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Recipe: Crispy Pork and Watermelon Salad, from 'Eat With Your Hands'

Here's the recipe for Crispy Pork and Watermelon Salad, from Zakary Pelaccio's "Eat With Your Hands" (Ecco, 362 pages, $39.99), featured in today's Buffalo News.

Pelaccio writes:

The elements are Southeast Asian—kaffir lime leaf and Thai basil, palm sugar and lime, the incredibly gratifying combo of fruit and fat—but you’d never find anything quite like this in that part of the world. Instead, it’s a great example of American cuisine: the flavors of somewhere else converging with local ingredients to make a new, delicious reality. I thought of it while cooking one summer on Long Island, where I was surrounded by watermelon. Pickled watermelon rind, with its tart crunch, is an awesome foil for the sweet red flesh and the crisp-edged chunks of almost-molten belly. It has become a signature dish at Fatty Crab. Oh, and giving it the salad moniker is misleading—at least if you think of salads as light.

SERVES 4 TO 6

LISTEN Coltrane, Blue Train—the whole album; it never gets old. DRINK Selbach-Oster Riesling Auslese 2005.

FOR THE WATERMELON SALAD

2 cups rice vinegar

3 shallots, thinly sliced

2 fresh Thai bird chilies, thinly sliced

2 fresh kaffir lime leaves

2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

1½ ounces palm sugar (1 round gula jawa) or 2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

One 5-pound watermelon

FOR THE DRESSING

3 ounces palm sugar (2 rounds gula jawa) or ¼ cup light brown sugar

1 cup rice vinegar

½ cup fresh lime juice

4 inches fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

6 fresh cilantro roots with 1 inch of stems, rinsed, scraped, and rinsed again, or 24 cilantro stems

2 garlic cloves, chopped

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

FOR THE PORK

About 3 cups rendered leaf lard (see page 196) or neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola

2 pounds Braised Pork Belly (page 198), cut into 1-inch chunks while still cold (see Note on page 204)

1 cup all-purpose flour

Sea salt

TO FINISH THE DISH

1 cup fresh Vietnamese mint (rou ram) leaves

1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves

3 scallions, sliced

¼ cup sesame seeds

MAKE THE WATERMELON SALAD

1. Combine everything for the salad except the watermelon in a small saucepan. Add 1 cup water, bring the liquid to a boil over medium heat, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.

2. Meanwhile, cut the rind from the watermelon flesh, reserving both the rind and the flesh. Use a sharp knife to pare away the outer, darker green skin, leaving the inner, whiter fleshy rind. Discard the darker green peel. Cut the white rind into ¼-inch cubes and put them in a bowl. Strain the seasoned rice vinegar liquid over the diced rind. Let the mixture cool, then chill for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

3. Cut the flesh of the watermelon into 1-inch pieces (discarding whatever seeds you can). Chill it until you’re ready to use it.

MAKE THE DRESSING

Roughly crush the palm sugar using a mortar and pestle or a plastic bag and a rolling pin. Pulse the sugar with the vinegar, lime juice, ginger, cilantro roots, garlic, and salt in a food processor until smooth and well combined.

FRY THE PORK

1. In a large, straight-sided sauté pan or wok, heat 3 inches of lard to 375°F (measured on a deep-frying thermometer).

2. Toss the cubed pork belly in the flour and shake off any excess. Working in batches, fry the pork belly until very crisp and a deep golden brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Transfer the pork with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel-lined tray to drain and season with salt. Return the fat to 375°F between batches.

FINISH THE SALAD

Tear the mint and basil leaves. In a mixing bowl, toss the pickled watermelon rind and the chilled watermelon flesh with the sliced scallions, mint, and basil. Add just enough dressing to coat. Divide the pork among the plates. Top with the salad and garnish each dish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

Try authentic jerk chicken and more Caribbean specialties at AJ Jamaican

If Emma Sapong says that AJ Jamaican Kitchen is the real deal, that settles it for me.

In today's Cheap Eats review, she shares her exploration of the mostly takeout joint at 209 Massachusetts Ave. (563-4140).

"Before finding AJ Jamaican Kitchen on Massachusetts Avenue, only the Jerk Pit in Montego Bay, Steve and Sons Bakery and Restaurant in Brooklyn and the dinner table of my friends Vinnette and Keisha would do.

But after my first taste of AJ’s brown stew chicken — tender, flavorful chopped quarters immersed in a rich stew with chunks of potatoes and carrots, served over a bed of rice and peas — I knew I’d no longer have to travel far to satisfy my craving for Jamaican fare."

If that makes you hungry, beware - chef-owner Aaron Palmer closes the place at 5 p.m. Friday and doesn't reopen until Tuesday at noon.

- Andrew Z. Galarneau

Liberty Hound opens Sat.; Buffalo waterfront restaurant to celebrate seafood

Liberty Hound plans to fire up the kitchen on Friday for an open house, to hand out samples from its menu, and welcome paying customers on Saturday.

That's the word from co-owner Jason Davidson, who's partnered with Mike Schatzel (Cole's, Blue Monk) in the much-anticipated restaurant inside the museum at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park.

