Pork Belly

The title here does not refer to the current state of our waistlines (apt though the description may be), but to the dish I made last week. Of course, our continued love of food like this is utterly destroying our feeble efforts to lose wei–um, eat more vegetables and try to be healthier.

Pork belly, as you may know, is quite the rage these days. It’s basically uncured, unsalted bacon, and most recipes I’ve seen use a cut large enough to roast. The beauty of the belly is that like bacon, it has lots of lovely fat, which produces a wonderful abundance of porky flavor.

Our belly did not come to us as a roast, but in thick bacon-like slices. We found them at Food World here in Durham, a former Winn Dixie south of downtown that has been transformed into a Latin/Asian market. Actually, “transformed” is too strong a word. The aisle signs remain unchanged and so bear no relation whatsoever to the actual items contained therein. (I found myself staring at 15 different kinds of soy sauce in an aisle labeled “Flour, Sugar, Cake Mixes, Baking Supplies.”) It is also not notable for sparkling cleanliness–it’s not dirty, exactly, just a little rough around the edges. But the prices are spectacularly low, and the store contains a bonanza of foods you won’t find at even on the snooty shelves of Whole Paycheck. A bag of 50 or so dried morita peppers? $3.99. At Southern Season, you’ll find similar items for about a buck–for each pepper.

But back to the belly. The bacon cut is more typically of Asian food (the label was in Korean, I think, which was mercifully translated), but since we had purchased so many wonderful Latin American foods, I decided to make a Latin version.

Chipotle Pork Belly Slices with Potatoes

8 slices pork belly
2 medium onions, finely chopped
Olive oil for sauteing
2 large potatoes, cut in 1/2″ pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 chipotle peppers, crushed and minced
1 tablespoon sea salt, or to taste

Boil potatoes gently in salted water, covered, until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. Preheat oven to 350. Saute onions in olive oil until translucent. Mix garlic, peppers, and salt in small bowl. Place four slices of belly in bottom layer of roasting pan. Sprinkle with half of garlic/pepper mix. Add potatoes. Add onions. Cover with remaining pork belly slices. Sprinkle remaining garlic/pepper mix over top. Bake for 30 minutes.

Prosciutto and Roasted Cantaloupe

Fred and I had our second conjugal visit last weekend. He had kindly bought prosciutto and cantaloupe for me for our lunch snack on Sunday, and he sliced the cantaloupe himself and took the prosciutto out of its wrapper. I was very proud of him.

As we were cleaning up and he was throwing out the cantaloupe seeds, he asked, “Could we roast those? Like pumpkin seeds?”

I laughed and laughed. “Cantaloupe is a melon!” I squealed. “Like watermelon! You don’t eat roasted watermelon seeds.”

I laughed some more. I even laughed as I started to post this.

And then I looked on the Internet and found that apparently you CAN buy roasted watermelon seeds and that cantaloupe is actually a squash. And this Indian dish, Gond ke Laddu Laddoo Ladoo, uses seeds from cantaloupe, watermelon, and pumpkin, but since it’s intended for nursing mothers to help their babies’ brains get bigger, I have my doubts about whether or not it’s something I’d want to eat.

Sigh.

I was also proud of Fred when he was approved by the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta for ordination on Saturday. He stood in front of the few brave souls who’d toughed it out to the end and thanked them for their friendship and support, and couldn’t go on because he got choked up. Of course everyone thought it was great. When it was all over he said to me, “I couldn’t believe I got so choked up”–this from the man who cried for about two solid hours during our wedding.

He is truly wonderful.

And the Pork, You Ask?

Perhaps avid readers will recall that in an earlier post I mentioned that we had pork chops on hand for future use. Perhaps you wonder, “What tasty concoction did she come up with for those?”

Well, dear readers, our pork chops were not all we had hoped. I fried them in the lard, and while the lard did produce a fine texture (Joey, I restrained myself from using the word “lovely” there just for you)–the spice rub left a great deal to be desired. (For the record, it consisted of cumin, coriander, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Might have worked with some chipotle pepper thrown in.)

So, hoping to redeem the sad bits of pork hanging around in my fridge, I tried chopping up the leftover chops and putting them on a pizza. But in case you were wondering: pork, carmelized onions, olives, fresh oregano, and cheddar cheese do not go well together. The pizza wasn’t bad–just not . . . great.

Plus my utter incompetence at making a pretty pizza was, once again, made painfully obvious:

Can someone tell me how to get burned cheese off a pizza stone?

Oh Lard!

I made the most spectacular soup I have ever had last night. It approaches Paul’s famous sandwich, The Hef.

The key ingredient was the LARD, mentioned in the Lardy Yellow Yard Sale post, rendered from a hog raised by a friend’s son-in-law. If you are able to find home-(killed? rendered? made?) lard you can easily replicate this at home. If not . . . too bad. I’m not sharing.

In large soup pot saute in 1 tbsp. lard and 2 tbsp. butter:
1 chopped onion

Add and saute for about 5 minutes:
2 thick slices Prague (or any not-too-salty) ham, cut in 1″ pieces
2-3 carrots, sliced

Add and saute for a few seconds:
2 large cloves minced garlic

Add salt and a generous amount of pepper.

