the best tuna sandwich: ever
Mangia Trattoria: Glen Rock, NJ

pepper and salt pork: at home with Dr. L riesling

Pepper_and_salt_pork1_2"Pepper and salt pork."  "Salt and pepper shrimp."  Goshdamnit every time I see any derivation of those words on a menu I get all crazy.   It's one of those dishes for which I actually get a physical craving:  the back of my throat gets all itchy and feels almost empty.  And if I don't get the flavor of Pepper and Salt Pork, I get all antsy.  And you don't want to see me when I'm antsy. 

These are dishes that are typical found on Shanghainese and Sichuan menus.  China 46 in Ridgefield, of course, has slammin' versions of these dishes.  Oh how I do love China 46.  But honestly, there're only so many times I can go to China 46 before Cecil starts really getting annoyed with me.  So, on occasion, I have to resort to making a facsimile at home.

Pepper and salt pork couldn't be simpler.  The secret ingredient isn't black pepper.  The secret ingredient is white pepper.  Ahhh, they said.  I can't stand white pepper.  It's got a weird fishiness to it that just doesn't compliment beef (beef, of course, gets the brunt of my pepper usage).  I don't even like it mixed in with black peppercorns. I recall a time about 3 years ago that I literally got into an argument with the manager of City Hall restaurant in NYC (known forever after that day as, you guessed it, "Shitty Hall"). <skip this whole part> I was really looking forward to trying their burger, as I had been reading rave reviews on it.  It came to the table, I grabbed the peppermill, and gave it a couple few-4-25 turns.  When my teeth sank into the burger, instead of getting all excited about its wonderful burgerness, I got a palate full of white pepper.  I asked the waiter why there was white pepper in a pepper mill, who said "that's the way the chef likes it."  Clearly a lie.  I asked "does the chef put white pepper on his steaks when he cooks them?"  He offered to get the chef to discuss this with me.  Well, the chef didn't come out, but the (a) "manager" did, and he said that it was a mix of peppercorns, and not white pepper (a mix, of course, is very fancy).  I opened the mill and poured about twenty into my hand, and upon noticing some random colors, he proudly and victoriously proclaimed "SEE!".  My manager friend's brain neglected to process that out of the 20 peppercorns, 17 where white.  Stupid friggin' white pepper. </skip this whole part>

Anyway, I'm almost over that episode, and I've certainly learned that white pepper is your friend (just not on burgers or steaks).  On to the quick, easy, cheap, and healthy process...

The stuff:

  • Thin sliced pork chops - If you can't get them thin sliced (like from  Han Ah Reum korean market for real cheap no less) then just get normal chops and slice 'em thin, or pound them thin.
  • Fist full of cilantro
  • A butt load of garlic
  • Green long hot peppers
  • A lot of freshly ground white pepper.  And for crying out loud, make sure you freshly grind it.  Throw any powered white pepper that you have out immediately.  Thanks.
  • Salt.  and some more salt. (kosher, please)

The process:

  • I just saute the sliced garlic (a butt load) in some oil (I use EVOO) until it just about takes on some color.
  • Throw in the sliced hot peppers and dump some white pepper and salt on the whole mess.  Let it ride until the white pith of the peppers start to turn brown.  You want a little color and char for that nice smokey element.  Put that mixture aside.
  • White pepper and salt the hell out of the chops, and saute them in the same pan with some oil.   Hell, add some more white pepper because you're going to lose some to the pan.
  • They'll cook fast. When the chops are done, top with the garlic/green pepper mixture, and garnish with cilantro.

I go nuts with the green stuff (it's probably more important than the pork). 

You should try to make some lima beans too, with a scallion sauce, just like they do at China 46. I have no idea how they do it really, so I just blend some scallions (green parts only) with some water and maybe a little sugar and mix it in with some heated lima beans and s/p.  Sometimes I'll thicken a bit with corn starch, but that's not necessary.


"Dr. L" (Loosen Bros.) Riesling  is the peeeerfect foil for this dish.  We had a 2004, although I think the 2005 is being released as we speak, and they haven't been varying all that much from vintage to vintage, at least back to the 2001 vintage, which is when we "discovered" it. 


Like so many great rieslings, Dr. L comes from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region of Germany.  This wine is only about 8.5% alcohol-by-volume (ABV), so you can enjoy it with dinner and not get smashed (your average chardonnay or sauvignon blanc is probably about 12-14%, representing close to a 50% increase in alcohol!).  The screw top is an added bonus:  you'll never have to dump a bottle down the drain because it's corked (please click that link if you have any doubt in your mind as to what "corked" means as it relates to wine). It's like biting into a green apple.  Great acidity, great balance with the sweetness, somewhat green in nature, this one's perfect for a spicy, vegetal and herbal dish like this.  And damn if it ain't only 8 bucks at Bottle King.

Now, get to it.  You won't be sorry you spent 10 minutes and 5 dollars (plus 8 for wine) on this meal.  Of this, you are assured.

Oh, and, did I mention that the vegetable component makes for one helluva hot dog?