Striking a balance.

It seems like the last couple of days have been bustling as I recover from the holidays. The New Year promising exciting things; opportunity for creativity and adventure. An occasional craving of a hearty meal, balanced by my perpetual indulgence in sweets.

Thousand Layer Chocolate Chip Cookies

Thousand-layer Chocolate Chip Cookies
Honestly, it is rare to let a day go by with at least a few bites of chocolate, a piece of pie, a cookie. Something. Unfortunately, when it comes to sugar, I am unaware of my threshold, and what often occurs is I substitute these things for real food, or miss a meal entirely.
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And so for me, it becomes absolutely necessary to have a contrast, something grounding, that pulls me back in, reignites my connection to hunger and satiety. The savory always does that for me.
Roast Pork Shoulder

Roast Pork Shoulder

I am desperately in need of a vacation, so any dispensable time is spent dreaming about Paris, reading about Paris, listening to French podcasts; falling in love with MFK Fisher’s The Gastronomical Me and giggling my way through Ann Mah’s Mastering the Art of French Eating…all the while craving cassoulet, crepes and tarts.
However, when it came to planning last night’s dinner, I ventured to make something decidedly un-French, albeit quite deliberate and requiring an investment of time. The slow roasted, mahogany-hued pork was truly impressive; the aroma of sage and garlic and the warmth of the kitchen helped burrow its scent into my clothing. The pork required minimal work, just a periodic spooning of juices to keep it moist. After several hours, it developed a crust that was sweet, salty, crunchy; with just the right amount of fat to keep the flavors lingering, if only for a moment. I served it with creamy polenta, garlic-y sautéed kale and pickled onions; the latter of which were quite easy to prepare and provided a nice contrast to the pork.
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I’ll provide a recipe for the pork, and the pickled onions. The roast is quite forgiving; feel free to play with the spices a bit. The onions need about an hour to cure. Polenta is quite easy, though also will take an hour to cook and a bit of a stir every few minutes. There are loads of preparations available online, and most basic cookbooks have a recipe for polenta tucked inside. To sauté a large pot of greens, simply warm a bit of garlic in olive oil, add greens toss every few minutes, adding a bit of broth or water if the pan seems dry. season with salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice.
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Enjoy, and much Love,
J
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Roasted Pork Shoulder
1 4.5-5 lb pork shoulder, bone-in
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tsp pepper
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1-2 Tbsp fresh sage, or savory herb blend
Method:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
Combine salt, pepper garlic and herbs to make a paste; rub into pork shoulder.
Set pork on a baking rack, lined with parchment, in a large roasting pan
Roast pork, uncovered for 20 minutes, then turn heat down to 325 degrees.
Continue to roast, basting pork every 20 minutes for ~2 hours.
Check internal temperature with a meat thermometer; the internal temperature should reach 155 degrees when pork is finished. Continue to roast; checking every 20 minutes to baste until temperature is achieved (this may take 3 hours).
Remove from oven, and baste again.
Increase oven heat to 500 degrees.
Return pork to oven and cook for 5-10 minutes, with close monitoring. It will smoke a bit; remove from oven if this is excessive.
Remove from oven, cover with foil and allow to rest for ~20 minutes.
Pickled Onions:
 
1 small red onion, sliced thinly
2 tsp salt
juice of two limes.
Place onion in small, non-reactive bowl. Pour boiling water over and let sit for ~20-30 seconds; drain. Return to bowl or jar and combine with salt and lime juice. Let stand for ~60 minutes. Serve with pork.

Not for the faint of heart.

The stream of life is carrying me along, pulling me into uncertainty, as it ebbs and flows and eventually takes form. It’s happening both in life and in the food I create. My need for security is being replaced by Patience. Presence. Time. These are things that I fight with resilience on a cellular level. I think we all do, to some degree. However sometimes, we get the opportunity to slow down, to savor, to relax into the current and be surprised by the result.
I write this as I sit patiently, waiting for onions caramelize. As my well-intentioned plan is being whisked away by the undertow and evolving into something else, entirely. If this sounds a bit esoteric, I apologize. It just happens to be where I’m at, in this moment.
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later on…
I encountered one minor barrier after another. However, what evolved is only redolent of French onion soup. Rather, it is a hop-infused, sweet, aureus onion soup. The onions were cooked down to nearly a jam, and used as a base for the broth, which was then topped with artisan bread, and possibly the best aged goat cheese I’ve ever had good fortune to sample.
Clementine - Aged Goat Cheese from Yarmuth Farms

Clementine – Aged Goat Cheese from Yarmuth Farms

I’ll offer a template of the recipe, however there wasn’t really one to follow. I started with general encouragement and inspiration from Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for onion soup, then transformed it with a bit of what was available to me in the pantry. I hope you enjoy it.
Much Love,
J
Onion Soup

Onion Soup

Onion Soup
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large yellow onions, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, center removed, minced
salt
6 cups chicken broth (or vegetarian chicken-flavored broth
1 cup beer
4 slices good thick country bread, or french bread
1 cup grated cheese (cave-aged Gruyère, or if you can find it, Yarmuth Farms Clementine)
Method:
Set a 4-quart stockpot, enameled cast iron, if you have one, on low. Warm butter and olive oil over low heat; add onion and garlic. Keep heat on low, and give a stir every 10-15 minutes, until the onions are golden and sticky. Be mindful of the heat, as burnt onion is not ideal. Once the onions have caramelized (this will take a good hour or so), add a tablespoon of flour. Stir for ~1 minute, then add 1/2 of the beer to deglaze the pan. Add broth and remaining 1/2 cup of beer. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer and let it bubble away for ~30 minutes. Taste for salt, then give it a few grinds of pepper.
Meanwhile, cut bread to the size of large ramekins, or other oven-safe bowls. toast bread on either side under broiler. When ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls, then top with bread and cheese. Place under broiler until bubbly and browning. Serve hot.