pork

This past weekend was probably one of our last opportunities to grill in nice weather – it was a cool 45F outside, just enough to require my jacket and a careful eye on my charcoal. I’ll likely grill through the winter, but I figured now would be a good time to share this recipe for Inihaw na Liempo (Filipino Grilled Pork Belly).

Pork has a long history in Filipino cuisine; the Tagalog word for pig, baboy, is likely derived from the Indo-Malay babi/bayi, indicating that pork spread to the Philippine archipelago alongside its early inhabitants. For reference, there is evidence of humans living in the Philippines some 67,000 years ago, but they were likely displaced by several other arriving groups until about 6,000 years ago, when Malayo-Polynesians first arrived from East Asia. There is no perfect way to determine whether the pigs are an ancient member of the archipelago, but the fact that pigs have cultural significance on the islands is a good indication; for example, the seafaring Sama-Bajau, an ethnic group who live mostly in the Southern Philippines, used simple pig-shaped constellation clusters to navigate prior to the arrival of Europeans and their more advanced navigational methods.

Inihaw na Liempo is a more modern preparation of pork belly, using ingredients with both short and long histories in the Philippines. Many recipes today call for banana ketchup, which was a replacement for tomato ketchup invented during tomato shortages in World War II. Intrigued by the idea, I decided to mash a couple bananas into my marinade, and was pleasantly surprised by the fruity notes that complemented the crispy pork belly. Just be sure to keep a watchful eye on the grill – the natural sugars in the banana tend to encourage browning. For that reason, I like to slice my pork belly relatively thin, at 1/2″, to ensure the pork cooks through before getting too browned (plus, thinner slices = more crispy surface texture).

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Greetings from Virginia! We made it to our new home in one piece, and no worse for the wear. I’m still in the process of organizing our new kitchen, and acclimating to my new stovetop and oven, but I figure by next week’s recipe this new kitchen will feel like old hat to me.

Along with our other belongings, we ended up hauling up some frozen meat that we just didn’t have a chance to cook through before the big move. I’ve now made it my personal goal to use them all up by the end of the summer–starting with about 4 lbs of pork shoulder from my friends at ButcherBox, which I used in today’s recipe.

Pork Adobo is one of my favorite pork dishes to make. You’ll find an old recipe here on the blog, and there is a version of Pork Adobo in each of my printed cookbooks. Today’s preparation is easily my simplest: you cover and roast the pork at a low temperature for an hour to keep it tender, then you uncover and roast it at a high temperature for another hour to crisp it up and reduce the sauce.

Here’s a quick synopsis of the dish, from Paleo Takeout:

Adobo, often considered the national dish of the Philippines, is a method of stewing meat in vinegar. The word adobo itself is linked to a Spanish method of preserving raw meat by immersing it in a mixture of vinegar, salt, and paprika. When the Spanish observed an indigenous Philippine cooking method involving vinegar in the 16th century, they referred to it as adobo, and the name stuck. The original name for this dish is no longer known.

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We’re just coming out of the stretch of what I like to call “roasting weather”, wherein I adore the comforting smells and radiating warmth of cranking on the oven. This week’s recipe capitalizes on those aromatic smells I like so much, what with its flavors of sauteed onion, roasted apple, and a sweet and tangy maple glaze. The pork isn’t bad, either!

This roast is an excellent opportunity to showcase the types of meats available through my friends at ButcherBox, who contributed the pork sirloin you see in this picture. Pork is one of those meats I have a hard time buying at my local grocery store, since the conditions in which conventional pigs are raised is usually far from ideal. Moreover, it is often difficult to find farmers who raise happy, healthy pigs, since the price of conventionally-raised pork is so cheap that it can discourage farmers from raising animals they know will cost much more at the market. ButcherBox does all that work for us, by sourcing responsibly-raised pork from heritage breeds who are free of antibiotics, ractopamine, and hormones; I also appreciate the fact that they curate their monthly meat boxes, combining familiar and new cuts, which keeps me in a creative mood while in the kitchen.

Today’s recipe looks (and sounds) fancy, but it’s not far from many of my other dry-roast recipes: bring the pork to temperature at a moderately low heat (225F), then add onions, apple, and glaze, and finally finish everything off in a very hot (500F) oven for that perfect external texture.

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As I mentioned in last week’s recipe for Skillet-Roasted Winter Vegetables, I recently had quite an adventure photographing a couple dishes in the middle of a Florida storm. This week’s recipe for Center-Cut Pork Rib Roast is the last dish I photographed during that session, and I was lucky enough to get a pretty good shot of the meal. In hindsight, a tripod would have helped stabilize the photo above, but I’m so used to shooting by hand that I didn’t think of it in time.

Today’s cooking method will work for most bone-in cuts of meat; try it with beef prime rib or roast. The key is to cook the meat at a low temperature (250F) so that the center reaches an ideal temperature without overcooking the outer layers, then to finish it off in a searing-hot oven after a brief period of rest. The timing works out perfectly, as you can rest the roast while you crank up the oven heat – I’m a big fan of this type of efficiency.

Another reason I like this roast is that it is the counterpoint to my popular Eye of Round Roast recipe (which celebrated its five-year birthday earlier this month). The older recipe starts at a high heat, then finishes the roast at a very low heat; while both methods consistently result in tender roasts, I also like the sense of control that comes with searing the roast at the end, as in today’s recipe.

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This month marks my six-year anniversary of food blogging. My mind reels when I think of how much of myself is embedded in this website, in its 400+ recipes.

