Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Schweinschmorbraten: German-Style Braised Pork

I've been craving roasted and braised food lately.  Perhaps it's the gray, rainy sky and short light of winter.  Nothing seems to be more satisfying when it's gloomy than a warm, rich roast with root vegetables.  Here's last nights' dinner.

German-Style Braised Pork
Serves 4

4 cloves
2 slices thick-cut bacon
3 lb bone-in pork shoulder roast
Salt and Pepper
2 tbsp bacon fat, lard or canola oil
2 small parsnips, peeled and 
cut into 1" chunks
1 large or 2 medium turnips, peeled and 
cut into 1" chunks
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1" chunks
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs of thyme
1 tbsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp wine vinegar

Heat oven to 300F.

Thinly slice the garlic cloves lengthwise.  Slice the bacon cross-wise into 1/2" strips.  Using a paring knife, pierce the pork roast randomly and insert a slice or garlic or piece of bacon.  (Studding pieces of bacon or salt pork in a roast is called larding.) Season the pork generously with salt and pepper.

Place a small roasting pan or flame-proof casserole pan onto a burner.  Heat over medium heat.  Add lard.  When the lard is hot but not quite smoking add the pork roast and brown on all sides. This should take about 20 minutes.

After the meat is completely browned, push it to one side of the pan and add the vegetables.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have begun to soften - about 15 minutes.  Add the wine, stir and scrape the bottom of the pan gently to loosen any caramelized bit.  Increase the heat slightly and simmer until the wine is reduced by about half - 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the stock, bay leaves and thyme.  Use a set of tongs to lift the roast and place it on top of the vegetables. 

Cover the pan with aluminum foil.  Place in the preheated oven and roast until fork tender - about 2 1/2 hours. 

Transfer the pork to a platter and use a fork to pull chunks away from the bone.  Use a slotted spoon to arrange the vegetables around the chunks of pork.  Discard bay leaves and thyme sprigs.

Bring the roasting pan with the juices to a boil over high heat.  Mix the arrowroot powder with the water in a small bowl.  Whisk the arrowroot mixture into the boiling juices and cook until sauce has thickened, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the vinegar and check the sauce for salt and pepper.  Serve alongside the roast.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

In Praise of The Percolator

Alright, I live in Seattle - admittedly the most coffee-obsessed city in America, possibly the world - so perhaps I've become a little coffee-conscious since I moved here. Coffee isn't just coffee to me anymore. That's good. I am not complaining. I've become refined in my tastes.

I've tried all the trendy and classic coffee drinks from frappu-whats-its to espresso. I've mastered coffee-house lingo. I've spent way too much money on expensive coffee beans. I've got a French press, and a drip coffee maker. I've tinkered with my daily java, adding chunks of cinnamon and a splash of vanilla. I like cream more than sugar. I prefer a dark-roasted (not burnt) full-bodied coffee with hints of sweetness and cocoa, that's not too acidic. Seriously, I never thought this much about coffee before and by Seattle standards I am an amateur. But I thought I had it pretty well figured out...until a recently trip to Arizona to visit my parents.

Let me give you a little back story. My dad has been a coffee drinker all his life. He took it black, probably harkening back to his days in the army. I remember the agonizing, lingering over coffee at restaurants. (Agonizing for a child, so we're talkin' 10 or 15 minutes here.) My dad would order coffee and my brother and I would groan because we were done eating and wanted to go. We'd even take turns gulping swigs of bitter blackness from his cup just to speed the process.

Although he was a diner-coffee drinker, my dad always seemed to be on a quest for "a good cup of coffee." He'd try different blends and ask what restaurants were serving. He'd complain about weak coffee, grouse about bitterness. Out of exasperation, he even turned to tea for a while.

When he recently told me that he'd figured out the key to the "good cup of coffee" I was naturally intrigued. So here it is. Are you ready for it? A percolator. Doesn't that conjure up visions of 1950's housewives? Let's just say I was skeptical - until my last visit.  

He pulled out the percolator on my first morning at home, brewed up a pot, and I was sold! The coffee was full-bodied, with a satisfying mouth-feel. Really, I mean it. It didn't taste like coffee-flavored water. It was richer, more rounded. I just couldn't get over it. (Don't you just hate when your dad it right?)

I just don't understand why drip coffee makers have become the norm? Maybe it's the perception that drip coffee makers take less time? That may have been the case 30 years ago, but modern percolators brew coffee as quickly as drip machines - approximately, one cup per minute. Plus, a percolator uses half the coffee grounds to make the same amount of coffee that a drip maker does. And, the percolator is greener because it doesn't use filters.

Quick, economical, environmentally-friendly, and really good coffee. What's not to love?! So, I've traded in my expensive drip machine for a quirky looking, relic of a by-gone era. Join me at my next coffee klatch, won't you?

How do you take your coffee? Have you figured out the perfect blend? Do you love your coffee maker? Tell me your story!