Moreton Neal’s Gifts for Foodies

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Photo by James Stefiuk

This time last year, my husband, Drake, and I made a compilation of our favorite recipe discoveries of 2017, bound them in low tech school folders and gave them to our friends and family for Christmas. Buoyed by the response (at least one person seemed to enjoy it), we’ll do it again this holiday season.

For especially good boys and girls on our list, we will throw in the best condiment ever: Fiddlehead Farm’s Local Ramp Salt. It makes everything taste better. Drake may well have bought out the Pittsboro company’s entire supply. If so, try Fiddlehead’s Green Garlic Salt instead. Your scrambled eggs will never be the same. For memorable gifts and stocking stuffers, Fiddlehead Farm’s extraordinary condiments and preserves can be found at all locations of Weaver Street Market and the Carrboro Farmers’ Market.

Cookbooks are always a welcome present for those of us who love to cook. For those who don’t, but need to anyway, Peg Bracken’s old classic,  “I Hate to Cook Book,” may be a welcome gift. The 50th anniversary edition is still available in bookstores and online. One of the best dishes I put in my mouth this year was a chicken-artichoke casserole from her book made by a friend who really does hate to cook.

UNC Press’ roster of cookery and foodways books published this year includes all kinds of sugarplums. Georgann Eubanks’ “The Month of Their Ripening: North Carolina Heritage Foods through the Year” is a charmer – the January chapter’s featured dish is snow cream! Debbie Moose’s “Carolina Catch” will be a new essential for fish lovers.

“Southern Snacks” by Perre Coleman Magness provides enough party ideas for a lifetime. Her rendition of Carolina caviar elevates black-eyed peas to a status worthy of Champagne. Sara Foster’s “Pie,” the latest of the Savor the South series, offers classic as well as innovative recipes for both dessert and main course pies. Her roasted pear-brown butter tart may become a new Christmas tradition at our house.

My holiday gift to you, readers, is from our ‘2018 Best of the Year’ folder. This easy, inexpensive braise, adapted from a New York Times recipe, can be popped in the oven and forgotten for a couple of hours while you shop for gifts. Happy holidays!

Braised Country-Style Pork Ribs

2 1/2-3 lbs. pork country-style ribs, bone in or boneless, cut into thick slices

Salt and black pepper

3-4 Tbsp. olive oil

2 large carrots, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp. tomato paste

2 1/2 cups or more chicken stock

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 bay leaves

Preheat oven to 350 F (or 275 F for longer cooking).

Season ribs with salt and pepper.

Add oil to a Dutch oven. Over high heat, brown the ribs on all sides, in batches. Place the ribs on a plate.

Add more oil to the pan, if needed, plus the carrots, celery, onions and garlic, Cook until vegetables are soft, stirring constantly.

Add the apple cider vinegar and stir a couple of minutes until evaporated. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring another minute.

Add 2 ½ cups chicken stock (or 3 cups for slower cooking), red pepper flakes and the bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a simmer.

Return the ribs and drippings back into the Dutch oven. Cover and place in the preheated oven.

Braise the meat for 1 hour (or up to 2 hours if you cook it at 275 F). Uncover the Dutch oven, stir the mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, on the stovetop at a low temperature until the liquid thickens and the meat is very tender, about a half hour. If the sauce thickens too much, dilute with a little water or broth.

Remove bay leaves before serving. Serve with plain polenta, mashed potatoes, mashed cauliflower, or for an extra special accompaniment, Sweet Corn Polenta.

Serves 4-6

Sweet Corn Polenta

¼ cup butter

1 small sweet onion, finely chopped

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Moreton Neal

Moreton Neal is an author and interior designer who lives in Chapel Hill. She is a lifelong foodie, having co-founded LA Residence in 1976. 
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