Pork, grapefruit, sage, honeycomb
Hope you all have been enjoying the holidays, and for some of you, hopefully, some time off from all the hustle and bustle. Last week's snowstorm put me into a comfy, cozy winter mood (yay!) but this past weekend's rain melted all two feet of the white, fluffy goodness, so I'm hoping we get pummeled again soon. I'm taking it easy this week: working as little as possible and reading as often as I can while sneaking a movie or two into this amazingly comforting sloth thing I've got goin' on.
I made the Pork, grapefruit, sage, honeycomb dish from the Alinea cookbook a few weeks ago, and had some technical difficulties with my camera, so that's why I'm only getting around to posting this now. Spoiler alert: if you have the book and some time off this week and want to tackle one of the recipes, make this one. It's delicious. Here goes....
I removed the silverskin and most of the fat from the pork tenderloin, then trimmed it into two 6" logs (using the thickest part of the tenderloin), then rolled them into cylinders tightly in Saran Wrap and tied the ends. Put 'em in the fridge until I was ready to cook them.
Next, I made the sage pudding. First, I brought to a boil some water, sugar, salt, and sage leaves.
When it came to a boil, I turned off the flame, covered the saucepan, and let the liquid steep for 20 minutes. I then strained it into a clean saucepan, whisked in some agar agar and brought it to a boil for 90 seconds:
I poured it through a chinois into a shallow pan and let it cool to room temperature, and it completely set:
I took about a third of the set "pudding" and put it in my blender and whacked it all up until it was smooth, pressed it through a fine mesh strainer, and stored it in the fridge until I was ready to plate:
While all this was going on, by the way, I was cooking a lovely piece of pork shoulder sous vide (180F degrees):
The pork shoulder needed to cook for five hours in the water bath, so I put that in first, then did everything else -- another of which was bake cornbread. I used Shauna's corn bread recipe, and then improvised the corn bread puree step in the recipe, because I knew it wouldn't work exactly as written, since I'd made gluten-free cornbread:
I measured the 500g of corn bread I'd need, and added hot butter and cream mixture to it in the blender, but knew the texture wouldn't be right for the puree the book wanted me to do. So, instead, I blended it, and pressed it into a baking dish, and chilled it until it was solid again. Then, I cut out disks of the creamy corn bread and used that in the final plating (which you'll see in the final photo):
The pork shoulder still cooking along its merry little way, I caramelized some fennel:
I supremed and segmented a grapefruit:
And when the pork shoulder was done cooking, I pulled it apart into threads...
... which I deep fried, then liberally salted, in batches of 8 (one for each plated serving):
While I fried each bit of pork shoulder, I was bringing a pot of water to 135F degrees (it would have taken to long to let my immersion circulator bring the pork shoulder water down from 180 to 135) in which to cook the pork tenderloin:
I sliced the tenderloin into 1" medallions, and began to plate -- a corn "puree" disk, dollops of sage pudding, drops of honey, crispy pork shoulder, grapefruit pieces, sage leaves, fennel fronds, pieces of caramelized fennel...
If someone had invited me to dinner and said, "I'm making a pork-grapefruit dish, whaddya think" I'm not so sure I would have been all that thrilled about it becase a) I don't think I'd ever thought about those two ingredients together in one dish before; and b) when I did think about it, it didn't jump out at me as something I needed to make or eat.
That said, this dish changed my mind about grapefruit -- which has always been as bitter to me as cilantro has been soapy and milk chocolate has been metallic. The flavor profile of this dish is just fantastic -- salty crispy fried pork shoulder with cool, airy fennel, soothing sage, sweet and creamy corn, smooth pork tenderloin, and the acid of the grapefruit and the sweet, floral balance of the honey (I used a local guy's honey from here in town -- didn't do the honey comb/extractor thing).... it was really, really delicious.
When I was growing up, we had a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition of eating pork, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes on New Year's Day. I might just have to alter that tradition and make this dish (or a variation of it) again for my friends on this New Year's Day. If pork is in your future, think about the elements of this dish and see what you can come up with on your own -- I think you'll love it.
I'll be back in a few days with a post that has a little something to do with these:
I've been practicing, but boy am I rusty. Getting back into tap shoes feels really good, but this little performance of mine most definitely has the potential to be pretty, pret-ty bad. I originally had plans to light sparklers and twirl them around as I danced, as a distraction from my bad footwork, but thanks to Mister Amsterdamian-Detroitian-Nigerian Terrorist Dude, I get the feeling that lighting anything on fire in front of the White House anytime in the near future will be frowned upon. Dangit. But the dancing shall commence... trust.
Stay tuned.... (and there's still time to donate!)
Resources: Pork from Whole Foods; sage, fennel, and grapefruit from HMart; agar agar from L'Epicerie; Organic Valley heavy cream; honey from the TPSS Co-op.
Music to Cook By: I made a "Mad Men" playlist based on the songs used in the series. The list is here. I'm addicted, and officially, an old fart 'cause I am totally enjoying all these OLD SONGS. I think I was born in the wrong era.
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