Saturday, March 6, 2010

reconsidering pork

Maybe I don't like pork. I think I do, and at some point I did, so I still have that emotional flashback when I think about pork. Pork chops in the windowless yellow breakfast nook in the Newtown house. I've never been able to recreate those pork chops, I've never recaptured that particular porky, fatty, crispy flavor and I blame the new lean pork, this other white meat crap. We already have chicken, I don't want a pork chop that tastes like an especially bland chicken. Chicken is bland enough.
When I was vegetarian, the first meat I ate, when I decided to stop being vegetarian, was bacon. I fell off the wagon for bacon. The second time I lost my virginity, it was to bacon.
But the pork shoulder, that I keep slow braising, keeps letting me down. There was the stew with milk and tomatoes. And then there were the carnitas.
My sister had a sort of fajita taco meal that she told me about, but hers was with chicken, the less bland white meat. And, having an emotional pork flashback, I thought, that would be really good with pork. So I found a recipe for carnitas. It was from cooks illustrated and as I read it over, I recalled that I had made it once a few years ago and not especially liked it. But my emotional flashback was overwhelming and I disregarded that memory and thought, NO, it sounds delicious, caramelized and crispy with orange and cumin and a freshening squeeze of lime. How could I possibly not like that?
So I made it, braise the pork, (the thing I like about pork, is that no one ever wants you to brown it ahead of time and I appreciate that). Then remove the pork and shred it, cook the liquid down to a syrup, fold this syrup back into the shredded meat then stick it all under the broiler. And it was just OK. Not enough flavor, or enough crisp, but the biggest problem is a greasy, sort of coagulated, mouth feel. It is as if pork fat has a particularly high melt point and the temperature of my mouth doesn't quite reach that, so there is always some congealing pork fat. It is really not good. Maybe it should be saved for very hot summer days and only eaten outside. My house is heated to 66 which seems perfectly warm enough, especially if you wear three layers, and who doesn't wear at least three layers this time of year? But maybe pork wants you sitting around in a wifebeater, swigging cold beer as sweat runs down your back. Actually, that doesn't sound that appetizing either.
I have a new culprit, really, the old culprit. The new pork. I get it from Whole Foods, so it is natural and at least somewhat humanely raised, but now I am thinking it might not be enough. It might still be a genetically modified anxious and skittish pig, just in a slightly larger pen. And, if you believe your Humane Society mailings, the ones where they say the pigs drop dead from fright if they ever see the outdoors, because to make them so lean they have bred them to be particularly twitchy and tense, that larger pen would only be a torment to this porcine bundle of nerves.
So I have a new plan. Back on the hunt for a local pig farmer. One raising a heritage breed, a pig that is stuporous, languid, and sanguine. And until I find that indolent pig, I'll stick to bacon.

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