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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Copy Cat

In theory it sounds like a good idea to take a simple dish from a simple restaurant and get all uppity and gourmet in an attempt to improve on it.

Thus, I share with you my "marinated pork chop and spaghetti" dish inspired from New Lun Ting.

New Lun Ting is an old-school Chinatown dive that I reviewed recently on my other blog. While they serve a huge variety of Chinese dishes, most old timers know New Lun Ting as "the Pork Chop House". The pork chops they refer to are marinated and then pan-fried, doused with gravy, and then served alongside a big, hot mound of spaghetti, tomato sauce, and canned corn.

Sounds easy to prepare, right?

Well, I decided to make it a little more difficult, and no one does "more difficult" like the French. So, instead of marinating the pork chops, I made pork chop confit. Using the same technique I used on the duck legs, I used lard instead of duck fat and only allowed them to sit for a week.

Unfortunately, like the duck legs, I believe I cooked them too long since they didn't hold together well. Also, using the typical lard you find for sale in the supermarket (the kind that stays solid at room temperature) is the wrong kind to use in a confit. For one, it's hydrogenated, and you know what that means. Second, because it's hydrogenated, it doesn't ever get soft enough to carefully remove the pieces of confit meat.

The best lard to use is going to be the kind you render yourself. In fact, here's a fascinating article regarding rendering your own lard.

Other than the pork chop confit, I stayed pretty true to the original and didn't get crazy gourmet on it. Once I removed the pork chop pieces from the lard and wiped them off, I simply fried them over medium high heat until they were heated through...which is the cool thing about confit: it's super gourmet Fast Slow Food.

Fast Slow Food? Yes. You'll find out.

I did use frozen corn instead of canned and sautéed it in a little butter, garlic, and olive oil.

Added to that were freshly chopped tomatoes (yes, I know it's totally unseasonal; deal with it). Once they had sautéed a minute or so, I added some freshly chopped thyme and oregano and plated it.

As you see, it sorta looks the same. It tastes pretty good. However, it wasn't New Lun Ting's dish.

Some things you just can't improve on.

Some things you just can't get uppity with.


Friday, March 17, 2006

Minus Food

My friend Bill is fond of referring to me as an Orientalist - a label I may or may not deserve.

As far as this post is concerned, I haven't proved my case against the latter.

I write a lot about Chinatown and have so since I started this blog. I love the place and the food and the people.

In fact, I loves me some Chinese people.

My first, and thus far, only male role model from childhood was Bruce Lee. I know I wasn't the only one with that famous poster of him in the yellow and black track suit getting ready to jump bad with the matching yellow/black nunchuks.

Only recently did I find out that Bruce Lee was born in San Francisco. While he didn't live here long, I still find myself in awe that not only do I sometimes walk the same streets as Jack London, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Carol Doda, William Burroughs, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, Emperor Norton, Jello Biafra, Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, and so many, many other heroes of mine, but that I also may have touched a few spots that he touched.

I realize this isn't about food and, because it's not, you may be thinking "why am I here?", but allow me to diverge and say that this video of Bruce Lee discussing his future and philosophy is priceless, not only to a Bruce Lee fan, but to any proud San Franciscan.

You want me to spell out the love? Well, here's a quote from the video:

Interviewer: "D'you still think of yourself as Chinese, or do you ever think of yourself as North American?"

Bruce Lee: "You..you, know what I want to think of myself?

As a human being.

Because, I don't know what it sounds like, 'as Confucious say', but under the sky, under the heaven, man...there is but one family.

It just so happen's man that, people are different."

It makes me proud that, even at an early age, I could pick the winners.

You go Bruce! My hero still.


(Editors note on the morning of Saturday, March 18: Oh my pounding head! Uh, this post was written under the influence of too many drinks and the smoked duck and ma po tofu from Brandy Ho's. Forgive me. I'll go back to writing about food...when this headache clears up.)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Sunday, Southern Sunday

Southeastern view on Southern Sunday night.

As you know, I had planned on yesterday being a "Southern Sunday", which was just an excuse to try the stuff my mom sent me.

That sorta went well.

For instance, the livermush was just the way I remembered it, which unfortunately is hard to explain to those of you who've never tried it. I know when you hear the words "liver" and "mush", several unfortunate images come to mind (much like "children of the quorn" or "Seitanic rituals"), however, livermush is far from gross.

In fact, just think of livermush as the lovechild between pork and cornbread. Don't get distracted by the words "liver" or "mush". I'm not a big fan of liver unless it's in a paté or braunschweiger or chicken livers sautéed with onions or one of the few glorious bites of foie gras I've eaten.

Other than that, liver's just plain gross.

But livermush, sliced off of the loaf and fried in the pan is just so good...you don't need anything to accompany it other than bread, and even that is optional. It's not at all greasy, even when it's fried.

Just stay with me for a minute: Imagine a hot, soft, peppery, other white meat offal loaf that is beefed up with corny-corn cornmeal crumbling in your mouth right as it wraps you in it's arms just like your granmaw or mammaw hugging you as she stands there in her slippers and nightgown just as she's fried you up some livermush and pancakes for Saturday morning breakfast using the bacon grease she has on the back of the stovetop. OK, maybe that doesn't even do it justice.

The only problem or, for lack of a better word, dilemma I may have as I work on these two loaves of livermush is possibly getting livermush burnout, or "livermashed". No doubt I'll have to figure out different ways to use livermush. Perhaps I may have to consult some residents of the Spam community and see if they have any suggestions.

