Oysters on the Half Shell at J’s Oyster in Portland Maine.
When you think of New England you think cold weather, cold water,
cold interesting people and fresh, delicious seafood. That’s why when I was recently in Portland ME, I naturally found myself at a mother shuckers paradise of bi-valve heaven: J’s Oyster. At J’s, simplicity is the rule. You want oysters? You get an icy plate with a dozen, shucked, a plastic ramekin of cocktail sauce, wedge of lemon and little teeny plastic fork. Simple. Easy. No mignonette or silverware picks or fancypants accouterments to get in your way of briny oyster goodness. Beers are cold, steamers are hot (and ridiculously good on a cold Maine day) and the prices are very reasonable for a creek-side fish shack. Next time your Down East and looking for some wicked good shellfish, give J’s a try.
Porchetta. Arguably, the most exalted, yet feared preparation of our tasty friend, the pig. Many home cooks have tried to prepare this delectable dish – which proffers decadent, herbaceous, slow-cooked meat wrapped with golden, fat-basted, teeth jarring, salty ‘cracklin’s’ – and most, most have failed. It’s not their fault. How many of us have a commercial sized oven capable of boxing a full size gutted pig all rolled up with herbs, garlic and oil, and sewn together? Not any apartment I’ve ever lived in. I guess if you had your own gigantic rotisserie on wheels, that might help, but sadly, they don’t sell those at IKEA. At least not yet.
So, brave home cook with a hankering for crispy, juicy, herby porchetta, what do you do? Well? You cheat. And by cheat, I mean go with what you can get your hands on and make the best of it. That is the quintessence of New Soul Food. Your grandmamma will be proud. (esp. if you don’t have to use her oven).
Our porchetta begins with a common, easy to find pork cut known as the shoulder (or Boston butt). We chose this cut because it has lots of fat (which equals flavor!) and it contains some dark and light meat, giving us some semblance of using a whole pig (if you squint real hard). We chose a nice, locally sourced 7lb, bone-in shoulder with the skin intact.
We actually removed some of the fat cap on this because we wanted a more aesthetically pleasing crust (read: our guest were scared of full on cracklin’s) but you can certainly leave it as-is. In the pic below, the fat we left is on the bottom.
The next task is de-bone the shoulder. This is actually harder than it looks because the angular shoulder bone zig-zags its way across the inside of the shoulder as you can see below.
To make the pistou (herb paste), we loaded our food processor with garlic, sea salt, cracked pepper, olive oil and some Simon and Garfunkel (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme). This is more eye-balling than recipe.
What you’re looking for is a slightly damp paste the consistency of dry ricotta cheese. Spread this on your butterflied shoulder and break out the kitchen string!
Obviously, I could stand to truss a few more things to get my chops back, but you get the picture. Pork should be wrapped, pistou on the inside. You’ll probably have green fingernails for a few days after this as well,
Preheat your over to 400 degrees F. Once the oven is up to temp, place the uncovered porchetta dish on the middle rack for 20 minutes. After that, reduce the over temp to 275 degrees F and tightly cover the baking dish with foil. Cook until the internal temperature reads 175-180 on a temperature probe (approx 1.5 hours). Remove the dish from the oven and let the porchetta sit for at least 10 minutes before carving. You can slice the porchetta into 1 inch rounds and serve right away with any sides of your choice. We had roasted broccolini with garlic and red chilis and cannelini beans, stewed with fatback and thyme.
The best part is that the leftovers are as good (or better) than the original. We had it seared with grits the next morning for breakfast (banner pic).
We’d like to take credit for this inspiration for this preparation – our porchetta loyalty runs deep – however, we got the idea from Chad Robertson, owner and Chef of Tartine Bakery and Bar Tartine in San Francisco. If you love bread (like I do) I highly suggest his book Tartine Bread.
What do you with 3lbs of leftover pulled pork and a hangover the size of Sullivan’s Island? You make pork hash! And Bloody Mary’s. And an Emergen-C.
Pork Hash is the perfect
hangover leftover food. It’s salty and fatty and goes great with bacon and eggs. In fact, you can just cook it all in the same pan like I did. First fry 1lb of bacon. Eat 3 slices. Reserve the rest. Next, to make the hash, just add some poblano [or insert your favorite pepper here] pepper, onion and cooked potatoes to your cold pulled pork. Patty it up and fry in the bacon grease leftover in your cast iron skillet. Fry an egg, put it on top, garnish with bacon. Drink bloody mary. Eat your hash. Sleep all day. Done and done.
Spring has sprung. The trees are bloomin’, the weather’s warm and there are Food Trucks in Boston! Well at least one of those statements is true. and for my money I’ll take a piping hot Bánh mì over 70 degrees anyday (even if the Bánh mì, ain’t exactly tradish). But I digress…
I’m just psyched to see food trucks making their way to Beantown. Having just moved here from San Francisco, where herds of Food trucks lumber slowly like so many buffalo across the 1850′s American plains and you can’t step off a muni platform without getting smacked in the face with the fantastic smells of fusion food you can eat with your hands. Needless to say, I was somewhat chagrin about the state of the Massatwoshits food truck situation. Oh, and I’m not talking about that TyFlo, dog-and-pony that ran on the Food Network last year, I’m talking about real deal, Korean-taco-BBQ-Chinese bun-bouillabaisse-creme brulee trucks and every combination of the above. Seriously.
Again with the digressing? Okay. You get it, SF has an incredible food scene, blah blah blah. SF is warm and glorious 340 days a year, no bigs. You know all this. The point is, imagine my twee elation at seeing a small pack of freshly hatched food trucks stretching their newborn legs, bright eyed and hopeful in Boston’s City Hall Plaza last week -just as I was about to ingloriously grab a Spurlock special at the Faneuil Hall rusty arches.
OOOOHWAAAAAT? Noodle soup, Bahn mi, and chickpea fritters? Here? But. This…is Boston.
Blink…blink,blink. *rubs eyes*
Although this flock was tiny, the turnout was huge and I managed to wrangle the very last pork Bahn Mi from the girl running the window of Bon Me. (Enjoy SF on your vacay!) In terms of traditional, this Bahn mi was not, but honestly, I think that’s the point – hence the tongue-and-cheek moniker. I’m psyched to try the noodles and Southeast Asian stylings at at momoGoose and I’d even try a chickpea fritter from Clover.
So if you live in Boston, fear not, Winter will be over in like, June and there is hope on the horizon for delicious mobile food. Seen any Trucks? Have a Truck? let us know. We’ll eat your stuff! And then write about it.
When I think of soulfood, 1 pot dishes usually jump to mind. So when we were setting up our kitchen in a small town near Marseilles France, I knew I wanted to cook roast pork as Provençal as I could make it (read: drunk on rosé and pastis).
We started with a 3 lb (6.6kg) roast, and added mirepoix (diced carrots, onion, celery) and some local fingerling potatoes. For flavor, we used Herbes de Provence, the local dried seasoning blend with fennel, basil, rosemary, thyme, savory (sometimes lavender) etc. It’s a perfect complement to roast pork.
The method here like any 1-potter is more gut feeling than recipe: add everything to the pot, salt and pepper to taste, a little white wine then cook slow and low till the meat is roughly 160 degrees in the center (for medium well/well). That should take a couple of hours, tops.
This roast came out great. We served it with a slightly chilled Chablis and we even gave some to “Buddy” the neighborhood kitty.