Photography by Sam Armocido
What would you do with more time?
Do you have a stack of unread issues of the New Yorker, or trail maps to the 48 peaks over 4000 feet in the White Mountains? Though a cold blessing, many people working in DC and around the country, currently have some time to answer this question.
My answer is simple. I would cook. I would braise and bake, make stocks stews and sauces, I would preserve and tackle all those time consuming cooking feats that currently escape my hectic schedule. Recently, I decided to just go for it.
Enamored by the thought of using the local harvest of Asian pears in a marinade, I decided to braise a bone-in pork loin roast. The sweet, earthy pears paired perfectly with salty, delicate Tamari soy. I ground in some of the bold, floral Szechuan peppercorns I had been playing with recently, along with bright, fresh ginger and sweet maple sugar. My first attempt, 12 hours in the marinade and 10 in the oven, produced tender pork lacking flavor, It tasted much better after a night in the fridge.
Already a two day recipe, I figured I had already crossed a line and headed right back in to the kitchen. On Monday, I patted the bone-in pork loin roast with a blend of salt, peppercorns and maple sugar for an overnight dry marinade. Tuesday morning, I added the liquid ingredients to infuse throughout through the day and night. Wednesday morning, I seared the pork and braised it in a 200 degree oven for 10 hours, then cooled it to room temperature so it could sit in the fridge overnight, taking on even more flavor.
Thursday, after returning home from work, I skimmed the fat from the surface of the marinade. Shredded the meat, tossing it in the thickened sauce and served it with an Asian pear slaw and bao bing, the thin Chinese pancakes served with mù xī pork.
The result? Four days of cooking, requiring less than two hours of work is worth every minute. The flavors are complex, sweet and grounded, everything you want from cool fall days that aren’t yet winter.
If your unwillingly at home from work, my thoughts are with you. May you find joy in the kitchen. Now is the time.
Asian Pear Slaw and Pulled Pork Pancakes
- 4 tbs crushed Szechuan peppercorns or 2 tbs each crushed black and white peppercorns*
- 1/4 cup maple or brown sugar
- 2 tbs salt
- 1 4-5# bone-in pork shoulder
- 3 Asian Pears
- 3/4 cups Tamari soy sauce
- 1/2 cup Rice wine vinegar*
- 4 tbs sesame oil*
- 3 cloves garlic
- 4 tbs diced, fresh ginger
- 2 tbs vegetable oil
- 3 Asian pears
- 2 tbs Tamari soy
- 1 tbs rice wine vinegar*
- 1 tsp sesame oil*
1/2 tsp maple or brown sugar
- 1″ fresh ginger, grated
- 2 cups flour
1 cup boiling water
2 tbs sesame oil
*You know what makes this taste even better? The Lemongrass-infused rice wine vinegar and Wasabi Sesame oil from Sapore. I’m totally obsessed. The Wasabi Sesame oil is well worth an online order. Give them a call and they would be more than happy to ship you a bottle of Szechuan peppercorns too!
- Dry rub: Mix together Szechuan peppercorns, maple sugar and salt. Rub mixture into surface of pork roast and place in the fridge overnight.
- Make the marinade: Puree Asian pears in a food processor. Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, garlic and ginger and purée. Add pork shoulder to marinade, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
- Braise the roast: Pre-heat oven to 200. Remove pork from marinade, pat dry, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Warm oil in a dutch over medium-high heat. Sear pork on all sides.
- Add marinade and bring to a boil.
- Cover and place in oven and cook for 10-12 hours. Check every four hours to make sure you aren’t losing steam from your dutch oven. Add hot tap water to replace the liquid level as needed.
- Rest the roast: Remove pork from oven, let cool and place in fridge for 4 hours or overnight.
- Shred the pork and finish the sauce: Skim fat from surface and reheat pork on the stove. Remove pork and shred.
- Strain the cooking liquid, reduce to a thick sauce and toss with pork.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Asian pear slaw:
- Grate the Asian Pears the medium sized holes of a box grater.
- Whisk together soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, honey and ginger.
- Toss Asian pear with dressing and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. The pear will wilt over time, so dress it no more than 20 minutes before serving.
- Add 3/4 cups boiling water to flour and stir together in one direction with a chop stick or spoon. Add additional water as needed for a slightly tacky dough.
- Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead for 3-4 minutes until smooth. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes to an hour.
- Roll the dough into a 1/2″ thick “snake” and cut into 2″ pieces.
- Roll two pieces of dough into separate 3″ circles. Brush the top of each with sesame oil, and place the oiled sides together.
- Roll the pancakes out into 6-8″ circles.
- Warm a skillet over low heat. Add pancakes to pan and cook until brown spots appear, about 2 minutes. Turn and finish cooking, about 1 minute longer. Remove from pan and separate pancakes. Sometimes it take a little work to get them started. Keep warm by covering with a towel.
- Repeat with remaining dough.
- Serve pancakes with shredded pork and Asian pear slaw.