I blame KevinEats for what transpired on Friday evening.
He was the one who brought the bottle of La Chouffe Belgian pale ale to our dinner at Nakkara last Wednesday. He was the one who insisted on pouring me a glass – even after I politely informed him that “I’m not really a beer drinker.” And he was the one who didn’t look the least bit shocked when I looked up in surprise and announced, “It’s good!”
Last Wednesday was my first time drinking beer since a brief foray with some light brews at a San Antonio Winery beer boutique event in August. I liked them fine enough, but promptly aborted my mug after the tasting ended. Wine was once again the only thing on my mind and in my glass. Or at least it was until Kevin came around touting his fancy Belgian ale....
On Friday night, something wild and crazy and completely worthy of a “Gossip Girl” voiceover transpired that can only attributed to my exposure to the frothy amber beverage earlier in the week. I was shopping at Whole Foods for my still to be determined dinner, and accidentally deposited my personality somewhere between the spring onions and the asparagus. Instead of buying the necessary foodstuffs to make the quinoa dish I was salivating over, I spontaneously decided to make the wild rice katsudon with spring vegetables (a recipe that calls for beer) that had appeared in the LA Times "Food" section the previous week.
“I can use up my left over fava beans.” I thought as I perused the bulk bins for the tell-tale black grains of wild rice.
It seemed reasonable enough. So reasonable, in fact, that I didn’t immediately detect that something was wrong. It wasn’t until I arrived home with my bursting grocery tote that I realized what I’d done.
I surveyed at the items on my countertop in slight horror.
I’d bought a bottle of... beer? And… pork? And eggs and panko crumbs to batter and fry the pork?!
The sight prompted a spontaneous and slightly spastic outburst of laughter – this was definitely not the quinoa and tofu and Sauvignon Blanc I’d intended to consume that evening. I shook my head in disbelief, but dove into the recipe regardless. The wild rice was rinsed and thrown into a boiling pot of water to be prepared Saveur-style; my pork cutlet was marinated with beer, lemon juice and soy sauce; and the rest of the nearly full bottle of Honey Moon summer ale (selected because of the citrus notes) was sealed off and put in the freezer for subsequent enjoyment with my dinner.
I was going full-throttle with this out-of-body experience.
Or at least I was until I sat down to the table, folded white dinner napkin in hand.
While I loved the texture of the crispy pork contrasted with the earthy grains of wild rice, tender egg and bright spring vegetables, I couldn’t help but day dream about omitting the pork entirely and eating the dish as a mid-week vegetarian meal. I actually liked the crispy outside coating better than the pork itself, and imagined that a similar textural contrast could be achieved by using toasted almonds instead. It would certainly be a more natural pairing for the nutty wild rice – though, admittedly, a less exciting one. In defense of the pig, part of what made this dish stand out from my usual line-up of meals was the jarring juxtaposition of crispy pork with healthy grains and vegetables. It’s completely unexpected – just like my uncharacteristic behavior that night.
As for my reaction to the beer… I (expectedly) made it half-way through before depositing the rest down the drain.
At the end of the (Fri)day, you can take the pink Riedel glass away from the girl, but you can’t remove the wine bottle that’s lodged in her heart.
Wild Rice Katsudon with Spring Vegetables
Adapted from LA Times
Notes: I added orange zest and garlic,, used shallots instead of red onion, a spring onion instead of a green onion, and olive oil instead of canola. I also reduced the amount of oil, roasted the asparagus instead of sautéing it, and scrambled the egg instead of preparing it crepe-style.
1 pork cutlet (4-ounces)
2 tablespoons soy sauce, plus more to taste
3 tablespoons pale beer
Juice from ¼ a lemon
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup wild rice
6 spears asparagus, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
¼ cup blanched and fully peeled fava beans
1 teaspoon orange zest
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1 small spring onion, chopped
Flour, for dredging
2 tablespoons panko crumbs
In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon soy sauce with the lemon juice and beer. Place the pork cutlet in the bowl and let marinate in the refrigerate for at least 30 minutes while rice is being prepared.
To cook rice, bring four cups of water to a boil. Add ¼ cup rice and let cook at slow boil for 30 minutes or until just tender (it will continue to cook after, so don’t let it reach the sticky/mushy stage). Drain, return to the pot, and cover with a lid for 10 minutes to let steam. Remove lid, fluff with a fork and set aside until ready to use.
While rice is cooking, roast asparagus in oven-safe dish for approximately 15 minutes at 400 degrees.
Heat a large wide nonstick frying pan over high heat and add 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Add minced shallots and garlic and reduce heat to medium. Sauté together for 2-3 minutes (or until onion is translucent) before adding the orange zest. Cook together another minute before removing from pan. Set aside.
Add the teaspoon of sesame oil to the hot pan, crack in one of the eggs and scramble until just cooked through. Add the shallots, garlic, rice, asparagus, fava beans, tablespoon soy sauce, and red pepper flakes, spring onions, and cook an additional minute or two. Reduce heat to low while frying the pork cutlet.
Remove pork from the marinade. Crack the egg into a small bowl and whisk. Lightly dredge pork cutlet in flour, coat with the egg (will not need to use all), and then roll in the breadcrumbs until well-coated.
In a wide non-stick frying pan, heat 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil over high heat. When the oil is hot (test by flicking some water into the pan – it should sizzle), place the cutlet in the pan and fry the cutlet until cooked through and the breading is golden-brown, about a 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove from pan, cut into 1-inch strips and serve over the rice.