Variations On A Theme

This all began with a High School friend posting on Facebook that she was smoking a pork butt as a precursor to making pulled pork for dinner. “Hmmm,” I said, “I have some pulled pork in the freezer, already smoked, braised, de-fatted, and pulled–ready to go, in other words.” So I defroze it, and made corn muffins, using the very same local coarse polenta that I used to dredge the quail. This polenta is going places; I had the chance to chat wth Don, who mills it, yesterday at the farmers’ market, and he told me some exciting news that is going to bode well for this region and the farmers thereof.

I’ve made this before, and it’s unbelievably good. Wilted greens on the side (in this case, the last of our spinach; the unseasonable heat made it all bolt, so I’ve replanted its spot with summer lettuces and escarole) do their part to add balance and some semblance of healthiness to the plate. And the leftovers are wicked rolled up in whole wheat tortillas with eggs, beans, avocados, and pretty much anything on the tasty side of the Sunday Times. Honestly, the accrued flavor equity that goes into this bowl of gorgeousness is hard to beat when it comes to subsequent meals.

And speaking, coincidentally, of subsequent meals, why, here’s one from this very evening.

Imagine that.

See, Milo made this “mixture,” as he likes to call them, last night, and it was a keeper, so we did. Sometimes he gets a little too enthusiastic with adding stuff and it goes horribly wrong, but this time around he kept it pretty harmonious. He ground fennel seeds, 5-spice, ginger, some sort of curry powder, and flour together in the small suribachi until it was a nice smooth paste. I put it in a container, thinking that it would make an excellent flavored flour for samosas the next day (today) since we have so very many peas right now.

In that pan are the last of the pork, onion, green garlic, red potato, shredded kale and chard, cilantro, Thai basil, peas, vindaloo paste, flour (to roux-ify the oil), sake, and some tomato purée. I mixed his flavorful mixture in with flour and cold butter and spun it into a good tart crust.

I punched circles out of it, and pushed them gently into the lasciviously greased compartments of a muffin pan, then filled them with the thickened meat and vegetable preparation. I pushed circular caps down onto the little pies, crimping them tight, and put the tray in the oven.

While they baked, I picked a salad. I do like to pick my salads at the last minute; it makes a noticeable difference in the freshness and quality of the greens come eating time. I thought to myself “How do you make salad taste Indian?” There aren’t so many raw salads on the menu at your typical Indian restaurant–since, according to several friends who have traveled extensively over there, eating uncooked greens in that part of the world can result in a serious gastric apocalypse–I just tossed the greens with a mixture of olive and pure mustard oil with a bit of good local red wine vinegar. And I made a heretically quick fake sauce with tomato purée, hoisin sauce, tamarind paste, and passion fruit juice.

Heresy or no, these were terrific. Sauce and salad also pulled their weight. A fitting send-off to the luscious quart of pork from last fall which fed us for most of this week.

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Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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