Posts Tagged ‘pork’

It may be October, but it’s also #NationalPorkMonth! Time to get piggish!

Few slabs of meat are as amazing as a pork butt or shoulder, rubbed with a special dry rub, then slow-smoked for 8 hours (or more), pulled and slathered with amazing barbecue sauce. It takes time, but it’s not really that hard to do.

My electric smoker allows me to set the time and temp and walk away.

Here’s how I do it…

First, I get a hunka pork. The kind of pig I get matters to me, so I buy a heritage breed, like Berkshire (also known as Kurobuta), from a farm that raises them humanely. I’m willing to pay the extra bucks.

But going to a supermarket or butcher shop for pork is what most people do. The names of the cuts of meat can be a bit confusing. Despite its name, pork butt is not from the back-end of the pig.  (The term “butt” referred to the barrel the meat was stored in when the only method of preservation was salting the meat and storing it in barrels.)

The pork butt is actually the shoulder of the pig. The pork shoulder picnic is a lower cut of the same area. These cuts can also go by the names: Boston shoulder roast, Boston butt, Boston roast, shoulder butt, pork shoulder picnic, and shoulder-blade roast. Whatever the name, these are all nicely marbled hunks of meat that usually weigh in anywhere from 6 to 8 lbs, and are easy to find. Barbecue fanatics claim the bone-in pork butt is more flavorful, but boneless is all you can find, that’ll work, too.

Once I’ve got my slab of pork, I remove the skin if it has any. I want my pork rub to make contact directly with the meat, so I always remove the tough skin. No skin? No problem.

Now I need to season it. I’ve found that a simple rub is the best way to go for the sauce I’m going to use later.

After 8 hours in the smoker, the rub makes a crust on the meat that is just fantastic!

BASIC DRY RUB

1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup paprika
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon onion powder

Place all the ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake it up to blend.

Once I’ve made the rub, I generously sprinkle it all over the pork, and rub it in really well. I have a digital smoker at home, which allows me to set the temperature to cook and smoke my pork butt. I place the pork butt on a rack, put a drip pan with water underneath it to catch the grease, and set the smoker for 250 degrees. I cook the pork at 250 for 8 tp 10 hours, depending on the size of the meat, adding hickory chips to the smoker every few hours. The marbled fat in the pork butt slowly melts over time and the pork becomes incredibly tender and flavorful.

I remove the pork butt from the smoker and let it rest, covered with aluminum foil, for at least 20 minutes before pulling it apart with a couple of forks, or chopping it up with a cleaver.

While the pork is cooking and smoking, there’s plenty of time to make two other very important parts of this recipe: a vinegar-based barbecue sauce, and the cole slaw.

Slaw on the side or on the sandwich…up to you!

BARBECUE SAUCE

2 cups ketchup
3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
6 tablespoons white vinegar
6 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until the flavors have blended, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool it to room temp. If you store it in an airtight container in the fridge, it’ll stay good for several weeks.

COLE SLAW

My unusual cole slaw recipe uses an interesting ingredient: pickle juice! Just a splash of juice from your favorite jar of pickles is all you need.

1 package of cole slaw veggies
splash of pickle juice
1/4 cup mayonnaise (more to taste)
teaspoon celery seed (not salt)
salt and pepper

There are no real specific measurements for cole slaw, because I’ve found that some people like it dry, others wet…some peppery, some not. Play around with it and make it your own. I prefer a more mayonnaise-y cole slaw, and usually err on the wet side.

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients. Cover it with plastic wrap and chill. When ready to use, re-mix it, and taste for seasoning before using.

OK…time to make that sandwich!

You can either go Carolina style and place the cole slaw right on top of the pulled pork in the bun, or simply serve the slaw on the side. No rules!

Whether you go through all these steps yourself or not, it’s nice to appreciate a labor of love that is worth every bit of time and trouble invested in it.

I love pastrami. I love ribs. So why can’t the two get along? (Using my best announcer voice): Well now they can!!

I’ve seen a few recipes that use pastrami ingredients on foods other than pastrami and I thought it could work with pork ribs as well. I was right. And for these ribs, you don’t need a smoker. They bake in the oven, then get finished under a broiler for that tasty char that you always look for in a grilled rib.

