Albertitto's everyday food

Balsamic Pork and Roasted Zucchini

We've all got lives outside our kitchens. Who can afford to cook elaborate multi-course meals after coming home from work on a weekday? Well, maybe only those who can afford butlers. It is no surprise that the market is now saturated with books on quick cooking. I even heard that Jacque Pepin joined in the quick-but-good food crusade.
I often run into this kind of situation – I havent planned out things to make, and it's already 6:30pm, and I have a random collection of food items in my fridge and freezer. What do I do? My empty stomach is starting to influence my brain activity, so I'd better act fast!
I normally go grocery shopping on the weekend. I stop by Shaw's (your typical American supermarket) and Super88 (a popular asian market chain) and buy an assortment of meats, poultry, and veggies. I actually don't know what I'm going to make yet. So it's not ideal. Also everything is better fresh, and thawing can take a while. Well, compromise has to be made if time is your concern. Otherwise you can always stop by the market after work everyday. Some veggies can wait a while in the fridge. Most meats freeze and thaw well. Just don't ever repeatedly freeze and thaw the same piece of meat – the juices run away, they get freezer burns, and they might spoil.

So last night my quick dinner plan was formed after I perused the different compartments of my refrigerator. It was already 6:30. I had placed a piece of frozen pork butt shoulder (see note below) in the fridge to thaw the day before so I can make Char-siu, a kind of Cantonese roast pork. I am missing my hoisin sauce, however, plus this is dinner for right now, and I usually marinate the Char-siu pork overnight – this piece of pork has to be cooked some other way. I have a few more veggies in the fridge. Ah, I see some small zucchinis I bought a week ago! Miraculously they are still ok! Still firm, no rotten spots. So here it goes…
Veggie: I simply cut the zucchini lengthwise into ½ inch slices. Seasoned them with salt, pepper, and a little cumin. Drizzle some olive oil, and they go in 400F oven for like 15 min. takes only 5 mins.

Meat: when you want quick cooking, stovetop high heat (sauté, stir fry) combined with thinly cut pieces of ingredients usually is a good bet. But I wanted a nice rich sauce to go with my pork. I still have some chicken stock in the freezer, and I found some Polish Cepes dried mushrooms. Yum! I rehydrated the mushrooms in the now thawed chicken stock (microwaving) while I start to work on the pork. I cut the pork into about ½ inch slices then pounded them to an even thickness. Having eaten too much cream and butter last week, I decided to use olive oil. The pork pieces are seasoned with salt and pepper, quickly sautéed about 2-3 minutes on each side and then placed aside. The pan is now covered with yummy bits of drippings. I poured out the excess oil, and deglazed the pan with some chopped shallots and some vermouth. Mushrooms were chopped into small pieces and thrown into the pan. Chicken stock soon followed and the whole sauce was boiling away. The mushroom aroma was nice, but I want some bite in the sauce. So I used some balsamic vinegar and corn starch to finish thickening the sauce. I seasoned it with some more salt and a bit of sugar to balance the acidity. I turned the heat down and put the pork back in to reheat and soak up some sauce. Voila! It was done!

I think to do this kind of cooking you will greatly benefit from a repertoire of pantry ingredients. In this case, the mushroom, vermouth, stock, vinegar, and cumin all contribute so many flavors to the dishes. And these you can keep in your kitchen for months or years!

Note: Pork butt shoulder is a cut I get from Chinese market. This is similar to boston shoulder, very well-marbled, but it can be chewy. This was actually not an ideal meat for this dish. A pork chop, tenderloin, or even loin slices would have been better. But this is the only thing I had.


Joe said…
First comment!! Woo hoo!

Holy f-ing crap Albert. Your blog is amazing. It's like Martha Stewart died, went into your body, and made a website. It makes my blog look like a dog doo.
Albertitto said…
YAY!! I got my first comment!! I'll make you something just for that! hehe! Hey we should have gone to Stata pub today...oh well, maybe next time...
Joe said…
I forgot about the Stata pub thing - I've been working my ass off in lab today.

By the way, you said "pork butt." he he. hee he he he. he he he.
Albertitto said…
oh me too! I'm still here now...doing nothing other than waiting for comments...Ha!
Joe said…
Looks like somebody's got the blogging fever!!!
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