Adventures in Cooking
I am not a foodie in the food snob sense, but I do love food, no question. I’ll try anything at least once – and this after a childhood so picky that my name might as well have been “No Potatoes and No Beans”, my response whenever I was asked what I wanted for dinner – and I’ve experimented a lot more in last 6 months, making hummus and homemade mayo and stuff like that. This past week, though, I did some pretty cool stuff that I ended up really happy with.
It started with a pork butt from Bobolink, the helpful cheesemakers. A nice piece of whey-fed pork, pink with white fat. I decided to make pulled pork with it, something I have made a bunch of times in different ways. This time, I decided to slow-cook it in a crockpot, so I made a rub (salt, garlic powder, pepper, cayenne, Everglades Seasoning [I can only find this in Florida. Find it. It is awesome.], sugar, and a touch of molasses [because I didn’t want to open the brown sugar, heh]) and then pan-seared it on each side. When it was nicely browned, I dropped it into the pot, then added some organic brown ale, a little bit of Carolina Gold mustard-based barbeque sauce, two chopped apples, an onion, and a little water to cover, then let it cook overnight until it was completely tender and easily shreddable.
Holy crap, was it good. Best pork I’ve ever eaten in my life. I didn’t even bother saucing it to eat it. So good. Tender, amazing mouthfeel, incredibly moist – just a dish I was proud of.
This weekend, I then decided to try two different things. The first was something I’d heard on a million cooking shows – risotto. Never been a huge rice fan, myself, and I’ve never actually seen it in real life. After seeing the Do the Rice Thing episode of Good Eats a while ago, though, I decided I wanted to try it. I got the ingredients I needed – Arborio rice, some portabella mushrooms, wine, chicken stock, and an onion – and decided to give it a whirl. I knew it would take a while to make, but the result is supposed to be creamy and delicious. I didn’t think I’d pull it off, but figured what the hell.
I pulled out two cast iron pans (pretty much all I cook with nowadays, unless I need a saucepan for oatmeal or something). In one went a little butter, the mushrooms, and a dash of garlic and onion. I sautéed them for a few minutes, then set them aside. In the other went a little more butter and about half an onion, which got sweated down for about 5 minutes, then I added the rice. I had heated up the chicken stock and had it ready. After a couple of minutes, I added the wine to the rice and stirred over medium-low heat until all the wine was absorbed, then added some chicken stock, just enough to cover the rice, and kept stirring until it was all absorbed, which takes a while. Then I added more stock and stirred. Then I added the rest of the stock and stirred and stirred and stirred until it was mostly absorbed. At that point I added the mushrooms, some basil and oregano, and some grated Parmesan cheese. It was done.
I was still apprehensive about how it turned out, but it ended up being really good. Lady Aravan seemed to love it too, so I felt good about that. So now I finally knew what all the fuss was about with risotto.
Finally, I decided to try a puttanesca sauce after watching Nadia G make it on Bitchin’ Kitchen. Honestly, I think the story behind the name is what made me want to try it: the name allegedly derives from the fact that in Italy, problems with wives and their husbands’ mistresses at the market forced a law to be made that the mistresses/whores could only shop on a certain day of the week. Denied fresh food, they needed cured or other preserved ingredients to make their sauce.
Charming enough to make me want to try it, and I loved anchovies anyway, so I figured it was worth a try. I browned some garlic in olive oil, then added mashed anchovies, followed by a couple of cups of grape tomatoes cut in half. I let that cook until it started to thicken into a sauce, then added some chopped kalamata olives and capers. That was it.
Funny thing is, I hate olives. Lady Aravan hates capers. Somehow, though, it all came together into a really nice sauce. The olive and capers blend into everything really well. All in all, I ended up really happy with everything.