The National Pork Board’s recent Pork Summit highlighted the versatility, affordability and flavor of the meat. The event is held annually at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, Calif. Attendees include winners of foodservice cooking competitions held by Pork Board chapters across the country, as well as foodservice trade press and other guests.
Among those guests were chefs with expertise in different types of pork preparations. They demonstrated techniques and highlighted a number of trends in dining in the United States.
Trend 1: Telling a dish’s story
Jose Enrique,of restaurant Jose Enrique in San Juan, Puerto Rico, discussed the origins of this flavorful but straightforward soup made from cured pork shanks.
Before refrigeration, curing was necessary to keep meat from spoiling, he said. Salt pork was a staple in many parts of the world, including Puerto Rico, for centuries.
Enrique made his own salt pork by curing four 4.5-pound shanks in three pounds of salt for three days. He then rinsed the salt pork and hung it in his walk-in refrigerator for 20 days. He uses it to flavor dishes such as stewed beans and, in this case, the base of a broth.
He simmered the cured shank for five to six hours until it was a consistency similar to corned beef. During that time he also cooked small Spanish chickpeas, cabbage, chorizo and potatoes separately in water, and added the water to the pork broth to enhance its flavor. Next, he spooned each of those items into a bowl with a little olive oil. He sliced the shank and added it at the end.
Trend 2: Whole animal cooking
Although many chefs talk about using every part of an animal in their “snout to tail” cooking, few really use everything.
New York City-based Brad Farmerie, chef-owner of Public, Saxon + Parole and other restaurants, said that his high-end meat supplier, who sells to 5,000 restaurants, has only ever delivered blood to 12 of them, including Public and Saxon + Parole.
Farmerie demonstrated how to make blood pudding, a British dish made with pork blood; ground pork; grain (typically oatmeal or barley, though Farmerie adds rice); and aromatics such as sautéed onions and garlic. He also made boudin noir, a French blood sausage to which he added sautéed apples and cream, as well as the ingredients in the blood pudding.
The English dish was poured into loaf pains, which were put in a water bath and baked. The French dish was funneled into sausage casings and poached in water.
Trend 3: Charcuterie
Many chefs are experimenting with curing their own meats. Pork Summit attendees got pointers from Tony Incontro, the salumist, or cured meat expert, at Del Dotto Winery in St. Helena, Calif.
Incontro demonstrated how to butcher a hog’s hindquarters to make culatello, which is similar to prosciutto, but with the bones and leg removed. He also trimmed the shoulder into the proper cut for coppa.
Trend 4: Reinvented classics
Jonathan Waxman, executive chef of Barbuto in New York City, said he preferred pork over more expensive, less flavorful veal for the classic northern Italian Milanese preparation.
He pounded a pork chop until it was about a quarter-inch thick and dipped it twice in flour and an egg wash. Then he coated the pork in fresh breadcrumbs, which he said he prefers to trendy panko, but he warned that fresh breadcrumbs burn quickly.
He cooked the pork in a combination of two parts olive oil to one part butter and finished it with a squeeze of Meyer lemon juice. He served it over sautéed kale, trevisano, mustard greens and spring onions.