Vietnamese Pork

July 30, 2016

124_Reic_9781400069989_art_r1Easy Vietnamese Caramelized Pork

Shopping list: 2 Armenian cucumbers, ginger, 3/4 pound pork tenderloin, fish sauce, peanuts, mint, basil, 1 lime.

Staples: 1 small onion, rice vinegar, oil, sugar, pepper, Sriracha.

Serves 2.

Pour a couple tablespoons of rice vinegar into a small bowl and add a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of sugar. Slice two Armenian cucumbers into thin rounds, along with a small knob of ginger. Put them into the vinegar and allow the flavors to mingle while you make the pork.

Slice 3/4 pounds of pork tenderloin into very thin slices.  (This is easiest if you get the meat very cold before slicing.  It can be difficult to find small tenderloins; when I end up with more meat than I need, I chop the remainder and save it for another dish.)

Get a wok so hot that a drop of water dances on the surface and then disappears. Add a couple of tablespoons of peanut or neutral oil and immediately toss in one small onion, thinly sliced, and a clove of smashed garlic. As soon as it’s fragrant, add the pork and a tablespoon of sugar and stir fry, tossing every few minutes, for 10 to 15  minutes, until the pork has crisped into delicious little bits. 

Take the wok off the heat and stir in two tablespoons of fish sauce; it should become completely absorbed. Grind in a lot of black pepper.

Remove the ginger from the cucumbers, drain, and mix into the pork.

Serve with rice. Put fresh mint and basil on the table, along with crushed peanuts, lime wedges and Sriracha, and allow each diner to make a mixture that appeals to them.

This will feed two people very generously. Unless you have a very large wok and a ferocious source of heat, the recipe does not double well; you want the pork to get really crisp.


Roll Out a Barrel of Hay

July 28, 2016

So many vintage cookbook authors believed deeply in industrialized food. To cooks of the thirties and forties, the promise of convenience products was extremely beguiling.  It made for some good recipe writing. See here and in the extreme, here.

Which is why this recipe for a classic clambake from  Ruth Berolzheimer’s United States Regional Cook Book, (published in 1949),  is so appealing. There are no corners cut here; this will take all day. And before you begin, make sure you have a wheelbarrow of seaweed or hay on hand. (Not to mention an army of small children.)




One more thing: these real salt codfish recipes. When’s the last time you found dried salt cod in a New Englander’s larder? IMG_5922IMG_5923




Remember Hamburger Pie?

July 26, 2016


A huge box just arrived on my doorstep, filled with old cookbooks.  A friend was cleaning out his mother’s collection, and sent me so many treasures.

One of my favorites is this Better Homes and Gardens compilation from the fifties. Cleverly bound into a three-ring binder, it is filled with blasts from the past.  I’m happy to say that my mother never cooked up a single one of these dishes.

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Airline Food, 1951

July 25, 2016

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From Clementine Paddleford’s column in the August 1951 issue comes this almost unimaginable description of what she was served on an Air France flight to Paris.

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Yes please. Sign me up!


Heart of Softness

July 23, 2016


When people ask about guilty pleasures, this is what I think of.  Each crisp container enfolds an airy little pillow singing of the sea.  Sprinkle of salt, splash of lemon – each one a perfect bite.

And so easy to make!

Fried Oysters

Shopping list: 1 pint oysters, 1 pint buttermilk, 2 cups cornmeal

Staples: flour, salt, oil.

You could shuck your own oysters, but unless you’re really an expert that makes the entire process a whole lot harder.  I open my own oysters to eat on the half-shell, but when I’m frying oysters I buy them pre-shucked.

Carefully drain the oysters, and put them in 2 cups of buttermilk for about 10 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper or a silpat pad. Mix 2 cups of cornmeal with 2 cups of flour and a teaspoon of salt.  Pick up each oyster and dip it into the buttermilk. Shake it a bit, allowing the buttermilk to drip off before plunking it into the cornmeal mixture; toss it about so it’s coated on all sides and place it on the lined baking sheet. Do it with the next oyster, and the next….

In a deep pot heat at least 2 inches of oil until it registers 375 on a thermometer. Pick up an oyster, shake it to remove excess breading and plunk it into the oil. Fry for about a minute and a half until just golden, then remove with a slotted spoon and set on paper towels to drain. You should be able to fry 6 to 8 oysters at a time.  Bring oil back to 375 before adding a new batch.

Sprinkle with salt and serve with plenty of fresh lemons.  Some people like tartar sauce or remoulade with their oysters, but I think that masks the delicate flavor.