Posted in Foodstuffs

Guanciale

Guanciale 1

Most people have had, or even cooked, some sort of ‘Carbonara’ style pasts dish at one time or another (Spaghetti alla Carbonara, being especially favored), and generally, this will be made with the unsmoked Italian style bacon known as ‘Pancetta’, or, sometimes even, the regular, everyday smoked bacon commonly served with breakfast. The favoured traditional pork product, however… the ne plus ultra one might say, is Guanciale… which are salted and dry-cured hog jowls, or ‘pig-cheeks’ for the more genteel among you.

The preparation of guanciale is a bit more complex than for the belly pork equivalent represented by Pancetta. The fatty jowls are rubbed with salt, sugar and spices (pepper, thyme and fennel are common), and then hung and air-dried for three weeks or so. In the above picture, you can see a 200 gram piece I bought in Ottawa… You should be able to make out the mixed herb and spice mixture that was used, as well as the string that was looped through one corner in order to hang it.

The beauty of Guanciale, in contrast to the belly, is the dense, white, very creamy fat that lends a lovely sweet unctuousness to pasta carbonara, or, indeed, to any other dishes where it is employed.  As the product is cured, it can also be eaten ‘raw’ as is and, before cooking myself a carbonara with some of my current chunk, I tried doing so… I was a little hesitant as the cut has a very high ratio of fat to meat, but it actually proved to be delectable. I cut it a little thicker than paper-thin and it was delightfully chewy and unctuously tender at the same time, with the sweet, slightly apple-like flavor of a good prosciutto.

Mostly, of course, Guanciale is used as the decadent focus in several different pasta dishes… Continue reading “Guanciale”

Posted in Recipes

Shrimp and Pork Balls

Shrimp and Pork Balls 1

Today, I am going to show you a couple of little dishes made with the same basic  ‘dumpling filling’ mix I made for my Shrimp and Pork Stuffed Mushrooms  a while ago. As I mentioned in that post, the combination of shrimp and pork is one of my most favorite dumpling fillings but I wanted to use it in a few non-dumpling applications as well. The stuffed mushrooms were first but then I used the remainder of the mix to make some ‘balls’ that I almost think of as ‘dumplings without wrappers’ … Continue reading “Shrimp and Pork Balls”

Posted in Recipes

Stuffed Jalapeño Peppers

Stuffed Jalapeño Peppers 1

The filling for these Jalapeño peppers is very straightforward and simple… not much more than ground pork with scallion and garlic, really. It is the sauce, though, that I think makes this dish. It is based on Oyster Sauce mixed with some rice wine and a little chilli oil, and the sweetness of the primary ingredient is just right without needing any added sugar… Continue reading “Stuffed Jalapeño Peppers”

Posted in Experiments

Experiment: Pork Belly Appetizer

Pork Belly Appetizer 1

Today’s post actually features two permutations of an idea I am working with for a little appetizer dish (although it would also work as a larger plate offering as well). The inspiration for these experiments came from an appetizer called Pork Belly with Kumquat I had in Ottawa some time ago, and which I thought could be improved upon. I begin with chunks of pork belly roasted so as to produce a nice crisp skin (using my Perfect Roast Pork Crackling method) and, instead of using parsnip puree as a base, I have tried two other ways of preparing the vegetable. I also replaced the kumquat with a sauce based on cranberry… Continue reading “Experiment: Pork Belly Appetizer”

Posted in General, Recipes

Spiced-Soy Pork

Spiced Soy Pork 1

Today’s recipe is something of an experiment and you may want to read the notes carefully. The Chinese classic ‘Dong Po Pork’ is one of my all-time favourite dishes in Asian cuisine but, as unctuous and decadent as it is, it tends to contain a lot of sugar, which is something I try to avoid these days. Accordingly, I wanted to try something along the same lines but not so diabetic unfriendly. It is still basically pork-belly red-cooked in soy, but I have played around with the flavourings and needed to make an adjustment or two to the technique… Continue reading “Spiced-Soy Pork”

Posted in Dim Sum, General

Dim Sum: Steamed Sparerib in Black Bean Sauce

Steamed Rib with Black Beans 2017-07 1

Steamed pork Ribs, especially with Black Beans, is something I cook regularly at home but it is also a regular on dim sum menus everywhere. I most commonly prepare this as an entrée sized dish but a small plate of two or three makes a lovely snack at any time…

Generally, small sections of pork rib are dusted in flour after being lightly seasoned and then steamed with Chinese Salted Black Beans along with soy sauce, or rice wine, so that a nice light sauce is produced. Chilli can be included, as well as sugar, and the flour thickens things very nicely.

