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.

lots of pork, pig fat, pig jowl, pork, pork goodness, rendering lard

How To Render Lard

I have been searching for a pig jowl for over a year now. I have dreams of making guanciale. I’ve asked at butcher counters, farmers markets and friends who said they were buying in on a pig and I’ve come up empty on every front. That was until recently when Beth, from Dandelion Spring Farm, came through for me. She had jowl, she said, but it was sliced like bacon. Fine enough for me as I was happy to get the raw product. Pig jowl is very similar to an uberfatty pork belly, with streaks of meat almost like an after thought cutting through the stark white fat. I thought that maybe I could still work with it, cure it some how, until a friend told me that it wouldn’t work. So, what to do with nearly a pound of pig fat, I pondered.

Lard, I thought. Pure, beautiful, crust enhancing lard. Make it now and use it to make a pie crust when the Missus’ family comes up for Thanksgiving. Genius.

I didn’t realize, though I should have asked, that when she said it was sliced like bacon, that it was also smoked. Mistake on my part. It wasn’t, however, going to stop me from spending an hour or so after work tending to the task over my dutch oven. The only thing that would change would be what I eventually use the lard for. Now it gives me two months to figure out a plan for that. But, they’re Lithuanian, so anything pork based and fatty, is fine enough for them.

The crackling, which was munched on while the lard cooled, reminded me of the skin of some of the best fried chicken I’ve had in my life–which, of course, had been cooked in lard. It was easy, hardly time consuming and now I have a pint of liquid gold and some time to think of a really good use for it.

How to Render Lard–from The Homesick Texan.

What you need:
A pound or so of pig fat, either leaf lard or fat back. Leaf lard is the best grade of lard and is preferred for pastry, while fat back is the next-best grade of lard and is appropriate for frying. Each pound of fat will yield about a pint of lard.
A big pot
A lard stick (though a wooden spoon will suffice)
Some water
Some containers—Mason jars work nicely.
What to do:
1. Open your kitchen window.

2. After buying your fat, preferably from a farmer or butcher that treats its hogs humanely, chop it up into little pieces.
3. In a Dutch oven or heavy, large pot, add about a half of a cup of water to the pot, and then add the cubed fat.

4. On the stove, heat the pot on medium low, stirring occasionally (every 10 minutes).
5. After the fat starts melting (about an hour), you’ll hear some very loud pops. Do not be alarmed—that is just the last gasp of air and moisture leaving what will soon become cracklings (little fried pieces of pork). Now is the time to start stirring more often.
6. Soon after, the cracklings will start floating on the surface. Keep stirring frequently, but be careful—you don’t want the fat popping out of the pot and burning you.
7. When the cracklings sink to the bottom, the lard has been rendered.

8. Let it cool, and then pour it into containers through a colander or strainer lined with cheesecloth. The cracklings will be left behind in the cheesecloth and these make for a fine, fine snack, especially sprinkled over salad if that’s not too perverse for you.
9. The lard will be a yellowish liquid. This is what it’s supposed to look like.
10. Refrigerate it overnight and when it solidifies it will turn white. It will keep in the refrigerator for about three months, and the freezer for up to a year.

baked beans, Gourmet, Local foods, lots of pork, pork

Tuesday’s Maple Baked Beans and Pork Belly

From The Gourmet Cookbook.

**I used local Jacob’s Cattle Beans from Green Thumb Farms, located in Fryeburg, ME. I also added about a tablespoon of prepared spicy mustard to it for a bit more bite.

**I rendered the bacon fat, lightly browning the pork, and then sauteed the onions in it before adding all ingredients.

What else would you serve with pork spiked beans other than pork belly? Using up the remaining pork belly I had from Thanksgiving, I cooked it up in the same style.

With this being my first attempt at baked beans since moving to New England, I’m going to say that they were a huge hit on a very cold evening. The beans were creamy and, because of the added acid from the mustard, not overly sweet.

fun with avocados, lots of pork, pickling, pork belly dreams, pork belly tacos

Pork Belly Tacos with Guacamole and Pickled Red Onion

After spending the past month moving, unpacking and settling in, spending forever cleaning our old shit hole (if we have to go to court with our landlord over the security deposit I’m going to completely tell the story of that place here)…what better way to spend my first real day off than cooking for 7 hours straight?
I think, by the end of this post, you’ll understand why it was all worth it.

Onions completed.

Chile, garlic, citrus spice rub for pork with a bit of cinnamon.

Grilled pineapple ready to be minced for the Guac.

Inner workings of the guac: tomato, jicama, toasted cumin, mint, cilantro, lemon and lime juice.

