August 13, 2004

backed out at the last minute, but made a go...

Tuesday, August 10

This evening we were to have his friend and the family over for dinner at out place; last week we did barbecue, but today we were going to cook something and eat in the house.
We went shopping early in the afternoon and bought a whole LOT of food (we didn't forget how much we ate last time). We got home to find there was a message on his cell phone, and learned that their younger kid got sick today and they wanted to rearrange our gettogether. It was too bad that we didn't get the message before or even during shopping, but kids suddenly get sick all the time, so it was none of their fault or anything. We made it so that we would do it later sometime this week.

Fortunately, most of foodstuff we bought today was either fine for a few days refridgerated or frozen, so we could just keep the food and stick to the same menu that we had decided. But for some dishes I had already started preparing, or simply he got carried away with his desire to eat a particular dish, I decided to gave them a go.

First, I prepared porc au cidre, or what he likes to call "apple pork". This was a small recipe mentioned in the book mes petits plats preferes (2002, Marabout) by Trish Deseine, as a variation of boeuf bourguignon; using pork instead of beef, and hard cider instead of red wine. It is, in fact, the very first pork dish that impressed him who doesn't like pork, as he claimed it as "the best pork dish" he had ever tasted when he had it last time. Besides the fact that he hadn't had so many pork dishes to compare with this dish before, I thought it was pretty good, too.
I cut up vegetable and pork, sauteed them and added cider and herbs, and let it cook on the stovetop for a couple of hours.

Next was salad. Very plain salad of greens, nothing apparently peculiar - except for the dressing. The herbed vinegar dressing, whose recipe is seen in Chapter 12 of the book Cooking for Mr. Latte: a food lover's courtship, with recipes (2003, W.W. Norton & Co.) by Amanda Hesser, is highly labor-intensive to make - I soaked several different herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley, and basil) in a mixture of vinegars, which I put on a heat and boil down to the half, and mixed with oil infused with shallot. In fact, it wasn't so complicated recipe, but just time-consuming than most other dressings, and definitely fancier than what I would usually do with salads (I typically pour good extra virgin olive oil or sesame oil and season with salt and pepper, with occasional addition of lemon juice or soy sauce). First thing that I came upon when I first read through the recipe was, those sophisticated salads served as a starter at a fancy restaurant.
As is often the case, I made substitution for some of the ingredients; I used white balsamic vinegar in place of red wine vinegar, and just olive oil in place of peanut oil. Also I couldn't find tarragon and chervil, so I just used mesclun salad greens with a bit of edible flowers.

The result was very impressive - my guess wasn't terribly far from the reality. We both were very impressed with the delicate flavor of the dressing; it wasn't overwhelmingly herby at all, not sour, either but very sweet due to the boiled-down balsamic vinegar. Peanut oil would have added a hint of nutty flavor to the dressing, I imagined. Since I made some more herbed vinegar, we will be able to enjoy the salad again sometime soon.

The apple pork came out somewhat different from the last time; it wasn't as apple-y as the last time, probably because I used different kind of cider. Also, I added an unnecessary bit of extra cider towards the end of cooking, which made the dish really soupy and look shabby. It was nevertheless good, and we both enjoyed it a lot. This is definitely more like a dish for winter than summer, but I don't mind as long as it is NOT hundred degrees hot.

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