Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Just Another Ordinary Day


I have the luxury of living and working in a great neighborhood (Condesa in Mexico City) for eating, drinking and walking.  I also live across the street from my office, which hasn’t always been the case, but I am sure you can imagine I don’t miss the hour long commutes that used to be the norm.  So I thought I would start my blog by describing a typical day here.

At 7:30 this morning, my housekeeper woke me up with coffee in bed, which is a weekday ritual.  Due to my brutal hangover from last night’s cheap wine, I told her to come back an hour later, which she dutifully did (after 12 years, she’s used to my hangovers).  After the first cup of coffee she brings a plate of fresh fruit, and then a second cup of coffee.  During this time I check my email and plan the day.  Then I get up, shower, dress and go upstairs for breakfast, which is almost always a bowl of steel cut oatmeal with a pat of organic butter, salt and pepper.  I generally get out the door around 9 and to work at 9:01.  Today it was more like 10:01.

I do have a real job and I do work, sometimes hard, but since this is a blog about food, I am not going to talk too much about the work part of my life.  Around 1, I leave the office and take a walk, usually stopping at a wine store somewhere along the way to buy a half bottle for dinner if I am eating in, and to pick up some bread.  Lately, I have tried making banh mi, the French influenced Vietnamese sandwich.  Since I get to San Francisco with some frequency, I have a few favorite banh mi places where I first tried and learned to love them, and then to make them (Tu Kim on Ellis Street is outstanding for pork meatball banh mi’s).  Sadly, if you want good Asian food in Mexico City, you pretty much have to make it yourself (there are a few exceptions, mostly Korean restaurants). I am also not a fan of bread in Mexico, but I have found a couple of places during my walks that make acceptable baguettes, and happened on a new place called “Fresco by Diego” that bakes the best bread I have found to date.  Today, I stopped by for a baguette and some hummus, then came home for lunch.  I’m going to try eating at this place looks interesting and there are tables outside on the street, which will be great when the weather is especially nice.

Mari, my housekeeper, makes a mean gazpacho, and I recently started making things on Sunday night for dinner from which I can save the leftovers and use for banh mi during the week.  This past week, I made stir fried pork with basil and the week before, a braised Asian pork dish.  The recipe for the braised pork and my version of banh mi is at the end of this post.

So today I had gazpacho and banh mi for lunch, then went back to work.  For dinner, I wasn’t feeling particularly ambitious due to the lingering hangover, so I came home, had some of the hummus on toasted baguette and threw together a soup starting with some scallions and beans sprouts sauteed in a bit of sesame oil, then adding stock, a tablespoon of miso, some rice noodles and a couple frozen gyoza I picked up in this great Asian grocery store I found in the Zona Rosa while doing a piece on Korean food for a never to be mentioned magazine.  It was good and filling, if a bit bland.  Maybe some fish sauce and lime juice ...or soy sauce and rice wine vinegar...would have helped.  I finished the evening with a half bottle of red wine and brought the day in at exactly 2000 calories.  I try to eat as healthy as possible during the weekdays, ‘cause all hell tends to break loose on the weekends.

Southeast Asian Braised Pork*

(Serves 2 generously when served with rice.  There will be enough left over for at least 4 Banh Mi).

-2 pounds boneless pork shoulder or leg, cut into large cubes

-2 or 3 small fresh hot chiles. finely chopped (I use serrano)

-1/4 cup brown sugar

-1/2 cup chicken stock (white wine or rice wine work too)

-1/2 cup Thai fish sauce or soy sauce

-1 cup sliced shallots

-2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

-1 lime, halved

-2 tblsp. chopped cilantro

-Salt and fresh black pepper

-Combine the first 6 ingredients in a Dutch oven or large pot with a lid.  It can marinate in the refrigerator overnight or be cooked right away

-Bring to a boil over high heat, turn heat to low, cover and braise for 30 minutes.  Stir a couple of times during the braising.  Check to see if pork is cooked through and tender, if not, braise for another 10 minutes or so

-Take the lid off and turn heat up, reducing the juices to about 1/2 cup.

-Add juice of 1/2 lime, the cilantro, and the salt and pepper.  Go slightly overboard with the pepper.  Stir and taste.  Correct seasoning, adding more of whatever is necessary.  

-Squeeze in juice of remaining 1/2 lime and serve with steamed rice or rice noodles.

Banh Mi

(serves 1)

-6” piece of fresh baguette, split down the middle and as much bread as possible removed from crusts

-3 oz. of leftover Soy Sauce Braised Pork sliced thin, or 3 oz. of other Asian pork dish (i.e., stir fried with basil, with ginger, etc.).  You could really use anything here...chicken, beef..maybe even some spicy shrimp

-1 tbsp. mayonnaise

-Sri Racha

-2 tblsp. shredded carrots that have been marinated in rice wine vinegar or plain white vinegar with a pinch of sugar.  You can marinate a bunch at a keeps for several days in the refrigerator.  

-3 slices cucumber

-2 or 3 sprigs of cilantro

-Pre-heat oven to 450.  

-Fill bottom half of baguette with 3 oz. of pork and heat both halves in oven until very hot, 5-8 minutes

-Remove from oven and spread mayonnaise over top half.  Add Sri Racha to taste.

-Top mayonnaise/Sri Racha half with cucumber slices and shredded carrots.  --Top pork half with cilantro sprigs.  Place top half on bottom half.  Eat.

*Adapted from How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

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