14 April, 2020
Bass and Beets: Mr. Len & Poor Man’s Alentejana Pork
Who knew that Hip Hop loves Pork? I invited my good friend over for some eats at my place, music producer and DJ Mr. Len. Not only is he a great artist, he is pretty savvy in the kitchen, so I gave him a taste of Portuguese style cuisine ( link to what we cooked ).
Mr. Len, born in the Bronx and raised in New Jersey, like many other hip hop legends from the area, was captured by the beauty that is music at an early age. His producing and genre-spanning DJ skills garnered him fame when he became a founding member of the rap group Company Flow , Dirty Disco Squares and other groups, leading to a world tour, stage diving in Australia, friendships with the who’s who of Hip Hop Legends and DJing at mega festivals like Coachella. I met Mr. Len when I was partner of a local pub in Jersey. I had a variety of famous music artists performing each week and Len had a monthly party called Smacks. I think it was the french fries baskets we served (one of which had his name on it) that got him hooked on the place enough to visit regularly… and the rest is history.
So when I called up Len and asked him to take a break from the studio to come by for lunch, as I’d be cooking, he immediately agreed. He showed up for lunch… and ended up cooking dinner!
During our usual off-the-wall conversations which included teaching me how to jump off a stage (when the opportunity presents itself) and the inner workings of hardcore rap, I learned something new: Mr Len and I had more in common than previously known. He too spent his summers out of the urban setting of the city, in his case it was on a pig farm in South Carolina with his grandparents. After having their fill of city life, Lens grandparents when back to their roots and opened a farm. It was a place where their grand kids can run free and they can have simpler, less stressful life than what New York City provided. While visiting, Len learned responsible raising of pigs and other animals, their care, their feed and what it takes to end up with good, wholesome meat in the end.
The affiliation with pork made it only natural to share one of my favorite comfort food recipes with him: The Poor Man Alentejana Pork. It’s a dish named after the Alentejo region of Portugal, the breadbasket of the country, where pork, wine and cooking reign supreme. It’s the most “fuisonesque” part of Portugal and this dish is an ode to that. With tender cubes of meat, flavored with drippings, wine, clam and spices, shared with cubed fried potatoes it’s hearty and easy to make. In my version I took a page out of Asian cuisine by cooking it in a wok and Caribbean cookin’ by using some Bacardi Rum for added flavor. It’s DELICIOUS!
Here’s the recipe:
- 2 lbs Pork Loin, cut to 1/2″ cubes
- 6 Medium potatoes, cut to 1/2″ cubes
- 1 Large Onion, sliced
- 4 Garlic Cloves, sliced
- 2 TBSP Smoked Spanish Paprika
- 2 TBSP of Black Pepper
- 2 Tsp of Cumin
- 1 TBSP of Sea Salt
- 1 TBSP of Worcestershire Sauce
- 3 Bay leaves
- 2 TBSP of Worcester sauce
- 1/2 Cup White wine
- Juice of half a lemon
- 2 shots of Rum
- 6 TBSP Olive Oil
- Canola Oil, enough for about an inch of oil in the pan for frying
- 1 TBSP of Butter
- Hot Sauce, Louisiana Style or similar
- Corn Starch
- 1/2 bunch of cilantro, diced
- Mixing bowl
Marinate pork: Into a mix bowl, add pork, paprika, black pepper, cumin, sea salt and bay leaves. Mix well to coat pork with seasoning. Let marinate at least 30 minutes.
In a bowl or squirt bottle, add 2 TBSP of corn starch to 2 TBSP of cold water to create a corn starch “slurry”.
Pour Canola oil into wok and bring to 350 degrees. Fry potatoes in batches until they gain a golden color. Reserve and keep warm, draining excess oil. Remove the oil from the wok as well as any potato remnants.
Heat wok and add remaining olive oil plus 2 TBSP of canola oil. Add onions and cook for 1 minute to release juice. Keep your eye on the heat so that the onions do not burn.
Add pork with bay leaves and cook about 5-6 minutes with an occasional stir to ensure all sides are getting heat and continue until some browning appears on the meat with no raw spots.
Add garlic, Worcestershire, wine and one swirl of hot sauce, scraping any pork bits attached to the wok. Cook for 2 minutes.
Add Rum and cook 2 more minutes until the alcohol burns off ( you can look cool and flambe here by tipping the edge of the wok and letting the sauce move to the edge over the fire for a few seconds to light)
Add butter and stir until melted. Add a small amount of “slurry” until it forms a thin gravy. Finish with the lemon juice.
Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with the fried potatoes on the side. For veggie, go with greens like Bok Choy, Green Beans or Brussel Sprouts. This dish goes great with yellow mustard or ranch sauce.