Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs Found a New Way to Dinner

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Slow Cooked Pork Tacos

Amanda Hesser, co-founder of Food52 and a former writer and editor at The New York Times, and Merrill Stubbs, a food writer and co-founder of Food52, discuss their cookbook, A New Way to Dinner: A Playbook of Recipes and Strategies for the Week Ahead. They offer a step-by-step guide to creating new dinners, lunches, and even desserts throughout the week by cooking ahead, planning menus and using leftovers creatively. 

Recipes

Slow-Cooked Pork Tacos

(Merrill’s Winter)

These tacos were inspired by a recipe I came across in Fine Cooking for chili con carne. I decided to make them with pork shoulder instead of beef, and I reduced the liquid and axed the beans to make more of a thick stew. Then, another thought: Wouldn’t this be good wrapped in tortillas? And I might as well make some quick-pickled onions while I was at it. At this point it looked nothing like the original, but all recipes come from somewhere, right? Like most slow-cooked dishes, this is even better after a day or two.

Spice: The taco filling calls for several types of chiles and chili powders. In a pinch, you can leave out what you don’t have, but if you stock up on all of the ingredients you’ll be rewarded with complex layers of flavor and heat. Feel free to adjust the amounts to match your tolerance for spice. Use 1 serrano instead of 2 and only 1 teaspoon of ground chipotle if you’re feeling gun-shy.

SERVES 4, WITH LEFTOVER PORK FOR OTHER DINNERS AND LUNCHES

4 teaspoons cumin seeds

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

4 teaspoons ground ancho chile

2 teaspoons ground chipotle

1 teaspoon dried oregano

3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 pounds (1.8kg) boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3⁄4-inch (2cm) cubes

Kosher salt

2 yellow onions, diced

2 poblano chiles, seeded and finely chopped

2 serrano chiles, seeded and finely chopped

4 large garlic cloves, minced

3 cups (710ml) homemade or low-sodium chicken stock

2 cups (480g) canned chopped tomatoes, with their juices (preferably Pomi)

4 large limes

12 to 16 small corn tortillas

2 avocados

1 ⁄2 bunch cilantro, washed and dried

Sour cream, for serving

Pickled onions, for serving

1. Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a small pan for a minute or two over medium heat, shaking the pan, until fragrant. (Be careful not to scorch them.) Finely grind the spices using a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle. Stir in both ground chiles and the oregano and set aside.

2. Warm 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the pork with salt. Working in batches so you don’t crowd the meat, cook the pork until well browned on all sides, about 4 minutes total (add more oil as needed). Transfer the browned pork to a clean plate.

3. Lower the heat to medium-low and add another tablespoon of oil, the onions, chiles, and a few pinches of salt. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the spice mixture and cook for another minute.

4. Return the pork with any juices to the pot, along with the chicken stock and tomatoes. The pork should be covered in liquid; if it’s not, add a little water. Squeeze in the juice of 1 lime and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover the pot, and simmer very gently for 1 hour.

5. Uncover the pot and continue to cook until the pork is tender and the sauce thickens, 30 to 60 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Let the pork cool and store in the pot in the fridge for up to 5 days.

6. The day of: Heat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Wrap the tortillas tightly in aluminum foil and warm in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Gently reheat the pork over medium heat for about 10 minutes and squeeze in some more lime juice. Peel, pit, and slice the avocados and cut 2 limes into wedges. Set out the pork with the avocados, lime wedges, a heap of cilantro, a small bowl of sour cream, and the pickled onions. Let everyone assemble their own tacos at the table.

Brothy, Garlicky Beans

(Merrill’s Winter)

One day when my pantry and fridge were looking particularly sad, I decided to throw all of my vegetable and herb scraps into a pot of beans, along with a Parmesan rind that had been skulking around for weeks. As the beans softened and plumped, they absorbed the flavors of this motley crew of aromatics. They were savory and mellow, leaving all of my previous bean efforts in the dust. Now I always make my beans this way. There’s no need to feel wedded to the specifics: You can use onions instead of shallots, leeks instead of scallions, sage or parsley in place of thyme and rosemary, Pecorino rind rather than Parmesan, and so on.

Freezer Friendly: These beans freeze nicely. Keep them frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months. The morning you plan to eat them for dinner, move them to the fridge to defrost.

