Cooking Uncategorized

Pork Loin Roast

If nothing else, I can slay a pork loin roast! This has become our small family’s traditional Christmas dinner, being that we’ve made it two years in a row. My extended family does a beef rib roast, so this is just a step sideways. Last year, me and a couple of guys went in on a half a pig from Tails and Trotters. As part of the deal I walked away with two of these bad ass roasts. The thing about the pigs from T&T is that they have a ridiculous fat cap:

In this picture I had cut away half of the fatty layer, and it’s still thick as hell! A long time ago I did a fairly unsung post on cooking duck breasts, which have a comparatively thick fatty layer in reference to their general size. If you’ve ever had a really well cooked duck breast, then you know that there are few things better to eat than the crispy, rendered skin on a duck breast. It is simply amazing! Initially, when I saw the volume of fat on these roasts (and the pics in this post is a composite of 3 different roasts) I was pissed! Seriously angry, because I was just like ‘These are all fat! WTF!?’ But then I sat and thought on it, and hit upon the idea to cook them the same way I cook duck breasts, and I started to feel way better about the whole thing. The picture at the top is from the first one I made, with long parallel cuts through the fat. Honestly, they’re all parallel like that because I’d already tied up the roast with kitchen twine, and I didn’t want to do it again. I didn’t actually think to score the fat until after I had tied and brined it.

To render the fat, you have to cook it on the stove on medium to medium low heat. How much you render it depends on how much patience you possess. I’ll spend 45 minutes just on rendering the fat. The beauty of it, though, is that you don’t really need to pay that close attention to it so long as you don’t have the heat too high. Because of the large area, and curved nature of the roast, you have to render it in stages, and my experience is that it takes about 3 stages of rendering at 15 minutes per section, emptying the pan of the rendered fat occasionally. The last one I did took 2 sets of 20 minutes, since the butcher frenched the bones for me (sick bastard. . .)

Once you’ve sufficiently rendered it, the roast goes into a 350º oven until its internal temperature reaches 135ºF, basting every 15 minutes. With these roasts it takes about 1 hour. On my first attempt I added all the garlic to the pan as soon as it went into the oven, and 1 hour ended up being a touch too long, so now I add it after 15 minutes at the first baste, tossing it around in the fatty juices in the pan to coat them. The roasted garlic is so good. I recommend adding 2 or 3 bulbs worth of cloves to the pan, as in my experience there never seems to be enough to go around. We consistently fight about who will get the last few pieces!

After pulling the roast at 135º, it is essential to let it rest for a minimum of 15 minutes. The rest will redistribute the juices throughout the roast, and also bring the temperature up to approximately 145º, for medium to medium rare.

This is a wholly unforgivable plate shot of our roast from Christmas 2010, but I share it to illustrate a few things about the process. I did not render the fat long enough, and as you can see there is a great deal of actual fat left around the edge, which is fine, I guess, because there is still a whole lot of the deliciously crispy part. However, the proportions should be reversed––there should be way more crispy part! I tried to remedy this by scoring the fat in cuts closer together and on a diagonal on my next attempt. It proved to be a justified modification. However, on my third and most recent attempt, I scored it in a full-blown diamond cross-hatch, and this achieved the best results, while perhaps not being as pretty as the other variations. The fat rendered better, the crispy bits were thicker and some how more flavorfully power-packed. I recommend this approach most highly. Check the full roasting program below, and here’s to gluttony in the New Year!

Thomas Keller Pork Brine:

Combine the following in a large pot:

1/4 cup plus 2 TBLS honey
12 bay leaves
3 large rosemary sprigs
1/2 bunch thyme
1/2 cup of garlic cloves, crushed
2 TBLS black peppercorns
1 cup of kosher sale
1 gallon of cold water

Bring to boil, and let it boil for 1 minute, then allow it to cool. (This brine is also great for roast chicken, just add 2 halved lemons.) Once it’s cool, pour it over the roast in a large container and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Cooking the Roast

1 (4) rib Pork Loin Roast with substantial fat cap, ideally around 1/2″ thick
3 bulbs of garlic broken into cloves, skin left on, and lightly crushed
a few sprigs of thyme
fresh ground nutmeg
salt and pepper
1 large pat of butter

