Pulled Pork Graduation Sliders

This is the time of the year for graduation parties. One way to avoid some of the hassles associated with these once-in-a-lifetime happenings, whether it’ high school or college, is to have the event catered. But not everyone can afford to dish out that kind of money.

If you’re a good cook or someone in the family is, it’s not that difficult to throw a few things together that will wow the guests and make the honoree proud at the same time.

The perfect food for such a memorable day would be one that could be made ahead of time. The following popular and easy recipe for pulled pork sliders fits that bill. It can be prepared up to two days before the party.

Pulled Pork Sliders
1 bone-in pork shoulder or Boston butt, about 5 pounds
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
1 14.5-ounces can beef or chicken broth
1 16-ounce bottle favorite barbecue sauce
32 slider buns
Place the pork shoulder on a sheet of plastic wrap. In a small bowl, mix together all the rub ingredients and rub all over pork. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight.
Remove pork from the refrigerator an hour before baking it, and remove plastic wrap. Set pork in a roasting pan that has a lid. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour beef or chicken broth in bottom of pan. Cover with lid (use foil if you don’t have a lid) and place in the oven.
Bake 3½ to 4½ hours (for 5-pound roast) or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees. The pork is done when the bone slips out easily with no resistance. When the roast is nearly done, you can remove the lid or foil and baste the pork with pan juices so the outside browns and gets crispy. Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes. Remove the bone and break roast apart into chunks. Let the chunks rest in the pan juices. Using forks, pull the roast pieces apart into shreds. Stir in desired amount of barbecue sauce. Serve ¼ cup pulled pork on each bun with coleslaw, if desired.
Note: To double recipe, use one 8- 10-pound or two 5-pound pork shoulders. For a larger pork shoulder, allow at least 6 hours cooking time.
Makes: 32 sliders
Approximate nutritional analysis per slider: 225 calories, 27 percent of calories from fat, 7 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 24 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams protein, 427 milligrams sodium, 48 milligrams cholesterol, no fiber.

Stir-Fried Pheasant with Brown Rice

Spring cleanup is an annual rite in many cities. Citizens can throw away items they no longer need, and public works crews pick them up on a designated week.

In our household, it’s also time to go through four freezers, so we can consolidate their contents in half the space. Often, that requires digging out some food to prepare immediately. Wild game fits that category.

Being an upland bird hunter, I usually have a good supply of grouse, partridge and pheasants after the fall season. We usually don’t get through all of the birds by the time spring arrives, so they are some of the food that’s taken out of the freezer in the spring for immediate use around cleanup time.

Yesterday, I used a few of my last pheasants from the 2011 season in a classic stir-fry. Along with some mushrooms, onion and sweet red bell pepper, I prepared them on the stove top in a large wok. I served them over cooked brown rice, along with a spinach salad.

If you’re looking for a meal that is quick and easy to make, give the following recipe a try.

Stir-Fried Pheasant with Brown Rice
1½ pounds pheasant breast cut into ½-inch strips
1 red or green bell pepper, sliced
1 8-ounce package mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon teriyaki marinade sauce
1 low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup Vidalia onion, sliced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup brown rice
1 teaspoon salt
Prepare brown rice according to package instructions.
Meanwhile, heat sesame and olive oil in wok or skillet over medium-high. Add chicken, leaving any liquid on the plate. Stir-fry 3 minutes. Add vegetables and stir-fry 2 minutes.
Mix cornstarch and water. Add to wok or skillet. Continue cooking mixture until thickens.
Serve over rice.
Yield: Serves 4.
Note: Chicken could be substituted for the pheasant.

Semi-Spicy Italian Meatballs

Sharing a recipe is one of the most satisfying things a cook can do. And it’s even more so rewarding if a compliment comes back from the recipient.

That’ why I admire the Recipe Finder column of Julie Rothman that appears in the Baltimore Sun. Julie’s column is familiar with me because it is contained on the weekly food budget of the McClatchy Tribune News Service.

Recently, I was able share a family recipe for baked oysters with Julie’s readers. One of them, Martha Meyers, from Manchester, Md., was looking for a “good old-time” recipe for oyster dressing, and I saw her request in the Recipe Finder column. And ever since, I’ve been a dedicated reader.

Just this week, Julie shared a recipe for a good semi-spicy Italian meatball for spaghetti. Julie did not receive any recipe from readers, so she decided to do a little experimenting on her own to come up with a good one, and what she came up with looked pretty interesting to me.

