pumpkin-free Halloween

dinner

For years we’ve eaten pumpkin on Halloween. Often in the form of soup, with Yorkshire pudding and sausages alongside, and sometimes in ravioli. This year we decided to take a complete break from it. Instead I made an equally autumnal supper of pan-fried rainbow trout and a rather successful melange of Brussels sprouts, onion and bacon, which worked extremely well. The trout was from Skagit’s Own Fish Market and was just beautiful, lightly floured and fried in a bit of bacon fat. The bacon itself was from Skagit River Ranch, and I wish I could say I liked it better. Everyone we know has been raving about it for the last year, and I finally got hold of some (whoa! expensive), but good lord it’s sugary. It smells wonderful in the pan, like smoke and maple syrup, but it burns really easily, and after a few bites I feel like I’ve eaten a candy bar. Brussels sprouts made the perfect vehicle for it, giving the sugar somewhere to go.

We drank a bottle of Sones Cancion del Mar white wine, gave out a few Butterfingers to the neighbor kids, and didn’t miss the pumpkins at all.

trout

butterflied

prep

sprouts and bacon

belly of the pig

pork belly

When we ordered our first (half) pig, we debated getting some of it cured by the butcher. In the end, partly because I am cheap frugal, we decided to get it all fresh, hams and side and all. I had been thinking we would cure some ourselves, but I’m beginning to suspect we’ll have eaten it all by the time I get serious about it. Oh, well, there’s always another pig.

But in the meantime, we have these nice big roasts of side pork, otherwise known as pork belly, the cut that is usually made into bacon. We’ve eaten it in restaurants a number of times, but this would be my first time cooking it. I decided to play it safe and make red-cooked pork belly, a classic Chinese preparation.

We’ve tried to get fresh pork belly before, at a local meat shop, but to my dismay they had already sliced it like bacon, even though it wasn’t cured. This time things worked out better, as you can see in the top picture. Isn’t that a beautiful piece of meat?

braising liquid

For my braising liquid, I used a combination of Molly Stevens’ recipe and our own “glazed gingery ribs” recipe. I combined chicken stock, water, brown sugar, red chile flakes, star anise, ginger, scallions and soy sauce in a Dutch oven and brought it to a simmer.

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Cooking class: French Canadian Christmas

lots of chopping to do

Why do we do this to ourselves? We go straight from work, spend two hours chopping, two hours plating and serving, another hour cleaning up, and constant dishwashing throughout. Then we go home and collapse on the couch for an hour because we’re too wound up to sleep, but we still have to get up at 5 the next morning. Hmmm….

 Because we get to help cook things like this?

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