The Blue Plate Special: Autumn Comfort Food with Ruth Reichl

Ruth Reichl

6 years ago Ruth Reichl (It’s “RYE-shul,” not “RYE-Kul) had been the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine for 10 years.  Food magazines everywhere were succumbing to the onset of the Internet, but it never crossed her mind that Gourmet might shutter.  Until it did.

In conversation with Blue Plate Special hosts Kurt and Christine Friese, Reichl discusses the demise of Gourmet, how retreating to the kitchen was her salvation, and the book that resulted.  My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life is part journal, part cookbook, part collection of tweets that read like Haiku.  The great book designer Susan Turner used Reichl’s recipes and journal entries, along with the inviting photography of Mikkel Vang.

Afterwards, Kurt and Christine discuss their current go-to comfort foods for eating alone, like real ramen, and curry.  The book they refer to by Deborah Madison is called What We Eat When We Eat Alone, and you can get that here.

Follow Ms. Reichl on Twitter, and get her new book from your favorite local, independent bookseller by clicking here.

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There’s a recipe below the fold…

Recipe: Easy Caramelized Vietnamese Pork


  • 2 Armenian cucumbers
  • ¾ pound pork tenderloin
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Peanuts
  • 1 lime
  • Sriracha
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • salt
  • Ginger
  • Vegetable or peanut oil
  • 1 small onion (sliced thin)
  • 1 clove garlic (smashed)
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • Pepper
  • Rice

Serves 2

Pour the rice vinegar into a small bowl and add a pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Slice the Armenian cucumbers into thin rounds, along with a small knob of ginger. Put them into the vinegar and allow the flavors to mingle while you make the pork.

Slice the pork tenderloin very thin. (This is easiest if you put the meat in the freezer for half an hour to get it very cold before slicing.) It can be difficult to find small tenderloins; when I end up with more meat than I need, I chop the remainder and save it for another dish.

Get a wok so hot that a drop of water dances on the surface and then disappears. Add a couple of tablespoons of peanut or neutral oil and immediately toss in the onion and the smashed garlic. As soon as it’s fragrant, add the pork and 1 tablespoon of sugar and stir-fry, tossing every few minutes, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the pork has crisped into delicious little bits.

Take the wok off the heat and stir in the fish sauce; it should become completely absorbed. Grind in a lot of black pepper.

Remove the ginger from the cucumbers and mix the cucumbers into the pork. (Whether you want to add the marinade is up to you; I like the taste of vinegar, but you might prefer your meat completely dry.)

Serve with rice. Put fresh mint and basil on the table, along with crushed peanuts, lime wedges, and Sriracha, and allow each diner to make a mixture that appeals to them.

This will feed two people very generously. Unless you have a very large wok and a ferocious source of heat, the recipe does not double well; you want the pork to get really crisp.

Excerpted from My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl Copyright © 2015 by Ruth Reichl. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.






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