Desert (not Dessert) Island

Last night, I was reading a book in which famous U.S. chefs were asked the “desert island question”.  You know the one – if you were stranded on a desert island…

For the chefs:  “If you were stranded on a desert island, what ten food items would you want to have with you.”  Some chefs were practical – various beans and seeds that could be harvested or they included two animals, Noah-like, to ensure a constant supply.  Others leaned towards the whimsical – champagne, caviar and blinis…if you’re going to be stranded, might as well do it in style.  For me:

  1. Pork – bacon, pork belly, braised pork shoulder, ham, shank, trotter, jowl – yum!
  2. Cheese – do I need to select just one kind or can I bring the assortment basket?
  3. Wine – the elixir of life.
  4. Pasta – if including a starch, I would grow tired of rice or potatoes before pasta. 
  5. Olive Oil – the best for cooking and good for you, too!
  6. Lemons – …or butter, decisions decisions.
  7. Sugar – for my gargantuan sweet tooth.
  8. Onions – the best for building and imparting flavor.
  9. Tomatoes – to be enjoyed raw, roasted or sun dried.
  10. Cinnamon – I wanted to bring thyme, but with room for only one spice, I decided on cinnamon, which I use in my savories as well as sweets.

 Most of the chefs included “salt” (it was the #1 item selected).  I’m on a desert island – surrounded by salt water.  I’ll harvest my own.   

Looking at these items, like peering into the refrigerator on a Wednesday night,  I ask myself, “what could I make?”  My first thought would be to crisp some bacon and remove it from the pan.  From there, I would sear the pork belly in the rendered bacon fat, add onions, sauté, and add  a bit of cinnamon.  I would deglaze the pan with a good douse of wine, add tomatoes, some lemon zest and put the bacon back in the pan.  I’d return the pork belly to the pan for a long, slow, fall-apart braise.  I’d serve the braised pork and unctuous sauce over pasta with a dollop of goat cheese for brightness and a large glass of wine.  Care to join me?


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