Pulled-Pork Sandwich with Pickled Onions and Radishes

I’m not going to tell you that slow-roasting a pork shoulder is the quickest path to dinner – far from it – but, for a weekend cooking project, it definitely pays off in spades. 

There are actually two different cuts that get called pork shoulder: “Boston butt” and “picnic shoulder.” Either is fine for this, but do get bone-in and if possible, pasture-raised. Boston butt is easier to find but I tend to look for picnic because it’s usually sold skin-on and I like to make crackling.

True, there is a bit of planning involved here but most of the time is inactive and the end result is so worth it. It’s perfect for a relaxed kind of party (the best kind, in my opinion) where people don’t mind getting messy or sparring over bits of crunchy pork skin. 

I combined two recipes here, one is Momofuko-style with a sweet/tart glaze from Bon Appétit (I love the flavors but it didn’t include crackling). The other is a Jamie Oliver recipe which I used mainly as a technique to get crispy skin. 

What you wind up with is a huge pile of delicious pulled pork with a tart vinegary glaze and a sheet of crackling that you can cut up and distribute as you like (or eat by yourself when no one’s looking). This would be perfect on its own or in tacos, quesadillas, grilled-cheese sandwiches (try one with bleu cheese!).  I definitely recommend making something pickled to go along-side (we made both Quick-Pickled Red Onions and Sweet & Sour Pickled Radishes). We also made a version of this Asian Cabbage Salad, but without fennel since we didn’t have any. 

We meant to take a picture of the pork coming out of the oven, but Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 1 was just starting and … well, there are some things you just don’t trust your DVR with.

We also meant to take a picture of the crackling … but we ate it. 

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Quick-Pickled Red Onions

Guys, I’m seriously worried that I might actually be living in a Portlandia sketch. Sometimes I watch it, and I laugh and laugh and then look around nervously to see if anyone is giving me the “um, that’s you” side-eye. I think it was the Battlestar Galactica episode that hit a little too close to home. 

Nerd aside: some of you may remember my little black cat, Special Ed. Oh how I loved that boy. So Special Ed, being much adored, had about a hundred nicknames (mostly having to do with the fact that he was a skinny, scrawny, wee little gentleman). So during the height of my BSG obsession,  his name became “Edward James ALMOST” (another fave was “Roger PALTRY”). Still makes me laugh. 

If you haven’t seen Portlandia, you’re probably wondering what the bleedin’ hell I’m on about, but one of their sketches is about people who pickle everything (a dropped ice cream cone, a used band-aid, a broken high-heel). Well, stop laughing immediately because pickles are delicious! 

Quick-Pickled Red Onions

(Yes, it’s true that I’ve mentioned Portlandia before in the Spiced Pickled Grapes post).

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Sweet & Sour Pickled RadishesAlong with Quick-Pickled Red Onions, these radishes are my go-to if I’m making tacos, quesadillas, or really any kind of  sandwich.  They are so quick and easy and are just the perfect thing to perk up anything slow-roasted or long-simmered. Best of all, they’re ready in under an hour and last for weeks. 

You can also add herbs (I like thyme, bay leaf and tarragon best), chili flakes or whole dried chilies for spice.  I had a big tin of pink peppercorns that I picked up from Sahadi’s last time I was there so I added them as well. 

Black peppercorns, pink peppercorns, mustard seeds

Black peppercorns, pink peppercorns, mustard seeds

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Brownie Bites with Vanilla Mascarpone FillingWhy is a teeny-tiny version of just about anything so much more fun than a regular-sized version of that same thing? For instance; regular wool hat? Mmm, nice. Ridiculously tiny hat that sits on top of an egg cup? Oh-my-god-adorable-but-why-is-it-so-expensive?

I swear, I usually have an allergy to things that are “cutsey” but a wee little Eames chair just pokes me right in the awww-bone (which, oddly enough, is right next to the eeeew-bone).

