As each year passes for me here in the Carolinas, I find myself leaning effortlessly into my Southerness. It's not just the refinement of my accent, which is now so much a part of the cadence of my speech that many people back home find themselves asking, "huh?" when I speak quickly. It's the rhythm of things here that I love. It is slower here, more deliberate and authentic. I could never again live without the chirp of tree frogs after dark, and I don't really even despise the red clay dirt on my running shoes. Even grits make sense to me.
Then, there's my love of pork. Holy Mother of Hominy. This is food of the gods! For instance, I love pork belly! Chunks of fatty, flavorful meat that if it were sliced thinly would be your morning bacon. But in squares of juicy loveliness they are almost a delicacy. I mean, how did I not know about this from birth?
Pigs, in fact are not indigenous to the US, even though they've been around for quite awhile. They were first introduced in the 1500’s to what is now the southeastern U.S. by Spanish Explorer, Hernando DeSoto. I'm not sure the Spanish like the way we assume we "own" the idea of pork. But maybe around a table we could just agree we've both made the most of it.
Try this easy appetizer and see if you can't fill up your table with other folks yearning to get in touch with their Southerness.
Chipotle Ginger Seared Pork Belly Bites
Serves 4, But Easily Doubled or Tripled / Click here to download printable version
1 ½ lbs. pork belly, cut into 1 ½” squares
1/3 C chipotle mayonnaise
3 T sweet balsamic like cranberry or pomegranate
2 T candied ginger diced into very small pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
1 T light olive oil
Mix together the balsamic, mayo, and candied ginger. Set aside. Bring a large saucepan to high heat and add 1 T of light oil. Sear the pork belly on both sides until caramelized on each side. This takes about 2 minutes or so per side. Then ladle the sauce equally onto the tops of the cubes of pork belly, and continue to cook pork belly about another minute. Then blend the sauce in with the hot pan drippings, stirring everything around to coat. Cook until pork is done but careful not to overcook. Serve by placing the pork belly squares on a platter and then gently spooning the sauce and the candied ginger pieces over the top. Serve with a slice of cool, English cucumber.
If there was ever an inspired expression of pork it would be sausage. Spiced, cured, raw or smoked, links or patties, and mixed with almost all kinds of flavors, it, too has my heart. Granted, the production of it appears akin to cramming mushed up meat scraps into pantyhose and then sealing one end. But y'all, let's just never mind about the method, let's just talk about the end result! At least that's the way I like to spin it.
Speaking of spin, take a couple of turns around the block with this beauty. Stuffed acorn squash is not only a beautiful fall meal, it sings all the high notes of flavor, texture and healthiness! All you need is a little oil and salt and pepper on the squash to roast it to perfection, and then fill it with a medley of apples, cranberries, and spinach bathing in the bits of browned mild breakfast sausage, deglazed with orange juice. The brown rice is simmered in stock and orange juice as well, offering an exciting note of flavor in the midst of the cornucopia of earthy flavors. Blend in a bit of coriander powder to keep 'em guessing.
You can use hot sausage but I didn't want to overpower the other delicate flavors. You, of course may be all about overpowering, And I think you should just embrace it! In fact my favorite part about the South is the myth of being genteel. Just saying, don't get between a Southerner and her pork. Forks will fly!!!
Apple, Sausage and Cranberry Stuffed Acorn Squash
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Meet the Cook...
My name is Camine Pappas and I love to create beautiful and delicious food that anyone can make. My signature style centers around a love for combining things in a way you might not expect as I work to find a hidden combination of colors, textures and flavors from the things that are in my pantry and/or easy to obtain.