A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.
~David Hume

The proof has been divulged, and thorough knowledge should follow, right?  Seems logical and quite simple, almost acutely rational.  Sometimes or always, though, or really are we constrained by our psyches or basic instincts or neural circuits or are we harnessed and have visions or dreams or torments which guide us?  Or does humanity deal with prompts, insights, anxieties, kisses, primes, embraces, seductions, or even prefrontal cortices? Should we judge by, discard, or empathize with others’ conscious or subconscious or unconscious or neural thoughts? Or should we cognitively assay or attempt reason at all? What to do?

Don’t know, yet, but perhaps should…in any event, both beef arm and pork butt, alas not tri-tip (the bottom of the beef sirloin), were cooked this week.  Apparently, the kiss principle.

Chuck arm roast comes from the muscular shoulder of the beef steer, a slightly leaner cut of pot roast.  So, not unlike pork “butt,” the cut is sublimely delectable, tender and proves likewise inexpensive — not in the least faraway from succulent Santa Maria tri-tips even though it does come from a different part of the animal.  Although pork shoulder takes longer to shred depending upon poundage, in each beef event, you can both cook slow and low in the oven (2-3 hours @ 300 F), braise in stock and/or water over the stove top simmering calmly for a couple of hours, grill over the barbecue (20-25 minutes or so) or finish at high heat (something like 400 F+) in the oven after ‘cuing, if necessary to bring to a close. No doubt there are other approaches to this rather thick flesh.

Comme d’habitude, my preference is to grill with soy sauce only – that rich umami concept with the presence of glutamate and five ribonucleotides and so on, and it doubles down for prompt home chow, especially when it is somewhat chilly outside. But, that never means that marbled arm roast should not be whirled at by other methodologies.

Perhaps, more stubborn than first intuited, but now it may be overly belated to psychoanalyze me.   Too late.

GRILLED ARM ROAST

Arm roast, about 2-3 lbs, room temperature
High quality soy sauce, preferably shoyu

Have your butcher cut a fresh arm roast.  Spread the beef with shoyu all over, somewhat sparingly, and massage then allow the arm roast to sit in the spare umami juices for just a couple of hours.  In the interim, light the coals until they are medium to medium high (around 3-4 seconds to the hand test). Grill roast to desired doneness, as cooking time will vary upon thickness of the meat and the heat of the grill.  Medium rare is preferred, but to each her or his own, no judging or empathizing.

Allow the meat to rest, somewhat amply, before serving.  Serve with olive oil slathered veggies, such as mushrooms, chile peppers, asparagus, etc. and a toothsome red.

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Butt Ssäm-wich

March 28, 2012

There is no such thing as an ugly woman.
~Vincent Van Gogh

Ssäm (쌈) simply translates as “wrapped,” and refers to a Korean dish in which larger leafy greens — lettuce, cabbage, seaweed, sesame or bean and pumpkin leaves — are often used to cloak meat such as slow and low roasted or braised pork (belly or butt). But tongue, fish, kalbi, bulgogi, roe, and clams have also lined these luscious roll ups over time. Have to suggest and although this is by no means a directive or ethnically correct, ssäm would be divine with braised sweetbreads. Just a little whimsy.

Some say that ssäm was first savored by certain young women of the Goryeo dynasty, called Kisaeng (euphemistically pronounced kis-sang) or “art persons.” These comfort women emerged in the 10th century and were meticulously trained in music and poetry, but were also conscripted and subjugated as courtesans. Closely regulated as government slaves over time, they were obliged to entertain and offer their sensual wares with local royalty, military officers and dignitaries from China, Japan and other reaches. Sadly, other than rather vague anecdotal references, an unnerving and undeserved, even shameful, cold silence has enveloped the centuries old Kisaeng — likely resulting from repeated sexual abuses, horrid exploitation and degradation, and harsh postcolonial memories in Korea. Japan was particularly complicit in war crimes involving sexual violence with “comfort women” in territories occupied by the imperial military during World War II yet the country continues to ignore and abstain. The atrocious horrors of human servitude and trafficking usually meet with baseless denials and have ever been worse than intolerable. Is there true remorse?

(With a few alterations, this recipe is more than loosely adapted from the phenom chef/owner David Chang from New York’s momofuku restaurants — noodle bar, ssäm bar, ko, má pêche, seiōbo, and the bakery milk bar.) I might add this dish is flat sublime and will no doubt enrapture all around your table.