SERVES 4 AS A SIDE, WITH EXTRA FOR PASTA E FAGIOLI AND LUNCHES

2 pounds (900g) dried white beans (such as cannellini or navy), picked over and rinsed

8 cups (1.9L) homemade or low-sodium chicken stock or vegetable stock

2 large carrots, peeled and halved

2 celery stalks, with their leaves if you have them, cut into 3-inch (7.5cm) lengths

4 shallots, halved

4 scallions, trimmed

6 fat garlic cloves, smashed

2 thyme sprigs

1 rosemary sprig (or 1⁄2 teaspoon dried)

1 handful flat-leaf parsley (leaves and stems)

Parmesan rind (optional)

1⁄4 cup (60ml) good olive oil, plus more for serving

Kosher salt

2 cups (480g) canned chopped tomatoes (preferably Pomi)

1. To quick-soak the beans, put them in a large heavy pot and add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch (2.5cm). Bring them to a boil over high heat. Boil for 1 minute, then turn off the heat and cover the pot. Let the beans soak for an hour.

2. Drain the beans and return them to the pot. Add the stock and, if the beans aren’t covered by at least 2 inches (5cm) of liquid, some water. Add the carrots, celery, shallots, scallions, garlic, thyme, rosemary, parsley, Parmesan rind, olive oil, and 3 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat and simmer partially covered until the beans are nearly tender, 45 to 60 minutes. Add more water if the beans aren’t covered at any time. Add the tomatoes and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more.

3. Remove the aromatics and vegetables (cook’s treat!), taste the beans, and adjust the seasoning. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days.

4. The day of: Reheat the beans gently in a pot for 5 to 10 minutes.

Red Wine Beef Stew with Parsnips and Carrots

(Merrill’s Winter)

Amanda turned me on to Mario Batali’s recipe for beef in Barolo, which involves braising a whole brisket in an entire bottle of wine. I’ve never actually used Barolo (Dolcetto makes a fine—and more economical—substitute), and I prefer plain old stew meat to brisket because I’m not keen on the idea of wrestling a huge slab of meat into—and then out of—a pot of scalding liquid. Amanda’s version on page 187 calls for short ribs, which work beautifully, too, but I like cubes of beef because there are no bones to deal with. I did take a nod from Amanda’s recipe when I bumped up the carrots, though, and I’ve added parsnips to make this more of a one-pot meal. That said, mashed potatoes are rarely unwelcome, so you’ll find a recipe for mashed potatoes and parsnips (page 251) this week as well.

Pick Your Protein

Just as you can use different cuts of beef for this stew, it also works with similar cuts of lamb, veal, and even pork. You can even make it with chicken legs for a modified coq au vin. Just decrease the cooking time to 40 to 45 minutes and then reduce the sauce on its own for a bit longer.

Instead of buying precut stew meat, choose a whole piece of meat (like chuck roast or boneless lamb shoulder) and ask the butcher to cut it for you. This way, you can specify the size of the cubes, and you’ll know the meat is all coming from the same cut.

SERVES 4 FOR 2 DINNERS

3 pounds (1.4kg) beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch (4cm) cubes (see note)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 ounces (115g) pancetta, diced

4 carrots, about 12 ounces/340g, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch (1.3cm) rounds

3 medium (about 9 ounces/ 255g) parsnips, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch (1.3cm) rounds

1 large yellow onion, diced

2 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch (1.3cm) slices

1 large clove garlic, peeled and smashed

2 cups (475ml) dry red wine

2 cups (475ml) beef stock

1 cup (240g) canned chopped tomatoes (preferably Pomi)

3 thyme sprigs

1 rosemary sprig (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)

1 bay leaf

1. Set out the beef for 20 to 30 minutes to take off the chill. Heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper. Warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Working in batches, add the beef, being careful not to crowd the pot. Cook the beef on all sides until browned, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the browned meat to a plate and keep warm while you brown the rest.

2. Pour off all but about a tablespoon of the fat in the pot, turn the heat down to medium-low, and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the pancetta. Cook until it starts to crisp, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the carrots, parsnips, onion, and celery, and cook until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more.

4. Add the wine, stock, tomatoes, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, and 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the beef, submerging it in the liquid. Cover, slide the pot into the oven, and bake until the meat is very tender, about 2 hours.

5. With a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a plate. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until it reduces and is thick enough to coat a wooden spoon. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then return the meat to the pot. Let the stew cool slightly, discard the herbs, then cover and refrigerate in the pot.

The day of: Reheat the stew gently over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes.

 All recipes have been reprinted with permission from Food52: A New Way to Dinner: A Playbook of Recipes and Strategies for the Week Ahead, published by Ten Speed Press.