Monday, July 21, 2008

Swooning for Crispy Pork Belly with Baby Kirby Pickles

Photos: Nina Bachinsky-Gimmel

While on the hunt for an 18th-century farmhouse in Columbia County, Ned and I had the good fortune of stopping in Hudson for what is now our favorite dish EVER.

Special thanks to Jeffrey Gimmel and Nina Bachinsky-Gimmel, chefs and proprietors of Swoon--a charmer that turns out impeccably flavorful, handcrafted dishes showcasing Hudson Valley fare. Jeff and Nina have graciously shared their recipe for this outstanding new menu item.

Ned and I are now adding "within a short drive from Swoon" to our weekend house wishlist.

pickled baby Kirby cucumbers

1. Cut baby Kirby cucumbers lengthwise into quarters
2. Slice and soak cukes in salted ice water for 30 minutes
3. Steep in a 3-2-1-1 brine: water, white vin, salt, and sugar

how to assemble the dish
1. Braise pork belly for four hours in red wine.
2. When the meat is cooled, reduce the braising liquid with 2 Tbs. soy sauce, 2 Tbs. rice wine and a dash of sambal.
3. Cut the pork belly into one-inch wide strips, dust with cornstarch and deep fry until crispy.
4. Toss in the reduction with scallions, peanuts, beans sprouts, cilantro, and pickles.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Ode to the Chuckle Patch (Or, How to Pickle Rhubarb for 100 Wedding Guests)

Once upon a time, in a loft perched high above downtown Manhattan, there grew a chuckle patch.

This patch was the daytime home to three of the giggliest (and dare I say, hardest-working) girls, who made the office the most fun place ever.

For years, the chuckle patch was abuzz with creativity and laughter, but one day, the chuckles disappeared ....

Located across from the World Trade Center, the patch fell upon hard, chuckle-less times. Countless drinks, lots of desk yoga, and an acquisition later, the chuckles slowly returned.

Though we now spend our days in separate patches, the chuckles abound--even if we are covered in sticky syrup when pickling 25 pounds of locally grown rhubarb for Rachel’s wedding.

piles of rhubarb + 96 canning jars + six cab rides (including one that nearly sacrificed said jars to the taxi-hood gods) + a bride with a cold + a former-TV art director-turned-Sayulita-luxury-home-builder + a little alchemy = endless chuckles

pickled rhubarb
1 lb. rhubarb
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 ½ cups sugar
1 Tb. Kosher salt
1 ½-inch knob ginger, thinly sliced
Small handful dried chili peppers
1 tsp. cloves
2 whole allspice

1. Boil vinegar, sugar, salt, ginger and spices until sugar and salt dissolve (approximately 5 minutes after coming to a boil).
2. Wash and cut rhubarb into batons – long enough to fill the jar (we used half pint jars and cut stalks into 4” pieces)
3. Pack rhubarb into sterilized jars with a slice of ginger, one small dried chili, a few cloves, and an allspice berry.
4. Pour hot liquid over jars, screw on lids, and allow to cool.
5. Refrigerate for up to one month.

Note: It’s best to treat rhubarb as a refrigerator pickle, as the canning process will soften the fruit to mush.

Serve with:
• Hard cheeses, such as English farmhouse varieties
• Prosciutto and Marcona almonds
• Foie gras or pate
• Arugula and feta, tossed with olive oil and sherry vinegar