Monday, August 31, 2009

In the Kitchen with Julia & Jacques


After strolling through the Mar Vista Farmers Market yesterday and sweating buckets, I was ready to leap into my air-conditioned car when I realized I was parked right in front of Sam Johnson's Bookshop. I'm addicted to browsing bookstores and I can spend hours in one and I've always wanted to visit this secondhand bookshop but their limited hours made it hard. It was finally open yesterday and boy am I happy I stopped by.

I snapped up hardcover copies of Baking with Julia based on Julia Child's PBS series and written by Dorie Greenspan and the 1976 edition of La Technique: An Illustrated Guide to the Fundamental Techniques of Cooking by Jacques Pepin.

Isn't this Danish Braid lovely? I can't wait to try and bake something out of Baking with Julia.

Baking with Julia has a really good intro to baking basics and there are huge sections devoted to breads, cakes (including instructions for a wedding cake), sweet and savory pastries & tarts and a smaller section on morning pastries & breads. Croissants, Brioche, Chiffon Cake and Pecan Sticky Buns here I come!

Oh, and French Apple Tart of course. I've tried making this in the past and I've never really succeeded. I hope Julia will provide me the magic touch.

La Technique is a practical and comprehensive guide to the techniques of cooking. Every technique is accompanied by extensive photos and instructions.

It'll teach you everything from how to hold a knife, how to decorate butter and fruits to trimming a rack of lamb. And Pepin illustrates different ways you can prep fish, chicken, beef, vegetables and even desserts.

With this book, I feel like I'm in good hands. When I come upon a recipe in the future that calls for deboning a whole chicken, I won't be as clumsy anymore and I just love the step-by-step photos. I don't think there's a book on the market right now that has such good illustrated instructions.

Go check out Sam Johnson's Bookshop. It has a great selection of secondhand books and a sizable cookbook section and David, the guy who runs the place, truly loves and breathes books. I had so much fun chatting with him about cookbooks and restaurants, both of which he knew a lot about.

Sam Johnson's Bookshop
12310 Venice Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90066
(310) 391-5047
Open Mon-Sat 11am to 6pm and Sun 12pm to 5pm

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Road to (My) Seoul

Is the way to a man's heart really through his stomach? I'm not sure about men but I do know food is one way to my heart and soul. And all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ at Road to Seoul is a new road to my soul.

I'm very lucky to live so close to Koreatown in LA. I find so many new Korean restaurants I want to try that my "To Eat" list is always growing faster than I can eat or should eat. Luckily, I have friends and colleagues who indulge me; I formed a "Eat Drink & Be Merry" group at work and the names speaks for itself and below are pics from our recent outing.

Beef Sirloin (well marbled fat!), Beef Brisket, Black Pork Belly

Baby Octopus - it comes with a separate red spicy sauce for dipping

Bulgogi, Marinated Chicken, and half-cooked Baby Octopus

Pork Neck and Cow Tongue (a must!)

Except for the baby octopus, everything above were crowd favorites. It's definitely better to go to Korean BBQ in a large group in order to try more meats.

At Road to Seoul, the AYCE is $16.99 per person and that gives you nine meat choices to choose from and an order of steamed egg, Korean pancake and tofu soup is split amongst 3 to 4 people. In my experience, sometimes in a large group, it gets a little chaotic and the waitress will forget the soup or the steamed egg so remind them if they forget because that steamed egg is delicious. Of course, you will get banchan (a decent selection), rice wrappers for the meat and a huge bowl of salad with vinaigrette to go with your meat.

Last tip - In addition to the bean paste and hot sauce, you get a small plate of salt to dip your meat. If you like sesame oil, you can ask the waitress to add sesame oil to your plate of salt for a richer and more fragrant dip.

Road to Seoul
1230 S. Western Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(323) 731-9292
*Takes reservations, good for groups big or small, pretty comfy, spacious seating, big-screen TVs usually showing sports and the mandatory blaring of English pop music.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Westside Tavern - A New Favorite

It's official. Westside Tavern is my new favorite go-to place for lunch and dinner in West LA. I've been there four times since it opened back in late March and they've hit it out of the park every time both in food and service.

The Crispy Ricotta Filled Zucchini Blossoms rivals those at Pizzeria Mozza. Handmade Handkerchief Pasta with Chicken Sausage is almost too beautiful to eat but you'll want to eat that pillowy pasta in that delicious tomato ragu sauce. The Beef Short Rib Pot Roast is a must try. First, it's a very big piece (not the pathetic palm-size pieces you sometimes get at fancy pants restaurants). Second, the meat is so tender you won't need a knife. Third, the flavors are amazing; it'll make your shoulders come up to your ears.

