Perfect Chinese Broccoli Beef

One of the dishes that I really like when going out to a Chinese buffet is beef and broccoli. Actually, the broccoli is my favorite part of the dish.

The brown sauce that the beef and broccoli comes in is the key. The secret to making the broccoli to be tender-crisp and taste like broccoli, not like cornstarchy brown goop, is to cook the vegetable separately and to use a minimal amount of cornstarch – but only in the steak marinade. You then simmer the sauce to let it thicken naturally.

That’s the advice given by the people at New Asian Cuisine (www.newasiancuisine.com) in an e-mail about the top Asian recipes of 2010. They also say the secret ingredient to the absolute best Broccoli Beef is Chinese black vinegar, which adds a mellow, sweet tang. If you don’t have Chinese black vinegar, substitute it with a good, dark balsamic vinegar.

Here’s their recipe for the broccoli beef, which looks pretty scrumptious.

Chinese Broccoli Beef
1 pound top sirloin or flank steak, sliced into 1/8-inch thin strips
FOR THE MARINADE:
1½ teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon cooking oil
FOR THE STIR-FRY SAUCE:
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
2 teaspoons black vinegar
FOR THE BROCCOLI:
1½ pounds broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets
½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Marinate the beef in soy sauce, cornstarch and the ½ teaspoon of oil for 10 minutes at room temperature.
In a small bowl, mix together the stir-fry sauce ingredients.
In a wok or large frying pan, add 1 inch of water and salt and bring to a boil. Add the broccoli and cover to steam for 3 minutes. Broccoli should be bright green, crisp tender and you should be able to pierce the stem with a fork. Drain.
Discard the water in the pan and dry the pan well. Heat the pan over high heat and when hot, add the 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and swirl to coat. Add the garlic and fry for 15 to 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the steak strips, keeping them in one layer and fry 30 seconds. Flip the strips and fry the other side.
Pour in the stir-fry sauce and stir to combine. Simmer until the sauce is thick enough to coat a back of a spoon, about 30 seconds. Add the cooked broccoli back into the pan and toss to coat well.
Note: To keep this dish vegetarian, replace the beef with fresh, thick, meaty shitake mushrooms (cut in half) or even portobello (cut in ½-inch slices).

Stratas — A Brunch Favorite

Brunches are a lot of fun. We recently hosted one and had a great time. We had good conversation and lots of tasty food. Among the things we had were an egg bake, salmon spread with crackers and an apple coffeecake. (See www.grandforksherald.com/event/tag/group/Life/tag/food/.)

This time of the year, when families and friends get together, brunches are popular. They no longer are the domain of restaurants on special holidays such as Mother’s Day and Easter. 

One day that people like to host a brunch is New Year’s Day. Since that is coming up in just a few days, I decided to share a few recipes that came our way via the McClatchy Tribune wire service and the Chicago Tribune.

Wild Mushroom, Winter Greens and Parmesan Strata
6 cups day-old bread, cut into ½-inch cubes
6 egg yolks
2 eggs
¼ cup flour
4 cups half-and-half
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon each: fresh thyme, black pepper
¼ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 cups lightly packed winter greens, such as escarole or kale, chopped
2 shallots, sliced
¾ cup each: shiitake mushrooms, oyster mushrooms
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Place bread in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish or roasting pan. Whisk together yolks, eggs and flour in a medium bowl. Whisk in half-and-half, 1 teaspoon of the salt, thyme, ½ teaspoon of the pepper and nutmeg. Pour mixture over the bread. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate overnight.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet on high heat. Add garlic and greens; cook, stirring, until greens are wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with ½ teaspoon of the salt and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper. Remove greens from skillet; set aside. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil; heat on high. Add the shallots and mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Season with remaining ½ teaspoon of the salt and remaining ¼ teaspoon of the pepper. Remove mushroom mixture from skillet.
Add greens, mushrooms, shallots and ¾ cup of the Parmesan cheese to the soaked bread. Sprinkle top evenly with remaining 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Bake until browned and set, 35 to 40 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes at room temperature. Cut into squares; serve warm.
Yield: Serves 10.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 349 calories, 62 percent of calories from fat, 24 grams fat (11 grams saturated), 212 milligrams cholesterol, 21 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams protein, 871 milligrams sodium, 1 gram. fiber
Ham and Cheese Souffle
8 slices homemade-style white bread, crusts removed
¼ pound thinly sliced cheese (Muenster, Munster, provolone, fontina or Gruyere)
2 ounces prosciutto or ham, thinly sliced (optional)
3 eggs
2 cups whole milk
½ teaspoon coarse salt
Arrange 4 slices of the bread on the bottom of a lightly buttered 8-inch square baking dish. Cover each with equal amounts of cheese and the prosciutto. Top with remaining bread.
Beat the eggs lightly in a small bowl. Pour in milk. Add salt; blend well. Pour over the sandwiches, cover, refrigerate 1 hour.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the sandwiches until lightly brown around the edges and set in the center, 40 to 45 minutes. Serve hot.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 482 calories, 39 percent of calories from fat, 21 grams fat (9 grams saturated), 209 milligrams cholesterol, 47 grams carbohydrates, 25 grams protein, 1,379 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.
Chicken Sausage and Apple Strata

