fall cookin’

October 17, 2012 Comments Off on fall cookin’

One of the all-out grand slams last winter was posole.  We had a magazine recipe that involved more cans than I’d normally prefer, but that also included slow-roasted pork shoulder with a garlic and cumin rub that was stellar.  The kids liked it the first time around, but after a few weeks in the freezer (OK, I thought it was pasta sauce at first) the stuff was magical.  They asked for it again this summer, but the thought of firing up the oven all day–even at only 245°–was too much for me to take.  “That’s a Fall or Winter dish,” I told them, laying down the seasonal law.  “It can’t be hot out.”

So, with daytime highs down into the 60s here, this was their first request out of the box this week.  I got a 2-lb. pork shoulder, arranged my Tuesday to work at home during the afternoon, rubbed that thing to within an inch of its life, and fired up the oven.  C earned his Rick Bayless merit badge when he walked in the door after Lego League.  “I SMELL POSOLE!” he said.  And he did, brother, he did.  The whole house reeked of roasted pork, onions, cumin, and slowly stewing hominy and tomatoes.  It smelled like home and Fall all at once.

I did the full condiment plate, even though I knew the kids wouldn’t touch the cilantro and would be purists about not letting the lime touch their spicy, woodsy soup.  But those added just the right amount of brightness, and I cooked down the roasted pork juices until they were super-concentrated, and then chucked those into the almost-cooked rest of the stuff to make the broth more flavorful.  It was as good as we remembered it, but we also saved enough to stash in the freezer.  That stuff will be delicious and warming come January.  They did, on the other hand, chow down on the flour tortillas–I’m convinced that there is no reason in the world to buy these things, since a stack of eight takes about ten minutes to throw together.  And they’re good fresh and hot…seriously good.

And we stuck with the Fall theme for dessert.  What could say October more than pumpkin pie?  And when it’s still warmish?  How about pumpkin pie ice cream?  I am NOT a fan of the coffee chain October pumpkin obsession–a pumpkin chai latte seems like the worst possible wake up on the planet.  But this combination seemed  reasonable–all the usual pie spices steeped in cream and egg yolks made for a nice warm/cold balance, and a few strategically placed pepitas and a gingersnap added salt and brightness.  The recipe was from SeriousEats, and even though I left out the bourbon on account of the kiddos (that sounded like a visit from a social worker) it was some of the best cold stuff we’ve made yet.



January 19, 2012 Comments Off on ramen

“You’re making ramen?” O asked Saturday evening.  There had been stuff on the stove all weekend.  L was boiling a pot full of pig necks, I was roasting a pork shoulder, the house smelled amazing.

Yup.  We were making ramen.  The 48-hour Momofuku version.  A list of obscure Asian ingredients as long as your arm.  Broth that required cooking down esoteric meat bits and offal into a gelatinous goo.  O was skeptical, since to her ramen is something that takes four minutes and has no esoteric ingredients at all–unless you count the little flavor packet.

Part of the Momofuku deal is that you use everything.  If you butcher a pig and you don’t make something delicious out of everything, you’re not doing it right (and David Chang, Mr. Momofuku, has some colorful language for you).  So the ramen broth uses all kinds of meaty pig bones and boils them for hours and hours until every bit of edible protein and gelatin has been leached out.  It’s helped out by a ton of super-spicy ingredients from the top shelf of your local Asian food store, but basically it’s a time thing.  As was the pork shoulder–a simple salt and sugar dry rub of salt and sugar, then a 6-hour roast in a 250° oven.

The next day, you cook some udon noodles, spoon the reheated broth (which had turned to a meaty jello in the fridge in the interim…) over them, add some warmed up pork shoulder, and then throw in the kitchen sink.  Julienned carrots.  Hard boiled egg.  Baby corn, daikon radishes, scallions, and sesame seeds.  And nori seaweed wraps.  (OK, we didn’t even try that last one on the kiddos).

The result was sheer, unadulterated brilliance.  Spicy, salty, meaty, but with lots of veggies to crunch and noodles to slurp.  Something for every corner of the tongue, and a warm, slippery texture from all the rendered gelatin.  Add a little sriracha on top and it was just about the perfect bowl of soup.  L bought a set of giant pasta bowls just for the occasion, and they’ll see mad use.

The kids were impressed, but not totally sold.  Funnily enough, the pork shoulder was their favorite part, so it may see play elsewhere…carnitas, anyone?  But for us, the next major project is likely to move down the pig a little bit.  The legendary Momofuku pork buns, if we can figure out the zen of the puffy little wraps.

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