Monday, April 04, 2005

clay pot pork

from Gourmet, April 2004

...or Dutch oven pork? in any case, use a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid for this dish, which won rave reviews from my in-house critics. i made a tiny portion (intending it as a secret pot for myself, with a roast chicken dinner for my little guys), but as it was cooking the aromas circling around the house spiked their appetites. they kept coming into the kitchen "what's that i smell?" one by one.
i didn't make much because they don't usually enjoy my fish-sauce-based dishes. it's that thing where you either love it or you hate it. i switched to Vietnamese nuoc mam, specifically labeled "phu quoc" and "product of Vietnam", after the article came out in Gourmet. they touted it as the top of the line fish sauce for purity of ingredients and deep complex flavor. and i say amen to that: the kids finished off the dish, #1 son asked me to make some more right away, daughter announced this is the first dish she will cook by herself, and #2 son said, verbatim: "mom, i wonder why this reminds me of cha gio[Vietnamese spring roll]?"
(the original recipe calls for boneless pork shoulder but i prefer to have some fat and bone in this so i used country style spare ribs. just cut around the bone into chunks, as even in size as you can manage.)

1/3 cup fish sauce, preferably Vietnamese brand
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water or chicken or pork broth
2 garlic cloves, sliced
3 large shallots, sliced thinly
3 scallions, sliced diagonally into thin slices, green and white parts separated
1 to 1 & 1/2 lb. pork spare ribs, country style, cut into chunks, or boneless pork shoulder, cubed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

toss pork with black pepper and set aside.
cook the sugar in the bottom of a heavy pot, such as a clay pot or Dutch oven, over moderate heat, without stirring, until it begins to melt. stir gently with a fork until sugar is melted into a deep golden caramel. carefully pour in broth or water and fish sauce (caramel will harden and steam vigorously) and cook over moderate heat stirring until caramel is dissolved.
add shallots, garlic, and white parts of scallions, and simmer uncovered, stirring now and then, about 4 minutes. stir pork into sauce. bring to a simmer, then cover pan and braise over low heat, stirring once in a while, for about 1 & 1/4 to 1 & 1/2 hours, until pork is very tender.
stir in scallion greens just before serving.