Recovering from the Easter brunch carb overload, I went looking for something interesting yet digestible to make for dinner. I ended up with an impromptu combination based on a couple of recipes in a Penelope Casas book. Two pork tenderloins cut into medallions, then marinated in a pesto of fresh parsley, garlic, salt and olive oil, and pan seared in a skillet, were easy and bright tasting. To go with I sauteed a bunch of Swiss chard in olive oil then added a little slurry of ground cumin in red wine vinegar. It was great – next time I might try the full recipe of sauteed bread mushed up with the cumin and vinegar.
That milk-braised pork I made last week for supper club? Here’s what I did with some of the leftovers: a lazy approximation of the roasted cauliflower pasta from one of my favorite cookbooks, Olives and Oranges. I sauteed garlic, anchovies, hot pepper flakes and breadcrumbs in lots of olive oil, then threw in capers, cauliflower florets roasted until sweet and golden, minced parsley and diced-up leftover pork, then added bowtie pasta and let it all simmer for a minute. Daaaaaang.
I got the Momofuku cookbook for my birthday! To break it in, we had some friends over to dinner and I made a bunch of things out of it: pork belly ssäm, pickled mustard seed sauce with pickled cucumbers (recipe below), sweet corn with miso butter, and steamed buns. Well, the buns were my own favorite bao recipe, but I shaped them based on David Chang’s process, folded over into little pockets before steaming, and it worked great. The sauce was killer. The salty-sweet roasted pork belly wasn’t bad either. There were very few leftovers. Continue reading
I’m generally not a huge fan of liver, but when someone hands you a package of liver from one of their pigs, which you know was a happy, well-taken-care-of pig of great quality, you make sure to cook with it. I find myself hoping that if I keep trying it, I’ll eventually like it, so I decided to try my hand at pâté.
I found a recipe in my parents’ copy of The River Cottage Cookbook for a very straightforward-sounding country pâté, really just a liver-based meatloaf. We invited some liver-loving friends over to dinner, and a few days ahead of time I got out the meat grinder and put it together.
A few weeks ago I went to visit some pigs out at Well Fed Farms. They were happy, handsome pigs, rooting up grasses on the fertile Skagit flats and being fed with apple pressings.
A couple of weeks later we got the call from Silvana Meats, and we picked up half a pig’s worth of fresh pork, neatly packed for the freezer. The smoked meats will be ready later (we’re very excited about bacon).
We had vindaloo for dinner last night. We were going to make our usual one, bright with vinegar and extremely hot, but then our eyes caught on a recipe in the same book (660 Curries, of course) for a different vindaloo with thin strips of pork and a bit of coconut milk to cut the heat (he explains that the coconut milk is totally inauthentic, but balances the chiles nicely).
The paste was made of onion, garlic, ginger, green chile, dried red chile, turmeric and cumin, and was incredibly fragrant.
All we needed to do after making the paste was saute some onion, pour in the paste to simmer, then stir in coconut milk and thin-cut pork and cook ten minutes. We ate it with basmati rice and mashed eggplant with sweet onions. Fantastic – will make this one again.
The theme for our latest supper club was “modern Mexican.” It was another remarkable meal, made up of a series of composed small plates and some amazing flavors.
It didn’t hurt that the weather was gorgeous that day, and dinner was held at a house right on the water. It set the tone nicely for a very summery meal.
We started out with tamarind margaritas. I love tamarind-based drinks, it gives a tartness that’s very distinctive.
Jenise made a batch of ceviche for us to nibble on while we set up for dinner. I know there was shrimp, halibut, corn, green olives and peppers, and it was one of the best ceviches I’ve ever had. It was hard to resist filling up before we even sat down.
Jon and I brought several dishes to share. The first of these was a chilled avocado soup garnished with pepitas. I liked the flavor of this, but it was extremely rich and creamy. If I ever make this again I think we’ll just serve it in tiny portions, like a shooter glass. The pepitas were toasted and tossed with ground chipotle pepper, which gave them a nice smokiness.