The other sandwich I made in honor of Southern Sunday was a grilled banana-mayonnaise sandwich which my Mom would sometimes fix for me right as I was watching Woody Woodpecker and Mighty Mouse while waiting for the school bus to arrive.

Am I grossing you out yet?

Please. Try it before you dismiss it.

Easy to assemble, just take some white bread, smear with mayo (in this case, Dukes), slice a banana in half and assemble. Next, melt some butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Then fry the sandwich on both sides until both sides are golden brown.

Oh, now you've got me salivating!

If you're skinny and have a problem gaining weight (common affliction in the South), this sandwich is for you!

Southern Sunday wouldn't be complete without some pecan pie and pinto beans with chow chow on top. However, this is where things went horribly wrong for me.

Even though I followed the directions from Fannie Farmer's Cookbook by Marion Cunningham, my pecan pie was a soupy disaster. Damn! I should've followed the directions on the Karo bottle!

Don't be fooled. This is not a pecan pie, it's a pecan swamp.

The pinto beans were just "eh" Not particularly nice, but then I just boiled them plain, without the usual addition of salt pork, ham hocks, bacon or fatback. The chow chow was good, but it could've been chunkier. The difference between Mrs. Campbell's sweet chow chow and her spicy chow chow was barely noticeable. It did perk up the beans, but it would've been nicer if it was chunkier. As it was, it would only be suitable on hot dogs and hamburgers as far as I'm concerned.

Perhaps this is something to make at home.

At least I had some Cheerwine to wash it down with.

Southern Sunday wouldn't be complete without an hour of watching those good ol' boys, or as they say "good fellas", from another part of the South - that would be Southern Italy - aka the first episode of the new season of the Sopranos.

Even though we don't get cable, luckily, our upstairs neighbor Tom does. I don't know if this is a blessing or a curse since watching the Sopranos always makes me so hungry. The culprit in this episode?

"Satriale's veal parm hero".



Saturday, March 11, 2006

Special Delivery

Guess what I got in the mail??

You're never gonna guess.

Give up?


I got Livermush!

After talking it over with my Mom, who lives in North Carolina, we figured out a way to get it to me without worrying about it spoiling.

First of all, the weather across the country is pretty cold right now. That's a plus.

Second, she sent it to me via Express Mail, which meant it got to me 2 days after she mailed it.

And third, she sent the livermush to me in one of those insulated lunch boxes along with a package of frozen creamed corn to keep it even colder.

Since livermush is already cooked, the spoilage issue is less of a problem than had she sent me raw meat. Still, we did our best to figure out the most economic method of sending food other than next day delivery, which would've been too expensive, or using dry ice, which would've been overkill.

Some of the livermush distributors, which are few and almost all in North Carolina, ship across country but the minimum purchase amount as well as the shipping can be prohibitive, that is unless you really really crave livermush.

Basically, livermush is a regional delicacy and hardly known outside of North Carolina, northern South Carolina, and southern Virginia. A look at the distribution map for Neese's, a local livermush producer, provides the clearest example of livermush's regionality.

Of course, being born and raised in NC, I knew the joys of livermush early on, fried and eaten by itself or sandwiched in between two slices of white bread. Still, even in North Carolina, it is an aquired taste.

Tomorrow, I plan on having a "Southern Sunday" using some of the things Mom sent.

Those include:

2 jars of Mrs. Campbell's Chow Chow, one spicy and one not.
2 loaves of Jenkins (from Shelby, NC) livermush
A package of Southern Home creamed white corn
and a jar of Dukes "the secret of great Southern cooks" mayonnaise

So yall come back now, ya here?


Saturday, March 04, 2006

A New Beginning

OK, I'm going to make this short and sweet...

Last February, I forget which day, Bacon Press turned 1 years old.


After contemplating where I was a year ago and the direction I want to be going in with the whole blog thing, I decided to make a major change.

I have created a new blog.

It's called Dive and it's all about the places our mothers warned us about. For the most part, the majority of my restaurant reviews will be on Dive (unless, I actually get to eat somewhere nice for a change!) and Bacon Press will remain a place where I write about making things from scratch, road trips, and other food non-sequiturs.

I know it's kinda crazy, since I don't even post on Bacon Press once a day, or even once every two or three days, but if you're willing to stick with me, I promise I'll make both websites a fun place to waste your time.


The Management



Friday, March 03, 2006


Bacon Press don't do babies.

Don't get me wrong. Bacon Press loves the babies. Bacon Press especially loves other people's babies.

If you handed Bacon Press a baby, he probably would get all sweaty and cold and clammy and nervous and terrified he might drop it, but then after a while his heart may slow down, that love thing may just turn on, and pretty soon Bacon Press is just a gelatinous mess of baby love.

In fact, Bacon Press's eyes may just swell up with holding baby tears.

With that said, congratulations to Molly over at Spice Tart for the birth of her daughter, Ivy.

I've known two Ivys.

The last Ivy I knew played in an outlaw punk band called Los Canadians and was one of the coolest kids I knew from the whole Chicken Head crew in Fort Lauderdale slash Miami, Florida.

Anyway, like that matters.

Normally I don't congratulate anyone over having a baby, but Molly was very supportive of Bacon Press's early years and often gave us the impetus to keep on writing, and so she holds a special place at our dinner table.

To tell you the truth, I was a little disappointed that, all of a sudden, Spice Tart (the blog) fizzled out - like so many blogs do. But then, getting married, becoming a lawyer, AND having a baby can do that to you.

So, I'm not hatin'.

Good luck, Molly, Ivy, and Chris!