ReLocavore: Redefining "local"

A locavore moves from Wisconsin to New Hampshire and rediscovers what "local" means.


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Dirt Oven Cooking?

I caught this interesting description of Dirt Oven Cooking from Catching Fire by Richard Wrangham (not related to the Hunger Games sequel… which makes it a difficult book to find on Amazon searches.)

“…the Aranda of central Australia [way of cooking meat] involved digging a hole, filling it iwht a pile of dry wood, and topping that with large stones that did not crack when heated–often river cobblestones that had to be carried from a distance. When the stones were red-hot and fell through the fire, they were pulled out with sticks and the ashes were removed. The hot stones were then returned and covered with a layer of green leaves. Cooks liked to wrap meat in leaves to retain its juices before placing it on this layer, sometimes on top of a plant food such a roots. More green leaves and perhaps a basked mat would be laid on top, water was poured on, and some people added herbs for taste. Finally, the hole was filled with a layer of soil to retain the steam. After an hour or more–sometimes it was left overnight–the meat and vegetables would be ready and superb. The meat was laid on leave branches, carved with a stone knife, and served. The even heat and moist environment made earth ovens efficient for gelatinizing starch and other carbohydrates, and they offered effective control over the tenderness of meat. This sophisticated cooking technique doubtless increased the digestibility of the meat and plant foods” (pp124).

So, backyard pot roast anybody? Gristly beef chuck roast, fat potatoes, sweet potatoes, maybe some onions and herbs. I’d eat that.

Should I try it out in my backyard? Anybody have some river cobblestones that I could carry from a distance?

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Tomorrow we make The Pie…

11.06 lbs of strawberries picked again at the lovely Edgewater Farm. $2.50/lb. Picked in my own containers – they now charge $1.50 for a wax-coated picking box. $27.67 total. 45 minutes of work.


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Enough with the “bone broth”

Sorry folks, but I’m feeling overcaffinated and ranty today.

Enough with the “bone broth,” okay? It’s stock. Seriously. Bone Stock. Stock cooked to death with a little acid. Nutritionally there is almost no difference. Food people At BonAppetit and  At Epicurious, and The LA Times agree.

 

You make stock and bone broth the exact same way. Jacques Pepin, who I will offer as an authority on making stock, since he is a classically trained French chef and has received many awards for his cooking. He combines 3 lbs of chicken bones to 6 quarts water (aka 12 lbs of water, because pint’s a pound the world around), for a ratio of 1 to 4 bones to water. Add spices. Cook. Skim, etc…

To make bone broth is the exact same thing. Plus a tablespoon of vinegar.

Why does “bone broth” cost $1.00 more at the store? It’s the SAME THING. In fact, it’s less of a thing, because the manufacturer doesn’t need to add any salt to it. It should be less expensive, not more.

 


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Pig Tails, Part 7: Pulled Pork in the Slow Cooker

What else are you going to do with a 5 lb pork shoulder? Pulled pork, of course. Earlier, I used the other half of the shoulder to make carnitas. Today, I put the second pork shoulder into the slow cooker, added some onions, garlic, spices, stock and ignored it for 7 hours. Voila! Pulled Pork.

Today, we added barbecue sauce and had pulled pork sandwiches. Tomorrow, I will use more of the slow-cooked pork and the cooking liquid and beans to make a hearty pork and beans soup. I’ll probably make cornbread too. I deserve good cornbread.


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Pig Tails, Part 8: Tonkatsu

Jan 13, 2018 Correction. I incorrectly translated tonkatsu as pork fried. According to Kenji Lopez-Alt, Katsu is a phonetic translation of the English word cutlet.

“The word “katsu” is gairaigo, the Japanese term for words borrowed from other languages. The simplest phonetic translation of “cutlet” to Japanese vocalizations is katsuretsu, which in turn is shortened to katsu. Add ton—the Sino-Japanese word for “pork”—to the front of that and you’ve got tonkatsu, or breaded fried pork cutlets… Got it? Good. Let’s move on to more fun stuff.” (HT)

For Christmas Day dinner, I defrosted the smaller of the loin roasts (3.6 lbs), deboned it, cut it into thin loin slices and deep fried up some tonkatsu. Tonkatsu is Japanese pork cutlet: Ton = Pork, Katsu = cutletfried. It’s Japanese because it is breaded with panko bread crumbs and traditionally served with special Tonkatsu sauce. Clearly though, this is a modern Japanese dish.

Tonkatsu has been a special dish in my family because it is a giant pain to deep fry food, so we only made it on special occasions like Christmas or birthdays. I remember mom and dad filling the wok with hot oil and setting this special grate on the side of the wok to let the pork cutlets drip oil back into the wok, like pictured below. When I make tonkatsu, I use a deep cast iron pot because I don’t own a wok. The cast iron pot weighs a ton, which means it has a lot of thermal mass, so keeps the oil at a more stable temperature when frying. I do a lot less fussing with the temperature. Set the heat, wait, and done.

If you want to make Tonkatsu, don’t. It’s a gigantic pain in the ass and you end up with fried pork cutlets. There are faster and easier ways to make good pork. But this is nostalgia. That is powerful.


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Pig Tails, Part 6: Carnitas

If I eat at an America-Mexican restaurant, I don’t order fajitas, I order carnitas. Carnitas is braised then charred pork. Recipes add flavorings like cumin or citrus to the mix. I couldn’t imagine a better way to cook a pork shoulder.

The pork shoulder is a well-marbled piece of meat with an awkward bone going through the whole piece. Pork shoulders make for a good roast because you can’t slice it up pretty. Pork shoulder has lots of connective tissues that break down into mouth-coating gelatin after low, slow cooking. All of this combines to make beautiful carnitas.

Recipes

We ate the carnitas with these lovely corn and wheat tortillas from the COOP, avocados and salsa. Wonderful!


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Pig Tails Part 5: Arista

Arista is a Tuscan style pork roast with pepper, rosemary, garlic and olive oil. My father taught me how to cook this roast.

Recipes

I started cooking the pig with the bone-in loin roast. This is a tender and well-marbled cut with plenty of connective tissue and tasty bones for gnawing (See pictures below). Typically this roast is cut into pork chops, but a better way of cooking it is to roast it.

I make a paste of rosemary, black pepper, garlic, salt and olive oil, then slice into the meat diagonally across the grain at 1/2″ cuts. I stuff the cuts with the paste and tie it all up. 400F until 150F. Rest for 30 minutes. Slice. Gnaw bones.