Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pork & Pickled Ramps - Spring with the Lee Bros.

The last few weeks were hectic. My next-to-last semester was coming quickly to an end, marked by two full-semester projects. I have 2-3 jobs and several volunteer projects. Oh, and we were doing a play on a boat and boatloads of relatives were coming in to see it. Most people, in this situation, might call it a day and order pizza, assuming that 'behind on my homework, exhausted, and missing deadlines right and left,' meant that cooking was out of the question.

Those hypothetical people obviously discounted my insanity, the pleasurably procrastinatory power of my kitchen, and the allure of the Lee Bros. Southern Cooking. This disastrously seductive tome, written by two little Jewish boys from Charleston via New York, has lived in my collection for a few years already, but every now and again I pick it up and am overwhelmed with the desire to make EVERY RECIPE. NOW. The introductory paragraphs are so thoughtful and tempting, the recipes simple and full of things I want to eat. And they usually don't disappoint. Their cornbread salad (adapted here by Smitten Kitchen), was so good I made it for a week straight last summer, and then went on a more generalized panzanella kick for weeks. Their shrimp and grits took all of one rainy Sunday morning, just as it should.

This time around, my attention was caught by something I would have never thought of cooking--pork picnic shoulder. Once I read their three recipes and thoughtfully thrifty introduction, I couldn't get it out of my mind, and couldn't be satisfied until I was lugging home an unusually large chunk of a meat I usually avoid buying. That's how good those Lee Bros. are. For this particular picnic shoulder, I used the third recipe in the book, the one they recommend for a date dinner, North Carolina style. I altered the recipe to use what I had in the house (cider vinegar replaced white, cranberry shrub provided the sweetness of apple cider, etc...) but followed their method closely.

I don't much care for the smell of raw pork.

But the smell of slowly braising and caramelizing pork is quite all right with me, and the finished product, though seriously fatty (I skimmed most of it), looked excellent.

Here is what it looked like once I shredded it and soaked it in its sauce (it was dry without).

I didn't wind up eating too much of it--it was a bit vinegary to complement the black beans with which I tried to pair it, but it was very good--Matt had a lot of soft-roll sandwiches with pickle, and Libby chose to forgo pancakes one morning in order to eat a small pork-pile with a fried egg. I just love when people raid my refrigerator and like what they find there.

So, five hour recipe, huge hunk of meat, smashing success...was I done? No. My foodie soul couldn't rest until I'd pickled some ramps. Ramps don't hold the same fascination for me that say, rhubarb, or strawberries, or other spring harbingers do, but I usually find myself buying a ceremonial bunch once or twice a year, and pickling them is about as artisan-annoying-foodie a thing to do with them as I could think of, plus I thought it would taste good. Plus the Lee Bros. told me to, and they know.
Their recipe calls for brining the ramp bulbs overnight in salt water with garlic and chiles, then draining the combo and covering it with a vinegar brine. They do turn such a pretty color, and I look forward to a ploughman's lunch of sorts soon. (With the ramp greens I made the Lee Bros. recipe for Kilt Lettuce and Ramps, which was all right but not worth the photo).

So, I think I have passed and surpassed the stupid obsessed foodie test in spades, and now that I have a freer schedule, I can't wait to take it to new heights. (I'm thinking teaching classes at the bakery, a possible consignment business or local CSA, or some pay what you can barbeques on the roof. We have to start that summer shack sometime).

And speaking of summer shacks, the ice cream frenzy rages on, and doesn't show any sign of stopping, especially since Lily just bought a freezer and we're talking ice cream sandwiches. Since the last update I've made the Lee Bros. banana pudding flavor, which includes cookie crumbles and bananas caramelized in rum, another batch of caramel (as a tutorial for Miriam--my company should definitely be called 'Edible Tutorials'), and a batch of David Lebovitz's Fresh Ginger, which Matt says tastes like vanilla but I think has a good spiciness to it.

So I'm still not Southern, and I'm still not sure about pork, but my madness clearly extends in all directions of Brooklyn foodie silliness, and I'm having a very good time.

Oh, and we finished the pork shoulder the other day....time for another turkey?

No comments: