Cider Brined Pork with Roasted Onions and Potatoes
Every fall I buy a bottle of Applejack as my way of welcoming in the season. Last weekend I not only bought the requisite bottle of booze, somehow I also ended up buying three half-gallon containers of different apple ciders. I just couldn’t help myself. Every store I went to seemed to have cider for sale and I am (clearly) incapable of refusing it. Even though I knew I had a full gallon waiting at home, I still bought a final jug as a reward for surviving the Haunted Corn Maze on Saturday night.
Side note: If you want to know what type of person you are deep inside, go through a Haunted Corn Maze in the dark. I discovered I am the type of person who will sacrifice their friends in order to get away from the guy with a chain saw. I’m not proud of that, but it’s the truth.
At any rate, a fridge full of cider is never a bad thing. In fact it allowed me to make this beautiful dish which was a delicious way to fully embrace autumn’s arrival. Since cider is unavoidable this time of year, it only seems right to also use it in a brine.
This particular recipe is the October cover recipe for Bon Appetite and I’ve been staring at it for a few weeks waiting for a good night to make it. Maybe all that cider was getting to me — I just couldn’t hold out any longer.
Growing up on an island in Alaska before the popularity of the Food Network meant my window in the culinary world was very limited. The most exotic foods that I remember eating as a kid were lumpia and “meat-on-a-stick” (likely a version on bulgogi) that some of the Filipino families would sell each summer at the annual Crab Festival.
I had certainly never heard of pesto and the first time I was confronted with it while visiting Italian relatives in Vancouver, BC, I was very suspicious. It didn’t seem right to coat pasta in anything besides the familiar red of marinara.
But once I tasted the garlicky herbaceous green sauce, I was sold. After that moment, one of my all-time favorite dinners as a teenager became linguine tossed with broccoli and pesto. I would get so excited when my mom would make it that I would hoard the leftovers to eat for lunch the next day. I still do this actually, old habits die hard.
As an adult, I’ve learned all the different variations one can do with pesto. I’ve made it with broccoli, watercress and arugula, and garlic scapes — all with equally delicious success. Besides the traditional pine nut, I’ve used everything from walnuts to sunflower seeds. So when I saw the June cover of Bon Appetit, featuring a gorgeous plate of pasta in pesto sauce, that was the first recipe I turned to. And there I found a twist I hadn’t yet made: parsley pesto with roasted almonds.
I’ve done a lot of experimenting in the kitchen over the years — making everything from foie gras torchons to my favorite dim sum treats. But one thing I have always stayed away from attempting is fried chicken. It just seems like one of those things best left to the professionals — Southern grandmas, fast food joints and Thomas Keller. Plus there are plenty of places in Portland that make it easy to just go out for fried chicken when the craving hits — I’m looking at you, Country Cat.
But when reading the April issue of Bon Appetit, I was seduced by the cover recipe: a mile-high, slightly sloppy fried chicken sandwich. Conveniently enough my friend DB and I had plan to cook together but didn’t have a menu in mind. I sent him the link to the recipe and he was sold.
We started out making the spicy sauce (Hellman brand mayo mixed with shaved garlic and hot sauce, easy enough) and the cole slaw. The slaw recipe made us hesitate for a second — pickle juice used as a dressing? But we went for it…and oh man, I am so glad we did (more on that later!).