Okay, Tuesday is the day I'm supposed to post a recipe on this blog.
I've been cooking avidly privately and professionally my whole life, worked for and run a catering business, come up with original recipes for countless articles, pamphlets and products.
So why do I have such a hard time with the Tuesday Taste blog??? It's well after 4 in the afternoon and I'm been stewing (sorry) about it all day.
The problem is simple: I can't think of any recipes.
Whining about this to my-sister-the-professional-chef and lifetime cooking cohort, she said, "Well, why don't you write about that?"
So I am.
The problem is, for better or worse, I don't follow recipes anymore, except when I'm baking something. (Baking is chemistry, an exact science. Nothing to mess around with.)
But the rest of the time, I read around awhile, then improvise.
For example, a while ago, its sale price induced me to buy a whole pork loin. That's about a yard of pork, about 5 inches thick. We are a household of 2.5 at most. So I cut the loin into reasonable sizes and stashed it in the freezer, thinking I'd learn to do some different things with pork loin, a cut that cooking easily turns to edible sawdust.
I thawed a chunk Friday to cook this weekend and decided to make porchetta. So I flipped through my on-the-shelf Italian books (Ada Boni and Marcella Hazan) then Googled around on saveur and bonappetit.com, took stock of what ingredients I had on hand (no skin-on pork belly in the house!) and got to work.
This is how I usually cook–check out standard procedures and best practices from trusted sources and sort of synthesize it all according to my time, talent, pantry and patience. It doesn't always turn out perfect, but for me it's more fun and less stress than worrying about whether I have a quarter teaspoon of something or other.
For the porchetta, I butterflied the loin so I had a single piece of pork about the same thickness. I stripped the leaves from a couple sprigs of fresh rosemary (mine made it through the winter this year!), fresh sage (another survivor) and fresh thyme. I peeled about 6 cloves of garlic, toasted a couple teaspoons, maybe more, of fennel seed in a dry pan (didn't have any fresh) and put all this stuff, along with salt, black pepper and a glug of olive oil, into a mortar and bashed at it with the pestle until it was a (very) rough paste. More of a glop than a paste, really.
I spread that on the pork, I rolled it up like a jellyroll and tied it up with kitchen twine. I sliced some pancetta and shingled it all over the top and sides (this is when I was supposed to use that skin-on pork belly.) I did not let it sit for the recommended 24 hours to 2 days.
I did do the weirdest thing ever, as suggested by the Saveur recipe: I wrapped the whole thing in plastic wrap, then foil, put it in a roasting pan and put it in a 325-degree oven for 3 hours. I did not worry about out-gassing, although it crossed my mind. My children are grown, and it's easy for me to live dangerously in these little ways.
Oops. I forgot the orange juice, which everyone had agreed was a good ingredient. This is a common occurrence when you don't follow a recipe.
So when I took the pork out, after letting it sit about 10 minutes, I took off its swaddling clothes, letting the juices flow back into the pan and squeezed an orange over the pancetta-covered top., Then I put it back in a 450-degree oven for 10 minutes.
We weren't ready for supper, so the pork waited for an hour or so. Then I sliced it and we ate it al fresco with a crusty Harmons baguette, some sweet buttered beans and bottle of Bucklin rose.
Cold the next day, it made a great sandwich with some mustard.
Not a recipe. Just cooking. The more you do it, the more you can wing it.