There’s a 2-step process to making these ribs. First, you combine the rub ingredients and let the ribs hang out in the fridge overnight. Then you bake them and broil them the next day, brushing a special sauce on them.

I prefer St. Louis-style ribs because they cook more evenly and have lots of meat. I prefer a heritage breed like Berkshire pork (also known as kurobuta) because of it has fantastic flavor, “good” fat, and is humanely raised.

Time to get ribbin’…

 

1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons salt
2 racks St. Louis-style pork spare ribs (about 5 lbs.), preferably Berkshire pork

To make the rub, combine the black pepper, coriander, brown sugar, mustard powder, paprika and cayenne in a bowl. Mix well. To grind larger amounts of pepper and other spices, I use a small coffee grinder that I keep just for spices. It does the job quickly and easily.

My spice grinder.

 

Cut the racks of ribs into halves, removing the skin on the back of the ribs that can make it tough. Brush both sides of the ribs with the white vinegar, and then season with the salt. Pat the ribs with the spice rub, and place them on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the fridge for at least an hour. Overnight is better.

Vinegar, salt and then the spice rub.

 

Pre-heat the oven to 325. Transfer the ribs to a large roasting pan, or you can use the rimmed baking sheet. Place the ribs fatty side up, and add 1/2 cup of water to the pan. Cover the ribs with aluminum foil and bake them for about 2 hours.

After 2 hours, remove the ribs from the oven and let them sit at room temperature, still covered by the foil, for about 30 minutes.

Out of the oven and ready to be brushed with sauce.

 

1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoon soy sauce

In a small bowl, combine the Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, honey and soy sauce. If the honey’s very thick, I place the glass jar (no lid) in the microwave for a few seconds to make it flow better. (Don’t do this if it’s in a plastic container, and don’t microwave for too long–honey will foam up and make a big mess!)

Pre-heat a broiler.

 

Brushing the ribs with the sauce.

 

Take the foil off the ribs and brush them with the sauce. Then place the ribs under the broiler until lightly charred, about 3 minutes. Slice into individual ribs or devour a slab at a time!

Charred and delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

Sausage is something most home cooks don’t even try because of the amount of work it needs: grinding the meat with that perfect fat-to-lean ratio…keeping everything on ice…buying a sausage stuffing machine and the casings to go with it.

It’s a big hassle, requiring some special equipment and a lot of time. And the clean-up is a pain.

Here’s a ridiculously easy method I discovered that allows me to slap together some very tasty sausage in just minutes. I prefer to use ground pastured Berkshire pork for this, because it’s humanely raised and absolutely full of flavor. But any good quality ground pork will do. I’ve found that most ground pork is already pretty fatty: usually a 70/30 ratio…and that’s perfect for this recipe. (By the way, if you don’t eat pork, I would venture a guess and say that 70/30 beef would work just as well with this recipe.)

If you’re watching calories, like I am, you know that fat is the biggest killer. But you’ll find that a well-cooked sausage patty renders out a lot of fat, and if you go one step further and really give it a squeeze between paper towels after cooking, you’ll find that 1 gram of cooked ground pork = about 2 calories. Compare that to bacon, where the fat doesn’t render out as quickly: 1 gram of bacon = 5 calories. All that porky sausage goodness for fewer calories! It’s not diet food, but hey…

 

Delicious homemade sausage.

 

 

1 lb. ground pork (the best quality you can get)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon sage
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 egg

 

I like to combine the salt, pepper, sage, rosemary and thyme in a bowl first, mixing them together well. That way, when I’m seasoning the pork, it’s all evenly distributed.

 

All the seasonings mixed together.

 

Combine the pork, the seasonings and the egg in a bowl and mix well. Place the bowl in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to let the meat rest. Overnight is even better. (Do it the night before, and you’ve got it all ready to cook the next morning with your eggs!)

 

The sausage mix has rested overnight. Time to cook!

 

In the morning, if you’re not sure if you’re going to like the pork the way you’ve seasoned it, simply grab a pinch of the  meat off and fry it in a pan to taste it. If you like what you have, fry away. If not, season the meat a little more before making the patties. These are your sausages, after all!

 

A 1/4 cup measure makes it easy to make equally-sized sausage patties.

