This past week I was picked among lord knows how many restaurants in the great state of Iowa to present a dish for the Iowa Pork Producers Association in Des Moines, IA for their annual conference. This event, dubbed Taste of Elegance, has been going on for the past 26 years as part of their annual conference and it’s purpose to highlight the best restaurants in the state of Iowa and new concepts in menu development and pork recipes.
So like I was saying, I was really honored to be invited to be part of this event last monday and only 11 other restaurants were invited to come participate and compete in the compepation. The guidelines were that pork had to be the focus, of course, and that we were allowed to pretty much do anything else that we wanted, the sky was the limit. My thoughts were that we have some amazing pork from our local producer Grass Run Farm. I happen to be a big fan of their pork tenderloins, not only because they are extremely versiatile and tasty, but they are a little middle of the road taste wise so I would have to do something special with them. I’ve been working a lot with sous-vide techniques and that would gaurentee that my pork would not be dried out and tasteless, something to worry about since the tenderloin has little fat to protect it from prolong heat. Also with the sous-vide I would be able to infuse more flavor into the meat all at the same time. Plus Iowa finally past a law allowing us cooks to, Finally!!!, cook and prepare pork below the 160 F, which of course means much tastier pork. Yet I wouldn’t think that would be enough to impress the judges, so I also decide to do a pork shoulder slow cooked and shredded, cooled and then fried! Then the other parts are of course what to pair with it all… my thoughts of using local or at least seasonal produce. Sadly not much around here in the Decorah area in the dead of winter, with exception of some the winter storage crops; potatoes, beets, shallots, onions, etc… In addition, now is prime time for all citrus crops around the nation. So this led me to come with a Celery Root-Apple Slaw and a Meyer Lemon-Shallot Mustard which sounded like a good pairing to me for both of the pork dishes.
So I know this is becoming a little long… but I’ll cut to the short and the sweet of it all. I finally made it down to Des Moines, IA for the conference last Monday, the 23rd, after a awful long road trip from Decorah. However I had a station to prepare my dish for the three judges, so I went right to work. The kitchen we were working in was a buzz with 12 different chefs with varying amounts of addition crew members trying to find and prepare items for their dishes. After saying hello to a couple of my few chefs, I got cracking to work on my menu items. After a couple of hours, I had this to turn in….
I would say I breathe a sigh of relief… but I had to ready over 200 1 oz samples for all the guests of the conference. So back to work and tried to put out of my mind the results…
In the end, I didn’t place in the top three of the competition. However I did learn a ton about competing in a formal compeption and met a lot a great chefs from all around Iowa and many thanks to all their help and friendliness.
Below is the recipe given to the IPPA:
Pork Shank Confit:
2 Pork shanks, non-smoked, fresh
2 C Sugar
2 C + 1 t. Kosher Salt
Oil, canola-olive oil blend
6 Sheets Gelatin, or 1 ½ T granulated gelatin, or 1 and ½ packages of granulated gelatin
1 T Thyme leaves, fresh
1 T Rosemary leaves, fresh
Pork Tenderloin Confit
1 lb Pork Tenderloin, fresh, trimmed of excess fat and sinew
2 t. kosher salt
1 T Olive Oil
1 T Whole Black Peppercorns
1 Bay Leaf, fresh if possible
2 T thyme leaves, fresh
4 T Roasted Garlic
4 C Duck Fat
Celery Root-Apple Slaw
1 Celery Root, trimmed and cleaned
2 Apples, preferably Honey Crisp or similar apple
1 t Garlic, finely minced
4 T Parsley, finely chopped
½ C Sherry Vinaigrette
1/4 C Sherry vinegar
2 T Honey
½ Orange, juiced
2 T Dijon Mustard
1 C Oil, blended canola-olive oil Blend
Salt, to taste
Lemon Confit-Shallot Mustard
2 lemon, confit … recipe follows… pulp removed, rind only
3 shallots, finely minced
1 T garlic
3 T Dijon mustard
1 Lemon, zest and juice
1 T Oil, blended
Salt, to Taste
6 Lemons, preferably organic, scrubbed clean
2 C Salt
Pork Shank Confit;
Place Pork shank, sugar, 2 C salt in a non-reactive container and cover with cold water. Place in the refrigerator 8 hours or overnight. Pre heat the oven to 250 degree F. Remove the shanks from the brine. Cut the bone out of the shank. Place the meat in a deep pan, cover with oil. Cover with tin foil, place in the oven for 3 hours 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove meat from oil and place on a sheet pan. Raise the oven to 300 degree F. Cook another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 25 minutes. Shred Meat and reserve.
