“I had bought more than I could comfortably carry, which meant it was time to go.”
~Ruth Reichl, My Kitchen Year
There is enough time in my lunch break to get to the grocery store and back. The difficulty is when I lose track of time inside the store.
Last week I drove a little further than I usually do, because I had to pick up a prescription at a specific store. After visiting the pharmacy I decided to pick up a few items I had missed on a previous shopping trip. As I passed through the meat department, the “on sale” sign caught my eye. Not only because meat was 99 cents/lb., but because it was pork shoulder.
The night before I had read an entry in Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year about how to braise this cut of meat in apple cider. This author is so good at describing the whole experience of food that her words can almost seduce you into eating raw fish or thick, slimy noodles when Asian cuisine isn’t your thing. In the paragraphs before the recipe for cider-braised pork shoulder, she talks about imagining sweet meat melted into onions and apples. Another plus is that this cut is “cheap, fatty, flavorful . . .[and] reward[s] the patient cook”. That cheap, fatty cut of meat isn’t little, either. These pigs must be at least as big as I am if just their shoulder weighs eight or nine pounds.
Shoulder hefted into my arms, I wound up and down a few more aisles before heading to the check-out. No basket to help me, of course, since I had only planned on picking up one or two things. I managed to snatch a bottle of apple cider vinegar off the store shelf, but somehow it didn’t make it to the trunk of my car.
“What I really want is for my recipes to become your own.” Ruth Reichl clearly states that she has a different perspective on recipe book writing than the famous cookbook author, Julia Child. While Julia was very careful to give her readers detailed instructions that she came up with by almost scientific study, Ruth expects her reader’s dishes to taste a bit different than her own. She calls her recipes a conversation rather than a lecture.
That in mind, I decided to try her recipe, but use a crockpot for part of the process rather than heating up the whole apartment along with the dish in the oven. After I slashed through the fatty layer and stuffed garlic into the slits, showered the pork with salt and pepper, then browned the meat on all sides, I realized that this huge shoulder wasn’t going to fit in my crockpot. So I had no other choice than to turn on the oven, heave the pork shoulder into a stainless steel pot, and stay up a little bit later than I had planned.
When you have this much meat to work with, you are glad to know that pork can be used in a variety of dishes. This time around we’ve eaten bbq pork with coleslaw and sweet potato muffins, “Chinese” pork dumplings, pork egg rolls, and pork chili with black beans & corn.