37 cooks, coffee marinated pork, cold weather comfort food, comfort food, lock-n-load java, pork

Task Force Zulu: Operation Cochon

The latest sponsor for 37 Cooks was Lock-n-Load Java, a veteran owned coffee company that was more than generous with sending us out our choice of samples. Before I made the ‘Charlie Don’t Surf’ cupcakes, I brined a lovely pork roast with some of their single origin Costa Rican ‘Task Force Zulu’ roast for over 24 hours and it paid off with a richly flavored, tender roast. Saddled up with some all day braised collards and a batch of mac-n-cheese and it was a smile worthy meal.  

Task Force Zulu: Operation Cochon
by Shannon T

1 cup strong brewed Lock-n-Load Java’s Task Force Zulu—Single Origin Costa Rica coffee, cooled
½ cup molasses

¼ cup maple syrup
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 ¾ pound pork loin roast, twine removed

Combine the coffee, molasses, vinegar, mustard, garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, the ginger, thyme and pork chops in a 1-gallon zip-top bag; seal and shake to combine. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours (I kept it in for 24).

Preheat the oven to 350F. Remove the pork from the bag. Strain the marinade into a saucepan; boil gently over medium-high heat, stirring, until reduced to 1/2 cup, 12 to 15 minutes.

Dry the pork loin with paper towels. Heat olive oil in an oven-proof pan until just under smoking. Season the outside of the pork with salt and pepper and sear the pork loin on all sides. Place the pan in the oven and cook until the internal temperature is 150, approximately 50 minutes. Remove the pork from the pan, place on a plate, tented with foil, and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Slice and drizzle the reduced sauce onto the pork. Enjoy.

*Served with garlic and onion sauteed kale and homemade mac ‘n cheese
cold weather comfort food, comfort food, curing what ails you, ME, Pho, Saigon Restuarant Portland, Vietnamese

Seeking Saigon

From the West End to the Eastern Prom and from Commerical Street to Park Avenue, the best of Portland’s dining scene can be found in a condensed space. But, there are some hidden gems that you actually have venture out a bit for, mostly to Forrest Ave. I’m talking Po’ Boys and Pickles, Susan’s Fish and Chips and Saigon Restaurant. They’re all their own representation of comfort food and are all restaurants that The Missus and I love not only for their charm, but for their delicious, and ridiculously inexpensive food.

A recent trip to Saigon was purely for the comfort factor. After an exceedingly stressful ending to the day, I wanted nothing more than to hunker over one of their sizable bowls of Pho (make no mistake, they are serving up the best in Portland) and be soothed by the warming blends of spices in their broth.

I can only make a guess as to what it contains: cinnamon? Star anise? clove? Black pepper? Unicorn Tears? It honestly doesn’t matter–you don’t always need to look behind the curtain to see how the magic is made–all I know is that it did it’s trick. My dish was ‘E7,’ a combination of rare beef and beef meatball, while The Missus, who is always a bit more adventurous when it comes to Pho consumption, ordered the ‘E8’ or Pho Special with tripe, nape, rare beef and well done beef. Her only sadness was that there was no meatball. Not that there was much room, even at a medium sized ordering, we were both struggling to finish the majority of the bowl.

Both were served with the traditional accompaniments of Thai basil, sawtooth herb, bean sprouts, sliced chiles hot chili paste and limes.

Surely, that would have been plenty for anyone, but this actually proceeded three other dishes like
the tofu soup that seems to be complimentary with every order.  We’ve been to Saigon three time and neither one of us has any idea what it actually is (aside from being a wonderfully sweet tofu soup that always only seems to have one pea in it).

The Missus always has to have her prerequisite Crab Rangoon. I wouldn’t say that there’s a whole lot of crab happening in these, but at least they don’t taste like the artificial crab that fills many a rangoon in town. To me, they came off more like extremely crunchy cream cheese dumplings.

But, the surprise of the meal, though was an appetizer special of steamed rice pancake, ground pork, pork skin, onions, pickled daikon and carrot, basil, lettuce, cucumber and fish sauce. It looked like a deconstructed Banh Mi, minus the baguette and mayonnaise. The hardest part was figuring exactly out how to eat it, but much of that didn’t matter once I took a bite of the pork. I didn’t care how messy this affair was going to get, everything on the plate, particularly the pate-esque hunk of pork, was delicious and I was going to clear it all. So, we finagled a few overstuffed rolls, that fell apart with every bite.

By the time we left, I had managed to drown a craptastic day in a giant bowl of Pho and fish sauce. Mai and her staff at Saigon are definitely serving up the cures to what may ail you and it’s more than worth the trip out Forest Ave. to pay them a visit. 

cold weather comfort food, lots of pork, pork, pork pie, savory pie crust, whole foods market recipes

Pork Pie

Chicken pot pie. Caramel apple pie. Blueberry cream pie. Lobster pie. Chocolate cream pie. I think it’s safe to say that this gal loves her pie. But, before a few weeks ago, I had never had a pork pie. Introductions were made during Whole Foods Market’s ‘Pie Smackdown,” a store wide sampling of various pies to celebrate ‘National Pie Day.’