Chef J.T. Nicholson's menu celebrates seafood from across the United States, from a Maine-style lobster roll to a grilled fish taco that wouldn't be out of place on a San Diego beach. There's a Vietnamese-style banh mi sandwich stuffed with crispy fried calamari, a kettle of clams, mussels, shrimp, corn and more cooked in crab boil; and sauteed littleneck clams with chorizo, garlic, and butter.

"We're trying to celebrate the idea of the harbor, embrace the idea of waterfront by doing fish and fresh seafood," said Nicholson, who has cooked at Abacus and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Dallas, and Summer Winter in Burlington, Mass.

"This isn't just a burger joint," Nicholson said. "It's a place where you can come in for a sandwich or an entree using fresh seafood from Boston, using more flavors than the classic New England, like ideas from Texas and Southeast Asia."

Live chat at noon with Buffalo News food editor Andrew Galarneau

What's new in the world of Buffalo restaurants? What food discoveries would you like to share? Will Liberty Hound, the Buffalo waterfront's newest addition, open on Friday?

Join the discussion at noon.

 

'Healthy' eatery planned for former liquor store on Elmwood

A former liquor store on Elmwood Avenue, next to the Cozumel Grill, is turning into a restaurant with a focus on "healthy food," a prospective restauranteur told city officials today.

Jimmy Chebat and Noel Sutton got approval this afternoon from the Buffalo Common Council's Legislation Committee to use 149 Elmwood Ave. as a restaurant, to be called Saavoy. Chebat was not asked to further describe his menu.

The full Council is expected to approve the new use at the property when it meets next Tuesday. Plans are to open by the end of summer, said Chebat.

--Aaron Besecker
Follow me on Twitter: @BeseckerBN

Try crispy pork, chicken, tofu done Taiwanese Night Market style at Kung Food

Straight from Taiwan, the quick meals at Kung Food aim to deliver the taste of the famed Night Market fast-food vendors to University Heights.

Ed Young's new place (3268 Main St., 836-3268, learnkungfood.com) is next to Ming Cafe, across from the University at Buffalo's South Campus.

Like crispy? Try a chicken, pork or fish cutlet, which comes with rice and two scoops of salads for $6 or $7. (I'd ask for the cucumber salad, if it's available.) The remarkable thing was how crunchy and ungreasy it was, on several visits.

Like a little spice? Ask for it Night Market style, with a peppery shower of spices that's not fiery, just flavorful. The starving student Kung Food special is $4.99, ground pork in a savory five-spice gravy with the other fixins. There's supposed to be Korean short ribs kalbi style and other offerings coming.

Young is emphatic that his bubble tea is the real deal, too. You can be the judge of that.

Please send food finds to: [email protected] - and happy eating.

Guest chef offers vegan delights from Roaming Buffalo truck Friday night

Amelia Nussbaumer, whose vegan and vegetarian cooking made an impression at The Eights, is serving up a few of her dishes from the Roaming Buffalo truck tomorrow night.

Roaming Buffalo honcho Chris Taylor said Nussbaumer will guest chef on Friday from 5-8 p.m. at Sweetness 7, 220 Grant St.

On the menu: Spicy and smoky Ethiopian red lentil tacos (2) with (faux) cheese & creamy avocado slaw ($8) (vegan); vegan beef on weck with horseradish and au jus ($7); and (meatatarian) Korean BBQ short ribs with sesame noodles and slaw ($8).

Go Veggies: Finally, a vegetarian restaurant opens in Buffalo

Genga Ponnampalam has been selling his line of all-vegetable burgers in local stores for years, plus a smattering of events.

Now he's taken the plunge to open Go Veggies, a brick-and-mortar restaurant (264 Bryant St., 908-2778), just off Elmwood Avenue, around the corner from Epic and Nickel City Cheese & Mercantile. Newell Nussbaumer has the news here.

His mango pudding and mushroom burgers have satisfied many meat-eaters as well as all the vegetarians who welcome his efforts. Besides Palace of Dosas, on Millersport in Amherst, it's the only completely vegetarian restaurant around, and the only one in Buffalo. (Please let me know at [email protected] if I'm missing one.)

Coconut lentil soup, spicy mango salsa, spinach curry - everything on the cafe menu is $5 or less. (Well, unless you want cheese on your burger - then it's $6.) Plus plenty of gluten-free items, the menu says.

Can tasty, plus cheap, plus no food with a face overcome the stereotypical Buffalo palate? Bon chance, Mr. Ponnampalam.

Live chat with News food editor Andrew Galarneau

What's the best new restaurant to open in the last year?

Where can you buy a suckling pig?

Where do vegans eat?

Join the discussion and ask your own questions here at noon. It's easy to sign on. 

New Allen Street eatery to specialize in paninis

Plans for a restaurant specializing in panini sandwiches got the go-ahead from the Common Council this week.

David Forness got a special-use permit to turn a former clothing store at 197 Allen St. into an eatery.

Forness, who last week got his plans endorsed by the city Planning Board, told the board his establishment will be about 1,200 square feet and have some outdoor seating.

Buffalo Rising has said Forness was looking at putting in a char-broiler for a tavern. But paninis were all that was mentioned to the board.

--Aaron Besecker
Follow me on Twitter: @BeseckerBN

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