Wednesday, December 24, 2008


I apologize for the delay in post. I took a brief hiatus from full-time 'blog' activities to explore the California wilderness with two hippies (post to follow!).

Before this 'outdoors' adventure, I cooked up leftover tonkatsu to make a post-katsu treat. Leftover tonkatsu kind of sucks. No matter how it is stored or reheated, bringing back that fresh crisp is pretty impossible. Katsudon is the perfect solution.

-Leftover tonkatsu (I had two big pieces - about half of what I started with, and enough for a serving that made me uncomfortably full for 2-3 hours)

-1/2 onion, sliced.. not diced
-1/2 cup dashi
- 2 1/2 tbsp soy
-1 tbsp mirin
-1 tbsp sugar
-2 eggs

-steamed, short grain, white rice (about half a cup)

For the meat:

I reheated/attempted to crisp in the oven with a low broil for about 10 minutes. I would have used a toaster oven, but don't own one so... oven it was!

For the sauce:
In a medium saute pan I combine the dashi, soy, mirin, sugar and onion, medium-ish simmer till the onion is nice and soft. I don't add salt because 1) I'm pretty sure the dashi I use already has salt in it and 2) I think it's fine without any.


Put it all together...:

I drop the re-crisped meat into the sauce for a couple minutes (covered), then pour the lightly beaten eggs in, cover for another couple minutes, and haul it all over the rice. I had a large excess of sauce this time (I think the recipe above can be used for about 4 times the amount of katsu I was working with, but I was eating alone).

meat in sauce..

huevos/eggs/tamago have been dropped

I serve it with some greens (spinach because that's what I had). Ideally there would be some scallions involved somewhere in there, and maybe some peas as well. Katsudon is a blank canvas - add what you will. Oh, and I serve it with some pickled ginger strips because A) it's delicious B) they did it in Japan and 3) that's how I like it.

finished product, take 1... something's missing...

Note on the sauce: Either because of the quantity I ate or the fact that I didn't really measure any of the ingredients in the sauce, it turned out to be a pretty intense sauce experience. A little less sugar maybe? I don't know. It was good and I'm pretty sure I just ate too much.

aha! 100 times more authentic

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Tonkatsu. Japanese for simple deliciousness (not really). It's pretty hard to screw up fried meat. Pound, Batter, Fry. I'd like to give a shout-out to the Portuguese, who brought the idea of frying (and meat) to Japan back in the day.

A gateway food for those looking to explore Japanese cuisine. It is definitely the first J-dish I remember liking as a kid. When I was living in Tokyo I took an occasional breather from my daily ramen double-dose for some fried pork goodness. This post is named after my favorite katsu restaurant. That name means "flower of the cutlet".

-pork (I used boneless sirloin chops)

Tonkatsu is carpaccio's third, fried, pork cousin. I pound the meat till it is 2/3 or 1/2 its original thickness with the spikey side of the Meat Hammer (yes, that name will always be capitalized here). Then i sprinkle with some salt.

The meat.
The pounded meat - it's bigger!

Cover with flour. Dip in egg. Cover in panko.

The three horsemen of frying.

Pork Pile Challenge: Spot the meat.

Drop in hot (canola) oil. You know it's hot enough when you drop a crumber of panko and it fizzle-floats to the top.

If that's not a floating crumb..

Fry till golden brown and delicious


-Cabbage is more traditional than spinach, but... I had spinach so I subbed it in.
-The egg is leftover from the fry-dip. Waste not, Want not, eh??
-That is hot mustard. Not Hot Tabastard.
-The final step is to apply liberal amounts of Tonkatsu sauce (I use Bulldog, for sentimental reasons).
-The chopsticks make me feel more authentic.

Katsu-don tomorrow, for a record third post of the week. Also stay tuned for Fresh Bacon.

