Wednesday April 23, 2014
Every now and again I come across a restaurant menu item that I want to enjoy over and over. Duck Dive in Malibu has a dish called Brussels and Belly, which is braised Brussels sprouts and crispy pork belly in a balsamic glaze. Truly remarkable, and if I can twist the chef's arm I'll try to get the recipe -- or recreate it myself.
The star ingredient, of course, is the pork belly, that luscious and meaty cut, which is most often transformed into bacon. Pork belly is surrounded by a layer of fat that cushions the meat and imbues it with porky flavor, especially if the pig was organically and humanely raised. Although pork belly is the ingredient du jour at many restaurants, it's still relatively inexpensive.
For these two recipes, you'll only need two-and-a-half pounds, but a little pork belly goes a long way, since it is so rich and richly flavored. Both recipes require an overnight marination, so you do need to plan ahead and restrain yourself from digging in to that unctuous slab of porky glory before it's done.
Saturday April 19, 2014
I've always loved Julia Child's term for eating leftovers "feasting on the remains". If you've cooked a full ham for Easter, you'll probably have lots of remains the following day. Rather than just chop up leftover ham for an omelet, there are an infinite number of recipes for creating another delicious meal. Cooked ham can be added to soups, salads, crepes, casseroles, pasta, pizza -- the list goes on. The recipes I'm posting today show just how versatile ham can be.
Tuesday April 15, 2014
Since the first Christians formerly celebrated Passover, it's obvious why feasting on lamb crossed over to the celebration of Easter. But how did the decidedly not-Kosher ham find its way onto many an Easter table? Culinary historians cite that lambs were pretty scarce in the New World, but pigs were much more common. Pigs were slaughtered in the fall to feed a family through the hard winter, and because refrigeration didn't exist, pork was salted and cured. A ham wouldn't be properly cured until the Spring, which coincided with Easter, and so a baked ham became the meal of choice.
Most hams purchased in the market are already cooked, but their flavor benefits from braising and baking, in particular, which helps cook out some of the water added during packaging. Do check the label before you buy a ham; the less-expensive hams are often pumped up with water by almost 50 percent and have the texture of a sponge. You should also buy a bone-in ham. It's a little more difficult to carve, but like all meats, the bone adds flavor and can, of course, be later used for soup.
Friday April 11, 2014
Statistically, Americans eat less than one pound of lamb per year, and probably most of that consumption happens on Easter, when it's either lamb or ham on the dinner table. New Zealand lamb gets all of the good press, but American lamb is equally delicious, Colorado lamb in particular. Lamb is a lovely meat to roast or grill, and you really don't need much in the way of flavoring. (I love it broiled with a smattering of Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.) Butterflied leg of lamb is the simplest of all to cook and it's a breeze to carve, since you don't need to manipulate your knife around that knobby bone. Here are several recipes for you to try and enjoy Easter day.