A carnivore's love letter to one of the most versatile, affordable and tasty types of meat: pork.
After 30 years as a professional chef, Michael Olson knows how to get the most out of his food. These days, he's also a teacher and dinner-maker-in-chief, so he understands what home cooks are looking for when it's time to eat.
In Living High Off the Hog, Michael shares his wealth of knowledge and over 100 of his favorite pork recipes. First, he gives you a rundown on everything you need to know about pork--how to buy, store, butcher and prep various cuts, along with special sections on deli meats, charcuterie and BBQ. From there, he shares his must-have pantry items and most-used cooking techniques to set you up for success as you work through four extensive recipe chapters: The Deli Counter, Ground and Diced, Chops and Steaks and Roasts and Big Cuts. With recipes like Bacon Okonomiyaki, Caramelized Chili Pork with Peanuts & Lime, Schnitzel and Crispy Pork Belly, you'll find a huge variety of tastes and textures to explore. For special occasions, you can dig deep into the low-and-slow world of BBQ and experiment with one of his recipes for ribs, learn a new skill with a porchetta roast, or go hog wild and try your hand at roasting a whole pig.
With Michael's expert guidance, sense of humor and warm encouragement, you'll find recipes and learn techniques to cook familiar classics, as well as expand beyond your regular repertoire with exciting new ideas for all cuts of pork.
Whether he's cooking a laid-back meal with his wife, fellow chef Anna Olson, or entertaining a large group, Michael's main goal is to create simple yet delicious dishes from scratch, and enjoy them with those he loves. For Michael, that's what "living high off the hog" is--the good life of combining good food and great company around your table.
About the author
MICHAEL OLSON is a chef, educator, vintage deli slicer collector, BBQ aficionado, and bon vivant. He lives in the Niagara region of Ontario with his wife, Anna. He is a constant and enthusiastic student of food in addition to his role as a professor at the Niagara College Canadian Food and Wine Institute. He has been recognized for his contributions to the Canadian culinary scene and has co-authored two bestselling cookbooks: Inn On The Twenty Cookbook and Anna and Michael Olson Cook at Home.
Excerpt: Living High Off the Hog: Over 100 Recipes and Techniques to Cook Pork Perfectly: A Cookbook (by (author) Michael Olson)
From the Introduction
If you have ever found yourself staring at the landscape of pork cuts in the cooler at the grocery store and felt lost as to what to buy (let alone how to cook and serve it), I am here to guide you. This book is packed with delicious pork recipes of all sorts—quick weekday suppers, appetizers for a few or many, elegant main courses and some BBQ and grilling fun. My goal is to help you expand the types of pork you purchase and then develop your confidence to transform those cuts into meals you’ll be proud to share with family and friends.
And who am I to guide you on this journey? Well, I’ve been cooking pork for over 30 years—my entire professional career as a chef. I can offer the perspective of someone who has spent three decades in professional kitchens, planning menus, buying on a large scale, trimming, portioning, turning wholesale cuts into attractive single servings, and more. I’ve always loved working in kitchens, experiencing the adrenaline rush, the teamwork and the satisfaction of service. But, these days, having left the pro kitchen behind, I also understand what home cooks are looking for. I now focus on the practical angle of creating delicious meals in a timely manner without going overboard or getting too complicated.
Of course, cooking at home is entirely different from doing so professionally. There isn’t the same urgency, budget or labor cost concern, and you get to eat the food! That said, regardless of the environment, I see cooking as a fun activity, almost like a puzzle to solve. Whether it’s a meal for a holiday, a special occasion, or a regular Tuesday evening, I love the planning and shopping; choosing the right music; pulling out tablecloths, platters and glasses; and even buying fresh flowers. I experience an unbridled sense of joy as I bring it all together, checking off the to-dos from my list, grooving to the music and tasting great results as I wait for the guests to show.
But the best part of cooking is the sharing. Most of my meals are enjoyed with just my sweetie, Anna, and when I get the nod of approval from her, it’s the best compliment ever. We’re so well-suited and nerdily enthusiastic about food that we often plan our next meal while eating the one at hand. Anna, as many of you may know from her TV work, is a trained pastry chef. My culinary background is as a saucier (someone who cooks meat and prepares sauces). When we cook together, magic happens. We instinctively go to our own areas: Anna works on dessert and the vegetable sides, and I do the trimming, cook the meat and make the sauce. We clean as we go and laugh the whole time. Even if there are serious things to discuss, we do so in the kitchen. Now that my daughter, Mika, has become an accomplished cook in her own right, she gets in on the action. She grew up surrounded by good food and has always understood how to survive without having to order out. As a family, we hit our stride in the kitchen or at the table—and I’m good with that.
“Living high off the hog” is an old term used to suggest you’re living the good life, able to eat the more expensive cuts of meat. In general, regardless of the animal, cuts from the upper (or “higher”) part of the body are more tender than the lower ones—historically, only the poorest people would eat the jowls, belly, hock or feet. However, pork is an affordable meat choice for many, so in this case, the phrase is not about living beyond your means but rather about getting the most out of life by enjoying good food.
“Walking culinary encyclopedia, meat whisperer and collector of vintage deli slicers, chef Michael Olson has poured more than 30 years of knowledge into a book dedicated entirely to the noble pig. It’s a wealth of wit and great ideas that goes far beyond sausage and ribs; Olson goes whole-hog with Crispy Pork Hocks, Bacon Okonomiyaki, and even a Whole Roast Beast.” —The Globe & Mail
“I can’t say what I like most about this book. It could be the comprehensive range of recipes, from sausage rolls to stir fries and whole roast pig; from curing and smoking to grilling, sautéing, braising and roasting. Or it could be the luscious food shots that accompany every recipe; or the tips that Michael has garnered from his 30+ years in the kitchen. But think it might be Michael’s voice—the way he writes like he’s talking to you. He’s the guide at the home cook’s shoulder, the friend who likes to crack little jokes and share his contagious enthusiasm for getting people around the table.” —Elizabeth Baird
“Michael Olson: the Winston Wolfe of our culinary circles, an iconic fixer imbued with passion, skills and resourcefulness. One of the few among us able to dismantle with proficient grace both the pig, and the meat slicer. This book is basted with delicious, inspiring recipes and tales from the larder. Don’t just get it for yourself, get it for someone else as well!” —Fred Morin and David McMillan, owners of Joe Beef
“If I was a pig I would want Chef Olson’s hands to be the ones to tend to my delicious end.” —Matty Matheson
“Michael Olson is an encyclopedia of food history and a lover of food science with a passion for teaching, crispy pig skin and Old School hip hop. He always has a trick, technique or little twist to make good food even better (yes, I mean the heat gun and citric acid for the chicharron!).” —Chuck Hughes
“I can verify that every single recipe in this book is spectacularly delicious, for the simple reason that I live with the author and have tested, nibbled, sampled and devoured my way through each and every dish.” —Anna Olson
“If you are a pork enthusiast, this will be your bible.” —Cassandra Anderton, BC Living
“With Michael's expert guidance, sense of humor and warm encouragement, you'll find recipes and learn techniques to cook familiar classics, as well as expand beyond your regular repertoire with exciting new ideas for all cuts of pork.” —Sask Pork