2 teaspoons oil
2 pounds chicken apple sausage, thinly sliced
2 large Granny Smith apples, thinly sliced
12 pieces day-old white bread, cubed
9 eggs, slightly beaten
3 cups milk
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¾ teaspoon dry mustard
½ cup grated white Cheddar
Heat oil in a large skillet. Add sausage; brown on both sides. Remove sausage to a large bowl. Add apples to the skillet; cook until golden brown. Add to the sausage. Add bread cubes to the bowl. Mix eggs, milk, salt, pepper and mustard in a separate bowl. Add the egg mixture to the sausage mixture. Stir in 1 cup of the cheese. Cover; refrigerate overnight.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pour the egg mixture into a greased 12-inch skillet or 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Bake in the middle of the oven, 30 minutes. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese. Bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes.
Yield: Serves 12.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 377 calories, 54 percent of calories from fat, 23 grams fat (9 grams saturated), 246 milligrams cholesterol, 21 grams carbohydrates, 24 grams protein, 995 milligrams sodium, 1 gram fiber.

Ikea-Style Swedish Meatballs

It never ceases to amaze me all of the different food traditions that families have during the holidays. I recently wrote about one of my family’s traditions, baked oysters. It was started by my Grandma Menard and has been passed down to my generation. At least two of my cousins make the dish.

Over the past week or so, while talking with some friends, I found out about a couple of their traditions. Serge and Eleanor Gambucci told me they have lasagna on Christmas Eve. That didn’t surprise me, since they are Italian and lasagna is a traditional food of Italy. Another friend, Bob Sullivan, told me they always have prime rib and lobster tails on Christmas Day.

But it was the Sullivans’ Christmas Eve dinner that caught my attention. Bob said they have meatballs and gravy with boiled potatoes. I said that it would be my preference to have mashed potatoes, but Bob said he liked to mash the meatballs into the potatoes along with some corn. That sounded pretty good to me.

Here is a recipe for meatballs and boiled potatoes that I discovered at a blog called Montreal Foodies, which is dedicated to testing and featuring recipes, chef and cookbook author interviews, writing about new food and cooking products as well as reviewing cookbooks. The Foodies are a team based in Montreal who love food. From the looks of the recipe, that’s obvious.

Ikea-Style Swedish Meatballs
MEATBALLS:
½ pound minced beef
½ pound minced pork
1 egg
1 cup cream and water
2½ tablespoons finely chopped onion
¼ cup flour
2 cold peeled boiled potatoes
4 to 5 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper
CREAM SAUCE:
½ cup cream
1 cup beef stock
Chinese soy sauce
1 tablespoon white flour
Salt, white pepper
For the meatballs, heat the onion till golden in a couple of tablespoons of lightly browned butter. Mash the potatoes and moisten the rusk flour in a little water. Mix all the ingredients until there is consistency and flavor generously with salt, white pepper and (optional) a little finely crushed allspice. Uuse a pair of spoons to shape the mixture into relatively large, round balls and transfer to a floured chopping board. Fry them slowly in plenty of butter.
For the cream sauce, swirl the boiling water or beef stock in a pan. Add cream and thicken with white flour if preferred. Season well with salt and pepper. Serve the meatballs with the sauce, freshly boiled potatoes, uncooked lingonberry jam and salad.

