Published Mar 4, 2006

For weeks, my absent-minded friend Stu has been threatening to invite us all over to his house for an Iron Chef-style battle; finally, Friday night, he delivered. Or, maybe more accurately, we delivered, and he hosted.

On Wednesday, he announced: battle pork. On Thursday, I learned that I’d be up against a 19 lb. roast. Friday night, I came into his modern, open Santa Monica house and met my first competiton: a cute couple making Carbonara sauce. Soon, the big man with the immense roast showed up too, followed by a last-minute entrant with risotto, and a gourmet who made a fried, stuffed, and steamed tofu dish she made up from disparate Chinese dishes.

I came in with a double whammy: barbecued pork burgers and pork lo mein. At first, I was excited to cook two dishes representing the breadth of American cuisine, but had not anticipated the profusion of Asian guests at this event; such an audience for my lo mein was, to say the least, intimidating.

More intimadating was the food. First up was bruschetta, from the carbonara crew; it was pretty much perfect. The carbonara was creamy and the sauce was properly-tempered, the eggs not scrambled even a little. Then came the risotto, which was creamy and tasty, followed by the tofu, which was incredibly distinctive and Chinese-tasting and challenging to my palate, and accompanied by some sort of braised pork short ribs or something.

I had done all of my prep work earlier, so, when most of the guests had dug into the tofu, I headed back to the kitchen and cooked me up a few tasty barbequed pork burgers, topped with barbecue sauce and caramelized onions. Those got a bit of an audience, but the 19 pounds of meat overshadowed that; especially the big 12-ounce slices that they cut (well, not for everyone, somebody got what must’ve been 32 oz. of meat).

So then, for me, it was back to the kitchen for me, to make the Lo Mein. Now that was a strong recipe, the sauce turned out silky and tasty and authentic and the audience loved it. But I was too full to eat more. I was, verily, stuffed full of pork. And wine, and good company. But mostly pork.