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Thursday, October 20, 2011

New England Fall Casserole

I love fall in Maine. Partly for the lovely colors of gold, red, and brown. Partly for the wet, foggy days that make me want to stay inside and drink tea. But mostly for the food. Those who know me, know full well that Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. I love spending 2 days in the kitchen. I love the fall decorations of gourds, leaves, and hand-print turkeys. I love sitting down on Thanksgiving day with my loved ones and sharing in the bounty of the harvest. My love for this holiday has nothing to do with the myth of a Pilgrim/Indian meal, all lovey-dovey and respectful. It has nothing to do with the turkey, even, because when I spent 7 years as a vegetarian I never missed the bird on my dinner plate. It has everything to do with the warm veggies, salty gravy and hearty breads. And being thankful for the ability to eat good foods with the ones I love. It's that last bit of relaxation and gratitude for life before the hectic craziness of Christmas and New Years.

In the spirit of fall and its glorious root vegetables, I decided to spend the afternoon in my kitchen cooking a casserole. A quick poke through my fridge and vegetable basket and I was elbow deep in beets, potatoes, red cabbage, garlic and onions. I also recently purchased a large local pork chop from Caldwell Farms that I would toss into the mix. Simmered for an hour (give or take) in a nice bath of homemade chicken stock from the day before, my house filled with the glorious smell of roasting root vegetables. I served this up with a side of cornbread for a filling, warm and hearty fall meal. New England style.

This is one of those wonderful fix it and forget it meals for those with crock pots. Simply add all the ingredients to the pot, place on low, and go to work, on a fall hike, or curl up with a good book for the day. By dinner time it should be perfectly cooked and ready to enjoy. If you like gravy on your bread or biscuits, use some of the juices from cooking and whip up your favorite gravy recipe.

Fall Casserole
8 small beets (about 1 cups worth), sliced into half moons*
6 medium potatoes (about 2 cups worth), washed and cubed
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, sliced into thin wafers
1 small red cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 lb pork, cubed
4 C stock
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper

*Leave skin on beets if they are baby beets, it will be tender and edible. If they are larger beets, with a tougher skin, peel first.

Preheat oven to 350. Add all ingredients, except pork, to a large casserole dish and stir thoroughly to incorporate flavors. Cover tightly and bake for 1 hour, add pork, then bake another 30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and pork is cooked. Serve piping hot with cornbread or biscuits.

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