Crispy Fried Pork Belly

I was reminded of this pork belly recipe when I saw a post for it in my “memories” on Facebook.  I just happened to have a relatively lean, skin on, piece in the freezer that I surprisingly found in the local supermarket.

The pork is marinated in a light corn starch batter with a little zing added by garlic chilli sauce.

Whenever I deep fry, I am reminded of Abdoulaye who taught me the paper towel lined colander method of draining the grease from fried food.  I believe he learned this from a woman from Texas.  Odd, my mother always drained grease in a flat, paper towel lined pan, but I believe the Abdoulaye method is superior.

These fried pork belly strips are great with cocktails or just for snacking.  They are best eaten hot because as they cool the skin can become a little chewy.  Serve with a yogurt cucumber sauce for dipping.

Crispy Fried Pork Belly

2 1/2 – 3 lb thick sliced pork belly, cut into strips

1 tbsp grated garlic

1 tbsp grated ginger

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp garlic chilli sauce

1/2 cup corn starch

2 eggs, slightly beaten


Peanut oil

Mix together the garlic, ginger, chilli sauce, cornstarch, eggs and salt, then stir in the pork strips and allow to marinate for 30 minutes – 1 hour.

Heat the peanut oil in a large cast iron skillet, then deep fry 1/3 of the pork at a time.  Drain on paper towels and enjoy immediately.





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Road Trip: Au Pied de Cochon Montreal

In June 2010, I read about a restaurant in Montreal, featuring French Canadian cuisine called Au Pied de Cochon.  I was salivating.  At the time I was somewhere in Africa and Montreal was an impossible dream.  A cookbook was mentioned in the article, introduction by Anthony Bourdain, and Amazon was just a click away.  I bought the paperback (called The Album) for $26 because the hardback was over a hundred dollars and I thought that that was too steep.  Now The Album is $145-156 and the hardback is $449.  I left the book in France because many of the recipes include foie gras, fat ducks, local produce and quality condiments.  I must try some of the recipes when I go back in September.

Anyway, Montreal is only 6 hours or so by car and I made reservations for the Hotel du Paris on the Plateau, not far from the restaurant.  This boutique hotel is housed in a 100 year old Victorian.  Our bedroom at the front of the hotel was spacious and featured a terrace (2nd floor left), perfect for sun downers and people watching.

Even off season, reservations for Au Pied de Cochon can be grim.  In fact, we talked to several Canadians who were surprised we had managed it.  Off season or not, the place was jammed, inside and out!

To begin our waitress recommended a Chinese influenced crepe, Cheung Fun, with lobster and foie gras as an entree that we could share.  While waiting we sipped glasses of a pretty good quality Chablis!  I can still taste it!

However,  there was a little “contretemps.”  We were accidentally served as entree a crepe Bretonne stuffed with 3 types of cheeses, potato, spinach and fiddlehead ferns.

We were well into our second, hearty, luscious bites before we looked at each other and said, “Hey, what is this marvelous wrong order”?  Overheard by our waitress, she apologized profusely for the mix up and promised to bring the Cheung Fun out immediately, in the meantime, we could just finish up that entree at no extra charge.  Idiots that we were, we thanked her but told her that we thought the two entrees would be too filling and politely refused her offer.  Sometimes we’re tiresome or the Chablis went to our heads or we’re too old to travel 🙂  We wish we had that crepe now!

While waiting for our main dishes, we admired some of the restaurant’s sophisticated decor.

Although the restaurant setting is casual, don’t let that fool you; the food and wine are at least 2 star Michelin and so are the prices.  Bring lots of money, it’s worth it.

As the sun went down and I lost natural light, my photographs, as always happens in restaurants without a tripod, suffered shaky hand, out of focus and darkened ugliness because, in a false sense of photographic professionalism, I refuse to set the camera to automatic and won’t use the flash.  So the picture of my main course of rare Magret de Canard with Fois Gras looks like this:

You’ll just have to take my word for it, it was delicious!

At the table next to ours, a man ordered a dish called simply Hot Chicken.  It was a layered stack of chicken,  foie gras and peas.  He was very pleased!

My husband ordered the signature dish of the restaurant, Canard en Conserve or Duck in a can.

The chef cans the dish himself with foie gras, a 1/2 duck breast, a balsamic demi-glaze, thyme and garlic.  Before serving, the can is boiled for about 30 minutes then opened and plated at the table.  We both agreed that foie gras loses important texture when boiled in a can and mainly becomes a lumpy part of the sauce.  Still, it didn’t distract from my husband’s enjoyment of Chef Martin Picard’s novel, innovative cuisine.

On the last day, after soliciting opinions on the best place to eat Quebec’s ubiquitous fast food dish, Poutine, the unanimous response was La Banquisse, within easy walking distance from the hotel.  Traditional Poutine is a hearty dish of fried potatoes, cheese curds and gravy although variations are also popular.

My husband had the basics with the additions of bacon, green pepper and mushrooms.  Realistically, unless you are working in a cotton field, two people can comfortably share a plate.  Did we?  No.

With protruding stomachs, we waddled back to our hotel terrace chairs to sparingly sip Fleurie to aid digestion.  It took a long time and more than one bottle 😀



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Blue Plate Special

From the early 1900s until the 1970s when they were superseded by fast food restaurants, American diners were inexpensive eating venues for the working man and their families.  Open 24 hours a day, they catered to men and women going to and coming from work on any shift who could stop in for a quick coffee with danish or a home style familiar meal.  The diners were also a place you could take the whole family for a Friday night meal and reward the “little woman” with a break from the nightly cooking and washing up.

My husband, whose family frequented these diners as a matter of course when looking for a meal out, numbers these meals as some of the most enjoyable of his childhood.  In fact, although the true diner experience no longer exists, he just can’t let it go and stares at them longingly as we travel down our rural roads, pretending not to see the sneer on my face 😀  At that time, the food was truly home made and almost identical to that that his mother made; plain American fare featuring meatloaf, pot roast with gravy and roasted chicken.  He also loved the individual, mini  jukeboxes at each table.

Making meatloaf is easy and you can choose almost any ground meat or a mixture of ground meats to make it.  Having said that, I was busy in the morning, out of the house and came home with no enthusiasm to cook at all.  Disrespecting the veal, I made the sloppiest, “I can’t be bothered” meatloaf in my life!

I negligently chopped the vegetables, mixed in a cup of the leftover sauce from the lamb shank, coated the bottom of the roasting pan with the same, then barely formed the meat into a loaf and jammed it into the pan.

However, unless you overcook a meatloaf or neglect to add some liquid to the mixture, you can’t ruin it.

Unlike the diner meatloaf, then and now, the one I make requires no globs of ketchup to help it slide down 😉

Veal Meatloaf

1 1/2 lb ground veal

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 bell pepper, chopped

1/2 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 egg

1/3 cup cracker crumbs

3 cups tomato sauce

Pour 1 cup of the tomato sauce into the bottom of a roasting pan.  Reserve the remaining 2 cups of sauce.  Mix the veal, salt, pepper, bell pepper, onion, garlic, egg and crumbs together with 1 cup of the reserved tomato sauce.  Mix well and form into a loaf.  Place the loaf into the roasting pan and roast at 350 F for 45 minutes.  Pour the remaining one cup of tomato sauce over the loaf, return to the oven and cook for a further 15 minutes.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then slice.



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Lamb Shanks in Wine with Pappardelle

I’ve forgotten what I was thinking about when I made the lamb shanks.  I’m usually thinking of something when I decide to cook but if I wait too long before posting, poof, all gone 😀

Anyway, I had two leggy lamb shanks from Australia and some lovely pappardelle from an Italian shop in Scranton.  The pasta wasn’t fresh but nearly as good as.

Our son gifted me this round Creuset casserole. Perfect size for two shanks and sauce.

A quick browning in Sister Paula Deen’s skillet before adding them to the casserole.

It’s fresh herb time again, thank God!

For a richer, thicker sauce, you can add about 4 tbsp of tomato paste to the sauce before braising.  I think I did that last time.

Lamb Shanks in Wine with Pappardelle

2 lamb shanks

Salt and pepper


2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 shallots, chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

4 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves

1 rosemary sprig, leaves

6 fresh parsley sprigs, leaves

10 ounces red wine

1 can diced tomatoes

12 ounces chicken broth

Fresh pappardelle pasta, cooked

Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper, then dust with flour and brown on all sides in a large skillet.  Remove and place in the bottom of a oven proof casserole.

Add the onion, shallots and garlic to the skillet and cook until the onion is soft.  Add the thyme, rosemary, parsley and cook for one minute.  Add the wine and boil for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 2 minutes.  Finally add the broth, bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.  Pour the sauce over the top of the shanks in the casserole, cover and roast in a 400 F oven for 1 hour.  Serve with the pappardelle.








Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged | 11 Comments

A Chicken in Every Pot

I’ve been listening to the records that came with my newly refurbished Victrola and noticed that many of the records date from the war years.  I’m especially pleased with the Decca label that recorded swing, blues and jazz.  I’m now desperately searching for 78s recorded by the eminent pianist and composer, Fats Waller.

I’m also looking for 78s by the Andrew Sisters.  One more than we’ll get to the chicken 😀

I’m having so much fun!  Anyway.

I had a cute little 3lb kosher chicken that reminded me a bit of a French poussin.  Normally I would have spatchcocked and grilled this but the grill is out of commission and until we decide what we want to buy, it’s oven or stove top for us 😦

I combined some fresh thyme with onions, carrots and potatoes to braise with the chicken.  Afraid that my deep Creuset casserole wouldn’t brown the chicken adequately, I first put the chicken on a rack in a very hot oven for 30 minutes before adding it to the casserole with the vegetables.   Good idea.  White chicken has little appeal for us unless it’s poached with soy sauce and ginger.

I suppose I could have used a smaller casserole but I do like to use this one 🙂  This made a fairly simple Sunday lunch with a flavorful sauce and perfectly cooked vegetables.

Braised Roasted Chicken with Vegetables

3 lb whole chicken

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

1 small onion, halved

1 small carrot, cut into 3 pieces

5 sprigs thyme

3 medium carrots, sliced

1 medium onion halved, then each half quartered

1 lb small new potatoes

1 1/2 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup white wine

Season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper. Rub all over with olive oil.  Put the small onion,  small carrot and 2 sprigs of thyme inside of the chicken cavity and tie the legs together.  Preheat the oven to 450 F and roast the chicken on a rack for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, strip the leaves from the remaining thyme sprigs and add to a bowl with the medium onion, potatoes, carrots, salt, pepper and a splash of olive oil, stir together well and place in a oven proof casserole with the broth.

When the chicken has browned, remove it from the rack and place in the casserole on top of the vegetables.  Pour the white wine on top of the hot chicken.

Lower the oven to 400 F and roast uncovered for 1 hour.









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Victor Victrola 1914


By first cleaning two times with lemon oil and a light steel wool, we found the grain!  In the next phase, we lightly sanded the wood with more lemon oil, being careful to not remove the original varnish.  Lastly, we buffed with Renaissance Paste Wax.  Maybe not museum renovation quality, but we were pleased with our selves 😀

Still need to polish the metal pieces,  re-wax and buff for a smoother finish, but this looks great in our living room  🙂

In the meantime, back in the kitchen, I found this little, one-bone rib roast in the back of the freezer looking freezer exaggerated, if not burned.  Undaunted, I knew from experience that looks don’t always reflect the inner state of a forgotten frozen piece of meat.  Not always.  Maybe sometimes 🙂

I slathered the little thing with a horseradish-herb paste and cooked it for 1 hour and 45 minutes, which was too long.  1 hour and 20-30 minutes would have been better.  Oh well, I was busy.

The horseradish paste was very good and I made enough for a larger roast.  I don’t know how much this weighed but the clue I ignored was that it only had one bone 😦

It was still juicy and flavorful but was cooked to maybe a medium well.  Still, it was good but the star here is the horseradish paste.

Horseradish Herb Paste for Prime Rib

5 cloves garlic

1/4 cup jarred horseradish

1 tbsp dried rosemary

1 tbsp dried thyme leaves

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

Process all ingredients into a paste.  Slather the paste onto the rib roast and let sit for 30 minutes.  Roast at 350F to desired doneness.



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Hearty Red Wine Braised Beef Stew with Chicken Hearts

Snow flurries this morning but we did have two days of low 70s just as a tease.  I had about 2 1/2 lbs of generic beef stew cubes and 1 lb of chicken hearts.  Yes, I know, a little bizarre but my husband likes stewed chicken hearts and/or gizzards. I taught him that 😀   This is a very nice stew, so if you don’t want the hearts, just cook 3 1/2 lbs of beef.

I adore fresh pearl onions!  Once blanched for a minute,  the skin is easily removed by slicing off the root portion and squeezing the top of each onion to slide off the skin.  So easy and so worth it.

I lightly browned the pearl onions and cremini mushrooms in butter before adding them to the stew during the last 20 minutes of cooking.  I could have eating these as is and did eat some 😉

Normally for the wine braise, I would have chosen an inexpensive but drinkable vin de table Beaujolais.  Since this does not exist in our neck of the woods,  I measured out some Black Box “merlot.”  After all, this was not bœuf bourguignon!  I mean, consider the chicken hearts 😀  The Black Box was fine.

Hearty Red Wine Braised Beef Stew with Chicken Hearts

1/2 lb fresh pearl onions

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered

Knob of butter

3 1/2 lbs of stew beef cubes or 2 1/2 lbs of stew beef cubes and 1 lb chicken hearts

Salt and pepper

3 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, halved and sliced

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

3 tbsp flour

3 cups red wine

1/4 cup brandy

1 bouquet garni

4 parsnips, medium slice

1 package frozen petit pois

Blanch the pearl onions in boiling water for 1 minute.  Remove and slice off root end, squeeze the onion skin from the top to remove.  Set aside.  Heat the butter in a skillet, then add the pearl onions and mushrooms, sauteing until lightly browned.  Remove and set aside.

Season the beef and hearts with salt and pepper, add half of the meat to the heated olive oil in a large skillet and saute until brown, remove the meat to a stock pot.   Add the other half of the meat to the skillet and saute until brown.  Remove to the stock pot.

Add the onion and garlic to the skillet and saute until wilted.  Sprinkle with the floor and cook the flour and onions until the flour is gravy brown.  Stirring, slowly add the wine to the flour mixture and stir until smooth and bubbly.  Add the brandy and boil for 1 minute.  Pour the liquids into the stock pot with the meat.  Add the bouquet garni and the parsnips, bring to a boil, them simmer for 2 hours.  Stir in the reserved mushrooms and pearl onions, the petit pois and continue to simmer for 20 minutes.


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