Archived entries for pork

Unexpected places: Pork Chops Normandy

When I was twenty-five, I took an epic driving trip from the top of France to the bottom of Spain; it was a revelatory experience in more ways than one. Having previously only traveled to Paris, I was overwhelmed and overjoyed by all the delights that France had to offer: the slow but incessant variety in the flora, the subtle variations in accent and architecture. It was a neverending list of epic delights for a creature so visual as myself.


And then there was the food.

For reasons unknown, until this trip I hadn’t quite clocked that there was no such thing as capital-F-French cuisine–that what we think of as French cooking is really a greatest hits collection of regional cuisines, gleaned from throughout the whole place. From the poultry-centric delights of the Perigord region (hello, foie gras!) to the citrus and fish of the Cote d’Azur, French cuisine is honestly as varied as everything else in the country–and just as complex, lovely, and unexpected. It made quite the impression on quarter-life me.


Thinking about that the other day, I found myself wanting to recreate a dish that I’d eaten not in La Belle France, but in a dive-ish bar in Baltimore, MD. The place itself (whose name unfortunately escapes me–I promise to get back to you on this) was completely unassuming, but the food utterly spectacular. The dish in question was called pork chops Normandy, and it was no joke. Fat, delicious pork chops perfectly cooked with apples, onions, thyme and brandy, it was sufficiently delicious that I kind of regretted sharing it with Doctor Boyfriend. It was the perfect ambassador for the flavors of the region (Normandy is noted for apples and calvados, among other things), allowing the rich sweetness of the apples and the savory growl of the onions to shine through. Just the memory of it makes me hungry, so it was a no-brainer to try it out in my own kitchen.

I cannot stress strongly enough that you do the same. It takes one pan and about 45 minutes to make this happen, from the caramelization of the onions to the braising of the chops; it’s simple and straightforward, but tastes like it took you three days. Never let on that it didn’t.

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Why yes, I have spent some time in the South, recently. Why do you ask?: Dr. Pepper Roast Pork

To what will probably be the extreme delight of at least one part of my family, I’ve found myself plagued of late by rumbling suspicions that I am living on the wrong side of the Mason-Dixon line. It started when the neverending agony of the Snowtorious B. I. G. actually succeeded in breaking my soul; matters escalated when I went to Texas in January. Things didn’t get really dire until a couple weeks ago, however, when I had the colossal good fortune to find myself in New Orleans, shaking a tailfeather in the Muses parade with some of the most amazing, pink, sparkly ladies anyone has ever been lucky enough to meet.

I very nearly decided not to come back.


Now, whether that’s a result of my aforementioned broken soul and its inestimable greed for sunshine, or the actual delights of the region remains to be seen. But the fact remains: I had the pants Southern Charmed right off of me, enough to seriously consider whether I could hack it down there for a spell. Fortunately for my fellow Yankees (*ahem*), the north has a few charms of her own, so odds are that I will not be making any sudden moves. I will, however, be pulling out this recipe for Dr. Pepper pork the next time I start to feel the pangs.

When asked, many of the Southerners I know swear that the official beverage of the region is iced tea; for me, it’s always been Dr. Pepper. Perhaps it’s a Texas thing, I don’t know (it could just as easily be related to my vicious hatred of tea), but there’s something about an ice cold DP on a blisteringly hot day that always makes me think of hard sun and soft accents. What I DO know is that DP does something absolutely amazing to braised pork–as the whole business bubbles away in the oven, the insane sweetness of the soda seems to mellow into something rounder and more complex, and the resulting sauce becomes the sort of thing that actually inspires people to cross a room to learn the source of the intoxicating smell (oh yes). I personally prefer making it with a loin roast, but a shoulder works equally well–just remember to degrease the pan as best you can before reducing the sauce.

It may not be a trip to the magnolia-scented shores of points south (sorry, family!), but in a long dark winter, it’ll do in a pinch.

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Citrus Salad with Slow-Cooked Pork Belly and Balsamic Onions

I probably don’t have to tell you that pork belly is all the rage. It shows up on menus these days as frequently as a hamburger does, more often than the now-abandoned molten chocolate cake. It’s as if we’ve all just realized where our beloved bacon comes from and found out that we could justify eating it as our entire meal. Score!

It seems like every cookbook I have has a recipe or six for The Belly, so when I saw that my favorite butcher had some in his case, I snagged it. (And for cheap.)

It’s a project that takes two days but doesn’t actually require any skill. The pork belly cures all day (or overnight) in a mixture of sugar and salt with a few spices, and then braises in aromatic broth until super tender. I called upon my trusty slow cooker for this job, though you could also cook it in a 275 degree oven for seven hours or so. Then you chill the pork belly in its braising liquid until you’re ready to use it—in pork buns or over grits or like this, crisped and served as a luscious topping for a tangy onion-and-citrus salad.

