Wednesday, March 21, 2012

NYC Blogger Potluck: All Kind of Families #B4FD (with recipe for Red Cooked Pork)

Way back in February, I had the pleasure to meet with many NYC Bloggers and to celebrate with them at the NYC Chinese New Year Potluck, organized by Jackie Gordon (@divathatateny) and Ken (@HungryRabbitNYC). Because my husband loves Asian food and has made a very nice hobby of learning Asian cooking (nice for me and the whole family), this was a must-attend event for us. We even booked a babysitter.

Even though I'm very belated with writing this post, I realize the blogger potluck story is actually a great match to the "All Kinds of Families" theme on Blog for Family Dinner this month. Potlucks are about making new connections, trying new things, taking leaps in both foods to try and conservations to start. I knew many of the people in the room only from social media, so we were "twitter-friends" or acquaintances at best. Yet, it was a warm and open group of folks, with everyone ready to share a table, talk about their passions, share tips of places to get obscure ingredients or trade stories of great restaurants to try in far-flung corners of New York City.

In the past year, I've been to potluck parties with people of every stripe: with parents from my kids' different schools, with local community gardeners, with close friends and family, and of course, a few blogger parties and cookie swaps, both for fun and charity. Sometimes these gatherings are about solidifying friendships and catching up with old friends; other times, it's awkwardly meeting people you may only have a tenuous connection to. Still, there is something about a communal table that gets people talking, and that's one reason we turn to them as a culture again and again.

I dare say, a blogger potluck is unlike a community or neighborhood potluck in one significant way: the food is a whole lot better! Potluck, by its very definition, is a hit or miss type of meal. Unless you go in with serious organization or a theme, you can easily end up with a buffet of pasta or multiple repetitions of the same appetizer (hummus and chips for dinner, anyone?) And you can almost always count on the desserts outweighing the actual food. You are usually lucky if you have two or three killer cooks contributing to the meal.

Hosting a potluck of food bloggers seriously changes these odds in your favor!  Food bloggers bring their A-game to these affairs, and their dishes can be a signature or a calling card. (Oh I loved your won-tons!). But mostly, just like any community gathering, a blogger potluck is about food, conversation and connections.

I relish any opportunity to sit down with the people who love food and talk about the benefits of family meals, no matter how you define family. My message of the power of "family dinner" is a pretty easy sell with the food blogger crowd. Whether they have children or live alone, whether they cook only at home or also in restaurants, food bloggers understand the power of food and connection.


We don't usually include daikon, but it was too beautiful at the market to pass up!

So what did we bring to the Asian potluck party? Michael made Red Cooked Pork, adapted from an old, Sichuan cookbook. This is a perfect potluck meal because it tastes better once it sits and it can be served warm, as opposed to piping hot and fresh, which is more typical for Asian cooking. We have had great success serving this at dinner parties, and many non-Asian friends say they have never had anything like it. I think it is a bit of a "meatloaf" type dish though, to Asian foodies. The best compliment of the day (other than the empty pot) was "This tastes just like my mother's!"

Star Anise
Red Cooked Pork
Adapted from Mrs. Chiang's Szechwan Cookbook, by Ellen Schrecker

2 lbs. pork, 2 in cubes (we use pork shoulder)
4-5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1-2 large daikon roots, cut into chunks (or any other root vegetable)
3 scallions, washed and tied together in a bunch
2 inch piece of fresh ginger
5 cloves of garlic, whole, peeled
 2 tablespoons of canola oil (peanut oil is more traditional and can be used, but adds a strong flavor that you may or may not like)
1 tablespoon sugar
4 whole star anise
2 Tablespoons Chinese rice wine
6 Tablespoons soy sauce
3/4 cup water (or chicken stock if you have it)

Heat wok or any pan that can take the heat over a medium flame for 10 seconds, then add the oil.  (For this recipe, we usually use an enameled pot we received as a wedding gift. Traditionally, you'd make a few other dishes as well, so it's nice to reserve your wok for other things.) Let the oil get warm, but not as hot as you would if stir-frying. Add sugar and stir in for 20 seconds to turn it brown, without burning.

Turn up the flame (you want it as hot as you can get it, but work quickly so you don't burn the sugar) and add ginger and pork cubes. Stir-fry them for 1 minute, scoping and stirring them with metal spatula. Add garlic cloves and continue stir-frying for another 1-2 minutes.

Toss in vegetables, including scallions, plus anise, rice wine and soy sauce. Bring liquid to a boil and let cook for 3 minutes, without stirring, (the soy sauce mixture will become very concentrated) then cover the pan and continue cooking pork for 7 more minutes.

Add the stock or water. Bring to a boil over a high flame and boil vigorously for 5 minutes, before covering the pan and lowering the heat. Simmer the pork got 1 hour, until pork is very tender. Can be served immediately or reheated to serve later.

At the Chinese New Year Potluck we served the Red Cooked Pork in a Crock Pot, but we would never cook this is a slow cooker. The meat would get too mushy!

The NYC Chinese New Year Potluck 2012 hosted a truly amazing spread. Check out the full list of dishes here.
    Sichuan Wontons in Red Hot Oil by Margaret Sweet Savory Living

Chinese "Sushi" by Jessica @foodmayhem Food Mayhem

Asian Pulled Pork made with Tiger Beer by Andrea & Jeff @highlowfooddnk 

Many lovely desserts too.... My favorites were Japanese Custard Pudding (sweet) Lillian @sweetsillianah Sweets By Sillianah and Auspicious Walnut Cookies by Ken

Thank you Jackie and Ken for a wonderful potluck! Please visit Ken's website and photo gallery of the event for some "beauty" shots of the day.


  1. Did you add food coloring in your red cooked pork? These are yummy foods indeed!

    1. No! Red cooked refers to a traditional Chinese cooking method, in which the food is slow cooked or braised in soy sauce.


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