PORK BUTT SSAM

7-8 lb bone-in pork butt
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/2 C white sugar
1/2 C raw sugar
1 C coarse sea salt

1 T coarse sea salt
1/2 C light brown sugar

1/4 C honey

Thoroughly mix both sugars and salt in a bowl. Rub pork with a few smashed garlics then rub the dry sugars/salt mixture all over the pork butt and cover thoroughly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 6 hours or overnight.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300 F

Remove pork from refrigerator, discard any juices and allow to reach room temperature. Place the pork in a large, heavy roasting pan, place in the oven and cook, basting every hour after the first two hours, until meat is tender and easily shredded with a fork, about 7 hours or so. The internal temperature should read about 195 F.  At that temp, the connective tissues have melted, and the pork will be fork-tender and juicy.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together remaining tablespoon of coarse sea salt and brown sugar and then set aside.

Increase oven temperature to 500 F

Sprinkle and rub in the salt and brown sugar mixture over the top and sides of the pork, then drizzle with honey. Return pork to oven until nicely crusted, about 10 minutes. Remove the meat from the oven and allow to rest some. Carefully extract the single bone in the butt and discard, then shred the butt with forks and fingers.

White rice, cooked (bap)
Kimchi

Bibb lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
Chinese steamed buns (mantou)
Flour tortillas, warmed

Serve shredded pork enveloped in lettuce wraps bedded in rice or noodles or in chinese steamed buns or in small flour tortillas. Bed in some rice or noodles, lightly mount with kimchi and lather with ginger-scallion, ssäm, gochu garu and sichuan pepper, Korean soy sauce, and/or red curry peanut sauces. Try to avoid the urge to overload.

Ginger-Scallion Sauce
2 1/2 C thinly sliced scallions
1/2 C fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 C grapeseed or canola oil
1 T light soy sauce
1 t sherry vinegar
Pinch of sea salt

In a medium bowl whisk all ingredients together.

Ssäm Sauce
1/3 C fermented bean & chili paste (ssamjang)
2 T chili paste (kochujang)
1 t sherry vinegar
1/4 C grapeseed or canola oil

In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients together.

Gochu Garu and Sichuan Pepper
3 T Korean red pepper powder (gochu garu)
1 t Sichuan peppercorn, toasted and ground
1 t white sesame seeds, toasted
Pinch of sea salt
2 T canola oil
Pinch of sugar

In a small bowl, combine the Korean red pepper powder, Sichuan peppercorn, sesame seeds and salt. In a small saucepan, warm the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking.

Pour half of the hot oil over the chile powder mixture. Whisk the mixture and add the remaining oil. Stir again to moisten all of the dry ingredients and add the sugar.

Allow the mixture to cool, then taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and/or sugar.

“Korean” Soy Sauce
2 T shoyu
1 T water
1-2 t sesame oil
1 t white sugar
1 t raw sugar
1 plump, fresh garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 t Korean red pepper powder (gochu garu)
2 T green onion, white and green parts finely chopped
3 t sesame seeds, toasted then crushed with a mortar and pestle

In a small bowl, stir together the shoyu, water, sesame oil and sugars, until the sugars have fully dissolved. Add the garlic, red pepper powder, green onion and sesame seeds. Refrigerate while the pork cooks to allow the flavors to meld.

Red Curry Peanut Sauce
1/4 C roasted salted peanuts
1 T brown sugar

2-3 t Thai red curry paste
8-10 T water
2 t peanut oil
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 C shallot, peeled and finely chopped
2 fresh Thai or serrano chilies, including seeds, thinly sliced crosswise

Finely grind 3 tablespoons peanuts in a food processor along with brown sugar. Finely chop remaining tablespoon peanuts by hand and set aside.

Stir together curry paste (to taste) and 6 tablespoons water until paste is dissolved.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté garlic, shallot, and chiles, stirring, until golden, about 4 minutes. Add ground peanut mixture and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in curry mixture and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in chopped peanuts.

Allow to reach room temperature, then dilute with water to reach desired consistency.

Here is my journey’s end, here is my butt,
And very sea-mark of my utmost sail.

~William Shakespeare, Othello, Act V, Scene II

Todd Essig’s recent essay in a Psychology Today blog offered some cogent reminders. The American mode of eating lacks vitality and has over time become unhealthy to mind and body in an almost Dickensian industrial way. Snarfing down wrapped, heat-lamped, bland, processed fast food on the run is just not good for the psyche, soul or waistline. Seems like that should be a more self-evident truth to most. (On the other hand, it does embellish agribusiness lucre on the front end and placates pharmaceutical greed on the back.)

