Monthly Archives: August 2009

Michael Ruhlman’s BLT challenge

bacon-wrapped bacon

This isn’t a BLT sandwich.

In fact, it’s something we call bacon-wrapped bacon: seared and roasted pork belly, wrapped in slices of bacon and roasted again. You don’t want to have this too often, of course. But for a special occasion, this is quite the bacon delight.

(And no, we can’t share the recipe, which was inspired by our friend Lorna Yee. You’ll find it in our cookbook, to be published in the fall of 2010.)

However, this is a photograph of bacon. If you’re inspired by bacon, you should participate in Michael Ruhlman’s BLT from Scratch challenge.

What is the challenge? Make every single part of a BLT from scratch. Bake your own bread. Grow your own lettuce and tomatoes. Craft mayonnaise by hand. And of course, cure and smoke pork belly to make your own bacon.

As Ruhlman wrote on his blog: “No, this does not mean raising a piglet for the bacon or growing your own wheat to grind into flour. Yes, extra credit for either, but I want this to be a challenge that everyone can accept, whether you live in a Manhattan walk-up or rural North Carolina, Alaska or suburban splendor. From scratch means: You grow your tomato, you grow your lettuce, you cure your own bacon or pancetta, you bake your own bread (wild yeast is preferred and gets higher marks but is not required), you make your own mayo.”

Who wants to join?

Well, we do. And many others are as well. In fact, Time magazine wrote a piece about Ruhlman’s BLT challenge as part of a larger story about American’s sudden resurgent interest in pork.

(We’ve been interested in it for years, of course.)

I particularly like this quote from the Time piece, putting this interest into perspective: “…this passion for bacon is another manifestation of a growing movement to get in touch with our food — by planting it or raising it ourselves, and by eating local products secure in their sourcing — as well as a simple enthusiasm for the taste adventure. Just as Americans flocked to garden nurseries this spring to scoop up tomato plants and seeds, now they are sharing tips on where to find the best pork bellies (try local farmer’s markets, online sources like Niman Ranch or local Asian and Mexican markets).”

When you think about this challenge in those terms, how could you not want to participate?

The deadline is September 20th. Get cooking.

p.s. If you don’t know how to make your own bacon, we’ll be sharing our techniques soon. But we’re also huge fans of Michael Ruhlman’s book, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing.

a pork lunch bag


photo from Hero Bags (

When I was in elementary school, I carried a battered metal Peanuts lunchbox to school. Each side had a cartoon strip, with Snoopy or Linus or Lucy pulling that football from beneath Charlie Brown’s feet. I must have read each comic a hundred times, as I hunched my head to eat tater tots or mealy hamburgers in fluffy white buns or another snow cone. Later, that lunchbox — dented, the handle falling off — held all my crayons, even the broken ones with the frayed labels. I think my parents still have it somewhere.

(I also swear I had a Brady Bunch lunchbox at some point, the happy smiley family all lined up in descending on that broad staircase. But there’s no photographic proof.)

There are a dozen lunchboxes I wish I had carried instead of the nerdy Snoopy box.

This one has just moved to the top of this list.

Hero Bags is now making a cotton sack lunch bag in honor of our favorite farm animal: the pig. And of course, what line drawing of the pig would be complete without the etched-out parts from which we get our pork?

It’s organic and made by a small business that practices fair trade. It’s not that expensive. It’s just the right size for carrying one of those now-essential metal water bottles.

Okay, that’s all lovely, but probably not necessary for you to be enticed. I mean, look at it. It’s a pork lunchbag.

You know you want one. If I were going back to elementary school this week, I so would be carrying one of these.

Order your pork lunch bag here.

making pie crusts with lard


photo courtesy of Kate McDermott

Kate McDermott is a wonder. A wonder, I tell you. She’s compassionate, quirky (that’s a compliment for both of us), fascinated by life, and a wonderful friend.

She also happens to make incredible pies. Not just any pies, but some of the best pies around.

