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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Coconut Lemongrass Braised Pork - French Fridays with Dorie

Because of the odd weather patterns in Minnesota, I wish the last two weeks' choices had been turned around. It was cold and rainy when it was time to have cold cantaloupe soup, so I put the soup (which had never seemed that appetizing in the first place) on hold. A week later, the menu called for braised pork, and we were in the first days of a blistering heat wave. All time record, folks!!! Three consecutive days of dew points above 80!!! (Who knows what that means--but our windows were fogging up on the outside when we cooled down the inside, so apparently it means that things are steamy). Anyway, I made them both on the same day just to balance things out.

I substituted some beautiful Farmers' Market vegetables for the wintry root vegetables in the recipe. I still used carrots and onions, but these were baby carrots and spring onions, as well as pea pods, not things that had been hanging around in the root cellar for months. Does anyone still have a root cellar?

I got a nice big hunk of fatty pork butt from my favorite meat market. I know from America's Test Kitchen that I should eschew the lean, pretty pork roasts in favor of the more gnarly, fatty ones. If I had any doubt whether this is sound advice, it was resolved by the delicious meaty flavor and the decidedly untough texture of this stew.

I've also learned by heart the browning mantra: use a hot pan and brown the meat in batches, keeping plenty of room between the pieces so they don't steam. Julia Child used to instruct me to do the same thing. It's at least one lesson that I've managed not to forget.

I cooked the stew on top of the stove instead of using the oven because I couldn't bear to heat it up when the thermometer was hovering around 100. (This is Minnesota, and that temperature is over 120 degrees hotter than in the deep midwinter).

Regardless of the weather, this was an extraordinarily good dish. My grocery store was out of lemon grass, and I was too sweaty to go in search of it, so I grated additional lemon rind and added it. I used hot curry powder, but used a little less than called for in the recipe and added some garam masala to make up the difference. Other than those changes, and the ones already noted, I followed the recipe. Even though I don't often repeat recipes, I hope that I'll remember to repeat this one.

While the stew was simmering, I made last week's recipe.

This has got to be the easiest recipe ever.

And, as it turns out, a perfect first course for the coconutty, lemony pork. I bought fresh ginger, but somehow it didn't make its way home from the grocery store. (I think those little pieces sometimes fall through the holes of the cart). I was out of powdered ginger, so I completely missed the oomph it would have provided. So the soup was fresh and delicious, but not gingery at all.

Also, sadly, it was missing its glug of wine. I even had the right kind, and I took it out of the refrigerator, lining it up right in front of the bowls. You'd think that with a bottle of wine staring you in the face, you'd remember to use it. But no such luck.

Now I'm a believer in cold fruit soups. And in spicy pork stews. And in how well they go together.


  1. I know what you mean about the heat. It was in the high 90s as I made the pork stew. I also used summery vegetables, but I think I have to retry when the weather cools off. Glad to hear you liked it.

  2. Betsy,
    It was hot all over, it seems! I liked it more than I expected to, but sometimes having low expectations is very helpful.

  3. I served them both together, too and liked the pairing. I skipped the wine altogether for the soup and didn't think it suffered from the omission. The stew will definitely be on the menu again sometime, especially since other French Friday participants reported that it works well with other proteins, too.

  4. We had visit from Minnesota at work last week, and when they tell you that it is much cooler in Puerto Rico than there, something's got to be off. I'm glad you enjoyed your Double Dorie post. Those recipes must have been great together!

  5. Onewetfoot,
    I liked the soup without the wine too--but I still wondered if it would have been even better with it.

    Puerto Rico has a much better climate than Minnesota, even in the summer, when it's moderated by ocean breezes. The flat prairie has nothing to moderate it, so it just gets hot.

  6. Hope things broke for you - I am in Upstate NY and we are SO not used to the kind of heat we had this week/ last week. We were so glad when the torrential rains came in and broke the "heat dome".
    Both of your dishes look great - love your veggie choices on the stew.