Essig suggests that this simple human necessity, food, really demands savoring which begins with foraging at a local market, exchanging with vendors and ends with collective mirth at the table. Paying heed to those steps from the local farm to the table enhances the sensuous delights inherent in a meal. Social animals that we are, it seems there are basic psychological benefits to a more engaged eating process. You don’t say? In short, he rightly embraces “culinary mindfulness”—more engagement, more laughter, more intimacy, more gratification.

Speaking of, little could be finer than a pleasing derrière. Just nearby, a vast billboard even boldly proclaims: I like big butts and I cannot lie. I could go on about my penchants, butt… Now, despite the label, pork butt is not even derived from the ass end, and is instead carved from the pig’s shoulder. Sorry to disappoint, fellow buttocks’ inamoratas. Butchered from the dorsal region near the spine through the shoulder blade, this cut has adopted other aliases over time. Boston butt = pork butt = butt = shoulder butt = pork shoulder = shoulder roast = country roast = shoulder blade roast, and so on.

Choose butt with a smooth, firm, white fat heading and a decent amount of marbling throughout the meat. Butt should be reddish pink in color with a rather coarse grain.

The notion here is a weekend cook, low and slow. Unlike tender cuts like pork loin or pork tenderloin, a pork butt is really not there if cooked to internal temperatures of 140 F or even 170 F. To be rendered affably tender, a pork butt should be cooked to an internal temperature of 180-205 F measured in the thickest part of the meat. For sliced pork, cook towards the lower end of the spectrum and for fall-off-the-bone pulled pork choose the higher of this temperature range.

Nestled in a warm tortilla with the right friends, it makes for a close your eyes moment.

ROASTED PORK BUTT (SHOULDER) & SALSA VERDE

Pork Butt
7-8 lb pork butt

1 T sea salt
2 T freshly ground black pepper
2 T dried cumin seeds, roasted and ground
2 T dried oregano
1 T dried sage
1 T dried Ancho chile powder

2 fresh, plump garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

Yellow onion, peeled and quartered
2 garlic heads, peeled and sliced transversely

Preheat oven to 250 F

Combine salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, sage, and dried chile powder. Mix well to make a dry rub.

Rub the pork well first with the smashed garlic and then thoroughly massage the dry rub into the butt. Discard smashed garlics. Place pork into large roasting pan and roast until the internal temperature reaches 195 F, about 9 to 10 hours.

From time to time, baste the meat with a bulb. Six hours or so through the cooking time, spoon some of the reduced basting liquid over the pork. Repeat basting process a few more times throughout the remaining cooking time. During the final two hours, arrange quartered onions and sliced garlic heads in the bottom of the roasting pan.

Remove from oven, place on a board or platter, tent loosely with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Shred the cooked pork with fingers and forks, pulling apart the meat. Discard fat and put shredded pork in a large bowl for serving.

Serve with salsa, garnishes and warm tortillas.

Basting Liquid (optional)
Juice from 4 fresh oranges
Juice from 1 fresh grapefruit
Juice from 2 fresh limes
1 C chicken stock
2 fresh, plump garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 dried chile, seeded and coarsely chopped

In a small saucepan, combine orange, grapefruit and lime juice, stock, garlic and chile. Turn to medium low and simmer until reduced just by one third. Remove from heat and set aside.

Salsa Verde (Green Salsa)
1 lb tomatillos (10-12 medium), husked and rinsed
8 large garlic cloves, peels left on
1-2 jalepeño chiles, stemmed
1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 C cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
Sea salt

Preheat broiler

Spread tomatillos, garlic, onions and chiles on a baking sheet and put under the broiler. Broil for about 5 minutes, until you see blackened, charred spots on the vegetables. Flip them over and roast until they become darkened, juicy, and soft.

Transfer these roasted ingredients and some of the cilantro into a food processor, and blend into a coarse purée. Add a little bit of water if necessary to attain your desired consistency. Add salt to taste, and the rest of the cilantro leaves. Set aside in a bowl.

Garnishes
Lime wedges
Red onions, peeled and finely minced
Fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Radishes, thinly sliced
Avocados, peeled and sliced
Chipotle crema
Salsa fresca
Queso fresco, crumbled