By soaking the onions in a balsamic vinaigrette while you prepare the salad, you’re basically quick-pickling them, as well as infusing the dressing with onion flavor. Toss with some greens and citrus segments, and you’ve got the perfect foil for the rich pork belly.

It’s a decadent, elegant meal, fancy enough for a trendy restaurant, but if you eat it in your sweatpants while sitting in front of the television I won’t blame you.

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Not even remotely authentic Asian-style pork roast.

Living in New York, I am extremely spoilt in certain respects. Without leaving city limits, I get to see the best bands in the world; I can track down two dozen brass paper fasteners made to mimic those belonging to King George (you’d be surprised how often that sort of thing is necessary); I can consume real, true, honest-to-blog chinese food. Not that MSG-laden, gloopy, constarch, mall chinese food (though I will totally say there’s a time and a place for that–don’t get me wrong); I’m talking about the Real Deal. The good stuff. I’m talking, specifically, about roast pork. Crispy, salty, sweet, melting, roast pork. I slip into a bit of a reverie just thinking about it.

Totally inauthentic Asian-style pork roast

Sadly, I’m fairly certain that The Good Stuff is a pain in the ass to make; if the legends are true, people learn at the feet of masters for months (years!) to hone this skill and figure out what’s what. Getting it really right is the study of a lifetime, if you can even find a decent teacher; naturally, that means I am desperate to make it. Of course, I am a realist. I know that I am unlikely to ever showcase the mettle necessary to stand more or less inside an industrial oven with a whole pig for hours, learning how to determine the perfect texture by touch alone and burning myself into jerky in the process. I’ve accepted that. This knowledge, however, will not stop me from tinkering in my kitchen in pursuit of a reasonable facsimile.

Note: This recipe is not that reasonable facsimile. It is, however, incredibly delicious

More totally inauthentic Asian-style pork roast

The latest installment in this quest of mine is a faux-asian-style pork roast, easy to throw together on a weekday night. Essentially, it’s a glazed hunk of pork, tender and moist and delicious–though it bears absolutely no resemblance to the char siu of my dreams. It’s made aromatic by bucketloads of ginger and garlic, and given a savory mystique through hoisin sauce and rice vinegar. What really makes it shine, however, is the addition of some pomegranate molasses, a thick, tangy syrup whose awesome powers I have yet to truly unleash. It gives the glaze  mysterious, fruity depth, as well as a lovely sparkle. (Pomegranate molasses is probably available at your local Whole Foods, as well as at your friendly neighborhood middle eastern store. Should you have neither one nearby, you can also buy it here.)

As I said, this dish bears no resemblance to the buttery, savory roast pork of my dreams, but it is an interesting twist on a Sunday lunch favorite–and absolutely divoon in a sandwich the next day.

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Barbecue While You Shop: Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs

I don’t mean you can make ribs in the oven or grill while you shop online. You can, but this is better. The weather is great for a minute! Go outside!

These ribs cook while you’re gone at work, while you’re asleep, while you’re hanging out with your kids, or while you’re wandering Soho, checking out the sales at the art supply store and Sur la Table. I highly recommend the latter. (Though I think I managed to buy the only thing in there that wasn’t discounted.)

I really think slow cookers are worth the counter space, especially for busy folks. And I have precious little counter space. A lot of people have visions of mushy stews and everything tasting the same when it comes out of the crockpot, but really, anything that you braise can be slow-cooked, especially if you’re willing to do a little prep work.

They may not be for the purists among you, but for the rest of us, these ribs are tasty, and cheap, and easy. Isn’t that a worthy trifecta?

Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs
Serves two

1 full rack pork spare ribs, trimmed and cut in half
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 oranges
1 lemon
2 bottles of beer
1 dried chipotle pepper
1 18-oz (or so) bottle barbecue sauce (I recommend Stubb’s)
hot sauce for serving

Rub ribs with paprika, garlic powder, and chili powder. If you have time, refrigerate after rubbing for 1-3 hours. Zest oranges and lemon. Juice oranges and lemon, adding juice to the slow cooker. Crumble chipotle and add to slow cooker. Bring ribs to room temperature if you refrigerated them. Brown each half of the rack of ribs on both sides in a heavy skillet. Add first half to slow cooker, pour a little barbecue sauce on top, then add second half. Add beers, then top off with more barbecue sauce. Add about 3/4 of the bottle of barbecue sauce total. Ideally ribs will be just submerged in liquid. If you have time, cook ribs for 10-12 hours on low. This way they will be most tender. If not, cook for five hours on high. Remove ribs from liquid (discard liquid), serve with the rest of the barbecue sauce and hot sauce.

If you’re preparing these overnight, refrigerate ribs submerged in the cooking liquid (in a casserole, not your slow cooker insert) during the day. Before heating, remove fat from surface. Reheat in the oven, finishing with a quick broil to crisp them up if you want.

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