Tart, sweet, and meaty, this dish is a “salad” only because that’s the word we foist on even vaguely Southeast Asian dishes that feature fresh herbs and dressing. Here, that dressing is unchanged from Stuart Brioza’s, perhaps his cookbook’s easiest recipe and so perfectly calibrated that it has become my secret weeknight weapon. Instead of high summer’s bounty of plums, pluots, and apriums, I call for grapes, which are always available and almost always taste good no matter the season, though sure, use any tasty fruit you want. Nectarines would be great. So would citrus with the skin and pith carved off and the flesh sliced into rounds. With Brioza’s magnanimous blessing, I have replaced the brined, braised, and deep-fried belly with smallish pieces of pork shoulder browned in a pan. It’s perfect for those of us who like meat with some chew and without a four-day game plan.
Combine the dressing ingredients in a container with a lid. Cover tightly and shake hard for a few seconds.1 The dressing keeps in the fridge for up to a week. Shake briefly before you use it.
1Chefs, don’t tell a home cook (especially someone with one arm, like me) that he must drizzle in oil while whisking, especially when he can just shake vinaigrette in a jar.
Line a large plate with two layers of paper towels. Generously season the pork all over with salt.2
2Preferably from, like, six inches above, as Brioza does, which might strike you as ostentatious until you see how much more evenly you’re seasoning.
Heat the 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large heavy skillet over high heat until the oil just begins to smoke. Cook the pork in several batches to avoid crowding the pan.3 Add the pork to the skillet, and let the pieces brown on their bottoms before messing with them so they don’t stick, about 2 minutes. Flip them and keep cooking until they’re deep golden brown and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes more. As they finish cooking, use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer them to the paper towels so they’re not so oily.
3Packing meat in a pan is the Kryptonite of the impatient cook. It’s so tempting! But to get the pork here good and brown, each batch should be in a single layer with ¼ to ½ inch between each piece.
Once the pork is all cooked, put it and the grapes on a large serving plate. Very roughly chop the herbs.4 Sprinkle the herbs and jalapeño over the dish. Drizzle on the dressing and serve right away.
4Or as I do now, thanks to Stuart, slice the herbs, running your knife through them once, rather than hacking at them for a minute and bruising them in the process, like I used to.
JJ Goode helps great chefs write cookbooks.