Although I’ve traveled through parts of Europe, I’ve yet to make it to Greece.
(Cue melancholy violin music now.)
Yes, the white-washed buildings and mesmerizing blue sea there have yet to be explored.
Until I finally do journey there, I have to content myself with getting my fill of Greek food at Bay Area restaurants. Or by making it, myself.
Thankfully, Diane Kochilas’ new cookbook, “The Country Cooking of Greece” (Chronicle Books), makes that part easy. The cookbook, of which I received a review copy, is the latest by Kochilas, who has written 18 other books specializing in Greek cuisine.
The 200 recipes spotlight Greek country cooking, full of nutritious greens, whole grains and the bounty of the Mediterranean Sea.
“Northern Greek Braised Pork and Leeks” is a classic dish made all over northern Greece that’s a favorite Sunday repast.
It’s easy to see why. Chunks of pork shoulder braise lazily for two hours on the stove with tomatoes, white wine and an abundance of leeks. The signature avgolemono is whisked in toward the end. This mixture of lemon juice and beaten egg immediately thickens the braising liquid, leaving it quite velvety. After all that cooking, the leeks have fairly melted into the sauce, too, giving it a very creamy body.
The tender pork bobs in all that lush sauce that’s brightened with the burst of lemon.
Serve it with boiled potatoes, roasted potatoes, rice or plenty of crusty bread. And pretend you’re eating it at an outdoor taverna overlooking the deep crystalline sea.
(Cue euphoric violin music now.)
Northern Greek Braised Pork and Leeks
(Serves 4 to 6)
1/2 cup extra virgin Greek olive oil
3 pounds pork, preferably shoulder or collar, bone in, cut into stewing-size pieces
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 pounds leeks, washed well, trimmed, and coarsely chopped
1 cup blanc de noir Xinomavro wine, or another dry white northern Greek wine
1 cup chopped canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
3 large egg yolks
Juice of 2 lemons, strained
Heat olive oil in a large, wide pot over high heat. Season meat with salt and pepper, and brown in the pot. You may have to do this in batches. Remove meat to a dish. Add leeks to the pot and cook, stirring, until soft. Pour in the wine. As soon as it steams up, add tomatoes. Then, add meat back to the pot. Add enough water to cover the contents of the pot by about two-thirds. Cover, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer the stew until meat is very tender, about 2 hours.
To make the avgolemono: In a medium nonreactive bowl, whisk together egg yolks, and half the lemon juice until smooth and thick. Take one ladleful of the pot juices, being careful not to take up any solids, and very slowly drizzle the liquid into the egg mixture, whisking vigorously. Repeat with a second ladleful of juices.
Remove the meat from the heat and pour in the avgolemono. Tilt the pot back and forth to distribute the avgolemono evenly. Adjust the seasoning with additional salt, pepper, or lemon juice, and serve.
Adapted from “The Country Cooking of Greece” by Diane Kochilas
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