Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Clay Pot Pork (Page 485)

  • Date: Saturday, December 8, 2007 --7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Cornelia, Mike M, Teresa, Tricia, and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

Although I have eaten this Vietnamese braised pork dish many times, I had never made it before. So last Saturday I figured I would give it a try. This dish starts by melting sugar to make caramel. Once the sugar is a golden amber color, a huge amount of fish sauce is added. At that point the kitchen was flooded with a terrible smell. Fish sauce smells bad. Fish sauce + caramel smells even worse. My stomach turned. So I began to wonder, 'If this ends up tasting as bad as it smells, what will we eat for dinner?" I pondered this as I continued. Some shallots, garlic, and green onions are added to the boiling sauce, and finally the pork. The pork is braised for a couple hours in the barely simmering sauce. Fortunately at this point the lid also goes on the pot, so the smell subsided and I was able to breathe again. An hour or so later I lifted the lid to stir, and much to my surprise, the smell coming from the pot was just lovely. Cooking magic had happened (thank goodness!). In the end, the dish came out very nicely. Clay pot pork is a little sweet for my taste (I prefer my savory food more on the savory side), but nonetheless this was quite tasty. The pork was magnificently tender. You could barely touch it with your fork and it would begin to fall apart. The contrast of the sweet caramel and salty fish sauce ended up tasting good (despite the initial smell), and the flavorfulness of the sauce really penetrated the pieces of pork. If you like clay pot pork, you will like this recipe, and if you've never had it, it is worth a try.

This recipe isn't online.

Well yesterday was the final exam for my class. So all my calculus students piled into one big, poorly ventilated and climate controlled room, and sat for two hours, diligently trying to prove that they learned some calculus. I just stared at them, trying to looking intimidating so they wouldn't cheat. The exam was from 2:45-4:45 and at 5pm we started to grade. When did we finish? Midnight. Well, actually a little after midnight. It took 5 of us together more than 7 hours to grade those exams. And it wasn't 7 leisurely hours. We were working hard. We took a 5-10 minute break to eat pizza for dinner, but other than that we sat there, red pens in hand, and marked papers.

So today I am computing final course grades. I find this to be the most painful part of teaching. It is heartbreaking to give poor grades to students who tried hard. I have no problem failing people who didn't make an effort. But giving a C to someone who worked hard all semester trying to get a B is just not a good feeling. I have actually finished my grades, but I haven't submitted them yet. I am sitting on it for a few hours (or maybe even until tomorrow) just to make sure I think I put the various cut-offs in the right places.

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