Biscuit-Topped Pork Pot Pie

Biscuit-Topped Pork Pot Pie

There’s two things that I’ve been thinking about for the past little while. The Odyssey and winter cold. The reason for the latter should be pretty obvious at this point. But the reason for the former — not so much.

For the past little while, I’ve been teaching The Odyssey in one of my classes. We’ve gone through the crazy islands. We’ve talked about gender dynamics, gift economies, and the importance of hospitality in a culture that predates hotels by several millenia. And on that last point — on hospitality — I’ve told my students that the dude to look out for is Eumaeus.

Red Cooked Pork Belly

Red Cooked Pork Belly

One of the things that I really like about Chinese food is that it baffles me just a little bit. Oh, if you put me in front of a steamer full of dumplings or a bowl of dan dan noodles, I could probably tell you — for the most part — what’s in them. But Chinese food is out of my cooking idiom: it isn’t something that I had at home growing up, I’m not quite comfortable with its methods, and I would almost say that I have a block about producing most of my favorite dishes myself.

For the most part, I am content with this fact. It turns out that Philadelphia is pretty great for Chinese restaurants, and I’ve developed a deep stable of favorites in and around the city: Sang Kee, Han Dynasty, Joy Tsin Lau, and the like. And it is a pleasure, I find, to choose a handful of elaborately prepared, intricately spiced dishes from their menus, and enjoy them without giving too much consideration to the prospect of reproducing them at home.

Beer Braised Pork Shoulder

Beer Braised Pork for the Super Bowl

I had thought, this year, that I might post a recipe that would be appropriate for the big game, the pigskin classic, the Super Bowl. It is, after all, one of the great calendar customs of the United States, in which folks come together to mark the passing of the winter with symbolically complex entertainment, the company of friends and family, and the life-affirming (if somewhat unhealthy) consumption of many of our native foods. It’s one of the great folk festivals, like the Palio in Siena, where the community as a whole bands temporarily into factions that compete against one another, but where that competition is ultimately about reaffirming our unity.

I explained all this to Sarah, and this is what she said: Clearly — you know nothing about football, or the Super Bowl. Not at all. So if you’re going to do this, you had better ask the advice of the Internet.

Caramelized Pork Bits With Broken Rice

Caramelized Pork Bits with Broken Rice

A thing called caramelized pork bits may, at first blush, seem a bit off the beaten path. But it makes perfect sense if you understand how it came about.

It used to be, occasionally, that I would pop out here with a recipe that was meant to be a weeknight dinner. I would make fried rice, or pasta with collards, or macaroni and cheese — stuff that could be thrown together, all filling and comforting, in something less than an hour from start to finish. It was the pickling that initially distracted me from making those kinds of posts (and so many others, too). And then — as Sarah likes to tell me — I got sidetracked from the whole project of making any kind of entrées for the blog at all.

Meatballs Marinara, Italian Style

Meatballs Marinara, Italian Style

Culinary comrades, fellow food fanatics who follow this blog, if you have not seen Big Night — Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub’s 1996 ode to a failing Italian restaurant — you simply must. It is delicious.

Big Night is one of my all-time favorite films about food. Along with a precious few others — like Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence, of all things — it landed at a malleable moment in my life, at a time when my interests could have gone in a lot of different directions, and it nudged me toward the kitchen. Primo, Shalhoub’s talented, unbending, self-righteous portrait of a brilliant chef, is exactly the kind of character I found fascinating in my teenage years. And the food — oh, the food.