Oven-Braised Masala Pork Shoulder with Eggplant

Back in the late summer/early fall when we were drowning in eggplant from my plot at the community garden, I had started to put it in almost everything I cooked. For example, in the lamb shanks curry that I posted a recipe for in early September. Buoyed by the success of that dish I kept on going, adding it to more meat dishes made with Indian ingredients. This is another that turned out very well.

I was also trying to free up space in our chest freezer for all the tomato sauce I was freezing for the winter and one of the things that had to go was the pork from the last pig we split with friends earlier this year. And so this pork shoulder got the eggplant treatment as well. I’m calling the dish “Oven-Braised Pork Shoulder with Eggplant” but you could just as easily think of it as pork curry with eggplant, just made in the oven rather than on the stove top. The meat is browned and removed; shallots, ginger and garlic are then sauteed with spices in the way they usually are in meat curries, tomato is added and cooked down. The eggplant—cut into thick segments so it holds its shape—goes in next, the browned shoulder is placed on top and then the whole is slow cooked in the oven. When done the pork is pulled off the bone and shredded and mixed in gently with the sauce and the eggplant. You can eat it with rice or parathas as you would a pork curry or you can eat it with dinner rolls or similar too. Continue reading

Braised Pork with Coconut Milk

We split a whole pig or two with friends every year. This is one of the perks of living in the semi-rural midwest. There are a large number of small farms all over Minnesota, many/most of which raise animals in a “humane” manner without the use of hormones and antibiotics and so on. You make contact with a farmer—or you can approach a meat locker/butcher that processes animals for small farmers and see if they know of any coming in—and when the time comes you get to specify your own cuts and sizes. It works out well for everyone involved. You get to support small farmers who raise their animals well and respect the land; and you get a lot of good meat at very good prices for the quality. This, at least, has been our experience. Of course it helps that we have a very massive freezer in the basement. Our cuts from the last pig we split included a couple of fresh ham roasts (basically hams that have not been cured or smoked). These can be cooked up just as you would a loin or shoulder roast and that is what I did here in an improvized recipe that is very loosely inspired by some combinations in Malayali cooking. It makes for an elegant dish with complex flavour that can be enjoyed equally with steamed rice or mopped up with some nice bread. Continue reading

Pork and Squash with Roasted Cumin

Many years ago the top Sichuan restaurant in Los Angeles—which is to say in the San Gabriel Valley, which is to say in the US—was Chung King in Monterey Park. In the early 2000s we ate there almost as often as we now do at Grand Szechuan here in the Twin Cities metro. Indeed, when we left Los Angeles for Boulder in 2003 there was a period when if one of us had to go back to L.A for a few days they were tasked with picking up an order of our favourite dishes the evening before their return, freezing it and bringing it back in their suitcase. We’re not as insane anymore—and, of course, Chung King’s heyday faded long ago, as they moved, lost their chef and closed; and as newer and, let’s face it, even better Sichuan restaurants opened in the SGV (your Chengdu Tastes and your Szechuan Impressions). Why am I going on about Chung King? Well, because on one occasion we saw a special come out of the kitchen and head to another table: it looked like a kabocha squash stuffed with meat. We managed to order one too and it did indeed turn out to be kabocha stuffed with highly spiced ground pork and cooked together. The only other thing I remember clearly is that it was dynamite and that we never had any luck finding it again. Continue reading

Spice-Crusted Pork Roast

Here is a recipe for a spiced pork roast which raises the question of what exactly the difference—if any—is between Indian cooking and cooking with Indian ingredients. I mean to say that this is not any sort of traditional Indian pork roast recipe. (Though, for all I know, it ends up approximating one made by a pork eating community somewhere in the country.) The ingredients aren’t all Indian either: there’s Sichuan peppercorn in the masala and the vinegars I recommend for making the paste that’s rubbed on the roast are either balsamic of Chinkiang black vinegar (affiliate link). Nonetheless, this falls squarely within an Indian flavour profile for me and we eat it happily alongside dal and other Indian vegetable sides—and also pulled apart and placed atop chapatis a la tacos. I’m not sure what to call it generically but it’s good. I make it in the slow cooker which adds the extra virtue of making it even easier. Continue reading

