Wednesday, November 19, 2008

P-I-G. part 2.

Last weekend's experiments with three pounds of Mangalitsa pork yielded: just under a pound of rosemary-scented rillettes, perfect for spreading on warm toast, a pile of sliced, well-marbled meat that would do fine in a stir-fry, and a bowlful of chunks of fatty meat that I could braise, Chinese-style, in soy sauce and rice wine. The rillettes disappeared day by day, as I nibbled away at it, sharing with whoever happened to stop by. (We ate some the other night, along with a dinner of clam chowder and oyster crackers). The sliced meat was stir-fried with onions and chopped chard leaves, served over brown rice, with a glass of hard cider to wash it all down. Then I had the leftovers to deal with.

Usually by the middle of the afternoon, after lunch is a distant (that is, a few hours) memory, I start thinking about dinner. By the time I am winding things up for the day I have a firm idea in my mind of what I will cook when I get home (or where I will go out to dinner), and if anything occurs to disrupt my plans, I get very annoyed. But today there is nothing standing between me and a bowl of pasta, which to my mind would make the perfect dinner. I have the leftover pork and chard, I have the trofie pasta in the freezer, I have some mushrooms that could sautéed and tossed with the reheated meat and vegetables.

The first thing, of course, is to put a pot of water on to boil. Edouard de Pomiane taught me this, and very good advice it is. I dump the cold pork and chard onto a cutting board and dice it into neat chunks (well, at least as neatly as I can manage), then scrape it aside and slice the mushrooms. I peek at the is moving, but not yet at a boil. A little oil goes into a heavy nonstick pan, and when it shimmers with heat the mushrooms go in. When they are brown on all sides and starting to soften, I scrape in the pork and chard and onions, leave them to warm a little before I add some of the wine-rich pork juices left over from making the rillettes, which I had poured into a bowl and left in the fridge to turn into a savory jelly. While these juices simmer into a glaze, the frozen pasta goes into the now-boiling water, and as usual, I have just about gotten the timing right, as they are ready at the same time.

What had started out several days ago as a stir-fry served over rice has transformed into a loosely sauced pasta dish, the sweet onions melting into the dark chard, the mushrooms barely glazed with the intensely reduced wine and pork juices, all dominated (no, dominated is the wrong word, because it was not overwhelming) by the flavor of Mangalitsa pork, which tastes like nothing I have ever eaten before. It is perfect.

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