Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Red simmered pork - first iteration

About a month ago I failed quite spectacularly at slow cooking some pork in my crockpot. While the meat had shriveled up into hard little lumps and the vegetables melted to mush, the sauce had some promise. I said at the time "I'm thinking of straining out all of the overcooked solids, diluting it down and keeping it around as a marinade." And so I did.

Marination was my original plan today, but I remembered that the sauce wasn't far off from the red simmering sauce I've been wanting to try from the Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook by Gloria Bley Miller. This more than just a simple stew; red simmering sauces can be used repeatedly. Miller writes: "Tradition tells us of such sauces, known as "Master Sauces" in China, which were kept going for two or three hundred years and, like a legacy, passed from one generation to the next." Tell me that isn't pretty cool.

The sauce started out with soy sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger and star anise watered down by half. I added some fresh garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes and rice wine to freshen it up. Then in went cubes of pork, around half a pound I think, and a sliced onion. I brought it to a boil and then down to a bare simmer with the lid on the pot.

After a half hour I added a chopped carrot, and after another half hour soaked and slivered cloud ear mushrooms and lilly buds. Another fifteen minutes later and I added bamboo shoots and cubes of tofu along with a dash of salt and a dash of sugar for the last fifteen minutes of simmering. I used a rather higher vegetable to meat ratio than is traditional, but that's how much leftover pork I had in the freezer and I did want a more balanced dish.

The cookbook promises that over time the sauce will develop into a rich gravy, but for now it's light and aromatic with ginger and star anise. The flavors are infused throughout, but the individual ingredients weren't stewed so long they lost their identities to the melange.

The pork is not falling apart, but it is very nicely tender. I was worried about that as you can't really tell how high a boil you've got in a covered pot. I must have successfully kept it low enough to do the trick. Possibly, it could be the cut of meat I used. I should label my freezer bags better. The vegetables were cooked well for the most part. I wouldn't have minded firmer carrots, though.

I didn't have much spare sauce to save as the sauce to stuff ratio I used was quite a bit under the recommendations in the cookbook, but I managed to put away a half cup to enrich the sauce next time I make it. I'll let you know how it develops. This is precisely the sort of thing you start a blog for; you want to tell somebody but who would possibly care? Now I just put it up here and never bore my friends and family with such matters again.


kat said...

This is interesting its like the sourdough starter of the sauce world

billjac said...

I used to do something similar with Moules a la Mariniere back when I could get good mussels cheap. I'd save the leftover vegetables and wine/mussel liqueur broth in the freezer and use it as the base for the next time around. It would get richer and tastier every time and I could tour the recipe around Europe by varying the vegetables and herbs I added. I wonder if that's an at all traditional thing to do.