Instant Pot Ramen-Style Pork Belly

Instant Pot Ramen-Style Pork Belly

Photography by Céline de Cérou.

I have been wanting to share this recipe for ramen-style pork belly with you for, oh, two years and a half, ever since I made it for the first time, using Camille Oger’s excellent directions in her post Easy braised pork and quick rāmen.

Camille Oger is a French food writer and journalist who travels extensively to visit growers and producers and chefs. She has spent a lot of time in Asia, and in Japan in particular. Her blog posts are extraordinarily well researched* and her photos are an armchair traveler’s dream come true.

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Chouquette Waffles (Choux Pastry Waffles)

Chouquette Waffles

Picture in your mind a love story between a Belgian waffle, square and sturdy with deep grooves, and a chouquette, puffy and dainty with a soft heart.

Immediately they would see that they have pearl sugar in common. The waffle would make the chouquette feel safe, and cared for; the chouquette would give the waffle a sense that life is full of whimsy.

Now, what would happen if they had a child together?

This is what would happen: a chouquette waffle, crisp around the edges, tender inside, easy to love, with sugar crystals.

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Lentil Kohlrabi Salad

This is the salad I made for lunch the day I moved out of my apartment and into my next-door neighbor’s.

It’s not what you think. Maxence and I have decided that our kitchen and living room — which are, in fact, in the same room — needed a facelift, and after months of imagining, planning, and gathering our strength, it looks like it is finally happening.

It’s anybody’s guess how long it’s all going to take — you know how it is — but at this point we have just come out of the phase that consisted in us boxing up our stuff and cramming it in our bedroom, so the workers could come in on Monday and start ripping things out.

If you don’t know about kohlrabi, you’re in for a crunchy treat.

Fortunately, for the past few years, Maxence and I have been on a steady pruning streak, donating, selling, or recycling those things we didn’t need or love to make more room for those we do, and to enjoy the blissful feeling you get when you look at your living space and there is, indeed, space. (Still, for all that pruning, the number of boxes I ended up needing to pack up my kitchen is classified information.)

Just as fortunately, for the past few weeks, I’d been cooking my way through my food supplies in order to minimize the number of jars and half-eaten packages to be put into boxes, and to avoid having to toss anything from the fridge or freezer. This is something I should really try to do every spring, renovation or no: we had ourselves a few really nice hodgepodge meals during the last few days, involving chicken stock, the last porcini from our foraging expedition last fall, and some potato gnocchi as well.

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Chocolate Buckwheat Pound Cake

Chocolate Buckwheat Pound Cake

I love pound cakes, or quatre-quarts* in French. As a child, I went through a phase of eating Breton pound cake for breakfast day in, day out. I’m talking about supermarket pound cake, baked in long yellow logs and wrapped in soft paper. I liked it on the stale side, so I sliced it in advance, and let it age three to four days. I was an affineur of pound cake if you will.

I only recently discovered the beauty of homemade pound cake, and it has become one of my could-make-it-blindfolded cakes, in rotation with my French yogurt cake.

You know how pound cakes work, right ? You weigh the eggs, and add the same weight in sugar, melted butter, and flour. This means these ingredients each form a quarter of the batter, hence the French name, four-quarters. The English name comes from originally using a pound each of the ingredients, but that yields a pretty big cake. The French ratio allows for more flexibility.

Of course, it doesn’t tell you if you’re supposed to weigh the eggs with or without the shell, and how much baking powder to add. In truth, you can just relax about both. We’re not building a rocket ship; we’re baking a cake. Weigh the eggs with or without, add one or two teaspoons of baking powder, it will be fine. Channel your inner French grandma and do what feels right.

And it is a recipe that lends itself to variations with remarkable grace; my favorite kind of recipe for sure. Today I will share one of my favorite riffs: the buckwheat and chocolat pound cake.

Chocolate Buckwheat Pound Cake

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Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

If I can share this recipe for perfect chocolate chip cookies today, it’s because I’ve always enjoyed the food sections of American newspapers, these pull-out pages that appear in the regular edition on a given day of the week (usually Wednesday) to cover local food and drink news, with recipes. Not all of them have the same standards or budget, and I am told the good ones are an endangered species, but between the Seattle Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, the Oregonian, the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times*, the hungry reader has more than enough to last him through the week.

The French newspaper scene has a completely different structure, but still, I wish major publications such as Le Monde, Le Figaro, Libération, or Les Echos devoted more ink to a subject that is, after all, a source of national pride. Aside from restaurant reviews, a column here and there, and all too brief discussions on trendy foods, they seem to leave the topic for cooking or women’s magazines to cover. I sense a slight sexist slant (there’s an alliteration for you), but perhaps that’s just me.

I am all the more grateful for the online content made available by American newspapers, and for the commissioning of such articles as David Leite‘s story on the consummate chocolate chip cookie, published in the New York Times last summer: the creator of Leite’s Culinaria gathered advice from chocolate chip cookie experts in order to offer a recipe for perfect chocolate chip cookies.

I don’t really believe in the perfect anything — perfection is in the eye of the beholder — but I was very interested in David’s findings, especially the idea that the dough should rest for 36 hours before baking, and I promptly filed the recipe in my virtual “to try” folder.

But then, as perhaps you remember, I was kitchen-less last summer and oven-deprived for a good six months after that (hell, I tell you), so the chocolate chip cookie recipe went unbaked and near forgotten, until Pim rekindled the flame with her recent post.

My attempt at perfect chocolate chip cookies

The next morning found me mixing the ingredients for the dough, adapting the recipe to my needs and taste: I halved the recipe, simplified it by using just one type of sugar and one type of flour, and decreased the amount of sugar a bit. The dough was a snap to make; all in all, it took little more than fifteen minutes.

I baked the first batch the next day, after a 29-hour wait (but who’s counting) and made the cookies almost three times smaller than instructed: despite what the article states on the influence of size on texture, I could not bring myself to form balls of cookie dough that weighed in at 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) and would bake to be six inches (~15 cm) wide. It’s just not the scale of baked goods I grew up with, and I’m not programmed to enjoy such jumbo cookies.

As a consequence — or perhaps it was David Leite punishing me for my insubordination — my first batch was overbaked: I had thought to decrease the baking time, but I let the cookies rest for a further 10 minutes on the hot baking sheet, as the recipe suggests. This is likely necessary for large cookies to finish baking, but my cookies were too small to withstand that treatment, and they turned out crunchy. Tasty, but crunchy throughout; the worst possible outcome for a chocolate chip cookie.

The next batches on subsequent days were infinitely better, once I’d fine-tuned the baking time and procedure, and the resulting chocolate chip cookies were without a doubt the best I’ve ever baked: a great balance of flavors, and a lovely crispness at the edges that morphed gradually into the fudge-like chewiness of the center.

Like Molly, I like chocolate chip cookies best once they’ve cooled, and although it may sound impossibly trying to some, I will go so far as to say that these taste even better the day after they’re baked.

* Some of these online editions require a registration. Feel free to add a recommendation for your favorite food section if it’s not listed here!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

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