Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lucky Eats - New Year's Day feasts

I'm sure most people have some form of good-luck rituals they perform at various times of the year, but the most universal of all seems to be a special meal on New Year's Day.  A big one that seems to be widely known is black-eyed peas or Hoppin' John.  I have read several explanations of why this dish is lucky, but am personally content to just agree that it is.
    My own family, of Pennsylvania Dutch origin, always eats pork and saurkraut and mashed potatoes for New Year's Day.  Pork because pigs root forward, symbolizing moving forward or ahead, and also for health (I have also read and heard conflicting reasons on the health issues - it just is, OK?).  The saurkraut is, of course, cabbage, which = money.  Saurkraut is also healthy, probably because there are some vitamins rattling around in there.  And the mashed potatoes because they taste good with pork and saurkraut. :)   Here is how we make this meal.  Portions given are approximate - if you are feeding big eaters, increase portion sizes.  I wouldn't decrease them, though.  Leftovers will be even more tasty for lunch the next day.  Specific times and amounts are not given because this is a flexible feast, and assumes you know the level of doneness you like in various foods. 

PA Dutch Lucky New Year's Pork and Saurkraut
1 pork chop per person
1-2 bags of saurkraut (Do NOT use the canned kind.  If bagged, refrigerated saurkraut is unavailable, jarred is an OK substitute.) 
1 tsp. butter
1 potato per person

In a heavy pan or dutch oven big enough to hold all your pork, melt the butter and brown your pork chops on both sides.  If you can avoid it, try not to use nonstick cookware here, because the crusty brown bits will be an important component later on in the process.  Once the pork chops are browned, remove them from the pan.  Add your saurkraut to the pan.  If you like a bit less sourness, you can rinse the kraut off in a colander before cooking.  I like it vinegary, so I never do that, but suit your own taste.  It is important that there be a good bit of moisture in with your cabbage, so do not wring out too much.  When your saukraut has been added, stir to evenly heat.  The moisture from the kraut will deglaze your pan somewhat, so take full advantage and mix the browned pork bits in well.  Place your pork chops back in the pan, on top of the kraut.  Cover the pan, turn the heat to medium/low, and let simmer, stirring the kraut occasionally, until the pork chops are done.  Use a meat thermometer and make sure the pork is done to USDA recommended temperature.  If you need to moisten the kraut during the cooking process, you can use broth, water, or white wine if you would like a bit of sweetness in the mix. 
Meanwhile, make mashed potatoes however you like.  I prefer to peel and quarter the potatoes, then cook them, drain them, and mash them with an old wire masher.  I mix in milk and butter during mashing.  Other people like to do them other ways, and you should suit yourself in this matter.  When the pork chops are thoroughly cooked, serve each person a chop, a good helping of saurkraut and a mound of mashed potatoes.  Then you know that whatever else the future holds, you will be lucky enough to enjoy a great New Year's dinner!

And here's what my own lucky lunch looked like today :)  I wish you all healthy, wealthy, happy and wise!

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