Pork and Beans II

One of my earliest recipes on the blog was this one for an Indian-style stew of pork and beans. Five years later, here is another. It is a simpler preparation than the previous but no less delicious. There are a number of similarities. Both use large white beans from Rancho Gordo. The first uses the very popular Royal Corona bean, this one uses the Large White Lima. The Large White Lima is a very underrated bean, in my opinion, if somewhat in the Royal Corona’s sizable shadow (I don’t mean to set up a Royal Corona backlash on account of its namesake.) You set the beans to cook simply with water and while they’re getting done you prepare the pork. When both are done, you add the pork to the beans, stir, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or so to let the flavours meld. You’re basically adding the pork as a sort of tadka to the beans. The pork itself in this recipe is made very simply, with very few ingredients, as a dry’ish curry. The combination of the pork and beans, however, is anything but basic: the flavour is complex and rich; and the whole is highly comforting. That’s a good thing at any time but especially in these times. Give it a go: you won’t regret it. Continue reading

Pork Pickle

Pork Pickle
I’d said that I wasn’t sure if I’d have any recipes this month either (I last posted one in mid-August) on account of the backlog of restaurant write-ups I need to put up. But then earlier this week I improvised this pork pickle and it came out so well that I couldn’t resist throwing a quick recipe up. It is extremely easy (though not extremely healthy) and if the notion of pork pickle seems odd—we’re not talking Western-style pickled meats here, but an Indian-style pickle/achaar with pork in place of a vegetable—just think of it as confit of pork shoulder with Indian spices. It’s very rich and a little goes a long way. But you can eat it with rice and dal, with chapatis or parathas, and you can even make sandwiches with it. It’s delicious and versatile and, as I already said, it’s very easy to make. The toughest part is to resist eating it on the first or second day as it “matures”.  Continue reading

Pozole Rojo

Pozole Rojo, Rancho Gordo
So I said last week in my Palak Posole post that I’d not already purchased hominy/posole from Rancho Gordo on account of the fact that I associated posole entirely with the Mexican soup/stew of near-identical name, and that as our local house of Mexican goodness, El Triunfo, offers a very good version on weekends I didn’t need to make it at home. Here I am, therefore, with a recipe for a rough and ready pozole rojo. You see, I soaked and cooked a pound of posole last week and even after using a lot of it in the Palak Posole and some more in a keema dish (recipe coming soon) I had a few cups left over. And as I also had a large package of pork neck bones in the freezer, it was hard to not end up making pozole. I’ve eaten a lot of pozole but have never made it before. Scanning the intertubes it didn’t seem like the hardest thing to do. What follows is an approximation/intersection of a number of recipes I looked at. If you want a more precise recipe (and with chicken rather than pork) you could do far worse than to look at the posole rojo recipe in the Rancho Gordo e-booklet on posole. Whatever recipe you use, the results are likely to be good. Continue reading

Pork Stew with Tomatoes and Tomatillos

Braised Pork with Tomato and Tomatillo
Well, there’s hot peppers in there too but it’s a long enough name for the dish as it is. I grow a lot of tomatoes and peppers every year and at the end of the growing season they take over the kitchen as I try to process them all. I make and freeze tomato sauces for pasta, oven-roasted tomatoes, cubes of charred and pureed hot peppers to drop into stews and soup and I also make a few trays worth of catch-all purees from the leftovers: I take a lot of tomatillos, tomatoes and hot peppers, char them quickly under the broiler, scrape off overly charred bits and then, once cool, puree them in the blender. I freeze each batch of puree and at some point later in the winter or early spring I braise chicken or pork in the puree. Each batch is different as I don’t really weigh or keep track of how many tomatoes or tomatillos I’m cramming onto each tray or how many habaneros are in each batch. Use the picture below as a guide. Also, you obviously don’t need to freeze this. You can make the puree and use it right away. Continue reading

Redder Pork

Redder Pork
The name of this dish refers to one of my earlier recipes: Red Pork. That one is very good too, but this, which is far simpler, may be even better. The end result is very close to a classic Goan vindaloo—hot yes, but also tangy/sour and sweet. There’s not a whole lot to it: very few ingredients (none esoteric), very little prep and it all but cooks itself. And as a bonus, on account of the large amount of vinegar in it, it will get better each day it sits in your fridge. Is there a reason you should not make this? No, there is not.

