This was the main attraction for Mrs. Nice’s birthday lunch and it was super good. I used a pork shoulder instead of a pork belly (because I couldn’t find one at the time) and made some drastic adjustments in cooking time, but the recipe is more or less the same as the one from Good Housekeeping.
Start by preheating your oven to 450°F and grab a large shallow roasting pan. Plop a 3lb pork shoulder right in the middle, so there’s lots of space on all sides. Rub it all over with olive oil and salt and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, turn the heat down to 350°F and let it keep cooking, sizzling away, for another half hour. Then grab 6 small eating apples (these are giant Cortlands, which are neither small nor eating apples, but that’s neither here nor there), and coat them with oil and salt and pop them in the pan as well.
Cook for another 45-60 minutes, until the apples have burst and are tender and the pork is registering at about 145°-160°F, depending on how well done you like your pork.
Plop the roast on a cutting board and wrap it up in foil and a towel to rest and keep warm.
Scoop out your apples and set them aside for a minute. Drain the contents of the pan into a small saucepan and let that come to a simmer. Whisk in 2 tablespoons flour and, when it starts to thicken, add in 2 cups apple cider, whisking until smooth.
Reduce the heat and leave that for a bit to thicken. Stir it occasionally.
Slice up your apples and lay them over a big serving plate.
Carve the pork roast and arrange the slices on top of the apples, and dribble with gravy.
While Gren may adore this particular season (at least until his little feet get cold), I do not. Some days I just want to wrap myself up in as many blankets as I own (which is quite a few) and count down the days until spring. But I can’t, and this is why people invented comfort food.
This particular recipe comes from a recent issue of Real Simple magazine, and it does the trick. The Pie and I have a resolution to use our slow cooker more (because it’s AWESOME), and it was really nice to come home the other day to a house that smelled like awesome had been slow-cooking in it for hours and hours. And the preparation takes no time at all. I did ours the afternoon before, which was a weekend, and put it in the fridge overnight. Then before I left for work the next morning I popped the crock on the pot and turned it on and blamo kablam it was done.
So let’s get around to that preparation, shall we?
Start by scrubbing and chopping up a large carrot. I ended up using two because I wasn’t sure if mine qualified as large or not. Do the same with a medium onion and 2 cloves of garlic (I may have used the whole head, but I really like garlic and this head was pretty old).
For spices, you’re going to need about 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and about 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. But feel free to add more or less if you choose.
You also need a large (14oz) can of diced tomatoes and a small can of tomato paste. The recipe calls for just 2 tablespoons of the paste, but that’s like a third of the can and I would just have to figure out what to do with the rest of it so I used the whole can.
Chuck all your vegetables and spices and canned goods in a 4-6 quart slow cooker (for scale, this one is 6 quarts).
And you need a hunk of pork shoulder or pork butt (haha, butt), about 1 1/2 lb.
Trim off the larger hunks of fat and cut the shoulder/butt in half.
Pop that in the slow cooker as well and give everything a stir to coat it in tomato juice (the acids in the tomatoes will help to tenderize that sucker).
Cover it and let it cook on high for 5 to 6 hours or low for 7 to 8 hours, until the pork is super dooper tender.
About twenty minutes before you want to eat, cook up a package of fettuccine according to the package instructions (normally fettuccine takes about 12 minutes to cook to al dente).
While that’s on the go, take two forks and shred all that lovely slow-cooked pork in the slow cooker.
Drain your pasta and plop it into the slow cooker on top of the pork stuff and give it a thorough stir.
Serve, spraying bits of tomato juice everywhere (at least, that’s what I did). Grate some parmesan on top and eat your way into ragù heaven.
The recipe says it serves four but the Pie and I think that serving size is immense, so we would say that it more accurately serves 6-8, and it’s especially good the next day when all the juices have been sucked into the fettuccine. When I brought it to work everyone became jealous of my delicious leftover lunch.
Atlas’s dad has a philosophy that we are born with a spirit and a body. The body is tied to this earth and will return that way when its time is finished, but the spirit can live on in a new body. And that spirit is always looking for the good in life, the good people, the good experiences, and so it will actively seek out those who it remembers were good in a previous life. His family and our family, he says, get along so well because our spirits were friends in a previous life. It’s a lovely sentiment.
As a child in a military household I moved around quite a bit, and I never stayed in any city longer than five years — until I moved to Ottawa, that is. So every time we moved I felt like I was starting a whole new life, with new friends, and that my old lives were somehow over. Visiting the west coast this summer was for me a revisiting of an old life, a way of showing my husband the way I used to be (and I’ll have more on that in a later post).
I had a friend in elementary school when I was living in Esquimalt. Her name was Jordana* and we were friends from when my family was posted out west in grade three, to when her family, also military, was posted away at the beginning of grade five. When she moved away I thought I would never see her again. This was of course before Facebook and even email (this was the early nineties) and so the only way to reach each other would have been through letters, and if you’re never going to see a person again, what’s the point in wasting a stamp?
