Monday, March 16, 2015

The Ides of March - Char Siu (Chinese Roast Pork)

Sunday - While all the mathematical whiz kids (how did I get so many math teachers in my family?) were jumping for joy over pi day - March 14, 2015, plus some specific hour, minutes, and seconds, stretching pi out to an additional line of significant figures - us wordy nerds have been looking forward to the Ides of March, if for no other reason than to flash back to those halcyon days of high school English. I do not know if Shakespeare is part of the high school curriculum - perhaps some ultra-liberal fanatic has decided that Shakespeare is a reactionary subversive, offensive to all minority groups, and should not even be made available in the high school library (media center).

But back in the day at Lawrence High School, we followed a precise schedule of Shakespeare, starting in freshman year with "Romeo and Juliet", then "Julius Caesar",  "Macbeth" and "Hamlet" (one of the senior English teachers went rogue and had the students read "King Lear" - show off).  Hamlet remains my favorite play, but having taken Shakespeare in college and having had the opportunity to read "King Lear", it's a close call. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is I love Shakespeare and today is the Ides of March.  Beware.

Today was a family day of rest, and with no outside plans, I had time to watch two movies - "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "History of the World, Part I" - and to do some cooking.  We had a "real" breakfast, which means I made eggs, and then I worked on the pork belly and the hot German potato salad.  I also bathed Chelsea and Romeo, and around 10 at night I realized that I overdid.

I had two lovely pieces of pork belly, each a little over a pound.  The skin had already been removed. I cut each piece in half lengthwise, giving me a total of four pieces, each the width of the slices of roast pork you get in a Chinese take-out.  

The Whole Foods' butcher's wrapper paper assured me that this pig had been humanely raised and cared for.  No tail docking.  No growth hormones.  No animal by-products in the feed.  Same type of care was indicated for cows and chickens.  No beak-clipping or crowding for chickens, no tail docking or electric prods for the cows.  It was all very warm and fuzzy, but the bottom, line, which is not mentioned on the paper, is that all of these animals are going to be slaughtered.  Death be not proud.

I tried two different marinades, which I've given you hereunder (hee hee, gotta use those lawyer words now and then).  They are both good but different.  The second one included five-spice powder, and the bottle I opened today was overwhelmed by the star anise.  I used it anyway, and that flavor came out too much, almost to the point of spoiling an otherwise delicious piece of pork.  I am going to look for a different brand of five-spice powder for next time - or if I get ambitious, pick up a coffee grinder and make it myself.

Other than the different marinades, both types of pork were cooked for the same temperature and for the same amount of time.

Pork Marinade #1:
2/3 cup hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons orange blossom honey
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons white wine
1 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons Heinz ketchup

Whisk together the above ingredients and add to 1 pound pork belly in a plastic storage bag.

Pork Marinade #2 (adapted from The Chinese Takeout Cookbook, by Diana Kuan)
1/4 cup sherry
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon five-spice powder

Whisk together the above ingredients, and add to 1 pound of pork belly in a plastic storage bag.  

1/4 cup orange blossom honey, for brushing onto the meat

Marinate the pork for 3 to 4 hours in the refrigerator.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Place the pork, fat side up, on a rack over a baking pan, after letting excess marinade drip off.  Use the honey to brush the tops of the pork that was marinated in Marinade #2.  Roast the pork for 45 minutes; halfway through, turn the pork over.  Brush some honey on the #2 pork.  Brush on some of the remaining marinade onto the #1 pork.

At the end of 45 minutes, turn the pork over one more time, fat side up again, and brush with honey or marinade, respectively.  Finish the pork under the low broil setting.  

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