This weekend was much needed. I took a real day off of work on Friday, meaning that I didn’t work from home or anything. It’s an almost unheard of thing now that you are always reachable, but one of my coworkers was back from vacation and I knew she would be able to handle anything that came up. I spent the day prepping for Kramer’s birthday barbecue on Saturday. This prep included a failed attempt at making Chicago-style hot dog buns. I must have over-kneaded the dough (I also substituted some whole wheat flour for all-purpose in an attempt to give the buns some texture, which ended up working against me), because the buns just didn’t spread out enough while baking, so they were maybe an inch or two too short to work at buns. They tasted good, but the presentation wasn’t going to cut it. Ever a glutton for punishment, I made a second attempt on Saturday morning, but like an idiot, instead of working on what I knew went wrong with the first buns, I tried my hand at pretzel buns. I already know that I can handle making pretzels and pretzel dogs, so why not pretzel buns? Well, this time around the buns rose and spread way too much, resulting in comically large and flat buns. They, too, tasted good, so I at least decided to re-purpose these and call them pretzel bread, which is what they basically turned into. People at the barbecue on Saturday seemed to enjoy them, completely unaware of my utter failure. Oh well. You can’t win every time. Not that I’m giving up! I’ll go for attempt number three soon in an effort to prove that I am smarter than flour, water, yeast and sugar.
Barney and me, Kramer’s birthday breakfast, walking home from dinner on Friday and the entrance to Featherweight.
Anyway, despite my apparent desire to have the opposite be true, Saturday was a success. But first, on Friday night, I wanted just Kramer and myself to have a night to ourselves. I told Kramer to just meet me outside of the subway so that the restaurant would be a surprise. We ended up at Zenkichi, which is a fancy Japanese brasserie with intimate little booths for dining and amazing service. We had the omakase menu, which was excellent. There was wonderfully fresh sashimi, buttery poached miso cod (both of our favorites), tender, thinly sliced steak and smaller dishes that escape me now. We even had dessert, which neither of us have had since we started our diet and it was, obviously, delightful. After our dinner and a glass or two of sake, we headed to the movies to see Neighbors – it was hilarious, of course. We headed home to watch Hannibal and then go to sleep, because we had the barbecue the next day and wanted to be well rested (but more on that later this week). On Sunday, we slept in, then I made a giant pancake breakfast with homemade whipped cream, strawberries, fresh squeezed orange juice and thick cut bacon, alongside plenty of coffee, for Kramer’s actual birthday. We stuck to the couch for the rest of the afternoon, then met up with our friends Joel and Lily at The Boil for a feast of crawfish, shrimp and crab. I was definitely drunk on seafood by the end of the meal, but it was absolutely fantastic and I can’t wait to go back and show more people this treasure for a restaurant. We headed home, flung ourselves back onto the couch, caught up on Veep and Silicon Valley, then went to sleep. A victorious weekend, if I do say so myself.
This is the last of the Vlasic Farmers Garden recipes (for now, anyway) and it might have been my favorite. Who doesn’t love pork belly? This appetizer has just about everything that I would want in a single bite: creamy, tender pork belly, crunchy pickles and garlicky pickled vegetables. The combination works perfectly, and best of all, if you have leftover pork belly, you’ve got half of your breakfast ready to go for the week (just add scrambled eggs). If you’ve been paying attention, not only have I been sharing some tasty Vlasic recipes with you, but you also have the opportunity to enter the Savor Simplicity Sweepstakes. Three lucky winners will win a prize package valued at $1,500, so don’t miss out and be sure to enter! You can find more ways to win by following @FarmersGarden and by using #FarmToJar. I’m happy to say that I’ll have more recipes from Vlasic to share soon!
One of the courses in our omakase meal at Zenkichi for Kramer’s birthday.
Now, onto the pork. Brown your pork belly on both sides after rubbing with my Indian spiced rub or any rub you prefer.
Top with the onions, garlic and apple juice, cover and braise for 2 hours or so, until the pork is very tender.
Remove the pork from the oven and allow it to cool slightly before slicing and assembling.
- ½ pound pork belly (skin removed)
- 1 jar Farmers Garden Zesty Garlic Chips, plus pickled vegetables from jar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup apple juice
- ½ onion, sliced
- 1 clove garlic
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees degrees F. Cut shallow Xs in the fat side of the pork belly to score the fat, then season with the brown sugar, curry powder, salt, garam masala, ground cardamom, ground coriander, black pepper and cinnamon (alternatively, you can use a rub combination of your own).
- In a cold sauté pan, place pork belly skin side down and turn heat on low?medium and cook pork until lightly browned on one side, around 8-10 minutes, then flip and cook an additional 3?5 minutes on the other side, until just browned.
- Leave the pork in the pan and add in the onion, garlic and apple juice. Bring the apple juice to a simmer, then remove the pan from the heat, cover with a lid or aluminum foil, and cook for 2 hours or so, until the pork is cooked through and tender.
- Remove the pork from the pan and allow it to cool slightly, then slice into ½-inch pieces and place on a Farmers Garden pickle chip, then top with pickled vegetables from the jar and skewer with a toothpick. Serve room temperature. The leftover pork belly will keep well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.