Employed...and Braising for Sandwiches
I am employed. Have been, in fact, for awhile. In fact, I've been employed since approximately the date of my last post.
Oh - I can draft contracts. And I can appear in front of a judge. And I'll negotiate. But I still cannot find the way to live with a work-life balance when I'm working. Inevitably something goes. Perhaps it is that I am still under the oddly symbiotic influences of years of Catholic education and my training as a young associate in an old Manhattan law firm....I attempt to redeem myself of my shortcomings (or maybe I'm seeking to masque them) by laboring to minimize their effects on others. In any event, when work cuts into my non-work interests it is always my own private interests (like updating this blog) that get tossed aside first.
I suppose that I'll learn with time how to balance my life to accomodate all my interests, including my goal of improving my communications with friends, family and the community of bloggers. I certainly feel comfortable theorizing that there could be no better place in the world for me to learn this skill than the right here and the right now. Indeed, I can show a vast improvement on balancing in the nearly two years that I've been in Alaska. But, oh yes, there are improvements still to be made. In the meantime, thank you for being patient with me while I've been wretched about keeping up this blog and returning phone calls and emails.
Things here are good. Very good. The ice is still solid and the snow still falls. But the days are long and the sunlight is bright. And direct. Oh - direct sunlight!
Tomorrow, I am in my first dogsledding race! 5 dogs. 7 miles. Down the river. A local musher asked me to race his dogs in the annual "rookie race." I am simultaneously scared to death and exhillerated to life at the prospect of it. I have no idea how to dogsled. I did it once in my life - a $300 trip around the Alyeska Resort, where I was bundled up in my Manhattan concept of what one wears in Alaska and tucked under heavy blankets in the bed of the sled while Dario, the dog-sledder, explained how he spent his summer training his dogs on a glacier. This time it will be me bundled up in the clothes that Alaskans have gifted to me out of pity for the complete insufficiency of my winter gear. And me yelling out "gee" and "haw" and doing all those other necessary, fundamental things that I don't even know what they are. It is quite exciting.
And generally, these past few weeks of non-blogging, I've been busy. The good kind of busy. The working-with-good-people, dog-walking, community volunteering, blog-reading, knitting and quilting, and braising and baking kind of busy. I've even been busy setting up a financial regime to finally sweep some stability into a series of life-changing moves and transitions that pretty much depeleted my financial resources.
Those who know me from my Manhattan days might find that hard to believe. Me - agreeing to a "financial regime"? I admit, it is hard to believe. But it's true. And also true is that I am enjoying it! We had been talking about it for awhile - about getting a handle on the chaos that inevitably follows any move. So, J. and I spent a day cleaning up our hovel on stilts. It was spectacularily clean. (And for those who have visited us, or who can appreciate how difficult it is to make a rented hovel on stilts feel clean, I'm sure you can appreciate the softly jubilant sense of accomplishment that one feels upon the conclusion of the mission.) With our dogs lounging at our feet and taking turns at nibbling on a moose shank bone, we pulled out paper and - for the first time ever in my life - came up with a budget. An actual budget.
Oddly enough, this most wretched of tasks - the formulation of a restrictive budget - produced one of my inspirational bouts of braising and cooking.
For you see, we have decided to forego the $30 a day for lunch (and mind you - that's sharing a sandwich) by making our own. And I decided to take it further by roasting and braising our own lunch meats. This isn't such a surprising move. I do love to roast and braise. And I absolutely can't tolerate paying $10 for 9 slices of lunch meat. So, we've folded this budget-saving move into our Sunday supper routine. Sunday night we have the traditional supper of roast, veg and mash. A hunk of the leftover roast and the veg is saved for hash (with a poached egg from the neighbor's coop). A hunk of the leftover roast and the mash is saved for another dinner. The gravy or jus is saved for soup. But the bulk of the leftover roast is saved for sandwiches.
So far, we've had the pork tenderloin roasted with a crust of garlic and rosemary. We've done the pot roast braised in a simple simmering onion gravy. We did the corned beef (with Molly's carmelized cabbage** - delicious!).
And last Sunday, we did a Honey and Cumin Braised Pork Shoulder. So lovely, that I must break my silence to share it!
Honey and Cumin Braised Pork Shoulder
(adapted from Jaques Pepin's recipe for Braised Pork Roast with Sweet Potatoes - simply because I didn't have any sweet potatoes and truly cannot follow a recipe for the life of me)
1 3-pound shoulder butt pork roast (boneless)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp cumin
2 large onions (diced)
6 large cloves of garlic
1. Place the pork shoulder in a cast-iron pot with a lid. (I used our 10 inch "chicken fryer.") Add 2 cups water, the soy sauce, Tabsco, vinegar, honey and cumin. Bring to a boil (uncovered).
2. Reduce the heat to very low. Cover and let it simmer for an hour.
3. Add the onions and garlic. Bring back to a boil, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.
4. Uncover and place it in the center of a pre-heated 375 degree oven. Cook for an hour, turning the meat every 15 minutes. (My goal was to get the shoulder to brown uniformly on all 4 "sides" so that it looks like a roast, even though it was braised.)
5. Pull out the roast and let it rest on the cutting board. Reduce the sauce to the desired consistency. (I prefer a roast to rest longer, serving it warm rather than hot. And because I save the jus for broth, I don't usually simmer it down. Instead I serve it as a light drizzle over the meat and potatoes that hints of gravy, but doesn't result in the post-dinner lull that generally follows dinners with gravy.)
It was a lovely Sunday dinner, served with sauteed spinach,Molly's carmelized cabbage and red potatoes smashed with buttermilk. And it has been a lovely week of sandwiches. Rather than hash, I'm anticipating that the last of the leftovers will be ground for tortellini.
I suppose that most readers are not still under the influence of ice and snow these days. Most readers probably have strong inspirations for asparagus and strawberries and other delicacies of Spring. I'll get there too, eventually. But in the meantime, a good pork roast can take one a long way in appreciating a weather pattern that gives you a few extra months to enjoy the winter delights and perfumes of a braised Sunday supper.