"Cook" is for all things savory.

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Pork Ragu

Pici

Sorry to have kept you waiting a while for this recipe.  I’ve just been a bit busy.  But better late than never, yes?  So, the ragu I made to go with my heretic pasta the other night was made with pork, because, as I said before, why offend only one religion when you can do three at once.  Ha.

The recipe came from Paul Bertoli’s amazing book, Cooking by Hand. This is not a book for the faint of heart, I should warn you.  The Ragù alla Bolognese recipe alone is over 1,500 words–but who am I to complain about long winded treatise on a traditional dish, you’ve seen my Pad Thai recipe, right?

The recipe calls for beef, ground chuck, skirt, or hanger steak to be precise, but I made it with ground pork butt instead, because my friend Beccy doesn’t eat beef.  (Yeah, you can choose your friends but you sure can’t choose what they eat!)

So, here’s my slightly bastardized version of Paul Bertoli’s Ragù alla Bolognese.  Hey, if you want the real thing you could always go buy the book.

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Pasta with Pork Ragu; or how to piss off two gods with one bowl, Part I

Strozzapretiragu

After the holidays indulgences, I’m sure I’m not the only one craving something homey and comforting.  And after all the religious pomp and circumstances we were exposed to -voluntarily or not- during that time, I guess I’m also not the only one with a hankering for a little rebellion.  That’s when an idea struck me.  I knew just what I wanted to eat, Strozzapreti pasta.

Strozzapreti pasta is a traditional pasta shape from the Romagna region of Italy.  The Italian name is literally priest-chokers in English.  Legend has it that this particular shape, sort of resembling a short, twisted bit of rope, signified a religious rebellion in the region long suffered under Papal rule (from the 13th all the way to 19th century).  Romagna housewives would cook this pasta for the local priests, in hope that they would choke to death as they scoffed it down greedily.  A heretic pasta for my very own post-holidays rebellion, how perfect!  To go with this pasta I made a ragu.  You don’t have to be Italian to find ragu homey, yes?  This time my ragu would be made of pork, because why offend only one religion when you can easily do two (or three, actually)?

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Thai-marinated fried chicken

Thai fried chicken

If you’ve been to Thailand, you’ve seen those fried chicken carts at practically every street corner, with the giant wok smoldering like a witch’s cauldron filled with dark, smelly oil that seems as ancient as the broken down cart itself.  What those carts produce are the bright, bright gold, impossibly crisp, mind-blowingly flavorful pieces of fried chickens, so good you willingly suspend all your hygienic concerns.  Who cares how long those chickens lingered in the tropical heat with only the dodgiest "refrigeration", who gives a damn about how many times the oil has been re-used.  I’m going to take a big bite and let that crisp, garlicky, chicken-y goodness shatter into a million little pieces in my mouth and just die happy.  Wouldn’t you?

Luckily, you won’t need to hop on a plane – or get a special dispensation from your doctor – before you can eat one.  I’ve figured out how they’re made.  And it’s so very simple.  The trick is, let me just come out and tell you, rice flour.  You dredge the chicken pieces in rice flour, that’s what give them the crispiest skin.  I also marinate them in a paste made with garlic, oyster sauce, and fish sauce to give them a bit extra kick in the flavor department.

I just made a batch of this for lunch on the boat yesterday.  They were still a little crisp (and still dee-lish) even after a few hours in a cold box.  I’d show you a picture but we devoured them all before I could get the camera out from the cabin…

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Chicken Soup for the American Soul

Chickensoup

Last Tuesday was a very special moment, one which we will recall with perfect clarity, years into the future, precisely where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news.  Yes, that news.  That change arrived.  It’s the moment we saw the very embodiment of our ideals.  Whether you believe in the much-maligned notion of the American Exceptionalism, this was truly a uniquely American story. 

Where was I, you asked?  I was home, like millions of you, glued to the television, watching with baited breath as the returns came in.  It’s not the kind of night I wanted to spend a lot of time in front of the stove.  I wanted something simple to make, and something comforting, like the old cashmere sweater, a little frayed at the edges, I was wearing that night.  So I made a chicken soup.  My simple chicken soup, with ingredients that didn’t require a special trip to the store.  Like my simple tomato sauce, it’s something I’ve done for such a long time, and thought it almost too simple to even blog about it.  And, yes, it’s David again who suggested I woite a post about it.

What’s so special about the soup then, you asked?  Well, it’s nothing special at all.  That’s it.  It’s made with just five ingredients: a chicken, an onion, a couple carrots and a couple more stalks of celery.  And the fifth ingredients?  Water.  Yes, just plain water.  And then some salt and pepper to taste.  That’s really it.  I sometimes use a teaspoon of curry powder if I have some on hand.  Just a tiny amount, not to make it taste like a curry, but just enough to register a little complexity in the broth.  I cook everything just until the chicken is done, then remove the meat and cook only the bones for a little while longer, extracting every bit of flavor and body out of the bones, before putting the meat back in and serve.

This simple and intensely flavorful soup was the perfect food for the climate that night – comforting, renewing, just what we needed, a chicken soup for the American soul.

Americansoul

(Images from the Huffington Post)

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The Pig Roast: early morning

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The day of our big pig roast.  Meet Rudolf (named in honor of Rudolf Steiner, the father of Biodynamics, if you want to know), a ninety-pound dressed pig who was the be the center of attention on this day. 

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And here’s David with his five o’clock shadow–five in the morning, in this case.

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