What was different about the ones I ate in in Vancouver’s New Town Restaurant recently (and pictured above) was the addition of a slice of Chinese Preserved Sausage. This added a unique umami depth and obviated the need for any additional sugar or other sweetener. I have not come across this before but I will be incorporating it in my own preparations in the future for sure…

Posted in General, Notable Nosh

Notable Nosh: Pork Rillettes

Pork Rillettes

Rillettes is a specialty of French cuisine that can be thought of as something of a cross between the rustic Confit and a fine Pâté. Like a confit, it uses salt and fat to preserve meat but, as with the confit, the preserving process produces a lovely result that is prized in and of itself. It has been many years since I last made a batch, and I am still planning to post the recipe when I finally do again, but, for now, I am just going to share with you the very pleasant version I had at Play Food Wine in Ottawa not long ago…

This rillettes dish came with slices of pickled cucumber. They were clearly not a lactic acid ferment type, but were made using a very mild and slightly sweet vinegar. What set these apart is that the pickling medium also included some finely shredded seaweed of some sort (Wakame, perhaps), and this added a different level of flavor that was both unexpected and very good.

The rillettes here were quite bit more finely processed than others I have had. My own have tended to be quite granular in consistency, and others can be composed of tiny shreds, but these were very smooth and quite unctuous, almost like a pâté, in fact. The mix was not heavily seasoned, indeed, other than the expected salt, the only thing I could identify were some tiny brown mustard seeds. These, surprisingly, were softened to the point that I had absolutely no sensation of biting into seeds and their flavor had obviously been given up to the blend. The result was anything but bland, though, and the pork really spoke for itself without a lot of additional enhancement. I have to say that my own efforts, thus far, haven’t exceeded this particular dish.

Posted in General, Notable Nosh

Notable Nosh: Chinese BBQ Pork and Duck

Chinese BBQ

Not long ago, I posted a review of Gain Wah restaurant in Vancouver’s Chinatown. I mentioned therein that, as I was leaving, the very friendly owner who was manning the BBQ station offered some barbecued duck to try. It was absolutely delicious and I told him I would be back. Well… I did just that and ordered the plate you see above which, for the princely sum of just $7.50, gave me a generous helping of both duck and pork along with a little dish of plum sauce on the side. Now, though I have been tempted by Chinese BBQ on various occasions, this happened to be my first real experience (aside from the gratis sampling two days earlier). Now… I have to say that I am a convert. The duck was not quite as good as the first taste, as that had been freshly cooked and still piping hot, but both meats here were exquisitely succulent and flavorful. There was a slight hint of 5 spice powder here and there (which I can take or leave), but, otherwise, this was perfect and the plum sauce really wasn’t needed for either. I have had thin slices of BBQ pork tenderloin in fried rice and noodle dishes once in a while, but that cut is exceedingly dry and nothing like the lovely, slightly fatty portion here. I am going to have to experiment in my own kitchen…

Posted in General, Notable Nosh

Notable Nosh: Pork Belly with Kumquat

Pork Belly with Kumquat and Parsnip

I had this little appetizer at Play Food Wine during my vacation in Ottawa. I am not posting it because it was an especially wonderful dish, but rather because the basic idea was pretty good and could be improved with a little tweaking. It is not easily apparent from the photograph here, but the pork belly consisted of two thumb-sized pieces that were roasted, then placed on a bed of pureed parsnip and topped with a sauce made with kumquats. There were some snap peas included, which didn’t add a great deal, and the garnish consisted of sprouts of some sort (possibly mustard).

The pork belly was well cooked but otherwise unremarkable. Little seasoning was used during the roasting from all I can gather, and the compliment came from the additional components on the plate. The parsnip bed was nice, with the sweet taste of fresh parsnip coming through cleanly, but I didn’t like the consistency very much. It was a little too much like applesauce and something with a bit more texture would have suited me more. As for the kumquats, I thought the idea pretty decent, but, ultimately, it was too overpowering. The fruit appeared to have been sautéed until partially collapsed into a thickish chutney-like affair, but the overly sweet result, coupled with an orange-pith like citrus bite was a bit much for the pork. I’d try this dish myself but, instead of the kumquat, I think something like cranberry (as one idea) might work a little better. Still, it was a good try…

Posted in General, Recipes

Pork with Salted Radish and Black Bean

Pork Belly with Salted Radish and Black Bean 1

This dish is named for the flavoring additions, which are Preserved (Salted) Radish and Chinese Salted Black Bean, both of which add a rich umami depth to the pork belly and the secondary ‘bulk’ ingredients of Zucchini and Button Mushrooms. I rather threw this together as a means to use up the last of my current batch of salted radish and I didn’t really plan on doing a blog post (hence no ‘prep’ photographs), but it turned out pretty nicely and I thought I’d share.

Basically, I used pork belly rashers that were first oven cooked to render out some of the fat and brown until not quite crispy, then sliced into sections. I browned the mushrooms in some of the rendered pork fat and added a little lemon juice as they were the canned variety and the lemon juice improves the flavour. Then I added in the pork, zucchini, and about 3 tablespoons of chopped salted radish. I created a glazing sauce with a little vinegar and chilli paste, then finally added chopped salted black beans. I meant to start with some minced fresh ginger but I forgot about it… it didn’t matter though as the overall result was really tasty.