Each department sampled out their own pies, from pizza in the Grocery department to apple pie in the bakery. But, it was the Meat department’s pork pie that won my vote and had me going back for seconds. The rich gravy and tender chunks of pork loin were a departure from the more traditional English pork pies, which tend to call for ground pork and other porky bits mashed together. This was a decadent, but much less dense, version.

I loved it so much that I snatched up one of their recipe cards and decided to make it at home.

Now, I did make some adjustments to the recipe:

  • I used chicken stock instead of pork. Deglazing the pan with the stock, working up those lovely brown bits from the bottom of the pan, darkened the stock and made the light stock fuller in flavor. 
  • For the mushrooms, I used a combination of sliced chanterelles, cremini and white button.
  • I also used bacon ends, which were less expensive. I threw the bacon and mushrooms in the pan at the same time and browned them up pretty well, until all of the moisture was out of the pan. 
  • I would recommend reducing the broth down a bit as this yielded a bit more than would fit in the pie crust. 
  • I also let it slightly cool before pouring it into the pie crust. 

And, well, a good filling isn’t worth anything without an equally good crust. So, I turned to the New York Times Savory Pie Crust recipe, doubling it to make a bottom and top crust.

2 cup plus 4 tablespoons (about 10 ounces) all-purpose flour, more for rolling
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into about 16 pieces*
5 tablespoons ice water, more if necessary.
*I used Kerrygold unsalted butter because of it’s high fat content. I think that was the key to making such an unbelievably flaky, golden crust.

1. Combine flour and salt in a food processor and pulse once or twice. Add butter and turn on machine; process until butter and flour are blended and mixture looks like cornmeal, about 10 seconds.

2. Put mixture in a bowl and add 5 tablespoons ice water; mix with your hands until you can form dough into a ball, adding another tablespoon or two of ice water if necessary; if you overdo it and mixture becomes sodden, add a little more flour. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic and freeze for 10 minutes or refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (You can refrigerate for up to a couple of days or freeze for up to a couple of weeks.)

3. Sprinkle a clean countertop with flour, put dough on it, and sprinkle top with flour. Use a rolling pin to roll with light pressure, from the center out. If dough is hard, let it rest for a few minutes. If dough is sticky, add a little flour; if it continues to become sticky and it is taking you more than a few minutes to roll it out, refrigerate or freeze again.

4. Roll, adding flour and rotating and turning dough as needed; use ragged edges of dough to repair any tears, adding a drop of water while you press patch into place.
–For rolling out the top crust, I followed #3 and #4 above and rolled the crust around the rolling pin and unraveled it  on top of the pie. I then crimped the two crusts together and vented the top crust with a few quick slashes with a sharp knife. I finished with a slight egg wash and placed it in the over to bake.

Cobblestones, cold weather comfort food, panini sandwhiches in maine, pastrami sandwiches

Cobblestones to the Rescue

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. I’ve been fighting something off and, worse yet, we’re speeding our way into the busiest time of year for me at work. My back was screaming from lifting well over a literal ton of product and my mind was buzzing from being constantly bombarded with questions. When I left work, I was beaten and tired. Then I found myself walking across Monument Square and felt beckoned by the sign for Cobblestones. Truthfully, I hadn’t revisited the site since Henry the VIII’s vacated and it was a mixture of hunger and curiosity that led me inside.

I was extremely happy that I did. Granted, I was a bit thrown by the quote from FromAway that is plastered across the front window:

“A workaday sandwich shop as designed and imagined by people who clearly think about and care a lot about sandwiches.”

It’s a nice, apropos quote but I just found extremely weird that a quote from a blog would be used so prominently to advertise a business. But, if it draws the curious and gets people in the door, then whatever works, right?

But, we’re not talking about my personal feelings about that (and it’s in no way personal towards either the shop or the blog) it is completely rooted in finding it weird that blogs, in general, are used to promote/market a business. But, you know, TV shows and movies are starting to use peoples Tweets to promote their shows… so, yea… I guess that’s where this is going.

Anyway, back to the sandwich.

I ordered the Hot Boston Brisket Pastrami, served with Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, deli mustard and grilled on Marbled Rye. I lucked out by walking in five minutes before their door closed. If I had missed the opportunity… If I had just been five minutes later… My day would have ended on a much fouler note than it did because this sandwich was exactly what I needed. Perfectly peppered and tender Pastrami was definitely the star, cut thick and piled generously on the rye. And, c’mon, who in their right mind DOESN’T like Marbled Rye? If that’s you, then you’re no friend of mine. The onions were a bit of a throw away for me, though they did add a nice sweetness against the biting whole grain mustard.

While different, I will say that the owners of Cobblestones may actually be putting out a heartier, more satisfying sandwich than the former occupants. My visit may have been completely on a whim, but the wonderful, ‘just exactly perfect‘ sandwich I had, on a not so perfect day, will bring me back for some of their other tempting offerings in the near future.

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