By Chef Judi Gallagher –
That’s my new mantra – swine when you dine. This Jewish chef now loves pork! Fatty, crispy-end juicy meat — smoked, slathered with BBQ sauce or hoisin. The thicker the pork chops (on the bone), the better. The fattier the piece the better. And how I love a meal of tender racks, coleslaw and fries.
Over the years, however, I have been somewhat indifferent to bacon other than when I’m in search of a perfect BLT. Occasionally, (meaning twice a year) I order a BLT, usually someplace in California. It will be loaded with avocado and thick slices of juicy red and yellow tomatoes. But then I found a new style of eating bacon –a “Flight of Bacon” at Datz in South Tampa, Florida, and a pork belly “BLT” at the Houstonian Hotel in Houston where I had a Pierce Morgan celebrity-sighting (not sure if he was diving into the pork belly or a martini). A flight of bacon at the hotel arrives with a variety of back bacon, slab, special-cured and a dipping of balsamic glaze. Now we are talking pig perfect.
Another treat is a thick, juicy and crisp-skin open-faced pork belly sandwich with a pile of freshly fried seasoned potatoes. Well, I nearly chased back a Kentucky Bourbon just on the high note of perfection! (Instead, I sipped my iced tea and acted like the other ladies lunching, although they probably picked at the chicken salad plate — those losers!!!)
While chefs have long known that pork belly is one of the most succulent, savory tastes if prepared properly, lately pork belly has caught on big time with American eaters. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar has come through with a pork-belly masterpiece. How exciting to see a steak-focused restaurant feature pork belly as one of the new dishes. If this were up for best supporting actor on a menu, it certainly would be worth an Oscar. The pork belly is braised, yet the outer crust has the necessary crispy edges, making this a perfectly executed dish, especially when it’s served with slightly sweet cherry-caramelized onion chutney and creamy goat cheese grits. This is a pork belly lover’s dream come true.
Pork isn’t just on the appetizer or entrée side of a menu either. Look for bacon infused cocktails and a bacon salt-rimmed Bloody Mary at (www.tablecreekside.com) and spiceandteaexchange.com. Bartenders have discovered pork and they’re loving the taste possibilities too.
Roasted Garlic & Cherry Chutney
(Makes 2 cups, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar).
1 ounce extra virgin olive oil
½ pound yellow onions, julienned ¼” wide x 1” long
2 ounces butter
1 teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon chili flakes
2 ounces roasted garlic
½ pound Bing cherries (frozen is fine)
¼ pound apricot preserves
½ cup red cooking wine
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Caramelize onions in a 14” sauté pan over medium high heat with olive oil until onions are dark golden brown, about 6 to 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add butter, thyme, chili flakes, roasted garlic and apricot preserves to the caramelized onions. Sauté until all is mixed well about, 1½ minutes. Chop the cherries and add to the pan with any liquid and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent burning. Add both wine and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook the sauce about 20 minutes, stirring often as the sauce reduces and become thicker. Serve at room temperature.
Breaded Pork Chops with Chopped Salad and Tzatziki
by Chef Judi Gallagher. www.judigallagher.com
(You can substitute turkey cutlets or boneless chicken breasts. Pound the meat before breading and cooking. If you’re on a restricted diet, grill the meat and top with chopped salad and Tzatziki sauce).
4 rib pork chops
2 cups seasoned Italian bread crumbs
Garlic salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 eggs beaten
Canola oil for pan frying
Iceberg lettuce 1 small head
2 tomatoes diced
1 red onion diced
Juice of half lemon
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Peeled and diced cucumber (about a ½ cup)
Red wine vinegar to taste
Mild olive oil to taste
Zest of lemon
NOTE: Tzatziki is a Greek sauce made with drained plain Greek yogurt, grated cucumbers, minced garlic, olive oil, vinegar and minced dill or fresh mint. It is simple to make, but if you’re stressed for time most Greek restaurants are happy to sell you a cup or two of their specialty.
Pound pork chops until approximately ½ inch thick- season with garlic salt and fresh ground pepper. Dip into beaten egg and dip into seasoned bread crumbs, covering both sides. Preheat cast iron pan or heavy duty pan with about ½ cup canola oil. When smoke barely begins to appear on the service, pull pan away from heat and add breaded pork chops. Cook on each side until browned, about 5 minutes per side. If the pork chops are thicker, preheat oven to 450 degrees and place cooked pork chops on cookie sheet for 5 minutes and bake in oven.
In a chilled salad bowl, toss chopped iceberg, diced tomatoes and cucumbers, red onion and toss well. Season and squeeze in fresh lemon juice. Toss. Sprinkle red wine vinegar and olive oil to taste.
Country Fried Smoked Bacon
(Chef Robert Plesh, Gasperilla Inn, Boca Grande, Florida)
8 ounces celery chopped
8 ounces onion chopped
5 ounces carrots chopped
16 ounces maple syrup
16 ounces chicken stock
4 cloves fresh garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3 pounds slab bacon
2 tablespoons canola oil
In a heavy bottom sauté pan lightly caramelize onions, carrots and celery, place vegetables into a big enough braised pan, add stock, syrup, garlic, thyme and rosemary and bring to a simmer. In a non stick sauté add oil and pan sear bacon on all sides and place into braising pan. Place buttered parchment over then foil to seal. Place into 350 degree oven and braise for about 2 1/2 hours or until tender. Remove from liquid and strain liquid into a sauce pot and reduce to a glaze. The bacon should be very tender. Wrap up with plastic wrap and chill if not using right away.