Monthly Archives: May 2009

more bacon love

Lucy loves bacon!

There’s our daughter, clutching one of her favorite toys: a piece of felt bacon.

That’s our girl.

It has been awhile since we talked about bacon, and every day, new stories appear. It’s time for some bacon love.

* Have you seen bacon being used in desserts more often? Here’s a piece from the McClatchy newspaper group about this growing trend. Check out this list of bacon items:

“Evidence of the national palate embrace of sweet, sweet bacon? Try bacon baklava at Louisville’s Brown hotel. Or bacon and egg ice cream with pain perdu (caramelized French toast) at the Michelin three-star-rated Fat Duck restaurant near London. And in New York City, Page said, Gramercy Tavern serves a milk chocolate tart with creme frache and bacon. And the Dovetail Restaurant in New York? Brioche bread pudding with bananas and bacon brittle.”

Read to the bottom of the piece and you’ll find a recipe for Love Me Tender Peanut Butter, Bacon, and Banana Cookies. Yum. (If anyone makes these, let us know.)

* The justifiably famous Zingerman’s has brought out an entire book about bacon. Stories of Pork Bellies, Hush Puppies, Rock ‘n’ Roll Music and Bacon Fat Mayonnaise — now with a name like that, it has to be good. Check out this description:

“Take a trip to Camp Bacon with James Beard award-winner Ari Weinzweig as he guides you on a personal tour of bacon’s long and curious history, and brings you right to the smokehouse door of some of his favorite bacon curers in the U.S. ‘Bacon is so integral to the culinary history of this country. The roots are so deep in our cooking, I think of it as the olive oil of North America.'”

Doesn’t that make you want to read it? It’s only $29.99, and it’s available from Zingerman’s Press. In fact, we might just have to buy a copy and review it for you at length here later.

{By the way, right now on the Zingerman’s home page is this enticing offer for Father’s Day: “Praise The Lard: Six amazing selections of pork. It’ll take a special kind of faith for dad make it through this gift box, tallying up at over two and a half pounds of pork, plus bread and chocolate. Arkansas Peppered Bacon, Sam Edwards Virginia Breakfast Sausage Links, Broadbent’s Kentucky Smoked Sausage, Real Spanish Chorizo, Zingerman’s Peppered Bacon Farm Bread. And, to round things out, Mo’s Bacon Chocolate Bar.”

Shh. I might just get Danny this for his first father’s day coming up.}

* Jessie Oleson is one of our favorite illustrators, and people. She runs an incredible website called CakeSpy, which admittedly has little to do with pork, generally. However, recently she created an illustration that we really want to hang on the wall of our kitchen: bacon and cupcakes having cocktails together. Here is Jessie’s explanation of why:

“I have chosen to illustrate two of the trendiest foods around: cupcakes and bacon. Sure, some foodie types will argue that they’ve jumped the shark, but these sweet (and salty) pleasures, which have captured the nation’s (and, it seems, world’s) attention, still seem to be spreading like wildfire, which leads one to believe that the fever for these foods is still contagious.”

You got that right, Jessie. Absolutely.

* And finally, if our sporadic bacon updates simply aren’t enough for you, check out this new website: It’s All About the Bacon.

Enough said.

barbequed spareribs

ribs, another view

On Memorial Day, we fired up the grill for the first time this season. We have a feeling that might have been true for many of you too. And what did we put on the grill? Spareribs.

Danny decided three days before we ate that he wanted to make these spareribs. So he brined them for an entire day. And then braised them the next day for a few hours. And after making the barbeque sauce from scratch, he finally put them on the grill.

It took us and our friends about 10 minutes to eat them all.

That might seem like a lopsided balance — all that brining and braising and saucing and grilling for only 10 minutes of eating pleasure.

We have to say, the work was worth it.

If you’d like to make these, here’s what we did.

We’d also love to hear how you make spareribs worth the work in your home.

brine for the ribs

1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 apple, chopped
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
couple sprigs sage
couple sprigs rosemary
2 fresh bay leaves

5 pounds spareribs

Bring the water to a boil. Add the salt and sugar. Boil the water until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add everything else and cook for a few moments.

