When I asked Alex what the name of this delicious dish is, she said “Spicy braised pork with everything in your house.” For blogging purposes, the keywords are too few but her title is descriptive of a cooking philosophy that most cooks fail to discover their entire lives.
One thing about cooking is that when all you know how to do is follow recipes to the dot, there is room for neither growth nor improvement. Recipes online can be fed into a robot that can, with little human intervention, measure ingredients, pour them into a pot, stir and let everything simmer together.
A cute toy for hopeless (or lazy) cooks and, without doubt, a better alternative to takeaways and food delivery. But a robot has no taste buds. It cannot sample the sauce halfway through the cooking time and decide that the dish will benefit from a little more of this or a little more of that. If you’re not satisfied with the dish, you can tweak the recipe in the database for FUTURE use. In the meantime, you have to live with the mediocre dish that your robot cooked the first time.
Cooks with no imagination are like that robot. I remember an episode of The Chew where Michael Symon cooked a dish with cilantro advising the viewers that cilantro being a love-it-or-hate-it ingredient for most people, it could be left out if the cook was not a cilantro fan. He went on to relate an anecdote about his father cooking a dish, letting him taste it and asking if he liked it. He did, he said, then asked his father if he liked it. His father never tasted it, as it turned out, because the dish had cilantro and he didn’t like cilantro. Then, why didn’t you leave out the cilantro, he asked. Because, his father replied, it was in the recipe.
When Alex said that the name of this dish is “spicy braised pork with everything in your house”, I was proud of her. The girl didn’t follow any recipe but simply went through what ingredients we had and, from there, cooked a magnificent meat dish. She added and subtracted ingredients while the meat was braising. She did not think there was anything improper or weird about using soy sauce and Parmesan in the same dish. In short, she used her imagination and her taste buds at the same time. What she left out was the documentation. I asked her to cook the dish again and to at least list down the ingredients that the she used. She did. And now, we have a “sort of” recipe which readers with imagination can build up on.
Here is the “sort of” recipe where the amount of most ingredients is not specified. Use your imagination and your taste buds. After all, you are not a robot.
Spicy braised pork with herbs, Sriracha and Parmesan
- Cut the pork into two-inch cubes.
- Make the marinade by mixing together the minced garlic, celery salt, oregano, rosemary, vinegar, soy sauce, cayenne powder, ginger powder and honey.
- Add the pork to the marinade and mix well.
- Transfer the pork to a shallow bowl or container, cover and leave overnight in the fridge.
- Heat equal amounts of butter and cooking oil to coat the bottom of a wide frying pan.
- Add the pork in a single layer and lightly brown all sides (Alex likes to use kitchen tongs).
- Pour in enough water to barely cover the meat. Let boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and let the meat braise. Stir and check the liquid once in a while. If the mixture appears too dry, add more water, a quarter cup at a time. Every time you uncover the pan to stir, taste the sauce too and make whatever adjustments you deem proper.
- When the pork is done (the mixture should be quite dry by this time), add balsamic vinegar, Sriracha and milk. Stir.
- Sprinkle the pork cubes liberally with grated Parmesan.
- Let boil gently with the pan uncovered.
- When the meat has soaked up most of the last three liquid ingredients that were added, stir.
- Transfer the contents of the pan to a serving bowl or plate. Sprinkle the braised pork with sliced scallions. Serve.