Sunday evenings often bring a bittersweet mood. On one hand, there is a twinge of sadness because the weekend is coming to a close. Yet there's also the cumulative bliss of having had two days off for, ideally, more rest and free time and fun.
I often deliberate with myself about whether to make dinner on Sunday night, meaning a real entree versus, say, a sandwich or a slice of pizza. Sometimes I'm too lazy to make anything, but tonight both the process and the product felt particularly restorative.
I'd neglected to eat much of anything through the course of the day: just a slice of toast for breakfast and a couple glasses of V8 later on. (I regularly seem to all but fast for most of the day and then feast for dinner. I know it's not the healthiest way, but it usually works for me.) By the time the sun went down around 4:30, I felt almost weak from hunger.
So I unthawed a sizable cut of pork shoulder and began to sautee it in olive oil and sea salt over the stove. (I've found that pork shoulder is tastier than other cuts of pork even though it's sometimes considered inferior; which is great, though, because I can get it for $1.99 a pound.) First I seared the meat at high temperature, and then I turned the stove down so it would cook in the middle. Usually at this point one is instructed to move the frying pan from stovetop to oven, but I opted instead to just cover the pan. Before putting on the lid, I added sliced onions and garlic to the pan along with about half a cup each of red wine and turkey broth, the latter of which I'd made from the bones at Thanksgiving. This way, the meat was essentially braised, cooking in its juices and making an unbeatable topping once it came time for plating.
While the pork continued to cook, I started on a small batch of polenta on another burner. Sometimes it can be fairly labor intensive, because as it cooks you have to continually stir the mixture of polenta and water quite often as it thickens; you don't want it to burn or to turn into one big glob. But, as always, once the polenta has sufficiently cooked and you add a finishing nob of butter and parmesan cheese, the taste is divine--not strong in flavor, but rather a pleasingly bland yet rich sensation common to so many carbohydrate-laden staples like pasta and rice. It's precisely the kind of comfort food I wanted.
Had I been making a meal for other people beyond just myself, I would have made a salad and/or vegetable dish to go along with the pork and polenta. This time of year roasted root vegetables are always nice, but all our fridge yielded was carrots. Besides, I've always been a big lover of onions, and I was happy to make a side dish from the sliced onions that had braised in that delectable fusion of meat, garlic, wine and broth.
Despite how satiated I felt after the heavy meal, I hankered for a small taste of something sweet. Luckily earlier in the day I'd bought a bar of Lindt's dark Swiss chocolate. Over the past couple years I've rekindled a love of chocolate. But instead of eating a whole bar of ultra-sweet American style chocolate, as I might have done at a younger age, I'm happy now with just a few squares of European chocolate, where there is a more flavorful balance of sweet and bitter flavors.
I washed down the chocolate with a couple cups of decaf French roast coffee made in the French press from ground Stumptown coffee, the best in Portland. Sipping the coffee in a living room easy chair, listening to Sunday at the Village Vanguard by Bill Evans, I considered the prospect of starting another week with a full stomach and just a little less trepidation.