Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pork and the Art of Sauerkraut Maintenance

Last time I left off planning to repair the "a" button on my keyboard. Yeah. Well, that hasn't happened (something about a 48 hour wait just to get it diagnosed), so, impetuous as I am, I'm just going to be cutting and pasting for awhile.
Getting back to the pictures in the last post below, the first is a salad of super flavorful greens--some of the earliest of the year--of great variety including pea shoots, tatsoi, and baby red and green leaf lettuce, surprisingly flavorful early tomatoes and avocado all tossed in olive oil and red wine vinegar made in my kitchen. The vinegar is nice and mellow (though I lost a bit during my recent move due to being hasty and lazy in that last bit of packing--you know, where you're just throwing everything into a trash bag that goes over your shoulder, burglar style?), so we added a bit of cane vinegar to bring things to the usual level of sour, and then some, due to a "finger's-too-small-to-cover-the-opening-of-the-vinegar-bottle-when-pouring-vinegar-out" incident. Big flavor here, and a glowing example of the fact that given the best possible ingredients to begin with (all of the vegetables were from area farms purveyed by an exceptional little market called The Green Grocer in Chicago's West Town neighborhood), preparing top-notch food is not that difficult.
The second picture is from the same meal, and includes a double smoked pork loin and a pork porterhouse from my new #2 source for meat, Gene's Sausage Store (the #1? Paulina Market, of course). The beer is from Ska Brewing in Durango, Colorado--an IPA named Modus Hoperandi, hoppy as implied by the name without being ridiculous about it (I'm suspicious, these days, of the hop trend. I love hops, but think it important to remember that there is more to them--like subtlety of flavor and character--than just something to crank up and hit people over the head with. Kind of like Marilyn Monroe. If we stoop to the obvious and see her simply as a top-heavy blondie, we'll miss the actual substance behind her persona. And isn't that what's interesting at the end of the day?) The little jar contains sauerkraut made from a friend's excess CSA cabbage, slivered, smashed, and salted, then left to ferment on my counter next to the vinegar over a couple of months. The smoked pork loin was diced and fried, then the sauerkraut was added to the pan with a dollop of whole grain mustard, with the pan roasted porterhouse right on top. Good stuff that night.

So, that meal was awhile ago. Lots else has happened and been eaten since then. Most recently, a stellar meal was had in my new Lincoln Square neighborhood at Brown Trout. Through and through, a thoughtful meal, on the mark from the frites (crispy to the bottom of the dish) with homemade catsup, gruyere fondue and aioli, to mushroom, bacon and braised pork pappardelle, to chorizo, clams and mussles to a vegetable platter with spring artichokes, red quinoa, stinging nettles, spring onions, radishes and their greens, to a flat iron steak with farro porridge and caramelized mushrooms. Thoughtful service despite questionable glassware (I just cannot get into stemware without...um...stems), gracious and kind throughout. Check it out. Oh, and everything is all local and sustainable and all that hoo-haw. Which is great. But shouldn't we all be doing that already?

Next time...let's talk about the ramen shown up top, and maybe even fava beans and Bettin' Hams.

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