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.