Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Last week, gluttony was in effect. We had some guests over to film a documentary they are working on based on food of course. Instead of meeting at a restaurant, we invited them over for dinner. We figured it would be most organic and comforting for us to do this at home, since we enjoy cooking. Subject of the dinner was my favorite meat: pork. I was stoked to do a whole dinner based on one theme. It was quite interesting running back and forth between the kitchen and dining room, answering questions and cooking. I felt like a Jamaican with 9 jobs.
For an animal that spends most of its days wallowing in mud, taking in the sun with no source of employment, you would regard the pig as a fruitless mass. But, man, it's lovely how much good food is yielded from this animal.
Crispy Braised Pork Bellies with Cannellini Beans & Quail Egg
With a box of Cracker Jacks, you never know what surprise gift you'll receive. Same thing applies when you buy a package of pork bellies... with the inclusion of fully intact nipples. When you open a package of pork bellies and see this, you can't help but stop in your tracks and take a closer look. The resemblance between pork flesh and human flesh can be somewhat uncanny if you're a Caucasian male haha. But do the courteous thing and grab some scissors for your guests. There's nothing more jarring than seeing a braised nipple. Jeni joked that this could be the new appetizer of haute dining as long as you come up with a new name like... Pork Pez?
There's nothing I like cooking more with than my Le Creuset dutch oven that I got for a freaking steal at Tuesday Morning many years back. These pots are supposed to last longer than your lifetime, as I hope my grandchildren will find a good use for it besides heating up Prego sauce or making Korean Kimchi ramen. These pots can handle 550° in the oven and will heat your food evenly. I've never made a bad braised dish with this pot. Anyway, I did a slow 200° braise for 3-4 hours for the pork belly using the common ingredients – mire poix, chicken stock, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, salt and peppercorns. I also included my new fave chili pepper... aji, which is an Argentine spice used for things like empanadas.
Pork doesn't taste good for no reason. After the braise, you'll want to refridgerate it overnight. Remove the fat once it has coagulated. Or don't. *impish grin*
I've been dying to fry a quail egg sunny-side up and apply it to some dish. This couldn't be a more perfect dish to make it with. It's just as enjoyable raw as it is cooked. I am trying really really really hard not to use the "c" word so i'll misspell it. Key-yoot.
Before serving the braised pork belly, I seared it fat-side down in a skillet for a good 7-10 mins so that it would crisp up a little. For the cannellini beans, I sautéed them with a little butter, cinnamon, red apples and chicken broth. Although a more hearty dish, it made sense to my stomach.
Bacon-Fat Seared Scallops & Shrimp with Greens
As I cooked the scallops and shrimp, I forgot that I had cooked off all the bacon for something you'll see in a bit. One thing I always do, JUST IN CASE, is reserve the bacon fat as you'll never know what you'll be needing it for. I added a few tablespoons of it to the skillet and the oil started popping as though it was an applause for a good deed done by me.
Mmm, bacon-flavored seafood. There's something so wrong about pairing two different animals from surf and turf, but yet it tastes so right. How would you like to know that your destiny puts you in a skillet with a pig, shrimp and vegetables? Weird.
To achieve super-green vegetables, according to Chef Thomas Keller, you have to get your watering boiling super high and adding a LOT of salt to the water. I think for these asparagus spears, I probably dumped in one huge handful. You won't taste too much salt afterwards because you have to shock the vegetables in ice water, which also rinses the salt for you.
Zuni Cafe House-Cured Pork Chops with Prosciutto Asparagus and Creme Fraiche Mustard
Probably one of our top five cookbooks, the pork chops from Zuni Cafe are killer – and very simple to cure.
For 4 pork chops (10 to 11z each and 1-1/4" thick), or 2 tenderloins (about 1 pound each) A few crumbled bay leaves dried chiles crushed juniper berries (optional) 5 cups room temp. water 6 tbsp. sugar 3 tbsp. salt (a little more if using kosher salt)
Pat these guys dry after marinating for 2 days and sear them on high heat in a skillet about 3-4 minutes each side, depending on the thickness. For the asparagus, simply sauté them in a little butter, olive oil and S&P. Wrap some prosciutto around a bunch of spears and top it with some of the creme fraiche & mustard if you like. To make the sauce, simply add whole grain mustard to some creme fraiche with S&P to taste and some lemon juice. I added a little smoked paprika and ají chili pepper to it. So simple and good.
Scoops' Bacon-Infused Salt & Caramel Ice Cream
Well Tai Kim didn't actually offer that flavor that day, so we just made our own bacon ice cream for dessert. Jeni asked Mr. Kim what would go best with bacon and he suggested his Salt & Caramel. I fried some bacon and soaked up all the fat with paper towels. I then cut the bacon into small bits and threw it in the ice cream. Mixed it around and froze it again. My god this was so good. I felt guilty, but it was fabulous - especially with the bacon garnish ha.
After about 4 hours of eating and talking about food, we had concluded our evening. Hopefully our filmmaker friends knew that we didn't 'act' or anything because this what a usual dinner party at our place entails. Sometimes, we get people passed out on the couch like Thanksgiving.
A few days later, we forgot that we were cooking Easter lunch. Easter means one thing... ham. And ham means more pork consumption for us. Sure, why not. We had thought about doing an all-rabbit meal but it would have been too expensive. Maybe even too cruel ha.
We lucked out and found a 9-lb Farmer John ham for only SIX DOLLARS at Ralph's. Score.
Jeni found a great recipe off Epicurious for the glaze. I highly recommend it if you want to veer away from the standard pineapple slice, red cherry and clove-style ham that just feels soooooo antiquated. I can see that on the cover of every food magazine during the 80s. Ugh.