Why hello there, and welcome back to Kitchen Castastrophes, a site that is constantly 2 bad days from absolute chaos. I’m your fiddle-less Nero in a simmering Carthage, Jon O’Guin. Today’s post, I’m not going to lie to you guys, has gone to hell before it’s even begun in a variety of ways, and I’m kind of forced to flail wildly to throw something together because of it. Which matches today’s RECIPE perfectly fine, as you’ll soon learn. But if hearing me slap together some kind of explanation for what’s going on isn’t appealing to you, just jump on down to the recipe here. For everyone else, let’s chat about me being wrong, bad ideas, and cultural appropriation!
A Simple Plan for a Simple Man
I have a long-storied aversion to planning: from not doing homework as a kid, to only filling out one College application less out of cockiness and more “I didn’t think I’d need to be filling out applications before taking the SAT, so by the time I started, there was only one school still open.” And sure, that’s caused problems in my life, because, as the old adage people like to quote at me when it DOES happen goes “Those who fail to plan are planning for failure.” But you know what are ALSO old sayings? “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy” and “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”. So eat a dick, Churchill. (Churchill supposedly came up with the ‘failing to plan’ quote. If I had planned this paragraph out better, I’d have mentioned it sooner.)
“In the morning, I will sober, but you will still be dumb, O’Guin.”
What ends up frustrating me the most is when things I could not have reasonably planned for end up ruining my plans. Because now it means I’m just as fucked as if I didn’t have a plan, but now I’ve wasted the time planning, too. And in my life, due to a wide array of situations and reasons, the “I couldn’t have planned for this problem” comes up far more often than it should. And it applies TWICE to today’s current post. It’s the reason today’s recipe was MADE, and why I’m kind of rambling right now.
The first angle is the easiest to explain: two weeks ago, I had company come over to hang out and play board games for MLK day. Yes, I know, I should have been spending it volunteering, but I’m an Eagle Scout and community theatre performer: I volunteer to benefit my community all damn year, so I’m taking that day for me.
I checked the Scout Law. There ain’t nothing about “Hard-working” in there.
(Because it’s in the Oath, but potato, potahto.)
Our gaming room had become stuffed with the accouterments of the holiday season, so the room needed to be tidied and readied for guests, a process my mother and I had been doing over the last week. Sunday night came, and I made 2 decisions, PLANNING for the next morning: firstly, I vacuumed the room. Because I laid even odds that my mother would decide to vacuum the room before I wanted to wake up, jarring me out of sleep, if given the chance. THEN, I did ALL of the work for the Monday post Sunday night, staying up until quite late in order to do everything except minor touches like “setting up the social media alerts” and “giving it SEO tags”, figuring those 5 minutes of work were small enough to be handled just before my guests arrived. With these two choices, I figured I had planned myself to an easy and relaxing morning and day.
So imagine my chagrin when, 85 minutes before our guests arrived, my mother kicked open the front door to announce she needed help hauling in the groceries she just bought …including 10 pounds of meat that we “needed to do something with”.
As in “now.”
Historically, giant pots of meat landing in your lap is a good thing. Today, less so.
Which, since I had stayed up late to get the post done, I only got out of bed 90 minutes before our guests were arriving. Meaning I had been up for 5 minutes when I was told “fuck whatever plan you had for the morning, you get to figure out how to cook 4 pounds of chicken thighs and 6 pounds of pork shoulder before people get here.”
Which, as fortune would have it, I DID have an answer to. Well, kind of. It turned out that my mother already HAD a plan for the chicken, so I just needed a plan for the pork. Which was well timed, as I had recently seen an interesting recipe for pork shoulder in a magazine (Milk Street, to be specific). And we conveniently happen to have a lot of the ingredients for it! Like Gochujang, and Miso, and…maybe other things. I don’t know right now.
See, part of the reason I’ve been talking about this chaos instead of the recipe is that I can’t READ the recipe. Because, due to the chaos of my brother and his girlfriend coming to visit, the Super Bowl, and a sudden snow storm in my home town, I don’t know where the magazine ended up. (I actually thought my mother moved it as part of another sudden surge of unnecessary extra labor, but the evidence seems to suggest it went missing beforehand.)
To be fair, my investigative source wasn’t 100% reliable.
