Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Stir-Fried Berkshire Ground Pork and Pork Liver

I love Southern Korean cuisine.  Especially fascinating to me is how South Korean recipes mix and layer proteins.  It’s quite common to find pork and tofu all in the same dish; there’s no a mindset of “tofu is only for vegetarian meals.”  Similarly, offal is also included in dishes alongside mainstays like chicken breast or strips of beef.
North Woods Ranch Berkshire Pork Stir Fry
Back in my own kitchen, I’ve found this technique is great for introducing friends to offal and organs.  Plus, the bright flavors and aromas of ginger, garlic, scallions and chilies are perfect for exciting the palate and still standing up to the flavor of liver or kidney.  The stir fry I describe in this post is perfect for people curious about exploring the delicious world of organs.

When doing a stir fry at home I normally divide the ingredients into two skillets, but a large wok could also work.  Piling all the ingredients into a single large pot, would overcrowd them, causing them to steam and stew, rather than fry.
For this recipe, I used one pound of North Wood’s Ranch Berkshire ground pork and one pound of their sliced liver.  Thinly sliced pork kidneys are also a traditional ingredient in many Asian stir fries, especially in Sichuan, China and could be used as an alternative for liver.
Many PA farmer's markets offer log-grown shiitakes this time of year.
To start I chopped up all the vegetables and started cooking them in one skillet. In my second skillet I started cooking the meat.  For the shiitakes I removed the stems (which are inedible but very good compost) and then sliced the caps into strips.  I also cut the onions and bok choy into narrow strips as well, so everything cooked evenly.  To season the vegetables I went with the bright taste of ginger, grating a tablespoon or two over the skillet.  The water I added to wash out the ginger from the grater’s teeth will create a small amount of steam, which will help the greens to wilt and incorporate into the mushrooms and onions.
First Additions to the Pan
As an aside, I also really love this ceramic grater. I use it regularly for both ginger and horseradish.  The box-style metal graters always seems to get clogged, but this ceramic plate just grates it into a fine paste without any waste.  To get all the ginger out I pour a tablespoon or two of water over the center of the plate, which washes out any stuck pieces and goes into the dish.  
To prep the meat, I just crumbled up the ground Berkshire pork and chopped the liver into small cubes.  Ground pork takes a little longer to cook than liver, so I started the pork in the pan first.  Once the pork was beginning to brown, I added in my next ingredients: cubes of liver.   This is also the time I added my spices and seasoning: soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, five spice powder, Szechuan pepper, and toasted sesame seeds.  Alternatively, there are some very good bottled sauces available in grocery stores, that you can use to season the meat, rather than making a sauce from scratch.

Liver cooks quickly, so I checked the doneness of my pork liver every minute or so to avoid the toughness that comes with overcooking it.
Adding the Liver Cubes and Bok Choy
Finally, to finish the dish, I made a large bed with the cooked vegetables in the bottom of a bowl, then added a large scoop of the seasoned pork.  I garnished it with some fresh scallion and a little more soy sauce and sesame oil to taste.  All in all, this is a wonderful mix of savory pork, rich liver, and zesty greens, mushrooms, and scallions. I hope you enjoy it, too!
Recipe at a Glance:
- 1 lb pork liver, cut into 1/2" cubes
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 lb Chinese greens, such as Bok Choy
- 3/4 lb shiitake mushrooms
- 1 medium onion
- 2-3 scallions
- 1-2" piece of peeled ginger
- 2 garlic cloves

For the Sauce
- 2 Tbl sesame oil
- 1 Tbl fish sauce
- 1 tsp Szechuan pepper
- 1.5 Tbl toastes sesame seeds
- 1 tsp Chinese Five Spice powder
- 3 Tbl soy sauce or tamari

Grease two 12" skillets.  Grate the ginger finely, using a tablespoon or two of water to loosen any stuck ginger fibers.

Remove the stems from the shiitakes, the roots from the scallions, and peel the onion.  Mice the garlic.  Slice all of the vegetables into 1/3" - 1/2" strips, except the scallions.  Slice the scallions into fine rings, saving a small handful of sliced scallion to use as a finishing garnish.