Don’t believe us? Look at these quotes (from Kate’s website, Art of the Pie):

“I’ve been baking pies my entire life, but making them with Kate was a liberating experience. With pioneer spirit she throws the textbook out the window and comes up with absolutely perfect pie crust filled with fruit that actually sings to you, telling you when it’s ready to be removed from the oven. Great fun and great food.” —Ruth Reichl, Editor in Chief, Gourmet Magazine

“I can’t get over the crust–it’s certainly the best one we’ve ever tested in the kitchen. It will also be the one I use at home from now on!” —Liz Pearson, Kitchen Director, Saveur Magazine

”The crust came out AMAZING. The flake was perfect. No cookbook can ever replicate the experience of learning to do something by hand.” —Jonathan Kauffman, Food Editor, Seattle Weekly

“Crumbly, sweet, and infinitely delicious, this was The World’s Best Pie.” —Eagranie Yuh, The Well-Tempered Chocolatier

Anyone who makes pies would love raves like that.

In fact, one of Kate’s pies was photographed for the cover of Saveur magazine, and her recipe for blackberry pie was inside. (We made a blackberry pie the other day, with a gluten-free crust, inspired by Kate’s wisdom, and it made an entire party full of people happy.)

So, what is her secret to these incredible pies?

Trust in the sensory experience. Patience in the hands. Fruit at the height of ripeness.

And lard. Leaf lard, to be precise.

If you’d like to read Kate’s take on why she uses leaf lard in her pie crusts, take a look at this piece.

(And if you are in the Seattle area, or planning to visit, sign up now for one of Kate’s hands-on pie-making classes. You won’t be disappointed.)

eating pork at the Herbfarm

Vietnamese pot-bellied pig

On Sunday, Danny and I ate the best meal of our lives at the Herbfarm. The meal was too splendid to recount again. If you would like, you can read about the entire meal here.

But we did want to share here some of our favorite bites, which of course included pork.

We did not, however, eat meat from the pig you see above. That’s either Basil or Borage, the two Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs that live in the Herbfarm garden. (In a pen, of course.) If you go for dinner at the Herbfarm, you’ll take a tour of the gardens first, sampling squash blossoms, tasting rose geraniums, and meeting the pigs. (Basil and Borage are actually one of the recycling/compost systems for the restaurant!)

It was a good sign. We were in a food mecca, the kind of place that greets its customers with well-loved pigs.

eggs, clams, and potatoes

We certainly felt well-loved by the people who cooked for us and served us that food at the Herbfarm.

This was our third course of nine. The freshest, most elegant breakfast dish I have ever eaten. And really, what’s breakfast without a little pork?

Those are potatoes that had been picked from the garden that morning. Grilled clams from Quilcene, Washington. A perfectly poached egg. And tucked in, with nearly every bite, house-made sausage. It tasted flecked with fennel seeds, fresh as pork ground that morning, and warm with browned bits that hit the tongue just right. Each bite was a wonderful comfort.

lummi salmon with prosciutto chip

See that salmon? The slow-roasted, reef-net-caught salmon from Lummi Island? Beautiful, like butter, lovely and wonderful.

Stop looking at that. See what’s on top? That’s a prosciutto chip. It was porcine goodness with a crunch.

We think they must have baked it, at a low temperature, until it crackled.

We’re going to be attempting this at home soon. We’ll keep you posted.

sour cherry sorbet

Finally, the palate cleanser. And perhaps the most surprising bite of the night.

This is sour cherry sorbet with tarragon. On top, a pickled sour cherry. And to the side, a bacon chip, made from Mangalitsa bacon.

Oh the goodness of puckered-sour-cherry taste in the mouth and the crisp bite of great bacon.

We are hooked.

(And we’ll be telling you more about mangalitsa pork soon. It’s a delicacy, here in the Northwest.)