So a lot of this was pre-written prattle meant to buy time until I found it. We STILL haven’t found it, but we caved and spent the money to get on the website to read it there, so today’s post can still happen ALMOST on time. And I say WE, because in a poetic parallel to that previous issue, I ended up staying up very late trying to find it. SO late that I actually was still up when my mother got up for work. So, great.
When Your Plans and Planes go Under
Now, this is going to get into two things I’ve semi-recently touched on in other posts: first, our Jollof Rice post from November explains to some extent what cultural appropriation is, mostly by linking to other sources online. As a brief refresher: Cultural appropriation is when one culture takes the elements or iconography of another culture. It’s technically a neutral term, but is most often discussed whenever a previously colonizing entity (mainly America or England) does something using the stuff from entities that WERE colonized (Mexico, Africa, Native Americans, etc), which is frequently seen as “abusive” cultural appropriation, typically because we take something that had cultural or religious importance to them, and use it wrong. Like, those big feathered headdresses Native Americans wear? They’re actually the equivalent of a general’s uniform with like, 30 medals on it to the cultures that wore them. And imagine how pissed people would get if you kept showing up to football games wearing Marine Dress Blues with the Purple Heart and Medal of Honor pinned to the chest without ever serving in the military. It’s offensive to the people who EARNED those things. Fuck, it’s almost a federal crime!
Technically, it’s only a crime IF you do it to GET things.
We TRIED to make the whole thing illegal, but it turns out there’s this Amendment against stopping people from dressing a certain way.
The other post is from our Yellow Mustard Thai Noodle Bowls, where I go on an extended bit about how I was offended that the recipe added pickled ginger to a Thai dish when pickled Ginger is a JAPANESE ingredient, and how I was forced to re-think things when research showed that “no, the Thai people use pickled ginger too. Because they were talking with the Japanese before you were. “ And that opened up the reminded that cultural appropriation, as a neutral term, is an ongoing process in ALL cultures. And today’s recipe is a reflection of that: See, as the title might have told you, today’s recipe is Australian, AND Asian, a fusion food from Australian street markets, formed by the influence of Asian immigrants.
Specifically, it’s based off of a recipe made by a Husband and wife duo in Sydney, who make barbecue in farmer’s markets, but it’s meant to be indicative of a broader trend in Australian cuisine, which, according to this article, has been quietly and steadily adopting Asian ingredients and styles into their cooking. Now, it’s been years since I’ve been to Australia, and I was only there for a month or two, so I can’t say how accurate this assertion is without trawling Australian restaurant websites and checking their menus, which sounds like a lot of work for a guy who was up until 4 in the morning. So I’m just going to take their word for it, and make this pork. Kind of.
Technically, the pig MADE the pork, We’re just cooking it.
Shut up, Caption Jon. What I meant was, as I mentioned, all of this was unloaded on me just an hour or so before I had company coming. As such, I actually used my time to make the Chicken Adobo, and brought out the recipe for the pork. So I have no personal experience on how exactly this went. But I do have the pictures, so let’s hope there weren’t any particular problems as we talk about how to make Miso-Gochujang Pulled Pork.
The Proof is in the Porking
The recipe for this is long, but quite simple, as most barbecue is. Assemble aromatics, flavorings, and meat, cook low and slow for several hours, remove, and adorn with sauce. This recipe DOES add one other step/component, but let’s get there when we get there. First, we’ll need the flavor components. The pork is simmered in a pot with gochujang, white miso, hoisin, water, ginger and herbs. And we’ve talked about all those ingredients before, but let’s have a quick refresher:
Gochujang is a fermented soy and chili paste from Korea. It’s earthy, slightly sweet, and spicy, and it’s great on Korean barbecue, bibimbap, and assorted other meals.
Miso is ALSO a fermented soy paste, but without chilis. It’s a classic ingredient in Japanese cuisine, for soups, salads, roasts…Miso is essentially the Cheese of Japan: you add it for flavor and richness to almost anything. White miso is the least fermented variety, meaning it has the mildest and sweetest taste.
Hoisin is the Chinese equivalent to an American barbecue sauce: a mixture of soy paste, chilis, sweeteners, and spices. Typically involving Chinese Five Spice, which has anise as a component, meaning hoisin typically tastes a little like black licorice.
For visual reference: top left is White Miso, Top middle is Gochujang, far right is just water, bottom middle is Hoisin, and bottom left is either peeled ginger or a potato we peeled and left out too long.
