Archive for January, 2010

Pork & Flying Pigs Farm

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

I love pork. Whether it’s a chop, a rack of ribs, bacon, sausage, or lardo on my pizza…I eat it all. Last year I had my first taste of porchetta at a Slow Food event. The juicy meat was flavored with fennel pollen and encrusted in a crispy skin; it just melted in my mouth. This year I want to cook many other variations of pork that hopefully will be as tasty as that porchetta.

Since I have been unhappy with most of the pork available locally, I purchased several pork products from Flying Pigs Farm in Upstate New York. Flying Pigs breeds Large Black, Gloucestershire Old Spot, and Tamworth pigs. Their goal is raise heritage pigs the old fashion way resulting in a product that has more moisture and flavor. Although their pork is not cheap, I am very pleased with their quality.

I purchased bacon, sweet Italian sausage, pork chops and a loin roast. I liked the bacon but I don’t think it’s necessarily better than premium brands, like Niman Ranch, which is available locally. The sausage was great; I used it on pizza and in a tomato sauce. The sausage has a course texture and a ton of flavor. I think the sausage made both  the pizza and and the tomato sauce better.

Pork chops are the biggest test because I feel most chops lack fat, and are therefore tasteless and tough. Flying Pigs pork chops were about 3/4 inch thick and had a good amount of fat. My wife, Nora, saw a recipe in Martha Stewart that cooked pork chops in apples and onions, which I thought was a great combination. I didn’t like the recipe quantities or timing, but after several tries I was able modify the recipe to my liking. Below is my version…

The key to a good dish is good ingredients. Note the pork chops below are a healthy thickness and are not too lean. I actually trimmed a bit of the fat around the outside of the pork chop prior to cooking.

Pork Chops

Pork Chops

Pork Chops with Apples & Onions

2 pork chops, 3/4 in.                                1 tbs. olive oil

2 tbs. butter                                                 1 small onion, sliced

2 apples, sliced                                            1/2 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup apple juice                                     1 tsp dried sage

salt & pepper                                               1/4 cup white wine

Trim pork chops of excessive fat then season liberally with salt and pepper. Heat saute pan (stainless will work better than non-stick for browning) and add olive when hot. Add pork chops for 3 minutes per side, cooking on high heat to nicely brown the pork chops. Once browned, transfer to a plate.

Add butter to the pan then add onions; a couple minutes later add the apples. Season with salt and pepper. Once the onions begin to turn translucent add white wine. Once the wine has almost evaporated add the chicken broth, apple juice and the sage. Simmer for about 5 minutes and return the pork chops to the pan.

Pork Chops with Apples & Onions

Cook until the pork chops are tender, which should be about 5 minutes. Flip the pork after 2 minutes to ensure both sides cook evenly. Note that the pork is done when an instant read thermometer registers 145 to 150 degrees. I recommend testing the pork often to ensure that you don’t overcook. Once the desired internal temperature is reached, turn off the heat and let the chops rest in the pan for a minute or two while you plate your other vegetables. Then plate your chops and spoon the apples and onions over the pork. Enjoy!

A New Year Ahead

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

This year I am looking to shake things up a bit. It’s easy to get stuck in a routine of cooking your favorite three recipes, serving the same bottle of wine, and travelling to the same places in your own backyard. Don’t get me wrong, a routine can be very comfortable. But diversity is the spice of life, and I am looking for new experiences in food, wine, and travel.

Food is all about great ingredients, and I have been disappointed with the pork I have been able to purchase locally. However, with the internet we are no longer limited to a few local suppliers. Yesterday I received my first shipment of Pork from Flying Pigs Farm http://www.flyingpigsfarm.com, a small producer of heritage pigs in New York. Tonight is the first test. I will make a pizza with their Italian sausage, tomatoes, and fontina cheese. I’ll keep you posted.

I am always seeking out new recipes, and I am determined to expand my repertoire this year. For starters, I received two new cookbooks for Christmas: ad hoc at home and Williams-Sonoma Essentials of French Cooking. I have already made Thomas Keller’s Leek Bread Pudding and it was spectacular. Friday I start a new series of cooking classes with super chef Michele Moloney; and I am anxious to try new recipes, cook with new ingredients, and master new techniques.

Tasting new wines, and visiting new wineries is easy, but identifying new favorites is a difficult feat. Many of you can probably suggest terrific wines that would blow my socks off ; but if they cost $100 per bottle is that really better in this economy? I say no. So finding a delicious $10 bottle would certainly be a home run; but how many cheap crappy wines do you need to sample to find that diamond in the rough? I don’t have the solution, but I have 12 months to figure it out. When I find a wine or producer that excites me, I will share it with you.

Last year I visited some great places in California: Mendocino, Half Moon Bay, Napa, Big Sur, and Palm Desert. This year I will look to expand my horizons beyond California. Paris is already on the schedule for  March, and although I have been there many times I have identified numerous new places that I must visit. The Northwest and new regions of Italy are also in the viewfinder. Perhaps Alaska, Patagonia, Spain, hmmm…so many places, so little time.

I’m excited, this year is already off to good start. Hopefully each month I’ll introduce you to something new on food, wine, or travel. Cheers!