Holiday Oysters

We’re continuing a Christmas tradition today at our house. I fixing baked oysters, a recipe that’s been passed down from my Grandma Menard to my mom to me. Grandma always made the dish at the holidays, usually for dinner on Christmas Day. My mom continued the tradition when Grandma became too old to host the family get-together, which was attended by 20 to 25 relatives each year.

I was thinking about those get-togethers last night when we ran into my Uncle Fritz Menard and two of his boys, Kim and Joe, at the Christmas Eve Mass at the Cathedral in Crookston.

Kim and I compared notes about holiday cooking. He had made a French pot pie earlier in the day and asked what I was cooking. I told him we were having baby back ribs, sauerkraut and mashed potatoes at Mom’s when we got home, and that on Christmas Day, we were having turkey with all the fixings, including baked oysters.

His wife, Annie, said she and Kim could eat an entire 9-by-9-inch pan of the oysters all by themselves. Kim said he was going to make some today when his family gets together in their home in Detroit Lakes, Minn.

Kim isn’t my only cousin who fixes the oyster dish at Christmas. Our cousin, Paul Hendrickson of Anchorage, Alaska, also does. I don’t know about my cousins, but every time we have the oysters, fond memories of my grandma pop into my head.

Holidays are about tradition, but one that hasn’t taken hold in our family is having oyster stew on Christmas Eve. Mom tells me when she was a child, they always had that on Christmas Eve. My great-grandpa, Rudy Burkhardt, who lived with my mom’s family in his later years, really liked were oysters. Mom says he even used to eat them raw on Christmas Eve. I’ll admit to trying oysters that way but much prefer them baked or in a stew.

Here’s a recipe for oyster stew that I may have try. Maybe it can become a family tradition. Also find the baked oyster recipe.

Oyster Stew
6 small to medium oysters, shucked
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pat of butter
Pinch of Old Bay seasoning
2 cups half-and -half or milk
Combine the oysters and their liquor, Worcestershire, seasoning and butter. Simmer over medium heat for 2 minutes. Heat the cream separately. Pour the warmed oysters in a tureen and top with hot cream.
Yield: Serves 1 as meal, 2 as appetizer.

Baked Oysters
1 to 2 pints raw oysters, depending on your taste, reserving juice
1 cup Holland rust crackers
1 cup of butter, softened
2 cups of cracker crumbs
¼ to ½ cup half-and-half
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crush crackers and Holland rust. Add butter and mix thoroughly.
Spray a 9-by-9-inch cake pan with Pam or other vegetable oil. Layer the bottom of the pan with half the cracker mixture and then top with oysters. Add remaining cracker mixture.
Pour oyster juice and half and half over ingredients.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 to 60 minutes.

Stone Crab and Artichoke Dip

I can’t wait host another brunch or take part in another brunch. That’s because I’ve found a very interesting recipe to share. The recipe is called Stone Crab and Artichoke Dip, which comes from “The Flavors of the Florida Keys” (Atlantic Monthly, $27.50) by Linda Gassenheimer.

Gassenheimer is the Miami Herald’s Dinner in Minutes columnist who I’ve followed over the years in my newspaper’s association with Knight Ridder Newspapers and now McClatchy Newspapers. The book is a follow-up to her “Keys Cuisine.”

Gassenheimer has taken an interest in the Keys as a culinary destination, and in the process has reached out to the chefs and beach-shack cooks for many recipes in her column who have made it so. Seafood stars in a lot of the book’s recipes, including the crab-artichoke dip that caught my eye. I’m a big fan of dips at parties or get-togethers.

In this holiday season, I’m sure a lot of entertainers will find the recipe to their liking, too.

Stone Crab and Artichoke Dip
¾ cup canned artichoke hearts, drained and diced
¾ lightly sauted spinach, well-drained and chopped
¾ cup mayonnaise
¾ cup freshly grated Monterey Jack cheese
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¾ pound fresh picked stone crab meat (from about 2 pounds stone crabs in the shell)
¾ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
3 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together artichoke hearts, chopped spinach, mayonnaise, Monterey Jack and Parmesan. Gently stir in the crab meat, breaking up any large chunks. Season with salt and pepper. Place in a shallow, oven-proof dish, and sprinkle the Pecorino Romano over. Place in the oven for 15 minutes or until warmed through and slightly bubbly. Serve with water crackers.
Yield: Serves 8.
Note: Lump crab meat or imitation crab can substitute for stone crab in this rich and creamy dip.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 300 calories, 77 percent of calories from fat, 25.3 grams fat (6.8 grams saturated, 5.9 grams monounsaturated), 59.5 milligrams cholesterol, 14.6 grams protein, 2.8 grams carbohydrates, 0.4 grams fiber, 727 milligrams sodium.

