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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….

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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…

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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:

Ingredients:

                Pork Shank Confit:

                2 Pork shanks, non-smoked, fresh

                2 C Sugar

                2 C + 1 t. Kosher Salt

                Water

                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

 

                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

               

                Lemon Confit

                6 Lemons, preferably organic, scrubbed clean

                2 C Salt

Recipes:

                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.

 

                Sherry Vinaigrette;

                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.

 

                Lemon confit

                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.

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Well sadly it had been quite a long while since I last update… There are so many reasons for my absence so what better way to recap the summer than you drag you the read along a photo gallery recap of the summer so far…

May:

To start the month, a giant wedding cocktail party for over 100+ people…. sadly I was too busy to take photos… sad

Although the Farmer’s Market in Decorah did open as usual in the first weekend of the month and I was there to start my little stall.  And if I remember correctly it was cold and very wet and windy for the entire month with little in the way of local produce… (side note; it has been a very odd growing season with most produce in the region have been delay to a very, cold and wet spring.  Farmers had a hard time planting in the field with soggy soil. Thing now in mid-July are still behind the usual… not that I’m complaining!).

June:

So May come and went and June came in full force.  Great weather, sunny days and lots of food.  Farmer’s Market took off and this page came online again (finally…) and it scored a great hit with roasted Lemonade. Who would thought something just slightly different then the norm would be so popular.  Many thanks you all of you that came to the site and checked out the post and following recipe.

Then a major event happened in June as well.  A wedding just outside of Harmony for over 200 + guests featuring a 150+ lb hog roast. That was quite an event and feature a gross ton of food (well almost…) and many drinks.  By the end of the night everyone was very pleased and stuffed, an event to remember.

July:

Well after the wedding in June, I can barely remember then else that happened for two weeks after… Yet there was light at the end of the tunnel do a rare three-day weekend off from regular work, which of course led to a party on the 4th for the employees of the bistro and some selected guests.  Always nice to man a grill and cook some food over some coals, unrefined but delicious none the less.

And here we are in the middle of the month… tremendous heat and humidity at the moment and less than a week and half until Nordic Fest madness arrives.  Yet I am staying quite busy with lots of canning projects… All of the farmers have so much produce ready that it is time to keep some of this wonderful bounty before it all disappears but at least I’ll have some memories stored away for the cold months.

Radishes

Local Radishes   “What do I know of man’s destiny? I could tell you more about radishes.”    ~ Samuel Beckett

Radishes one of the first spring crops to show up at farmer’s market or local co-ops… or if you’re lucky (and a little crazy) have grown your own. They always look so tempting… red, pink, white, purple, black, scarlet red with white tips and those bright, luscious green tops. So they just scream at you to buy them and of course they are purchased and then the trip home to fridge. Sadly though they sit there until the imagination strikes the thought of salad and the roughly chopped radishes are tossed rather haphazardly on top…..

Not a very exciting or satisfying way to use one of spring’s first bounties. Now French tradition, as the French always have a tradition to any food item, calls for a lovely fresh baguette, sweet butter, fleur de sel and radishes. Simply slather the butter on the bread, sprinkle with salt, cut up the radish and enjoy. The contrast of soft, crusty bread with sweetness of butter and sharp bite of the radish… Bliss.

Oh! Do NOT forget about those lovely greens that attached to the more beautiful crisp globes of crimson. The leaves and shoots are so over looked and thrown out that it is almost criminal… Added to salads (boring but effective), sautéed like Bok Choy or make into a pesto are just come the creative possibilities over the garbage can.

Something else to make with these little globes of sweet joy is to roast them like any other root vegetable. Now this may seem a little surprising but not really it think about just a little. What is the difference between a carrot and a radish? Both grow in the ground and both come in wonderfully vivid colors just screaming to be eaten. Why not roast them?

Roasted RadishesAn added bonus is that it couldn’t be easier, a little olive oil, salt, pepper and a little juice of a lemon. While it is roasting (rather largely unattended) you can pay attention to more important matters, like pouring another drink!

Oven Roasted Radishes

2 lbs multicolored radishes, tops reserved for another use

3 T Olive oil

1 Lemon, juice and zest

Salt/Pepper, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Place radishes in a bowl and add olive oil, lemon juice, zest, salt and pepper. Toss until well combined. Next take a large sheet of tin foil and place all the radishes in the middle of the tin foil and wrap completely in the tin foil, using another sheet if necessary. Place the packet on a sheet tray and place in the oven to roast for 35-45 minutes depending on the size of the radishes.  Remove from the oven and allow the packet to rest for 5 minutes. The radishes are now finished, it is possible to add some more olive oil, lemon, salt or pepper as fit.

Radish Green “Pesto”

This is very similar to a typical basil pesto or an arugula pesto, but with an added punch of spiciness! However it needs some taming a little with lemon and olive oil to balance taste.

Radish Greens from two bunches of radishes (about 2-2 1/2 C, loosely packed)

1 C, good quality olive oil

Garlic, 2 cloves, roughly chopped

1 Lemon, zest and juice

Salt/Pepper

In a food processor, place all ingredients in the bowl of the processor with exception of the olive oil. Pulse the processor to combine the ingredients throughly. Now turn the processor on completely and slowly add the olive oil to the rest of the ingredients until well combined and a smooth paste forms, adding more oil if necessary. Season with salt/pepper to taste.

