Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Twice-cooked pork

The classic dish of China's Sichuan province, according to Fuchsia Dunlop, is twice-cooked pork. Like any other widely-regarded and cooked meal, there are many different variations on the recipe. The basic plan is to parboil pork belly then stir-fry it with sauce and vegetables.

I tried Dunlop's version of this dish and have been eating leftovers from it since then. The final result was a little too oily for my taste (but when you're dealing with pork belly, maybe that's par for the course). No, wait, scratch that last parenthetical comment: braising pork belly for Japanese chashu does not lead to a greasy result. Hmm.

Boiling the pork, then stir-frying it, distills the essence of porkiness. It also leads to a rather chewy result. This is not normally a problem, but when one is trying to have a quick birding meal (and one's compatriot has already finished his sandwich), chewy is not a good thing. Duly noted.

On the other hand, the sauce was divine. Dunlop recommends 1 1/2 tablespoons of hot bean paste, 1 1/2 teaspoons of regular Sichuan bean paste (made with broad beans, aka fava beans, rather than soybeans) and 2 teaspoons of fermented black beans. I'll have more to say on the bean pastes in another post, but the result for this dish was deep and savory. I liked the sauce to the point that I would happily make it for some other application, but then it might be missing the extra dimension of rendered pork belly fat. C'est la vie.

Unrelated footnote: the leftovers made lunch while The Lurker and I were birding around Cape May County, but dinner led us to Applebee's, a chain we haven't visited in some time. We both had burgers and although the server told us that our burgers were going to be better done than not (i.e., no pink), the resulting burgers were very good (even for a medium rare fan like The Lurker). The char was terrific and the flavor equally so. My burger was a "Bruschetta Burger," and it turns out that putting some diced tomato, basil, garlic and mozzarella on a good burger makes a very nice entree. The rosemary-seasoned fries were just a plus.

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