A Brunch Beauty: Baked Eggs Flamenco

Brunches are big during the holidays. Just this past Sunday, we hosted a midmorning get-together in this fashion. It was very successful.

We had an appetizer (smoked salmon spread and crackers), fruit (grapes), a main dish (breakfast bake) and dessert (apple coffeecake). I’ll be featuring the recipes on next week’s Herald food page (www.grandforksherald.com/event/tag/group/Life/tag/food/).

In the course of doing research for my upcoming column, I came across the following recipe that looked quite interesting. It contains chorizo, which we substituted for pork sausage in the above-mentioned breakfast bake. It also features ham, cooked green peas and asparagus tips.

The next time we do brunch, I think we might give it a try.

Baked Eggs Flamenco
4 teaspoons olive oil
¾ cup canned or freshly made tomato sauce
½ cup chopped ham
8 eggs
4 thin slices chorizo sausage or salami, cut in half
¼ cup cooked green peas
8 asparagus tips
Salt, freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika, see note
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
8 strips pimiento
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Divide the oil among four 6-inch individual oven-proof casseroles. Spoon tomato sauce equally into casseroles. Sprinkle the chopped ham on top of the tomato sauce.
Break 2 eggs into each casserole. Place chorizo halves on either side of the eggs; sprinkle with peas. Arrange 2 asparagus tips along the inner edge. Sprinkle top with salt and pepper, a pinch of paprika and parsley. Cross 2 strips of the pimiento on top of each.
Bake until the eggs are cooked to desired degree of doneness, about 20 minutes for eggs that are just set.
Note: Smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton) can be found in specialty and spice markets. You also can use hot Hungarian paprika or regular paprika.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 315 calories, 59 percent calories from fat, 21 grams fat (6 grams saturated), 350 milligrams cholesterol, 680 milligrams sodium, 13 grams carbohydrates, 20 grams protein, 3.9 grams fiber.

Spinach Fettuccine with Salmon and Green Beans

Salmon is a popular — and versatile — food during the holiday season. Many people serve smoked salmon in one form or another. Just recently, I smoked a couple of nice Alaskan red salmon fillets and later turned them into a very tasty spread that we served with crackers.

As well as being quite tasty, salmon provides a bounty of nutritional benefits, especially the omega-3 fatty acids, helpful for heart health. It also can be paired with a lot of other foods in some tasty dishes.

The following easy-to-prepare dish pairs classic Italian cuisine with this popular fish for a healthy, colorful meal. You can even customize it with some red pepper flakes to add zest to suit your taste.

Spinach Fettuccine with Salmon and Green Beans
3 to 4 quarts water
8 ounces fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (frozen may be substituted)
½ pound spinach fettuccine, cooked per package directions, drained
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
12-ounce fillet fresh salmon (preferably wild), cut into strips
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon paprika
2 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped.
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Boil water in large saucepan. Add beans, if using fresh. Cook about 4 minutes or until tender crisp. Remove with slotted spoon. Set aside. Cook pasta in boiling water per package directions and drain.
While pasta cooks, heat ½ tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium heat. Remove skin from salmon if desired. Season salmon with salt, pepper and paprika. Sear salmon strips for about 3 to 5 minutes. Carefully turn over and cook for an additional 1 minute. Remove salmon from pan and set aside.
Heat remaining oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, if using. Saute 1 to 2 minutes not letting garlic brown. Add green beans and saute an additional 2 minutes.
Add cooked pasta, salmon, chives, parsley, and lemon juice to skillet.
Toss thoroughly, but gently, to combine. Serve hot.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 390 calories, 12 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 44 grams carbohydrates, 27 grams protein, 4 grams dietary fiber, 65 milligrams sodium.

Mushroom Barley Soup

I just finished a nice bowl of pheasant vegetable soup. As I was savoring the last bite, the tiny bits of pearl barley at the bottom of the bowl caught my attention.

I rarely make a vegetable soup that doesn’t contain barley.  I think that’s because whenever my dad my vegetable beef soup, he always included barley in it.

