shoulder with White Beans and Olive Tapenade

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Hold your ears, short ribs, and hide your eyes pork butt: lamb shoulder is quickly becoming my favorite cut of meat to cook at home. I’ve sung its praises before here on the blog, but lately I’ve been on a real lamb shoulder kick. I made April Bloomfield’s version for a crowd recently and they all went nuts for it (hers has anchovies in the mix, which show up in today’s version in the olive tapenade; anchovies and lamb make a surprisingly good match) but even the simplest version–today’s comes from my friend Clotilde–can still wow. And now that it’s spring, it’s a perfect thing to serve along with white beans (traditionally flageolets) and a zesty olive tapenade.

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Daube de Boeuf (Beef Braised in Red Wine)

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It’s inauguration day and also Martin Luther King Day and here I am sharing a French recipe. Before you label me a communist, I hope you know this is entirely coincidental. On Friday, I made dinner for a few friends and while thumbing through my cookbooks searching for an entree, the dish that really caught my eye was a recipe for Daube de Boeuf from Saveur Cooks Authentic French. Unlike Boeuf Bourguignon, Daube de Boeuf doesn’t ask you to render bacon or to cook pearl onions and mushrooms separately; here, you just brown beef in butter and olive oil, add your mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery), garlic, and a good, bold red wine. Two hours later you add dried porcinis and their soaking liquid and the rest takes care of itself.

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Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew

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Cooking out of season is a little more acceptable on the west coast, where seasons are peripheral. Yes, it got a little chilly out here in L.A. in January and February; I was wearing long sleeves in March, but life didn’t change the way life changes so dramatically when it gets cold back east.

So why not make beef stew in June? That was my philosophy when I unpacked Amanda Hesser’s mammoth New York Times Cookbook and discovered a recipe by that most fabulously ferocious food writer, Regina Schrambling, for Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew.

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Pot Roast

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When I think pot roast, I think Americana, I think 50s sitcoms and a beleaguered housewife who intones: “Oh, darn it, I burnt the pot roast!”

It’s not a dish that I ate much growing up, eating–as we did–most of our meals out. My first real pot roast memory, actually, comes from Atlanta. I ordered pot roast at one of my favorite, kitschy restaurants there–Agnes & Muriel’s–and got very sick afterwards. I don’t blame Agnes & Muriel’s, but I did blame pot roast. I avoided it for years.

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