Roger contributed the next course, based on a dish from a favorite restaurant. Sea scallops in an agavero butter sauce with capers, rolled into flour tortillas. This was fantastic, and I’d never even heard of agavero before, so it was a new flavor experience.
Next came our chalupas (little “boats” made of masa, toasted on a griddle, molded by hand, then fried), topped with hot vinegary Mexican chorizo, sauteed pineapple, and a dab of tomatillo-chipotle salsa. We were going to add crema, chopped onion and cilantro but we sort of ran out of room – each of these was only about two bites. I liked the chalupas a lot, but they were best fresh out of the pan; the few that were left over we ate the next day, and they had really hardened up. The chorizo was a huge success – we used to be able to buy locally-made chorizo at our neighborhood grocer but couldn’t get it this time, so we made our own and it was fabulous. The recipe is from a nifty little cookbook called Antojitos, and I’ve reprinted it at the bottom of this post. Adding pineapple was an inspiration we got from Calle, a lovely Mexican restaurant in downtown Mount Vernon – they top their chorizo tacos with grilled pineapple and I’ve really liked it.
Linda and Mike brought duck tacos with pomegranate seed salsa, pickled cabbage, a peanut-arbol salsa, and charred corn tortillas. This was just beautiful. I particularly loved the crunch of the pomegranate seeds with the tender duck meat.
Jenise and Bob cured flank steak with salt, sugar and hibiscus flowers and then grilled it, and Jenise made two kinds of tamales: black truffle and goat cheese/mint. The tomatillo salsa went with everything.
Georgiann’s lime ice, totally refreshing, with mint and strawberries.
Pots de creme infused with Mexican chocolate and cinnamon. I made this from a Thomas Keller recipe, adding pulverized Ibarra chocolate and a stick of cinnamon to the warming milk and cream. It was the reverse of refreshing: rich and deadly.
There was also plenty of Mexican beer and a selection of wines that went surprisingly well with the food. I think we did very well with this theme!
From Antojitos: Festive and Flavorful Mexican Appetizers by Barbara Sibley and Margaritte Malfy
This makes a very potent chorizo, spicy and vinegary. It works best as a seasoning, rather than a main dish, as a little goes a long way (we made tacos from the leftovers and they were very hot and rich). Yes, there is a ton of ground cloves in this, but don’t skimp!
- 3 dried arbol chiles
- 7 dried guajillo chiles (we substitued puya chiles, which are very similar)
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup white vinegar
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 ½ tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 pound ground pork
Layer the chiles, onion and garlic, add the bay leaf, and pour the vinegar over. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside for one hour.
Discard the bay leaf. Put the mixture in a blender and process to a rough paste. Add water to thin if necessary. Scrape out into a bowl.
Mix the chile paste with the salt, cumin, oregano, cloves and pepper. Add the pork and mix thoroughly.
Put a dab of the sausage into a skillet and cook to check seasonings, adjusting as necessary. Refrigerate the sausage for at least 12 hours or up to 5 days. To cook, heat a small amount of oil in a skillet and add the sausage, stirring until the meat is cooked through.
If adding pineapple: dice about a cup of pineapple finely. Put in a nonstick skillet and fry until the liquid cooks off and the pineapple starts to brown. Add the cooked chorizo to the pineapple and stir them together until everything is hot.
Another month, another meeting of the Bellingham Supper Club. Our theme was Indochina, which allowed for dishes from Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia, with Thailand being an allowable deviation. We had a great selection of white wines of varying sweetness or spiciness, beer, and lots and lots of good food.
While we sipped glasses of Grüner Veltliner, Jenise stir-fried some fresh snow peas with sake and we picked them up with toothpicks to nibble on while we talked.
Our first sit-down course was Roger’s green papaya salad. Very simple and refreshing, with just a hint of heat.