Now the pesto is great on seafood and chicken. Enjoy!

Caper-Anchovy Butter

This flavored butter is great with raw radishes and host of other dishes. This butter is also excellent on steaks, fish and chicken dishes as well.   Be sure to use quality anchovies packed in extra virgin olive oil or salt packed anchovies, either way after removing the filets from the oil or salt be sure to rinse the filets gently under luke warm water to remove excess oil or salt.

1/2 lb of butter (2 sticks), room temperature

4 T capers, rinsed and finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

2 anchovy filets, see note above and finely chopped

1 Lemon, juice and zest

Salt

In a bowl (or even faster in a food processor) combine all ingredients and mix until well combine. refrigerate until ready to use. stored in the fridge and well wrapped it should last up to 2 weeks.

Summer is here and so here comes the classic Lemonade usually served by little children across America, however today most of what is available couldn’t actually be considered “real” lemonade.  Of course I would have to tweak the classic to add my twist, thus roasting lemons in the oven. Now I understand the skepticism of what I am proposing but it does make sense. Roasting in a sense is about concentrating the flavor of the lemons and conserving the volatile oils contained within lemon peel, something that is left when the lemons are just juiced straight. 

From there its just the basic lemonade recipe; lemon juice, sugar/honey, and water. Couldn’t be any easier and while the lemons are roasting in the oven you can attend to many other matters of the day.

Recipe:

6-7 Lemon (preferably organic), skinned very well scrubbed

Sugar

Water

    Set the oven at 350 F degree. After scrubbing the lemons, cut in half vertically. Take a Deep roasting pan or wide stock pot, gently squeeze the lemons to release some of the juice in the pan. This prevents any scorching from happening and lending a bitter taste to the juice. Repeat with the remaining lemons and place the pan/pot in the oven for the next hour. After the hour is up the lemons should look really soft and should show some carmalization happening. Allow to cool until they are easy to handle without burning your hands. Now to strain and juice the roasted lemons and depending on how you feel about pulp in your lemonade, you can strain or not strain this roasted juice.

    Now you should have about 2-3 cups of roasted lemon juice. So from here it’s really up to you how you like to have your lemonade… a little on the sweeter side, a little on the more acidic side.  However, I’ll give you the ratio that I enjoy.

3 cups roasted lemonade : 6 cups filtered water : 1 cup sugar (minimally processed Turbano sugar is my preference)

So now that summer is finally here in the lovely Midwest, here is a refreshing drink with a pleasant twist.

I can not think of a simplier or more tasty salad then this one and it could be any easier to make on top of it.  This rustic Italian salad of white beans and canned tuna is perfect for a hot day or picnic in the park. It uses nothing but pantry staples that most everyone already has in their possession.  And frankly it tastes even better after a night in the fridge.

Recipe

Serves 4 as a light lunch or 6-8 as a side

2 8oz. cans of tuna, packed in olive oil, see note

2 16oz cans of Cannelloni beans, kudos if you wish to prepare your own..

6T Extra Virgin Olive Oil, best you can afford

4T Red Wine vinegar

1 garlic cloves, finely minced

1/2 red onion, finely sliced

Parsley, finely chiffonade

Crackers to serve, see note

First, place the red onions and red wine vinegar in a small bowl together and make sure the onions are submerged in the vinegar, set aside and allow to “rest” 10-20 minutes.  This will cut the “bite” of the raw onion and soften the flavor.

Drain and rinse beans, I find rinsing the beans helps to cut down on what I like to refer to as the “slime” factor of canned beans and promotes a better texture of the salad.  Place in another large bowl.  Open tuna and add both the tuna and the olive oil that is in the can to the beans. Add garlic, Olive oil and red onion/vinegar mixture to the bowl and lightly toss, making sure to break up the tuna and not to smash the beans. Finally add the parsley, adding as much as you like. I happen to love the fresh flavor it adds to the dish, so I use a lot.

Now season with salt and fresh pepper. Adjust with more vinegar or oil olive to correct. And now enjoy one of my favorite summer salads.

Note on Tuna:

Tuna packed in olive oil is really recommended for this dish because of the extra flavor it brings to the dish. The best you can buy is Tuna Belly in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, usually imported from Spain or Italian, however it is difficult to find. If you can not find tuna packed in olive oil, use tuna packed in spring water and more olive oil to salad to compensate for flavor.  Please note not to use tuna packed in broth as it is poor quality ingredient with the broth covering the plaice taste of third-rate tuna.

Note on Crackers:

I really prefer a dense cracker.  Something with a heavy taste to state up to the creaminess of the white beans and oil/vinegar combination of the salad it’s self. I usually reach for Ak Mak 100% Whole Wheat Stone Ground Sesame Crackers.

Hello world!

Hello to everyone out in the Internet world.  This is the new blog for Driftless Food, a small company located in Decorah, IA that will focus on great food and food related items.  I hope to inspire people to become more aware of the all the great food in this little section of the Midwest.  Thanks for reading.