Saturday, May 30, 2009

Small pleasures.

After the three-day marathon of cooking with Mangalitsa last weekend I was left with a long, angled plank of bone, with some meat still attached. I seasoned it with a generous sprinkling of salt and roasted it at high heat until the meat had browned around the edges, the fat rendered crisp. Then I put it into my largest pot, covered it with water, and left it to simmer slowly until I had a pale gold broth. Then I put it into the fridge and forgot about it, to the extent that you can forget about a giant red Le Creuset pot that takes up most of the bottom shelf of your fridge and practically yells "HEY THERE!" every time you open the door.

Days passed. I made lasagne with some extra mushrooms and spicy sausage and tomato sauce and b├ęchamel, I made fried rice with some leftover Mangalitsa belly found lurking in the middle shelf of the fridge, I went out to dinner with a friend. Before I knew it Friday had come around and at midnight I was in bed with a copy of Takashi's Noodles, drooling over the pictures. I didn't have the patience - or the ingredients - to whip up any of the recipes, but I fell asleep with visions of udon noodles in my head.

Eight hours later, I woke to brilliant sunshine peeking around the edges of my so-called blackout shades. Blackout shades, my ass. Still, that means more time to enjoy the day, and that pot of Mangalitsa broth is calling my name. I scoop the fat floating on the top of the broth out before bringing it to a simmer, add a couple slices of ginger, boil a pot of water for the noodles. Rooting around in the fridge I find that all the scallions are gone (went into the fried rice, I think) but there is a bundle of spinach wilting away. Perfect. I grab the spinach and an egg and turn my attention to the boiling water, into which I throw a small handful of noodles. (Who am I kidding? I weigh my noodles, to ensure I get the right portion size, or in this case, half-portion).

In the last four minutes I add the egg into the boiling noodles to poach, then in the last two minutes I add the spinach, which gratifyingly shrinks in the pan and turns a deep jade. I drain the noodles, spinach, and egg in a mesh strainer (I have three, and use them for everything from sifting dry ingredients for baking to draining noodles and anything boiled or straining custards, and still I wish I had more. Like rubber spatulas, you can never have too many) and dump them in a bowl. In goes a generous ladle of broth, a sprinkle of salt.

It is a small pleasure, or perhaps even a great one, to sit down to a bowl of hot noodles, the faintly metallic bite of spinach, the soft tenderness of poached egg (I should have poached it less, as it is a bit firmer than it should have been - fine for eggs Benedict, overdone for soup noodles), the slippery noodles just on the right side of chewy, all against the light, savory broth. The strong flavor of Mangalitsa pork is mellowed in a soup, rounded out by the warmth of ginger, but it is still there.

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