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