Tastes obviously are personal and mine are the product of my Chinese upbringing. Texture is as loved as flavor by the Chinese…it is why simmered chicken feet, tripe, and gelatinous pig’s feet are popular. Nothing bores me more than chicken breast, no matter how well cooked and sauced. I tested and tasted many recipes in PRIMAL CUTS and served to extended family and friends over the course of a few months. My diners raved about MANY recipes but here are MY top three personal picks:
Head Chef, Matt Palmerlee’s Pork Belly Confit:
from Olivia Sargeant of Farm 255
I’ve never made confit. The length of time required was daunting, especially compared to my usual quick stir-frying dishes. But it actually couldn’t be easier and more convenient. The pork belly gently simmers in pork fat for hours but you do chores and ignore it while it does. Then it can be quickly heated up to make the exterior slightly crispy before serving. The combination of crispy skin, melting layer of fat, and firm meat on bottom in one perfect bite….yummm. The confit can be refrigerated and kept for weeks, if it lasts that long. I prepared it in advance to take it out to my in-laws for the weekend, but I will confess I cut pieces out several times over the week and fried it up. It literally called out to me repeatedly…I would be reading in bed thinking…hmmm maybe a midnight snack? I am sure how convenient it is to prepare in advance and how quickly it is cooked up before serving is why so many restaurants have it on their menu nowadays. (Another reason being the whole animal interest.) I actually ordered it at a trendy, fancy restaurant this weekend and the one I made was infinitely better. I think it was the pork belly I started with…purchased from Tom Mylan’s Meathook (he’s profiled in PRIMAL CUTS). MY pork belly confit had the perfect proportion of skin, fat, and meat. Start with a good piece of meat!
Jason Barwikowski’s Chicken Liver with Bacon Ragu:
I remember the pleading look from Juno, my miniature schnauzer, as I cooked up this dish. The dish smells and looks so good cooking up…it is almost enough of a sensory experience before you take a bite. Not knowing what to expect, I chose the pasta option rather than serving it on crusty bread. You should do the bread the first time you make this dish. I guarantee you will be standing over the skillet, torn pieces of bread in your hands, repeatedly scooping up the ragu. The rich paste of the chicker liver, salty firmness of the bacon, touch of savory sweetness of the tomato paste, gentle kick of the balsamic vinegar….food porn. Pour yourself a glass of red and live a little.
Berlin Reed’s Tea and Plum Roasted Rack of Lamb:
My father-in-law makes great lamb chops, simply marinated with a bit of olive oil and rosemary from his garden. I love lamb chops…they are relatively small and I usually cut off a lot of the meat for my kids and wind up happily working away at the tasty and grisly meat near the bones. I was little skeptical about the need to do anything more to the already flavorful lamb, until I tried Berlin’s recipe. The lamb marinates for a few hours in earl grey tea and five spice powder and is glazed with plum chutney while roasting. The result is something with more depth and interest. You have a layer of subtle sweet chutney before a hint of elegant Earl Grey before you reach the lamb-y goodness. As usual, I cut a lot of the meat off the chops for the kids and hoarded a plate full of the meaty bones for myself. Juno was insanely jealous.
—Alice Wong, Welcome Books Project Manager