Barley is a good source of fiber and contains the minerals iron and selenium. Pearl barley is the most common form of barley used for cooking, yet it is a much-underused alternative to rice and pasta. It was first cultivated more than 10,000 years ago in Asia, where people started eating it like wheat in boiled porridge, soups and bread.

One of the reasons I like barley is because it has a slightly sweet and mild taste. So, whenever I see a recipe that contains barley, my curiosity is piqued.

I ran across the following soup recipe that contains barley just the other day at the American Institute for Cancer Research website (www.aicr.org). I thought since it is winter, and nearly January, when warm and satisfying food is especially welcome, a soup recipe like this might just be the one you’ve been wanting to try.

But the nicest thing about the recipe is that it is a real time saver for a quick lunch or dinner.

Mushroom Barley Soup
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced thin (like coins)
1½ pounds mushrooms, sliced
½ cup chopped shallots, including most of green stems
3 tablespoons dry white cooking wine (optional)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried oregano
5 cups reduced-sodium beef stock
¾ cup pearl barley
Salt to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
1 small yellow pepper, chopped
Heat oil and butter in large pot over high heat. Add onions and carrots. Cook about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add mushrooms and shallots. Cook an additional 4 minutes, continuing to stir frequently, until onions and carrots soften and mushrooms wilt.
Add wine, thyme and oregano. Reduce heat to low. Stir and scrape browned bits from the bottom, and cook an additional 5 minutes.
Stir in stock, barley, salt and pepper. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until barley is tender, about 40 minutes. Stir in yellow pepper and 1/3 cup parsley, and simmer for about 3 to 4 minutes.
Garnish with remaining parsley and serve.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 260 calories, 9 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 34 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams protein, 6 grams dietary fiber, 330 milligrams sodium.

Smokin’ Good Turkey

I love my Masterbuilt smoker. I bought it last year at Cabela’s and haven’t had any regrets, especially when the results turn out like they did this week.

On Sunday, I threw in a couple of Alaskan red salmon fillets in the smoker that my cousin, Paul Hendrickson, brought home on his last visit. We’ve eaten part of the salmon as is, but the rest was put into a spread that’s been really tasty on crackers. It makes a great appetizer. If you don’t believe me, just look at the crowd that a plate of smoked fish or meat draws at holiday parties.

My other venture with the smoker involved about an 11-pound self-basting turkey. I smoked the turkey for 6 hours using apple wood chips and a chipotle-cinnamon rub. I didn’t brine it because it was a self-baster. It was my first attempt at smoking a turkey, and the result also was pretty delicious and another that would be a party favorite.

You don’t need a smoker to enjoy meat or seafood this way. A regular grill such as the ones made by Weber will do the trick.

Here’s a recipe for a smoked turkey using a grill. The turkey is brined for three days before it’s cooked, so make sure you have enough time if you plan on having it for a holiday get-together.

