The Passion Fruits

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Tag: pork (page 1 of 2)

If Life Gives You Laotian Sausages: Make Summer Rolls!

A few weeks ago after work, Mr. T and I tootled off in a trusty zip-truck to the furthest reaches of Northwest DC to help friends move some furniture about. It wasn’t really that far, but that part of the city does tend to feel like another (gentler, more bucolic) planet… In any event, we found ourselves out in the leafy suburbs. I’d already categorized this expedition as our mitzvah du jour, so it was an added bonus when we got to the pick-up location to find a lovely dinner waiting for us.

The simple spread of salad, corn, and things from the grill (oh, to have a grill and a yard to put it in…) was as delicious as it was unexpected, but the sleeper hit was definitely the Laotian sausage. Oh my lord, were these things good: juicy and crackling from the grill, richly porky, and redolent with garlic and lemongrass.

The chatelaine of the house is quite renown for her encyclopedic knowledge of the greater DC food scene, particularly of the Asian persuasion. So, no surprise that she’d managed to track down the one artisanal producer of Laotian sausage in the DC metro area. There are apparently clandestine phone calls and secret knocks on a certain door involved in their procurment. Of course. And I got the leftovers: winning!

Of course, I am unlikely to see a Laotian sausage ever again, and unless you’ve got some serious hook-ups, you’re probably not likely to see a Laotian sausage… ever. Nevertheless, their fleeting transit through our culinary orbit serves as an excellent starting point for a discussion of summer rolls, as my precious haul of magical sausages found themselves all bundled up with herbs and veggies in translucent rice paper wrappers. Totes delish.

Of course, summer rolls (or salad rolls, or garden rolls, or fresh spring rolls, or fresh rolls, or crystal rolls; the branding seems a bit schizo) aren’t Laotian, but Vietnamese. National borders have never stopped the PassionFruits, however, and in any case, the summer roll is well on its way to being a truly global food. Vietnam’s neighbors have adopted the dish into their own repertoires, and the West is understandably quite enamored with the combination of light, cool textures and strong, pungent flavors that the summer roll has to offer.

Part of the summer roll’s appeal, I think, comes from its protean nature. Within the accepted boundaries (as espoused by me, obviously) the summer roll can accommodate any number of delicious fillings. Here, though, is what you absolutely have to have in order to make a decent summer roll:

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A Hanoi Hors d’Oeuvre, Pho ‘Nuff: Bánh Mì Bites

Ok,  lovely people. Here’s the last of the recipes from the baby shower: Asian-style crostini with Vietnamese oomph. This is one of those things that I’m sure has been done already somewhere else, but for me it was literally an in-the-shower lightning bolt of inspiration.

I’d been ruminating about what other Southeast Asian type foods would work well as cocktail nibbles and had put summer rolls on my notional menu. But, they’re kind of a pain to maintain once they’re made; the rice paper wrappers need to be kept from drying out, but not get moist enough to stick together and tear. Bah…

So, I was rawther pleased when–mid-shampoo–it occured to me that bánh mì, the traditional Vietnamese sandwich, would be great shrunk down to crostini-size. Following hotly on the heels of pho, bánh mì seem to be the next big culnary export from Vietnam.

It’s easy to see why, as they manage to pack a whole lot of flavor into not a lot of space. While the fillings vary greatly, one can generally expect to find pickled daikon, cilantro, pâté, mayo, and various other exciting meaty things tucked into a short Vietnamese style baguette (made with wheat and rice flour, a detail we’re choosing to ignore today…).

I elected to top my mini bánh mì with quickly sauteed marinated pork, and they were delicious. Just like the full-sized originals, these bites had a little of everything–rich, unctuous pâté; bright, pickly radish; verdant cilantro, crispy-caramelized pork, and spicy-creamy mayo. With all that good stuff going on, there’s not much room for failure.

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Gyspy Eggs, Peas and (basil) Leaves!

Baked eggs, with spicy ground pork, tomato sauce, peas, opal and genovese basil.

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Smoky Spicy Pork Ribs: Perfect for Campying

So, I went camping this weekend. Well, campying is the technical–and more accurate–term, I suppose. (Campying = the usual hiking, boozing, card-playing, and sleeping in tents with snappier than usual repartee and impromptu pop sing-a-longs.) This trip was brought to you by bourbon and the letter L (LaRoux and Lady Gaga). And, as with most such engagements–whether camping or campying–I was granted full menu control. (Bwahahahaha…)

Having come to the whole cooking outdoors thing as a fancypants adult (no Boy Scouts for me, thanks so much), I had no experience or expectations when I first started packing up the coolers for camping weekends several years ago. I just assumed that everyone threw charcoal briquets into their fires–ain’t no way this fruit is cooking on wood alone–and that since we had a car, we should avail ourselves of all possible opportunities to bring real food and not freeze dried nonsense suitable for astronauts and serious adventurers.  As a result, we tend to eat rawther well despite only having a NPS-grade fire ring at our disposal.

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Take a Spin with this Spinach-Merguez Spiraled Pork Roast

stuffedpork1With its moist and toothsome whirl of spinach and spicy merguez stuffing, this pork roast makes a lovely and delicious Sunday supper. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as it is inspired by the stuffed leg of lamb in Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Luques. The lamb is all big flavor and one of my favorite dishes from the book. This roast is similarly robust in flavor, but seems lighter, benefiting I think from a milder meat and a greener stuffing.

Opening out the pork is quite easy–you can hack away in the most ineffectual manner and still end up with the beautiful spiral. I served this with potatoes parboiled and then tossed into the roasting pan in the last 30 minutes of cooking and a pea and watercress puree.

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Porker Face Part II: The Crostini

PorkCrostini

So, I’m back to my initial woes over crostini versus bruschetta. What is this dish? Who knows, but it’s rather delicious.

In coming up with a signature item to make and serve for our launch party, I wanted to play around with Nigella Lawson’s porchetta recipe from her book, Forever Summer. I have made this before and served it on toasted ciabatta rolls, as instructed. But I wanted to build a crostini/bruschetta and play with the ingredients. Read more

PF Thanksgiving: A Different Bird Being the ‘Word’

Quack

Alas, I meant to post this earlier in the week but I was too entertained by this.

I love duck and I’ve come to discover that there is something deeply satisfying about slow-roasting a whole duck (hell, any bird, really). Done correctly, it invariably produces the requisite “Oooohs” and “Ahhhhs” from your guests as it is brought from oven to counter. Luke’s turkey the other day had the same effect, more appropriate for a Rockwell painting than our “very special” Thanksgiving table.

Duck is quite a grand, elegant meat. I love the fat it packs (it’s a lot), how a slow-roast produces meat that falls off its tiny bones and the combination of a crispy skin and succulent flesh become something special, elegant and refined. Roast chicken is a Tuesday night meal but duck means it’s time for the weekend.

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Porker Face

Porker Face

So, I was M.I.A. last week from the blog. I had a good excuse: Swine Flu. In honor of my week-long lock down in the condo with bug du jour, I decided to make something pork-y this week.  Behold the spicy complexity of this stacked delight. It’s from Tom Colicchio’s new sandwich book, ‘Wichcraft.  I played with the recipe a bit by adding a bit of sweetness to the cabbage slaw–in addition to the red wine vinegar I added some aged balsamic and a little local honey just to round out the spiciness.

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