The Grilled Angus Strip Steak is the only so-so item for me. It's not bad but it's a steak. There are so many other interesting things on the menu to try.

Their daily specials, charcuterie + cheese plate and crudo sampler changes often depending on what is available/in season. You can see the daily offerings on this giant chalkboard they have hanging opposite their spacious and swanky bar which serves an array of creative and delicious cocktails, craft beers and wine.

Below are more pictures of my favorites. (It's hard for me remember to take pics sometimes when the food looks so good and I just want to dive right in.)

The James Ranch Lamb French Dip is tender and full of savory lamb flavors; I don't know how I can just have a regular Beef French Dip anymore. I had this on my first visit and I've had to resist really hard each time to not order it again so I can try new things.

Ale Battered Halibut with Malt Vinegar Potato Chips is a favorite. You get 2 to 3 pieces of nice thick Halibut and the batter is super light so you're not eating a mouthful of batter. Finally, some good fish n' chips in LA! (Some folks swear by the ones at Ye Olde King's Head but they're just so-so for me.)

I love ordering the Spit-Roasted Cobb Salad and splitting it as an appetizer.

Juicy Grilled Chicken Club with thick-cut bacon, guacamole and garlic aioli on perfectly toasted sourdough bread.

OMG. This Brown Butter Apple Pie with homemade butter pecan ice-cream is heaven. It totally makes me question why I keep trying to bake apple pies at home. This one is served warm and your eyes will just roll to the back of your head when you take bite of that buttery flaky crust.

Westside Tavern is very generous with all their portions but they're not obscene like Cheesecake Factory. The appetizers are good to split between 2 people. You might also want to split entrees if you've ordered a lot of appetizers (and you should save room for dessert). Besides that crazy good apple pie above, there's also Sticky Toffee Pudding and peaches are in season so there's Peach Crisp. Again, desserts are big so I highly recommend sharing.

So, check it out! It's also the perfect place if you're catching a movie at the Landmark.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dodger Dog, Garlic Fries and Beer!

A Cardinals fan took me to my first baseball game ever at the Dodger Stadium (thank you Coolia!) this past Wednesday and boy, did I have a good time. And yes, yes, I've lived in LA all my life and somehow managed to never cross paths with baseball save for some pathetic attempts to play during P.E. in high school.

Anticipation had been building for a couple of weeks and I was all smiles when we finally entered the parking queue into Dodger Stadium.

The outside of the stadium is really nice...anticipation and excitement continued to build.

Before we settled down in our seats, Coolia and I had to do something of extreme importance. Stand in line for our Dodger Dog, Garlic Fries and Beer! Oh, yes and some Cracker Jack too.

We ate and drank like Queens :)

The stadium was packed. It was cool to see Pujols steal to second base (and Coolia told me he's a slow runner too) and Manny shatter his bat into pieces. Going into the 9th inning was nail-biting because the score was 2 for 2.

Cardinals won 3 to 2! People started filing out immediately as soon as the game ended. Coolia was very happy...Dodgers fans not so much.

I had a great time at my first baseball game. I loved the energy and pulse of the crowd (about 40,000 were there?). Coolia made sure we had all the "must haves" because a baseball game is not a baseball game unless you eat, drink and partake in other very amusing activities like cheering, heckling fans of the opposing team, singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" at the 7th inning, tossing beach balls from section to section, and in our case, someone was tossing a blow-up doll around until the ushers came and took it away.

There was even a marriage proposal! Not to me of course. A guy proposed to his girlfriend on the Kiss-cam and luckily for him, she accepted. I don't think you can really refuse a marriage proposal when its made in such public proportions.

And much, much thanks to Coolia for patiently answering all my baseball questions. I would have been totally lost otherwise.

Conclusion: very high bar set for next baseball game.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

10 Eggs & Ham

Yes, I had ten eggs and ham for lunch today

That is.....ten quail eggs and jamon serrano (yes, my serrano binge continues).

I've been wanting to cook this meal ever since I saw another blogger post pictures of her brunch at The Bazaar. The Bazaar is Jose Andres' new fancy pants restaurant at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills but I've yet to go try it. While I'm waiting for my special occasion (and saving up my money), why not try to re-create what I can? I think sometimes I eat better at home than at restaurants.

