Wednesday, January 16, 2008

No-Knead Bread.

Not much to say about this recipe. It's pretty failproof. And it sure makes a heck of a presentation. Just make sure not to burn the living tar out of your hands* while
a) lifting off the lid or
b) extracting the pan the first or second time.


The crackling sound as it cools down makes you want to bite right in, but don't. It was just in a 450 degree oven.

Also goes well with some homemade soup. Pictured below is Mr. O's favorite.

*this usually happens anyway.

Monday, January 14, 2008


"Eternity is two people and a ham." -Dorothy Parker

When it comes to living alone, figuring out what to do with leftovers--like four pounds of shredded pork loin, hypothetically--takes ingenuity. And after a few pork sandwiches, I branched out to more exotic offerings.

My transition to "ethnic food" outside of the locally avaliable Tex-Mex was a slow process. I grew up in a town where the local Asian buffet served enchiladas and refried beans alongside beef and broccoli. Even today, I still can't stomach most food from different Indian cultures and pretty much draw the line at Thai food. Almost.

I firmly believe that Southerners should never ever try to imitate other cultures' foods in public. Stick to what you know. However, I am perpetually broke and more often than that a miser. Anything that can keep me from spending $7.42 a meal at the local Thai joint gets a check mark in my book. My favorite (and only) dish at the restaurant--chicken noodle soup with five-spice broth and mushrooms--just is too much for my pocketbook to handle on a weekly basis. The broth is what killed me. It was sweet and salty, hot and savory, and oh my goodness it's hard to resist on a sick day. The local cedar trees are out in full force, and tonight I was craving some of that spicy goodness.

My attempts at imitating this infamous dish have often gone awry. One unfortunate guest from times past would tell you that his host was convinced that five spice + chicken broth would equal a full-bodied soup. My dinner guest ingested the concoction with politeness, but it wasn't my best work. He shortly went outside afterwards for a smoke, possibly to remove all traces of the bland from his palate. I resolved to create something better.

With pounds of shredded pork looking on*, I stumbled upon a recipe posted at Epicurious that looked promising. According to the reviews, the broth was bland. I doubled the amounts of garlic and ginger and added additional five-spice powder.

Since my pork loin was already shredded (see previous post), I sauteed the garlic and ginger** with the five-spice and a little olive oil. It then stuck victoriously to the bottom of the pan. Fearing a burned-on disaster, I quickly tossed in some water to deglaze the pan and then added the broth. After the noodles were in a separate pot, I threw in the pork loin and baby bok choy (chopped about 1/8" thick). The bok choy was a nice green color but still tender when the noodles were done.

Best of all, the broth was a near duplicate of the restaurant's. Success!

Soba noodle soup with roast pork and bok choy
(adapted from Epicurious)

Serves 4

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
3 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 1/2 inches ginger root, chopped thin or minced in a microplane
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tb olive oil or vegetable oil
leftover shredded pork loin
8 cups chicken broth
1/2 pound dried soba noodles (two bundles, in my case)
3 baby bok choy

Set water to boil in a stock pot. Salt heavily.

Combine first seven ingredients in a large soup or stock pan. When ingredients become aromatic, add stock and allow to come to a simmer.

Add the soba noodles to the salted water. Add the bok choy and pork to the broth. When the soba noodles are done (about five minutes), drain and add to soup.

Serve with panache.

*okay, I realize that pork can't look at me, but it was wistful.

**I chose the ginger root because it looked like a lobster.

A loin in the hand.

Okay, y'all. I'm just going to be honest here. A good portion of my undergraduate upper-class work was on the American south, and things like Funeral Casseroles and aspics and all sorts of dishes that have gone by the wayside. I like trying to resurrect these recipes, with mixed results.

This post isn't going to be pretty, but it's honest. Read at your own discretion.

I stumbled upon a lovely (and cheap!) pork loin at my local warehouse superstore. Part of it went into a dry-roast slow cooker recipe that died a miserable death when it came out of the sauna about nine hours later. Lesson learned: don't try to dry-roast a mostly lean cut of meat, even if the fat is on top.

So, I went back to what was comfortable. As most people know, traditional (at least, about 60 years' worth) of Southern foods and good old Midwest casseroles rely heavily on prepackaged goods. This recipe isn't any different.

I cringe to think I'm including this in such early posts, but I added co-cola and soup mix to the non-charred half of the remaining pork loin.

I'm pretty sure I just committed food-blog suicide, but who cares? I'll make up for it in the future.

The favorite of this dish was the onion rings that simmered in the sweet-salty broth for many hours. Colored a dark brown and barely holding together, they gave a much-needed flavor to the final product.

Slow Cooker Pork Loin

3-5 lb. pork loin


Salt (lots)
Orange Juice
Fresh Herbs

Combine in some fashion, douse pork for at least twelve hours, preferrably more (but don't go botulism yourself silly).


Sear pork loin on both sides, cut up if necessary to fit in slow cooker (my loin was cut in four; two quarters went into this recipe).

In the slow cooker:
1 pkg French Onion soup mix
2 cans co-cola
1-2 onions

Chop onion in rings, place in bottom of cooker.

Add seared pork loin(s) and sprinkle soup mix on top.

Add co-cola to mix. Cry a little.

Cook on low for 8-9 hours. Remove loin from mixture and shred. Leftover sauce may cause indigestion, stomach cramps or apocolypse.

My friend, Mr. O., is learning to cook. He chopped potatoes and roasted them with fresh rosemary from the window garden. They added a nice salty/savory contrast to the sweet pork.

Bar hopping

After an inspiration from Coconut& Lime, I decided to try my hand at cereal bars.

Do you know what I hate more than anything in the world?

I resist it, I put it off, and I avoid it at all costs.

Cleaning dishes, that is.

Thankfully Mr. O. is a gracious dish-cleaner. Unfortunately, he hates oats. So these are all mine.

I made some lovely breakfast cereal bars of my own. However, I put my magnificent silpat to the test and shaped them out on the silicone baking sheet instead of throwing them in a pan. They baked and remained relatively bar-shaped.

Do you know what the benefit of using a silpat in thic recipe is? I mean, besides the lack of scrubbing.

Look here:

Sweetened condensed milk + slow-cooking temperature = dulce de leche. Which means you get little heaven-sent droplets of caramely goodness in addition to all that fiber and such. I could just die happy right now.

See Coconut + Lime's blog for the recipe. Add your own happiness. My version: Texas pecans and dried cherries.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


As a new year begins, I return to the ghosts in my closet. Fortunately, this ghost comes in a more friendly manner than most: the form of frozen meals from a month past. Piled upon brown rice, this was a nice welcome back on a cold winter's night.

Taken from the ever lovely Paula Deen, this Savannah Gumbo recipe really isn't doused in butter. Made with smoked sausage (I prefer mine skinless) and large chunks of chicken, the recipe gets a douse of color care of yours truly who managed to forget the okra in this particular batch. The vibrant green of the softened okra is normally more of a tender, olive vegetable that adds a certain thickness to the gumbo. The liquid never gets past a nice chocolate-colored brown, unlike most seafood gumbos which end up much more sea-like in both flavor and appearance.