Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Home-style cooking helped us through a tough year

Susan M. Selasky

The past year was a comfy one. With the gloomy economy, more folks nationwide turned to the comforts of home cooking as they tightened their belts and ate out less.

And we proved that you can cut back on spending without cutting back on taste. We gave value cuts of meat bold flavors and found ways to get more meals out of one chicken.

And who would have thought a simple hot dog would make for a top-rated recipe? When topped with a garlicky homemade relish and Manchego cheese, that plain old dog became a delight.

So, for a roundup of the year's best ideas, we included that recipe - and a few others - deemed worthy of a spot in your recipe files.

Soda-brined Pork Loin with Cherry-Chipotle Glaze

This recipe also works great with pork tenderloin. Sear the tenderloin 1 minute on all sides and then grill about 20 minutes or until it reaches 145 degrees.

4 cups Dr Pepper (not diet)

1/2 cup kosher salt

1 boneless center-cut pork loin, 3 lb. to 4 lb.

Vegetable oil for grilling

Glaze:

1 jar (9 oz.) tart cherry preserves

1/2 cup Dr Pepper

1/2 cup water

1 to 2 Tbsp. minced canned chipotle in adobo

4 tsp. Dijon mustard

Pour the soda into a large glass measure and slowly add the salt (the mixture might foam up quite a bit). Stir until the salt dissolves completely, 1 to 2 minutes. Place a large, disposable plastic bag inside a large bowl and carefully pour the brine into the bag.

Trim excess fat and silver skin from the pork. Submerge the pork in the brine, seal the bag, place in a large bowl and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

In a small bowl, combine the glaze ingredients.

Remove the pork from the bag and discard the brine. Pat dry with paper towels. Lightly coat the pork with the vegetable oil and let stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before grilling. Prepare the grill for direct and indirect cooking over high heat.

Brush the cooking grates clean. Sear the pork over direct high heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the surface is well marked but not burned, 8 to 12 minutes, turning once.

Place a large disposable foil pan over indirect high heat and pour the glaze into the pan. Carefully transfer the pork to the pan and turn to coat with the glaze. Grill the pork over indirect high heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until barely pink in the center and the internal center temperature reaches 145 degrees to 150 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes, turning in the glaze every 8 to 10 minutes. If the glaze gets too thick or starts to scorch, add a little water or more soda to the pan. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let rest for about 5 minutes. Cut the pork crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices and serve with the remaining pan sauce on the side.

Serves 6.

- From `Weber's Way To Grill' by Jamie Purviance (Sunset, $24.95)

Fontina Risotto with Chicken

This risotto is a terrific side or main dish. Transform the leftovers into cakes for two meals from one.

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

4 cups water

5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided

1 medium onion, finely chopped

21/2 cups arborio rice

3 sprigs fresh thyme

1 cup dry white wine

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan cheese

Freshly ground pepper and kosher salt to taste

1 cup coarsely grated fontina cheese, plus more for garnish

8 oz. deli-smoked chicken breast, diced (about 1 1/4 cups)

1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

Bring the broth and 4 cups water to a simmer in a saucepan. Keep warm.

Meanwhile, melt 4 Tbsp. butter in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion; cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and thyme. Cook, stirring, until the rice is glossy, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until the liquid is absorbed. Add the kosher salt.

Ladle in the hot broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, allowing all the liquid to be absorbed before adding more. Continue until the rice is just tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove the thyme. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, the remaining 1 Tbsp. butter and kosher salt and pepper to taste. Gently stir in the fontina and chicken. Reserve about 2 cups risotto for Risotto Cakes. Divide the rest among bowls. Top with parsley and more fontina before serving.

Risotto Cakes: You will need 2 cups leftover fontina risotto and 8 small cubes fontina cheese. Mix fontina risotto with chicken with 2 Tbsp. chopped green onions or chives. Form into 8 patties. Make a depression in the center of each patty and stuff with a cube of fontina. Pat risotto around each hole to cover. Dredge each cake into panko bread crumbs (or other bread crumbs) and refrigerate for 20 minutes. In a nonstick skillet, fry the cakes in a little oil until evenly browned, about 11/2 minutes per side. Season with salt and pepper and serve on top of a mixed greens salad with a light vinaigrette.

Serves 4.

- Food Network Magazine, February/March 2009

Manchego Cheese and Garlic Hot Dogs

A roasted garlic and red pepper relish replaces the usual pickle on this Spanish-style hot dog.

Relish:

2 large heads garlic, top 1/2 inch cut off

5 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1/2 cup roasted red pepper from jar, drained and diced

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Coarse kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Hot dogs:

6 grilled regular or whole-wheat hot dog buns or 21/2-inch-wide pieces ciabatta cut to hot dog length and split lengthwise

6 grilled all-beef hot dogs

2 oz. Manchego or hot pepper cheese

Sherry wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar

To prepare the relish: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place each head of garlic, cut side up, in center of square of foil. Drizzle each with 1 tsp. oil. Enclose garlic in foil. Place packets on oven rack. Roast until garlic is tender, about 45 minutes. Open packets. Cool 15 minutes.

Squeeze garlic cloves into small bowl. Mash enough to measure 1/4 cup (keep remaining garlic for another use). Transfer to bowl. Mix in 3 tsp. oil, red pepper and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the hot dog buns on plates. Top each grilled hot dog with cheese, garlic relish and drizzle of vinegar.

Serves 6.

- Bon Appetit, July 2009

Chicken Frangelico

3 Tbsp. trans fat-free margarine, divided

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 tsp. plus 1/4 tsp. salt, divided

1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

4 (4 oz. each) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2-inch thickness

1/4 cup diced onion

1 clove minced garlic

1/4 cup Frangelico (hazelnut-flavored liqueur)

1 cup fat-free half-and-half

2 tsp. cornstarch

2 Tbsp. slivered almonds, toasted

In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. margarine over medium-high heat until it melts. In a shallow dish or pie plate, combine the flour, 1/8 tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. black pepper. Coat chicken breasts in flour mixture and sauté in margarine, turning until golden brown on each side and cooked through. Remove the chicken to a platter and keep warm.

Add the remaining Tbsp. of margarine to the skillet along with the onion and garlic. Sauté 3 to 5 minutes, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the Frangelico and continue to sauté an additional 3 to 5 minutes.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the half-and-half and cornstarch. Reduce heat to medium low and gradually add the half-and-half mixture to the skillet. Allow the sauce to thicken. Pour the sauce over the chicken, top with toasted almonds. Serve with brown rice, couscous or no-yolk egg noodles. Serves 4.

- Darlene Zimmerman, for Heart Smart