I picked up the quail eggs from the Santa Monica Farmers Market. The Jamon Serrano and the fresh, piping hot French baguette came from Surfas.

(Note: The calories, protein and fat from 10 quail eggs is about the same as 2 large chicken eggs.)

Carefully crack all the quail eggs in a medium bowl. When cracked, the quail eggs won't split cleanly in two halves like a chicken egg because it has a thicker membrame between the shell and the egg. So, crack the egg and gently peel back the membrane and shell and let the egg slide into the bowl.

Don't worry if little pieces of egg shell falls into the bowl - just pick them out with your fingers.

Heat a skillet or pan and a little oil on high heat. Pour the bowl of quail eggs into the hot pan and immediately turn the heat real low (as low as possible) and sprinkle a little salt over the eggs.

Don't flip the eggs if you want them sunny side up (they look adorable sunny side up, don't they?). Tilt the pan slightly side-to-side so the egg whites spread evenly and gets cooked.

This was so easy and quick to make - about 5 minutes to cook. The only thing that really took time was cracking the quail eggs (it took about 10 minutes) but by the 7th egg, I really got the hang of it and it was much quicker.

Slide the eggs onto a nice plate and add whatever you want. In my case, I added a small piece of baguette, one slice of serrano ham and some mini sunburst tomatoes.

This was the perfect post-workout lunch - lots of protein, some carbohydrates and vegetables - my nutritionist approves! When you're on a diet, eat well! It doesn't have to be boring or bland.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Everyone Needs Chocolate Chip Cookies and Milk

I had a crazy intense craving for a warm chocolate chip cookie and a glass of cold milk the other night. You can't really just make one chocolate chip cookie so I ended up baking 2 dozen. Don't worry. I do remember my goal (Btw, I saw a nutritionist today and she says I'm crazy to think I need to lose 20 lbs and she helped me reset my goal to 10 lbs so that's good news to hear. Finally, some good news.).

I can't tell you how satisfying it was to have that one warm cookie and then cold milk to wash it down. The cookie was soft in the center and slightly crispy on the edges and the gooey chocolate chips just made me smile. Mmmmmm. I took the rest of the cookies to work the next day and they were devoured. I'm grateful to my co-workers :)

I got my recipe from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. I like this book. The recipes are easy to read and understand and there are plenty of pictures of the finished goodies. There are a variety of recipes for breakfast, cakes, cupcakes, pies, tarts, brownies/bars, cookies, candies/chocolates and even drinks. I can't wait to tackle their recipe for the Sweet & Salty Cake (a bestseller at their bakery in New York) and the Baked Brownie (Oprah's favorite and voted Best Brownie by America's Test Kitchen and the Today Show).

Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
my notes are in parenthesis

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (Leave the butter out at room temperature or place on top of warm oven to soften but don't let it melt!)
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract (try not to use vanilla flavoring - some of them have corn syrup)
  • 16 ounces (a little more than 2 cups) of semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Whisk together flour, salt and baking soda and set aside
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars together until smooth and creamy. Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. The mixture will look light and fluffy.
  3. Add the vanilla and beat for 5 seconds.
  4. Add half of the flour mixture and mix for 15 seconds. Add remaining flour mixture and beat until just incorporated. (Don't overbeat.)
  5. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the chocolate chips.
  6. Cover the bowl tightly and put in the refrigerator for 6 hours. (I only put mine in for 3 hours because it was getting late and I really wanted my cookie. In terms of texture, I think my cookies would have came out better if I had refrigerated the dough for 6 hours.)
  7. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (I used foil and it was fine.).
  8. Use an ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to scoop out dough in 2 tablespoon-size balls. Use your hands to shape the dough into perfect balls and place them on the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.
  9. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the pans once during the cooking time, until the edges of the cookies are golden brown and the tops just start to darken. (I didn't rotate my cookies and they were fine.)
  10. Cool the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely (although they are delicious warm).
  11. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Simple but Delicious Meal in 5 Minutes!

This is my revised 5-minute version of the Croque Monsieur/Madame. Well, okay, it's really a "fancy" ham and egg sandwich. But it's healthy, quick, easy and great as breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Slice a piece of fresh baguette in half and put two slices of Jamon Serrano or prosciutto on the baguette. I like going to Surfas for these two items because they sell fresh French baguettes and their jamon and prosciutto selection is great; plus I live close to by.

