Sunday, June 5, 2011

My Mistress's Jowls are Nothing Like the Sun

or, Pork Belly, Where Have You Been All My Life?
The South is notorious for the bad health of its economy and its people. I was, accordingly, broke and overweight while I lived there. I’ve been on a helluva roll in those departments since moving to Brooklyn. Job opportunities and walking about five miles a day – and never taking my building’s elevator – really go a long way when you’ve been used to a culture of minimum wage, one story buildings and restaurants that serve sausage gravy but not fruit.
Despite the New York lifestyle of comparative “success,” I’ve got a weak spot. A glaring, awful Achilles’ heel that hits my wallet, my waistline and my wellbeing – a problem that throws a big greasy wrench into Operation Self Betterment.
I am embroiled in a star-crossed love affair.
There, I’ve said it. But I can’t get away, and I’m not sure I want to. So, he’s a poor mate. A companion of whom my mother would never approve. Oh, I know he’s not good for me – he could certainly afford to skip a few meals – but he makes me feel alive! And isn’t that something?!

Meet Pork Bun. (Isn’t he gorgeous? >swoon<)
Ever had one of these? If you’re from or in the South, where food culture is vast (and fabulous!) but not varied, you may not have. And it’s a goddamn shame. With their love of pig parts, it’s quite a surprise that Southerners blissfully fry their eggs in leftover bacon fat – with all the little burnt bits of meat still in it – kept hard and lardy in a coffee cup in the fridge for days, but have nothing even vaguely similar to pork buns on the local food train. I hadn’t had one, anyhow.
It all started for me at a welcome-to-NYC dinner at Momofuku in the East Village. I was introduced – quite without amorous intent – to the pillowy steamed Chinese buns, the cut of pig that looks like a lean pork steak (the other white meat, remember) framed with a clear edge of liquid-y fat that melts in your mouth, literally. The meat has been brined and garnished with thin slices of cucumber and scallions. Dip it in sriracha hot sauce. God himself is present in this first bite, so pay attention.
I should be consuming fruit, tofu, nonfat milk. I should be making myself grilled chicken salads with toasted almonds and bits of citrus. I’m not. I am scandalously, sumptuously, embroiled in a star-crossed love affair, and I would rather burn in hell than trade it in for some lame salad.
So, do it. Do it and buy yourself a tread mill. Do it and skip meals for the rest of the week. Do it and be grateful for the opportunity. It’s terrible for you. It’s waiting to harden your arteries to a custard. But you can go fly a kite with your serious business. This shit is delicious.
Yeah, I'm in love with him. I’m not sorry, and you shouldn’t be either.
PS: Got this picture while scouring the interwebs for a recipe, which I found here.

Simple Bruschetta and Thoughts on Garlic

As an Italian American, I have a special and profound relationship with garlic. I didn’t realize until recently how much other people worry about garlic breath--apparently, it’s a big deal. Italians, however, hold no such reservations when planning meals, which is how I came to put together the below recipe for bruschetta.

It’s an easy, no-heat-applied concoction, a big hit at parties and paired well with red wine (to which I am, tragically, allergic, but that shouldn't stop you!). . . and you won’t have to worry about leftovers, because your guests will fight each other to the death for the last bite.

You will need:

- 4 medium tomatoes - big bunch basil leaves (about 1/2 cup)

- 6-10 cloves garlic - handful sundried tomatoes

- extra virgin olive oil - crusty bread of your choice

1. Line the bottom of a small tupperware with peeled, chopped garlic.

2. Pour in just enough extra virgin olive oil to cover the layer of garlic. EXTRA VIRGIN. Do. Not. Skimp. The other stuff won't do. Ever.

3. Let it marinate, covered, at room temperature for at least two hours. You can leave it in the fridge for up to a week following that--- the longer the better! It softens the garlic, adds to the oil’s flavor, and takes away the hot.

4. Empty the tomatoes of seeds and juice. Dice them and throw them in a bowl with the marinated garlic and olive oil.

5. Chop basil leaves finely and add to mixture.

6. Add a handful of chopped sundried tomatoes for color and concentrated bits of goodness.

7. Salt to taste and mix thoroughly.

8. Spoon onto fresh bread-- Italian, of course!--

9. Enjoy.

Tasty Option! Top with thinly sliced Mozzarella. Recently discovered that Jalapeno Havarti is also delish.

This serves: 2 hungry people, 4 moderately hungry people, or leaves 6 people to draw straws.

Marinating the garlic and olive oil will take out the bite, but if you’re still worried about breath, you oughtta share.