Pre-heat the oven to 375º

Remove the roast from the brine, rinse it, and pat it dry. place it in the freezer for about 30 minutes. This makes scoring the fat much easier. With a very sharp knife, score the fat in a cross-hatch pattern being careful not to cut into the flesh of the roast. Once this is done, grate a hearty amount of fresh nutmeg over the fat, and then rub it in with a tablespoon or so of thick grained salt. Next tie the roast off with butcher twine using one piece through each set of ribs. Heat a large heavy-bottomed pan on the stove over medium to medium low heat. If the heat is too high, the fat will not render, but rather it will sear it, encasing the fat within the fat! As seen in the photo above, it is necessary to use some sort of leverage to keep the roast tilted up to one side. I use a wooden spoon, but anything heat resistant will do. Once the roast is in the pan, and the fat begins to render, you will need to pour off the accumulation into a separate bowl. How you go about it is a matter of personal strength and preference. I tend to grab it through the twine with a pair of tongs and hold it over a plate, while pouring the fat into the bowl. This stage will take some time.

Once the fat is sufficiently rendered, and you find that you have a uniform, cripsy, golden crust, move the roast into the oven skin-side up, and lower the oven to 350º. After 15 minutes pull the roast and add the butter to the pan and baste it. Then, add the thyme sprigs and all of the garlic, and toss around to coat. Next, place as much of the garlic on top of the roast as space will allow, and move the roast back into the oven. Baste every 15 minutes, and check the internal temperature after 45 minutes. Allow the roast to continue cooking until it has reached an internal temperature of 135º, then pull the roast from the oven, and let it rest for at least 15 minutes. Finally, slice and serve as you see fit. I like it cut nice and thick, right through the ribs!


The Extremities

Tail & Tongue with Rich Red Wine Sauce

By now, ya’ll know this post is on a nasty tip. Doing this recipe, I didn’t necessarily learn anything new about cooking technique–it was surprisingly pedestrian–however, dealing with the ingredients was a truly unique experience. I probably wouldn’t have attempted this one quite yet if I hadn’t been stopping to say hello to a couple of butchers at pastaworks while they were cutting up a fresh half pig from tails & trotters. The trotter was just laying there on the butcher block, and I jokingly exclaimed give me that trotter!, not realizing that I meant it until it was being weighed on the scale, and wrapped-up tight in brown paper. In case you were curious, it cost me three bucks. Anyway, I didn’t know what I was going to do with it. You can work something out with 3 or 4 trotters, I figured, but one is a little trickier. It lay in the fridge and in the back of my mind for a day or two—I’d of hated for it to go to waste!—until I flipped to this recipe in The River Cottage Meat Book, and discovered that it called for, indeed, a single pig’s trotter! When I showed it to Gabrielle for the first time, she reacted quite similarly to the way you might (you could be cool with it, right?) be reacting to it right now—that is, with the heeby jeeby’s and a horrified shutter. Then I made her touch it.

After deciding to proceed with this recipe, I went out and discovered how naive I am. I thought it was going to be difficult to find an oxtail (which is really the tail of a cow, & yet), and a cow’s tongue. Mercy, me! All you have to do is ask if you cruise the places I hang. At Laurelhurst Market, they had as many as I needed! And there I was only needing of one of each. The butcher wrapped up my oxtail, and handed it to me, feeling in my hand like a rulers scepter, and then he handed me the tongue, which had an opposite effect with its misshapen contours, and clunky wield. This probably illuminates why I became confused when a co-worker later remarked that it looked like a sex toy; I thought she meant the oxtail. Oh my! So, at this point I still hadn’t seen or touched either of these curiosities, but they were in my possession. In case you were thinking that I’m crazy for even getting involved with this stuff—even though it may even upstage my post!—let me try to relate to you a segment from this book, titled The Professional Charcuterie Series by Marcel Cottenceau (if anyone wants to buy me this book as a present for being awesome, I’ve updated the ‘about’ page with my addy!) that the butcher shared with me. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: You start off by taking a whole pig’s head, and carefully remove the entirety of it’s face, snout and all, in one piece. Meanwhile, you’re going to want to have about 30 pig’s tongues braising in some sort of delicious aromatics, and when those are ready, you’re going to wrap them all individually in caul fat (basically sausage casing), and then proceed to build a kind of castle out of them, using fine-ground sausage as mortar. Next, you bring the pig’s face back into the equation, and stuff the tongue castle you just built into it, sew it up, and bake it. When it’s done, draw in a new pig’s face (eyes, rosy cheeks) with your best friends make-up (not tested on animals.) I think that you’re supposed to serve this in slices, nice big slices. This is the kind of gourmet shit they used to make when your parents were my age. That’s actually only about half the steps, now that I read it over. Anyway, it probably makes this cross-section of the oxtail look pretty tame:

Tail is surprisingly meaty

The ingredient list for this is pretty spare. It calls for the oxtail, cut into pieces, the cow’s tongue, and the pig’s trotter, as well as two carrots, two stalks of celery, two onions, a turnip, about half an orange worth of orange zest, some herbs (bay, thyme, parsley), and a bottle of red wine. Basically, you just chop up all the veggies, but them in a pot with the extremities, bring to a slight simmer, and hold it there for a good three hours or so. Braise it until you can pierce the tongue with a fork, and it slides in like nothing.

Once it’s all done braising, remove the trotter, the tail pieces, and the tongue, and set aside until they are cool enough to handle. In the meantime, strain the stock through a couple layers of cheese cloth through your strainer. Once its all strained add the stock to a clean pot, and pour in half the bottle of red wine. Crank the heat up to high and boil it rapidly, reducing to about a quarter of the volume, or even further if you prefer. For me, the real winner in this recipe is the reduced stock. It was absolutely delicious. I was just sitting in the kitchen, drinking it. Man, it was good. But, in any case, it’s going to take a while to reduce, so you’re going to need something to do. By now the oxtail should be cool. Dig in and pick all the bits and chucks of meat out of those lovely, lovely vessels, and set aside into a bowl. Next, peel the tongue.

(click on the picture to purchase your Meat Mustache Mug)

That’s right—you may have noticed the svelte white sheath encasing the tongue meat proper. Truthfully, you needn’t peel it, so much as shake it off. This was probably the most shocking aspect of this recipe for me, or ever, really. Using the tongue raised a lot of questions about tongues in general. You never realize what a complicated, and sophisticated instrument it is until you have held one in your hands, and touched the tastebuds; felt how equally smooth, and rough it is depending on the direction you stroke it. Then with the revelation of the sheath, and the minute striations visible in the cross-section. But, despite its strange, awkward beauty, you have to chop it up. This stage involves a bit of preference, but I discovered that I’m not really feeling big chunks of tongue, and like it a little more in much smaller pieces. The book calls for 3/4 of an inch dice. i found out that that’s crazy talk. I say go with like 1/10 of an inch. I’m just going to come clean: I thought the tongue was nasty.

This is the final product. The pig trotter imparts a vast amount of gelatin to the stock, and allows for the meat and stock to be set in a mold. Alternatively, it can be served hot with mashed potatoes. I tried it both ways, and they were equally *meh* to me, but some other people tried it cold, and *said* it was pretty good. Some people really dig this kind of preparation. I’ve never been a huge fan of meat in a jello mold, and making this didn’t change my mind.

However, making this dish became totally worthwhile for me after I pulled the pig’s trotter from stock. Long and smooth going in, it emerged from the braise gnarled and bunched into a tight fist, the bones bursting through skin and fat. Examining it, I found that it almost mirrored a sculpture by the artist John Chamberlain that Gabrielle and I saw while visiting the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, TX last winter. I don’t know if you can see it, but to me these two examples are basically identical–one made of steel and paint, the other of skin and bone. Truly strange and remarkable.

Cooking My Favorite Sandwiches Photography Uncategorized

Pork Belly Reuben


One of the benefits of making your own bacon is that you end up with a boat load of bacon fat. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: save your bacon fat! Otherwise, you might not ever be able to make pork belly confit, perhaps one of the most luxurious, if not down-right hedonistic things one could prepare from the all-mighty pig!

