Jill: Continental Airlines has last-minute fare sales between Columbus and New York City every other week. They’re typically released on Monday nights. One of the few constants in life, these sales have aided in many a long weekend for the both of us, sometimes in New York, sometimes in Columbus. We recently decided to take advantage of the fare to hold our first annual Itinerant Foodies Retreat.
Maya: I was already on board with the prospect of a long weekend in Ohio, but when Jill promised to comp half of the cost of my ticket in food, I was sold—it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Jill: We eschewed the traditional team building activities (zipline tours, white water rafting, trust falls) for something more up the Itinerant Foodies alley: gorging ourselves with food and beverage for 72 straight hours. We did include some (not much) programming: skill building, brainstorming and goal setting. Most of this occurred during the process of cooking ourselves dinner the first night. I’d purchased five pounds of pork butt and a pound of shrimp prior to Maya’s arrival. Our goal? Do something with it.
Challenging ourselves with a task of creating our own recipe for the pork butt was much easier once we pushed aside our coffee in favor of beers from Rockmill Brewery. (Three of them, to be exact. We’re nothing if not thorough.)
Maya: Jill’s been talking about a Spanish-focused dinner party since she started building her cabana earlier in the summer, so we used that as a jumping-off point. I dug up a Gourmet recipe for a Spanish-crusted roast-pork tenderloin (we nixed the crust, but the rest of the ingredients served as a braising liquid); methodology came courtesy of a tried-and-true pork-shoulder how-to. In no time at all, I found myself wishing for Smell-O-Vision. I would’ve loved to have shared the kitchen’s amazing aroma with all of you.
During the ensuing hours of torturous clock-watching, we did manage to prepare a few simple dishes to accompany that hunk of sloooowly cooking meat. In keeping with our Spanish theme, gambas al ajillo were a no-brainer, and peak end-of-summer tomatoes lent themselves with ease to pan con tomate. We threw together a salad of farmers’ market lettuce so tender and fresh that it didn’t require dressing; a log of goat cheese and a wedge of tomme rounded out the spread. A bit of experimentation revealed the ideal way to consume all elements: a slice of pan con tomate dipped in the oil from the shrimp, topped with a schmear of goat cheese, a single shrimp, and a slice of tomato, fished from the greens without so much as the nicety of utensils. With the pork perfuming the kitchen and whetting our appetites, four of us cleared every dish on the counter.
It’s a mystery that we found room for the main at all, but somehow, when presented with a platter of Madeira, rosemary, and garlic-infused meat, little pockets of space opened up, and we were miraculously hungry again. Though less Spanish than we’d hoped—the elimination of the almond-and-breadcrumb crust may have been a factor—it was undeniably delicious.
As if all of that weren’t enough, we rounded things out (literally—my jeans didn’t fit the next day) with a pint of Jeni’s Splendid. It was my very first introduction to the cult, and I instantly drank the Kool-Aid; credit goes to the goat cheese for a tangier take on a cheesecake ice cream, a childhood favorite.
Jill: As a whole, I’d say that our retreat was a rousing success. We came out of the weekend changed women, full of ideas for the future. (The change, of course, was in our waistlines.) Inspiration, it seems, is delicious.
4 tablespoons olive oil
9 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
5 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons hot Hungarian paprika
6 tablespoons Madeira
5 pounds skinless, boneless pork butt
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then sauté garlic until pale golden, about 30 seconds. Stir in rosemary, paprikas, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper and Madeira, and remove from heat.
3. Make 1-inch-deep slits in pork on all meaty sides, twisting knife slightly to widen openings. Place in Dutch oven, turn to coat with marinade; cover and transfer to oven.
4. Braise pork, basting occasionally with pan juices, until very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.
5. Transfer pork to a large platter and let stand for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, skim and discard fat from pan juices. Shred pork with two forks, pour remaining pan juices over pork, and serve with excessive amounts of Rockmill Brewery beer.
Gambas al Ajillo
from Chef Norman Carmichael
fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
garlic, sliced thinly
red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
Place oil in a very hot skillet to cover bottom. (Too much is better than too little.) When oil is hot, but not smoking, add garlic slices to taste, as well as a pinch of red pepper. When garlic begins to “dance” and edges turn brown, add the shrimp. Add salt to taste. Saute until shrimp is just done, turning once.