Saturday, February 2, 2013

Beggar's Pork

This is the second one. Cured pork shoulder inside. His nose came off in the oven, but he was so cute.
Last week Erica asked me if I had ever made Beggar's Chicken. She sent someone's blog post in which it was made for the first time with success. Maybe it wasn't intended as such, but I took it as a challenge. And with my usual heedless aplomb, I jumped in. But with an entirely different idea. Not just pork, but cured pork. Here's how to do it: Take a shoulder roast, 3 or 4 pounds. Salt and pepper generously, add a pinch of instacure #1, and whatever spices you like. I think you can see coriander and juniper. Throw it in a ziplock and toss in the fridge for one week. Turn over every day. Then soak about 5 lotus leaves. The ones I bought were a bit banged up. And I got the weirdest looks at the Asian grocery, though I go there all the time asking for random parts, the leaves struck them as absurd. Very dry and brittle, and huge, but they worked fine once soaked for about half an hour. Don't be tempted to sit on a floating leaf like a frog. Anyway, wrap the pork in the leaves tightly. Then take some white clay (I think this is B mix) and roll it out flat and completely seal the lotus wrapped pork. I was tempted to give this a little snout and ears, but I actually ran out of clay. Bake at 450 degrees for two hours. Let cool a bit and then whack with a hammer. Remove clay completely. It will actually be semi-fired earthenware. It can't be used again. Unwrap the leaves and slice the pork. It has the most intriguing aroma. Sort of like tea, sort of like sweet herbs and hay. And the meat has an extraordinary texture, not unlike corned beef, but juicy and not stringy at all. Still dreaming of what to do with the meager leftovers. Not a sandwich, maybe a taco or steamed bun.

14 comments:

Ken Albala said...

You know it occurs to me that one could actually throw a pot, put food in and seal it on the wheel, then bake like this. It would just come out much more beautiful. OK, experiment #2. Hang on.

Andrew Sigal said...

Ruh roh! So much to eat, so little time.

Erica Peters said...

Lovely work -- thanks for rising to the challenge :-)

Ken Albala said...

Yes Andrew, That's life's greatest dilemma. I think if I were granted one wish it would be to eat however much I wanted and never be sated, full or gain weight. Seriously.

Jeremy said...

How does it compare versus baking in bread dough? I'd assume the clay keeps in more of the moisture.

lostpastremembered said...

I would love to do pork or boar with spruce buds...wonder how it would work?

Ken Albala said...

Jeremy, I think the clay radiates inward and holds heat. Like a casserole. Bread doesn't at all. And Deana, I think pine would be fabulous. In fact my next thought was lapsang souchong tea, smoked over pine needles, sprinkled all over the meat, wrapped in paper then clay. Maybe a duck. YES.

Anonymous said...

I'm just curious because a normal sealed in type dish (eg, a buried pig roast) uses low slow cooking, whereas 450 for two hours is relatively high and quick cooking so how is the connective tissue broken down?

Given how sealed in the ingredients are, would this be more akin to cooking in a pressure cooker than an oven? On the other hand, Pressure cookers require some head space to actually build up pressure so...no?

Juana Isabella/Donna said...

Ken, if instead of putting it in the oven, you burried your clay pig in coals on a fire, do you think that would work? ... kinda like you bake potatoes on a camp out.

Ken Albala said...

Hey Folks, I do think a long and slow cook would work well too. But I think the idea here is that the clay itself radiates the heat directly to the food, and pressure is probably built up too, since there's nowhere for steam or aroma to escape. There's no added liquid so it's not a braise either. Nor is it baking or roasting since the heat isn't dry. Very interesting, I don't know what to call this technology.

Jessica Fong said...

Brilliant! I'm going to tell my studio partners. We need a good reason for a party. Come over to the Pacific studio, we have some extra recycle.

Ken Albala said...

Hey Jessica, How have you been? The hard part is baking without cracking. I'm almost tempted to let it dry with the cured pork inside, in the fridge. Wet clay in hot oven isn't a great idea if you want pieces to stay on.

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