To confit something is to slowly cook it in fat, and so essentially what’s going on here is that you take a piece of pork belly, the same cut used to make bacon, cover it in it’s own fat, and cook it in the oven for about 3 hours, until it’s fork tender. My first encounter with pork confit was at a restaurant called Fork, located in the Old Town area of Philadelphia. I ordered it despite everyone else’s cackles and uhllll’s, and it turned out the pork belly upstaged the rest of the meal. It’s still the best I’ve ever eaten, and it’s set me on a dangerous course leading to coronary heart disease, because now I order pork belly if I see it on a menu irregardless of everything else.

This brings us to Bunk Sandwiches, a lunch spot staple for me in SE Portland. I had read in a magazine that this place features a Pork Belly Reuben on their menu, and therefore I was instantly drawn to the place. However, the menu changes daily, and this sandwich alluded me for many weeks. In that time, I decided the hell with it! I’ll make my own! And that’s what I have done here. I have since eaten one at Bunk, and I can attest that their’s is indeed very good, but so is mine! In fact, my girlfriend even told me that mine is better (haHa!) The amazing thing is how absolutely different they are.

While wondering aimlessly around the Portland Farmer’s Market a while back a certain loaf of bread caught my eye at the Pearl Bakery booth. It was called Vollkornbrot, a dense, hearty, German rye. Once I saw this bread, I knew I would make my reuben on it. In fact, it was actually the catalyst for the whole endeavor. It’s a great bread, and worked out wonderfully. The cheese I used was Tillamook Swiss. I had originally intended to make my own sauerkraut, but after realizing it would take at least five days, I decided to go with Picklopolis, a local pickler, instead. I had my heart set on sauerkraut made from purple cabbage, though, and they don’t make it in a purple variety, so I conspired to dye it purple with a bit of beet. However, while experimenting, I discovered another local sauerkraut purveyor, It’s Alive, produced just a few blocks from where I live, and was overjoyed that I had another choice. Both are excellent sauerkraut’s, and I recommend both of them, but It’s Alive won out for aesthetic reasons. What can I say? Finally, I used the Thousand Island recipe from Charcuterie for the dressing.

As for the Pork Belly Confit, here’s how I made it (you can make more than this at once, just double or triple everything):
Heat the oven to 200º.

Combine 2 tablespoon of the basic dry cure(1# Kosher Salt, 8oz Sugar, and 2oz Pink Salt), 1 bay leaf, 2 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon of peppercorns, a few leaves of fresh sage, 1 shallot, and 2 tablespoons of cocoa, and crush them to a powder in a spice grinder, or a mini-food processor.

Take this mixture and rub it into a 1 to 2# piece of pork belly. Wrap it in plastic wrap, and put it in the refrigerator for a day or 2.

PorkBellyInFatAfter this time has passed, place the the pork belly into an oven-proof pot, such as a dutch oven. Make sure that it’s a snug fit. Cut up the pork belly if necessary. The more room that is in the pot, the more fat that will be required in order to cover the pork belly. And yes, cover the pork belly completely with rendered fat.

Bring to a simmer on the stovetop, and then place it in the oven, uncovered, and cook for about three hours. When the pork belly is extremely tender, transfer to a separate dish, then strain the fat over the top of it, and place in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours, or up to a month. This stuff keeps well, but trust me, it won’t last a month. That’s it for the pork belly confit, from here on out, it’s just heat and serve.

To prepare this sandwich, I sliced the pork belly into quarter inch thick pieces, coated them in cocoa powder, and fried them up in a non-stick skillet. Meanwhile, I toasted two slices of the Vollkornbrot in butter, in a pan on the stovetop, melting a couple slices of the swiss on one slice. Once the pork belly had a crispy golden exterior, I drained it on a paper bag, before placing it on top of the swiss cheese. Then I added the sauerkraut, and smothered it with the Thousand Island dressing, before topping it off with the other slice.

Give yourself time to eat this sandwich. It is incredibly rich. If you eat it too quickly, I swear, you’ll go into a pork belly coma.



