Beth and Doug were headed to Vietnam for a year. To wish them fair winds and happy travels, we put on a little dinner party. It also happened that I had just come back from Yakima with a fresh side of pork, along with some pork "accessories" (bones, head, some inside bits, etc.) which was a great excuse for some fun cooking. What follows was my attempt to say Goodbye with a pig.
But first, cocktails: the Bees Knees, a prohibition era cocktail with gin, a honey simple syrup, and lemon. I don't know why I hadn't come across the notion of a honey simple syrup before -- it's preparation is simple, it'll keep for quite awhile in the fridge, and it's good for a wide variety of cocktails.
Pork rillettes on toasted crostini. For the rillettes I follow Jane Grigson's recipe in her amazing book Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery. Bay leaf and juniper berries are captured in the lard cap of the rillettes.
Roasted marrow on crostini with capers and watercress. Marrow is salty, incredibly rich, and worked well with the acidic capers and peppery watercress.
Smoked pork ribs and a fresh sauerkraut. The ribs were in the smoker, at 200 degrees, for about five hours. They were spicy and tender. The briny sauerkraut was a great palate cleanser between bites of pork rib.
Crispy pigs ear on rohkost salat, a german winter sald with apples and leeks. Cooking pigs ear takes some doing, but the results are worth it. The tiny, curly slices of pork were a great seasoning on top of this salad.
Pork tenderloin, seasoned, wrapped in caul fat and broiled under high heat, served over a morel and port sauce. My wife and I learned to cook tenderloin this way from a class with Bruce Naftaly, previous owner of Le Gourmond, and an early and unrepentant practioner of French cooking with local foods. The morel sauce recipe comes from Hank Shaw's site, a great contemporary resource for wild food recipes.
We took our time eating. Each dish came out individually, to be cleared and replaced with the next. That left lots of room for wine and conversation along the way. It was a great way to spend some time with them before they left on their big adventure. We finished with some homemade carob drops, topped with sea salt, that Beth and Doug had brought. Sweet and salty, a little like what saying goodbye feels like.
Beth and Doug are keeping a blog of their Vietnam adventures, which is already full of amazing pictures and stories. Check it out at www.Vietlandia.com.