Mark Bittman's Brasied Pork + Beans 'n Greens

I wasn’t sure if I would blog Mark Bittman’s Braised Pork with Red Wine from the New York Times food section (3.22.06) since my photos of it didn’t come out that pretty, but I’m posting it right now because:

(1) It’s snowing outside here in midtown Manhattan! A snow squall in the middle of the spring seems like the perfect time to make this dish. The pork braises in red wine; they gravy isn’t thick and wintery.

(2) I really appreciate the lesson Bittman taught in this article: “One of the great paradoxes of the modern supermarket is that the best cuts of meat are sometimes the cheapest.” I enjoy foraging around for ingredients and going from store to store for the best cuts of meat, but it was great to run to the Met Foods on the corner, pick up meat for about $5 and serve dinner for 3. Excellent. Hacking into a pork shoulder to make stew-sized pieces was great stress relief.

(3) CQ and I have a new favorite side: Beans and Greens, a recipe from Mark Bittman’s big yellow How to Cook Everything. They are in this photo too. I never cooked with kale until it started showing up in my kitchen week after week in my Urban Organic box. I had to find some way to cook with the stuff. The secret to making it taste so delicious seems to be boiling a single clove with the beans. The white beans and kale don’t look too photogenic next to the egg noodles, but try it you’ll like it . . . both recipes are perfect for one last snowy Wednesday. Just be sure to rinse the kale and the beans carefully first, since both can hide lots of grit.


My poor big red pot

I heard from more people about my St. Patrick's Day post than another other post, so thanks for those.

Tonight, I wanted to share the not-so-good side of the story. Look what steaming the potatoes, cabbage and carrots did to my favorite pot.

I still can't figure out what went wrong. I thought I put in enough water to keep the whole pot steaming away. The lid was pretty tight and I added extra water a couple of times.

Is it that starches from the potato burned the bottom? Or sugar from the cabbage caused this to burn? Or is it just that I had to be more vigilant about adding water? Anyone know what I did wrong?

It's been a couple of weeks since this happened. Since then I've been scrubbing gently at it and runnin it through the pot cycle of the dishwasher. I realized that if I scrub too hard, the enamel chips.

Whisky, cheese and cold meatloaf sandwhiches

Last night, R* and I took a class on Single Malt Whisky & Cheese at Murray’s Cheese Shop.

Of the five pairings they presented last night, there’s one stand-out winner, a cheese I can’t get out of my head: La Tur. The hand-out from the class calls it “a dense, creamy blend of pasteurized cow and sheep milk. Runny and oozing around the perimeter with a moist, cake-y, palette-coating paste. Its flavor is earthy and full."

I’d never tasted cheese with that kind of texture before – slightly wetter than a cheese cake without the sugar. Spring-like. I’m going to take some home to the family for Easter.

They paired the La Tur cheese with Scapa 14 Year Old whisky from the north of Scotland. It was smooth and sweeter than the other whisky at the tasting. When tasted with the cheese, it was like dripping some flowery honey down the edges of each bite. I’m wondering if I could find a honey to pair it with when I serve this cheese.

The last thing we tasted was Laphroaig 10 Year Old whisky at cask strength (115% proof) paired with Mrs. Quicke’s Cheddar from Devon. The smoke and sea-air taste in the whisky was a match for the dark earthy taste of the cheese. I thought the cheddar was oddly dry at first, but then Sasha the instructor for the cheese portion of the evening, called it “clay-like” and explained how the cheese crumbled up in the mouth but then came back together with the Laphroaig for a great finish.

When the class ended, R* and I walked out into an April shower, still tasting lingering smoke from the last sample, and took the subway home. I went right to bed, while R* got to work in the kitchen.

He made us meatloaf sandwiches, with what was left over from the Mrs. Kostyra's Meatloaf 101 I made for Sunday dinner. R* buttered the wheat bread and then put a nice layer of ketchup on top of the cold meatloaf. There was great balance between the garlic and the onion in it and the little specks of carrot made me happy. The browned bits of glaze, made from ketchup, dry mustard and brown sugar, went great with the rain and the super-long-lasting finish of the peaty Laphroaig. Maybe I'll serve Laphroaig on the rocks with my next meatloaf dinner and then a nice cheddar for dessert.


St. Patrick's Day Reclaimed

Shortly after moving to New York, I stopped celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. After growing up always celebrating St. Patrick's Day, I stopped wearing green to make the holiday. I lmade fun of those green-dyed carnations delis push for St. Patrick’s Day. I made sure I didn’t go near the parade and I never cooked corned beef and cabbage. I decided that since gay and lesbian people were not allowed to march in the parade, I wouldn’t honor the holiday. Since they didn’t want me, I didn’t want them.

This year, something changed in me. I saw those plastic shamrock banners flapping in front of the Irish bars around my office and instead of feeling angry at being excluded from the parade, this year I felt excited, even proud of the bit of Irish heritage my family claims.

I started thinking about corned beef, steamed cabbage, Jameson’s Irish whiskey and beer. Lots of beer. I started thinking about the shamrock my grandfather had painted on his front door and about my grandmother and my mom making (or attempting to make) big steaming pots of corned beef and cabbage.

With our new city council speaker Christine Quinn protesting the rights of lesbians and gay men to march in the parade, I saw an opening. Speaker Quinn was doing such a good job of protesting that I could go ahead and have my holiday back. A few days before St. Patrick’s Day, I went to a pre-theater dinner in Times Square and ordered the corned beef and cabbage. It was much better than I expected.

The trick, I think, was that they made the vegetables and the meat in separate pots. This kept the vegetables from getting coated in grease and getting overcooked. Cooking them separately might border on sacrilegious to some (My mom reported that she cooked her corned beef and vegetables in the same pot, under my grandmother’s watch), but I did my research and found out that this boiled dinner isn’t authentic Irish food. It’s considered an Irish-American adaptation so I figured I could keep adapting.

I steamed the potatoes, carrots and cabbage in my stock pot while I boiled the corned beef in a dutch oven with peppercorns, two bay leaves and a clove. I didn’t cure my own corned beef, but I’m excited about trying that next time.

I had memories of corned beef dinners past where it all ended up as one boiled mass of mush, but by steaming the vegetables, they stayed bright and kept their shape. I made three rows on the planner: row of carrots, potatoes and cabbage. Then I laid the corned beef on top of the cabbage. CQ bought some Yuengling Lager – my favorite beer – and we were all set for dinner. I think we all liked it much more than we expected.

[Thanks to my friends at Apartment Therapy Kitchen for this post on 4 ways to cook corned beef. And thanks to [2] for reminding me to finish this post.]