Monday, December 20, 2010

Pork Vindaloo with Aromatic Yellow Rice and Spicy Cucumber Wedges

So our last few attempts at Indian food have been less than stellar.  We attempted to make a tandoori-style shrimp a few weeks ago and it tasted more like a shrimp scampi than anything else.  All you could taste was butter - nothing else.  And then we tried to make a spiced rice that was bland and overly wet.  The meal was not at all memorable, except in how mediocre it was.  It was an absolute and utter letdown.

But this Pork Vindaloo was everything that I love about Indian food - spicy, aromatic, and flavorful.  As I walked down the hall to our apartment I could smell it and I knew I was in for a treat.  I've never had a pork vindaloo before, nor have I ever cooked a vindaloo, so this was a first on several levels.  It was delicious.  But consider yourself forewarned - this dish is SPICY, just as all good vindaloos are.  The pork is nice and tender from the slow braise and falls apart with the slightest nudge from your fork.  But if you don't like spicy food, then I would not make this recipe.  I guess you could dial down the spice level by using sweet paprika instead of the Kashmiri red chili powder, but the heat is half the fun.  I will admit, I tend to prefer plain white basmati rice to any sort of spiced rice and this recipe for Aromatic Yellow Rice hasn't changed that.  While it is good and has a delicate, but discernible, bouquet of spices, I would still prefer some plain basmati rice.  Alex likes spiced rice more than I do and he said that the rice was a nice accompaniment to a meal because it's not so heavily spiced that it would overcome or compete with the flavors in your entree.  I can agree with that.  But I would probably still make plain basmati instead.  I thought that the Spicy Cucumber Wedges were a really nice and fresh side dish.  They had far more flavor than I had expected, given that they don't marinate at all before you serve them.  I loved the combination of the roasted cumin seeds, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and fresh cucumbers.  I think they would make such a wonderful dish at a potluck or a picnic!  Actually, I think that this entire meal would make a wonderful potluck or picnic meal.

Recipe after the jump!

Pork Vindaloo
Adapted from Classic Indian Cooking
By Julie Sahni
Available in NY Times
April 28, 2010

5 to 10 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon Indian red chili powder or red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon Kashmiri red chili powder or Hungarian hot paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 inchwide ball of tamarind pulp
1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
5 cloves
4 green cardamom pods
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds, coarsely crushed
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
In a food processor or blender, mince garlic and ginger. Add vinegar, turmeric, cumin, chili powders and salt and blend well. Transfer to a large bowl, add pork and turn to coat well. Cover and set aside at room temperature for one hour.

Place tamarind in a bowl with one cup hot water. When cool enough to handle, crush tamarind with fingers to extract pulp clinging to fibers. Add another cup of hot water and mix well. Strain into a clean bowl, discarding fibrous residue.

In a large sauté pan, combine oil, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and mustard seeds. Fry over medium-high heat until sizzling and aromatic, about 4 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add pork and cook, turning until lightly browned, about 6 minutes.

Add tamarind juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until pork is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Add bell pepper and cook 7 minutes. Serve with rice.

Aromatic Yellow Rice
Adapted from Indian Cooking:  The Comprehensive Guide from the World's Best-Selling Indian Cook
By Madhur Jaffrey

2 cups basmati rice
2 1/2 cups water
2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp ground turmeric
3-4 whole cloves
1-inch cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pats

Put rice in a bowl and wash in several changes of water, until water runs clear.  Pour fresh water over the rice until covered by at least an inch of water and let it soak for 30 minutes.  Drain the rice in a strainer.

Combine drained rice, 2 1/2 cups water, salt, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaves in a heavy pot and bring to a boil.  Cover with a tight-fitting lid, turn heat to low and cook for 25 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow rice to sit covered and undisturbed for 10 minutes.

Add the pats of butter to the rice and fluff gently.

Spicy Cucumber Wedges
Adapted from Indian Cooking:  The Comprehensive Guide from the World's Best-Selling Indian Cook
By Madhur Jaffrey

1 English cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and into wedges 3-inches long and 1/2 an inch wide
1/2 tsp kosher salt
pinch cayenne pepper
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground, roasted cumin seeds
juice of 3/4 lemon

Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive mixing bowl.  Toss to combine.

Serve immediately.

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