 

I like to use a 1/4 cup measure to scoop out sausage patties. Once I’ve got them all made, I heat a pan over medium-high heat. No oil is necessary, because the pork has plenty of fat!

 

Once the patties are in the hot pan, I squish them down flat.

 

Once I’ve placed the patties in the hot pan, I squish them down with a spatula, and cook them on one side until it’s nice and crusty. Then I flip them, squish them down again, and continue cooking all until they’re golden brown on both sides. Remember: you’re starting with raw pork, so make sure it’s cooked all the way through.

 

They look like they’re done!

 

Delicious, and no casings to worry about. The patties freeze well, whether you freeze them raw or cook them a bit first. If you’re going to freeze them, place them on a sheet pan and pop that in the fridge for about an hour, until the patties are frozen solid. Then place them in a freezer bag or container. That way, the patties won’t stick to each other.

 

Ready for the freezer!

 

When cooking them straight out of the freezer, I like to drop the frozen patties into a non-stick pan and I add just a touch of water. I put a lid over the pan and let it cook for just a minute, flipping the patties and cooking for a minute more, to thaw them out. Then I remove the lid off the pan, and let the patties cook all the way through. The water will evaporate, and the patties will have enough fat in them to cook without adding any more.

Pork is magical. And though I’ve loved pork chops and store-bought bacon all my life, it’s only been in the last decade that I’ve learned to appreciate other cuts of pork and how they’re prepared. Guanciale is one of those meats, and it’s a key ingredient to a classic Italian dish: pasta carbonara.

 

In the beginning, I could only find huge jowls that required them to be cut and weighed to mix with the right amount of cure.

Looking at carbonara recipes online, many said the same thing: “Though a genuine carbonara uses a cured cut of pork called guanciale, it’s hard to find. So use pancetta or bacon.” Although both pancetta and bacon meats are quite tasty (both come from the belly of the pig…bacon is smoked, pancetta is not) the flavor and texture is not the same as a pork cheek, or jowl…and that’s what guanciale is made from.
My search for guanciale started with a local restaurant, the Back Eddy in Westport, Massachusetts. Being a buddy of the owner (and bribing him with alcohol), I asked if he’d order me some jowls. He did, and that worked well for a while. But I didn’t want to keep bothering him every time I wanted more, so I eventually found my own source on line that supplied me with massive jowls weighing many pounds each, as in the photo above. They were good, but a pain to work with. Eventually, that company went out of business.
I finally found my go-to pork website: http://www.heritagepork.com. They sell a variety of pork products made from a heritage breed of pig known as Berkshire, also called kurobuta. It’s delicious with wonderful fat that’s healthy and full of flavor. And conveniently, they sell pork jowls in smaller, 2-pound packs.

Berkshire pork jowls with fresh thyme from the garden and the dry cure mix.

 

My curing process is simple: sugar, salt, peppercorns, and fresh thyme. I cure the jowls for about 3 weeks. I rinse them once they’ve cured, and pat them dry. They still need to cook, but they’re ready to use for carbonara, ragu bolognese, topping a pizza, or any other delicious recipe that comes my way…and they freeze really well.
Once I made my first batch, there was no turning back!
2 lbs. raw pork jowls
1/2 cup basic dry cure (recipe below)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
a handful of fresh thyme sprigs
Combine the basic dry cure, brown sugar, and peppercorns in a bowl. We’ll call this the cure mix.
On a large work surface, lay down several sheets of plastic wrap, overlapping each other to keep the cure mix from leaking through to the counter underneath. Sprinkle half of the cure mix onto the plastic wrap in an area where the jowls will lay. Scatter a half-dozen thyme sprigs on top of the cure mix. Lay the pieces of pork jowl on top of the cure mix and thyme.

I place the cure mix and sprigs of thyme on a long sheet of plastic wrap.

 

The pork jowls go on top.

Then top the jowls with the rest of the cure mix, covering them evenly, and top with more thyme sprigs.

Press down on the jowls to really get the cure mix to stick.

Fold the plastic wrap over the jowls as tightly as you can, pressing the salt mix into the meat. If the wrap is loose, use more wrap to really tighten the salt cure around the meat. Then place the entire pork-wrapped package in a container that will hold the liquid that will ooze out during the curing process.

