Gnerally, I’m a sucker for any dish that takes three days to make. To my mind, cooking is often far too efficient. Getting dinner on the table with minimum fuss, though often a sad necessity, is seldom a rewarding experience. It’s just another chore to be done. Spending time on a meal, real time, feels more like gardening. It’s rewarding in and of itself. So I like dishes that take three days to make.
It makes sense, too, when you consider how long it took to produce the ingredients you are using – months or years to grow the vegetables and raise the animals, dry the raisins, cure the ham, age the wine. Seems a bit neglectful of all that effort to just throw them together and chow down as the last step of the process.
And speaking of curing ham, here’s a Chinese recipe I found for making a hunk of pork shoulder taste like ham after only three days, instead of the usual two years. The Chinese are masters of this kind of transformation.
Shanghai Pressed Pork
1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns
1 tablespoon salt
1 ½ lbs fresh boneless pork shoulder or butt
4 cups boiling water
2 slices fresh ginger
2 spring onions (halved and lightly squashed)
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
4 ½ teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon chopped spring onion
Dry fry the Szechuan peppercorns until browning. In a mortar and pestle or spice grinder pulverize with the salt.
Place the pork in a glass bowl and coat each side with the peppersalt. Refrigerate 3 days, turning each day.
Place pork in a saucepan with the boiling water (add more if needed to cover), the ginger, spring onions and the Shaoxing wine. Simmer for an hour or until juices are no longer red when the meat is pierced.
Drain the pork and place on a cutting board. Place another cutting board on top and add weights – bricks, a cast iron pot full of water, or, in my case, dumbbells. Let stand an hour at room temperature. A fair amount of the sticky gelatin will squeeze out.
Combine ingredients for dipping sauce in a small bowl and mix well. Slice the pork into thin slices and serve with seasonal greens.
In the words of Norman Douglas: “Not a dish for every day, but the longer one lives, the more one realizes that nothing is a dish for every day.”
So enjoy your days.