Add 1 quart chicken stock. Cover and bring to boil. Add 1/2 head of coarsely chopped cabbage (1″ pieces or so). Reduce heat and cook until cabbage is just soft, about 10 – 15 minutes.

Pigging Out

Check out the lovely pigs you can buy for supper at the Heritage Farms web site. I’m thinking of ordering a quarter of one of these. (Look at their “quarter hogs” for sale and see the Red Wattle.)

At nearly $9 a pound, it’s not the greatest deal, but after reading the latest NY Times artile on the factory farming of hogs on Michael Ruhlman’s blog, going whole hog into sustainably farmed meat suddenly seems like a good idea.

Evil, Evil, Evil Technology, and Penne all’Amatriciana Atlantana

Not only do I have too much to do, but Internet Explorer ATE an earlier version of this post–probably because the recipe below was so delicious. It’s kind of like the better-known pasta all’Amatriciana, only not. (For a more glam version, check out the Amateur Gourmet’s Buccatini all’Amatriciana. Be careful, though–I think my computer ate my post because it wanted to eat that post even more.)

Penne with Bacon and Tomato Sauce

Put enough salted water for 1/2 pound penne on to boil.

Cut 6 slices bacon into 5-6 pieces each. Begin frying in medium skillet over medium heat.

Chop 1 large onion. Mince 4 large cloves garlic and 1 cherry pepper (or other hot pepper to taste).

Once bacon is cooked but not crisp, add onion and saute until translucent. DON’T drain the fat. Turn heat to low and add garlic and pepper. Saute a few seconds. Add 1 16 oz. can Muir Glen Organic No Salt Tomato Sauce. (They are not paying me–I just happen to love this stuff.) Add about 1 tbsp. olive oil unless you are feeling very virtuous. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook pasta until al dente and drain. Add sauce and grated Parmesan cheese if you are not continuously gaining weight, as I am. Throw evil glances at your husband as he globs cheese on his portion–but not quite as evil as those you reserve for your computer.

I can cook things besides soup, but not today

Blogging and cooking are hard to do when you have a full-time job. But WHAT is more important in life than cooking and writing?

Here is Tuesday’s meal:

Bacon, Leek, and Potato Soup (this was GREAT)

Cook in stock pot until beginning to brown but not crisp:
8 slices bacon, cut into 1” pieces

Drain some of the fat off the bacon and save for another tasty dish. If I were my grandmother I would keep a jar of it by the stove but since I sit all day instead of hauling hay and building fences, I just put it in the fridge.

Add to bacon and sauté:
3 leeks, mostly white part only, coarsely chopped

Peel 4-6 russet potatoes and cut into 1 – 2” pieces. Add to leeks and bacon.

Add about 1 quart poultry stock (I used pheasant here, but not many people have that lurking in the freezer), potatoes, chopped fresh or crumbled dry sage, salt, pepper, and 2 bay leaves to pot. Cook on medium low to medium heat, covered, until potatoes are tender. Add whole milk or cream until soup is thinned to whatever consistency you prefer. (I’m a broth fan, so I add a cup or so.)

The Cauliflower Chronicles, Part II

The cauliflower soup is improving with age, but I’m beginning to forget the recipe. Before I forget, here it is:

2 onions, chopped, sauted in goose fat or bacon
2 thick slices ham, chopped
3-4 cloves chopped garlic
2 heads cauliflower, stems removed, cut into large flowerets
2 quarts goose or other poultry stock
Whole milk or half and half
Fresh sage, salt, and pepper
Okra, sliced

Saute onions in fat on medium heat. Add garlic. Add cauliflower and stock. Cover and cook until cauliflower is very soft. While cauliflower is cooking, heat up ham in separate skillet. When cauliflower is done, puree in food processor. Add remaining ingredients and cook until okra is cooked but still somewhat firm (or as soft as you like it).

Pics to follow.

The Cauliflower Chronicles, Part 1

Despite the, um, burning, the cauliflower soup turned out well. Probably the goose fat leftover from Christmas helped. Here’s how it went down—we will forget the slight scorching incident ever, ever happened.

Here’s Part I of the Cauliflower Soup Chronicle:

That’s the beginning, outside of the cauliflower: goose fat and Prague ham. There’s a QUART of that goose fat, rendered from the goose I cooked over Christmas, five days before my wedding because I wanted to—what? impress my date with my cooking? give myself a nervous breakdown? Anyway, I discovered why goose is no longer as popular as it once was. It’s fabulously delicious, but it cost $65 to feed four people, with nothing except the fat and a couple of quarts of stock to speak of left over. Of course, that fat is reason enough, I suppose, so I shouldn’t complain. And the meat was great. And it took two days to prepare. And it was like one giant turkey thigh and some roast beef rolled into one. And I’ll probably do it again.

Okay, I gotta work on the mailing list for Fred’s art show in March, so I’ll have to finish this saga tomorrow.