Braised Pork Jowl with Persimmon Gravy
Pork jowl, also known as pork cheek is one of my favorite cuts of pork. When jowl is braised over a long period of time the meat becomes "melt in your mouth" tender. Pork cheek is both chock full of fat and collagen, so it needs to be cooked low and slow for best results. Think of past experiences with cuts of meat like oxtail, ham hock, and shoulder.

Pork cheek is popular across the world, I have seen it atop a bowl of ramen as Chashu, cooked in a Sichuan style, and cured as the Italian Guanciale. Pork cheek shares many similarities with pork belly and I have found that it can be used as a wonderful substitution in many cases. One of the best arguments I can make about using pork cheek is the comparable cost per pound. As pork belly has risen in popularity, so has its price. Pork cheek is less expensive than pork belly, I bought mine from a higher priced butcher store and still paid under 5 dollars for a pound.

This dish may appear somewhat exotic but it was meant to be a homey dish to enjoy during the cold winter months. Stews, soups, and other braises are perfect for this time of year and perfume homes with their irresistible scents. Like many braises, this dish will take over three hours to prepare, so I suggest planning ahead, embracing the smells, and enjoy the lengthy process.




Braised Pork Jowl with Persimmon Gravy

Ingredients


  • 2 Fuya persimmons
  • 2 c White wine
  • 1 pound Pork cheek
  • 4 Garlic cloves
  • 2 Red shallots
  • 1 Stalk of celery
  • 1 T sugar
  •  
    Cooking Directions
    1. Trim the fat off of 1/2 to 1 pound of pork cheek until the majority of its fat is removed, then salt.
    2. Heat up an enamel coated dutch oven, or another pan with plenty of high heat oil.
    3. Brown all sides of the pork cheek and set aside, discard leftover oil.
    4. Add roughly 1 T of butter into the dutch oven or whatever pan you are using, and over medium heat brown shallots, celery, and garlic.
    5. Once browned, deglaze with 2 c of dry white wine, scrape the residual fond.
    6. Place the browned pork cheek back in with the wine mixture, and add two skinless Fuyu persimmons.
    7. Cover dutch oven with a tight fitting lid and cook in a 250F oven for 3 hours, if you are not using a dutch oven, transfer everything to a lidded oven safe pot or other braising cookware.
    8. Once again remove the pork cheeks from the dutch oven and set aside.
    9. Transfer the braising liquid into a blender and blend until smooth, transfer back to the dutch oven. Add 1 T of sugar and adjust seasonings if necessary, and reduce on the stove top over medium high heat. 
    10. Once thickened to a gravy-like consistency remove from the heat.
    11. Serve pork cheek with a side dish(es), and top with persimmon gravy.
    Total Time: 3 Hours 30 min


    Preserved Lemons over Salad

    Having a well stocked pantry and fridge can make or break the home cooking experience. Staple condiments provide comfort, and may bring sweetness, saltiness, sourness, brightness, or spiciness to an otherwise bland meal. Today's recipe is a pantry staple all over the world, and for good reason. Preserved lemons are easy to make and stretch the beloved lemon throughout the months which they are out of season.

    The origins of preserved lemons date back to at least Roman times, but likely much earlier (Soyer, 110). They are commonly found in cuisines in the geographic span of Morocco to India. (Sonneman, 34) I most commonly associate the pickled citrus with North African stews and Moroccan tagine. North African food is vibrant with bold spices and colors, that is why ingredients like preserved lemons should be in every self-respecting home cook's repertoire.

    So today we start preserving lemons! The unique fragrance of preserved lemons will add a distinct brightness to home cooked North African, Middle Eastern, or South East Asian dishes. Besides lemons, other citrus may be used in this pickling method. Limes, grapefruit, and even oranges can be  salted, cured, and allowed to ferment in their own juices to extend their lifespan. Just like other pickles, spices may be added to preserved citrus to alter the flavor.





    Preserved Lemons


    Ingredients

    • Your preference Lemons
    • Box Coarse Kosher salt
    • Your preference Mason Jars
    Cooking Directions
    1. Clean Mason jar(s), and allow to dry.
    2. Pour roughly 1 T of salt, or enough to create a layer into the bottom of the dry jar(s).
    3. Cut the tops off of all lemons, and quarter without cutting all the way through.
    4. Add a large pinch of salt in the center of the cut lemon and rub.
    5. Press down and allow some juice to come out. Give the jar a good shake and place in a dark area like a cupboard or drawer away from direct sunlight.
    6. After three days, remove and with a wooden spoon or other long handled tool press the lemons to release the rest of their juices. If the leftover juice does not fully submerge the lemons add fresh lemon juice on top.
    7. Place back in the same spot and allow the preserved lemons to ferment for 1 month.
    8. The preserved lemon rind also known as peel will be good to use indefinitely. Refrigerate and enjoy as needed.
    Total Time: 1 month+

    Citations and Further Readings:

    • Sonneman, Toby. Lemon: A Global History. London: Reaktion Books Ltd, 2012. Print.
    • Soyer, Alexis. The pantropheon, or, History of food, and it's preparation: From the Earliest Ages of the World. Boston: Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, 1853. Print. 




        Welcome back to Joy and Feast. As you may have noticed the website and format have changed, and I believe it is even better! I am extremely excited to be back and working on new content which includes videos for each post. I wanted to kick off the first post of 2016 with a recipe influenced by a friend I met two years ago around this time.