Scrambled. Overeasy. Sunny side up. Poached. Hardboiled. I love eggs and I can have them any time of the day. Here, I cooked one egg overeasy and I slow-scrambled the other one. I highly recommend slow scrambling your eggs because the eggs will come out moist and "eggy" without the need to add butter or milk. Just add a little oil to your pan and heat it up. As soon as you pour your eggs in, turn the fire real low - as low as possible. Keep stirring with a wooden spoon or a spatula that won't melt until the eggs looks solid.

Put warms eggs on top of your jamon so the eggs will melt the meat's fat. Add cheese in between if you wish. I had cherry tomatoes from my Farmers Market run so I added that to my meal for a balanced meal.

I'm a big fan of Farmers Markets. If you have one near you, stock up on whatever is in season; it'll give variety to your meals and help you get creative. I'm in sunny Los Angeles so I'm up to my ears in tomatoes right now and I'm using them as snacks, side dishes, and fresh pasta sauce. Get organic, free-range eggs from the farmers too. They are worth the splurge for that creamy orange egg yolk; your egg will actually taste like an egg.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bacon Apple Pie! Seriously.

I'll try almost anything once. I love bacon ice cream and I love the mix of the sweet and savory so why not try my hand at baking a Bacon Apple Pie? My chance finally came when someone recently gifted a spankin' brand new KitchenAid mixer to me. (Ha! Does this mean the pressure is off and I can stay single forever now? Because really, why do women go through the hoopla of fancy, expensive marriage ceremonies but for the chance to register for KitchenAids, pots & pans, a million spoons, vases and a whole mess of stuff they may never use? Hmm, I do want a set of these Unison pans.).

I've tried many recipes for pie crusts and so far, I really like this one I found from Shelley Young, a Chicago-based chef who also has a recipe for Bacon Apple Pie. I only used her recipe for pie crust though because I found the lattice bacon top to be too much. Yes, I do have limits.

Make sure your butter and shortening is chilled. You want it cold so when it mixes with the flour mixture, you get a good crumbly texture.

Life before the KitchenAid = 30 minutes of mixin' and sweatin' and a pair of very sore arms.
Life after the KitchenAid = 1 minute of mixing and I didn't even break a sweat.

After the dough forms, divide it in half and flatten it into a disc before wrapping tightly and chilling in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Chilling the dough is very important because chilled dough is much easier to roll out and flatten. You don't want to be rolling out a piece of melting, sticky dough.

The next day, roll out the dough and fit one piece over your pie dish. Brush some flour on your rolling pin to prevent sticking. I like to roll out my doughs on parchment paper to prevent sticking to the surface.

Next, fill it with your fabulous bacon and apple filling. I recommend using thick-cut bacon because there's more meat. I used Gala apples because that was the only kind available at my Farmers Market. You can also use Granny Smiths but try to stay away from the mealy ones from the supermarket.

Fit the second pie dough over the filling, cut off the extra dough and tuck in the edges of the top dough into the bottom dough. Be sure to cut some slits on the top for steam to escape or you can cut some pretty shapes like I did. You can use the extra dough you cut off earlier to cut shapes and lay on top of the pie.

Bacon Apple Pie - Done! I think heaven probably smells like that.

You can serve your Bacon Apple Pie with a piece of smoked cheddar. I can't resist a warm pie with ice cream a la mode so I went with vanilla ice cream.

Verdict? My parents, sisters and I all agree the pie was good but it did not exceed our wildest dreams for a Baaaaacon Apple Pie. The pie crust was perfect - flaky, flaky, flaky with a hint of sweetness from the sugar I added to the flour mixture. The KitchenAid really did its job of thoroughly mixing the butter and shortening to give me a flaky crust; I never got such flaky crust when I was mixing by hand.

I should have sliced my apples thinner and more uniformly because I found out that some pieces were softer than others. Surprisingly, the bacon did not overpower the pie and you can't taste any greasiness which is good. So my verdict is that the bacon is probably unnecessary and a plain old-fashioned Apple Pie is just simple deliciousness that will impress on its own . However, if you're like me and like to try anything once then I say you should try your hand at baking a Bacon Apple Pie.

**I should note that we had the Bacon Apple Pie as dessert after our decadent meal of Iberico de Bellota Pork with Jamon Serrano so we were stuffed from our dinner and bacon just pales next to Iberico de Bellota. Hmm, perhaps I should try this again with the pie as the only course.

