Pork and Chestnut Ragu

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Winter is here, and you know what that means…sickness! Everyone seems to have some form of cold, cough, or sore throat. I’ve definitely caught the bug. While everyone is out and about doing their Christmas shopping, I’ve had to stay in for most of the weekend and take a sick day today from work. This is tougher for me than it should be. General American working culture makes it seem like taking a sick day and, therefore, taking care of yourself, is a bad thing. It’s as if coming into work even though you’re sick is a badge of honor and dedication. Thankfully, I work at a company where culture dictates that taking care of yourself is a top priority. And, who wants to catch my germs, anyways?

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Taking care of yourself 101: Drink mugs and mugs of this beautiful tea—preferably in your favorite mug.

My boss just told me this today, and I think we all need this reminder on the daily: Never apologize for taking care of yourself. You know your needs better than anyone else does.

Part of taking care of myself includes nourishment, of course! When I’m sick, I always muster up the energy to cook myself something, even if it’s just warm chicken broth. Now, when most people are sick, they think “soup!” Well, when I’m sick, the first thing I think of is, “pasta!” (Are you at all surprised?)

So, earlier this week I saw peeled and cooked chestnuts at Trader Joe’s, and something came over me that said “you MUST buy these and cook with them!” even though I’ve never cooked with chestnuts before in my life. I was kicking myself later in the week, staring at these chestnuts dumbfounded. Then I took out all my cookbooks and cooking magazines to look for a recipe. Thank goodness, I found a copy of Jamie Oliver’s magazine (aptly named Jamie Magazine) from November/December 2011. He had a whole section on cooking with chestnuts. Perfect! His recipe was for Chestnut Tagliatelle with Venison Ragu. Well, I hate venison (don’t hate me!) and I did not have the ingredients to make the homemade tagliatelle, so I tweaked the recipe a bit to make my own version of it! Behold (let’s show this beauty pic again…):

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Pork and Chestnut Ragu

  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 vacuum-packed package of peeled and cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup tomato purée
  • 3/4 cup red wine (I used Chianti)
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  1. Add finely chopped carrot, celery, and onion to a sauté pan with 2 tablespoons butter, the bay leaves, cinnamon, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, covered, for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the ground pork and break that up in the pan. Sauté until cooked through.
  3. Add the chestnuts and nutmeg and stir together.
  4. Add the tomato purée, stir in, then add the red wine and stir again.
  5. Add the chicken broth and let the mixture come to a boil. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
  6. Add the tomato paste and mix into the sauce. The sauce will thicken at this point and should only need a few more minutes to simmer.
  7. Taste the ragu and add additional salt and pepper to taste.

Serve this with a pasta of your choice. Rigatoni pairs perfectly, if you were looking for a recommendation!

The holiday season is about giving to others, but please remember to give to yourself, too. Happy December!

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Favorite Food Product: Chardonnay from Rombauer Vineyards

My parents are true wine connoisseurs. I grew up watching them drink specialty wines from around the world. The wine cellar in the basement always awed me as a child. I’d sometimes sneak down there and just look at all the bottle designs and their origins. Memories in the kitchen include having my Dad let me smell the wine and guide me towards what my olfactory senses should be identifying. Wine is made out of grapes, yes, but so many more factors combine to create a unique taste. The species of grape, the soil quality, the type of wood in the aging barrel…it all matters.

When I came of age to drink, my taste buds began to mature. At first, I could only handle Moscato and Reisling wines, fruiter varieties that are light and sweet. Though I’m beginning to venture into red wines, white wines are still my favorite to drink. Chardonnay in particular goes well with happyhour, with fish, or even just by itself.

Rombauer Vineyards in St. Helena, CA makes the most amazing Chardonnay I’ve ever sipped. The wine is smooth and buttery, with hints of fruit and wood.

Chardonnay from Rombauer Vineyards
Chardonnay from Rombauer Vineyards

As you can see, I just returned from Cape Cod where my parents were vacationing. We partook in a chilled bottle with our happyhour and baked fish (that post is coming soon)!

If you can find this wine for around $30.00 – $36.00 a bottle, you have yourself a good deal. This is a more expensive wine, but if you need to buy a white wine for a special occasion or if you just want to plain treat yourself, I highly recommend Rombauer Chardonnay.

Favorite Food Product: South African Potato Chips

So far I’ve written a recipe post and a restaurant review. Now I’d like to introduce you to another type of post where I’ll be reflecting on my favorite things, whether it be cooking tricks, cookbooks, or “food finds.”

Recently, I was perusing Trader Joe’s, the closest fully stocked grocery store to my studio. Trader Joe’s rarely disappoints me with their innovative, wholesome approach to food. I needed a snack, and I was craving potato chips. We all crave potato chips at some point, and in my opinion it is entirely okay to fulfill this craving in moderation.

True confession time: sometimes I treat grocery store shopping like bookstore browsing – I wait for a product to inspire me. There is nothing like the thrill of discovery. It’s such a risk, but most of the time I find my next favorite thing. This is what happened when I discovered…

My discovery!
My discovery!

South African chips! I’ll admit, my boyfriend loves South Africa. He fell in love with the country after working there for six weeks. With such a connection, and the promised smoky barbecue flavor, I just had to try these out.

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Seasoned with paprika, hickory smoked salt, basil, and parsley, these chips do not disappoint. The seasoning is inspired by South African barbecue, called braai in Afrikaans. I also appreciate that these chips are not too greasy. You know when, after a few minutes of eating chips, your fingers become really oily? These chips will not burden you with that feeling. Follow the link at the top of the post to read more about the product. If you are craving a new potato chip flavor, certainly give these a taste.

I’ll be out of town this weekend, but next week I’ll be back with more of my recipes!