Semi-Spicy Italian Meatballs
½ pound lean pork sausages (spicy is best), removed from casing
1 pound lean ground beef
¼ cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated
1 large egg, slightly beaten
½ cup milk or water
½ cup plain breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
In a large bowl, combine all the above ingredients. Gently mix them together with a wooden spoon, or use your hands, taking care not to over mix.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Using a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop (for less messy results), shape the mixture into medium-sized balls, and place on a lightly greased, foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, turning the balls once or twice to promote even browning. Once they are browned, it is best to allow them to finish cooking in the sauce so the flavors are released into your liquid.
Yield: 24 medium-sized meatballs.
Cook’s note: These meatballs freeze beautifully. Just cut the cooking time by a few minutes so they are only partially done, let them cool, place in a freezer tight bag and freeze. Next time you need a tasty meal but don’t have much time to make it, just remove the meatballs from the freezer and drop them into a quality store-bought red sauce to finish the cooking. You will have yummy homemade dinner in no time flat.

Meatballs with Chili Sauce

Food is almost always the centerpiece of most holidays. And it’ usually more than the big production on days such as Thanksgiving.

Often, families get together for a lighter meal the day or two before the main event. And many times, appetizers are the center of attention.

Here’s quick and easy appetizer that guests are sure to love.

Meatballs with Chili Sauce
2 12-ounce chili sauce
1 32-ounce jar grape jelly
1 bag meatballs (about 80 in a bag)
Put chili sauce and jelly in a large pot. Heat until jelly is melted and sauce is smooth, stirring often. Add frozen meatballs; heat until meatballs are thawed and then simmer for 3 hours.
Or you can add everything in a slow cooker and cook on low all day.

Turkey Meatball Lettuce Wraps

I like meatballs, especially when they’re cooked in a marinara sauce and served with spaghetti. Meatballs in a brown gravy that accompany mashed potatoes are also hard to beat. And they’re not too shabby in a sub sandwich, either.

But how about meatball lettuce wraps? I just came across a recipe for those that was adapted from one in Good Housekeeping magazine’s, May 2011 issue. (You can either bake the meatballs or grill them.)

Among the ingredients in the recipe are fresh cilantro, green onions,  mint, carrots, limes and fish sauce or nuoc cham , a salty condiment made from fermented anchovies. (Look for it in the Asian foods section of the market.)

Turkey Meatball Lettuce Wraps
3 limes (2 juiced and 1 cut into wedges)
3 cups shredded carrots
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, or mint leaves, thinly sliced, divided
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped, divided
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon lower-sodium fish sauce, divided
1¼ teaspoons sugar, divided
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 19.2-ounce package lean (93 percent) or extra-lean (97 percent) ground turkey breast
12 Boston lettuce leaves
3 to 4 tablespoons sweet chili sauce, optional
If using bamboo skewers, soak them in cold water. Prepare outdoor grill for direct grilling on medium-high. Or preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the lime juice in a medium bowl (you should have about ¼ cup). Set the lime wedges aside.
Add the carrots, half the cilantro or mint, green onions, ¼ teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon fish sauce, ¼ teaspoon sugar and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Stir; let stand.
In a large bowl, combine the turkey, remaining 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce, 1 teaspoon sugar, ¼ teaspoon pepper, the rest of the cilantro or mint and garlic. Shape tablespoons of the mixture into meatballs. Arrange on skewers, ½-inch apart, and flatten slightly.
Grill meatballs 4 to 5 minutes or until grill marks appear and meat loses its pink color and is cooked through, turning occasionally.
Divide meatballs and carrot mixture among lettuce leaves. Drizzle with the chili sauce, if desired, and serve with lime wedges.
Yield: Serves: 4
Note: To quickly form the meatballs, use a mini-ice cream scoop.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving based on 93 percent lean turkey without the sauce: 230 calories, 27 percent of calories from fat, 7 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 15 grams carbohydrates, 27 grams protein, 415 milligrams sodium, 66 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams 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
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
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.

Mexican Meatballs

I’ve always liked spaghetti and meatballs. The main attraction for me is that I can have sauce to my heart’s content without overdoing it with meat.

Don’t bet me wrong, I love meatballs. But over the past several years, I’ve cut down on the amount of meat in my diet. In fact, I bet we don’t have red meat more than twice a week. Sometimes, it’s only once.

I made meatballs this weekend, 30 of them to be precise. But when it came time to put them in the sauce I made, there were only 23. That’s because I made the mistake of not putting them in the oven right away to bake. Instead, while the oven was preheating, I left them on top of the stove and went to check on the computer in our office. Alas, the meatballs proved too tempting for my dogs.

The recipe I used for the meatballs is from one of the late Dom DeLuise’s cookbooks. It’s his mom’s recipe. The meatballs are really good but are a little rich because of the pork. I think that’s why they’re only a once- or twice-a-year endeavor. 

