Pork #1: German

For reasons not worth going into*, our kitchen is currently filled with a borderline-ridiculous quantity of slow-cooked pork shoulder. While the bounty is on one level quite wonderful, on another level it’s totally insane. We’ve eaten it as omelette, ssam, fried rice, and pizza and we’re still less than half done. Thus, a chronicle of the remainder of the pork, as an education to others: may you learn from our mistakes.

Tonight, Sugar Girl was wishing for some Hallo Berlin, a German sausage place on 9th avenue. I thought back to our usual order from there: spicy sausage sliced into small chunks, covered in tangy sauce and served with sour cabbage. After a survey of our refrigerator, surprisingly bereft of other ingredients, I came up with this pork, mushroom, and onion dish. It’s a bit stewlike, as the inspirations were sauerbraten and vindaloo, but drier, faster, and easier:

For prep, slice four medium onions into thin half-circles, ten ounces of mushrooms into thin pieces (or do like we did and just buy them presliced), and twelve ounces of cooked pork shoulder into half-inch cubes. In a large pan, saute the pork briefly (preferably in pork fat, which if you’re us you’re swimming in) to get a little color, then remove from the pan and reserve, deglazing with a little of your favorite flavorful liquid if you need to unstick it from the pan. Add a little fat if necessary, the onions, a teaspoon of dried thyme, and a generous pinch of salt and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are sweet tasting and slightly colored, though not yet completely floppy. Add the mushrooms and turn up the heat to high, as the mushrooms and onions are both going to lose a lot of water. Keep cooking and stirring until the pan is again almost dry, then add a tablespoon of soy sauce, three tablespoons of white wine vinegar, half a teaspoon of red chili powder, and a teaspoon and a half of smoked paprika and stir to combine. Taste: the result should be sweet from the onions, sour from the vinegar, meaty from the pork, mushrooms, and soy, and have hints of spice and smoke. Adjust flavoring if need be. Serve over starch (we had leftover polenta, but pasta, potatoes, rice…) and with veggies on the side (leftover roasted cauliflower and carrots from yesterday, cold from the fridge for contrast). Serves 4-6.

The result was massive success and while it sounds all composed by the time I’m done writing it up it really wasn’t; the thoughts went

  • “hey, pork and vinegar, mmmm”
  • “onions are like cabbage and sugar if you cook them right”
  • “we’ve got these mushrooms lying around”
  • “now that I’m cooking, how about some spices?”
  • “maybe I can use that polenta…”

It’s a casual process, mostly about following your nose to someplace tasty. And yes, I’m only writing about this one because it turned out well; they don’t always, but they usually end up pretty good and there isn’t usually enough to have to eat it more than once even if you do screw up. But the point is: go forth! Make random crap from whatever’s in your fridge! Get experience and technique! Eat tasty dinner! Profit!

*we had a party; since we didn’t want it to devolve into a giant mass of cooking projects, we got catering. This meant that we only ended up with five cooking projects, which still counts as a win for us.