Don’t complicate matters by using shoulder: it will be a pain to cube. Do what I do: use so-called country-style ribs and cut cubes from the strips. Look for packages with strips with good veins of fat. You want the fat as this verges on confit, cooking in its own juices and fat.   Continue reading

White Bean Stew with Pork and Squash

White Bean Stew with Pork and Squash
I’m a little fuzzy on where the line between soup and stew is or on what basis it is drawn. I do know that it’s hard to go wrong cooking pork and beans together. Here they are joined by sweet cubes of butternut squash and only a few other ingredients to create a hearty and heartwarming bowl that’s perfect for cold Minnesota winters or pretty much any other day of the year, anywhere. In terms of flavours I would say that it’s Mexican-inspired and I’d hazard that if you were served this in a contemporary Mexican restaurant you wouldn’t think it was out of place.

As with all my bean cooking, this employs my friend Steve Sando’s Rancho Gordo beans. I made this with Alubia Blanca, a small white bean from his Xoxoc Project, a very worthy endeavour. I think the white beans give the dish a nice range of colours but you can make it with any other bean with similar texture: for example, Yellow Indian WomanContinue reading

Death by Pork (Thanksgiving 2015)

Braised Pork Belly
I am cooking for 21 for our Thanksgiving gathering on Thursday. Our friends are all bringing appetizers, side dishes and desserts but the main meal is on me. You’d think making six dishes for that many people would be enough hassle but when I found myself in the meat section at Costco staring at a 6 lb pack of sliced pork bellies, I couldn’t help myself. I had this vision of a vast amount of diced pork belly in a spicy-sweet-tangy sauce under a liter or so of rendered pork fat; and the responsible thing to do was to eat it along with 20 other people so none of us would die. That’s the kind of person I am: responsible.

I am, as I’ve said before, doing an Indianized Thanksgiving this year and so this will fit fine with the rest of the meal. Now pork may or may not be traditional at Thanksgiving but, believe me, no one is going to complain about having a more interesting meat than turkey on the table (even though I am giving the turkey a Kerala-style treatment, turkey is still turkey).  Continue reading

Roasted Pork Shoulder with a Masala Rub

Masala Pork Shoulder
My normal tendency with pork shoulder is to cube it and do something vaguely vindaloo’ish with it (see here and here). On Sunday, however, I was feeling too lazy to cut the shoulder up and didn’t really want to stand over the stove on another hot day. And so, I decided to marinate the whole thing and bung it into the fridge for a day and deal with it on Monday, forecast to be a much cooler day. I am happy to report that the weather did not play me false and that the improvized spice rub worked out really well. I did overcook it a little bit—I don’t do whole roasts very often and when I do, I don’t like pulling things out of the oven to stick meat thermometers into them; I play it by feel instead and sometimes it goes a little bit over. Not the end of the world, and the more capable roaster (such as yourself) will have no trouble getting that part of it fixed to your satisfaction.

Anyway, on to the pork!  Continue reading

Red Pork

Red Pork
I made this recently for a dinner party. I’m tempted to call it a vindaloo but then my Parsi and Goan friends might get angry. It’s generally in the vindaloo family in that it involves pork, vinegar and garlic but it is not a vindaloo: this is me messing around with a pork shoulder with general taste memories of proper vindaloo in mind. Proper vindaloo, in case you’re wondering, is made with pork. It is not made with lamb or beef or chicken as Indian restaurants in the US, afflicted by the curse of complete substitutability, may have led you to believe. Sweet, fatty pork is the meat for vindaloo—the only acceptable subsitute is duck. And the other necessary ingredients of a proper vindaloo, as indicated by the name, and as many North Indians also do not know, are vinegar and garlic. If I had a dollar for every time someone has told me that a vindaloo is made with vinegar and potato (alu/aloo in most North Indian languages) I’d be able to buy some Yamazaki 18 at the current price.

