So I know there is this guy in my life and he’s great and all. I mean, I do really love him. However, I have only one true soulmate. Andrea. I first met this Peruvian loca my freshman year at Northeastern University. We both shared many interests, the one that stood out the most was our deep dark obsession with high quality ingestible items. We shared a flat our first semester, which was sort of the bane of our existence. To live without a kitchen. It was a truly horrible existence (Jesus I’m privileged as all hell).
Sophomore year, true mayhem began. First, we both stopped eating meat. Andrea had stopped for sometime before that, I decided to jump on the bandwagon. More importantly, we moved into a small studio apartment on campus with a kitchen. We would have people over all the time. We would all squeeze into our tiny little room with our giant decorated ceiling. One of our friends, Loic, lived very nearby. He would come by often to help me with my French homework in exchange we would cook for him. Loic never liked vegetables until he tried our. But honestly, anything is good deep fried. I made curried cauliflower fritters. They were epic! Don’t worry, we fed him more than just deep fried vegetables. There was much epicness that flowed through our tiny apartment to feed the starving masses of college students hungry for more than dining hall food.
Junior year, we came to an inescapable reality. We needed a bigger apartment. Word spread through Boston like a California forest fire. We seemed to have people over tri-weekly. It was a wonderful apartment. Somehow, part of the living room was partitioned off after we signed the contract but before we moved in. It became the “Room of Peace and Happiness.” Andrea and I really managed to find our groove here.
Even when spending a summer in France, we managed to make feast of epic proportion. We met up with an old high school buddy of hers in Paris and his cousin. That night they invited us over to this incredible apartment his cousin had been staying at. I mean, there was a signed portrait of everyone important in the 20th century from Clinton to Dali. His cousin then proceeded to make up rabbit stew. Through out the meal, his cousin opened four bottles of about the best wine I had ever had in my life. Then, being Russian, we dove into the vodka. Taking shots “russian style,” using a piece of herring or charcuterie as a chaser. Shot after shot, we drank. We started eating weird chasers too, I vaguely remember sauteed potatoes. Finally, to avoid going blind, I had to start dooping our host a bit. We tried to tell him, “no more.” But like all Russians, he was a very insistent man. I will never forget Andrea’s face after the fourth of fifth shot. She looked to me in shear terror, most likely afraid of going blind from alcohol intake. Looking er her expression of surreal drunken apprehension, a light bulb turned on somewhere inside of my booze saturated brain. When his back was turned, we’d pour out the vodka and fill our glasses with water and shoot. Sometimes dumping to crystal clear liquid into the sink. Other times, we discarded the unwanted vodka into our hosts glass. Was it sneaky? Yes. But was it necessary? Hell, yes!
Andrea and I had been living out of a hotel for the past few weeks. So to see this beautiful, gorgeous kitchen just calling to us, we had to offer to cook dinner. His only dietary restriction, no garlic. I mean, SERIOUSLY?!?! Not even an allergy, but an aversion to the taste. If you know me at all, I’m a bit of a garlicoholic. Anyways, we made lamb lollipops, carrot salad, dates stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in prosciutto.
These frequent festivities that even Dionysus couldn’t best became known as MegAndrean feasts, or at least I called them that. Our senior year of college was the big hurrah! We signed up for a CSA farm share. We received our weekly package of fresh vegetables on Wednesdays. These were massive boxes of food though. So inevitably, we instituted Fat Tuesdays. Every Tuesday, we would cook dinner for all our friends to use up the remainder of our vegetables for the week before our next delivery. Not that we live so far apart, our reunion ignites masterful works of epic proportion that leaves her kitchen smelling foe what I can only assume must be weeks at a time. It was during one of these reunions that she taught me this recipe. One summer, I was visiting her in New York and we wanted to make chicharrones. We literally spent half the time on the phone with her mom. But, my god, these little suckers are amaze balls. Just look at my dad’s face.
Chicharrones Peruvianas and Salsa Criolla
2 lbs pork belly, cut into cubes
1 jalapeno, sliced (substitute with a tablespoon of dried crushed red pepper)
1 head of garlic, cloves crushed and peels
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp chicken bouillon
Put all ingredients in a deep pan. Pour water into the pan until the pork belly is covered. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the water has completely evaporated. Turn the pork belly occasionally to ensure each side is cooked evenly. The simmering will have extracted a lot of the fat from the pork. So once the water is gone, increase heat to medium high to caramelize the sides a bit. If you’re doing that at sea, I’d recommend cooking in a pot. The water tends to spill out over the edge of the pan leading to more of a case of xtreme cooking.
3 red onions, sliced thin
6 cloves of garlic, diced
1 c cilantro, roughly roughed and stems discarded
½ c lime juice
½ c apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp salt
Put all ingredients, except cilantro, in a Tupperware. Allow to sit for at least 6 hours. Shake occasionally. Add cilantro just before serving. Bon appétit!