Allow the brine to cool to room temperature. Put the ribs in there (obviously, you need quite a big container) and let them brine for 24 hours.

braising the ribs

2 gallons chicken stock
1 large carrot, rough chopped
2 ribs celery, rough chopped
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 head of garlic, peeled
2 sprigs rosemary
1 bay leaf (fresh if possible)
Bring the stock and vegetables to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer. Add the ribs to the stockpot.

Simmer the ribs at a low temp for 3-4 hours until they are very tender. Remove them. Set the stock aside.

barbecue sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and fine chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon chili flakes
2 cups ketchup
1 tsp tomato paste
1 cup chopped canned (good quality) tomatoes (we recommend San Marzanos)
1/2 cup sherry vinegar

In a large sauce pan, heat the oil until it begins to smoke. Add the onions.   Cook until they caramelized.

Add the garlic and spices. Cook for 1 or 2 minutes, or until they become fragrant.

Pour in the ketchup, tomato paste, tomatoes, and vinegar.

Simmer the sauce for 1/2 hour,  or until it smells enticing. Puree it up.

Remove the ribs from the refrigerator (if you had them in there) and allow them to warm up. Allow the sauce to cool down to the same temperature as the ribs.

Cover the cooked ribs with about 1/2 of the sauce.

Fire up the grill until it’s hot and start cooking. Brush on the sauce as you are grilling. Pull the ribs when the internal temperature has reached 160° and when you just can’t stand it anymore. You have to eat.

back to thinking about pork

barbequed ribs

We haven’t been here for a bit. Sorry about that.

Our baby daughter had major surgery, a planned surgery, but an intense one nonetheless. And so, we were in the hospital for a week, helping her heal, being amazed by her spirit.

Under those circumstances, we found it a little difficult to blog about pork, much as we love it. We didn’t want to give you a half-hearted attempt. You deserve all the pork force we have. We knew we’d come back with a renewed vigor once she was healed. (She is! Hurrah!)

So here we are, raring to share a recipe for these spareribs on Wednesday, and more bacon love on Friday. Next week, we’ll return to our exploration of different cuts of the loin, as well as a tour of SeaBreeze Farms on Vashon, our local pork producer. There’s even talk of a clam chowder with pork belly in our future. We have so many stories.

While we were gone, we read this story, on cooking competitions in New York City. And we wish we could have been at the Pork Off in Park Slope instead of in the hospital. Reading about it will have to do.

“Cook-off mania has taken hold in New York.

A dedicated follower could have spent the previous Sunday at the Park Slope Pork-Off, gone to a guacamole competition last Tuesday, then snacked at Monday night’s Cupcake Cook-Off.

The Pork-Off, held May 3, featured the expected ribs and barbecue, along with the Filipino stew pinakbet. But many of the 15 dishes competing demonstrated how ambitious cooks have become. They included pork cheeks with truffled grits, bacon focaccia sandwiches, and dark chocolate bonbons filled with pancetta ganache.

The Bacon Takedown winner, J. J. Proville, 26, showed up with a massive cast-iron skillet and a miniature blowtorch, and served up squares of pork belly, which he had brined, smoked, braised and pressed. “I’ve had to describe the process 150 times,” he said, ladling veal demi-glace over each portion. “That’s the most tiring part.”

Cook-off insiders were paying special attention to the dishes from Theo Peck (a country pâté served with Sauternes aspic) and Nick Suarez (a huge batch of pork-heavy collard greens and an even larger cider-braised pork shoulder).

For the Bacon Takedown, Mr. Peck cured his own fennel-flavored bacon, coated it with crushed pork rinds, and deep-fried it on site. He added tarragon-tomato aioli and homemade sweet pickles to each serving. It tied for second with Mr. Suarez’s sloppy Joes, made with eight pounds of bacon and 12 pounds of beef.

Mr. Peck and Mr. Suarez each discovered a kindred spirit in the other, and their rivalry has evolved into friendship. At the Pork-Off, they stood side by side as the winners were announced. When third place went to a fairly conventional sandwich, they shrugged in unison. They remained together as they learned they had tied for second once again.