Into a container with a lid and into the fridge.

 

Place the container in the fridge to cure for 3 weeks.
Every couple of days, flip the plastic wrap package over, so that the top is now the bottom. Then return it to the fridge. You want the cure to get at every part of the pork. Don’t pour off any liquid that forms…it gets kind of gooey, but it will help the curing process.

3 weeks later…

In about 3 weeks, the pork jowls will feel firmer. This is a sign they’ve been properly cured. Remove them from the plastic wrap, rinse them thoroughly under cold clean water, then pat them dry with paper towels.

They’re perfect…they just need a rinse.

 

Cured, rinsed and dried guanciale. Cut the jowls into smaller pieces before freezing. A little goes a long way!

 

At this point, you can cut the jowls (now officially guanciale!) into smaller pieces, wrapping each well and placing them in freezer bags. They will keep in the freezer for a long time.
Many guanciale recipes tell you to hang the meat in the fridge for at least a week after curing, but I haven’t really found the need to do that if I’m keeping them frozen. The drying process keeps the meat from getting moldy, but that’s only if you keep it in warmer temperatures.

Always slice off a little to fry up a test batch! It’s all about quality control!

 

The Basic Dry Cure
This cure’s extremely simple, and you can cure many meats with it. But it does require a special ingredient: pink salt. This is not pink Himalayan salt. This is a very special curing salt that must be used in small amounts. (You can easily find it online.) It contains nitrites which will help preserve the meat and give it a good color. Many people get bent out of shape over nitrites these days, so you need to decide whether you want to use pink salt or not. I do, because I don’t eat pounds of guanciale like a lab rat. If you don’t use it, the meat will turn a bit gray–nothing wrong with it, just not an appealing color.
1 1/2 cups Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
1/2 cup organic turbinado  sugar
5 teaspoons pink curing salt
Combine these ingredients and mix well. Store it in a tightly sealed plastic bag in your pantry.
An important note: the reason I give the brand name for the salt is because all Kosher salt does not weigh the same! A cup-and-a-half of Morton Kosher Salt, for example, will weigh more and will throw off the recipe.

THREE-HOUR RIBS

Posted: June 9, 2020 in Food, pork
Tags: , , , , ,

Yes, this is a pork blog…but first, an introduction…

My diet continues, and one of the foods that I absolutely love and can eat quite often because of its low calorie/high protein combination is poke: basically a Hawaiian version of unconstructed sushi. I’ve developed a combination of flavors that I simply call my “Asian Mix,” and I’ve found that it not only works well in dishes with seafood like tuna and salmon, but also with meat. I recently marinated beef flap in my Asian Mix, then grilled it over hardwood…delicious!

 

One of many versions of poke I made with my Asian Mix: wild-caught Alaskan salmon with cucumber, avocado, onion, and sesame seeds.

 

So I said to myself: “Self! Why not pork?”

It just so happened that I had a rack of St Louis-cut Berkshire pork in my freezer, so I took it out to thaw. I peeled the skin that’s on the back of the ribs and tossed it out. I cut the rack in half, and then sprinkled the ribs ever-so-lightly with a little Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, a classic in barbecuing. I placed the ribs in a plastic container, and moved them to the fridge to rest overnight.

 

Berkshire (also known as kurobuta) pork ribs, lightly seasoned with Lawry’s.

 

The next day, I removed the ribs from the fridge, placed them on a sheet pan lined with non-stick foil, and placed the pan in a pre-heated 450-degree oven. Once the sheet pan was in and the oven door was closed, I immediately lowered the temperature of the oven to 325. I let it cook for an hour.

After one hour, I poured off any fat that rendered from the pork, and flipped the ribs over. I put the sheet pan back in the oven, still at 325, for a second hour.

After hour two, I once again poured off any fat, and set the sheet pan down. I tore off a new piece of aluminum foil, placing it flat on the counter, and I placed one half-rack, bone-side up, on the foil. I brushed it with the Asian Mix. I flipped the half-rack over, and brushed the top side. Then I folded the foil tightly around the half-rack to create a packet as tightly sealed as I could get it.

 

Brushing the ribs with the asian Mix before wrapping it in foil and returning it to the oven for one more hour. Looks good already!

