Pork roast and farro, arugula salad.

After our decadent weekend of dining out, Sunday dinner was a welcome break.

Just before we embarked on our afternoon walk, J rubbed pork leg roast with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and a generous sprinkling of granulated garlic. He first browned it on a hot grill, giving it a nice crust. Then it went into the oven with a can of beer to maintain a bit of moisture. Four hours at 250 degrees yielded flavorful, tender meat (J thought it was overcooked, I thought it was delicious).

To accompany, we improvised a earthy, peppery salad of farro, mushrooms and baby arugula.

1 pound mixed mushrooms (crimini, shiitaki, oyster and enoki) sauteed in leftover soffrito oil  until softened. Cooled.

1 cup farro cooked in 5 cups broth for 50 minutes until al dente. Drained and cooled.

1 package baby arugula. Washed and dried.

Lemon vinaigrette (fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper, pinch of sugar, minced onion, fruity olive oil.)

In a large bowl, I mixed the cooled mushrooms and farro, salting to taste. Then I tossed in baby arugula until there was an even balance, half and half-ish. Spooned on some vinaigrette, then using a veggie peeler, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano into the bowl and tossed. Garnished with more Parm on the plate.

A simple recipe with balanced textures and flavors.  This one’s a keeper.

Farro, arugula, mushrooms, lemon vinaigrette and cheese.

Soffritto, draining.

Onions.

Olive oil.

Tomatoes.

Garlic.

Salt.

Whenever J and I make a meal, you can bet that, in most cases, at least four of the five ingredients above are featured in some way or another. But in one of our newest refrigerator staples, they are the stars.

Helloooo, soffritto, you sweet, jammy medley.

We had our first encounter with soffritto over the holidays last year, following the recipe from Thomas Keller’s “Ad Hoc at Home” cookbook in the ever-engaging “lifesavers” section. His is a simple recipe, really: Finely dice onions (3 cups) and combine in a large pan with olive oil (1 cup, though I sometimes us a bit more so there is more to save) and a bit of salt. Bring the oil just to a boil, then reduce the heat and place the pan on a heat diffuser. Simmer for 2 1/2 hours.

Cue the tomatoes. Keller gives instructions for halving one pound plum tomatoes lengthwise, and grating the flesh on a box grater until only the skin is left in your hand. I did this once. But in December in the Northwest, plum tomatoes are pretty anemic. And while the process of hand-grating tomatoes is not difficult, I feel it’s not entirely necessary when a box of good-quality Italian crushed tomatoes is a fine shortcut. Add the tomatoes (1 cup or so) to the onion/olive oil stew, give a  stir and simmer for another 2 1/2 hours. Low, slow.

Remove the pan from the heat, add one or two (Two! No, three!) minced garlic cloves and let the mixture cool on the stove. Use a fine-mesh sieve to drain off the extra olive oil, reserving it for the next batch of soffritto (Keller’s advice), or for sauteeing vegetables (our advice). Either way, refrigerate the oil, refrigerate the soffritto. Enjoy.

How to enjoy? I eat my fair share of quesadillas, and this mellow-sweet, onion-y condiment is a luxurious topping. It’s also delicious on frittata, fish or pasta.

Or, by the spoonful.
(I would never do that.)

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Bacon bourbon jam

The first day of daylight savings was a windy, rainy one, but it’s 6:45pm, the clouds have broken, the sun is still out. We can’t complain. Especially since we spent the day cooking the most amazing meal: pork ribs slow braised in Coca-Cola, soy sauce and apple cider vinegar; collard greens with bacon and sausage and a new member of our immediate family, bourbon bacon jam. Hello, dear. Sit down, you’re just in time for dinner.

I first heard the ingenious words “bacon” and “jam” together when season 6 “Top Chef” contestant Kevin Gillespie made it during a quickfire. Since that brilliant moment, I knew I’d make it at some point. With tonight’s menu, the time was ripe.

I followed the recipe on the blog evilshennanigans.com with minimal deviation. I started by barely crisping bacon in a cast-iron skillet. Reserving a bit of bacon fat, I added one very large sweet onion (sliced) and bit of brown sugar, and caramelized until the onions took on a deep golden brown color. In went the spices: cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, chipotle powder and sweet paprika. I added a bit more bourbon than the recipe called for, and caramelized the onions for at least ten minutes after the spices went in — that’s it. After a good two hours on the stove and a quick spin in the food processor, the sticky sweet, salty, spicy jam was ready. The result was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever tasted. Our favorite bite so far: a slice of apple, a piece of blue cheese and a dollop of the jam.

Pork au Coke

March 13, 2011

Pork au Coke

The star of this evening’s meal was a J production. He felt like cooking a barbecue-style Southern meal, and the rib recipe was improvised. First, he marinated pork ribs in a dry  “Memphis rib rub” (in a tin) and a half  cup of kalbi marinade overnight.

Next day, in a large cast iron pan, J caramelized red onions and green cabbage (salt and pepper to taste) in oil till golden. Then he added an 8 oz bottle of Coca-Cola, half a cup of apple cider vinegar, two tablespoons soy sauce, one teaspoon of red pepper flakes and good squeeze of sriracha.

Simmer, simmer, simmer.

Meanwhile, he seared the ribs on a hot grill, then braised ribs in sauce for about four hours. Low and slow.

He removed ribs. Let ’em rest in a warm oven while the sauce reduced until it was a rich, brown cola color. (About an hour.)

Ribs went back into the sauce for a bath. The result: fork tender, tangy, spicy, slightly sweet deliciousness. We served it up with greens and mac and cheese.

This recipe, it’s a keeper.