Heat the skillets to medium high heat.  Brown the ground pork in one of the skillets.  In the second, begin to cook the onions and mushrooms.  When the pork is browned with some pink remaining, add the liver and all the seasonings, then cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often.  When the onions begin to turn translucent, add the bok choy, garlic, and scallions.  Add the ginger and ginger water, which will help to steam the greens.

Check the pork liver to see when it is just cooked through, then remove from heat.  When the stems of the bok choy are tender, remove from heat.  Some additional salt may be needed for seasoning the greens.

Lay down a bed of sauteed mushrooms, onions, and bok choy, then top with the seasoned pork mixture.  Garnish with the reserved scallions. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Smoked Pork Chops with Stone Fruit Salsa

Pork and smoke have a long history of being paired together, with a near-religious zeal heaped onto bacon in American food world today.  While bacon deserves the attention, there is much more to pork and smoke than bacon.  This post is going to focus on another stellar example of smoke and porcine bonding: smoked chops.
I always feel reassured knowing I have a package or smoked pork chops in the freezer.  They’re a wonderfully satisfying centerpiece to a meal and are very quick to prepare.  The smoked chops are already infused with a wonderful campfire aroma and flavor, so they don’t take a lot of dressing up to produce big flavors on the plate.  Plus, being pasture-raised Berkshire hogs from North Woods Ranch, the meat has a wonderful flavor before it even hits the smoker.
Smoked Pork Chop from North Woods Ranch
The Beast!
As the photos show, this was a giant chop from a very large pig!  One of these large chops was more than enough for both my wife and I, so I just cooked one for our dinner.  Originally I planned to grill the chop outside, but an early summer storm altered that plan.  Instead, I used a cast iron grill pan on our stove top to add a nice char and appetizing look.

While the pork chop cooked in the pan, I brought a pot of water to boil and blanched a bundle of broccoli rabe.  I love pairing slightly bitter vegetables with rich cuts of pork, as the fat from the pork mellows out the bitterness of the greens.  A monster-sized chop like this needs a vegetable that can stand up to the rich, smoky, porky flavor, so broccoli rabe was a perfect fit for this dish.
To top it off, I made a quick fruit salsa with peaches, plums, and a touch of jalapeno.  Stone fruits are starting to come in strong here, but this would also be great in August with heirloom tomatoes.  Piled on top, the salsa added sweetness, a bit of acidity, and a very bright freshness to the entire dish.  As a whole, I really loved this dish: super savory, smoky pork combined with an earthy from the rabe and topped off a sweet and crisp salsa that also delivered a bit of heat. 

Recipe at a Glance:
1 Enormous Pork Chop, or two “Regular” ones
1 bunch Broccoli Rabe
1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
3-4  Plums, Apricots, Peaches, or Nectarines (whatever looks best and delicious
1 small Jalapeno or 1/2 of a larger Jalapeno
1 Scallion
1 Lime
1/4 cup diced red onion
A little chopped cilantro

Preheat a grill pan to medium high.  While the pan heats, bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

To make the salsa, cut all the stone fruits in half and remove the pit.  Chop the fruit into a chunky dice, so you can get a mix of the different fruits in one bite.  Zest and juice the lime and add to the salsa.  Remove the seeds from the jalapeno and mince.  Add the jalapeno, diced onion, and a little chopped cilantro to taste.

Grease the grill lightly, then lay the pork chop(s) on the grill.  Cook 3-4 minutes per side until grill marked, then rotate the chop to create a cross-hatch appearance from the grill.  Cook for another 3-4 minutes per side, or until chop is heated through.

When the water comes to a boil, add the broccoli rabe and cook for 4-5 minutes.  Remove the broccoli and rinse under cold water to blanch the broccoli and keep its vibrant green color.  Remove the pork chop from the grill pan and let rest on a serving plate.  Toss the broccoli rabe onto the grill pan to rewarm it from the blanching, as well as to dress the vegetable with the rendered fat from the chop.  Sprinkle with red pepper flakes (if desired)

Serve with the salsa spooned over the chop.