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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Arborio Casserole (Pork)

A little while ago, I made a chicken casserole with arborio rice in a cream sauce.  And I talked about how I always had a somewhat negative association with casseroles.

But that one ended up turning out really well, and my wife kept bugging me for another one.

So, this is the same thing pretty much exactly, except with pork, and without the thyme.

There's no real reason why I keep choosing arborio rice over any other, really - any grain would do for the most part.  I guess it's because I have a large amount of arborio in my cupboard.  :)

So, if you're interested in the how of this dish, please reference my previous post, of last year, Arborio Casserole (Chicken).

Otherwise, I'm just going to jump right to the end and show some pictures of how this turned out.

I find pork to be much more tender than chicken (no surprise, I guess, considering that it is generally fattier), and so although I still pan-seared them for a minute, I cooked them far less than I did the chicken.

Anyway, this is it as it was all prepared:

As you can see, it looks much like the chicken casserole of a few months ago, right down the same baking dish.

Now - with all of my culinary spatterings, there is a high degree of learning involved; as I mentioned in that previous post, and regarding casseroles, I had little experience with them.  Both in eating, and in making, them.  So it comes as no surprise to me that I had a few seemingly minor tweaks which I think made this much better.  First of all, I used far less salt.  I'm not normally that big on salt, and was raised in a very low-sodium household, but I do believe a little bit can make a dish delicious.  There are a few things which, in my opinion, MUST have salt, although just a pinch.  Cooked vegetables for example, must have at least a pinch of salt.  However, in making a large dish like this, which is essentially a whole bunch of things lumped in together, a little salt can go a long way.

In my previous casserole, although still monitoring the salt, and not putting much in, I nevertheless put a little bit in on each stage of the cooking.  That means the rice got a pinch of salt, the chicken got a pinch of salt, and the cream sauce got a pinch of salt.  That made it way too salty.  There was still probably less than a couple of teaspoons in the whole thing, but it still taught me that when "lumping things in together" like this in a casserole, the separately added salt also comes together, and culminates.

Anyway, that was just one example, a couple of other changes, including baking it less, and broiling it more.

This time around, the casserole was much better.  I suppose it should only be expected that the first time I make something it's not going to be perfect.

Anyway, I took some shots of the end meal... 

including some green beans I through in the oven for a bit too...

As you can see the whole casserole looks warmer, smoother, and just plain softer.  Which is a good thing I think.  The pork in particular was very nice.  I think I just like pork more than chicken, but even still, most would agree this made a better fit.

These two last shots are more photographically interesting than anything else.  The same shot with two different focuses.  Cause that's fun.  :)

Beans Focus

Casserole Focus

Heh heh heh heh.