I read cookbooks compulsively. I’m not reading for the recipes as much as I’m trying to stock my brain with many ideas about how to put together food. Sometimes I like to sit with four or five books, cross referencing the different methods, ingredients and techniques used in a particular dish. Sometimes, I like to read about the same ingredients used differently in four or five different cuisines. After such a period of gathering information, I ponder, let things settle a bit and allow myself to forget a little what I’ve just learned.
Then, when I’m improvising in the kitchen, I call on these abstract resources to inform my kitchen play; making something like this pork dish, which is not traditionally Mexican but loosely references cochinita pibil, chile Colorado and mancha manteles (tablecloth stainer).
First, I covered some dried gypsy peppers with hot water to let them rehydrate. Then, I finely diced an onion and sautéed it with olive oil and pounded cumin seed. After that, I blended the gypsy peppers with half a raw onion, three cloves of garlic, dried Mexican oregano and black peppercorns. I added this pepper puree to the oil, onions and cumin in the soup pot and let it sizzle and cook a bit. Then, I added shredded braised pork, pork braising juices and roasted chanterelles to the pot along with a long strip of banana leaf that I found in the freezer. As the pork simmered, I tasted it for flavor, sweetness and heat. I added hot New Mexican chile powder, sweet paprika, pureed chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and honey. Then, mimicking the flavor of sour orange juice, I added juice from one orange and one meyer lemon to the pot once it was off the heat.
The kitchen soundtrack: the album “Funhouse” by the Stooges
17 February 2012
red chile pork and chanterelle mushrooms with Mexican oregano
pickled red onions with allspice and clove
basmati rice with bay
queso fresco, sliced avocado, scallions, sour cream, limes