Bloom sheet gelatin in cold water for 3-4 minutes. Heat another 2 C water and season 1 t salt. Squeeze out excess water from gelatin sheets and add to the heated water and stir well until fully dissolved. Remove from heat.
Add gelatin water and fresh herbs to the shredded meat. Mix well. Press the meat mixture in a square mold. Wrap with plastic wrap and cover with tin foil and place a weight on top the mix to ensure a compact form. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
Unmold and cut into uniform shapes. Reserve.
Pork Tenderloin Confit;
Trim pork of excess fat and sinew. Place all ingredients except Duck fat into a Ziploc bag or non-reactive container. Mix well and add pork tenderloin in bag. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
Place pork and contents from the bag into a deep pot. Cover with warm/room temperature Duck fat, adding olive oil if you don’t have enough duck fat to completely cover the pork. Clip a thermometer to the side of the pot and slowly bring the heat up, over a low flame, until the thermometer read 149 degrees F. Keep the temperature at 149, +/- 1 degree, for the next 55-60 minutes. Remove from heat. Allow to cool in fat. At this point the pork can be reserved in the fat in the fridge for the next few days. Reserve.
Celery Root-Apple Slaw
Core and stem the apples.
Using a Mandoline, thinly slice the celery root and apples into ¼” slices. Take those slices and cut them into matchsticks ¼” wide. Squeeze Lemon juice over the apple/celery mixture. Add garlic and parsley, toss gently. Gently pour over the sherry vinaigrette and toss gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve in fridge.
Place all ingredients in a wide, shallow bowl. Slowly whisk in Olive oil and a little at a time, to ensure a good emulsion. Season to taste with salt.
Lemon confit-Carmalized Shallot Mustard
Heat the oil over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic, season with a small bit of salt and allow the shallots to cook until soft, but not colored. Remove from heat and reserve.
In a food processor or high speed blender, combine the rest of the ingredients into the food processor. Pulse a few times, now add the cooked shallots and continue to pulse until very smooth. If the mixture is thick, add a 2T of warm water to thin. Salt to taste. Reserve.
Cut the lemons thru the blossom end of the twice to form a cross cut, HOWEVER do not completely cut through the lemon. Pack the lemons into a small, glass or nonreactive container. Fill the container with the lemons and pack in the salt. Allow the lemons to cure in the refrigerator for one month or up to six months.
To use the lemons, rinse completely of salt. Remove the pulp from the lemons and toss away. Chop the rind and use as directed.
To finish the complete Dish;
Turn a fry to 350 degree F, or using a large pot filled with Peanut oil.
Dreg the Pork Shank pieces in Wondera flour. Shack off excess flour. Fry until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Drain on paper towel and reserve.
Heat a medium pan over high heat. Heat 1 T olive oil in the pan. Take the Pork Tenderloin confit, wipe off excess duck fat. Sear the pork tenderloin until well browned on each side. Remove from heat and allow to cool, 2 minutes. Slice the pork on the bias into as many ¼” thick slice you can get out of the tenderloin.
Take the apple slaw out of the fridge and toss gently again. Place a small mound on the plate; sauce the plate with Lemon confit-shallot mustard in an arc across the plate. Take a few of the slices of the tenderloin and fan across the apple-celery salad. Place one piece of fried shank confit opposite of the tenderloin. Season with a tiny bit of salt. Serve and enjoy.