The "Great"Tabastard Experiment

I was at my local grocery store buying supplies for dinner tonight (post to follow). The lady behind me in the "15 items or less" line had two items: Tabasco and mustard. Immediately my mind starts racing. $$Cha-ching$$. New condiment: Tabasco + mustard... Tabastard. Honey Tabastard. Yellow Tabastard. Spicy Brown Tabastard. Smother your corn dog in it. Broil your chicken in it. Put it on your burgers, fries, chicken strips. Basically the entire condiment world would be flipped on its head. So I left line and got some Tabasco and a nice, classic Dijon mustard.

Ingredients: Honey Dijon Tabastard
-Mustard (any kind)
-Honey (optional)

The makings of Tabastard: This is all you need.

Process: Mix all ingredients.

Beautiful color, texture....

So now it came down to tasting this wonderful creation. I didn't have any corn dogs on hand I didn't have the patience to wait for dinner (post to follow...!), so I just dipped a finger and tested it out.




Blech. Tasted like shit. Somehow the combination of honey and mustard made everything that makes Tabasco good turn on itself. For now the condiment universe can rest easy. I'll be back, though. Back to the drawing board.

The best/only place for Tabastard

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Some thoughts

With my exponentially growing follower-base, I've decided to meet high demand with a second post this week!

  • A Haiku:
Repeats in my mind
bacon bacon bacon ba-
Spring in December

For some god-knows-why reason I woke up 45 minutes before my alarm this morning and couldn't go back to sleep. In my half-daze mind-wander I wrote that haiku. . . . Not completely random, I promise - stay tuned to next week's post for clarification.
  • I just ate the Spicy Italian Sausage for lunch. I had it in a little bath of the bell pepper marinara I made. It was good, definitely the best Italian I have made. For some reason I think in previous attempts I used the large dye grinder for the meat. The texture was much better with the little dye.
  • I need to not stuff the sausage links so much. The casing shrinks a little when it cooks so it hikes up the meat a little. I think if I make them more flaccid (yes, I'm using that word.) it will stay in the casing better.
  • I have to admit I voted twice in the meat-type poll, so reported results are slightly skewed. My mind chose pork. My heart chose duck. I voted once for each. My brain is responsible or this blog (Hence: pork).
  • Check out Kwan's blog. She posts much more frequently than me, and with a lot more interesting content. Plus if you look carefully she's linked Pork Pile, so you can come right back here!
  • I will add some comments to the sausage-making photos soonish

Monday, December 8, 2008

Spicy Italian Sausage

What better way to kick this off than with a sausage adventure?! I apologize for the lapse in time between the creation/dissemination of the Manifesto and the first actual post. The sheer mental energy I put into creating that document left me bedridden for 5 days, delaying my (hopefully) weekly postings in this space. I will also be revamping the color scheme and layout sometime, but I don't really have a timeline for that.

My followers (that word is unnecessarily pluralized) grew so impatient with my lack of posts that I was inspired to make this an extra long post, which, for lack of a better name, I will name after the dish.

As I stated in the Manifesto, I have made sausage somewhere around a dozen times, and about half of those have been Italian sausage of some sort. Other types I've tried include Merguez, Bratwurst, Kielbasa and Linguica. I'm still toying with my Spicy Italian, but the following is where I am so far. Here goes nothing.

4 lbs pork butt (bone out)
1 lb pork back fat
3tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp caraway seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp paprika
small handful chopped basil leaves
1/2 tbsp black pepper
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup red wine (I try to use Chianti because it makes me feel like it yields a more legitimately Italian sausage)
crushed red pepper**

hog casings

*This recipe is loosely based on the one from Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.
** I put a lot in because I wanted to make it spicy this time. I have tried a few times in the past and never actually succeeded in making srsly spicy sausage. It's like pork butt absorbs or masks spiciness. If this isn't spicy habanero alternatives may be necessary.

I split sausage making up into two days: Day One is the Day of the Grind and Spice. Day Two is the day of the Test and Stuff.
No step is particularly difficult, but practice definitely comes in handy, especially towards the end if you are trying to Stuff solo.

Day One:
The Grind
Dice meat and back fat into ~3/4 inch cubes


Cut 'em into cross sections. The colder the meat, the easier the cut. Assuming sharp knife.


