Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fatty and Slow

Sometimes, when I’m standing in front of the meat counter at Whole Foods looking at close to $20 per pound for local pork, I wonder about things I don’t believe in and wouldn’t do: factory-farmed meat, vegetarianism, corporate America… But behind the ridiculously overpriced loins and chops, you can sometimes find a beautiful bone-in shoulder. $4.99/lb. this week. It needs time to cook, but that’s it. Pork shoulder might be emblematic of so many of the cuts that are out of favor in a high-strung cooking culture that wants everything faster and thinner. The thick layer of fat that covers its top keeps the meat moist but doesn’t make it into the meal (though if you understand the joy of pork fat, you’ll save it for another), and the 3-5 hours of cooking time involve less than 30 minutes of actual work. Pork shoulder doesn’t fit into a high-speed high-pressure kitchen because it’s so effortless. When everyone ohs and ahs over the meal, and you say “it was nothing,” you’re just telling it like it is.

Braised Pork Shoulder with Caramelized Onions
Serves 4-6

1 3-4 lb pork shoulder
2 garlic cloves, cut into slivers
4 large onions, cut into ¼-inch strips
Salt and pepper
½ cup pineapple juice
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 T olive oil

Preheat oven to 325 or turn crock pot into medium. Cut xs in the fat along the top of the pork. Poke tiny slits all over the meat and slip the garlic slivers into them. Salt and pepper the pork. In an oven-proof pot (or any pot, if you’re using the crock pot), brown the pork shoulder in the olive oil, 4 min. per side. Remove to a plate. Sauté the onions for about 5 min. Add salt and sauté another 10 minutes. Pour in the pineapple juice and cider vinegar. Stir. Transfer to crock pot if that’s what you’re using. Lay the pork over the top. Bake 2 ½-3 hours in oven or 6-8 hours in crock pot. To serve, cut off fat and slice meat thinly. Use a slotted spoon to take out onions and serve on the side. On the side, the broth makes a fantastic "jus," but a tart-sweet-savory rhubarb pineapple sauce is really the most perfect thing to dollop on top of the meat.

Rhubarb Pineapple Sauce

1 T olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 cup chopped rhubarb
1 cup chopped pineapple
1 t brown sugar
1/8 cup whiskey
Saute the shallots until soft, about 5 minutes. Add all of the other ingredients. Bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb has turned to mush, about 30 minutes.

Monday, June 13, 2011

So Much Depends on a Green Head of Lettuce

Though the farmers' market is two weeks old, and the CSA one, I have yet to partake. We were on a family vacation in Colorado, which, for all its beauty, is either way behind in the growing season, way behind in their appreciation of local farmers, or simply unable to grow so much that I consider to be Spring staples. A month or two ago I was sorely missing fresh greens, holding out for June, only to realize we had scheduled our trip for the start of asparagus and lettuce season. Sigh.

What to do? Come home and gorge. Fresh lettuce needs little else than lemon and oil to make an amazing salad. Throw in some herbs from the hanging planter. Get crazy and saute in olive oil the (yes!) garlic scapes that have curled and need to be cut to keep the plant focused on the bulbs below.

Steam asparagus and eat it plain or broil it with olive oil and salt and pepper. Pick rhubarb and make into pies or compote.

Strawberries are early this year. We are going picking this week, so stay tuned for new recipes.