Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Hungry? Eat Some pillows.

“Behold! I am Cashios, god of cash back!  Can you tell me where to find gnocchi?”, he asks of the grocery store employee stocking shelves.  Alright, this may just be another, let’s dumb down viewers’ minds, commercial, but still, how many know what food item he is looking for?  I do, I do!

We are talking about Gnocchi (nok-ki); light, small dumplings made from semolina or wheat flour, potatoes or ricotta cheese.  Tracing back their history to ancient Roman times (no wonder the commercial actor was dressed as a Roman), gnocchi is a popular dish, not only in Italy, but in coastal Croatia as well. The making of it is similar to pasta making; simple ingredients of a "flour", whether a ground grain or potatoes, egg and salt. Some recipes can be quite inventive, inducing cheese, sweet potatoes, or a vegetable such as spinach into the mix.

If you are pasta making challenged like myself, there are many brands of gnocchi available on the market such as DaVinci, Colavita and Don Peppe. Sold in one-pound packets, prices can vary from $4 to $8 dollars, depending on the type of market purchased from.

Interested in the attempt to make your own, here is how.




2 lbs. potatoes (not baking potatoes)

1 and ½ cups flour plus additional for rolling

1 egg

1 tsp. salt


Boil the potatoes in hot salted water until fork tender. Let cool before removing skins; put through a ricer or grater into a large mixing bowl. Add 1 and ½ cups flour, egg and salt; knead together until a ball forms.

On a floured board, cut dough into 6 portions; roll out each portion to a ¾ inch diameter. Cut the rolls into one-inch pieces; use a fork to roll each piece.

The best way to prepare gnocchi is by finishing them off directly in the sauce being served with them. They will pick up all the flavors of the sauce, so you will not be overwhelmed with just a flour or potato flavor for the entire dish.


Wanting to make a fancy meal to impress your hunny, for Valentine’s Day, a birthday or anniversary?  How about gnocchi in a sauce of browned butter, white wine and shallots. Shallots are basically "onion candy"; a delicate scent and sweet taste that will make you smile with delight, not cry your eyes out in pain.

Browned Butter Sauce with White Wine and Shallots



4 Tbsp. salted butter

2 large shallots, diced

¼ cup white wine

Freshly ground black pepper


In a large skillet, melt butter on medium heat; add shallots and stir occasionally to make sure butter and shallots are not sticking or burning. At same time, bring a large pot of water with salt to boil.

Remove skillet from stovetop and add wine; set skillet back on stove. Add gnocchi to boiling water; gnocchi will be ready when they float to the top; about 3-4 minutes. At the same time, the alcohol from the wine will burn off and the butter will begin turning brown. Strain the gnocchi well (water will dilute the sauce) and add directly to the skillet; let cook for 3 minutes, turning the gnocchi once in the sauce.


Plate and top with freshly ground black pepper.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Another sauce that is easy to make, and one to impress is one of my favorites, Tomato Vodka Cream Sauce.  I tweaked the original recipe by adding in four types of Italian cheese.  Again, this is a sauce that will be done by the time your pasta or gnocchi are cooked and ready to eat.

Creamy Four Cheese Tomato Vodka Sauce


4 cups (32 oz.) tomato puree

1 and 1/4 cups heavy cream

½ cup vodka

¼ cup each grated Asiago, Romano and Parmesan cheeses

½ cup ricotta cheese

1 tsp. each garlic and onion powders

1 tsp. Italian herb mixture, dried and crushed

1 lb. hot, cooked pasta or gnocchi


In a large pan, on medium-high heat, mix puree, cream and vodka together; let cook until small bubbles begin to form around rim. Whisk in and continuing whisking until smooth, the four cheeses. Whisk in the powders and herb mixture; serve over hot pasta or gnocchi.

Makes 4 servings.

This sauce is lovely over lobster, or shrimp, ravioli, so if available, make sure to purchase a package, and experiment for yourself.  My taste buds, and my hubby’s were definitely very, very happy.  