I’ve recently came across another meatball recipe — this one with a Mexican flair — that looks very tasty and follows. It features ground turkey and beef instead of pork and should be a bit lighter. The recipe also has a bit of snap to it because it includes chili powder, pickled jalapenos and enchilada sauce.

And when I do make the recipe, you can be sure the dogs won’t be sampling the meatballs.

Spicy Mexican Meatballs
½ pound 93-percent lean ground beef
½ pound ground turkey breast
2 egg whites
¾ cup finely crushed baked tortilla chips
½ cup finely minced yellow onion
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapenos, drained
1 cup canned red enchilada sauce, divided
Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray an 18- by-13-inch jelly roll pan with nonstick spray coating.
Mix together beef, turkey, egg whites, crushed chips, onion, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, jalapenos and 1/3 cup enchilada sauce in a large mixing bowl. Blend well and then shape into 1½-inch meatballs. Place meatballs on prepared jelly roll pan. Bake 10 to 12 minutes.
Carefully remove meatballs and place in a decorative heat-proof serving dish (about 11 by 8 inches). Drizzle with remaining enchilada sauce and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until meatballs are done and cooked to 165 degrees. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro before serving.
Yield: 30 meatballs (about 15 appetizer servings).
Approximate nutritional analysis per (2-meatball) serving: 72 calories, 44 percent of calories from fat, 3 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 19 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams protein, 123 milligrams sodium, less than 1 gram dietary fiber.


A friend of mine told me she and a group of her cronies are heading up to Park River, N.D., on Sunday (Sept. 27) for the 35th Annual Lutefisk and Meatball Dinner at the Park River Bible Camp. Also on the menu are potatoes, gravy, coleslaw, veggies, cranberries, lefse, rolls, dessert and coffee.

I told her that everything looked pretty good, with maybe the exception of the lutefisk. Granted, a lot of folks love lutefisk, but I can take it or leave it. Meatballs, on the other hand, are one of my favorite foods. I particularily like them with spaghetti, although the Swedish-type come in a close second.

My favorite meatball recipe is in one of two Dom DeLuise cookbooks that I have. His Mamma’s Meatballs are great.

I recently came stumbled upon the following meatball recipe, from another Italian, actor Danny DeVito, which has a couple of different twists. DeVito uses the ground sirloin and mixes it with water-soaked bread for a lighter and fluffier meatballs, he says.

P.S. I understand tickets are hard to come by for the bible camp fundraiser. So, if you’re planning on going, give a call to Mary Weltz in Park River at (701) 284-7030 or Wayne Nygard in Edinburg, N.D., at (701) 993-8580 to see if there still are tickets available.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
2 slices whole wheat bread
½ pound lean ground sirloin
2 medium garlic cloves, crushed
8 fresh sage leaves, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried sage)
½ cup frozen chopped onion
2 tablespoons raisins
1 large egg
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
¾ cup pasta sauce
4 ounces spaghetti
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil.
Meanwhile, pour 1 cup water over bread and set aside. Place sirloin, garlic, sage, onion, raisins and egg in a bowl or food processor. Squeeze the bread dry and add it to the meat mixture; pulse or stir just to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Form into 4 balls.
Heat oil in a small nonstick skillet. Brown the meatballs on all sides, about 5 minutes. Mix pasta sauce with ¾ cup water and add to pan. Simmer 10 minutes, carefully turning the meatballs once.
Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in boiling water according to package instructions. Drain and divide between 2 plates. Top with meatballs and sauce.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 638 calories (27 percent from fat), 19.2 grams fat (4.4 grams saturated, 9.6 grams monounsaturated), 175 milligrams cholesterol, 39.4 grams protein, 76.2 grams carbohydrates, 6.5 grams fiber, 638 milligrams sodium.

Meatball Sandwich

Meatball subs or sandwiches are a popular item these days. Sometimes when we’ve had meatballs with a marinara sauce, I like to use the leftovers in a sandwich.

While talking about this with my friend, Mac, he told of a place he used to go to eat when working in Denver that served a meatball sandwich with cherry peppers on the side. He said he probably ate a couple hundred of them during the time he lived there.

I thought he might be exaggerating a little, but knowing the kind of appetite he has specifically and how good meatball sandwiches are in general, my doubts soon were erased.

That brings me to the following recipe, which I found while looking through some old cookbooks. It looked pretty tasty to me. How about you?

