Cooking Like I’ll Never Cook Again

15 Aug

It’s the final week before I leave for school, and I’m not all that sure that cooking in a dorm will be easy.  Therefore, I’ve staged a coup d’kitchen, and I’ve been cooking like a fiend.  

Since I may not have access to many exotic ingredients or the time to cook extensive dishes in the weeks to come, I’ve been cooking things that are unusual or things that I have never tried before.  For instance, a couple of days ago, I made congee, the popular Asian rice porridge.

This dish was missing from my life for far too many years.  I have never had something so simple yet so comforting.  Almost never.  I used one chicken and some scallions and ginger to make the stock, and then I cooked the rice in the stock.  The only thing I added to the dish was a soft-boiled egg, which I placed atop the congee with shreds of the reserved chicken.  This dish was ethereal, like the best bowl of oatmeal and a delicious chicken dinner and risotto all in one and on steroids!  I served some kimchi alongside, and the rice was the perfect foil for its fieriness.  Just feast your eyes:

100_5035Yesterday, I couldn’t draw any inspiration from the recipes I was looking through, so I went to the store to find some exciting ingredients.  Truth be told, I had my mind set on crab or some interesting cut of pork.  I went to the new Fairway near my house, and I swear I have had it with that store.  I asked for some pork belly at the meat counter, and the man helping me brought me pre-packaged tripe and said that they only had beef.  I told him I wanted belly–not stomach–fresh, uncured bacon.  He then told me to look back in the refrigerated bacon section or at the deli.  Really?  What kind of a store has butchers who have no idea what pork belly is?  Well, I was so fed up that I drove to whole foods, where I had better luck and ended up with Niman Ranch pork belly, oysters, corn, and artichokes.  

When I got home, I chopped up some lemon verbena and sweet basil from our garden and rubbed it with some salt and olive oil on the pork belly.  I then baked it in parchment for an hour.  After it had rendered some fat, I opened the parchment and roasted it for another forty minutes.  Meanwhile, I grilled the corn in their husks and then removed the kernels from the cobs.  I also chopped up the artichoke stems.  I sauteed some shallots with the corn and stems and then added a pinch of flour and some cream, lemon juice, cayenne, white wine, and lemon verbena.  I cooked this all down and then added the oysters to poach at the last minute with their liquor.  

For the whole dish, I baked some big gougeres and cut off their tops.  I filled them with the “chowder” and topped it with a piece of the pork belly, which I seared quickly before serving.  I topped the belly with an oyster and then served half an artichoke with some Vermont butter on each plate.  This was a decadent and beautiful dish.

100_5039Yum!  I’ve also made a chocolate charlotte and a berry pavlova, in addition to eclairs and white chocolate macadamia nut cookies!  More later!

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