Roasted Pork Belly

1 Pork Belly – 2-2.5lbs
Salt – Kosher
Black Pepper – Fresh ground

Prepare the pork belly: Preheat your oven to 425°. Dry the belly throughly with paper towel, this will help crisp the skin. Score the belly with a sharp knife in a diagonal pattern about 1/2″ apart. Scoring the belly allows seasoning to penetrate the meat and helps to keep the skin flat when roasting. Season the bellies aggressively, to taste, with salt and pepper. Rub the salt and pepper into the scores, making sure no areas are missed.

Roasting: Roast the belly on a wire rack over a sheet tray, so it doesn’t sit in it’s own fat when roasting. Make sure to place the belly fat side up, so its fully exposed to the heat of the oven. You can also place the belly on a bed of cut vegetables, like onions, celery and carrots when roasting to keep the pork off the bottom of the pan. Start the pork at 425° for 45 minutes uncovered, then reduce the oven to 350° and roast for 2 hours. Starting at a high temperature will give a jump start to the crisping process, lowering the oven assures the pork won’t over brown.

Note: Some bellies are fattier than others. To keep a smoke free kitchen, check the belly after 30-40 minutes and pour off the excess fat from the pan. Feel free to do this as many times as needed.

Out of the oven: Remove the pork from the oven once crispy and tender. Most importantly, let the beautifully golden brown pork belly rest for 20-30 minutes before slicing. Once rested slice thickly and enjoy!

Chili Garlic Rub
Here’s a quick and easy rub to put on the pork belly before roasting to add even more flavor.

5-6 Dried Cascabel Chiles – A mild, slightly sweet dried chile
5-6 Fresh Garlic Cloves – Peeled
1tsb Black Pepper – Fresh ground
2tsp Salt – Kosher
Zest of 1 Lemon

Make the Rub: Combine all ingredients in a spice grinder or coffee grinder. Pulse the ingredients until a thick paste is formed. Rub the paste on the raw pork belly before roasting.

Roasting: Follow instructions as posted above.

Zuni Cafe Pickled Red Onions

4 cups distilled white vinegar
Scant 2 cups granulated sugar
1 cinnamon stick, broken into a few pieces
4 whole cloves
2 pinches ground allspice
1 small dried chile, broken in half if you prefer a spicier pickle
2 bay leaves
About 20 black peppercorns
1 ½ lb. red onions

In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, cinnamon stick, cloves, allspice, chile, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil over high heat.

While the brine is heating, peel and trim the onions. Slice them into rings about 3/8 inch thick. Separate each slice into its individual rings, discarding any thin, leathery outer rings.

When the brine mixture boils, add about 1/3 of the onion rings and stir them under. They will turn hot pink almost immediately. As soon as the brine begins to simmer around the edges, about 20 seconds, stir them under again, and then remove the pot from the heat. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon, tongs, or a spider, and spread them on a platter or rimmed baking sheet to cool. They should still be firm. Repeat with the remaining onions, in two batches.

Once the onions have cooled—you can slip them into the fridge to speed them along—repeat the entire process, again in three batches, two more times, always adding the onions to boiling brine, retrieving them promptly when the brine begins to simmer again, and cooling them completely. [If you are cooling your onions in the fridge, this will not take as long as you think. It’s not so bad.] After the third round of blanching, thoroughly chill the brine. Transfer the onions and brine into jars: we used two quart-size Mason jars, which were each about two-thirds full. The most important thing is that the onions be in a container that allows them to remain submerged in the brine. Store in the refrigerator.

Age the pickles for at least a day before serving. They’re very good after 24 hours, but the flavors will have melded more harmoniously after 48. From there out, it’s delicious all the way.

The Guac was inspired by a brief happening upon the Drive-ins, Diners and Dives–or whatever it’s called on FoodTv–and his visit to Momocho in Cleveland. While I’m not a fan of the host of the show, I was drawn in by the chef’s combinations in his guacs(like smoked trout, goat cheese and crab meat). I however, went a simpler route and chose his combo of pineapple, jicama, chile and mint. I also added toasted cumin seed and, because my plants are no where near ready, I had to buy a few tomatoes. It was a small setback in my goal to NOT buy any this summer, but I just can’t have guacamole without them.

Overall, they were simply the best tacos I have made to date–even better than these— and it was definitely the BEST pork belly I’ve made as I didn’t manage to f up in one way or another. The skin had great cracklin to it and the citrus and chile in the rub really came through. The belly was perfectly drippy with fat and juices and wasn’t too bad a few hours later when I cut off a few more strips and enjoyed them straight up.

Pork Belly Tacos with Guacamole and Pickled Red Onion on Foodista