How a Seattle line cook found community during COVID-19 by creating a cookbook for the restaurant industry
When Sarah Monson was fired from her job as a cook at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she returned home and continued to cook. She and just about everyone she knows didn’t know what else to do – Seattle’s restaurant industry is tight-knit, and her roommates worked in the kitchens of Westward, Salare, and Ray’s Cafe. With six years of experience locally, Monson herself had just started a new job at Maple Leaf butcher / restaurant The Shambles when the government-mandated restaurant closure was announced on March 16, 2020. No one saw it. come; the place was well stocked, so Monson suddenly found himself unemployed with 10 pounds of pork shoulder.
Two of Monson’s favorite things are pork and cheap beer. Back home, she decided to cook the first in the second with limes, onions, lots of garlic and strong spices in abundance. The preparation involves high heat cooking that could strike fear in the hearts of non-professional cooks, sizzling like crazy and smelling like a rich, limey bright dream; then the meat embers for hours, the scent getting better and better. We imagine Monson and his three roommates – not yet knowing they were now called a “quarantine capsule” – drinking a lot of Rainier in disbelief, then finally going downstairs for their family meal. The next day, feeling stayed, at least there were leftovers.
Monson wrote down her Braised Pork Method to Rainier in the little notebook she always carried to work, a practice she tells just about every cook she knows. Maintaining him during his downtime seemed important; she continued to jot down recipes while she and her roommates continued to make food for themselves. “We cooked a lot,” she says, “pretty much just to pass the time and make us forget how uncertain and horrible everything in the world was.”
As her Moleskine became something of a COVID-Times newspaper for her, Monson recalls, “It kind of occurred to me to see if other cooks… were still cooking at home, and what kinds of things they were cooking up for. our forties while we were all stuck. She reflects on the isolation of the situation, especially strange for those who are used to melee work, in the rush and the heat. It was more than strange, she said, “to have all your friends – who really feel like your family – lose their jobs at the same time and feel like they are going through this together, but we are not together. . ”She decided to reach out to friends in the industry with the idea of creating a zine-style recipe brochure as“ a way to bring the community together and make it look like we’re cooking together, even though we’re not cooking. not together. at the time. “
The response came quickly and in droves as the word spread, with handwritten recipes arriving in Monson’s inbox from other backstage Seattle kitchen heroes like her, from bartenders. , GM, and a name or two that everyone knows. “The Cookbook: The Seattle Restaurant Industry’s Guide to Quarantine Cooking” was prepared so quickly, DIY-style, that some dishes didn’t even have the names of the creators.
It sold out quickly too, so Monson decided to put together “The Cook Book: Vol. 2. “Some highlights of its pages: a tuna tartare by chef Liz Kenyon, for whom Monson now cooks in the kitchen of Ballard’s famous Rupee Bar; Potato salad by Kayla von Michalofski Sandwich Sandwich pop-up (she is also the sous-chef at Salare and Monson’s roommate); maritozzi two ways by Ben Campbell from Ben’s bread; a soufflé from a place called Canlis; lime and hazelnut conchinitos by the pop-up Pancita; and “lots of other fun” pop-ups, like Boot Scootin Bread, Mixtape pasta, Guerrilla pizza cooking and Fancy screams. (Monson calls Seattle’s pop-up renaissance a bright spot in a dark year, noting, “With so many cooks online out of work, it was inspiring to watch my peers continue to hustle, cook, and do their thing.”)
Monson donates to Mutual Aid Covid19 – Seattle, a collective of grassroots volunteers who run the COVID-19 Survival Fund for the People GoFundMe, for each copy of “The Cook Book: Vol. 2 sold. Copies can be ordered via Monson Instagram, and on May 25, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., she, von Michalofski and other contributors are launching a pop-up party at Rupee Bar with food from the book for sale. Monson’s dish, there will be his spicy caramel chicken wings – if you want to try his Rainier Braised Pork, you can make it yourself. (Warning: even half of its original amount, the pot full of hot beer / pork beers is heavy, so be careful to put it in and out of the oven. Line cooks are strong!)
Sarah Monson’s Braised Pork Shoulder with Rainier Limes and Grilled
(Editor’s note: Seattle line cook Sarah Monson included this recipe in her own all-caps writing in the first volume of “The Cook Book: Seattle Restaurant Industry’s Guide to Quarantine Cooking.” cut it in half – the original called for 10 pounds of pork shoulder, “YIELD: A LOT” – and added a few notes for the less professional cook.)
I have an unequivocal love for two things: pork + cheap beer. It’s the best of both worlds.
Yield: Lots for 6-8 people
- 5 pounds of pork shoulder
- 3 limes, halved
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and halved
- 2 garlic bulbs, outer layers of paper discarded, tops cut ¼ inch
- 1 tablespoon of black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of fennel seeds
- 2 teaspoons of whole allspice
- 1 bunch of fresh thyme
- Rainiers to cover (5-6 cans, and more for drinking)
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- Canola, grape seed or other oil over high heat
- Cheesecloth and cotton string to make a sachet of spices
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- You’re going to want a big, heavy-bottomed pot for this. Use enough oil to cover the bottom and heat your pan over high heat.
- As you reheat, season your pork aggressively with salt and pepper.
- Once your pan is hot, grab your pork shoulder on all sides. Get it all delicious golden brown and remove it from the jar.
- Lower the heat to medium-high and place the onions, limes and garlic bulbs cut side down in all the fat and goodness of the pork. Take your time with this, you are looking for the tank.
- When the onions, limes and garlic have taken on enough color, return the pork to the pot and cover with Rainier.
- Make a bag for your herbs and spices, throw it in the jar and cover with a lid.
- Transfer the pan to your preheated oven and let it hang for about 4 hours. It’s ready when you can easily shred it with a fork.
Serving suggestion: This makes for a pulled pork sandwich or tacos.