        My friend in Berlin let me stay at his apartment for about a week over new years in 2013-2014. He knew that because I was a cook I would be able to prepare one of his favorite dishes, which happened to be anything cooked Au gratin. This is a French term which essentially refers to a browned crust left behind by a sharp cheese or bread crumbs. (cookthink.com) Most commonly dishes Au gratin refers to potatoes, pasta, or vegetables that are mixed in a bechamel sauce, topped with bread crumbs, and then baked in the oven or placed under a broiler.

        Gratin dishes might be more common than one would think. Gratin dishes like macaroni and cheese are loved by many Americans, perhaps thanks to the common boxed versions with powdered cheese. Gratin can be much, much better than a blue box of mac n cheese, and this Beer and Cheese Gnocchi Gratin proves it. I would imagine that my friend in Berlin would approve.




        Beer and Cheese Gnocchi Gratin


        Ingredients

        • 2 c Precooked gnocchi (or substitute fresh)
        • 2 T Unsalted butter
        • 2 T All-purpose flour
        • 4 c Whole milk
        • 1 c Amber Ale(or substitute a wheat ale)
        • 2 c Shredded cheese(I used Cheddar and Swiss)
        • 2 t Kosher salt
        • 2 t Black pepper
        • 2 t Nutmeg
        Cooking Directions
        1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook 2 c packaged gnocchi until they float to the surface of the boiling water, strain and set aside.
        2. Melt 2 T of butter over medium heat, once melted slowly add 2 T of all-purpose flour while continuously whisking.
        3. When roux is a thick consistency add 4 c of Whole milk and continue to whisk.
        4. When the roux is incorporated in the milk, add 1 c of amber ale to sauce, whisk continuously.
        5. Add 2 c of shredded cheese in several batches. Whisk the whole time until the sauce is smooth.
        6. Add 2 t of Kosher salt, black pepper, and nutmeg to the beer and cheese bechamel sauce, when fully mixed take off of heat and reserve.
        7. Heat up a skillet, take the reserved gnocchi and lightly saute in butter. Once browned add to an oven proof dish and combine with beer and cheese bechamel sauce.
        8. Add freshly grated Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs over the top of your gnocchi and sauce mixture. Cook in the oven for roughly 30 minutes. To achieve a very brown crust place under the broiler for a few moments. Watch until you are satisfied with the color.
        Total Time: 1 Hour

        Citations and Further Readings:

        • "What is gratin?." Cookthink. N.p., n.d. <http://www.cookthink.com/reference/926/What_is_a_gratin >.

          Fried Green Tomatoes
          Winter is undeniably approaching. Southern Indiana has already seen one night in which temperatures dipped below 32F. The frost destroyed a large variety of plants including my precious tomato vines. Instead of dreading the inevitable barren season to come, I wanted to write an article about how we can still get great food in our post-frost world.

          Throughout the United States, one of the most common garden plants grown for food is the tomato. Tomatoes sugar content, acidity, and size all depend upon the breed and growing conditions of the plant. A grape tomato and beefsteak tomato have considerably different usages. Tomatoes do share a common development cycle. All varieties of tomatoes start off as immature, hard, tart green fruits and only after maturating, they change color and develop unique flavors.

          However, if a tomato plant is unprotected in a below freezing environment, its vines wilt and die. This seasonal event leaves many gardeners with a large quantity of unripened tomatoes. There are techniques to ripen green tomatoes; such sun ripening, by storing green tomatoes on a window sill in direct sunlight or ethylene ripening, by storing green tomatoes in a closed bag with an ethylene producing fruit. However, green tomatoes have culinary validity in their own right!

          Fried green tomatoes are a common usage of the unripened fruit. When cooked, they become tender yet remain flavorful. You may beer batter, tempura batter, use bread crumbs, crackers, or any other variation of breading or battering food that you prefer.

          Many of us think of fried green tomatoes as a recipe developed in the Southern United States, and this is primarily due to the novel and film Fried Green Tomatoes which takes place in Alabama. Lisa Bramen from Smithsonian.com has found that fried green tomatoes started to appear in the United States in the North and Midwest, and were most likely the contribution of Jewish immigrants from the mid 19th to early 20th century. Regardless of who can actually claim ownership of fried green tomatoes, they only seem to be gaining in popularity. Fried green tomatoes are another instance of practicality becoming a valued American food tradition.

          Green Tomatoes



          Fried Green Tomatoes


          Ingredients
          • 6 Large green tomatoes
          • 1/4 c Buttermilk
          • 2 Eggs, whisked
          • 1 c All-purpose flour
          • 2 c Panko bread crumbs
          • 5 T Old Bay seasoning
          Cooking Directions
          1. Slice green tomatoes, about 1/4-1/2 inch thick.
          2. In a bowl beat eggs and buttermilk together.
          3. On a separate plate mix flour and Old Bay seasoning together.
          4. On yet another plate spread Panko.
          5. Take a slice of tomato and dredge in flour, then coat it in the egg mixture, and finally coat with Panko crumbs. Carefully set breaded tomato on a sheet pan lined with wax paper.
          6. Repeat the process until all tomatoes are breaded, then stick in the freezer.
          7. One hour to indefinite, remove the frozen tomato and prepare oil to fry. You want to make sure and use a high heat oil and get it near it's smoking point. The frozen tomatoes will instantly drop the temperature of the oil, so this part is crucial.
          8. Fry the tomatoes until golden brown and remove to a plate lined with paper towels. Make sure to absorb as much oil as possible and serve immediately in order to avoid soggy tomatoes.
          9. *The frozen tomatoes will last over the winter, fry off as desired.
          Total Time: 2 Hours

          Citations and Further Readings:

          • Braman, Lisa. "The Surprising Origins of Fried Green Tomatoes." Smithsonian. Smithsonian, 6 Aug. 2010. Web.
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