The winner was a simple, smoky barbecued pork belly by Jesse Forster, who seemed a little stunned by his success.”

Now wouldn’t you want to be there too?

{If you click on the link, it’s worth clicking to the second page to see an incredible pig tattoo.}

top loin roast with pancetta and asparagus

top loin roast

On Monday we introduced you to the major cuts of loin.

This afternoon, we roasted up a top loin roast, which was plenty of meat for $5. Remember that the top loin is closer to the shoulder than the center loin cut, so it’s much leaner, a little less juicy. However, if you cook it correctly, this can be a succulent piece of meat. And for that, it’s an excellent bargain these days.

In fact, we started thinking about cooking the top loin roast after reading this piece in The New York Times called “It May Be Cheap, But It’s Also Tasty.” These days, we’re all looking for a bargain, without sacrificing quality. The top loin roast proved to be a new one for us.

The recipe is here, and you can cook it just as it was written. We don’t have spring onions in Seattle yet, so we used regular yellow onions. And instead of cooking the roast on low heat on the stove, Danny popped it into the oven at 350°, for about 40 minutes. (And while the standard literature says that you should cook pork to 160° before eating it, he suggests watching it closely and taking it to 155° instead. After all, you don’t want to over-cook the pork.)

Succulent yet crusted with onions and pancetta, this pork was such a lovely lunch today. The asparagus was crisp. The juices made everything taste better. And we still have enough pork leftover for sandwiches tomorrow.

Not a bad deal.

an introduction to pork loin

loin

Hi. This is Dan. Have you ever looked at a pig and thought, “Wow. That’s a nice Boston butt you have there. I don’t think your belly’s too fat. That would make a nice bacon. What a lovely loin you have.”

Over the next few months, we’re going to take you on a little tour of the pig. We’re going to explore parts of the pig that you may not know well, such as the pork shoulder, the different kinds of hams, the legs, as well as different cooking methods to suit every area of the pig.

Our first adventure is going to be the loin.

The loin holds probably the juiciest meat of the pig, the most tender, and the most lean. The loin comes from the top of the pig, the meat that runs along either side of the backbone, spanning from the leg to the shoulder. The entire loin is quite large — anywhere from 14 to 18 pounds, with a length of 2 to 3 feet. Obviously, most of us don’t buy an entire loin. Instead, your butcher cuts the loin into different parts, such as pork chops, tenderloin, baby back ribs, country-style ribs, and even Canadian bacon.

Next time you are at the grocery store, stand in the pork section. You’ll see a shoulder roast, with pockets of muscle and fat in the meat. (Fat is good.) When you look at a tenderloin or a pork loin roast, you’ll have a piece of unblemished pink meat. You won’t see gristle or any pockets of particularly tough muscle. It’s tender and supple. This is the part of the pig that doesn’t move much. The muscles have not been overworked. That’s why the meat is so easy to cook. You don’t need to use a moist-heat method in order to end up with meat that is easily chewable.

Let’s start with ribs. This is the time of the year when many men become cooks. In the winter, a great number of men don’t cook. But when summer rolls around, and the warm weather returns, and the barbeque comes out of the garage, every man thinks he has the best recipe for ribs. The loin contains country-style ribs and baby back ribs. Country-style ribs are the meatiest ribs. They are closest to the shoulder in the loin, and therefore, meatier than the baby back ribs. Country-style ribs are mostly a slab of juicy meat, with just a bit of bone. Baby back ribs come from the middle section of the loin, where it narrows, and the meat grows more thin. These ribs are mostly bone, with shreds of tender meat you have to gnaw off the bone. I’ve eaten my fair share of both kinds of ribs at church picnics, covered head to toe in barbeque sauce, and I like them both.