I joined Facebook in 2007, twelve years after leaving the west coast and fifteen years after I had last seen Jordana, and we reconnected over the internet. At this time I was getting ready to move to Newfoundland with the Pie and she was settled in Vancouver, so it was unlikely we were going to run into each other any time soon. Even so, we communicated back and forth sporadically and learned we had much in common.
Then my brother decides to get married out west, and Jordana and I figured this was our chance to finally meet up after TWENTY years apart. She and her partner Daniel live in False Creek, a nice old area next to the water. On our last night on the mainland, the Pie and took the SkyTrain from Coquitlam to Vancouver and trailed our way over to their place for dinner.
And you know, it was instant chemistry between the four of us (which, if you have ever tried to make friends as a couple, you know is a hard thing to accomplish). Jordana and I talked our faces off for about four hours straight, while the quieter gentlemen exchanged views on computers and other manly endeavours. We took a walk along the seawall after dinner, and Jordana and I both took a ton of pictures. Obviously.
And the food, cooked by Daniel, was excellent (yes, I’m finally getting to the recipe, sorry). We had an amazingly tender chicken and a barbecued pork dish with the most incredible dipping sauces. While Daniel’s not super keen to share his recipes, Jordana was very persuasive and so I now have them in my hot little hands. And while Cait and Jul were here (and since they brought most of the spices from Ottawa for us), we decided to try it out.
For the Chicken:
First you start with a whole chicken, about 1.6kg or 3 1/2lb. Take off all the fat that you can see and wipe down the inside with a paper towel, or two, to remove any goop in there. Gross, but worth it, trust me.
Then find yourself a pot large enough to fit a bunch of liquid and a submerged chicken. Into that pot, chuck 1.5L (6 cups) water, 250mL (1 cup) soy sauce, 250mL (1 cup) shaohsing wine (also known as shaoxing), 150g (2/3 cup) light brown sugar, 1 large knob of ginger, peeled and sliced, 3 cloves garlic, sliced, 4 heads of star anise, 2 sticks cinnamon, and 3 pieces dried mandarin peel.
Yeah, that’s a hefty load of ingredients. Cait and Jul brought the more far-out stuff with them from Ottawa, as I can’t get it here. Anyway, bring all those ingredients in the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer all that spicy goodness for about 20 minutes.
Then you can submerge the chicken, breast side down, in the pot and raise the heat again to bring it to a boil. Then turn it down again and simmer for another 20 minutes.
Flip the chicken over and allow it to simmer for a further 3 minutes, then pop a lid on the pot and remove it from the heat. Let the chicken cool in the stock.
When the stock is cooled you can take the chicken out. If you plan to use the stock later (which you really should), then you need to strain it, bring it to a boil again, and then cool it and chuck it in the refrigerator.
As for the chicken, well it’s now up to you to do what you want with it. You can chop it up in a salad, or slice it thickly and re-form it on a plate (which is what we’re going to do). You can also fry it in peanut oil and serve with salt and pepper and lemon juice. It goes well with cilantro and the dipping sauce we’re going to make in a minute.
For the Pork:
This recipe calls for pork neck, which I can’t find here. I know it’s a poor substitute, because the consistency is all different, but I’m going to use a pork shoulder here. I’m sorry. If you can’t get a neck, try to find something with a bit of fat on it, if you can.
First you want to mix up your marinade. Take 4 tablespoons fermented bean curd, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 5 tablespoons shaohsing wine, 3 tablespoons yellow bean sauce, 4 tablespoons hoisin sauce, 4 tablespoons fine sugar, and 3 garlic cloves, minced. Stir that into a frenzy.
Cait described the Yellow Bean Sauce as looking like “someone threw up in a bottle.” Seems about right.
I was more grossed out by the fermented bean curd though.
Cut the pork into 4cm (~2″) strips and pour the marinade over the meat. Leave that for about 2 hours.
Preheat your oven to 240°C (this is 464°F, so I would err on the side of caution and go with 450°F).
Fill a baking dish with water and fit a wire rack over top. The ones with the folding legs are handy here, as you can use more water, and then it will keep the pork moist. Put the pork onto the rack and cook for 30 minutes.
Remove the pork from the oven and heat up 6 tablespoons honey. Brush that over the pork and leave it to cool.
Slice up some fresh cilantro to sprinkle over everything. As well, mince up some ginger and mix it with some black rice vinegar and leave that to sit for an hour or so — it goes fantastically with the chicken.
Serve the whole thing with some scented rice and some steamed greens. We fried up some baby bok choy as an accompaniment over jasmine rice.
*Jordana is a blogger herself, and a much busier person than I am. She writes about fashion here and here, and about travel here. She even has her own online clothing store. Check her out if you’re interested!