Linda and Mike brought spring rolls. There were little coconut pancakes, which Linda claimed hadn’t come out properly, and fried spring rolls cut into sections. These we rolled up in lettuce leaves with herbs and vegetables and dipped into a fresh-tasting dressing of lime juice, garlic, chiles, vinegar, sugar and fish sauce. I particularly loved the texture and taste of the pancakes with the herbs and dressing – I hope to try these myself someday.
Roger made a grilled chicken satay with yet another dipping sauce…
…and Georgiann made a creamy, lightly curry-scented shrimp and grapefruit salad, served in the grapefruit rinds.
Jenise threw together some meat-filled dumplings, which were liberally garnished with hot chile peppers. I think it was at this point I went and got a bottle of Tsingtao to wash the food down.
The last savory course was a lemongrass beef curry from Jenise, and pork ribs cooked in fish sauce and bitter caramel, from us (more about those below), with a bowl of rice.
And for dessert, a cup of coffee and a scoop of pandan ice cream.
This was very successful, I thought, but pandan (the leaf from a type of screwpine – we buy it at Uwajimaya and keep it in the freezer) is an unusual flavor – floral, but also very toasty flavored. We’ve tasted it in drinking water, Indonesian curries use it to flavor broths, and it’s used in sweets of all sorts. Jon made the ice cream, looking up various recipes online and adjusting. It’s noteworthy that every single recipe he found was based on David Lebovitz’s basic vanilla ice cream, which is about as good as ice cream gets.
The recipe he ended up following was from Use Real Butter, with a few adjustments. He used twice as many pandan leaves, and chopped them up for a more intense infusion instead of knotting them. He didn’t use pandan extract at all, but added two drops of green food coloring to enhance the appearance. The color ended up looking just like classic mint ice cream. The flavor, though, was reminiscent of green tea, particularly the kind with roasted rice in it. And the texture was perfect, smooth and creamy. A little of this goes a long way, but a small portion made a perfect dessert after all the different flavors of the meal.
Then there were our ribs, which were made right out of Andrea Nguyen’s Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. We’ve made these before, but had used the broiler for the first round of cooking instead of the grill. This time Jon braved the elements and cooked them properly over charcoal.
It was a nasty wet day. But the ribs smelled absolutely incredible on the grill. Warning – don’t attempt this before lunch.
After grilling the ribs go into a pot with their remaining marinade, more fish sauce, and a lot of bittersweet Vietnamese caramel sauce, which we had made earlier that morning.
They simmer for an hour, until the meat is falling off the bone. The bitter char and smoke flavors from the grill blend with the bitterness of the caramel sauce, creating a rich deep flavor. So good.
Another successful Supper Club!
I haven’t had much experience with curing, souring or fermenting things at home – I tried making preserved lemons once but it didn’t work particularly well – and it’s something I’ve been wanting to learn more about. Hunanese salted chiles, a key ingredient in the cookbook I’ve been working through, sounded like a good way to ease into things – sort of a lazy girl’s kim chee. It’s nothing but chiles and salt, does not need special attention or preserving techniques, and is very good to eat. It ages for two weeks in a cool place – I just stuck the jar on a pantry shelf in my basement, which stays near 55° all winter – then keeps indefinitely in the fridge. Although I can tell our jar of chiles isn’t going to have the opportunity to stick around very long.
It really is a simple recipe. The hardest part by far was actually getting hold of a pound of ripe red chiles in the middle of winter. We had to wait until we made a trip to the produce section of Uwajimaya in Seattle, where they had an excellent selection of what they called “red jalapeños” but most stores just refer to as Fresno chiles. They’re not an extremely spicy pepper but they’re very sweet and fruity, and all these flavors really came out in the preserving process. The final product is actually quite spicy, but also sweet and surprisingly silky in the mouth. I think they’re wonderful – hot, sour, salty and sweet, all in one condiment. This will become a pantry staple for us.