Now, let’s turn to pork chops. The pork chop is one of the most recognizable cuts of meat in the world, and the most elegant. When you go to a restaurant and see a pork chop on the menu, you think, “Oh, baby.” There are many different kinds of chops that can be cut from the loin:

the blade chop is cut from close to the shoulder. This is the most marbled with fat of any of the chops.

the rib chop comes from the center of the loin. It’s a lean chop. When you buy a bone-in pork chop at the store, you’re probably buying this.

the loin chop is the most tender of any of the chops, because it contains part of the tenderloin. It has a characteristic t-bone shape, bending to one side. In some stores, you might see a boneless center-cut loin chop, which is the most tender chop available.

the sirloin chop comes from the part of the loin closest to the hip. These chops are especially lean.

More infrequently, you might find a butterfly chop at your butcher shop. Your butcher will carve this thick cut of meat from the center of the loin and slice it down the middle to create the shape of butterfly wings. This cut makes a particularly succulent stuffed pork chop.

The thing that I love the best about the pork chop is that there are many different ways to cook it: grill it, saute it, bread it and bake it, stuff it, roast it. They all require a dry-heat method. Just a little bit of fat and you’re ready to go. Unlike some other pork cuts that we will cover here at another time, which require a moist method of cooking, the pork chop is easy to quick well, and fast. Chops with the bone in tend to be the juiciest.

Now, let’s turn to roasts.

If your butcher has not cut the loin into chops, then he or she will carve bigger chunks of meat from the loin. These are called roasts, the cuts of meat intended to feed families and parties of people. Think Sunday suppers here:

the blade loin roast comes from the shoulder-blade end of the pig. This roast is one of the most money-saving, because it tends to be a bit tougher than other parts of the loin. If you buy it bone-in, you will save even more money. This is a delicious cut of meat.

the top loin roast lies between the blade roast and the center cut loin roast. Lean and tender, this cut does not have any tenderloin attached. When you buy what’s labeled “pork roast” at the store, that’s actually two boneless top loin roasts, attached with fat sides out, and tied together.

center cut loin roast is the gold-star roast, what you think of when you hear pork loin. Tender and juicy, this cut of meat is a crowd pleaser. Leaving the bone in gives the roast more flavor when it’s cooking. However, that can make carving a bit more difficult. If your butcher removes the backbone and cleans the ribs of meat, you have a rack of pork. For a really decadent feast, you might ask your butcher to tie two racks of pork together into a circle, for a crown roast of pork. (The little white chef hats balanced on the top of the bones are optional, of course.)

the sirloin roast is a lean cut from the back part of the loin, closest to the leg. The bone-in roast, which is probably the thriftiest cut of meat, contains part of the backbone and hip bone, making it hard to carve. However, your butcher will probably be willing to bone and roll the roast for you.

the tenderloin is a special cut of meat, small and the most tender of any part of the pig. When you look at a tenderloin in the store, you might think, “I’m not paying that much money for that little piece of meat.” However, the tenderloin is worth it. It’s pure meat — no bones, very little fat. We’ve already shown you how to butterfly, stuff, and roast a tenderloin. Over time, we’ll be sharing more recipes for tenderloin here too.

About once a week here, from now on, we’ll be sharing recipes for all these different parts of the loin. On Wednesday, we have one for a pork top loin roast we think you’ll like a lot.

pork in the morning

pork in the morning

We’re big fans of Dan Barber. The man is thoughtful, articulate, and passionate about food. (Some insist he has great PR, as well.) His restaurants, Blue Hill New York and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, are some of the most interesting examples of locavore principles put into action. And hey! Last week he was voted one of Time magazine’s Most 100 Influential People.

(We think it’s pretty neat when a chef is recognized this way.)

Plus, he just won the James Beard award for Outstanding Chef in the nation.

Not a bad week, Dan.

We have to say, however, that we found we loved him even more after reading this quote in a New York magazine piece about what Dan Barber eats in one week:

“I came in to Stone Barns, and Adam Kaye, the guy who makes our charcuterie, gave me a few things to taste. Fennel sausage. It was delicious. There’s nothing like pork first thing in the morning.”

We have to say, we agree.

carnitas for Cinco de Puerco

shredded pork for carnitas

Yesterday, we headed back into the city to the studios of KZOK, to feed the guys at the Bob Rivers show again. (Last week, we brought them roasted pork tenderloin stuffed with chorizo for their pork pledge.) Since they were celebrating Cinco de Puerco, Danny decided to make them carnitas.

