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  • The Chopping Blog

Cooking with "Nothing" in the Fridge

Posted by Roger on Dec 22, 2016


It's an inside joke at my house that there is never anything in the fridge to make a meal. At least every time my girlfriend checks, that seems to be the case. I, of course, immediately welcome this as a challenge. Sunday was no different. I am usually very good at making meals out of "nothing" on hand. So let's see what was in my fridge and cupboard that could be turned into a meal. 

There was a hunk of pork loin. Not enough to stand alone as an entree, but if diced, it could be part of a larger dish. A couple slices of ham, bacon and pepperoni... that's a lot of random pork! There was a little chicken stock, a little cooked pasta and some peas. My mind was already thinking of some sort of stew as it was so darned cold outside that day.

porkIn the cupboard, I had a can of black beans and garbanzos. Cassoulet perhaps? I really love southwestern spices. Maybe a chili? I gathered it all together, placed it on the counter and started to work. I decided that this dish was definitely being called "Quattro Puerco" for the appearance of 4 different pork products.

veggies and canned beans


Quattro Puerco

  • 1/4 pound bacon, cut into lardons
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound pork loin, fat cap removed and cut into 1" cubes (Pro tip: the fat from trimming the pork loin also went into the pan while I rendered the bacon to add flavor and more rendered fat for the roux and then simmered in the stew)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder (espellette, if available)
  • About 10 grinds of freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Lawry's seasoned salt
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 onion, medium dice
  • 2 carrots, peeled, medium dice
  • 2 celery ribs, medium dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2/3 cup Sauvignon Blanc (or other dry white wine)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 can garbanzos drained and rinsed
  • 1 can black beans drained and rinsed
  • 2 Yukon gold potatoes, large dice
  • 2 slices ham, medium dice 
  • 12 pepperoni slices, quartered
  • 1/4 cup salsa (or a diced tomato)
  • 2 cups cooked pasta (rotini)
  • About a cup of peas

1. Melt the butter in a large stock pot or Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook until it is nice and crispy.

2. Remove the bacon from the pan and save till the end, but leave all the fat in the pan.

3. Toss the cubed pork in a large bowl with all the dry spices and Lawry's seasoning until well coated.

4. Add the flour and again toss until well coated.

pork flour5. Fry the pork in the bacon fat/butter mixture over medium high heat, working in batches (don't overcrowd the pan), cook them stirring frequently until nicely browned.

6. Remove from pan to rest.

rendered bacon with pork strips7. Add the carrots, celery and onion to the pan and sauté 5 min over medium heat.

8. Add the garlic and bay leaves, sauté another minute.

9. Add the wine and use this liquid to help remove the fond from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the liquid until mostly gone.

veggies stock10. Stir in half cup of flour. Stirring constantly, cook the flour for a minute as it dissolves.

11. Whisk in the chicken stock and remaining ingredients except for the pasta, peas and cooked pork and bacon. 

12. Cook until the potatoes are fork tender, return the pork cubes, bacon, peas and the pasta. Cook a few minutes to completely heat the pork and serve.

pasta peasThis one really hit the spot because it was so cold outside. I love cooking in winter because it warms up the home and brings family together. It can also be a lot of fun and a great way to de-stress.

plated stewFor more soul (and home) warming recipes, don't miss The Chopping Block's upcoming Stew and Ragu hands-on cooking class on Sunday, January 28 at our Merchandise Mart location. We also offer a demonstration cooking class Cold-Weather Soups and Stews on Saturday, January 7 at Lincoln Square that's full of hearty fare to get through winter.

Topics: cold weather, leftover, stew, stews, Recipes, leftovers

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