Creamed pearl onions is one of those holiday dishes that seems so unnecessary… until one year you don’t make it and everyone gets mad and you realize it’s a tradition for a reason, damn it. There’s something about that soft (but not too soft) texture and that simple, pale sauce that just works.
It’s a little smoky from the bacon. A little boozy from the sherry. Pure holiday delight.
I may have mentioned that Matt and I went to the UK last summer and ate a lot of pork belly. It was consistently one of the best dishes we had all over several parts of England and Wales. If there’s one thing the British know, it’s how to make excellent crackling (that sound you hear is Matt furiously listing all the other things British people are excellent at. (So far; crackling, funny shows, more funny shows, chicken keeping). I’m sure there’s more but we’ll leave it at that for now.
This was pretty much a nightly conversation on our trip. Emily: “We have to make this when we get back” (distractedly tries to figure out recipe). Matt: “Stop looking at me like I stole all the crackling!” (whilst licking crackling-glazed fingers).
Well, we’ve been back for six months and our local shop now has lovely local pork belly and we thought we’d finally try to make it in our local stove. In England, it was often paired with bubble and squeak, and a hard cider sauce but I really wanted to try a soy and honey glaze combined with the crisp crackling we found on our trip.
If you can get (good quality, ethically raised) pork belly with the skin still on – you’ll need the skin to get truly crispy pork belly – it’s definitely worth seeking out. It’s a very affordable cut and it’s also very rich, so you’ll want small portions. That being said, I wouldn’t bother cooking a piece smaller than about 2 pounds because it will shrink a lot in the oven and could dry out. There’s also so much you can do with the leftovers.
It’s absolutely lovely paired with a fried egg and this Pickled Cucumber and Avocado Salad (really any crisp, vinegary greens would be great). I also really love it with Sesame Roasted Pears and a tart kale salad. But my all time favorite use of pork belly is Bánh mì sliders. So, so good.
It’s pear season! I love pears but I find it impossible to catch them at their perfect ripeness. They go from being hard as a rock to mush in what seems like minutes, don’t they? I also get an itchy mouth from most raw fruit (such a bummer during peach season) but pop these in the oven for 20 minutes and problem solved!
I know it sounds weird but this would also be a really nice addition to a Thanksgiving table. The sesame flavor is very mellow, almost a little nutty and would complement traditional Thanksgiving flavors well. You could scatter some toasted walnuts and Bleu cheese over them… oh my god, that would be so good. Must resist leaving work to make this right now.
It’s better to use slightly under than over-ripe pears but it’s a pretty forgiving recipe.
It’s been an exciting sort of week in the world of chickens around these parts.
First, we started getting eggs last weekend. I might have mentioned in our first chicken post that we weren’t exactly sure how old our hens were, but breath was baited, fingers were crossed, wood was touched, and, more practically, I purchased a couple of small plastic eggs from Amazon and set them in the nesting boxes, as if to say, “Look. You see that? That’s what you’re supposed to do.”
The days are getting shorter. My research suggested that hens need about 14 hours of daylight to lay, so I had also run a light into the coop and set a daily timer to come on at 4.30 every morning. (I’ve since relented a little and given them a little lie-in; it now comes on at 5.30 every morning. I’m not a monster.)
Whether any of the above helped, or whether it was just their time, our first small, brown, speckled egg appeared on the morning of Saturday 12th October, exactly six weeks after we first settled the chickens into their new home. The next day, one more, and the next day, two. That day I also found one of the hens crouching at the corner of the garden, and when I investigated, found it had created something with a soft shell.
I like to tell people that growing up in England, and particularly in the Garden of England™ that is the Kent countryside, you naturally absorb, as if by osmosis, an understanding of the ways of nature. You find yourself in easy harmony with the plants, and the trees, and gardening and horticulture come as easily to you as walking, or talking. (But not walking AND talking together, let’s not fly too close to the sun, Icarus.)
It’s all bollocks, of course. My Nan loved to garden, my Mum loves to garden, I had a Big Book of British Trees (“Number 4: The Larch. The Larch.”), but other than that, the very few nuggets of natural lore that still rattle around my skull are things I remember from Scouts. (For example, did you know you can tell compass directions by looking at the moss growing on the side of a tree? I’m pretty sure it’s the north side, unless it isn’t.)
Moving back to the countryside after so long, we’re forced to cram a lot of greenery know-how into our increasingly osssified crania. For example, we have two large black walnut trees, laden each summer with green, perfumed globules, which, come the autumn, are released from their arboreal prison and sent careening into the ground. Or into a face.