Now, traditionally, carnitas are braised in lard, and then crisped up in more lard. Not a bad way to go. However, more and more carnitas recipes involve braising or roasting the pork, skipping the lard. To be honest, Danny was eager to try this recipe in our slow cooker, so we braised the pork shoulder in pork stock instead of using the lard.

Nobody seemed to mind.

We brought all the fixings with us too.

a big plate of cheese

a big plate of cheese.

pickled jalapenso, carrots, and cabbage

and jalapenos, carrots, and cabbage that Danny had pickled the night before.

(see recipe here if you would like to make this to go with your carnitas)

and some warm corn tortillas too.

The food was a hit. A big hit. Downtown Joe ate four tacos (at our count). Spike was groaning in the corner. Maura emerged from her glass booth to try one, and then tried hard to resist the next one. Even the singers auditioning that day tried the carnitas. We loved watching everyone’s eyes going wide in surprise at how deeply flavored these were, without being mouth-blistering hot.

Arik Korman, the director of the show, didn’t have the chance to try one until everything was done taping. When he did, however, he stopped his quick-pace walk. “I have to tell you, I have eaten all over the world, and especially in Mexico, and I think this is the best carnita I have ever eaten.”

Danny didn’t stop smiling for hours.

Carnitas

If you would like to try your hand at these, give yourself a couple of full days to allow the pork to brine, and then simmer in the stock. You cannot rush carnitas. You won’t be disappointed.

Two days before you want to eat the carnitas, make the brine for the pork shoulder:

2 quarts water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon toasted cumin
1 tablespoon toasted coriander, crushed
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 pinch chile flakes
1 medium chipotle pepper

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into large chunks (about 3 inches across)

Making the brine. Put all the ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring the liquid to a boil. Boil until the salt and sugar are thoroughly dissolved.

Pour the hot brining liquid into a large container to cool to room temperature.

Brining the pork. Strain the brining liquid of all the solids. Pour the brining liquid over the pork and allow it to sit for 12 to 24 hours.

The next day…

4 tablespoons lard
1 medium-sized onion, peeled and rough chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon chile powder
14 ounces diced tomatoes (canned, if it’s not tomato season).
1 quart chicken or pork stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 large onion, fine diced
1 tablespoon fine chopped garlic
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground oregano
15-ounce can black beans
15-ounce can diced tomatoes

Preparing the pork. Remove the pork from the brine. Pat it dry, thoroughly.

Season with salt and pepper.

Seasoning the pork. Bring a large, heavy-bottomed skillet to high heat. Add in 2 tablespoons of the lard. Brown off the pork pieces in batches, depending on how much you have. Don’t crowd the pan. Brown the pork on all sides and transfer to a Dutch oven or the slow cooker.

Sautéing the onion. Sauté off the medium-sized onion until it begins to caramelize. Add the garlic, chile powder, and diced tomatoes. Add these ingredients into the pork.

Cover it all with the stock. Add the bay leaf.

Bringing the stock to a boil, and then simmering. Bring the stock to a boil. (If you are doing this in the slow cooker, do this part in a large saucepan.) Reduce to a very low simmer. Simmer for 4 to 6 hours until the pork is fork tender. You can do this in a hot oven (about 350°), on the top of the stove, or in a slow cooker. Turn it on low and let it go.

When the pork is fork tender, remove it from the pot. Strain it.

Making the sauce. Return the liquid to medium heat and allow it to simmer until it has reduced by 1/2 its volume.

Bring a large sauté pan to medium-high heat. Sauté the large onion and the fine-chopped garlic. When they are soft and translucent, add the cumin and oregano. Cook until they are fragrant.

Add in the black beans diced tomatoes. Cook until they are heated.

Pour in the reduced liquid. Simmer for 20 minutes to 1/2 hour until it smells good. Season with salt and pepper.

Crisping up the pork.Bring a large sauté pan to high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons lard. Sear the pork on all sides until it is good and crispy, as well as heated inside.