Grind: I have a manual crank grinder (small holes for sausage). I hate it. It almost never latches onto a surface, takes a long time to grind, and is a pain in the ass to clean. You may notice I have taken to latching it on my desk. This is the only surface thin enough in my apartment to really attach the grinder to. The key during the Grind is to keep the meat cold, and of course to keep everything clean. I put the diced meat in the fridge for about 20 minutes before grindage.

Grinding... if meat is nice and cold it will remain in discrete strands instead of turning into a disgusting brainy mush.

Ground - the grinder is artfully exhausted after a hard day's work

The Spicing - the end of Day One. This pretty much consists of dumping in all the rest of the ingredients and getting down and dirty and hand mixing so everything is distributed evenly through all the meat. Refrigerate till Day Two.

Spiced meat. Ready to sit overnight.

Day Two:
The Tasting
Take some of the spiced meat and cook it to check your spice levels. If you don't like them... change them.

Initiate test.

Tested. Good to go.

This tasted pretty good, maybe a little too much paprika. I've never added fresh basil or full coriander seeds, and I liked both of those. Can't say if the over-spicy attempt paid off. I guess we'll have to wait and see!

The Stuffing
Maybe the most strenuous part of all of this, especially with that hand crank. Soak your casings in warm water for a half hour or so. Then put 'em on your sausage stuffer! This is a delicate art, and requires extreme patience at times. I would provide a very fitting metaphor, but making sausage as a hobby is already burdened by way too many phallic references. The casings are stronger than they look, and if they were soaked they shouldn't rip.

Is that beautiful or what?

Once those bad boys are loaded up, I put some spiced meat in the grinder and crank it till it is just at the tip of the stuffer. Then I pull the casing over and tie a knot, pull it back, and start cranking! It's a bit of a delicate balance to find the appropriate tautness of meat for the casing. When about 12 inches is stuffed I roll the first link with a pinch and twist. The next link should be twisted the opposite direction to prevent unraveling.

Keep cranking away till all the meat is stuffed in casing. This usually takes me about 5 minutes per pound. Then tie off, allow the links to air dry for 20 minutes or so, and put them in the fridge or freeze them, depending on when you are going to eat! With this particular batch I will not be eating them for a few days, so the jury is still out on the spicy factor.

I also made a red sauce with bell peppers for some sausage sandwiches/spaghetti, but that recipe is for another day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

/ Manifesto \

This space is both dedicated to and inspired by pork, in all its beautiful forms. There is a whole world of pork possibilities, which I intend to investigate to the best of my abilities and document as a running diary here.

Let's talk about dreams. While everyone knows bacon makes everything better, I am a firm believer that this can be expanded from just bacon to pork in general. Pork meringue pie. Think about it. But seriously, it has to be the most versatile non-egg animal based protein. From bacon to jamon iberico to loin to chops to lardo to (most types of) sausage and BACK to bacon, there is just no stopping this animal!

As of now I am a novice at best - I have made sausage a dozen or so times, cured pork belly kakuni-style, slow-fried carnitas, and played around with recipes from cookbooks/online sources. Maybe every once in a while I'll try to bake something (don't hold your breath), but I usually stick to non-baking efforts. Rigorous measuring and timing is just a bit too much for me.

Although I have most recipes documented in some form or another, I will be starting fresh here and not uploading any previous recipes/processes/experiences. Fresh start!

Some things this 'Blog' (hate that word) will/will not provide*:

-A forum for the discussion of pork, the preparation of pork dishes (and probably some dishes without pork, too), and the great art of charcuterie
-A running recipe diary
-A place for me to voice my unfounded frustrations, radical opinions and ridiculous innovations (both pork and non-pork-related)
-I will try to post a new recipe or experience weekly, but let's be serious here... that kind of pace may not be sustainable long-run
-A priceless opporktunity for subliminal pig/pork-related puns (see what I did there?!?)

*these terms are subject to change at any time

For now I will end the manifesto here. I'll be back soon with a first attempt