Barbecued Turkey
1 15- to 16-pound turkey
3 tablespoons kosher salt, orange-pepper salt or lemon-thyme salt
¼ pound hickory chips
Oil, for brushing the turkey
Wash the turkey inside and out, pat it dry and weigh it. Measure 1 tablespoon of kosher salt or the appropriate amount of a seasoned salt into a bowl for every 5 pounds the turkey weighs (for a 15-pound turkey, you’ll need 3 tablespoons of kosher salt).
Sprinkle the inside of the turkey lightly with salt. Salt the outside, concentrating the salt where the meat is the thickest — on the breasts and thighs. It should look liberally seasoned but not oversalted.
Place the turkey in a 2½-gallon sealable plastic bag, press out the air and seal tightly. If you can’t find a large plastic bag, use a small garbage bag. Place the turkey in the refrigerator. Chill for 3 days, leaving it in the bag but turning it and massaging the salt into the skin every day.
Remove the turkey from the bag. There should be no salt visible on the surface, and the skin should be moist but not wet. Wipe the turkey dry with a paper towel, place it breast-side up on a plate and refrigerate uncovered for at least 8 hours.
On the day it is to be cooked, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature at least 1 hour. Be sure the drumsticks and wingtips are secured to the body to prevent scorching.
Place the wood chips in a pan and cover with water. Start the fire: Light the charcoal in a chimney and place a bread loaf pan in the center of the coal area of the grill’s firebox (fill the loaf pan with ash to prevent flare-ups). When the coals are well lighted, distribute them evenly on either side of the loaf pan and let them burn until they are coated with ash.
Drain the wood chips and put them on top of the charcoal. Place the grill on top of the firebox.
Lightly brush the turkey with oil then place it on top of the grill, centered in line with the loaf pan. Cover.
After 30 minutes, check the fire. If the coals are starting to die down, add another half-dozen on both sides to maintain an even, slow heat. If you use an oven thermometer, it should read in the 300- to 325-degree range.
Cook, adding more coals as necessary, until a thermometer inserted in the deepest part of the thigh, but not touching the bone, reads 165 degrees, about 2 to 2½ hours total grilling.
Remove the turkey from the grill and transfer it to a warm platter or carving board and tent loosely with foil. Let stand at least 30 minutes to let the juices redistribute through the meat. Carve and serve.
Orange-pepper salt: In a spice or coffee grinder, grind 2 teaspoons orange zest (about 2 oranges), ½ teaspoon whole cumin, 2 teaspoons whole black pepper, 4 whole cloves and 6 whole allspice to a fine powder. Add ¼ cup kosher salt and grind again to distribute evenly.
Lemon-thyme salt: In a spice or coffee grinder, grind 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, 1 teaspoon lemon zest (about 1 lemon), 1 teaspoon dry mustard and ½ teaspoon garlic powder to a fine powder. Add ¼ cup kosher salt and grind again to distribute evenly.
Yield: Serve 16.
Approximate nutritional analysis per servings: 496 calories, 68 grams protein, no carbohydrates, nofiber, 23 grams fat (7 grams saturated), 230 milligrams cholesterol, no sugar, 477 milligrams sodium.

Pulled-Pork Mini-Sliders

Anyone who goes out to eat these days knows about sliders. They’re the mini-burgers that have become popular the past couple of years. Just about everyone of the major restaurant chains has a version of them.

I fixed some barbecues the other night for Therese’s school potluck and served them on mini-buns and called them “Slider Joes.” They were a hit.

The extra buns that we had haven’t gone to waste, either. That’s because over the weekend I slow-cooked a 4-pound pork ham roast in a Dutch oven with about 2 pints of barbecue sauce. I cooked the meat for between 4 and 5 hours, turning it every 45 minutes or so.

About an hour before we planned to eat, I placed the roast on a plate, trimmed the fat and proceeded to pull the meat apart with two forks. Then, I put the meat back in the Dutch oven, mixed it with the barbecue sauce and finished cooking it. The result was some tasty pulled pork that I served with baked potatoes and winter squash (buttercup). Of course, we had a lot of meat leftover, so the buns have come in pretty handy.

I believe that this would be perfect fare for a holiday get-together, as would the following recipe, which includes a spicy mop sauce. For those of you who like to entertain at the holidays, you can’t have too many recipes such as these.

Slow-Roasted, Pulled-Pork Mini-Sliders
FOR THE PORK:
1 6- to 7-pound) pork butt (see note)
Canola oil
Your favorite dry rub
A spray bottle filled with equal parts apple juice and water
FOR THE MOP SAUCE: 2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
½ cup chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon peeled, freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup ketchup
½ cup apple-cider vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup dark-brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon natural liquid smoke flavoring
To make the pork: Thoroughly massage the pork butt with canola oil and a liberal amount of rub. Set aside. Prepare a grill for slow-cooking at about 250 degrees. For a smoky flavor, use your choice of wood chips, such as pecan, hickory, cherry, apple, etc. Place a drip pan underneath the grate.
Place the pork on the grill and cover while cooking. Spray the meat with the mixture of apple juice and water every 30 minutes. The meat is done when a probe thermometer inserted into the middle of the pork registers 180 degrees and the meat falls off the bone, about 6 to 8 hours. Cover and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes, then shred with two forks.
To make the sauce: Bring a medium-sized sauce pan to medium heat. Add oil. When oil is shimmering, add onion and saute for about 3 minutes, then add garlic, ginger, cumin and cayenne pepper. Saute an additional 2 minutes, then stir in remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. The sauce may be made ahead of time and refrigerated.
To serve: Place pulled pork on rolls. Top with mop sauce and your favorite coleslaw.
Yield: 24 servings on slider rolls or 16 servings on dinner-sized rolls.
Notes: Pork butt is sold under a variety of names, including Boston shoulder or Boston butt.