FFWD – Coconut-Lemongrass-Braised Pork

My parents live in a rural(ish) area of the Fraser Valley. There is a tiny downtown, a vestige of the village that was swallowed up by the municipality in which they live. They’re also twenty minutes away from suburbia in two directions, so they have access to everything they might want, including gourmet ingredients. What their area lacks, though, is reliable access to less usual ingredients at the last minute. It makes me realize that I’m spoiled. If I’m missing an ingredient, I can walk down the street, right up until around nine in the evening, and be almost guaranteed to find what I need. What I don’t have is the beautiful setting they live in. I also haven’t developed my mother’s instinct for planning ahead.

A closer look at the completed dish.

Knowing that I was making this week’s dish at my parents’ place should have caused me to take a look at the list of ingredients, then place a phone call to my mother to see what she had on hand. If I’d done that, I might have packed up the whole coriander and the cardamom pods in my pantry and run to the store for some fresh lemongrass. Instead, I blithely congratulated myself for remembering to pack the cookbook and headed out to the farm. When it finally came time to make a shopping list, my lack of forethought caused a scavenger hunt that amped up my (car-fueled) carbon footprint more than I’d like to say.

Ingredients at the ready, behind a cookbook laid open on the counter.

My mother has ground coriander and cardamom in her spice cupboard, but I thought I would be able to find whole versions when we went out for the rest of the ingredients.Two supermarkets and a specialty store later, I had managed to find everything but the cardamom and lemongrass. As I was being told there was no lemongrass by the third produce clerk of the day, another customer tapped my elbow. She told me she got frozen lemongrass from a little store downtown and that they might have cardamom pods, too.

Pork chunks, ready for browning.

Off we went. The store was packed full of all sorts of produce, spices and ingredients that you couldn’t find on the shelves of the local supermarkets – even mangosteen, which I rarely see around my neighbourhood. I enlisted the aid of the clerk, but she couldn’t find any cardamom at all. She thought she was completely out of lemongrass, too, until she remembered that there was some in a package of fresh ingredients for Tom Yum soup. More than enough lemongrass for my recipe, with enough left to try the soup mix another time. As I was paying, I mentioned how difficult it was to find what I needed to make a mildly Thai-influenced dish. “Not in this town,” was her response.

Browned pork, mixed with toasted spices.

Well, my parents’ farm has its own attractions. They occasionally raise a few pigs, which keeps the whole family in pork for quite some time. They are coming to the end of their latest stock of pork, but we found some pork chops that substituted nicely for the pork butt suggested in the recipe. I took out the bones with a filleting knife and the thick chops cut easily into 1-2 inch chunks. Our late summer meant that there weren’t yet any root vegetables ready from the garden, but I got some nice carrots, potatoes and onions from the local co-op.

The cooked carrots, onions and potatoes arranged in a pretty dish, with a cookbook in the background.

After browning the meat, toasting the spices and adding the coconut milk, the kitchen was aromatic. Which made it hard to wait the more than half-hour it took to braise the stew. I kept busy, cooking the vegetables and finishing last week’s Cold Melon-Berry Soup, which we had as an appetizer while we waited for the stew to finish. Though the suggestions for serving this pork dish include pasta or rice, we served it just as it was. The vegetables provided enough of an anchor for the pork and its thin sauce. The stew can be finished with a touch of honey, but I neglected to add it. It didn’t matter, the flavours of the stew worked very well without it.

The completed dish, yellow with tumeric, in front of a cookbook.

I’m back home now, experiencing the best of both worlds, with some of my parents’ farm-raised meat in the freezer and all the ingredients I need just down the street.

You can find many other blogged descriptions of this week’s FFWD recipe here: Coconut-Lemongrass-Braised Pork

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18 thoughts on “FFWD – Coconut-Lemongrass-Braised Pork

  1. How wonderful that you could use farm-raised pork, from your own family! I liked the tale of your quest for ingredients. The hunt is part of the thrill, I think. Glad it came together from shopping adventure to eating adventure.

  2. Entertaining post. 🙂 Your dish looks great and the pork nicely browned too. Like Betsy, I also think it’s fantastic to be able to have pork from your own family farm!

  3. I might have tried this dish as written if I had some home grown pork, etc to work with….and your cooler climate. Enjoyed your story and I’m sure your folks enjoyed your cooking which looks really good and does not need all the pasta or rice filler. I’ll try this one as written in the winter. For now I enjoyed the extra veges and now I’m loving all the inspiration.

  4. Car fueled- carbon foot print & scavenger hunt… Ha, that made me laugh. I live in one of those areas where failure to plan = a carbon assault (because of the driving time to get to the closest “real” grocer) 🙂

  5. I think it is so neat that you can experience both worlds. It has been a scavenger hunt at times here looking for some of the spices and ingredients in Dorie’s recipes! That mangosteen sounds interesting – never heard of it. I find myself buying unusual spices or ingredients when I go shopping now so I can experiment. Your pork looks so hearty and delicious. Knowing where your pork came from must have made it even tastier!

  6. Great post – you had me chuckling because while out in the burbs myself….I still feel like I am living your life. I always consider myself having scored a victory by remembering the book…while Nana has been out scouting and securing ingredients for the whole week. Did I mention that I never even made it to the melon soup because I couldn’t get my act together to get a cantalope. This was so sad that Nana took special pity on me this week (esp after I mentioned I was getting ready to do the berry terrine – wrong week !!) and delivered virtually every ingredient to my house. I got neat little tupperwares of tumeric and such, plus the celery root and lemongrass…..pork and coconut milk. And I still managed to not love the recipe 🙂 It was certainly fine but from the amazing aromas and incredible ingredients I just kind of thought it would be over the top amazing. Now let’s see about that berry terrine……:)

  7. It really is dedication to the cause when you have to drive to so many markets to get the ingredient list. My limit is 3 and luckily I rarely have to go to two. That said, being with family is a special occasion and rules should be tossed, especially when the dish is as nice as this one.

  8. I find that my pantry is becoming quite diverse! I would be frustrated if I had to search again for spices that I already found and had in my pantry at home. They can be pricey!
    Seeing your mom’s green bowl cracks me up because I used to have a set of those, I think they were a wedding gift from the late 70’s, but don’t know what happened to them!
    Your braise looks delicious and sounds like you made it all come together, even out on the farm;-)

  9. Lucky you with the kitchen stocked with delicious food! And I’m glad you were able to find the elusive ingredients for this lovely dish (which was hard for ALL of us to photograph!).

  10. Glad you found everything you needed, even if you did have to hunt for it. I have experienced that determination to find a specific ingredient – it brings out my stubborn side!

  11. Your meal couldn’t be any more local if there was a lemongrass patch somewhere in the farm. Ah, the thrill of the chase. I like scavenging for ingredients, and trying to find new little stores to add to my roster.

  12. We had the melon soup as an appetizer too–great combination! Interesting that the store had a combo pack for Tom Yum soup (something nobody had heard of 10 years ago) but not the lemon grass by itself.

  13. Okay, that’s dedication. I have done the runaround for dishes in the past, and it is really satisfying when you find that last, elusive ingredient. Well done!

  14. I am continuing to cook my way through AMFT. I made this dish recently. I enjoyed your story of sourcing ingredients. I have trouble with ingredients and I live in a big city. We enjoyed this one and would make it again.

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