 

I did the same with the second half-rack.

I placed the two foil-wrapped half-racks back on the sheet pan and back in the 325-degree oven for one more hour.

After the third hour was up, I removed the sheet pan from the oven and let the ribs rest for 15 minutes before unwrapping the foil.

 

Beauty, eh?

 

Asian Mix (for 1 rack of ribs)

2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar

 

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Mix well.

 

Just the right amount of heat from the chili garlic sauce. But feel free to add or reduce to your personal taste.

 

Thinking a lot about my Mom these past few days…and, of course, I thought about the family favorites she would cook. If there’s one dish that my Mom made all the time but I didn’t appreciate until I got older, this is it. Stuffed cabbage, cabbage rolls, or balandėliai, as we say in Lithuanian, was a staple in our home and one of my Dad’s favorites. 

I had seen my Mom make these beauties so often in my childhood, I didn’t even need to check online recipes out for guidance. That doesn’t mean I make them exactly like Mom, but my version came out pretty good. I think she would’ve been proud.

 

image

 

4 strips of bacon, chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 lb. ground grass-fed beef
1 lb. ground pastured pork
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1 large head cabbage
1 pint homemade chicken, beef or veal stock
750 g diced tomatoes (1 Pomi container)
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon granulated onion

Chop the bacon into small pieces and fry them until crisp. Finely chop the onion, and add it to the bacon and rendered fat in the pan, cooking until the onions are translucent. Add the salt, pepper and garlic. Mix well, and remove from the heat. Let it cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, combine the beef, pork, breadcrumbs, eggs, and cooled bacon and onion mixture. Place it in the fridge to firm up.

Let a large pot of salted water come to a boil. Core the cabbage, leaving the leaves whole, and carefully immerse the head of cabbage into the hot water. Little by little, the outermost leaves of the cabbage will come off the head, and you can remove them with tongs, so you don’t burn yourself with the hot water. Set the leaves aside to cool, and continue doing this until you can no longer remove leaves from the remaining head of cabbage.

Remove the remaining head of cabbage from the hot water, and using your hands or a knife, break it into flat pieces. Line the bottom of a roasting pan with the pieces. These will keep the stuffed cabbage from burning and sticking to the bottom.

Time to roll the stuffed cabbage. Take the meat out of the fridge. Lay a cabbage leaf flat on the counter, and add some of the meat mixture inside. Roll the cabbage around the meat, folding the sides in as you go, much like a burrito. You might need to slice away the thickest part of the leaf stem to make rolling easier. Lay the stuffed cabbage in the roasting pan on top of the leftover cabbage pieces. (Unlike Mom, I don’t use toothpicks to hold the stuffed cabbage rolls together.)

Continue stuffing and rolling the cabbage leaves until you’ve got a pan full of them, shoulder-to-shoulder.

In a blender, food processor, or whisked in a bowl, combine the stock, diced tomatoes, thyme, salt, pepper, garlic and onion. Pour this mixture over the top of the cabbage rolls in the roasting pan, covering them.

 

 

If you have leftover cabbage, you can place another layer of them on top. Otherwise, cover the roasting pan with foil and place in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. Cook for an hour.

 

 

After an hour, remove the foil and cook further for another 45–60 minutes.

 

image

 

Really delicious and an instant flashback to great memories of dinner at home….thanks to Mom.

 

 

Pork tenderloin is a lean cut of meat that can dry out easily when roasted. It’s usually just a couple of inches around, and over a foot long…a shape that can easily go from juicy to overdone in just a few minutes if you’re not watching it carefully.

I usually cook my pork tenderloin much like I would a pork chop: In one bowl, I’ve got a couple of eggs, scrambled. In another, a mixture of flour with whatever seasonings I like. Cutting the tenderloin into 3 or so pieces to fit the bowls, I coat them in the egg wash, then dredge them in the seasoned flour before browning on all sides in a heated pan with pork lard on the stove top. Then into a 325-degree oven until the temperature just reads 145, letting the meat rest a few minutes before slicing.

But it was time for a change. This recipe really is based on what I had in the fridge and pantry at the time, and it just rocked!