If you love pork and you want to go to the Herbfarm (you do, you do!), you might think about attending the Makin’ Bacon theme in November. We’re hoping we can be there.

pork and more at La Boucherie


On Wednesday, we showed you the process of making pork belly roulade. Surely that last picture must have made you hungry for it?

If you would like some of that pork belly roulade — plus five more courses, mostly pork, cooked by Danny and our friend Matt — here’s your chance. Danny and Matt are the guest chefs, one time only, at La Boucherie on Vashon Island.

The dinner menu is as follows:

Smoked Salmon, Tomato, and Horseradish Cream Napoleon

Charcuterie Plate: Head cheese, Game Pate, and Red Onion

Homemade Sausage, Piperade, and Roasted Potatoes

Chicken Leg Confit with Bacon-Dripping Lentils

Pork Belly Roulade with Mushroom Duxelle with Melted Leek Coulis

Lemon Chocolate Tart

(and it all happens to be gluten-free!)

Cost is $65 a person.

La Boucherie is offering 1/2 priced wine, or a $10 corking fee if you bring a bottle.

The dinner date is Thursday, August 27th. Service starts at 7pm. Reservations are required. (If you would like to reserve, email Matt at

As you can see, Danny and Matt have somehow worked pork into every single course, save the first one. (oh, and there’s no pork in the tart, either.) Those of you who love pork (which should be everyone reading this site)? Come on over to Vashon Island to experience this delight.

Danny would be so happy to feed you great pork.

the process of making pork belly roulade

Danny working with pork belly II

This is Danny, slowly slicing the skin from a fresh pork belly.

That’s a sharp knife he’s using. That’s essential.

Danny working with pork belly III

You have to leave some fat on the belly for a good sear. You’re not trying to create a lean piece of meat here.

You want juicy and crisp, aching with flavor and ready to be eaten.

It’s a delicate balance. How much fat is too much? Too little?

This one worked for Danny.

Danny butterflying the pork belly

And here he is, butterflying open the pork belly. Look at the striation on that, the marbling of fat.

“Go slow,” he says. “Don’t rush. Just feel it with your knife.”

Danny finishing the butterflying

To finish it might take a few minutes, but it’s worth it.

(Of course, Danny is much, much faster than I could ever be. He has done this before. A few times.)

spreading the duxelle

This is mushroom duxelle that Danny’s spreading in the belly.

Mushrooms, shallots, garlic. Sherry, spinach, and thyme. Cream.

So much flavor.

trussing it up

This puppy is ready to be trussed.

roasted pork belly roulade with mushroom duxelle

There it is. About 30 minutes after entering the oven, it leaves as this.

We all wanted to break into applause.

finished pork belly

We fell silent when we saw this.

That crisp skin. The warm smell. The golden color.

We enjoyed this more than I could say.

Would you like a bite? You can have one.

On Friday, we’ll tell you how.

Ashley shows you how to render lard


photo courtesy of Ashley Rodriguez, from

These are interesting days.

For decades, it seems, we wanted our food in convenient fashion, packaged and ready to go. We didn’t want to think about where our food came from, or how it reached our table, or how to make it ourselves. Of course, vast numbers of people were the exception to this rule. Some people have been putting up preserves and making bread from scratch and grinding sausage by hand for many years, guided by the experience of their parents, and their parents before them.

But many of us had Fritos and cherry yogurt for school lunches, too disgusted by the grease on the measly piece of pizza handed to us by the lunch lady. We never would have thought of making butter from cream or marshmallows from scratch.

These days, however, more of us are doing things like rendering lard by hand.

You may remember that the first time we told you about our friend, Ashley Rodriguez, we shared her recipe for bacon caramels. (And every time I look at that photo, I sigh, wishing for more.) Ashley is a phenomenal pastry chef. So you might be surprised to find that she works with one of the best savory ingredients around: lard.