Shred up the pork with a fork.

Add the shredded pork to the black beans and tomato liquid.

Eat.

Serves 12 (depending on how many tacos they take!)

more bacon links

bacon

If you’re a vegetarian — and I don’t know why you’re reading this website if you are — this might not make you hungry. (It might, though.)

If you don’t eat pork — and again, I don’t know why you’re reading this website — you might not look at this and say, “Yes, please. Can I have some off the screen?”

For the rest of us, tell me you’re not hungry now.

Oh my, that’s good bacon.

These particular strips of bacon come from the good people at Zoe’s Meats, a charcuterie company based in Seattle and San Francisco. They have a mission of finding the best cured meats in North America, along with a reverence for the environment, which they put into action by the way they do their business. We’ll be telling you more about them soon, in a full profile of the dynamic duo that runs this company. But for now, just know that their dry-cured, applewood-smoked bacon is one of our favorites. We can never enough in this house.

If you have bacon in the house, here are some suggestions (part of a continuing series) of how you can eat that bacon.

You might already do this, but saving your bacon fat can add flavor to your dishes and save your drains. Check out the comments on this post for more suggestions on how to cook with bacon fat. (I’m intrigued by the idea of molasses cookies with bacon fat in them…)

Have a celebration coming up? How about making some maple bacon cupcakes?

Do you want to make your co-workers squirm when it looks like you are eating raw bacon? Try some gummy bacon!

And if, after reading this round-up, you find you still need more conversations about bacon, you can join Bacon Lovers’ Talk, a new community forum centered on bacon.

eating pork on the radio

joe eats pork

This was fun.

Every weekday morning, we listen to KZOK. Danny loves it, listened to it for years before he met me. When he told me that he listened to a morning radio show, I sort of flinched. Was it going to be incendiary political discussion, or stupid fart jokes? Could I stand that much talking in the early morning?

He convinced me after one listen. Bob, Spike, and Joe — plus assorted characters like Arik the Director and Kaci (and now Maura) the newsgirl — have been friends for over a decade, and their conversations about the news, music, and comedy are lively and comfortable. They’re smart. They’re involved in the world. And sometimes there are fart jokes.

They’re funny. For some reason, I can relate to them. The way they think of things is how I think of things. I don’t always agree with them, or all of them, but they make me think, and they’re good people.

They care about people. Look at all the times they have gone to Africa, into little villages that most people have never heard of, much less knowing where the country is.

And you hear about Bob’s sons, Joe’s daughter, Spike’s daughters. You feel like they’re family. Dropping in on the morning, you hear bits of what’s going on. They don’t divulge a lot about their families, but when they do talk, they make you feel like you’re part of it.

It’s a great way to start the morning. I feel like I’m walking naked through the day if I haven’t heard part of their show.

Their bantering makes for good listening as we read the paper and drink our coffee.

Yesterday morning, they were talking about pork, how ridiculous they found it that people were suddenly afraid of eating pork. Downtown Joe decided to take the pork pledge, to eat pork every day for a week to show that you can eat pork and still be healthy. (you know, that flu thing.) So we called in, laughing, saying we have a blog about pork, called Pork Knife and Spoon. You could try some recipes.

Instead, they asked us to come in the next day, with some pork, and be their guests. So we did.

Danny butterflied another pork tenderloin from SeaBreeze farms, made some chorizo with their ground pork, and roasted it last night. This morning, we woke up early (not really a problem, since we have a baby) and hopped on a ferry to make it to the KZOK studios.

We had a fabulous time with the crew, standing in the studio as comedians came in, singers auditioned, and the guys bantered in that small space. Our Little Bean was particularly delighted with Spike, with whom she flirted for the entire hour.

But our favorite moment was watching Downtown Joe (shown here) diving into the pork tenderloin, drizzled with cherry preserves. He posed for this photo, and then took a bite. “Oh yeah,” he moaned. “That’s the good stuff.”

They’ve asked us to come back next week, on May 5th, for what they are calling Cinco de Puerco.

Life is never boring around here.