Thursday, May 24, 2012

Of Johnny Depp and Vindaloo

   Since we've been living on our hilltop in Sonoma, we've been fortunate enough to have great neighbors. That's the thing about living in the country. People get to know their neighbors. None of this big city hiding going on. People talk to each other. They sort of have to. When one lives in an area where trees fall down, there can be flooding and power outages in the Wintertime and during the Summer months, everyone is on fire watch, and one quickly learns that we're all a part of the circle of life. We need to co-operate. It makes living in in a rural community much easier. 

   A couple of weeks ago, our neighbors up the hill had another party and we were invited. Now these neighbors have a very special relationship with us, or at least their cat Johnny Depp does. It seems that a few years ago, before we met him, Johnny Depp had some serious spraying issues. I mean who hasn't? But these spraying issues had left a certain strain between old Johnny and the man of the house who only allowed him in certain areas.

   Add to that that Johnny Depp the cat is a loner, not particularly fond of other cats. In fact he hates them and his real family has several other cats, including Johnny's own sister. Johnny Depp like to be in a one cat household and back when I was having my War of the Voles, I was advertising for some feline help. I put out food and water and Johnny showed up. He immediately started hunting and eating voles.

   Of course this was before I'd gotten Johnny's whole "back story" as we say in Hollywood. I thought he was a lone gunman, a vineyard drifter, a masterless  cat ronin who'd just wandered into my particular corner of this mountain. I flattered myself that I held a "special" place in his heart. I'd obviously never had a cat before.

   After bragging to our neighbors up the hill about my "very special friend" the homeless master hunter to whom I'd given the prosaic name "Midnight," I discovered that I'd been double feeding their cat, who's real name was Johnny Depp. To add insult to injury Johnny wasn't supposed to be eating the food I was giving him. He was on a "special diet" from the vet. I seemed that everyone on the hill but me knew this. Orders were no more food for old Johnny boy. For his own good. I stopped feeding him, giving him only water and he kept hanging around. As it turns out he came for the cuddles and the attention he got from being an "only cat." Of course our dog Patsy the Siberian Husky is a notorious cat hater, so Johnny doesn't get let into our house. For his own good he lounges on the deck in the sunshine, crawls under our deck, hides in a hollow tree trunk sometimes and goes home in the evenings.

   When I call him he comes crashing through the vineyard into my arms. Ask me what my dog does when I call her? Go ahead ask me. I'll tell you. She gives me a WTF look and darts under our bed. So we have a dog that acts like a cat and a cat that acts like Lassie. Go figure.

   Anyway the other night Johnny Depps' two families got together for an Indian dinner at our house. We invited other neighbors also because I'd decided to do a  pork vindaloo. Vindaloo is an Indian dish that comes from the Portuguese tradition. Portuguese settlers in Goa brought their wine sauce (the vin) and mixed it with Indian spices and potatoes (the aloo). Of course the dish transformed as these things are wont to do and the Vin part turned form wine to vinegar, the sauce became fiery hot with chiles and the aloo were added to help moderate the heat. Actually the potatoes were originally added to thicken the sauce and stretch the dish.. but I like the other story better.

   Pork vindaloo comes from the Christian kitchens of Goa since pork is not usually found on Indian menus. for religious reasons. I also have recipes for  Shrimp Vindaloo and Goat Vindaloo Somehow Vindaloo got hooked up with the 1998 FIFA World Cup and resulted in this song.

 Either way it's a great dish, and works as a make ahead crowd pleaser.

Pork Vindaloo

Here's What You Need:


The seeds from 6 green cardamom pods
1 tsp black peppercorns
4 dried red chilies
1 tsp of whole cloves
a 4 inch cinnamon stick
1 tsp of cumin seeds
1/2 tsp of turmeric
1/2 tsp of coriander seeds
1/4 tsp of fenugreek seeds
2 and 1/2 lbs of pork butt or shoulder cut into 2 inch pieces and trimmed of excess fat.
4 Tbs of coconut water vinegar or malt vinegar
1 Tbs of dark molasses


4 Tbs of vegetable oil.
2 thinly sliced onions
10 thinly sliced shallots
4 seeded and chopped green chilies
3 chopped tomatoes or good quality canned is okay
A 2 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger julienned.
1 cup of water
left over marinade
1 small lump of jaggery or 1 tsp of dark brown sugar
3 boiled peeled and cubed potatoes
A handful of chopped fresh cilantro

Here's what to do: 

Grind together all the ingredients for the marinade in a food processor or blender.
If you can't find coconut water vinegar, the next best thing is malt vinegar, however I was pleased to be able to find this from Coconut Secret at my local Whole Foods here in Sonoma.

Put the marinade in a non-reactive  bowl and add the pork. Massage everything well so the spices are worked into the meat.
Put a lid on it, and stash it in the fridge for a 3 hour rest cure.

In a pan or skillet heat 2 Tbs of vegetable oil (I use coconut oil).
When the oil is hot, sear the pork about 3 minutes on each side, this will seal in the juices.
Save The Marinade!!
 When the pork is seared, remove it from the skillet and set it aside.
Heat another 2 Tbs of vegetable oil.
Saute the sliced onions until they start to darken.
Add in the shallots, green chilies, the julienned ginger and chopped tomatoes.
Saute all of this together for another 5 minutes or so.
Add in the seared pork
1 cup of water
The left over marinade
Turn  down the heat and let things come to a slow boil.
Then add in the jaggery or brown sugar.
Put a lid on the pot and turn down the heat.

Let things simmer for about 3 hours or until the meat is tender. I cook in clay so I do quite a looooooong cook, more like 5 hours since clay is fussy. Let's put it this way, cooking in clay, I put it on the stove when The Killing came on...

...and took it off the heat after Girls

Yes, on the weekends, TV is my oven timer.
One hour before serving, add in 3 boiled, peeled cubed potatoes. This helps mellow the heat of the chilies.

Check for seasoning.
Sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro and serve.
However, I call this a make-ahead dish and here's why.
This is your vindaoo.

This is your vindaloo after a night in the fridge.

That is not cheese. That is fat.  A little secret Paula Wolfert told me about mellowing and flavor and fat: It is wise to  let your vindaloo chill overnight.
   First of all one does not have to cook an entree the day of the dinner party.
   Secondly, one is able to remove all the fat that has risen to the top.

Simply reheat. Keep the flavor, and lose the bad stuff.
Serve a lovely vindaloo. Everyone's arteries are happy.

   But what of Johnny Depp, the cat with two families? The neighbors showed up at our door laden with Indian beers, wine and roses from their deer-proof garden. They also brought along a 8 and 1/2 lb sack of Johnny's diet cat food. Since he likes to eat at our house we may as well feed him. Everybody was happy.

   Coming up next a great summer trick with any old green bean you can find. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


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