Post #642 Magical Pairings

May 8, 2019 at 10:34 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Typically, in my little sphere, when someone says “Pairing” they’re talking about pairing food with wine.  It’s what I think of first, and last, and drool for.  BUT, the other day we were watching some cooking show and they put together two food items to make a slow cooked pork stew, and I laughed as I remembered pairings my mom did as we were growing up, one of which was featured on the show.  It got me to thinking about foods and flavors that just go together, almost magically.

Pork and Apples – This is the pairing that was on the show.  They made an apple cider vinegar slow roasted pork.  First, they had a 5 pound pork roast called a Boston Butt, but actually comes from the shoulder of the pig.  It’s one of my favorite cuts when I want to roast a piece of pork.  Of course, 5 pounds is a lot for two people so we’d end up eating roasted pork three or four days.  What they did was brown the roast on all sides, then placed it in the dutch oven they browned in.  They cut two apples in 8 wedges and browned the cut sides in a little of the rendered pork fat.  They put two cups of sliced onion all around the pork, then the apples.  They put salt and pepper on it then added two cups of apple cider vinegar.  It got cooked with a cover in a slow oven set at 275 for 2 and a half hours.  They made a gravy out of the juices and thickened it with apple butter.  They topped slices of pork roast and apples with the gravy.  Pork and apples were just a thing when we were growing up.  My mom made pork chops, one side that was always on the table was ice cold apple sauce.  It was unheard of to serve pork chops without it.  My mom and dad would put it on top of their chops.  I never did that cuz I just never liked putting two foods together like that.  Still don’t in many cases.

Cinnamon and Anything – I have a good friend who was lucky enough to eat a lot of my cooking during my “intern” years, when I was experimenting and playing around.  I made chocolate chip cookies and put cinnamon in them, but not a lot.  When he ate them, I asked, “Can you tasted the secret ingredient?”  He said, “It’s cinnamon.”  “How did you know that?  I didn’t put enough in there to really taste it.”  He replied, “It’s from Seinfeld.  One of them said whenever someone asks about the secret ingredient in anything, it’s always cinnamon.”  Trouble is, it is always cinnamon.  Cinnamon goes into anything and tastes good.  My best friend from college once made me lasagna and put too much cinnamon in the sauce.  I’d never heard of cinnamon in marinara or Bolognese sauce, but it was really good.  Hell, even cinnamon and sugar on top of buttered toast is a good thing!

Salt and Chocolate – I know all the scientific reasons why salt enhances flavors for nearly everything, but I really truly believe that the reason salt and chocolate taste so good together is it’s such a surprise.  The first time I tried was back in the late 80s.  I’d just started working my computer career in DC.  I was working for the Marine Corps and my office was located in the PX so I had to walk through the store to get to the majority of my computer users.  During the holiday season, many vendors were there with free samples, and one of them talked me into trying a hand dipped chocolate potato chip.  I was hesitant as I was absolutely certain this would not be a good experience.  It was delicious!  For me, the contrast between the sweet and salty combined with the deep earthy flavor of the chocolate is tremendous.  And it’s so easy to do.  One of my favorite unexpected treats I had just one holiday and never been able to find again.  Ritz crackers covered in chocolate!  Think graham crackers covered in chocolate like the elves make, but so much better!  I even went on Amazon to search for the Ritz crackers, but sadly they weren’t there.

Lemon and Oregano or Basil – Lemon is sour.  There’s just no getting around it.  But when you start adding other flavors to it, the sour sort of disappears and the lemoniness (is that a word?) comes out.  A squeeze of lemon in loads of things brightens the flavors and creates a new taste.  I once squeezed lemon over a pork roast with garlic and salt and it was terrific.  I’ve blogged about lemon pasta, and lemon cakes, and lemon ice cream.  But the place where lemon truly shines is in salad dressing.  There’s a Mediterranean salad called Fattoush Salad.  Sometimes it’s called Bread Salad or Pita Salad.  The first time I bumped into this salad was in a food court at a mall I was working in decades ago.  It’s a mix of chopped romaine lettuce hearts, red onion, tomato, cucumber, toasted pita chips, olive oil, salt, oregano, and lemon.  You roughly chop the veggies and toss together.  Mix the other ingredients except the pita into a vinaigrette and dress the salad, mix in the pita chips, sprinkle with extra oregano on top, and chill.  I’ve also put black olives, feta cheese, grilled chicken, and bacon bits into it.  That combination of lemon, salt, and oregano suspended in the olive oil can’t be beat.  I’ll drink a glass of that with a side of bread, please.

Potatoes and Onions – My mom liked onions.  She put them on or in every damn thing.  When I was a kid, they were too highly flavored for my taste so I moved them aside and ate around them.  Now, I won’t eat them raw, but I love them cooked into things.  I also didn’t like potatoes, then.  Mom, being Irish, cooked potatoes almost every single meal.  Mashed were her favorite, but home fries ran a close second.  And every time, there were fried onion in them.  When they’re cooked like that, the onion hide in the potatoes and you can’t eat around them.  Of course, when you’re six and you don’t like potatoes or onions, you set at the table looking sorry for yourself until you’re finally excused to go wash up and go to bed.  Then, when you’re sixty, you actually have learned how to make them so they taste good, and you serve them for dinner last night with fried ham and scrambled eggs, and the two pounds of potatoes you cooked are gone.  And you think to yourself, I need to write about this some day.  Didn’t take long.  It’s to the point where now, whenever I make potatoes, I look for ways to incorporate the flavor of onions, even if it’s just in the gravy for mashed potatoes.

Apples and Cinnamon – ‘Nuff said.  Even the thought of this will make you start drooling.


Peanut Butter and Jelly – Okay, I know some of you don’t like this combo.  But they wouldn’t be selling 700 million pounds of peanut butter annually in the U.S. if it wasn’t good.  I don’t really care very much for peanut butter, but I do love PBJ sandwiches, as long time readers already know.  I’ll go a long time without one, then can’t rest until I’ve eaten a jar or two.  I also like peanut butter in the popular candy Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups.  Apart from that, I’m not a big eater.  My ex-wife loved it so much, she’d eat anything with peanut butter in it.  Partner/Spouse also likes it more than I do, although not nearly as much as her.  I’ve even broken out of my standard “peanut butter, ice cold grape jam, and potato bread” recipe.  I’ll eat PBJ on other kinds of bread.  I’ve used other kinds of jam, notably raspberry.  I’ve even stopped using only a single brand of peanut butter (although Partner/Spouse and I noted that his favorite brand and my favorite brand with the top two winners of a recent ATK taste test.)

So, what are some of your favorite food pairings?  Liver and Onions?  Cheese and Grapes?  Oreos and Milk?  Let us all know what you like!

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