Braised New World

As many of you know, over a year and a half ago I moved to London to attend culinary school. Many people questioned my choice to study cuisine in Great Britain – a place not known for its national foods. However, like several characters in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, I have always regarded London as a sort of dream world – different and modern in many ways. Thankfully, my experience with the city has been much more pleasant than those of Huxley’s account. Every day I take delight in the people, history, and – the reason I originally moved here – food.

Though culinary school perfected my butchery, seasoning, and knife skills, there is still one aspect of my repertoire that feels very shaky: cooking meat to perfection. It terrifies me that the difference of two minutes over high heat could determine whether a pork loin is meltingly moist or tough as rope. However, there is one flawless method that – by leaving a substantial time and temperature margin – a chef can ensure a gorgeous outcome every time: braising. By cooking almost any meat cut low and slow, a chef can break down the fats, tenderize the meat, and serve a dish whose smoothness barely requires its beholder to chew.

And, with the barbecue flavorings melding for six hours in the oven, I can go about my London-y day and return home to some of my “old world” American flavors.

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Pulled Pork:

1 pound pork shoulder

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup ketchup

1 onion, sliced

2 tbsp cinnamon

2 tsp paprika

1 chicken bouillon cube

500 ml water (or enough to cover pork)

Salt and pepper

1 tbsp olive oil

Instruction: 

1. Season pork with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, brown pork on all sides in olive oil.

2. Remove pork and reduce heat to medium. Add sliced onions and sautee until translucent. Add cinnamon, paprika, brown sugar, and ketchup; whisking until smooth. Add pork back in, then add bouillon cube and water (enough to just cover pork). Bring to a boil, cover, and put in 300-degree oven.

3. The pork will cook for about 6 hours, but check every two hours to see if all of the liquid has evaporated. If so, add about 100 ml of water. The goal is to finish after six hours with a glazed consistency, so don’t add too much water at a time.

4. After six hours, remove from oven. Shred pork using two forks, and if needed, reduce the liquid over medium heat until it reaches glaze-like consistency. (I did not need to do this when I cooked it, because most of the liquid was gone after six hours!)

5. Serve with bread or Grammie’s coleslaw.

Enjoy sweet burnt pulled pork with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

Slaw-terhouse Five

Easter weekend was an absolute whirlwind of people coming and going through our front door. (Although part of this is simply the seasonal cheer, this was mainly due to the fact that Edward flew from London with me and was literally the talk of the town.) The main event was Easter itself, as we hosted twenty-two members of my extended family for dinner, board games, and the annual watching of The Ten Commandments. The Easter menu is always the same at our house: ham, some sort of bready pineapple heaven, and the all star: Grammie Kay’s coleslaw.

All of my cousins and I regard this dish as a sort of magical experience. There is constant debate over the goodness of mashed potatoes or which pie wins at Thanksgiving, but Grammie’s coleslaw shuts us all up (mainly because we’re too busy scarfing it down). Perhaps it’s because we still sit at “the kids’ table,” but like Billy Pilgrim, the main character in Slaughterhouse Five, we all experience a sort of time travel when we eat this coleslaw. All of a sudden we’re all pre-teens again, running outside after dinner to play Star Wars (I was always Chewbacca). And when this year I made a point of learning Grammie’s tricks to the perfect coleslaw, I adapted Kurt Vonnegut’s style of slipping in autobiographical elements. True, to the dressing I adhered strictly to Grammie’s recipe, but by adding shredded apples and red cabbage, I’ve made a coleslaw that is all my own.

We never do watch all of The Ten Commandments on Easter – in fact, we pretty much switch it off as soon as Charlton Heston parts the Red Sea – but we always make it to the end of Grammie’s coleslaw.

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Slaw:

1/2 of a red cabbage

1/2 of a green cabbage

4 Granny Smith apples

4 carrots

Dressing:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tbsp grated onion

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

Instruction:

1. Either by hand or using appliance of food processor, shred cabbage, apples, and carrots.

2. Combine mayo, vinegar, onion, salt, and pepper in small bowl. Add to shredded vegetables and toss to combine.

Enjoy Grammie Kay’s coleslaw with Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!