My friend Oliver and I have a tradition — every Wednesday we cook dinner and watch TV together. Throughout the years, we have made it through the many seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Alias. More recently we have veered toward trashier things like Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries, and even went so far as to watch the Real World when it filmed in Portland.
A year or so ago we found ourselves in a lull between episodes of something and decided to check out The Killing, which we had both heard good things about. The show follows two Seattle detectives, Linden and Holder, as they solve the mystery of Rosie, a 17-year-old missing girl.
We were instantly hooked, until we realized the show was only planned to be two seasons long. Cue instant distress and sadness. This show was too good, too engrossing, too suspenseful not to continue!
And then the Netflix Gods, the same ones that brought back the final season of Arrested Development, blessed us with a surprise third season of The Killing. Even better, we were further surprised with an unexpected fourth season. Linden and Holder were coming back to us!
Last week, full of bittersweet excitement, we watched the last three episodes. While our emotions were riding an adrenaline roller coaster, our hunger was being soothed by a bowl of the most delicious sweet potato soup I’ve ever eaten.
It’s been cold and dreary in Portland this week and with every increasingly strong gust of wind, it’s becoming very clear that winter is approaching. A few weekends ago, the wind was so relentless that it took down trees all over town. We were lucky to only lose a 14-foot branch from the fir tree in our backyard. After talking to some of my co-workers, it sounds like we fared pretty well.
Since then, the wind has died down but the rain has not. Being a daily bike commuter means I come home every evening drenched, peeling off my soaked rain jacket, rain pants and booties.
It’s days like these that call for soup — something both warming in temperature and in spiciness.
Deep inside, I know that autumn has officially arrived. The weather has cooled off considerably here in Portland and the markets are full of squash and new crop apples. But my mind — and stomach — aren’t quite ready to let go of summer.
And one of my favorite things about the late summer months in Oregon are the perfectly ripe, juicy tomatoes.
I can even tell you a story about how great these tomatoes are. Growing up I hated tomatoes. Oh sure, I loved marinara sauce but fresh tomatoes were not a part of my diet. I picked them off of hamburgers and out of sandwiches for years. Even in college I gave serious side-eye to people who ate cherry tomatoes by the handful. I just didn’t get it.
Then I moved to Oregon and started cooking at a little family run restaurant in the industrial/art area of NW Portland (now the luxe Pearl District). I remember walking to the Farmers Market with the head chef/owner and watching as she bought a flat of pristine sungolds.
If someone had told me two weeks ago that I’d be braising pork on a sunny 75-degree day, I’d tell them they were crazy. I don’t stick to strictly seasonal meals but heating up my kitchen to slow cook something doesn’t make any sense when it’s already hot enough out there.
Nonetheless, I was so captivated by a recent recipe from Gourmandistan that I couldn’t help myself from doing just that. The recipe in question was a blanquette of pork, or braised pork shoulder in a happy broth of stock, cream and lemon. While the pork and the cooking liquid sounded lovely on their own, it was the pretty and colorful spring vegetables that called out to me. Just look at Michelle and Steve’s version of thisPork & Sons recipe and tell me it doesn’t look mouth-wateringly delicious.
And so, eager and excited, I thawed out a little two-pound pork butt that was nestled in my freezer and got to work. While I was clearly easy to convince, here are a few words of encouragement in case you need some enticement to turn on your stove and make this:
A beef carbonnade made with marmalade and gingersnaps.
Have you been to Gourmandistan? It’s a land known for its food — a place where things are often cooked in duck fat, strange and unusual flavor combinations are discovered and pork is a prized beast. It’s also the inspiration for this post, as I continue to try out one recipe a month from some of my favorite blogs.
Many things that Steve and Michelle (the primary residents of Gourmandistan) cook intrigue me, but when it came time to pick one dish to make, I already had the winner in mind. The title for the original post with the recipe was so clever it gave me some serious blog-envy, but it was the ingredient list that solidified my decision.
Gourmandistan’s version of a beef carbonnade, adapted from a Daniel Boulud braising cookbook, includes the following: Chimay beer, beef, bacon, creme fraiche, orange marmalade and gingersnap cookie crumbs. It’s like a list of my favorite things!
Roasted Sunchoke Soup with hazelnut oil and pumpkin seeds
Whenever I mention sunchokes, my friend Ariel inevitably brings up the sunchoke soup we both enjoyed as part of a benefit dinner three years ago. It was sinfully creamy with a robust nutty flavor and came indulgently topped with Dungeness crab. It was a soup I was scared to recreate for fear of tainting the fond memories of it.
Also I knew my at-home version would be pale in comparison as I just cannot add as much cream and butter as I’m sure would be necessary to fully capture the flavor of the original. These are why some dishes just taste better if you don’t make them yourself!
But when sunchoke season rolled around this year, I still felt the urge to make a soup. For my wallet’s sake, I eschewed the crab altogether and for the sake of my waistline I used half and half instead of cream. But happily for my belly, this soup was still outstanding and totally hit the spot on a blustery fall day.
Sunchokes, if you’re unfamiliar with them, are rhizomes that resemble gingeroot. They are knobby and fairly unattractive as far as produce goes. However, their unassuming appearance belies their deliciousness. They are sweet when roasted and inherently nutty in flavor. I cannot get enough of them, even overlooking their, well…troublesome nature.
To make this soup, I started with this recipe, changing things up slightly. The main change I made was roasting half of the sunchokes in the oven until they were caramelized. This gives the flavor of the soup some extra depth.