Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Pork Supper With Shari

Mark Bittman is leaving the New York Times, well at least he's leaving the wednesday food section and ending his column (one of my favorites), The Minimalist. The man I've often heard called America's best home cook (does his leaving mean the title is up for grabs?) in a short weekly story taught a vast readership to not be afraid, try cooking at home, or experiment with a new ingredient cooked in a simple straight forward way. He had endless recipes for achievable dinners. In fact -- his incrediblly useful cookbook is called "How To Cook Everything," and it seemed he actually knew. I may not follow his recipes exactly but he always provided a starting point to great dinners. As part of his farewell Bittman published a list of his 25 favorite columns. There staring me in the face was his super easy, crusty brown, crisp skinned pernil, the Puerto Rican slow cooked pork specialty, I couldn't wait to pull that out of my oven. Only one problem. Although I dreamed of crisp skin shattering under my knife's touch, searching several LA markets (gourmet and grocery) not only could I not find a shoulder roast with the skin on I could barely find one with a bone (that took 3 stores). I should have dusted off my very rusty Spanish and headed into the nearest Latino market -- just didn't think of it in time. Anyway with a shoulder roast in hand I mixed up Bittman's not quite traditional seasoning paste of 1 onion, 4 cloves garlic, 2 TB fresh oregano, S&P, 1 TB cumin, 1 tsp mild chili powder, and olive oil. I mixed in 1 TB of white vinegar and rubbed the paste all over the roast (I had made some slits with my knife to help the seasoning seep into the meat). Pork isn't as fatty as it used to be and without the fat cap and skin I feared my roast would dry out in the oven so I popped it in the crock pot and let it slowly simmer all day. Meanwhile I cooked up some long grain rice with chicken broth and a dab of butter, a pot of greens from our garden braised in olive oil and garlic, and homegrown lima beans simmered in water, butter and pepper until tender and finished with a bath of cream and salt. As I laid everything out on the platter Shari and I mixed up an avocado salad with sliced red onion, doused in olive oil and salt. Although Bittman doesn't suggest it, I mixed up a mojo sauce of sorts to pour on the meat and rice -- garlic oil, orange juice, vinegar, cumin, S&P. Once again Bittman was a great starting off point. I'm a little embarrassed to say I'll miss him. He's not hip or local or self-righteously seasonal, but a friendly purveyor of basic recipes. We probably need more like him.

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