There is nothing like the frantic job-hunt to make you consider yourself - not as in the significantly annoying, yet impossible to remove from one's brain once it's there song from the musical Oliver! - I mean to consider your personality, and your approach to things, and your skills. Just your general self-ness.
Yes. I, Laura Vincent, am prowling like a jungle panther in search of that elusive, distant gazelle: gainful employment. After three months of being married to the cookbook and a further month traveling in America, there are no more savings and no more distractions. I have learned that even with two significant smarty-pantses proofreading my CV I can still somehow then go and insert the words "data entry" twice into my list of skills. That's about all I've learned so far since I haven't got a job yet, but I am remaining positive. Six years since I last looked for a job, I've been finding it interesting reconciling the difference between talking about my achievements in a non-threateningly corporate manner while at the same time blogging in my usual lavishly verbose way here. Both the CV and this blog are totally honest, but I'm not going to talk here about a recipe being a series of key deliverables, just as I'm not going to mention having a panic attack or eating pastry dough on my CV. My CV says that I work well in a team, while in real life I'm a total non-compromising grump about certain things. Is my inability to compromise on what I feel strongly about a sign of immaturity and a bad attitude, or does it make me a strong person who knows themselves? (Probably both, right?) But see? All this talking myself up is making me self-scrutinise all over the place. Nevertheless, I'm hoping there's some kind of job out there for me - occasionally belligerent and anxious and over-analysey as I am, if any potential bosses are reading, I'm pretty much definitely employment material, honest.
Now, if inventing new recipes constantly was an employable skill - which I suppose it technically is, what with my writing a cookbook and all - I'm sure I could work my way up to CEO quite fast. Ruling with the enthusiasm and abundant excellence of Leslie Knope, the powerful vintage dresses and street smarts of Joan Holloway, and the cool songs and intimidation abilities of Ursula from the Little Mermaid. Till that day, I'll just share the most recent recipes I came up with here for you all. Minus the intimidation and so on, although incidentally I am wearing a vintage dress today. (It's purple!)
Have you ever had Turkish apple tea powder before? It'll set you back about $7 for a tin, but I can't apologise because it's so utterly, spoonful-by-the-spoonful delicious that you'll be glad to have it around for aimless snacking purposes. It occurred to me, as these things often do, that it might be quite fantastic rubbed into pork which is then slowly, slowly cooked.
Well, speaking of honesty, I'm giving you this recipe with the caveat that I'm not entirely sure it was successful for me, but I'm very confident it could be successful for you. That is, it tasted incredibly good, but I don't think I quite cooked it long and slow enough. I'm not the Grand High Chancellor of Meat Knowledge (or am I...okay, I'm really not) and every recipe of my own is an experiment that might or might not work. If you just cook this a little slower and longer than what I did, it will undoubtedly be perfection.
Every other time that I've made pulled pork with belly-cut shoulder or pork belly, it has quickly become ludicrously, dissolvingly tender. This time with regular shoulder it resisted my fork's proddings, and its fibres didn't separate into meaty strands at the tugging of my tongs. I may have panicked a little, I may have contemplated whether or not human tears are an effective meat tenderising condiment, I may have played good cop bad cop with the pork in the oven (mostly bad cop.) At the very last minute it appeared to have gained some tenderness, but wasn't quite at the falling-to-pieces level I was used to. So I shredded it to bits anyway - surprisingly therapeutic, recklessly hacking at a large piece of meat with little care for aesthetics - and as the ever-pragmatic Tim ever-pragmatically pointed out, two kilos of pork is still two kilos of pork. The point is, it still tasted really, really good. So it's highly likely this will work for you.
Though the pork unavoidably requires a lot of your time, the accompanying slaw is as swift as swift can be. Its provenance is simply that I had silverbeet and parsley and horseradish in the fridge and not much else. I would've wanted a more interesting nut to go with, like almonds or pine nuts, but sunflower seeds are what I had. And with a little toasting they can hold their own. If you have almonds or pine nuts or whatever though, for goodness sakes use them instead. Sorry sunflower seeds, no offense intended.