I chose chickpeas as my starch. I don’t worry too much about carbs, as long as they’re good ones and in moderation.

I always use organic kale. Kale is one of the most heavily sprayed veggies out there. You don’t need pesticides in your soup!

 

soup1

 

1 1/2 lb. pork tenderloin, cut into 1/4″ thick medallions, then cut in half
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 pint veal stock or chicken stock (homemade is best)
1/2 cup white wine (I like an un-oaked Australian chardonnay)
1 pint water
large pinch of bouquet garni
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 head organic kale, cleaned, stems removed, and chopped

 

 

Slice the pork tenderloin into 1/4″ medallions, then cut each medallion in half. Set aside.

In a bowl, add the flour (unseasoned). Set it next to the pork.

Heat a heavy skillet big enough to hold all the pork. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil or pork lard. Drop the pork pieces in the flour, coating them well, then shaking off the excess. (No egg wash needed.) Place them carefully in the pan and brown them on both sides. They don’t need to cook all the way through.

Leaving the pork in the pan, add the onions and stir, cooking for a couple of minutes. Then add the carrot and celery slices, stirring again. Sprinkle in the garlic salt and pepper, stirring again.

Add the stock, the wine, and the pint of water. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for a few minutes, stirring gently.

Add the chick peas. Then add the kale, a handful at a time, waiting for the greens to wilt into the soup before adding another handful. Do this until all the kale is in the pan. Add the pinch of bouquet garni. Bring the soup to a boil again, then reduce it to a medium-low simmer, uncovered.

The soup is ready when the veggies are tender, about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on it, and if the liquid has evaporated and it looks too thick, add more water, bringing to a boil with each addition, then reducing the heat.

Taste for seasoning before serving.

 

soup2

 

The original recipe for this white bean soup used bits of bacon. But it just so happened that I was planning on slow-cooking a pork shoulder in my smoker today. When the smoked pork met the white bean soup, it was a match made in pig heaven!

 

2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, finely chopped
1 smashed garlic clove
3 cans (15 1/2 oz.) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed, 1 1/2 cups reserved
40 oz. veal bone broth or chicken broth (homemade is best)
1/4 teaspoon bouquet garni
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Bacon fat and/or olive oil
A slab of slow-cooked smoked pork shoulder, pulled and shredded

 

In a large heavy saucepan, sauté the onion, fennel, and garlic in bacon fat or olive oil until they are tender, about 8 minutes.

Drain and rinse the cannellini beans, reserving 1 1/2 cups for later. Pour the beans in the saucepan.

Add the veal (or chicken) broth, the bouquet garni, and the salt and pepper.

Simmer for 15 minutes, then turn the heat off and let it cool for 15 minutes.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor, until smooth.

Return the soup to the pot and add the reserved beans. Heat it for 10 minutes, and then taste it, adding more salt and pepper, if needed.

 

 

To serve, place a mound of the pork, cubed or pulled, in the center of a bowl. Pour the soup on top, and drizzle with a touch of extra virgin olive oil. Chopped scallions, or fresh chives, or parsley on top never hurt!

 

 

 

The “paste” used in this dish is really more like a citrusy pesto that you smear all over the meat before cooking, preferably the day before. The citrus flavors work really well with the pork, and the initial high-heat cooking really gets the fat crispy and delicious. I used a pork loin here…but this is fantastic on a pork belly! Don’t use a pork tenderloin, but it’s very lean and will dry out.

image

 

1 pork loin, about 8 lbs. (I use Berkshire pork)
zest of 2 oranges
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
3 cloves garlic, through a press
1/4 cup olive oil

 

In a food processor, combine the orange and lemon zest, the rosemary, sage, salt and pepper, and garlic. Pulse the processor just to mix, then turn it on and add the olive oil slowly, in a stream, until you get what resembles an oily pesto.

Score the fatty side of the pork loin with a knife in a diamond pattern. Rub the paste on all sides of the pork, but especially into the cracks of the fatty side.

Lay the loin down on a rack, raised off a sheet pan, fatty side up. Place it in the fridge, unwrapped, overnight.

The next day, about an hour before cooking, remove the loin from the fridge and let it come back to room temperature.

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Bake the pork loin at 450 for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 and cook until the pork reaches a temperature of 140 degrees (light pink). Let it rest for 15 minutes before serving.