Flaky Pie Crust

from Chef Shelley Young

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, optional
  • Pinch fine sea salt
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter, chilled
  • 3 tablespoons shortening, chilled
  • 3½ tablespoons cold water

*(Correction: I previously wrote that this will make a double crust pie. That's incorrect. This is enough if you are making a single crust pie with a bacon lattice top. Double the recipe if you want to make a double crust pie like I did here. When you get to step 4, after you form a ball with the dough, use a big clean knife and cut the ball in half. Reshape into a ball and follow step 5 and 6.)

  1. Put flour, sugar (optional) and salt in bowl of food processor fitted with metal blade.
  2. Cut butter and shortening into small pieces; add to processor.
  3. Pulse mixture until crumbly and butter is in small pieces throughout flour.
  4. Working quickly, start processor and add cold water until mixture just forms a ball.
  5. Turn out dough onto work surface; flatten into a disk.
  6. Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 24 hours before rolling out.

Bacon Apple Pie

from Eclectic Gecko with some extra notes from me

  • Pastry for a double-crust 9-inch pie, uncooked
  • 6 cups apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices (about 2 lbs or 8 medium apples); try to avoid mealy apples
  • 3/4 lb uncooked bacon; thick-cut recommended
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • For the pie wash: Mix 1 tablespoon milk with 1 tablespoon sugar

  1. Fry bacon in skillet until slightly floppy. It should harden and become more crispy as the oil drains on paper towels.
  2. Chop bacon into 1/2″ pieces. Line bottom of pastry-lined pie dish with a layer of bacon, reserving the rest.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add apple slices and remaining bacon pieces. Toss to coat.
  4. Transfer bacon-apple mixture to pastry-lined pie plate.
  5. Place upper crust on pie, cut away extra dough and tuck/seal the top and bottom pastry dough (If you wish, you can do a lattice pastry top. Or, you can make a bacon lattice top and use uncooked bacon for the lattice - remember to adjust recipe though). Cut slits on the top if you are using the double crust to allow steam to vent. Brush top with milk and sugar pie wash.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour or until bubbly and brown.
  7. Cool before serving.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Feasting on fresh Iberico de Bellota Pork from Spain

I love to eat. I love to cook. I'm crazy about finding good restaurants to try. Oh, and I'm on a diet to lose 20 pounds (ideally in 3 months). See how these interests conflict with each other? If you like to cook and eat (and perhaps diet occassionally :) ), I hope you'll find my posts useful, entertaining or maybe just mildly amusing.

Jamon (ham) Iberico is the very dreamy Spanish version of prosciutto. There are several types of jamon Iberico but Iberico de Bellota is the best in its class. The meat comes from free-range black Iberian pigs that feed almost exclusively on acorns and fresh herbs in Spain. Fat is well-marbled throughout the tender meat and cured from months to a few years. You cannot help but close your eyes when you slowly melt the fat with the warmth of your mouth and savor the rich, nutty and salty flavors. Don't worry. Due to it's acorn diet, Iberico Ham is very high in monounsaturated fats which is supposed to lower your LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. That's a good thing!

So, imagine my supreme excitement when Tasting Table announced that due to Wagshal's Market in D. C. and Chef Jose Andres' efforts, fresh Iberico de Bellota pork from Fermin, a leading Iberico de Bellota producer in Spain, is available for the first time in the U.S. That means I don't have to eat it cured and I could flex my cooking muscles and get creative! (Btw, Wagshal's is selling the pork exclusively and it's also being served in Jose Andres' restaurants in D.C. Supplies are limited.)

After getting some advice from Wagshal's meat department, I settled on 2 pounds of Iberico pork loin and had it overnighted. Then I invited my parents and told them I had the world's best pork to motivate them to drive 30 miles to my place. Wagshal's sent five of Jose Andres' recipes along with the pork. At first, I wanted to choose the most complex recipe but I ultimately chose a simpler recipe because it looked like it would let the meat's flavor shine by itself.

Lomo de cerdo adado en sal con Jamon
(Iberico de Bellota Pork Loin baked in sea salt with sliced Spanish cured Ham)

Look at how red that meat is and how delicious that marbled fat looks. The meat came carefully seal-wrapped. All I had to do was open the seal and pat the meat dry with paper towels.

