Soup as Temptress.

There are synchronistic moments when an idea will come along that aligns with what I am needing and craving right now. Like a soup that mandates a long, slow pause in the frenetic activities of the day; something to draw out and accentuate the slowness of things, while simultaneously rewarding one with something of deep satisfaction and flavor.
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I remember tucking away a recipe I’d discovered for a spicy pork soup about a month ago; I was completely drawn to the flavors, however laboring over a soup for two days was simply not something I was in the space for. But there was something about it that held me, and I knew that I would draw upon it for inspiration, when the timing was right.

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Therefore, upon waking up from a hasty nap to find grey Seattle skies and buckets of rain, making an unctuous, warming soup felt like the most natural thing to do.
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What I loved about this soup is the layering of flavors to build complexity. Meaty pork bones are caramelized, then set to luxuriate with umami-rich seasonings and aromatics in a long-simmering broth. I embellished it a bit by adding warming spices like cinnamon, ginger and chile, along with star anise, which imparted an intoxicating aroma and heat.


I’ve never made a stock this sexy, with velvet undertones and a sheen that glimmers like gold in the moonlight.
It was worth every second of my attention and was definitely a labor of love.
For something this good requires time, patience, generosity, nurture; much like that of a lover, along with intuition of what will ignite the senses; bring one to their knees in adulation and appreciation.
And ultimately, begging for more.
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At first glance, this recipe may seem rather laborious, however once the stock is prepared, the remaining components are fairly straightforward and easy to pull together. There’s minimal chopping and actual hands-on time. As usual, I made modifications to suit my taste and intuition, however i highly recommend pounding the furikake with sesame oil into a paste to release the intense bitter-sweet oil that mingles so nicely with the seaweed.

I could see how additional condiments like toasted coconut, slivered black garlic and a healthy squeeze of lime would only add to the delight of flavors coming from this dish.

Enjoy, and much love,
J

Spicy Pork Noodle Soup with Aromatics
*Inspired by Gingerroot’s Spicy Sesame Pork Soup with Noodles

For the stock:
1.5 lb bone-in pork shoulder
1 ham hock, smoked
1 small bunch scallions
1 onion, quartered
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3-4 large pieces
3 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp red chile flakes
1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1 tbsp tamarind paste
2 tbsp tomato paste

Method:
Preheat oven to 400. Place meat on an oiled roasting pan and roast for ~30 minutes.
Turn, then add to roasting pan the onion, carrot and scallions. Roast further for ~20 minutes, then remove from oven.
Scrape meat and vegetables into stockpot, using a little water to deglaze pan and add any remaining bits to the pot.
Add ~14 cups of water to pan, then toss in the remaining spices. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered for ~2.5h, or until the meat begins to pull away from the bone.
Remove meat from broth, and test for doneness, if it easily shreds into pieces, then it’s done. If not, continue to cook for ~30-60 minutes longer until the meat is ready. Set meat aside in refrigerator for later soup assembly.
Let broth cool in the refrigerator overnight to allow fat to separate from stock. Setting the pot in a large ice bath will expedite the cooling process. Once cool, remove layer of fat from the surface.

To prepare the soup, you will need the following:
1 tbsp mirin
1/4 cup furikake (sesame-seaweed blend)
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp of red miso paste
1/2 head Napa cabbage, shredded (~4-5 cups)
1 tsp sesame oil
reserved pork
~8 oz rice vermicilli noodles
chopped scallions
cilantro
sambal oelek (chili paste)

Method:
Set stock over medium high heat and add mirin.
Grind the furikake and sesame oil into a paste with mortar and pestle, then add miso.
Add to that miso paste; whisk into stock. Let simmer for ~30 minutes.
While stock is simmering, prepare cabbage. Place a large pan over medium heat and add sesame oil and cabbage, allowing cabbage to wilt for ~5 minutes before adding the reserved meat. Cook for a further ~5-10 minutes.
In a separate stockpot, boil water for noodles; prepare per package recommendations. Set aside.

To assemble the soup:
Layer rice noodles, then pork/cabbage mixture in large soup bowls. ladle hot broth over each bowl, then top with scallions, cilantro and a healthy dose of chili paste. Add additional condiments, as desired.

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.