Watermelon rind pickles are apparently a Southern thing. But I first had them at Fatty Crab, a Zak Pelaccio restaurant here in New York City devoted to Southeast Asian cuisine. I’ve been wanting to recreate their dish served with crispy pork belly at home, and the opportunity finally came when Cameron and I started planning our first Supper with Strangers.
Supper with Strangers is an urban supper club devoted to bringing together New York City’s food-loving populace. We think it’s a chance to celebrate the season’s flavors, meet others with equally good taste, and have them enjoy a fantastic, home-cooked meal with great people. We both love to cook and entertain, so we figured, why not create our very own supper club and meet new people in the process?
While we planned the first menu in a span of almost three weeksâ€”that’s why the updates on this blog have been intermittentâ€”we wanted to feature cool and refreshing dishes using summer ingredients. One watermelon appetizer idea brought us to featuring watermelon as the main ingredient for all our dishes, a la Iron Chef. After several tastings, we came up with a winning menu and consulted with Pour Wines for wine and beer pairings.
Welcome cocktail: Watermelon-Shiso Mojito
Amuse-bouche: Kebab of Watermelon, Bresaola, and Caper Berry
Vegetarian alternate: sheep’s milk cheese instead of bresaola
Appetizer: Chilled Thai-Spiced Watermelon Soup with Crab
Vegetarian alternate: sans the crab
Paired with: Francois Pinon Vouvray Tendre Cuvee Tradition, 2006, Loire Valley
Main dish: Fried Pork Belly with Pickled Watermelon Rinds
Vegetarian alternate: Roasted Golden Beet with Shiitake Mushrooms and Pickled Watermelon Rinds
Paired with: Ommegang Hennepin Farmhouse Saison Ale, Cooperstown, NY
Salad: Watermelon and Green Papaya Salad with Tequila Vinaigrette
Paired with: Salneval AlbariÃ±o, 2007, Galicia, Spain
Dessert: Watermelon Cream Sorbet with Pirouettes
Served with coffee or mint tea
watermelon rind, 4 quarts of 1-inch chunks (see directions for preparation)
2 cups white vinegar
4 cups white sugar
1 tbsp whole cloves
5 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
1 tbsp juniper berries
a pinch of mustard seeds
2 cups of water
1. Slice open the watermelon your usual way. Separate the red flesh from the rind. (Eat the red flesh later!) Peel the green skin off the rinds. Chop rinds in smaller chunks.
2. Make the brine. In a large pot, combine all the ingredients except rind and cook over medium fire until sugar dissolves. Remove pot from heat and let completely cool.
3. Transfer watermelon rind chunks in a pickling jar. Pour in brine until all of the rinds are submerged. I put a small and heavy tea cup to weigh the rinds down inside the pickling jar. Store in the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks.