Tag Archives: comfort food

Homemade Green Pork Chile

green pork chile

green pork chile

Late summer ushers in a garden favorite… chilis!  Yes, as warm days wind to a close, these spicy peppers make an appearance at road-side stands, farmers’ markets,  CSAs, grocery stores, and even backyard gardens across the country.  You see, chilis are an important part of a southwestern fall classic; green pork chile.

Now just any chili won’t work in this luscious dish.  My personal favorite are hatch chilis.  But if you do not have access to them, Big Jim and Anaheim work well.  You could even toss in a few jalapenos or a poblanos into the pot, but just make sure they are roasted.

Green Pork Chile

  • 2 lbs. of smoked pork, cubed
  • 1 1/2 lbs. of Hatch chilis, roasted/deseeded/skins removed & chopped
  • 1 1/2 lbs of potatoes, cubed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 – 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Mexican oregano
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 3/4 C. tomatillo salsa
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • water (optional)

In a large stock pot over medium heat, saute the onion and garlic until translucent.  Add the cumin, chilis, oregano, and salt.  Stir to combine.

roasted Hatch chilis

roasted Hatch chilis

Next, pour in the stock.  Bring to a boil.  Add the potatoes and the tomatillo salsa.  Cook until the potatoes are done (about 15 – 20 minutes).

Take a stick blender and blend part of the soup, leaving some vegetables in cubes or you can completely blend the mixture to your desired consistency.  (Personally, I like a thick chile).

Now add the pork, put a lid on the pot, and reduce the heat to low.  Allow the green chili to cook for another 45 minutes, lifting the lid to stir occasionally to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pot.  If mixture is a little too thick for your taste, add in some water to thin.

smoked pork butt

smoked pork butt

Taste for seasoning and add more salt if desired.

Remove chile from heat and serve.

NOTE: this is great eaten as a soup.  You may also serve it over cooked rice, burritos, or thick-cut wedge fries.

Baked Mushroom Polenta

measure out the polenta

measure out the polenta

Growing up in the rural midwest, food  was traditional Americana.  Steak, potatoes, gravy, eggs, corn, pot roast, white bread, and green bean casserole made frequent appearances at our family table.  There was no ethnic aisle in the grocery store and most recipes were either handed down through the family or shared at church potlucks.

With my sheltered food upbringing, it wasn’t until I was in my late 30s before I had even heard of polenta.  But am I ever glad that not only did I hear about it, but I listened to the person who told me about it.  Friends, it was love at first bite.

This recipe is something that I have been tweaking over the years.  First, determining how much polenta would fit into my casserole dish and then experimenting with different cheeses as each has its own unique texture and flavor profile.  Finally, what type of filling and how much to add?  Since I love mushrooms, that was an easy decision.  The quantity was harder to work out.  Initial versions proved that two pounds of mushrooms were simply too much.  As the very top layer, a pound was fine, but a pound in the middle resulted in the top and bottom layer of polenta never quite coming together.  The top layer always slid off.  Oh well… I ate my mistakes.

If you have never tried polenta, this is a great introduction.  This Italian staple says ‘comfort food’ in any language.

Baked Mushroom Polenta

sliced cremini mushrooms

sliced cremini mushrooms

  • 5 C. water
  • 2 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 C. course grind polenta
  • 1 Tbl. olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp. dried sage, powdered
  • 1/2 C. parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 Tbl. butter
  • 1 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 6 oz. fontina, grated
  • 2 oz. cream cheese
  • salt to taste

Heat oven to 350F.

In a stock pot over medium heat, add the water and  1 1/2 tsp. salt.  Bring the water to a boil.  Pour in the polenta slowly, whisking to prevent clumping.  Lower the heat to a simmer.  Partially cover the pot with a lid and whisk periodically to prevent polenta from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Simmer for 20 minutes or until the mixture becomes thick and the grains of polenta are soft (no longer firm).  Stir in the cream cheese until it is thoroughly incorporated, then remove from heat.

Meanwhile, place a pan over medium heat.  Add the olive oil.  Once the oil is hot, add mushrooms and butter.  Saute for 5 – 7 minutes.  Mushrooms will decrease in size as they lose their moisture and begin to turn a golden color.  Stir in sage and 1 tsp. salt and pepper.

Butter a 9 x 13 casserole dish.  Pour half of the polenta into the casserole dish.  Use a spatula to spread it evenly.  Next, top with half of the mushroom mixture, followed by half of the fontina and half of the parmesan.  Repeat the layers in the same order.

baked mushroom polenta

baked mushroom polenta

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to sit for approximately 10 minutes before serving.

This polenta dish is versatile.  Sometimes, I stir in some finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes with dried basil, carmelized onions with thyme, or spinach with cayenne pepper.  Experiment and come up with your own flavor combinations.

Friends, embrace polenta and make it a staple in your pantry.  It is comfort food in any language.

Fall Flavor: Mushroom Barley Soup


After a long, hot summer, I welcome the crisp air, yellowing leaves, and the damp earthy aroma of the soil.  It offers me a chance to rest and simply enjoy the final blossoms of the season and bounty from the garden.  Yes, it is time to get back in the kitchen with burners blazing.  And for me, one of the most welcoming aromas is from a large pot of Mushroom Barley Soup.

Barley was one of those grains I never had as a child.  My mom stuck to beans;  primarily using navy, kidney, and lima.  Now while those all were the basis of some very good soups, my introduction to barley made me open my eyes wide with delight.  Wow… now this was something that would create a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs type of soup.

thyme from my garden

thyme from my garden

But for this soup to truly be vibrant, it has to be made from scratch.  No cheating using canned vegetables.  Those types of products changes the texture and flavor of the finished soup.  Nope, for this soup, get comfortable in the kitchen with your cutting board.  Trust me, this is comfort food at its best and good comfort food needs fresh ingredients and time for the flavors to develop.

(I raise fresh herbs that I use year round.  Before the cold weather claims the plants, I harvest thyme and dry in bundles.  To use, I strip the leaves from the stems and add to the soup.)  If you do not grow your own thyme, store bought is fine.  And as a plus, in store bought thyme, the leaves have been stripped from the stems.  If you have fresh thyme, just triple the quantity listed in the recipe.

Mushroom Barley Soup

  • 2 Tbl. olive oil
  • 4 Tbl. butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 lb. fresh cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 large carrots, sliced into coins
  • 4 – 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8 cups of water
  • 1 C. pearl barley (do not use instant or rolled/flaked barley)
  • 8 C. water
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 oz. dried mushrooms, broken into pieces
  • 1/2 C. cream
  • 1/4 tsp. truffle oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

    onions, carrots, fresh mushrooms, garlic, and butter

    onions, carrots, fresh mushrooms, garlic, and butter

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add onions, carrots and mushrooms and sweat them for about 5 minutes, stirring so they don’t stick to the pot.  Next, add garlic and sweat for another 2 minutes.  Add butter and stir to combine.  (NOTE: use both oil and butter.  Olive oil handles the medium heat well while butter brings flavor.)  After butter has been melted into the vegetables, add bay leaves, thyme, barley, dried mushrooms, and water.  Allow mixture to come up to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and place a lid on the pot.  Periodically stir  to prevent anything from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

hearty mushroom barley soup

hearty mushroom barley soup

Allow this mixture to simmer for approximately 1 1/2 hours (your patience will be rewarded) or until the barley is tender.  It will still have a slight ‘chew’ to the texture, but not mushy.  Remove soup from heat and take out bay leaves.  Stir in cream and add salt and pepper to taste.  Finally, drizzle with truffle oil, stir to combine and then serve while hot.

This is a hearty soup.  The barley releases starch as it cooks and will naturally thicken the soup.   If you have leftovers, I find that the flavor is even better the following day.  So my friends, embrace the texture and flavor of barley.  It’s not just for beer anymore.