What is it we want from food?

Don’t we keep coming back to exactly that issue? What is it we want from food? Our symbolic demands are entangled with our sensory demands in the act of eating.
- Adam Gopnik, talking with Christopher Kimball on the America’s Test Kitchen Radio Podcast, Episode 325

“What is it we want from food?”

That’s it. That’s the question I try to answer every time I sit down to write.

Food is about taste, and about pleasure. But it is a shared pleasure. We, all of us, need to eat every day. It’s more than just fuel for our bodies - the ritual of eating is tied up in human existence. Simple family dinners shared with my wife and kids; dinners out, celebrating the victories of life; parties with friends, laughing and talking; holidays with extended families, getting the aunts, uncles, and cousins together. Food is so much more than how it tastes.

What is it I want from food?
  • I want it to taste good, and be good, for me and my family
  • I want it to bring people together, in the kitchen and at the table - friends and family, strangers and neighbors
  • I want it to teach me, about new ways of doing things, about different cultures, about different flavors
  • I want it to remind me, about the old way of doing things, about our history, about what I’ve done, and where I’m going
  • I want it to comfort me, the warmth of my kitchen, the feel of a knife in my hand, the sizzle of a steak on the grill, the smell of simmering soup as I walk through the door

Food is my invitation to the story we’re all telling together.

What do you think?

What is it you want from food? Talk about it in comments section below.

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Slow Roasted Pork Loin with Rosé Pan Sauce

This post is sponsored by the National Pork Board and Costco. Celebrate #Porktober with pork at Costco!

As the weather turns crisp and you start gathering around the table with family and friends more frequently, serve something you know they’ll love – tender, juicy pork! And, don’t forget to visit Costco.com for information on weekly discounted fresh pork cuts and everything else you’ll need to celebrate “Porktober”.

I have a plan - a perfect fall day, bright, crisp, sunny. My grill in the backyard, surrounded by crunchy, colorful leaves, a pork loin roasting inside while I enjoy a tasty beverage.

As I leave Costco, pork loin in hand, I get smacked in the face by swirling and spitting rain, coming at me from all angles. The wind has picked up, and the sky is an ominous gray.

I go home, plop my pork loin in a brine, and wish for blue skies…or at least for the rain to ease up. Nothing doing; the day continues, gray and wet. Cold? I can handle cold. My limit is a steady downpour, and that’s what I have on my hands.

Late afternoon, and the heavy clouds bring an early nightfall. I give up on grilling, and start on a pot roasted pork loin. It is the perfect comfort meal for a cold, dreary, October day.

Pot roasting works especially well for pork loin roasts, which should be cooked to 145°F with a three minute rest. The trick is low and slow pot roasting. I gently bring the pork loin up to temperature, covered, in a low oven; the result is pork cooked perfectly from edge to edge, with a delicious pan sauce.

Please support today’s sponsor, Costco. They have all the ingredients you need for your fall feast, including a special on whole pork loins this week, 10/20 to 10/26. Thank you, Costco!

Recipe: Slow Roasted Pork Loin with Rosé Pan Sauce

PicOfTheWeek: Pork Loin Roast

Pic from another #Porktober recipe - pot roasted pork loin - coming later this week...

Simple Sous Vide Carrots

Why do I cook sous vide? Because I can trade time for effort. Sous vide carrots are a perfect example. They’re easy - peel the carrots, seal the carrots, drop them in a water bath. When they’re done, cut the bag open and serve.

But, they’re also slow; the carrots need an hour in a (very hot) water bath. I don’t mind the trade-off. When I’m working on dinner, the hard part is the last part - getting everything finished and on the table. “Cut the bag open and dump on a platter” is what I’m looking for in a side dish.

Carrots cook at a very high temperature for sous vide - 185°F. We want to gelatinize the starch, resulting in firm but tender carrots. Unfortunately, that temperature is much higher than we want to cook meat sous vide, so we can’t cook the main course at the same time as these carrots. I have a few strategies for dealing with this:
  1. I run two sous vide water baths at the same time, one for the vegetables, and one for the protein. (Yes, I have multiple sous vide water baths. I have a cooking gadget problem.)
  2. I use one water bath, sequentially, from highest temperature to lowest. I cook the carrots first, 185°F for an hour. Then I drop the sous vide temperature to meat cooking levels (let’s say 136°F), and add ice to the water bath to cool it down. The meat goes in the water with the carrots - the carrots stay warm in the water bath while the meat cooks.
  3. I don’t cook the main course sous vide. Sous vide - it’s not just for meat any more!

Recipe: Simple Sous Vide Carrots

Knob Creek® Rye Whiskey Old Fashioned with Grilled Orange

This post is sponsored by Knob Creek® Distillery and the Original Brothers of Bourbon website.

I enjoy the bold, spicy taste of Knob Creek® Rye Whiskey while I grill. The other day, as I sipped my drink and waited for the grill to preheat, the penny dropped. I can grill my oranges, adding smoky, caramelized fruit flavors to my Old Fashioned. Why didn’t I think of this sooner?

How do I grill an Old Fashioned? While preheating the grill for the main course, I put an orange wedge on the grate for a minute or two, long enough to give it good grill marks. After the wedge cools down for a minute, I squeeze a little of the orange juice into a rocks glass, muddle it with sugar cubes and a dash or two of bitters, and stir in some Knob Creek® Rye. Add some ice, the squeezed orange wedge, top with club soda, and I have a tasty beverage - just what I need to fortify myself for an evening of grilling.

Recipe: Knob Creek® Rye Whiskey Old Fashioned with Grilled Orange