To be honest, running this site has its ups and downs. Sometimes there’s no better feeling than the flurry that comes with creating a new recipe–the smells and tastes during development, the colors that enliven my photography sessions, the relief that comes from editing terrible first drafts. But there are other sessions where I walk away disheartened, feeling like I’m simply treading water; stuck in the space between better moments.

It’s times like these that I typically revert to old dishes, to prove to myself that I’m making progress in pursuit of that perfect recipe post. Case in point is this week’s recipe for Smothered Pork Chops, a revision of my initial recipe, from over five years ago. The old post horrifies me, especially that first picture – it doesn’t even look like food! But at the same time, a part of me treasures its presence, as a testament to progress.

So, cheers to six years of tasty food. I can’t wait to see how my recipes look in another six. Thanks for sticking around!

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As I mentioned in my Chicken in Champagne Sauce recipe earlier this year, I draw inspiration from many sources – online research, reader requests, or from friends. Today’s recipe is inspired by a reader’s recent tip, left in a comment from the Nakkikastike (Finnish Hot Dogs in Sauce) recipe I shared a couple years back.

Like Nakkikastike, Tirripaisti is a staple Finnish comfort food – not quite haute cuisine, but something to warm the belly in all the right ways. In researching the recipe, I found there were two general methods to prepare this dish in Finland; some simply season the pork belly and fry it up as you would bacon, while others insist the pork should be sauteed with onion, then simmered in water to make a sort of gravy. I’ve provided recipes for each preparation – they’re both super easy.

In most cases, Tirripaisti is served with boiled and mashed potatoes (or sometimes boiled turnips) and a vegetable of some kind – like pickled beets or roasted veggies.

If you have any recipe development requests, I’m all ears – feel free to leave them in the comments below. Bear in mind that between this site and my two cookbooks, I’ve covered over 600 recipes, so chances are I’ve already tackled many that you’re looking for! Here are the recipe lists for The Ancestral Table and Paleo Takeout.

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I know what you’re thinking. It’s something like this – “Seriously, Russ? You already have an awesome Swedish Meatball recipe in your cookbook. Way to put a new coat of paint on your old favorites.”

First of all, thanks for the compliment. Second, these meatballs are a little different. For example, Danish Frikadeller are often smashed and look more like little patties than those little round balls you might be expecting. Think of them as Denmark’s LEGOs (probably their coolest invention) vs. Sweden’s crescent wrench (also a cool invention); both are useful, but serve slightly different purposes.

The recipe itself differs from Swedish meatballs in that I found that adding a bit of tapioca starch makes the balls stick together really well, and they’re pretty delightfully spongy, too. I also played around with the spices until I found something that delivered a distinctive Old-World taste while using common pantry items.

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First of all, I want to thank everyone who bought my cookbook or spread the word about that crazy deal last week. The Kindle version of The Ancestral Table climbed from somewhere in the top 105,000 to the #12 book on all of Amazon! My time near the top of the list was short-lived, but it was pretty awesome knowing that my book made it into so many new hands.

We spent our Thanksgiving with Sarah Ballantyne and her family in Atlanta, and came home earlier this weekend with enough time for me to develop and photograph a few dishes. After the hubbub of a holiday meal, I was in the mood for something simple and straight-forward. Pork chops came to mind. These easy glazed chops come together in less than an hour and are impossible to mess up. Bear in mind that you’ll want an instant-read thermometer to make sure they’re perfectly done; we use and love this one.

Don’t worry about the cut of chop (bone-in, center-cut, etc) for this recipe. Any of them will work fine, although thick chops are preferred; thin chops tend to try out quickly and are best prepared with a marinade, like in the Lemongrass Pork Chops recipe found in my book.

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Lately I’ve been in the mood to catch up on all of the recipes that didn’t quite make it into The Ancestral Table. Like last week’s Chicken Tikka Masala, I had initially considered putting Pernil in my book. But once I put everything together and realized that there were already two pulled pork shoulder recipes in there (Kalua Pig and BBQ Pulled Pork), plus a Puerto Rican roast pork (Lechon Asado), I knew that it would be more appropriate to put my Pernil recipe here on the blog.

Pernil is a roasted pork shoulder popular in Puerto Rico, often served during holidays. It is derived from the Spanish word pierno (leg), likely because it was originally made with the hind end, but since most hind quarters are used to make ham nowadays it makes sense that the cheaper shoulder is the cut of choice today. One particular trait of Pernil is the use of an adobo mojado, or wet marinade, which is created by using bitter orange juice (I used orange and lime juices) and a little vinegar to add moisture and tenderize the meat.

Although roasting a pork shoulder in the oven would be considered cheating here in the US, Pernil is surprisingly roasted in an oven on an almost exclusive basis. I can see why, since oven-roasting makes this dish dead-simple to make. I did add a smidge of liquid smoke to boost the roast’s flavor, but otherwise I kept the recipe true to what I found in most Puerto Rican cookbooks.

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Last month, I wrote about how I wanted to take my blog in a new direction by visiting and writing about food producers around the world, in order to better understand how the food we eat gets onto our plates. Off the bat, I knew that one of my first destinations needed to be where the whole “food” thing starts. At a farm.

Choosing a farm to visit was easy. Last summer I met David Maren, founding farmer and general manager of Tendergrass Farms, and we quickly became friends through our mutual love of languages and our mutual disdain for our country’s rampant, negligent farming practices. We’ve also been working together over this past year; he sends me samples of food to cook and eat, and I take pictures of that same food for his website. It’s a pretty sweet deal for both parties, hearkening back to humanity’s bartering days: he gets free photography and my family gets free food.

David’s small farm is located near Floyd, VA (about 4 hours from us), so we made the drive down a couple weekends ago to check out and talk about his company. Here is what I found out.

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