Crackling Pork Belly Roast

Crackling Pork Belly Roast

Being of Filipino descent, the craving for pork hits hard and often. We take pig seriously, but until someone can tell me how to make lechon in an apartment kitchen, I’ll have to settle for something more manageable.

Whenever squares of pork belly lie in the fridge, my gut instinct tells me to consult the Chinese. Only recently have I realized that our neighbors across the pond revere Wilbur as much as we do. Fergus Henderson’s and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s homages to all animals snouted and hooved are as enjoyable to read as they are to cook from. When they say kill it and use the whole thing, they mean it. Now that’s something I can relate with.

There are no weird or nasty bits here, though. Just the tame stuff that BLTs are made of. The belly is brined with juniper berries, cloves, peppercorns, and bay leaves, presumably to thoroughly season instead of prevent the meat from drying out. Short of dipping the belly in a drum of napalm, you’d be hard-pressed to overcook something that is half lard.

After roasting for two hours, the skin wasn’t as crackly as I wanted it to be. The solution? Grab heatproof gloves and broil inches away from the heating element. Consider wearing protective eyewear as it puffs and sputters.

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Pompe à l’Huile – Sweet Olive Oil Bread

Pompe à l’Huile Olive Oil Bread

The name pompe à l’huile is an indication of how this Provençal specialty is made: dough pumped full of oil. Might as well be proactive and drown the bread in extra-virgin olive oil ahead of time if you’re going to do it anyway.

Saveur describes it as a cross between a focaccia, because it is shaped into a round flatbread, and a brioche. I can’t see how pompe à l’huile is similar to a brioche, though. Sure, it has high fat content, but there are no milk, eggs, or butter in it.

All overthinking pedantic musings aside, what we have here is a flaky flatbread in a class all its own. I tweaked the original recipe by giving the poolish a 16-hour headstart, instead of 30 minutes, for that extra hint of complexity that can only come from slow fermentation. It’s how bread geeks do.

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Pinipig Cookies

Filipino Pinipig Sweet Rice Flakes

Pinipig are flattened and toasted glutinous rice grains, the Southeast Asian equivalent of Kellogg’s corn flakes. Its name probably derives from the root word piga, which is Tagalog for squeeze.

The rice grains for pinipig are harvested while still young and green. Admittedly, I have never seen fresh green pinipig, not even in the Philippines, because it quickly loses color once pounded.

To capture that fresh look, some exporters add a weird hue of neon green coloring. Go for the au naturale variety, even if it is a tad less eye-catching. Wouldn’t you rather keep the food equivalent of silicone implants out of anything you eat?

Toasting reawakens its raw rice fragrance, if only for a short time, so add the pinipig to the cookie dough as soon as they cool down. The shards of sweet rice retain crispness well.

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Thai Wild Mushroom Salad

Thai Mushroom Salad Recipe

Stock up on cilantro, mint, and shallots and you’re well on your way to enjoying the aromatic salads of Thailand. Lightness and the emphasis on balancing hot, sour, and salty elements seem to be the hallmark of Thai greens. Instead of oils and vinegars, try whipping out the chiles, limes, and fish sauce for a change.

Culantro sounds and tastes like that other love-it-or-hate-it herb found on Indian and Mexican dishes. Also known as long-leaf, spiny, serrated, or sawtooth coriander, culantro looks completely different. It has a stronger scent and weaker taste compared to cilantro, but maybe it’s just me.

You’ll also need ground toasted rice, a seemingly insignificant ingredient that is easy to overlook. If you ever see it listed in any Thai recipe, just remember that it is never optional.

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Vollkornbrot – German Whole Rye Sourdough

Vollkornbrot German Whole Rye Top

I have a new bread baking gadget and its name is Pullman, a right-angled pan used for shaping rectangular loaves that would make your Geometry teacher proud. You may also know Pullman-style loaves as pain de mie, French for “bread of crumb,” because loaves baked with the removable sliding cover prevents a stiff crust from forming. We won’t need the lid for this rye sourdough, though.

Instead of starting off with homemade Wonder Bread, I’m going with the polar opposite. This version of German vollkornbrot from Jeffrey Hamelman is a 100% whole grain rye with nary a pinch of white wheat in it.

I couldn’t find a source for rye meal so I used pumpernickel flour, which is as coarse a grind as I can get short of milling rye berries myself. Not gonna happen. I consider myself very geeky about bread, but milling my own flour is a line that must not be crossed.

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