Pork fried rice finds perfection, Pok Pok style

Khao Phat Muu (Thai fried rice with pork)

Khao Phat Muu (Thai fried rice with pork)

I’ve made a decent amount of fried rice in my life. On this blog alone, I’ve posted it three times — once made with farro, once with potato chips and again with pork and pineapple. And each time it’s delicious, but I’ve always felt like the seasoning wasn’t quite right. Often it would taste a bit flat and so I’d tinker with it — adding more and more things and then it would have too much soy or sesame or lime and yet somehow it would still lack “oomph.”

That all changed when I cooked my second recipe from the Pok Pok cookbook — Khao Phat Muu (fried rice with pork). Next to the fried egg salad, this is probably one of the easiest recipes in the book which brought it to the top of my “must make” list.  More encouragement came from a girl at work who kept telling me it was the best fried rice she had ever eaten.

And once I took a bite, I totally agreed. It was spot-on fried rice perfection and the best part was the amount of ingredients and fiddling is kept to a minimum. Simplicity is key — as is the great unbeatable umami flavor.

While I still think you should buy the book, I’ll give you a rundown on the basics of the recipe.

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Was it Worth it? Turkey Fried Rice…with Potato Chips

  • The Source: Food & Wine June 2012
  • The Cook: Just me…all alone…
  • The Menu: Turkey Fried Rice with Potato Chips *only adaptation was adding blanched green beans and asparagus, some spicy mustard greens and a bit of Thai basil. I just can’t help but add in extra vegetables, especially when my dinner involves copious amounts of carbs with the addition of potato chips!
  • The Background: It was 85 degrees outside, I was exhausted from work and my long hot bike ride home, and I was so hungry I contemplated just eating the chips for dinner.
  • How it began:

Which one of these things is not like the others?

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Pork & Pineapple Revisited: Sriracha works its magic

Roasted Pork Butt & Pineapple: Resistance is futile

Roasted Pork Butt & Pineapple: Resistance is futile

So after my fabulous pork chop and fried rice extravaganza a few weeks ago, I have been daydreaming about the sweet and slightly spicy flavor combination of pork and pineapple. There was a voice in the back of my head, compelling me to go to the store and buy another pineapple. Which I did the following week — I have no willpower. Then the following day at work, as if she had been reading my mind, a coworker presented me with a perfectly adorable little pork butt.

That’s actually not as strange as it may seem, considering I work as a meat distributor. But it was a little unusual because the pork butts are supposed to come two pieces to a pack, with the pack weighing about 12-17 pounds. Yet somehow this singly packed pork butt managed to find its way to our warehouse. It weighed almost six pounds, which was just the right size for me to take home. Clearly it was a sign.

I braised half of it in a curry, with plenty of vegetables and some farro thrown in for good measure. But I kept looking longingly at the pineapple in my fridge and suddenly I remembered I had the perfect recipe to try out. I dug through my binder and came up with this gem: Slow-Cooked Sweet-and-Sour Pork Shoulder with Pineapple.

I will tell you a little secret. I haven’t done much low-heat dry roasting before. Give me a pork butt or a beef chuck and I immediately think of braising. I know barbecue restaurants often season bone-in pork butts with a dry rub and then cook them at a low temperature until the meat just falls off the bone. But while I’ve cooked that way with ribs before, it’s never been a technique I’ve used on this particular cut of meat — and besides my butt was boneless, giving it a higher chance of drying out. So I was a little apprehensive — I didn’t want tough pork, but I knew that I had to make that recipe.

I waited a day before biting the bullet…then I got to work.

First I cut the pork butt in a spiral, so it would lay flat. Then I got together all of my ingredients for the dry rub — Sriracha, hot smoked paprika, and garlic and onion powder. And salt and pepper, of course.

After you get the pork seasoned with the dry rub, slather the whole thing with Sriracha. It will be messy, I’m not going to lie. Then roll it back up into a log and tie it with butcher’s twine. Let it marinate at room temperature.

Once two hours have passed, it’s time to get started on the pineapple. Basically cut a ripe pineapple into one inch chunks. Put them in a roasting pan or large skillet and mix in equal parts apple cider vinegar and brown sugar. Place the pork butt on top of that and stick the whole thing in your preheated oven.

This is about the time you will start to have regrets — because it already looks amazing but it won’t be ready to eat for another three or four hours.

The good news is this gives you plenty of time to drink a beer and mainline some Gossip Girl. That show is my latest obsession. I am currently in the midst of a pretty serious infatuation with Blair and Chuck.

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The profound ups and downs of pork chops and pineapple

Making this meal put my emotions on a roller coaster ride. Thankfully it was the type of ride that as soon as you’re finished, you run to get right back in line.

It started with the build up of anticipation. The second I saw this recipe for Pork Chops with Pineapple Fried Rice on The Pioneer Woman’s blog, I immediately posted it to my friend Oliver’s Facebook page with the question, “Should we make this?!” I got back an almost instant reply of “Yes. Like now.” Even though it would be pure torture to wait a whole week, we planned to make it for our next Gossip Girl extravaganza.

I was so excited by the pictures Ree posted, that the next day I couldn’t help but show all the girls in my office so they could drool with me. My friend Ariel, whose desk is right by mine, was immediately hooked. I promised I would tell her the following week if it lived up to the hype, but she told me, in no uncertain terms, that it looked so good, she was going to beat me to making it.

And she did. Two days later she was nonchalantly eating her leftovers for lunch while I hovered enviously near her desk waiting for her recipe feedback. In between bites of rice and pork, Ariel confirmed that the recipe was equally easy and delicious.

Oliver and I spent the next few days eagerly discussing how magical “pork chop night” was going to be. Then — finally!! —  the big day arrived.

If I'm cooking, you can bet that there will be beer involved. That is a promise.

We convened at my house, where I had the rice already cooked and cooled. Oliver arrived with pork chops (we decided to go for boneless chops just because) and a jar of pimentos. We got down to business.

I pounded the chops just a bit and Oliver started cutting the pineapple into chunks. We weren’t ambitious enough to grill it, so we just cranked up a heavy skillet and sautéed the fruit until it was tender with a nice golden color. While that was working, we seared up the pork chops in a separate pan, added the onions and let it cook down into awesome-ness. The smell was overwhelmingly good.

Then came the wet ingredients (honey, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar). The pork chops actually cooked pretty quickly so we removed them and let the sauce cook down with just the onions. Once it had thicken, we poured it on top of the pork chops in a bowl while we got rolling on the fried rice.

Look at how pretty this fried rice is!

Here’s where things took a sudden dive. We cooked the rice exactly as instructed and it certainly looked divine, but when we tasted it, the flavor was a bit flat. It just wasn’t quite snappy enough. We were panicking…well, I was panicking — Oliver wasn’t overly concerned. But after all the anticipation, I was not going to settle for sub-par fried rice. I threw in a bunch of chopped green onions, a squirt or two of sesame oil and reread the instructions. Sure, there was the sauce with the onions, but when we poured it in the bowl with the pork, it didn’t seem saucy enough to punch up the flavor in a full skillet of rice.

After a bit more soy sauce and some lime juice, I finally decided to stop tinkering. It would just have to do, I thought sadly. At least it looked pretty and colorful, and even if it wasn’t amazing, it would be good enough.

Then things took a final upward swing. When I pulled out the chops to slice them, the sauce seemed to have tripled. I felt a ray of hope as I threw half of the saucy onions into the rice and gave it a good stir. Then we plated up our rice, pork and finished it with caramelized pineapple, generously drizzling extra sauce over the top.

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