Porcine Creeders


Pigs are getting a bad rap these days, and it’s just unfair. Things like this so-called Swine Flu are man-made virus’s that are the result of negligent, deplorable business standards set by human beings. Pigs don’t roll around in there own shit unless they have no other choice. Pigs living in a healthy atmosphere do not require a pharmaceutical cocktail designed to stem off illness just long enough to send them to the chophouse, thus enabling the mutation of serious virus’s like influenza! These and other factors are human conditions.

The current issue of MEATPAPER is dedicated to the pig, and what glorious animals they are. In the coming days and weeks they’re going to need all the support they can get, and one way I suggest doing that is to find a copy of this magazine and reading these articles on the history and state of the pig. The following is a poem from the issue, written by Roald Dahl that seems rather apropos to the current events:

He ate him up from head to toe,
Chewing the pieces nice and slow.
It took an hour to reach his feet,
Because there was so much to eat,
And when he finished, Pig, of course,
Felt absolutely no remorse.
Slowly he scratched his brainy head
And with a little smile he said,
“I had a fairly powerful hunch
“That he might have me for his lunch.
“And so, because I feared the worst,
“I thought I’d better eat him first.”


Of Montréal Will Play Your Wedding


I haven’t been to see a cover band since I was about ten, so it came as a bit of a surprise to me that at the New Year’s Eve Of Montreal show in Athens, GA, the band kept rolling out the hits! I know it’s almost the 3rd over here, and usually reviews are best ASAP after seeing or hearing things, but I just regained consciousness, so cut me some slack this time. Everything was all whirlwind and heat on hot, sweaty bodies, so with a couple of stand-out exceptions–when the crowd went ¡((absolutely bananas))!–honestly, I didn’t remember most of the show until I looked up all the video’s down below, and in retrospect, I have to say it was pretty awesome. It went something like this: These two hair metal dudes strutted out and amped-up, dsc_0842and delved into a 20 minute sludge meltdown, and first things second these crazy gold dudes came out and that part was really too bizarre to relate, before a bunch of beach bums came out and started bopping around a beach ball in bikinis and speedoes and lusting after one another. Then the lusting took a turn and all out the wind a satanist or something started to banging on a nun (who loved it) and from there the scene progressed into a downright orgy with all kinds a different beasts and biblical persons getting down all over the place.mouthful1 At some point the sex wasn’t enough, and blood and sacrifice began. There was at least a giraffe, a swine, a tiger, and possibly more animals, it was all so chaotic and bestial. The giraffe was decapitated with a machete, and the head and neck was drained of its blood by these red witches before it all was flung into some abyss or another, then the witches brought the pig up onto this alter and slathered all this blood onto the pigs body while it basked and luxuriated in this vital marinade like a pig in shit. And during this sequence is when my mind hit infinity, and all the rest was a blur before a Rolling Stones tune brought me back to reality.



As for the actual set, the tunes flowed seamlessly from what I could tell, with tons of people partying on stage, and the crowd having a real blast. The highlight for me was the segue from the Lennon tune Instant Karma which (almost) put me to sleep, into Smells Like Teen Spirit, which was the bananas part I mentioned above. The only disappointment was that they didn’t play The Past is a Grotesque Animal, which I think is one of the songs of the decade, but that’s cool, you know, I’ll live. A bunch of other funny stuff happened after the show ended, but the GF would probably have a meltdown if I related the story of her ‘missed connection’ here, so I’ll let that go. So, I’ll end here with a pic of the beautiful and darling Kevin Barnes, and wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Here’s the set list, with links to video’s for most of the tunes:

Spend the night together – Rolling Stones
Sweet emotion – Aerosmith
Immigrant song – Led Zeppelin
Head on – The Jesus and Mary Chain
American Girl – Tom Petty
New Years Day – U2
Walking on sunshine – Katrina and the Waves (Hilarious Techno Ver.)
Kids in America – Kim Wilde
Melody Day – Caribou
Hang on to yourself – David Bowie
Love to love u – Donna Summer
Judy is a punk – The Ramones
Take me out – Franz Ferdinand
Ever fallen in love – Buzzcocks
Instant karma – John Lennon
Smells like teen spirit – Nirvana

Elegant caste
So Begins our Alabee
Id engager
She’s Rejector