NERD ALERT: Speaking of the eeeew-bone, as I was “researching” miniature stuff (also known as wasting time on the internet), I came across the work of Lisa Wood who makes Miniature Insect DioramasI am officially obsessed with these. My favorites are “Caterpillar having an Eye Exam” and “Ants Looking into a Crystal Ball”

So, back to mini-edibles. Especially when it comes to sweets, something that would be way over the top when full-sized can be a perfect little bite when scaled down. This idea worked well with our Lemon Squares so I thought, why not try it with something chocolaty? 

Well… ahem, *breathes on nails and buffs them on shirt*, these, my lovelies, are really good. Think whoopie pie meets brownie meets sandwich cookie and then scale it down to its adorable nexus. It’a a diminutive delight! A mini marvel! A Lilliputian lovely … okay, I’ll stop now. [Matt says: "I can't believe you didn't use the phrase 'dessert sliders' "]

But I mean, come on! Look at that thing! 

Brownie Bites with Vanilla Mascarpone Filling

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Potato, Spinach & Cheese FrittataYou know those times when you look in the fridge and think, “meh”. You might have a little bit of this and a little leftover that but seemingly not enough of any one thing to actually make something? Well, that’s me about 75% of the time.

While I definitely get inspired and enjoy the process of shopping and cooking (and photographing and blogging), there are many more days when I’m just really busy and can’t even think about what to make for dinner until I’m fifteen minutes past being really bloody hungry. 

That’s when I like to make a fritatta. Seriously, you can pretty much throw anything in it and it will work. (Edible, anything edible). Have a potato or two? Great, chop it up! A bag (or frozen box) of spinach? That’ll work. Weird little bits of several kinds of cheeses? Why not. No one’s looking. As we say in Brooklyn, “do you”. (I’m so, so sorry). 

The great thing about a fritatta is that as long as you have enough eggs to bind it all together, pretty much anything is going to work. Sure, you have to think a bit about what flavors go together. That really stinky, pungent bleu cheese may not work so well with, say, shrimp but would be delicious with bacon and onion (and shrimp would be fantastic with corn and scallions).  Just think about what you have available, what tastes good together and don’t overthink it. 

Potato, Spinach & Cheese Frittata

This particular recipe is just what I had on hand (and it’s a nice combo) but you should feel free to substitute any ingredient you want (except the eggs, of course). 

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Nerds Anniversary

Well, well, well. And they* said it wouldn’t last.

*Me, I said that.

I’m so very happy to be wrong! It’s been a full year of Nerds with Knives (actually a bit more than a year but what is this “time” concept anyway, and why are such slaves to it? At least that’s what Matt theorized when we went out for my Halloween birthday in December. Something about “Wibbly wobbly timey wimey…stuff“. Who knows what he was going on about). 

So like the fancy mothercluckers we are, we celebrated with a couple of fantastic beers from The Hop, a nice chunk of delicious clothbound Cheddar from our new local favorite Beacon Pantry, and drank out of engraved Nerds glasses given to us as an AWESOME christmas gift by our dear friend Ian. 

As a life-long freelancer, I figured I’d post a few recipes, take a few photos and eventually get distracted by some other shiny new project, but somehow, for some reason, that didn’t happen. Honestly, this year has been amazingly fun and has re-kindled my love, not just for cooking and writing, but also for photography, which I’ve been enjoying immensely. 

By far, the most surprising thing about the blog has been the response from you. Don’t look behind you, yes you, specifically! Honestly, I figured our audience would be about ten people or so — my mom, Matt’s mum, a few friends and family and maybe one or two strangers who landed here accidentally and weren’t sure how to close the browser tab (it’s the little red button on the top left, there you go, dear). Again, wrong

As of early March, we’ve had almost 49,000 views! That’s just, like, completely bonkers. And also so, so awesome. So, thank you to everyone who’s been enjoying the blog and saying such nice things about it. 