 

image

 

Let’s face it: there are few foods as magical as bacon. Add bacon to just about any dish you’re preparing, and it elevates it to incredible new heights of flavor. The BLT is possibly the greatest food combination ever invented: just a few simple, fresh ingredients, when placed together, transforming into one of the greatest sandwiches on planet Earth.

 

BLT wraps: home-cured and smoked bacon, local farmstead romaine, home garden tomatoes.

 

If I’m buying bacon, I go on-line to Burger’s Smokehouse, a family run business in Missouri that has made great bacon for decades. The prices are good, and they include shipping. (www.smokehouse.com) I buy in quantity and freeze what I don’t need right away. My favorite is the thick-sliced country bacon “steaks.”

But nothings beats making your own.

Bacon comes from the pork belly, and they’re easy to find in any good butcher shop. But to get something a notch above, I’ll buy a heritage breed, like Berkshire pork, from Heritage Pork International. (www.heritagepork.com)  I follow the simple curing techniques outlined in “Charcuterie,” a great book written by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.

To cure bacon, all you really need is salt and sugar, and what they in the curing biz call “pink salt,” which is not to be confused with salt that happens to be pink, like Himalayan salt you would find in a gourmet store. Pink salt is bright pink to let you know that it’s a special salt that should only be used in small quantities for curing. The reason is: nitrites. Nitrites delay the spoilage of the meat, and help keep the flavors of spices and smoke. They also keep the meat nice and pink instead of an unappetizing gray. That’s good. But nitrites can break down into nitrosamines, which have been known to cause cancer in lab animals. But let’s face it: you would need to eat a ton of cured meat to really worry about this. (I buy uncured deli meats and hot dogs at the supermarket, because processed meats are a different story. But since I know exactly what goes into my own bacon, I’m not worried about the level of nitrites.)

 

Just out of the smoker! Diamond-shaped slashes in the fat allow more of the rub to penetrate while curing.

 

To make the basic dry cure:

1/2 lb. kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar or turbinado sugar
1 oz. pink curing salt

Mix the ingredients well.

An important note: all Kosher salts do not all weigh the same! The two largest brands, Morton’s and Diamond Crystal, for example, are very different (Morton’s is heavier), so always go by the weight and not by a cup measurement.

Once the dry cure is mixed, I keep it stored in my pantry, ready to use when I need it.

When it’s time to be makin’ the bacon, I combine the dry cure with other ingredients to make my bacon rub.

 

My improved bacon rub:

1 cup basic dry cure (above)
3 tablespoons Kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal in my recipes, for consistency)
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon granulated onion

Mix these ingredients well. Rub it generously all over the pork belly. I like to slash the fat side of the pork belly with a knife, to make sure the rub permeates the meat.

I have a large plastic container with a lid that fits one slab of pork belly perfectly. I place the belly inside it, put the lid on, and place the container in the fridge. The pork belly stays there for at least a couple of weeks, maybe three. I flip the belly every few days. You’ll see that the salt will draw moisture out of the meat and form a brine. This brine will continue to cure your pork belly, so leave it in there. Just flip it, push the belly down into the liquid, then put the lid back on the container, and back in the fridge.

 

Pork belly in…bacon out!

 

In two or three weeks, once the pork belly has cured, rinse the belly with cold clean water, and pat it dry with paper towels. Now it’s time to cook. You can simply cook the pork belly at 200 degrees for about 2 hours…or smoke it. I place the pork belly in a digital smoker, which allows me to set an exact temperature. I smoke it at 250 degrees for at least 2 hours, using hickory chips.

 

 

Smoked bacon

And now it’s bacon!

That’s it. You have achieved bacon!

The reward is so worth the effort.
Smoking the pork belly won’t necessarily cook it all the way through, so you still have to slice it and fry it before eating. (Would you eat a raw package of bacon from the store? …Exactly!) That first slice you cut off your bacon and toss in a pan to lightly fry for a few moments will be the best bite you’ve ever had in your life!
And if you’re making one slab of bacon, why not make two or three? It freezes well. And…you will eat it. You know you will!
Frying in the pan!

Frying in the pan!

 

Slicing the bacon up for freezing.