Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Beer and Gochujang Braised Pork Belly

It's been a while since I posted in here and honestly there's been a dearth of cooking and inspiration in my life lately. But yesterday I set foot in a Whole Foods and went a little wild. The recipe was requested! So here goes...

Braising technique was adapted from Tom Colicchio's Think Like a Chef and the flavors were my own choosing.

1 Tablespoon oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 carrots cut in large chunks, about 1 in. thick on an extreme bias
6 whole garlic cloves
1 inch slice fresh ginger, peeled
1 to 2 lbs fresh pork belly (skinless)
1 beer of the lager/Pilsner type (I used the hoppier Eggenberg Hopfen König, an Austrian beer)
3-4 cups chicken stock
2 Tablespoons gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tablespoon honey
2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper

2 lbs Yukon potatoes, peeled and halved
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups additional chicken stock
1 stick butter
2 leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced
1 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 350°.
Heat oil in a shallow oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Season pork belly with salt and pepper. When pan is hot, add pork belly fat side down and let render/brown for 15 minutes. Remove pork belly and set aside. Add onion, garlic, carrots, and ginger to the pan. Season with salt and sauté until beginning to brown, about 10-15 minutes. Add the beer to the vegetables to deglaze the pan. Let simmer until reduced and syrupy. Return the pork belly to the pan, browned side up. Add enough chicken stock to surround the pork but not cover. You want the entire browned part exposed. Add the soy sauce, gochujang, and honey and bring to a simmer. Transfer pan (carefully!) to the oven and braise uncovered for 1 hour. Add a little more chicken stock to bring the liquid back up to its initial level and bake for 1 more hour. Remove pan from oven and let pork cool in juices. Taste the braising liquid. If it needs more sweetness add the 2 tsp sugar. Here I put it in the fridge and quit for the night.

Preheat oven to 375°. Skim off and discard the fat. Cut the pork into serving pieces and set aside. Strain the solids from the liquid and set aside. Discard the ginger. Return the liquid to the pan and reduce by half. Return the vegetables and the pork (still brown side up) to the pan and return to oven to heat through, about 5-10 minutes.

For the potatoes: combine potatoes stock, and 1/2 tsp salt in a pot and bring to a boil, covered, for 20-30 minutes. 
Meanwhile in a small skillet, melt 2 Tbsp butter and add leeks. Season with salt and sauté on low until leeks start to melt. Shut off heat. When potatoes are tender, drain and mash. Add remaining butter, milk, leek mixture, and salt and pepper to taste.

Plate away!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Union Market DC

Hidden away in a less-traveled corner of DC is the Union Maket, a Mecca of foodie goodness.  Similar to Cleveland's Westside Market, it has a farm stand and a couple meat counters, but with an emphasis on prepared foods and plenty of places to sit down and eat.

We celebrated the feast of the seven fishes prior to Christmas Eve with a dozen Virginia oysters from Rappahannock Oyster Bar and a Vietnamese sour fish soup with tamarind from the Toki Underground pop-up.

Toki Underground sets up shop serving one soup every day from 8 am until they run out.  They also had some delicious BBQ pork bao.

Red Apron Butcher, of last week's burger fame, has their home store here with a slightly different menu and a bar with draft beers and draft cocktails. The glorious meat case has the same intimidatingly huge cuts of meat, housemade charcuterie, and sausages as the Merrifield location.

A lot of places were closed for the holiday; we went on the Monday before Christmas and the market is ordinarily closed on Mondays: notably DC Empanada and Takorean (both of which have food trucks), and Buffalo&Bergen which boasts of cocktails and phosphates with a new school touch. I'll have to go back to check those out.

The market has non-edible foodie stuff: Salt&Sundry, which carries tableware, cookbooks, bar tools, and other giftables. There's also the amazing knife store, DC Sharp, but more on that later...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Best Burger in the 'Burbs

I like my burgers how I like my coffee: freshly ground.

No, I obviously haven't had every single burger in the DMV (DC-Maryland-Virginia, so named for its perpetual car-park-style traffic). But I have had the best burgers Chicago has to offer (Edzo's and Au Cheval), and it is by those standards that I judge future burger greatness.

I bestow the honorific upon Red Apron Butcher, a boutique butcher shop located in the Mosaic Center in Merrifield, VA, for its attention to detail, simplicity, and quality meat. I apologize for the horrendous picture, but pictured above is their bacon burger ($10) made from ground beef and ground bacon. It's topped with boozy, beer-braised onions, American cheese, and the genius "island sauce". Though I kind of hate the name - "island sauce" conjures up images of crusty old salad dressing bottles loitering in the door of the fridge - it's actually a means of controlling the proportions of mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles, and possibly onion for swift and exact burger dressing; one condiment that hits all necessary notes in one fell swoop. The bun is pillowy and yeasty and unlike any other. If I had one criticism it'd be a lack of texture; everything is decadently gooey.