Meatball Sandwich
¼ cup onions, chopped, or to taste
1teaspoon crushed, bottled garlic or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound canned tomatoes, broken up
1 pound tomato sauce
2 teaspoons parsley
2 to 2½ teaspoons salt, or to taste
1½ teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 pound ground beef
4 slices bread, whole wheat or white
1 pound ground beef
2 eggs
½ cup Romano cheese, grated
1 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
½ teaspoon crushed, bottled garlic or 1 minced clove garlic
1 teaspoon oregano, crushed
Dash of pepper
4 submarine sandwich buns or small loaves French or Italian bread or ciabatta
2 4-ounce packages Mozzarella cheese
To make sauce, cook and stir onion and garlic in olive oil until tender. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, parsley, salt, oregano and basil. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered 1 to 1½ hours. When sauce is almost finished simmering, brown ground beef in separate skillet, drain off fat, and stir into sauce. Simmer another 20 minutes.
For meatballs, soak bread in water 3 minutes, then squeeze dry and add the ground beef, eggs, Romano cheese, salt, parsley, garlic, oregano and pepper. Form into 16 meatballs. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until done.To assemble sandwiches, put 4 meatballs in each of the buns or loaves, add sauce, then cheese on top, dividing ingredients evenly. (Don’t use too much sauce or sandwiches will be soggy.) Wrap each sandwich in foil and bake at 350 degrees until cheese melts.


Cooking with Dom DeLuise

Anybody who loves food lost a friend earlier this week. Dom DeLuise, actor, comedian and chef, died Monday in Samta Monica, Calif.

Although best known for appearing in several Mel Brooks’ movies, opposite Burt Reynolds in films and on Carol Burnett’s variety show in the 1960, the portly comedian also was an accomplished chef and cookbook author.

I’ve felt a close affection for DeLuise ever since first picking up his "Eat This, It Will Make You Feel Better" cookbook, which came out in 1988. I also have his "Eat This Too! It’ll Also Make You Feel Better."

Several of Dom’s (and Dom’s Mom’s) recipes are family favorites. Just recently, I shared the ones for Broccoli with Rigatoni and Pasta Fagioli in this space.

Not only do the cookbooks have wonderful recipes, they share a slice of Dom’s life, which was enriched by wonderful family, friends and food.

I think what struck me the most was his relationship with his family. He had so many good things to say about them, especially his mother, Vincenza, a full-time homemaker whose culinary skills inspired several of his cookbooks. (His father, John, was a New York City garbage collector.)

In a way, it was Dom’s embracing of his family food traditions that made me aspire to make cooking a way of life rather than just a necessity and to cherish my own family’s food traditions.

In Dom’s memory, I’m going to share a couple of more of his and his momma’s recipes. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we do. And along the way, maybe it will make you think about a man who put so much joy into other people’s lives through his love for family, friends and food. 

Mama’s and Michael’s Meat Sauce
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 28-ounce cans ready-cut tomatoes
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pound lean ground beef
1 teaspoon thyme
10 fresh mushrooms, diced
In a saucepan, heat oil and lightly brown onion, carrot and garlic.
Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, pepper and sugar. Simmer gently for about 30 minutes.
While sauce is simmering, brown ground beef in skillet over medium-high heat, drain off fat.
Add meat and thyme to tomato mixture. Cover and simmer ½ hour, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms and cook another 10 minutes.
Yield: About 2 quarts.

Dom’s Mom’s Meatballs
2 pounds ground chuck
½ pound of ground pork
2 cups Italian-flavored bread crumbs
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup grated cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped very fine
1 onion, minced
½ cup pignoli (pine nuts) (optional)
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix throughly. Let stand ½ hour. Shape into medium-size meatballs. Fry gently in olive oil until lightly browned, or place on foil on a cookie sheet and bake for ½ hour at 350 degrees. Gently place in your own hot spagetti sauce and cook on medium-low heat for 1 hour.
(Dom’s note)
P.S. "What I like to do is quadruple the recipe (you’ll have about 100 meatballs) and then place the meatballs on large teflon baking pans. After they’re baked and cooled, I put 20 at a time in large Ziplock bags and pop them in the freezer. then they’re ready, willing and able anytime."

Momma’s Marinara Sauce
4 tablespoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 28-ounce cans ready-cut peeled tomatoes or 5 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled and sliced
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
4 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
10 fresh basil leaves
Grated cheese
In a deep 10-inch frying pan, heat the olive oil and gently sauté the garlic. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and sun dried tomatoes.
Put on medium for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Tear basil leaves into small pieces and sprinkle on top after adding to pasta. Add pepper and grated cheese top taste.
Note: This sauce is fabulous with fish, scallops, shrimp, or boiled chicken, etc.
Alternative: Add 1 medium onion finely chopped, and sauté the onion with garlic until limp.
Note: If fresh tomatoes are used, put them in a pot of boiling water for about 10 seconds until the skin can be easily peeled off. Discard skin. Cut tomatoes into pieces and add to frying-pan mixture. Add tomato paste and sun-dried tomatoes.
Yield: Makes about 2 quarts.