Hello My Dear Readers!
Sorry for yet another long pause in the white noise that is my so-called foodie blog. You probably slept just fine without me. But here I am, back to annoy you. While I was away, I wasn’t merely chained to the stove at work like usual; they actually extended my leash and let me go to Chicago for a trade show. When I returned from freezing my tail off up north, there was a bracing cold 30 mile per hour wind blowing here in coastal North Carolina that seemed to have followed me back from the Windy City. My apologies to my neighbors.
It seems that March is shaping up to be all about pigs in my corner of the universe. I’m thinking about bacon, belly, barbeque (which to those of us in this part of NC means pulled pork shoulder or butt with a vinegar sauce), chicharones, lardo, all manner of charcuterie – pretty much anything that comes from our cleft-hooved friends. So let me share with you some of the porky highlights going on ‘round here.
‘Prince of Pork’ Packs his Pouch: We got word that Chef Kyle Lee McKnight – most recently manning the stoves at manna in downtown Wilmington – is departing our fair city to run the kitchens of a new venture in Hickory, NC. Kyle has been dubbed the “Prince of Pork” by locals because of his work with Bev Eggleston to create “outrageously fine swine” including delicious artisan charcuterie crafted by Kyle and made from Iberico hogs (the delicious breed made famous in Spain). So what happened is that local star chef Keith Rhodes and local food blogger extraordinaire Liz Biro planned an event to bid Kyle farewell and this coming Sunday, March 10th, some of us will be enjoying a 10-course tasting menu in his honor featuring – you guessed it – pork! (If you want to join us, click here to see if tickets are still available.) We are starting with chicharones and ending with bacon and waffle ice cream – are you jealous yet? Serious respect amongst industry folks in our town for Kyle…can’t wait to see where his future takes him.
Chocolate Wins (on anything): On March 4th, the Fire on the Dock battle between Chef Brent Poteat of 22 North on Wrightsville Beach and Chef Pat Greene of Elijah’s downtown featured Heritage Farms Premium Pork. Though the evening’s victory went to Brent, the diners seemed to really dig Pat’s Seasoned Collard Green Pork Soup with Candied Bacon. I think the idea of featuring pork in a soup is genius; it’s certainly not on my Top 10 list of things to make with pork, but the scores were pretty high. Way to go, Pat! At the end of the evening, it seems that you get more points with chocolate crème fraiche cake than with pork roulade (didn’t anybody tell Pat that, while not required, dessert has won these battles for many a chef?) It looked like a tasty battle and I am sorry I missed it. Perhaps I will see Brent in the final four coming up at the end of the month.
Mangiale il Maiale (Eat the Pig): I couldn’t help myself, I had to work pork into a cooking class. So I came up with an ode to Florence, Italy and surrounding countryside for a cooking class I am conducting on March 26th. I’m calling it Flavors of Florence and I’m serving an anitpasto of Calamari Salad with Basil, Mint, Grape Tomatoes, and Shallots; Spaghetti tossed with a spicy Roasted Red Pepper Sauce; tender Marinated Pork Chops with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce; and simple but stunning individual Puff Pastry Fruit Tarts with Chantilly Cream.
Happy as a Pig in…Wine?: While in Chicago for a trade show scouting the latest, greatest kitchen tools for our store, I had the opportunity to dine at The Purple Pig, a happening little place on North Michigan Avenue in the heart of the Windy City. I arrived early, which is to say that there was no line yet, though nearly every seat was full on this Sunday evening. Since I was alone, they squeezed me into a bar stool at what they call “The Chef’s Counter,” behind which most of the cooking takes place in this pork-centric culinary haven. Next to me, the Expediter on my side of the counter was in constant eye contact with the Chef de Cuisine who called out near-constant orders to the cooks on the line and tasted nearly everything before sending it out to the diners. Here, Chef Jimmy Bannos Jr. and crew craft some of their own charcuterie and transform all parts of the pig into delicious creations that are carefully prepared and beautifully presented. It was a friendly place with more than reasonable prices for the quality; my tab for the evening came in under $50 for four courses. The wine list is extensive and well chosen, hence the color purple in the name on the door. I was so excited about the cheese and charcuterie course that I failed to snap a photo for you, and the same thing happened with the beets – sorry. I did, however, sneak one of my neighbor’s marrow bones; I have a tiny twinge of regret for not ordering them myself. But everything I had was fabulous: Lingua Agrodolce with Quadrelo (both house made); Salt-Roasted Beets with Whipped Goat Cheese and Pistachio Vinaigrette; “JLT,” an open faced sandwich with Pork Jowl, Tomato, dressed Frisée, and a fried Duck Egg; and I stole off into the frigid night with Grandma D’s Chocolate Cake with Almond & Orange Marmaletta. You must visit this approachable and delicious place when next in Chicago – you will not regret it!
I am sure there are more porkified events going on, but that’s what I have to report for now. So get in the spirit and start porking around – the possibilities are endless! Here’s a little recipe to get you started.
P.S. The Ponzu keeps in the fridge for a month or so and makes boring Chinese take-out on those busy evenings a whole lot better!
Ponzu-Orange Marinated Pork Tenderloin
2 cups Ponzu Sauce (recipe follows; or use store-bought)
Juice and Zest of 1 large Orange
½ cup Canola or Vegetable Oil
1 Pork Tenderloin, trimmed, silver skin removed
Combine ponzu, oil, juice, and zest in a Ziploc bag. Add the tenderloin to the marinade, squeeze the air out of the bag, close and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Preheat your grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Sear the tenderloin for about 2 minutes per side. Reduce heat to medium and grill an additional 5 minutes per side.
Remove from heat and tent with foil. Rest for 5 minutes. Slice into 1” thick rounds and serve.
2/3 cup Lemon Juice, more to taste
1/3 cup Lime Juice, more to taste
¼ cup Rice Vinegar
1 cup Soy Sauce
¼ cup Mirin (or 1/4 cup sake and 1 tablespoon sugar)
1 3-inch piece Kelp (konbu)
½ cup (about ¼ ounce) dried Bonito Flakes
Pinch Ground Cayenne Pepper
In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Let sit for at least 2 hours or overnight. Strain. Just before using, you might add a small squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice.
Cover and refrigerate.
Makes about 2 ½ cups.