Toss all of these with the pork in a pot, get it to a simmer, and pop it into a warm oven for 3 hours, until the pork is super tender. IN the meantime, you should work on the other component that makes this a touch more complicated than other barbecue recipes: the Miso Onions.
By reading the name “miso onions”, you already understand the majority of the recipe: you brown some onions for 15-20 minutes, and then toss them with more white miso, to mix the flavors and deepen the miso’s flavor profile. This will added some more sweetness and a sort of earthy richness to the pork when you combine them later.
Yes, this certainly looks earthy.
Once the pork is sufficiently soft, you pop it out, cool it down, and pull It apart, as the name implies. While it’s coolilng, you take the left-over cooking liquid, and pull some fat off of it, because, believe me, that shit is FULL of fat right now. Like, “more fat than sauce now, twisted and caloric”.
Think of the axles we could grease with this hog-fat!
And the reason you want the fat gone (or at least, greatly diminished) is that you’re going to simmer this liquid to make the final sauce. And if it’s 60% rendered pork fat, you’re going to be medically liable for a LOT of problems, both in the long term, and the short term as grease is not well-known for its sedate and orderly passage through the eater’s bowels. So skim that fat off before cooking, simmer the liquid by half (meaning “cook it until there’s only half the liquid there used to be”) and add some more gochujang, to up the spiciness, add more body, and ‘wake up’ the sauce, which has just had 3 hours of heat stomping on its aromatic oils and flavor compounds. Throw the pork and onions back in, and toss the mixture until heated remove from the heat, stir in some rice vinegar for tang, and you’ve got some pulled pork.
The veggies just showed up.
Those brown disks behind the sandwiches are Wasabi-Soy Sauce Triscuits, because I love Wasabi and Triscuits, and felt they matched the flavors here.
My family went a step further and made a gingered veggie slaw (which is really just “grated 2-3 hard veggies covered in a cup of rice vinegar with some ginger chunks for an hour or two”) and a gochujang cream sauce (mix 1/2 cup sour cream to 1/3 cup gochujang) for that final assembly, and let me tell you: these sandwiches are perfectly alright without them, but they move into full on “this is pretty good” territory with them. The flavor grows on you, in my opinion, as my first taste of the dish was unimpressed: compared to American pulled pork, it’s not as tangy, nor as sweet, as I’m used to. But as I tried it more, it grew in my estimation. So if you’ve got the time, and technically even if you DON’T, you can put together a solid little mixture of something quite special, where the only catastrophe is the lack of warning beforehand.
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THURSDAY: I WAS GOING TO TALK ABOUT HAND-PIES, BUT WE MIGHT NOT HAVE EATEN THEM BY THEN. IF WE DON’T, IT’LL BE OUR FIRST CATASTROPHIC REVIEW OF THE YEAR!
MONDAY: I SHOULD PROBABLY DO SOMETHING FOR VALENTINE’S DAY. HMMM. LET ME GET BACK TO YOU.
And now it's time for the
Austalasian Pulled Pork
Serves 6 to 8
5 pound boneless pork butt, trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes
3/4 cup gochujang, divided
6 tablespoons white miso, divided
1 bunch fresh cilantro, stems minced, leaves left whole, reserved separately (we didn’t use this, because Nate hates cilantro)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
3 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 3 chunks
2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. In a large Dutch oven, combine the pork, ½ cup of gochujang, 2 tablespoons of miso, the cilantro stems, the hoisin, ginger and 1 cup water; stir to combine. Bring to a simmer over medium-high, then cover and place in the oven. Cook until a skewer inserted into the meat meets no resistance, about 3 hours.
Meanwhile, in a nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onions and ½ teaspoon salt, then reduce to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Stir in the remaining 4 tablespoons miso and cook, stirring frequently, until the miso begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a large bowl. When cool enough to handle, shred into bite-size pieces, discarding any fat; set aside. Remove and discard the ginger chunks from the cooking liquid. Tilt the pot to pool the liquid to one side and use a wide spoon to skim off and discard as much fat as possible from the surface. Bring to a simmer over medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by about half and a spatula drawn through the sauce leaves a trail, 5 to 7 minutes.
Whisk in the remaining 4 tablespoons gochujang. Stir in the pork and onions. Reduce to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until heated through, 5 to 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in the vinegar, then taste and season with pepper. Serve with cilantro leaves, pickled carrots and pickled jalapeños.