Pickled Pork Loin and Onion

by Giff on July 18, 2016


It’s always nice when an experiment succeeds. I like pickling ramps and onions. I like brining pork. I wondered what would happen if I combined the two. In this case, I created a pickling brine and used it on both red onions and pork loin, which were then served together. Big hit. The key is doing the upfront work several hours ahead so that the pork can take in the flavor.

For the brine itself, I referenced two old posts of mine and Zen Can Cook to create the pickling liquid. Here was tonight’s version:

Pickling Brine
1 cup rice vinegar
1 cup water
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp coriander seed
1 tbsp dried rosemary
1/4 to 1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes
a few black peppercorns
2 or 3 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick (or 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon)
pinch of celery seed (optional)

Combine the ingredients in a small pot, bring to a boil then simmer for 1 minute.

Halve then thinly slice a red onion and place in a dish big enough to marinate the pork loin (I cooked two in this case). Pour the hot brine over the onions and let cool for 20 to 30 minutes. You can pour the brine liquid through a strainer to remove the seeds and spices, although tonight I did not bother and the remaining seeds did not bother anyone.

With a fork, remove the now-pickled onions to a bowl. Cover and keep in the fridge until serving time.

The brine should still be in your marinade dish. Stir in 1 tsp of mustard and 1 tsp of soy sauce. The add the pork loins. Cover and marinate in the fridge for several hours (at least 3 or 4 is my recommendation).

When it comes time to cooking, remove the pork from the liquid and grill until cooked but not dry. With pork loin I think that learning the appropriate firmness of the meat is far more effective than using an instant-read thermometer (which I like using on bigger cuts).

Let the pork rest for 5 minutes then slice and serve with the pickled onions on the side.

This pairs well with a garden salad or a variation of my 3 bean salad.


Lamb Shanks, Lentils and Red Wine

by Giff on March 28, 2016


1 lb black lentils (french/puy lentils can be used instead)
5 lamb shanks
1.5 vidalia/sweet onions, finely diced (or red onions)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 carrots, halved across the length
1 stalk of celery, halved across the length
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp pork lard (optional)
bottle of red wine (such as a cotes du rhone)
~2 cups of water
1.5 tbsp minced rosemary
3 bay leaves
handful of parsley, tied together with kitchen string
big pinch of ground nutmeg
big pinch of ground clove
big pinch of ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 250F.

Sear the lamb shanks, 2 or 3 at a time so that you do not crowd them, on medium heat in a large dutch oven or pot. Set aside.

Turn off the heat for a few minutes to let the pot cool. Turn on the heat again to medium-low and add the olive oil, then the onions. Cook the onions for 5-10 minutes until they start to turn translucent, stirring to make sure they do not stick and burn on the bottom of the pan. Add the minced garlic and cook for a couple minutes.

Because I wanted to make sure that the lamb did not dry out, I also added some pork lard, which I render myself when braising pork shoulder, but alternatively you could just cook the dish with a few pieces of bacon (discard towards the end of cooking) which would add a nice smokiness.

Add the lentils and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring often. Then stir in the bottle of red wine (personally I like using a reasonably priced but drinkable bottle of wine from the south of France for this purpose).

Stir in a half-teaspoon of salt and add the carrots, celery, bay leaf, parsley and rosemary. Add the shanks back in and immerse them as best you can.

Cover and cook in the oven for 1.5 hours at 250F, or if you are not using a pot that can go in the oven, on the stove-top on very low heat.

Taste for salt and add more as needed, along with a few pinches of ground black pepper and the cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. Stir in 2 or 3 cups of water. Cover again and cook for another hour or so.


All of the above can be done the night before, reducing the amount of time needed before the meal. Just let the pot cool and then put the entire thing in the fridge overnight.

At this point, I remove the meat from the lamb shank bones, trimming them of excess fat and cartilage but keeping the meat in large pieces. However, add the bones back to the pot, discarding right before serving. I discard the carrot and celery at this point, and add more salt and pepper (and possibly some rosemary, either minced or in stalks) to taste.

If you do split the cooking process overnight, just warm the pot up again over a low flame and then return to a 250F oven, uncovered, for a final hour of cooking.

To serve, make sure that the carrot, celery, bay leaf, parsley, and rosemary stalks (if any) are all discarded. Either plate directly or ladle into a serving bowl.


Smoked Beef Braise

October 4, 2015

Yesterday for a dinner party I decided to add a new flavor to a beef braise: smoke. The results were quite a hit when combined with the braising sauce. The cut was a 4 pound boneless chuck. I gave it a dry rub of: 3/4 tsp black peppercorns 1 tbsp coriander seed 1 tbsp ground […]

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Lime and Manchego Corn Salad

August 22, 2015

This summer my friend Veronica made a delicious corn salad one evening for a family bbq, and I’ve been riffing off of it ever since. 5 or 6 ears of corn, cooked and kernels removed juice of 4 or 5 limes large handful of cherry peppers, halved half of a small red onion, finely diced […]

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Lime and Jalapeno Brined Pork Chops

January 26, 2015

I’ll have to add some photographs later, but I wanted to record this experiment for future use. Brine (for two pork chops) 2 limes 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 red (or green) jalapeno pepper, very thinly sliced handful of cilantro, chopped 1.5 tsp salt 1 tsp sugar red vinegar olive oil Quarter the limes and […]

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Shiitake and Manchego Risotto

January 7, 2015

I think there are three key things to a good risotto. First, making a decent broth. Second, constant stirring. Third, not overcooking it. I’ll often have broth in the freezer, made with the remains of a roast chicken, but in this case, we were without, so earlier in the day I made a turkey-based broth. […]

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Peasant Stew (a simple cassoulet)

September 29, 2014

Fall brings braising back into my kitchen, and my favorite thing to braise is pork shoulder. Not only does it make a spectacular meal in it’s own right, but it gives you the perfect material for follow-on dishes, whether chili or tacos or in last week’s case, a cassoulet-inspired peasant stew. There are a myriad […]

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Mussels in Ginger Coconut Milk Broth

January 20, 2014

(serves 2 people) 1 lb mussels 1 small onion, thinly sliced then roughly chopped 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced 1 thumb-sized knob of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced 1 TSP tomato paste 1 can of coconut milk 1 fresh hot pepper (or dried hot chili pepper flakes) 1/2 cup of dry vermouth or white […]

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Littleneck Clam and Watercress Soup

November 3, 2013

This is a riff off of my grandmother’s oyster stew recipe, which I’ve adapted for clams and lightened up a bit. Lisl loved it. Great with a crisp white wine. Ingredients 24 littleneck clams 1 onion, diced 3 stalks of celery, diced 1 clove of garlic, minced watercress, loosely chopped 2 tb of butter 1 […]

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Summer Three Bean Salad

July 12, 2013

When picnic season rolls around, this is always my most requested dish. I’ve had a number of requests to update the recipe here, so with no further ado: The Basics: 1 can kidney beans, rinsed (1) 1 can chickpeas, rinsed 1 can black beans, rinsed 1 green pepper, chopped 1 red pepper, chopped half a […]

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