Sunday, 1 December 2013

Weeknight Dinners When You Commute to Siberia

If you know me in real life, or follow me on Facebook or Twitter at all, you'll know that I currently have a reasonably hideous commute to my current co-op position that takes about 4 hours a day. Add on even the vaguest desire to go to the gym and I'm not home much before 7:45 most nights. D cooks some nights, but over four years of me doing most of the cooking is a hard habit to break and as I've said before, part of my purpose on this planet is to feed people (even if it's just D & I). What all of this means is that I'm always on the lookout for easy recipes that I can get on the table in less than half an hour and, crucially, that convert well to leftovers for lunch the next day.

I've liked Mark Bittman since Simon & Schuster published his book FOOD MATTERS, the first book that really got me thinking about where our food comes from and why we consume what we do. But it's his FOOD MATTERS COOKBOOK that's been a real game changer for me. There are a lot of excellent recipes in that book, particularly for pasta (my wheelhouse) that can be turned around pretty quickly. Still, D remains skeptical of Bittman because of his VB6 sitting menacingly on our coffee table and the fact that a Bittman book usually means I'm about to attempt to change the way we eat. More on that as we get closer to the New Year...

What I really like Mark Bittman for, alongside his NYT colleague Melissa Clark, is that if I have an ingredient that I need to use, he'll usually have a recipe for something interesting and easy that incorporates it. So when I was digging around in the freezer last week trying to find a place for gelato (a girl has her priorities), I deemed it high time that the pork tenderloin taking up valuable freezer real estate made it's way onto our table. Check my Instapaper archive for Bittman and pork and voila: Stir-Fried Pork and Pineapple!

To start, my usual caveats and substitutions:
-The recipe calls for 8oz of pork shoulder or loin. You're probably never going to find half a pound of pork shoulder in your standard grocery store and you may have difficulty finding a tenderloin that small too. But fear not, either halve it and freeze for next time (being sure to clearly label your freezer bag, including weight and date) OR double the recipe. My tenderloin was probably closer to 2 pounds, but having already thawed it I was sort of committed to a quadrupled recipe.
-Don't fret about his instructions on how to cut the pork. As long as it's cut evenly (so it cooks evenly), you'll be fine. 
-However much you increase the pork, increase the marinade by that much too. That said, make a little less than the increased sauce. I quadrupled the sauce and it was way too much, plus I ended up using almost half a bottle of rice vinegar in the process.
-Unless it's easy to find, skip the fungus. This has the added benefit of cutting down your time to the table in half.
-If you do skip the fungus, you might want another veggie in there, and to be honest, I think any Chinese green would do nicely.
-He says thinly slice the ginger, I say only do that if you really like a mouthful of ginger. Otherwise, I think you get the same flavour impact from mincing it.

Really, the whole thing couldn't be easier. Get the pork in the marinade, chop the rest of the stir fry ingredients while it sits for a few minutes, cook through the pork, warm through the pineapple, and toss on rice. It also reheats beautifully the next morning.

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