Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Reason #971 why the Hollywood Farmer's Market is my Happy Place: the guys who sell beef and pork out of coolers down at the Hollywood Boulevard end of Ivar.

Now, there is no shortage of places in Los Angeles to get good meat- both Huntington Meats or Marconda Meats in the 3rd and Fairfax Farmer's Market are wonderful and helpful and especially great for special orders or your giant party cuts of meat. And in a pinch there are trillions of Whole Foods, which is pricey but reliable, or Trader Joe's, which is not pricey and likely to have something from Niman Ranch or a decent steak for your spur of the moment needs.

However, I do not think anyone at any of these places will say to you, as you pick out your pork chops, "Oh, yeah, those are going to be good. Just did a kill yesterday." There is something about having pork on Tuesday that was killed on Saturday that thrills not the local foodie in me as much as it thrills my redneck heritage. Maybe *I* didn't kill that pig myself, but I know who did.

To cook the chops, I gave them a probably unnecessary brine that I cut out from the NYT Magazine ages ago. (If you are a Times Select member, it is worth reading the whole article for Julia Reed's account of Howard Dean on a pig farm.)

The brine is, more or less, 3/4 cups of kosher salt, 2/3 cups sugar, a tablespoon each of allspice and juniper berries, a teaspoon of peppercorns, and some bay leaves, thyme, and marjoram. First dissolve the salt and sugar in a gallon of warm water, then crush up all the herbs to the best of your ability in a mortar and pestle (really just smash them a bit, a ziploc bag and a heavy pan will also work) before stirring them in, too. Then toss in your chops and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Like I said, this is unnecessary for pork you know to be flavorful, but it doesn't hurt, and it is essential for supermarket pork.

I usually take the pork chops out an hour or so before cooking and then rub with a little olive oil and pepper before searing on each side. After that, if they are more than an inch thick, you will want to finish them in the oven or they will be too dry by the time they are cooked through.

To accompany the pork chops I made some kale based on what I recalled of Russ Parson's recommendations. I of course mis-remembered, and simmered the kale for half an hour before briefly sauteeing it in olive oil. The result was like nothing so much as decomposing broccoli, and it was completely yucky. I am going to try it according to his actual recommendations next week (blanching, then stewing in olive oil and garlic) to see if it is much better, because learning to love more vegetables is my mission this year. Any other kale suggestions are much appreciated.


Anonymous said...

That lacinato kale really is amazing stuff. I made a recipe calling for it (but subbing Red Russian kale) from Paula Wolfert's Slow Mediterranean cookbook, and blogged it back in '05... It was DELICIOUS. Click on my name to get to the link (and approximations of the recipe).

Hannah said...

That is so going on next week's menu. That looks like a kale I can get into.