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Pork Barbecue from a Crock Pot?

While we do own two smokers, they are not the type of equipment that can be set up and forgotten about; specific temperatures, wood supplies, and maybe even water in a pan must be maintained.  Considering the several feet of snow outside, and especially blocking the door to the shed, where the smokers are housed, they will not be used any time soon.

How to get a good pork barbecue if not using a smoker?  Believe it or not, but it can be done simply in a crock pot; a piece of equipment that can be set up and walked away from until ready to eat.


Attempts have been made using pork roast or tenderloin, however, Boston butt is the way to go whether using a smoker or not.  This section of pork comes from the upper part of the shoulder, on the front leg, of the pig; usually sold with the bone intact.  Unless you have plans for that bone, have your butcher take it out; why pay per pound for something you will more than likely throw away?  Sometimes the butt is sold with the bone already out, but the cost is more; I was very, very lucky to find a nice four pounder without the bone and on sale. Think about it, I have 4 pounds of meat as compared to perhaps 3 to 3 and 1/2 pounds after the bone is removed; definitely a bargain!  By the way, it is a given that the meat might have to be cut apart here or there to get the bone cleanly out; you want those sections!  If in a package, you will find them tied together into one big roast with butcher's twine; just remove the twine before cooking...well this recipe anyway.

Personally, most times I have found pork to be on the dry side.  To solve this problem, the meat will be brined, overnight, before cooking it. This salt water soak will help to open up the meat fibers to allow the fat, as it melts, to flow into the meat and keep it moist and juicy. It also allows seasonings, and sauces if simmered in them, to do the same thing.  If there is a lot of extra fat hanging off the butt, it is alright to trim some of it off as there is plenty within the Boston butt itself.  Now, when you are ready to begin the cooking process, set up a 6-quart crock pot (spray the inside with nonstick cooking spray) and set the temperature on low; place the brined Boston butt inside.  Some folks rinse the brine off the meat before cooking, but it really is not necessary, and the salt helps to flavor the meat itself.

Whether you use homemade barbeque sauce, or store bought bottled, make sure to add two cups of diced onions.  When all is cooked and ready to be devoured, you will appreciate the addition of those onions.  Cover the meat with six cups of sauce; cover and cook for 6-8 hours.  The meat should be so tender, it simply comes apart with a fork.  With my crock pot (Hamilton Beach 3 in 1 with tall, round crock pots), the four pounds of pork only took six hours before perfection was achieved.  Depending on how your equipment works, it could be the same or longer; but you want it so tender that it shreds without effort.


I serve up my pork barbecue sandwiches two ways; first off, large potato buns for both; the first way is simply with barbecue sauce on top.  The second, and our very favorite way, is with coleslaw layered on top.   In case you missed the August 3, 2022 edition, of the San Juan Record, here are the recipes for Coleslaw Dressing, and putting together Coleslaw itself.

Roasted Potatoes is a tasty side dish.

Coleslaw Dressing 


2 cups mayonnaise

2 and ½ Tbsp. sugar

2 Tbsp.  lemon juice

3 Tbsp. white vinegar

½ tsp. ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon salt

½ tsp. celery seed


Whisk all ingredients together in bowl until smooth and creamy.

To Make Coleslaw

In a large bowl containing 1 lb. shredded white cabbage (or ½ lb. white plus ½ lb. purple) plus ½ cup shredded carrot, pour dressing over; toss until all vegetables are coated.

Makes 8 servings of Coleslaw.

In case you have a good amount of barbecue sauce left over after the pork is all gone; put it into a plastic bowl and into the freezer for about an hour.  Any fat in the sauce will solidify at the top and you can scoop it off to throw away.  Seal the container, label it, and keep it in the freezer, up to six months, until you need barbecue sauce again.  Cooking it with the pork does not ruin the flavor, only enhances it.

There you have it, smoky, juicy pork barbecue, made in the kitchen, simply with a crock pot.  Enjoy!

Mary Cokenour