Sunday, March 21, 2010

pork loin + Vietnamese pork pho

I'm not sure how I've resisted posting this Sade song up until now. I haven't been able to get enough of it over the last month or so! I just think this track sounds so fresh, which is pretty remarkable for an artist who hasn't put out an album in umpteen years.

Anyway, I've been enjoying the challenge of these Leftover Fairy back-to-back meals (see bbq/brunswick stew and balsalmic chicken pasta/enchiladas), so when I saw that pork loin was on sale for $1.99/lb at Kroger last weekend, I sprang into action.

I had never fixed pork loin before, but I figured a giant boneless slab of pork was something I could come to love. This recipe on told me to basically just rub it down with olive oil, and stab it and shove some garlic and rosemary into the wounds. I think it also said something about white wine but I was saving my old white wine for pho. So I just went for it!

My very sensible colleague Sherry recommended that I leave it in the oven at 350 until it registers 140 on the thermometer, and then take it out and cover it with aluminum foil. Sherry has never steered me awry so I did as I was told and it turned out perfect.

Nummy Nell and Jeremy came over to share in the six pounds of deliciousness. Nums brought some incredible mashed potatoes and asparagus and homemade gravy. Mmm!

cradling her creations

Aaaand since my life is dictated by what's on sale at the Murder Kroger, I fixed some baked apples and pears because they were both on sale for $1/lb. This is a QuidQuid QuidQuid original. Just cube some apples and some pears:

and toss them in a little brown sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter:

and pop them in the oven at some appropriate-sounding heat until they are warm and bubbly. This is virtually impossible to mess up.

The potatoes, the asparagus, the pork, the gravy, the apples and pears...this meal really was quite the to-do. So much so, in fact, that I failed to take a single picture of us devouring it. At least I got a picture of dessert: strawberry shortcake!

I would have never thought to use frozen pound cake to fix strawberry shortcake, but then Publix had to go and offer a tempting promotion on strawberries and pound cake, so I gave it a try. I will never, never, never ever buy those nasty shortcake cups you get in the produce section again--the pound cake was SO. MUCH. BETTER.

The two pounds of leftover pork loin were begging to be turned into something interesting. I decided to go for something totally different and try a Vietnamese pork pho. My darling colleague Katya helped me out by bringing me a bunch of herbs and peppers and bean sprouts and fresh rice noodles and pho seasoning from the farmer's market. What a sweetheart!

I wasn't feeling great this week so I decided to push what would have been Wednesday pho off until Sunday dinner. Whoops. By Sunday, the bean sprouts had rotted to mush and had started cause a lot of the herbs to turn. WHOOPS. Luckily, I salvaged enough cilantro, thai basil, and mint for the pho--or rather, what I assumed was enough for the pho, since my recipe didn't call for it.

I decided to use this intriguing Daring Cooks' Challenge post on Guilty Kitchen for my recipe. As usual, I was short a few things and made some stuff up as I went.

First I was supposed to toast some cardamom, cloves, and anise. I didn't have the anise and I didn't really know what I was doing but

it started to look pretty toasty to me, so I was satisfied.

After this exciting first step, there wasn't much to it. Just dump the toasted spices and 8 cups of chicken broth (I used 6 cups chicken broth and 2 cups white wine) and the pork loin and some other stuff (onion, ginger, fish sauce, etc) in our old friend the crock pot. I threw in one of those pho seasoning cubes--it was basically just salt, sugar, and MSG. Mmmm, delicious MSG.

If I had it to do all over again, I would have put this on first thing in the morning so it had all day to simmer and break the pork down into shreds. As it was, we got kind of hungry so after a couple of hours I fixed the rice noodles, portioned them out into bowls, and poured the broth over it. Then I pulled the pork apart and arranged it on top.

Normally I detest cilantro but the fresh cilantro on top was the perfect compliment. There were supposed to be all kinds of other toppings. I forgot about the lime, and we only remembered the hoisin and sriracha when we were halfway through our bowls, and the peppers turned out to be a WEE bit too hot.

They are so beautiful but good lord! I touched one of those slices to my tongue and my entire mouth and lips were burning for 45 minutes. I opted to just throw a few teeny tiny slices in the crock pot and throw the rest in the freezer for use in possible future bets or bribes.

I was a little skeptical about this dish, what with the cardamom and the MSG and the fresh cilantro and all that questionable stuff, but it was wonderful. The flavor was really complex and robust but not overpowering. It was comforting and kind of fortifying--I've been sick all weekend and a big bowl of this really perked me up. I have a ton leftover that I'm going to freeze in small portions for the next time I get sick or just need something soothing.


Discussion Question:
What is your favorite food to eat when you're sick?


  1. a) the strawberry shortcake photo is money

    b) i'll eat the peppers

  2. Thanks jdawg! You will wish you had not said that about the peppers

  3. One time, when I was really little, my Mom made orange jello with blueberries in it. Now, this is what I crave when I get sick, even if blueberries are out of season.