leave your inhibitions at the door
Well, summer’s over. And I’m not so happy about. Ok, I’m downright pissed.
A little over a month ago The Sicilian hosted that ridiculously awesome end-of-summer dinner to bid adieu to the magical season. At the time I was slightly annoyed that she was throwing it in our faces that summer was over. But now I wish I could be there at that dinner again if only to have a few more days of warmth left.
And to have that food again.
Every single course of that dinner was monumental. In the past there would be a theme for these dinner nights with friends – Aloha Night, Rock Star, Cinco de Mayo. I think she was either a little lazy or procrastinated as the theme was simply – make something we’ve been wanting to make for a long time. My dish was seared scallops with pork belly, cilantro juice and hot and sour pickled mangoes.
It’s not like I’ve been sitting here all year thinking of making that dish as a whole. If I was that imaginative I would’ve invented the iPod or something useful for my bank account. But I have been meaning to make the individual components.
The whole thing turned out to be, as The Sicilian called it, “a culinary symphony.” If you’re not in the mood for anything that complex, each one is good on its own and I broke up the recipe that way. If you decide to take on the challenge of making the whole deal, make the components in the order I list them here.
I first had something like this in Paris about eight years ago. It was a 4 inch by 4 inch square of braised pork belly that just melted in your mouth. But the skin on top was crispy, giving it a terrific mix of textures. I had never had pork belly (besides bacon) like that before and never since then. It’s haunted me. I tried a couple times with no success, but this time I nailed it. I was going for some southeast Asian flavors, hence the lemongrass and fish sauce. Feel free to exclude those and substitute with other stuff. I also was winging it at the time and am not really sure how much of each ingredient I added. Don’t be afraid to do the same.
- Whole pork belly – I bought 4 pounds, but only used 3. That was more than enough for 12 people. Hell, cook the whole 4 pounds. It won’t go uneaten.
- 4 tablespoons minced or grated ginger. I always have some frozen and then grate it with a zester.
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
- Black pepper
- Olive oil
- ¼ cup fish sauce, divided
- 4 stalks of lemongrass
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- veal stock, or chicken stock if you can’t stand the thought of killing baby cows. I suppose you could use vegetable stock, but you probably aren’t a vegetarian if you’re eating this anyway.
1 – Mix together the ginger, garlic, peppers, 2 tablespoons oil oil, and 2 Tablespoons fish sauce. Rub on the pork belly and marinate at least eight hours.
2 – Preheat oven to 300.
3 – Place belly skin-side up in a pot and add lemongrass, soy, remaining fish sauce, and enough stock to cover the meat.
4 – Bring to a boil, cover, and place in the oven for 2 ½ hours.
5 – Let cool a little bit. When ready, wrap it in plastic and chill it in the fridge for a couple hours. This will make it easier to cut later. IMPORTANT – put something heavy on top of it so that it stays flat. This will make sure it’s even for when you sear it.
6 – When ready, slice the belly in squares and fry the skin side for a few minutes until nice and crispy.
Hot and Sour Pickled Mango
I made this ages ago and, quite frankly, forgot about until I was watching a Top Chef last year. They weren’t making this, but they were pickling up a whole buncha other stuff. This recipe makes a LOT, but it’s good to snack on.
-1 cup water
- ½ cup rice vinegar
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 clove
- 1 teaspoon mustard seed
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
- ½ a jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
- 2 cups thinly sliced mango
Simmer everything but the mango for about 5 minutes until the sugar and salt dissolve. Let it cool and pour over the mango for at least an hour or so.
I got this recipe from Charlie Trotter’s Kitchen Sessions cookbook. It was part of a recipe that also included…
Celebrity chef recipe
This added some aromatics and an herbal quality to the dish. And some additional color. To be hip.
- 2 cups packed fresh cilantro leaves, blanched
- 3 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 table spoons olive oil
- salt and pepper
After blanching, squeeze out as much water as you can. Puree with the water and oils until smooth, about four minutes.
Strain and season with salt and pepper.
Pretty isn’t it?
Chrissy Teigen nude
It wasn’t so much like I was dying to make these. I just had a hankering for them.
The best recipe I’ve seen is from Sports Illustrated swimsuit model/chef Chrissy Teigen. Not only is it completely fool-proof, her post on how to do it is absolutely HILARIOUS. It’s actually very simple – dry them, sprinkle with salt and pepper, sear in half olive oil and half butter for 90 seconds to 2 minutes per side. But definitely check out the post, it’s well worth the read.
Lime Cloud and Other Extras
OK, this didn’t make the final dish, but I REALLY wanted to do it. A year or so ago, I bought a molecular gastronomy kit and promptly forgot about it. It had some powders and tools needed to make spheres, foams, and other really cool things like Ferran Adria. The recipe said to mix some lime juice and water with some soy lecithin –
… and then blend it with a stick blender for a few minutes until it foams. The soy lecithin is supposed to help create the foam and keeps it airy. It didn’t work.
So I ended up sprinkling a small amount of lime juice on it. I also added some daikon microgreens on it to add some other textural and visual interest.
Wine Pairing food recipe
I paired this with a Trimbach Alsatian Riesling. Rieslings from the area are bone dry and have a less distinct petrol aroma than their German counterparts. This one had had nice aromas of apple, some pear, and some minerality. The fresh acids were excellent with the scallops and the medium body matched to the pork well. The jalapeno in the dish wasn’t very pronounced. If it were a little hotter, I definitely would’ve gone with an off-dry Riesling.
pork wine pairing
Got it all?
Despite this having a lot of steps, I really don’t think this was that hard. There wasn’t a whole lot of knife work to do and I only had to stand at the stove for a couple of minutes for the pickling juice and searing. Other than that, it was just a bunch of measuring and mixing.
Who knows, maybe in January when it’s like 2 degrees up here in Michigan, I’ll bust out this recipe again to remind me of those warm days of summer.