Hunanese chopped salted chiles
from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province by Fuchsia Dunlop
- 1 lb fresh red chiles
- 1/4 cup salt
Cut off the stem and tip of each chile and coarsely chop them, including the seeds.
Combine the chopped chiles in a bowl with 3 ½ tbsp of the salt, mix well, place in a very clean glass jar and top with the remaining salt. Seal and put in a cool place for a couple of weeks before using, then refrigerate once opened. Will keep for months.
What to do with the chiles once they’re done? As far as I can tell, anything that you would use either fresh chiles or chile paste for. I used them in place of fresh red chiles when I made red-braised tofu a couple of weeks ago, I threw a spoonful into a bowl of dan dan noodles, and last night I made a Hunanese dish of pork and tofu that really showcased the chiles.
I’ve made this recipe twice so far. The first time I didn’t have the salted chiles so I doubled the chile bean paste (as Dunlop suggests), and I used fresh shiitakes instead of dried. This time I did use dried mushrooms, and was frankly amazed at the flavor they gave to the sauce. I’ll need to keep dried shiitakes on hand from now on. And while the recipe was good with just the chile bean paste, it was worlds better with the salted chiles – more depth, sweetness, heat and just generally tastier. I nearly licked out the wok.
Homestyle Bean Curd
adapted from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province by Fuchsia Dunlop
- 2 dried shiitakes
- 1 block tofu, cut into slices or cubes (whatever type of tofu you like – I only use silken these days)
- 1 boneless pork loin chop, cut into thin slices
- 1 tsp Shaoxing wine or sherry
- 1 Tbsp chile bean paste
- 1 Tbsp chopped salted chiles
- 1 Tbsp chopped garlic
- 1 cup stock
- 1/4 tsp soy sauce
- spoonful of cornstarch mixed with two spoonfuls of cold water
- 3 scallions
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- peanut oil or lard
Soak the mushrooms in hot water 30 minutes. Drain, remove the stems, and thinly slice.
Mix the sliced pork with Shaoxing wine in a bowl. Set aside.
If you want the tofu to be a bit firmer, fry the slices until golden in a bit of peanut oil or lard. Set aside. I sometimes skip this step if I’m in the mood for soft-textured tofu.
Heat a bit of oil in a wok until very hot. Stir-fry the pork until the pieces separate, add the chile paste and salted chiles and stir well, then the garlic and mushrooms. Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer.
Add the tofu and soy and bring the liquid to a boil. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook until it begins to thicken, then add the scallions and sesame oil. Serve with plenty of rice to soak up the sauce.
Sunday was another big pork day, mostly unintentionally. We had some maple pork sausages from the co-op for breakfast, with fresh buttermilk muffins studded with dried apricots and candied ginger. Then we had bowls of udon in chicken broth for lunch, topped with a handful of Chinese barbecued pork from the grocery store. And then we had a big piece of pork shoulder slow-roasting in the oven all afternoon for indoor pulled pork. Given how disgusting the weather was that day, this all seemed entirely appropriate.
The pulled pork was from Cook’s Illustrated (you can find the recipe here), which promised to duplicate the effect of a long slow barbecue. It did seem to me that they were a little excessively hung up on the idea of smokiness, and I chose not to add liquid smoke to any part of the recipe. I did do the two-hour brine before roasting, and I did use smoked paprika in the rub (also used hot Dijon instead of yellow mustard, because there’s no way I’m buying yellow mustard), and I have absolutely no complaints about how the pork came out. After four-plus hours in the oven the meat was tender and juicy and the crust was incredible. One problem: there were no “cooking juices” to mix in with barbecue sauce, as the recipe claimed. It all burned onto the pan bottom, which was then a total bitch to wash.
We piled the warm pork onto potato rolls with Pendleton barbecue sauce and a mix of beet greens and chard, with some soupy pintos on the side. It was the best pork of the day.