Anyway, I don’t know why I’m going on about vindaloo as this is not one—I believe I may have already noted this. What it is though is tangy, sweet and just a bit spicy and if your tastebuds and soul are not dead you will like it. It’s best made a day ahead.

Continue reading

Dry-Fried Smoked Pork with Asparagus

Dry Fried Pork with Asparagus
We could say this is to mark the end of asparagus season. Or we could say that I noticed that there was some asparagus in the fridge that was nearing the end of its life and could still be salvaged by snapping the top halves off. As there wasn’t enough of it for a dish in its own right, I decided to add the asparagus to the pork stir-fry I’d been planning for lunch. And I roughly adapted the recipe for dry-fried chicken in Fuchsia Dunlop’s excellent Sichuan cookbook, Land of Plenty. I’ve made this before with strips of pork and a range of vegetables—her recipe calls for chicken and celery but she notes that it can be made with all kinds of vegetables. The pork I was using was something called “smoked ham steak”—one of the cuts we got when we purchased a whole pig from a local butcher in February. I wasn’t really sure what this was going to be but it turned out to be smoked ham on the bone cut into two thick slices. As it was already ready to eat this made the dish an even quicker prep and the smoke added a nice touch.

Continue reading

Pork and Beans, Indian Style

Pork and Beans
Here’s a bonus recipe that is probably also the easiest recipe I will ever post. This is because it assumes that you have already made this pork. All you then have to do is cook some beans and at the very end add 3-4 ladles of the pork to the bean pot and simmer it all together till the beans are done. What you are basically doing here is adding the spiced pork as a “tadka” to the almost-cooked beans. As always, I use heirloom beans from my friend Steve’s company, Rancho Gordo but, obviously, any good beans will do—and you want to be cooking good beans because you want good pot liquor to add the dry pork to. And frankly there are no beans in the US better than Rancho Gordo beans.

In this recipe I used Rancho Gordo’s monstrously large Royal Corona beans—when fully cooked each bean is almost as large as a tablespoon—but this will work just as well with any beans that are good for pork and beans (such as Rancho Gordo’s Red Nightfall or Sangre de Toro). That said, I prefer a milder bean like the Royal Corona because its pot liquor/broth allows the flavour of the spiced pork to come through clearly (their Cassoulet or Alubia Criollos would be great too). But see what works for you. Continue reading

Spicy and Tangy Pork

Along with some friends we recently purchased half a steer headed to slaughter. It was a fairly large animal and even after processing and dry-aging for about three weeks our share of the meat came to about 80lbs. I’d purchased a very large freezer to hold the meat easily (the last time we did this our regular freezer was overwhelmed) and it is so big that 80 lbs of beef barely took up any room in it. So, of course, I went out and got half a pig (being able to do this kind of thing on a whim is among the few benefits of living in a semi-rural part of the upper Midwest). The goddamned freezer still seems less than half full and we have a lot of beef and pork to eat. Luckily, these are all animals raised without hormones and antibiotics and in fairly “humane” conditions. Anyway, all this is to say that those of you interested in my recipe posts can look forward to a fair number of beef and pork recipes in the months ahead. (And goat and lamb too—this is a monstrous freezer indeed.)

First up, here’s a version of a spicy and tangy pork dish that I have been making to some acclaim for about 10 years now. The exact ingredients are never quite the same and I vary the consistency of the gravy from time to time, but insofar as it is constant it’s a rough pass at versions of some pork dishes I’ve eaten in the homes of family friends from southwestern parts of India. So it’s not a specific regional recipe; but, to blow my horn twice in one paragraph, it is very good. Try it; you will like it. And if you have the ingredients it is very easy to pull together. Continue reading