This is what 3 pounds of coarse sea salt looks like. I think I should have used fine sea salt instead but I didn't know which kind to buy since the recipe did not specify. Even after mixing in the water the recipe called for, the salt still didn't firm up as well as I expected.

I didn't have a large/wide piece of foil baking sheet so I carefully folded two pieces of foil together and laid out half the salt and placed the herbs on top. I then placed the pork on top and put the rest of the herbs on the pork and buried it with the rest of the salt. Pack the salt well. Also, try to buy fresh herbs from your Farmers Market or its even better if you have some in your herb garden. You want your herbs as fresh as possible.

Wrap the pork tightly with the foil and put it on a baking tray. The recipe said to bake it in the oven for 25 minutes at 400 degrees. I think my home oven must be faulty or just not as strong as commercial ovens because 25 minutes was definitely not enough. I know the meat should be served slightly pink but my pork was still too raw so I had to leave it in the oven for an extra 15 minutes. Even then, the thickest middle portion was too raw and I ended up quickly pan-searing the too-raw pieces because the rest of my dishes were getting cold. I recommend buying an oven temperature gauge (I need to buy one!) to make sure your oven is hot enough.

Voila! Iberico de Bellota Pork Loin is done! The red meat you see is the Jamon Serrano I laid between the slices of Iberico Pork. I wanted to get Jamon Iberico but Surfas (a cook's and foodie's paradise in Culver City) is out until September. It's a sight to behold and admire when Surfas has it. They place the entire cured leg at the cheese counter and it's sliced to order. It's about $130 per pound. Jamon Serrano is much more affordable at around $24 per pound and it's still delicious (although Jamon Iberico will induce an orgasmic sigh).

I served the Iberico de Bellota Pork Loin with sauteed baby green beans from the Farmers Market. How do I describe the pork? I'm not going to be able to do it justice but I'll try my best. It's the best piece of pork I've ever tasted in my life and all it took was just some salt and fresh herbs. My parents were totally impressed and even my vegetarian sister had a small piece.

The warm pork melted the fat on the Serrano ham. The mix of fat juices and the tender, rich meat was like having Fred Astaire tap-dancing in my mouth. There was a subtle nutty flavor in the meat and the fat (THE FAT!) had a crisp, refreshing flavor - it wasn't greasy like you'd expect pork fat to be. A bite of meat with a little bit of fat was just plain heaven. Plain heaven.

I've cooked regular pork loin before and even with marinating overnight, the meat always came out rather bland and boring with the flavors concentrated only on the most outer layer. I've had to rely on cooking an additional sauce or glaze to give more flavor to the meat. This is totally not the case with fresh Iberico de Bellota. You know what? The more I say "Iberico de Bellota," the more beautiful it sounds. If I ever have a kid, maybe I could name him/her "Iberico de Bellota." It just rolls off the tongue :)

My sister also made her specialty to compliment the pork: Spaghetti alla Bottarga (tuna roe....sooooooo good and full of flavors of the sea). I've reaped many rewards from her numerouse trips to Italy.

Coming next: "Bacon Apple Pie. Seriously."

Jose Andres' Recipe for
Lomo de cerdo adado en sal con Jamon
(Iberico de Bellota Pork Loin baked in sea salt with sliced Spanish cured Ham)
Serves 4–6
  • 3 lbs Sea Salt
  • 4 sprig Fresh Rosemary
  • 6 sprig Fresh Thyme
  • 4 sprig Fresh Parsley - flat leaf
  • 1 - 2 lb Iberico de Bellota Pork Loin
  • 4 oz Jamon Serrano (Spanish cured Ham) - thinly sliced
  • Spanish extra virgin olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. In a large bowl, mix the salt with 3 tablespoons of water until the salt is slightly damp. (the salt needs to moist so it will pack well.
  3. Spread half of the salt down the center of a baking sheet and top with 2 rosemary sprigs, 2 parsley sprigs and 3 thyme sprigs.
  4. Lay the pork loin on top of the herbs.
  5. Place the remaining herbs on top of the pork, then cover the pork completely with the remaining salt, making sure to pack it well around the pork.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes
  7. Let the pork rest for 5 minutes
  8. Using a fork – crack open the side of the salt crust. The upper half of the crust, now a hard shell, should lift off easily.
  9. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let rest for another 5 minutes.
  10. Slice the loin into ½ inch thick slices and arrange on four plates.
  11. Lay the jamon in between the pork slices.
  12. Drizzle with some olive oil and serve warm