Their Red Apron Original ($10) is topped with cheddar instead of American cheese. They let the cheese melt over the patty and begin to crisp up on the griddle, resulting in deliciously crunchy edges (no issue with texture in this burger). It's then topped with the same island sauce, shredded iceberg (more texture), onions, tomato, and pickles. All their meat is sourced "from animals that are sustainably raised, without antibiotics or horomones and certified humanely treated." I also assume that since they are a butcher that they grind their meat as as freshly as possible. No gimmicks. No fried eggs (as good as those may be).

You can order fries separately ($3) and while they don't showcase the creativity that the fries at Edzo's do, they are fried in aged beef fat .

If you think that $10 is too much for a burger sans frites, check out this blog on the argument for the $10 bowl of pho and make the appropriate transpositions.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Welcome to my re-branding party!

Just kidding. There's no party. I just decided that it was time for a change and to create an outlet for myself that was less riddled with privilege and pretension. Or at least one that was less homey, and a bit more professional.

I thought I'd represent my edgier new look (pun intended) with a fantastic video I found about the man behind Cut Brooklyn knives. This video is from a series called Obsessives, which highlights artisans who are exceedingly passionate and knowledgeable about their crafts. This is my favorite video from the series with the St. George Absinthe video coming in at a close second.

As an oboist I work with knives on a regular basis, but the thing that struck me most about the interview was the language Bukiewicz uses to talk about knife-making and how similar that is to how oboists talk about reeds.
"I remember every knife that I've made...I mean 'cause they're all a little bit different. Like you had, 'Oh yeah, I remember I had to struggle with the tip on this one...' They all have a little bit of story behind them."
Although oboe reeds don't have the lifespan that knives do, they receive an insane amount of care and attention from conception to the day they become so lifeless you have to retire them. I remember each reed in my reed case: how the texture of the cane felt when I scraped it, the size of the opening, its strengths and weaknesses, how it played in its prime, and for what major performances I used it. All oboists are obsessives. It comes with the job description.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

FEW Malort Mule

Right after I left Chicago back in 2011, I started hearing about this wormwood liquor called Jeppson's Malort, that could only be found in Chicago. Due to its unique (and to some, off-putting) flavor, a shot of Malort is considered a right of passage for "true" Chicagoans. Challenge accepted! I knew I had to get back and try it.

I finally made it back last week and tried not one but THREE brands of Malort! Jeppson's is the original, and what most people assume you're talking about when you say "malort." The front is herby and ever-so-slightly bitter, but gives way to a smooth and lingering after-taste reminiscent of bread and butter pickles. FEW's Malort is much milder. A little sweet and very herbaceous, it reminds me more of green chartreuse than anything else. The last I tried was Letherbee's Malort, which had the most anise flavor of all of them (Binny's categorizes it with the absinthes).

I ordered my very hearty pour of Jeppson's Malort from Headquarters Beercade, home also to all the free vintage arcade games you can imagine, and a delicious "Hop Scotch" cocktail [Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Monkey Shoulder Scotch, IPA, fresh lemon & Angostura]. You can get Letherbee's Malort and a $3 shot of Jeppson's from Scofflaw.

I don't pretend to be a cocktail expert, especially when it comes to making them at home. I just know I like drinking them! I also like that it seems to be an endless topic to learn about...the combinations are nearly infinite.

Usually you would name a variation on a Moscow Mule after another place, but narcissistically, I named this cocktail after myself. I trafficked a bottle of Malort to my friend in Cleveland. And so...the Malort Mule was born.

2 oz. FEW Malort
1 oz. fresh lime juice
ginger beer
lime peel to garnish

Fill a rocks glass with ice, add the malort and lime juice and stir. Fill the rest of the glass with ginger beer and garnish with the lime peel.

This recipe really only works with the FEW version of Malort. Jeppson's would be better suited for a Bloody Mary or something like that. Who knows, more skilled and creative individuals than myself have probably used it in many a delicious cocktail. But like I said, I'm a beginner, so this is a cocktail for beginners.

Challenge completed!

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Brunch Beer You Can Feel Good About

Quench your thirst next Sunday with a Steigl Radler. It's one part beer, one part grapefruit soda and clocks in at a mild 2.5% alcohol. I like to call it the Poor Man's Mimosa for its sparkling, juicy qualities. It's quickly growing in popularity, not just as a day-drink, but as a boozy mixer in cocktail joints everywhere.

I ordered mine at Northside Social in Arlington, VA and Firkin in Libertyville, IL.

Monday, September 23, 2013

What I've Been Up To

Here's a look at what I've been cooking lately:
Photo credit: Jacob Wade
Photo credit: Jacob Wade
Photo credit: Jacob Wade
Photo credit: Jacob Wade
Photo credit: Jacob Wade

And what I've been ordering lately:

Photo credit: Jacob Wade