What is your go-to dish for a special supper or festive potluck meal? A recent student query had me pause to reflect for several moments.
My family enjoys eating a wide variety of foods, fruits, grains and vegetables. Our proximity to the coast and local farms allows us the luxury of plentiful seafood, fresh vegetables and grass-fed protein. Many years of “armchair” traveling through an extensive collection of cookbooks has schooled me in the techniques and ingredients of several cuisines. How to choose a favorite?
The meal would need to be colorful and packed with veggies, rich without too much fat, simple to prepare, cooked in advance and easily reheated. It also should be flavorful, hearty, luxurious on the palate and served with different side grains.
Recalling a dinner I once served at the Blaine House brought delicious food thoughts to mind.
Former First Lady Karen Baldacci is a close friend. When she and Governor John hosted a group of visiting governors’ wives, she asked me to prepare one of the meals. Nothing too elaborate, but a repast highlighting local, Maine ingredients.
Appreciating the Governor’s heritage, I decided to feature a menu that emphasized the aromatic scent and subtle nuances of fresh country flavors. I opted for easy, uncomplicated Maine food prepared in the Italian style.
Although the evening was a blur, I still recall the warm success of a vibrant meal.
The main course featured pork ragù and this recipe is an adaptation from my archives. It’s a lusty dish that can vary both with the creativity of every cook and the seasonality of ingredients. Serve over your favorite pasta, polenta, or try it on cooked grains. With mashed or roasted potatoes, the stew is divine. Pork ragù heats easily in a colorful pot. Perfect for potlucks, or plated for a fancy, Blaine House meal, Pork ragù may become your favorite go-to dish.
Assemble ingredients and tools. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Chop the carrots and celery. Peel the onions and cut into quarters. Chop the garlic. Cut the peppers into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
In a shallow dish, combine flour, salt and pepper. Dredge pork in flour mixture, shaking off excess. In a Dutch oven on top of the stove, heat the olive oil and brown the meat on all sides. Transfer the meat to a plate and set aside.
Add the garlic, vegetables and 2 tablespoons stock to the pot, cooking until lightly browned. Stir in the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining stock, bay leaf and thyme and pork tenderloin. Bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven.
Bake in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the tenderloin reaches at least 150 degrees internally. Remove the tenderloin and return the pot to the stove. Bring to a simmer and reduce the sauce. If desired, add the cooked mushrooms. Remove the bay leaf, slice the tenderloin into 12 pieces and place on a platter. Cover with sauce and sprinkle with gremolata.
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. freshly grated lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt and fresh pepper
In a small bowl, combine parsley, lemon zest and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Serve within the hour. Leftovers may be used in cooking stocks and soups.
"Maine Dish" columnist Cheryl Wixson lives and cooks in Stonington. Her passion for organic Maine products led to the creation of her business, Cheryl Wixson's Kitchen. She welcomes food-related questions and comments at [email protected] or www.cherylwixsonskitchen.com.