It all started when I forgot the slaw. This amazing slaw* that I'd deliberately made in advance of our holiday trip so the flavors would have time to develop, I left in the fridge at home. The forehead slap that ensued when I finally remembered was likely heard across the tri-state area. Once we got to NY we made new slaw for our fish tacos, and I cheered myself up by thinking of how REALLY developed the flavors would be in the first slaw when we returned. Back home, I did a little pre-blizzard shopping (no, not just bread and milk), wondering what would keep us going if we needed to stay indoors for a few days as subzero temps descended, and that also you could eat with slaw. The answer was clear: pork.
Do you know how cheap pork shoulder is? It is very affordable. I got an 8-lb shoulder for I think $12, and we've now had 5 meals and still have leftovers. Would you like to see all the things we made? They were all amazing.
First we slow cooked the pork shoulder. With a little help from my brilliant sister in-law, I adapted Alton Brown's recipe**. It's technically for smoking, but it works like a dream in the crockpot as well.
After 8 hrs:
I am so serious, this is the best thing I've ever made in the slow cooker EVARRRRRR. Ridiculously tender, falling off the bone with the slightest touch, and just perfectly juicy and NOOMMMMMMM.
The first night, we made carnitas. We had some in the classic style (below - corn tortillas, chopped onion, cilantro, and lime), and some with the incredible slaw (flour tortillas, not shown).
The next night, we made BBQ pork pizza using this recipe*** for the dough because Roberta's pizza is amazing. I am embarrassed to say that I forgot to take a picture, but I think you know what pizza looks like, right? We used BBQ sauce instead of tomato, and put the pork on top of the cheese. After it was cooked, we put the slaw on it and it was all kinds of good.
The next morning, I woke up and thought for a second about eating a yogurt until I remembered that I had everything I needed to have a pulled pork breakfast sandwich! Sorry yogurt, another day. I fried an egg and laid it on top of some pulled pork, which I put on top of the slaw, which I put on a potato roll, which are the best rolls. A dash of BBQ sauce for good measure.
Cooped up in the house for 3 days now, J and I made great use of our Netflix subscription. One show we've really been enjoying is PBS's Mind of a Chef with David Chang, who takes you all over the world to learn about all kinds of crazy food things, and teaches you how to make a bunch yummy things yourself, too. It is both entertaining and educational. The first episode is all about ramen, and once I get ramen on my mind, it is quite hard to get it off. So that night I made ramen. In his cookbook, the recipe for Chang's ramen broth is SEVENTEEN PAGES LONG and requires multiple shopping trips to exotic food stores. One day I'll attempt it, but this was not that day. I improvised with what I had, and what could be easily gotten nearby.**** It was awesome anyway. Especially that slow-cooked egg, ho-lee cooooowwwww.
The next night, we were still feeling Chang fever, so we made Bo ssam, which is basically lettuce wraps of slow-cooked pork shoulder and fancy accoutrements. Even though we didn't have everything to make the sauces exactly right*****, these lettuce wraps OMG, just some of the most interesting and delicious flavor combinations ever. The scallion-ginger sauce****** will make you cry, it's so good.
Alas, the happy porky days are over, and today I had to go back to the office. But I'm not too bummed - in fact, I'm pretty sure 2014 is going to kick ass. First and foremost, the lab's very first legit research paper is IN PRESS, BABY! At like, a really good journal. I am at long last a last author! And the other authors are my awesome grad student and my awesome tech. We are officially independent. Two more manuscripts are just awaiting some final bits of data and will hopefully be submitted in the next couple of months. Yay papers!
Second, I'm getting back into grant gear, planning out how to keep this ship afloat. This is my last ESI year - I must get an R01. My first R01 submission got a solid score, but definitely needs some prelim data from a new technique before it can go back in.This could take a while, but my PO advised me to take my time and make sure that we can convince the reviewers (and ourselves!) that we're capable of the work. In the meantime, my goal is to submit a new proposal for the Feb deadline that builds on the data we collected from the R21 project, and for June - test the waters of a new IC, which means more prelim data. Yay preliminary data! Yay taking the lab in exciting new directions!
And of course, yay for the slow-cooked pork that kicked things off! Cooking notes below.
* I pretty much always use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream.
** In the brine, I used 10 oz of salt instead of 12, and it was definitely as salty as I would have wanted it, and I like things pretty salty. You could probably even go lower if you wanted. I also used brown sugar instead of molasses because that's what I had, and I noticed no difference. For the rub, I used pre-ground coriander and cumin and didn't have any fennel. I used chipotle chili powder instead of regular. Add some water and cider vinegar to the crockpot so that things don't burn, and some chopped onions because they will taste amazing. I seriously think you'd have to try really hard to make this pork taste bad. Save the juices (see below).
***I used all-purpose flour instead of pizza flour and active dry yeast instead of bakers' (aka fresh - use this awesome yeast conversion calculator) and it probably wasn't quite as mind-blowingly amazing as I think it would have been had I had the right stuff, but it was still easily the best pizza dough I've made and WAY better than what you get in the grocery store pre-made.
****I mixed equal parts homemade beef stock and chicken stock that I had in the freezer, and added a few heaping spoonfuls of the gelatinized juices that were left over from the slow cooker to give it a little porkiness. I also added a dash of sesame oil and soy sauce to give it a little more of an Asian flavor, and then a hearty squirt of Sriracha. Just make it taste like you want it to taste!
*****I didn't have the special Korean pastes to make the Ssam sauce, but I googled around for some of the paste components, and made a sauce with finely minced garlic and scallions, sriracha, sesame oil, honey, and then grapeseed oil and sherry vinegar like it says in the NYT recipe. I have no idea if it tasted anything like it was supposed to, but it tasted pretty fucking awesome.
******You may be looking at the recipe and saying to yourself, how can I call this a "sauce" when it is a very large amount of chopped things with a very small amount of liquid? But trust me - let it sit for 10-15 min and then something magical happens. It still may not be the consistency of what you would normally call "sauce," but it is out of this world nonetheless.