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Roasted Sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes)A couple of weeks ago, Matt’s sister Hayli got us tickets to see Asaf Avidan at Irving Plaza (quick aside: along with The Ritz and CBGB, Irving Plaza was the place to see hardcore, punk and ska bands when I was in high school. To this day, it still feels wrong to be in there without a mohawk and zebra-print creepers on.) 

Anyhoozle, the show was great fun (thanks Hayli!) and since we stayed around Union Square, we got to walk around the Greenmarket before we headed back on the train. (I love living in Beacon, but I do miss that damn market. Seriously, there is nothing else like it). Since we were wandering, we didn’t really want to carry loads of stuff but I just couldn’t resist picking up some sunchokes, which are in season right now.

Roasted Sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes)Now you may be saying to yourself “Hmm, that looks suspiciously like the grizzled, terrifying hunk of old ginger I found hiding behind my refrigerator when I moved last year.” And it’s true that these aren’t the most attractive vegetable in Earth’s garden of delights but we wouldn’t let a trivial thing like that stop us from enjoying something so delicious, would we? Good answer.

Sunchokes are also known as Jerusalem Artichokes for some reason (they are neither from Jerusalem, nor are they related to artichokes. Go figure, but they are part of the sunflower family so that at least makes some sort of sense.) Whatever you like to call them, they have a lovely nutty flavor which some people say reminds them of water chestnuts. 

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Chinese Broccoli Salad with Sesame Citrus DressingAfter what has felt like a gabillion months of (bone-chilling, face-freezing, fun-zapping) winter, this past weekend the sun peeked out from the behind the clouds and warmed our little corner of New York to a downright balmy 42 degrees.

So we did the only sane thing and grabbed our sunglasses, slathered ourselves with SPF8000 and went swimming in a crystal clear lake and let the fish nibble our vitamin-D deficient toes.

Just kidding! It was 42 friggin’ degrees so we braved the mud that is quickly replacing the permafrost in our driveway and drove to the little asian market we’d been itching to check out for ages.

Sure, by NYC chinatown standards the place is tiny but it packs plenty of great products into its two crowded aisles. Among many other fun things, we bought a bottle of ponzu, some chili-garlic sauce, a big jar of sesame seeds and, best of all, a huge bag of incredibly fresh chinese broccoli.  Aw yeah! Party at the Cliftons. 

Chinese Broccoli Salad with Sesame Citrus Dressing Chinese Broccoli Salad with Sesame Citrus Dressing

Chinese Broccoli Salad with Sesame Citrus Dressing

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Sea Salt, Oatmeal and White Chocolate CookiesI don’t remember having cookies when I was growing up in Britain in the 1970s. I don’t mean to say that they didn’t exist; in all probability they were around, but in the country’s crowded biscuit industry, with its Bourbons, its  Garibaldis, and Custard Creams, its Jammie Dodgers and digestives of both plain and chocolate variety, its Rich Teas, Penguins, and Jaffa Cakes, there seemed to be no great need for American imported options. Biscuits are great, though, you can have them all year round, they have absolutely no health benefits, and you’re allowed twice as many at Christmas, because of course that’s the time when everyone is a bit low on fat and carbs. 

There are plenty of sweet baked items you can make at home, of course, but nobody makes biscuits; there’d be no point. And you see, that’s my socialist English upbringing again; of course, in America, you dream, you aspire, and yes, you SHALL make cookies, and take them to the moon, too, dammit. But the same principles apply: they’re not in any way seasonal, and people like to make twice as many during the winter months. 

Good thing, then, that just before Spring leapt into the calendar and stole an hour from us, last week I decided to make cookies. To tell the truth, I believe the conversation in the house went something like this:

Me: Do we have any cookies in the house?

Emily: I don’t think so, but you could make some! And blog it.

Me: That seems like a lot of work!

Emily: But cookies.

Me: Can’t argue with that.

Emily: And blog it.