Apple Tea Pulled Pork
A recipe by myself.
2 kg belly cut pork shoulder, or pork belly, or or or, pork shoulder
2 heaped tablespoons Turkish apple tea powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspooon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Set your oven to 130 C, and place the pork in an ovenproof dish into which it fits rather snugly. Mix together the apple tea and the spices, taste it if you like, as it's compellingly weird, then tip it evenly over the pork, turning the meat over to make sure it's evenly covered. Press the tea powder and spices into any slices in the meat and really rub it into the surface, spooning over any that falls off.
Bake slowly for as long as you like really, but for at least five or six hours. Turn it over once or twice and spoon over any roasting juices. A couple of hours in, pour the vinegar over the meat, then return to the oven.
Tear to shreds with a pair of tongs, one in each hand (or however you choose, this is what works for me) discarding any bones and off-puttingly large pieces of fat (I have no idea whether or not you want to eat it, it's up to you of course) and mix it in its roasting dish with any saucy liquid that has formed during the cooking process. Serve.
Silverbeet, Parsley and Horseradish Slaw
A recipe also by myself.
1 bunch of silverbeet
1 handful curly parsley
1 tablespoon horseradish sauce from a jar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
A pinch of salt
3 tablespoons sunflower seeds (or anything cooler. Almonds would've been cooler.)
Wash and drain the silverbeet if you like, then finely slice it into shreds, in the same way that you might with a cabbage if you were making coleslaw. Roughly chop the parsley. Mix the two together in a large bowl, or indeed, the bowl you're going to serve it in. In a small bowl or cup or whatever, mix together the horseradish, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt, then stir this through the leaves till they're evenly coated. Finally, toast the sunflower seeds in a pan till fragrant and lightly browned, and stir them through the slaw.
Pork and apple are an OTP from way back, but this gives a new slant to these classic bedfellows. The apple tea powder soaks into every last filament of the pork, giving the already sweetness-friendly meat a kind of juicy, fresh sugariness. The paprika's throat-catching smokiness and the cumin's deep, earthy savouriness counteract any bubblegum tendencies and give it that I've-just-been-barbecued vibe even though it was just in my tiny oven for a few hours.
I guess this shows my problem solving abilities (even if, like Kristy Thomas from the Baby-sitters Club, it's perhaps not so much about problem solving, but about seeing no problem, creating a problem, and then fixing it.) Yes, I hate to compromise and do things I don't want to do, but I'm also willing to put in a whole ton of effort. Um, for the want of pulled pork, but nevertheless: effort. And for all you know, I put data entry twice on my list of skills on purpose because I just really love it...okay I don't, but what human does? Experience has taught me though, that as long as I've got some headphone-funneled source of music, I can more or less shut off my brain and enter data for hours on end. So: still feeling positive about my job prospects, for now at least.
It's worth noting that the pulled pork is also quite magnificent cold the next day, as I found out while drinking gin with my dear friend Kim as we sat side by side and contentedly, silently blogged. We had nothing to eat it with, but both of us decided simultaneously that heaped into a bowl and eaten with a fork would be fine: it totally was. The caramelised sugars and spices lends the pork a certain beguiling smoky stickiness once cold - it's worth buying more pork than you feasibly think you can cope with for this reason alone.
Atlantis, Azealia Banks. This woman is just flinging out singles like she's the one holding the bag of candy at a lolly scramble. I love the video for this, it reminds me of when my family first had a computer, and the amazingly terrible, but of course amazing-then graphics, but as well as that the song itself is brilliant too.
Another Hundred People, Melanie C. Spice Girls plus Broadway, that Broadway being specifically Sondheim's Company which I'm quite obsessed with? Oh, my heart. Melanie's creamy, elastic voice is showcased rather excellently here in this challenging song, too, and I like to think in this case she's singing about London rather than the intended New York. I like to think about these things, okay?
Next time: Still intent on making something from the Momofuku cookbook that I bought in NYC...