Kecap Manis Braised and Glazed Pork Belly Over Sake-Mirin Risotto

(Serves six, if you’re lucky)

For the pork belly:

3 pounds raw, uncured pork belly, skin on
2 cups kecap manis*
6 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar*
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce*
3 tablespoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce (called nouc nam or nam pla)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 round of jaggery (palm sugar)*+ or ¼ cup light brown sugar

1. Crosshatch pork belly, with cuts ½” apart and ¼” deep. Place pork in a bowl, and combine kecap manis, vinegar, soy, fish sauce and lime juice. Pour over the pork belly and marinate 24 to 48 hours, turning occasionally.

2. Preheat oven to 275˚. Place belly, skin up, in baking pan or oven-safe skillet with two cups of marinade and 2 cups water, covering pork half-way up (add more water if needed). Cover pan with foil (or use lid with the skillet), and bake 3-4 hours. Remove pork from the liquid and cool. Cut belly into 1-inch chunks, with the skin on.

3. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, cook palm sugar until it dissolves and turns amber, and gently toss the pork belly chunks, until coated. (Be careful not to separate the belly from the skin).

For the risotto:

4cups water, plus 4cups saké, hot
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons garlic, finely diced
1 pound fresh cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 cup Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice (preferably, Vialone Nano)
1 cup mirin (Japanese rice vinegar)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

1. Combine water and saké and heat. Simmer on low until ready to use.

2. Heat oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then sauté onion, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.

3. And garlic and muhrooms and sauté, stirring, until mushrooms are browned and any liquid the mushrooms have released has cooked off, about 8 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add mirin and cook, stirring, until absorbed, about five minutes. (Did I mention that risotto is all about stirring? It’s all about stirring.)

4. Stir 1 cup of the simmered saké broth into the rice and stir, keeping it at a strong simmer until absorbed. Continue cooking and adding broth, about 1 cup at a time, stirring and waiting until each cupful is absorbed, until rice is creamy but al dente, 18-20 minutes. (This is what separates the Italians from the weenies. Small blisters should be developing at this point, and your palms should be red and sore from all that figure-8 pattern-stirring with the Big Italian Wooden Spoon, but there’s no whining in risotto-making. Oh, no. Suck it up and keep stirring, all’onda (wavy patterns), as the Venetians say, and NEVER turn your back on your risotto, or it’ll dry out and mound up like a plate of spackle. Trust a northern Italian on this.)

5. Remove from heat, and stir in salt, pepper and remaining butter until butter is melted. (This replaces the need for finishing the risotto with cream or cheese, which would work against the saké/mirin flavor.) Pour a glass of cold saké (really good saké is served cold), and, while congratulating yourself, honor the kitchen gods of Mario Batali, David Chang and Ming Tsai, add saké to self – and get a hold of the pork belly before people start coming by “just to pick”.

* Kecap manis (KEH-chop mah-NEES) is a thick, sweet soy sauce from Indonesia, and is available from Kalustyan’s in New York and on-line, as well as Wegman’s. Kalustyan’s also carries the black Chinese vinegar and the dark soy, which is darker and richer than what you find in the supermarket.

+ Palm sugar is available from Bangkok Market in New York and on-line, and is also at Kalustyan’s, I believe.

Seared Foie Gras in a Sauterne Reduction with Caramelized Winter Fruit


1 lobe of foie gras (or four little mini lobes)
2 figs, quartered
2 pears, peeled, seeded and quartered
4 small bunches of rapes (5-6 per bunch) (use the cute little mini-grapes, if you can find them – keep attached to stem)
2 oz. duck fat
2 tablespoons oz. sugar
11/2 cup Sauternes
salt (fleur de sel, if you have it)
black pepper


1. Let foie gras stand for 20-30 minutes before cooking.

2. In a sauté pan, melt the duck fat and sauté pears on medium heat. Add grape bunches and figs, stirring gently, until the fruit juices caramelize. Sprinkle lightly with the sugar and stir once.

3. Reduce Sauternes to ¾ cup.

4. Season the foie gras with salt and pepper, and sear until crisp and golden brown on the outside (rare on the inside), about 1 minute per side. Do not go over time, or foie gras will melt into a puddle of liquid fat.

5 To plate, lay the grape bunch at the top, lay in sliced pears and figs, and top with foie gras. Drizzle generously with the reduction. If you need to reheat the foie, do so on medium-low heat, just to warm through.


You can substitute the fruits quite liberally: use 3 apricots, peeled and sliced, in lieu of the pears, a cup of cranberries (or almost any other kind of berry) instead of the grapes, or add 2 small peeled and sliced apples – Gala, Fuji, Braeburn, etc. – depending on the season.

Veal Marsal-AHHHHH!


1 pound of veal scallopini
2 eggs
½ cup Italian bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 stick of butter
2 10 oz. packages of mushrooms (baby bellas work the best)
10 oz. demi-glace
2/3 cup Opici Vineyards Marsala (the other Marsalas just don’t compare)
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in hot water.


1. Heat half of the stick of butter and a fat splash of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat, until frothy. Gleefully throw in the mushrooms, with wild abandon. Sauté until tender. Remove mushrooms from sauté pan and set aside, in a bowl.

2. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl, and dip the scallopini in them, piece by piece.

3. Dip the scallopini into the bread crumbs and lightly coat. The scallopini are happy now.

4. Add the rest of the butter to he pan, with another splash of olive oil. Lay the scallopini into pan, but leave enough room so the pieces don’t touch. Sauté lightly until golden-brown (about 1 minute per side). Feel free to add butter if needed.

5. Remove the finished scallopini from the pan, and drain on paper towel.

6. This is the fun part. Add the Marsala, and cook for 5 minutes. Admire your deglazing. When it starts looking sticky/syrupy, add in the demi-glace. Splash some of the dissolved (and stirred) corn starch into the sauce to thicken up slightly. Horror! It’s beefy enough, but not wine-y enough! Reel from the shock. Grab Marsala bottle and add in more. A lot more. Cook for 5 more minutes. Taste. The sauce is good, but not great – there should be a rich Marsala taste! There should be a rich Marsala smell coming off of it! There should be fumes! Ma va! Add more Marsala. Calm down. You have plenty of time, and plenty of Opici. Once you realize that, Marsala Nirvana is achieved. This is a state of veal bliss that cannot be taught – merely reached. “Pour not gently into that good night/pour, pour pour/if the Marsala tastes light.”

7. Regain your composure. If the veal is still warm and you’re in a hurry, pour sauce on scallopini and serve. Otherwise, feel free to flip the scallopini into the simmering sauce and let them all lay there happily for a few minutes. Throw family, attracted like sharks by Marsala fumes, out of kitchen. Make them go get you some rosé, and serve. Eh. Va bene.

Eat Less, Enjoy More

Scott prepared a roast beef for our dinner tonight. Sadly, although his preparation can’t be faulted, it wasn’t a particularly good meal, and that’s because of the meat. It was poor-quality, and all the technique in the world couldn’t disguise the fact.

Serves us right for buying a Safeway special, I know. We won’t make that mistake again. And in a nice coincidence of timing, this article in the NY Times is another reminder that when it comes to meat, it’s better in every way to eat just one really good cut of beef than five bad ones.

Please, no drive-by sanctimony from the vegan crowd. I’m not interested in removing meat from my diet entirely. I am going to make more of an effort to focus on only buying quality meat from quality sources, even if it means we can’t afford to buy it as often.