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Easy, Delicious Tomato SoupRecently I had one of those nights when I came home late and exhausted and all I wanted to do was flop down on the couch and watch something fun on TV (current obsessions: House of Cards, True Detective, Ripper Street, The Americans and don’t even call me on Sunday nights once Game of Thrones is back BECAUSE I WILL NOT ANSWER THE PHONE).

Those are the nights when I want to cook something fast and easy, and I don’t want to have to make a special trip to the store to get ingredients. I looked in the pantry and thought “Yes! You can do this, Clifton. Find something in there to make that doesn’t suck!” Well, I’ll tell you this. A warm bowl of homemade tomato soup does not suck.

Until tomato season comes round again (it’s hard to remember a time when the yard wasn’t basically permafrost), big cans of good tomatoes are a perfect pantry standby. You can make this soup with either crushed or whole plum tomatoes, if you don’t mind crushing them with your hands. Some of you might quite enjoy doing that, I don’t know, that’s your business. Either way, you will want a stick blender to finish the job.

NOTE: If you’re feeling extra-fancy, make a little grilled cheese sandwich to go alongside your masterpiece. I, of course, was far too lazy even for that and just spread some goat cheese on a cracker and sprinkled some black pepper and scallions over it. Oh,  and some chopped radishes on the side because they’re also red. 

Easy, Delicious Tomato Soup

Goat cheese, cracked pepper and scallions

Easy, Delicious Tomato Soup


The first thing that every schoolchild learns about King Alfred is that he burned some loaves. The history books clearly could not come to an agreement on what Alfred actually looked like, but they all agreed that he was a big old loaf-burner.

The schoolchild later, of course, goes on to learn about Alfred’s leadership of the Anglo-Saxons, his fortification of London and his effective resistance against the Danish incursions of England in the 9th century AD, but the first thought that gets dredged up at the mention of his name is, inevitably, “That Alfred, eh, couldn’t even work an oven properly”. 

Which goes to show two things. 

First, don’t leave a king to do a baker’s work, he’s going to have his mind thoroughly busy with keeping the Vikings out of Mercia, of course he’s not going to pay attention to mundane culinary matters. And secondly, it doesn’t matter how effective you are in your chosen career (eg, King of England), everyone’s going to remember that one time you ruined a batch of bread.

 Which brings me to the subject of today’s post.

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Chocolate TrufflesFADE IN


Fast-paced close-up montage of: Fastening crampons. Pulling on ski mask. Adjusting gloves. Snapping on protective goggles.

EMILY: This is madness! You’re never going to make it!

MATT: I’ve got to try! Don’t you see? (Looks out window at a wall of swirling white, a brutal blizzard)

MATT (CONT’D): (Quietly) I have to at least try.

EMILY: Okay. Be careful.

MATT: Wait, what? (Looks back out window as a chicken blows past, another victim)

MATT (CONT’D): Are you insane? It’s crazy out there! Isn’t there anything we can make with just chocolate, butter and eggs?

EMILY: (Also looks out window, into the middle distance) Yes. Yes there is.

                                                                            CUT TO:


Chocolate Truffles

Honestly, I feel like you’re not going to believe me when I tell you how easy these are to make. We whipped them up in about 20 minutes and they were chilled and ready by episode 2 of our “House of Cards” marathon. 

We used this recipe from Food52 and added just a touch of vanilla and a smidge more salt. We also ended up using a bit of a grab bag of chocolate bits and bobs leftover from other recipes (some bittersweet chips, part of a dark bar, a few semisweet pastilles). The result was wonderfully dark, with just the right hint of sweetness, but you should use whatever chocolate you like best). They really do have a wonderful ultra-smooth, silky texture and you don’t even have to roll them into balls (of course, you can if you want). I love how modern they look as perfect, little bite-sized squares. 

Chocolate Truffles

Chocolate and butter melted together


Chocolate Truffles

Serve with a red or dessert wine, like this Muscat

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