When you’re on a tight budget, a single pork roast has got to go a long, long way. You could just roast the whole thing up and serve the leftovers as sandwiches, but you can do even better than that. With a little ingenuity, a single five-pound roast can be stretched to feed a family of four for more than a week, and you don’t have to be eating the same thing every day. Really!
What you’ve got to keep in mind for all these ideas is that meals don’t need to have a lot of meat. You can get a great meaty taste from just a quarter pound of pork! If you cut it small and mix it with other things, you’ll find that it looks like a lot more. It’s all in how you season it and use it.
Here’s the trick. If you set more meat in front of your family, they’re going to eat more meat. If you set less meat and more rice, pasta, potatoes, and veggies in front of your family, they’re going to eat less meat. It’s just that simple.
You can do this two different ways. You can roast or barbeque up the whole thing right at the beginning and then divide part or all of the roast up for future meals. Alternately, you can cut it up into quarter-pound packages before you cook it, setting any bones aside for the stock pot. Nothing here is going to need more than two of those packages.
The stock pot
Always start with the stock pot. You’ll be using it all week. The recipe for a basic stock is at the end of the article.
You can use this stock in other recipes throughout the week. Soups are the easiest of all, and the ideas for soups are almost unlimited. Just substitute stock for water in any soup recipe, and shredded or diced pork for any meat. A thick minestrone’s pretty much a meal in itself!
To make a fast soup, just give it a quick stir and ladle out enough stock for the soup and add your choice of veggies and maybe some pasta. It’ll be done in less than ten minutes.
You can also add a ladle or two or stock to your other dishes to give them a rich taste. Each time you use some stock, fill up the stock pot again with more water and add more herbs and maybe another carrot.
Stock to broth to a rich stew
When you’re ready to let your stock pot wind down, ladle some of the stock into an open saucepan. Let it simmer down and keep adding more stock until you’ve used the whole pot. This is called reducing, and it’s going to concentrate the flavours wonderfully.
If you used onion salt in the broth, don’t add any more salt now! It’ll be salty enough as it is.
At that point, if you have any pork roast packages left, you can use this recipe directly, substituting the broth for the oil and onions.
Otherwise, you can skip the meat completely. The broth’s going to make it taste so nice and meaty, your family will probably never even notice there aren’t any meat chunks in the stew! Cube potatoes right into that broth and let them simmer. Add in any other veggies you’d normally add to stew. You won’t need any thickener, because the broth’s already pretty thick at this point.
Variations on sandwiches
Lots can be done with pork roast sandwiches. You can braise the meat, barbeque, or let it simmer in a slow cooker for delicious pork that almost melts in your mouth.
Don’t forget about the bread! You can use artisan bread, garlic bread, or different kinds of buns. You can toast it, or add cheese and grill the bread for a neat twist on grilled cheese sandwiches.
For a Greek taste, use a chickpea, onion, and lemon juice mix with pita bread. For Mexican night, use Mexican flavourings and tortillas for quesadillas, and add a bit of fusion flavour with a sprinkle of paprika. You can even toss some pork with a couple of scrambled eggs and some onions, garlic, and spinach for quick breakfast sandwiches.
Shredded barbequed pork’s a perfect topping for homemade pizza. Add some mozzerella, diced tomatoes, and any other toppings you love. You’ll only need a single 1/4-pound package of meat for this. You’ll find that on pizza, a little pork goes a very long way!
This classic pork dish is perfect for pork shoulders and shanks. Take a couple of your 1/4-pound packages of pork and cut it into 1-inch cubes. Brown them with a little oil and diced onions. then add garlic, caraway seed, paprika, thyme, and a bay leaf. You can also add diced carrots, parsnip, peppers, celery, or even a small tomato to your goulash. You’ll also want to keep adding water gradually throughout your cooking, so that by the time everything is added, the meat and veggies are just covered. Let the whole thing simmer for a couple of hours to let the flavours blend.
You can serve goulash many different ways. You can chop a couple of potatoes into the simmering dish and call it a kind of stew. You can serve it over roast potatoes, baked potatoes, or even plain old boiled potatoes. You can also serve it over pasta or rice.
If you have leftovers, you can freeze them, or you can serve them next day for lunch. They’ll taste even better than they did yesterday!
Shepherd’s pie, lasagna, and casseroles
These kinds of baked dishes make a little meat go a long, long way without anyone ever noticing that anything is missing.
For a small twist on shepherd’s pie, mince one or two 1/4-pound packages of pork and let it marinade in your favourite marinade overnight. Line your baking dish with mashed potatoes, then add layers of corn and meat in the usual way, using pork instead of hamburger. If you want, you can make the marinade into a sauce or gravy to go along with the shepherd’s pie.
You can easily turn a 1/4-pound package of pork into lasagna by using shredded pork instead of hamburger and adding lasagna pasta and your favourite tomato sauce.
Pork casseroles also take only a 1/4-pound package of pork. Throw in some pasta and mushrooms, season with onions and your choice of spices, and let it bake. If you sprinkle some grated cheese overtop, you can make a pasta melt that’s every bit the equal of anything you can find in a restaurant!
Stirfries are very fast meals which don’t take a lot of meat and are easy to throw together in a hurry. Slice up one 1/4-pound package of pork into thin strips. Quick-fry it in a skillet or wok in a bit of sesame oil, along with broccoli, califlower, carrots, or snow peas and bok choi if you prefer. Season with your choice of ginger, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, Thai chili sauce, black bean sauce, or peanut sauce. Spoon the stirfry over rice or pasta and you’re done!
If you’re going completely from scratch, some of your seasonings could include ginger, soy sauce, and either brown sugar or maple syrup. For a different approach, you could try bean paste, fish sauce, and chili peppers. Your imagination is the only limit!
Fill a very large pot with water nearly to the brim, leaving enough space for about a pound of meat and veggies and a little extra space so the water does not boil over. You’ll have to keep adding water as it simmers down.
The basics for a good pork stock are a couple of pork bones or a few roast end bits, along with an onion (or a pinch of onion salt) and a couple of carrots. Good basic seasonings for a pork stock are parsley, basil, oregano, and rosemary. If you want to give it just a tiny bit of zest, add a pinch of ground mustard. You’ll be amazed at how good it tastes!
Keep it easy on the salt at this stage. It’s better to add it later to each meal. That makes it easier to control the saltiness when you’re using other salty seasonings. Do the same thing with the pepper. That’s because pepper loses its taste if it’s added in too early.
Let the whole thing simmer at the back of the stove all week. (Turn it off at night or anytime you leave the house, unless you’re using a slow cooker with a safety switch.) The cold months are a perfect time to do this. You’ll always have warm stock on hand for fast soup to warm you right down to your toes, and you’re also getting a bit of bonus ambient heat. Both ways, it keeps your heating bills down!