“Kitchen projects excite me. While many think I may be a bit “off my rocker” as they say, for driving an hour to a farm more than a little off the beaten path to pick up 10 pounds of pig fat, then coming home to render the fat – which in turn casts a pig farm-esque smell over everything we own. I don’t understand. What is obscure about that?”

Nothing, Ashley. Not in our world.

Besides, Ashley was rendering the lard to make flaky pie crust. Did you know? Lard makes the flakiest, loveliest pie crust. Just ask Kate McDermott, who makes some of the best pies around, and teaches classes on how to make them. (You can find her at Art of the Pie.) 60 years ago and before, most people made their pie crusts with lard.

If you are interested in using lard for your pies, take a look at Ashley’s brilliant tutorial (and amazing video). You could be making pie soon.

fruit-stuffed pork tenderloin

dried fruit-stuffed pork tenderloin

If we were smart, we’d stop eating all our best meals in the evening.

If a dinner Danny has made up on the spot turns out particularly delicious? I run for the camera, trying to take enough photographs before the pork cools down too much for my taste. And what do I have to work with? Yellowy lights at night, the one above the kitchen stove blaring at the food, the CFLS dutifully shining their environmental light that looks nothing like the sun.

I can’t tell you how many incredible dishes we have eaten in the last few months that I haven’t even bothered to share with you. That yellowy light kills it every time.

But this one? This one was particularly juicy. And full of unexpected tastes. A melange of dried fruits — apricots; prunes; sour cherries — mingled with rosemary-garlic sausage. Already I’m intrigued by the unlikely combination, and how well they mix in the mouth. But stuff that into a pork tenderloin, sear it, roast it and coax all the flavors out of it? And then top it with a smoky tomato salsa, made fresh that day?

For that, I’ll use a lousy yellow-light photo.

You’ll just have to see this in its best light when you make it yourself.

Dried Fruit-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

1 pound pork tenderloin
1 tablespoon each kosher salt and cracked black pepper
1/2 pound rosemary-garlic sausage
1/4 cup mixed dried fruit
1 tablespoon fine-chopped garlic
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 large egg
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil

Butterfly the pork tenderloin. (If you would like to see this demonstrated, go to this video.)

Put the unfurled tenderloin between large pieces of plastic wrap. Pound out the pork tenderloin until it is about 1/2-inch thick, evenly.

Season both sides of the pork tenderloin with 1 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Set aside.

Mix the sausage with the rest of the ingredients.

Season the sausage with the remaining salt and pepper.

Make a small taster. Fry up the taster in a small skillet in hot oil. Taste and see if you need more seasoning.

Put the sausage in the middle of the tenderloin, patting it down, leaving about 2 inches on all sides of the sausage. (If you put sausage over the entire tenderloin, it will spill out the sides during the cooking.)

Truss it up. (And again, refer to the video if you are confused about this.)

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Bring a large sauté pan to high heat. Pour in the oil. Put the tenderloin in the hot oil. Sear it on all sides about 4 to 5 minutes, or until it’s a lovely browned color.

Slide the pan into the hot oven and roast the tenderloin in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature has reached 160°.

Let it rest for 5 minutes on a plate. Remove the string. Slice it on the bias.

Here, we served the tenderloin with rice, black beans, and topped it with a smoked tomato salsa that Danny created that day. But really, you can do whatever you want here.)

Feeds 4.

a true pork lover

praise the lard

Take a look at that tattoo.

That’s the mark of a true pork lover.

This is the arm of Pat Frank, a chef here in Seattle who is opening an Italian restaurant within the year. LaBocca Restaurant is the joint effort of Pat and his partner, Lydia, who is an internet marketer. (That’s why it’s no surprise that there is a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, and a blog about La Bocca before there is a La Bocca. Welcome to the internet age of restaurants.)

We have to say that we can’t wait to see La Bocca open. Not only because Danny cooked with Pat at a restaurant called Papillon in Denver, and thus he knows what kind of food we might be eating. But also because of that tattoo. If that’s what is on the chef’s arm? We’re probably going to be eating well.