As we begin a new year of pork, I'd like to take a minute to reflect on this past year. From sharing my favorite family Easter traditions to discovering good pork airport grub,I have thoroughly enjoyed spending 2012 with you. Fellow pork fans, you have made 2012 deliciously fantastic, and I want to thank each and every one of you.
I also wanted to congratulate the winners of our Pinterest Scavenger Hunt and 12 Days of Pork giveaways! They are:
Amy T. from Anaheim, CA
Howell L. from Shutesbury, MA
Betty N. from Savannah, GA
Nissa M. from Sealy, TX
Christina K. from Louisville, KY
I look forward to talking pork with you for another year here at Pork, Knife & Spoon and on Twitter @PorkandKnife. And if you haven’t done so already, be sure to connect with the National Pork Board on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for all the exciting and appetizing things to come this year including more amazing give-aways!
The boar is a symbol of intrepidness, a wild animal of perseverance and courage. It’s also the meat par excellence at Minneapolis’s trendy Butcher and The Boar, a meat-centric eatery helmed by Chef Jack Riebel.
From the moment you step inside the restaurant, you know you’re somewhere deliciously boar-ish (not boorish). The masculine eclectic décor is inviting — the long, polished bar heavy with bourbon encourages you to linger while the links of house-made sausages hanging from the rafters tempt you. Wide wood planked communal tables share space with noble red upholstered high-back chairs, and the floor is literally lined with thousands of shimmering copper pennies. The outdoor beer garden includes a roaring fireplace and tables made from oak wine barrels and massive tree trunks. It’s a man’s man kind of restaurant. But that didn’t stop this West Coast gal from having a thoroughly enjoyable time.
I recently attended a multi-course at Butcher and The Boar, sponsored by The National Pork Board, and I have to say it was one of the best meals I’ve had in quite some time. While the restaurant’s menu offers a wide variety of meats, our dinner specialized in pork dishes.
Peter Botcher, the restaurant’s butcher, spoke briefly with us. He explained that he and his culinary team make in-house artisanal sausages and smoked meats employing traditional German methods. And locals, whether German or not, are eating it up. According to Botcher, the restaurant serves an average of 500 people a day and up to 900 people a day during the summer months. “We’ve been incredibly fortunate,” he says. And I’m fortunate to have eaten there. Here’s some of what we enjoyed during our dinner:
Pork Cheek Skewers on Corn Relish (J Jorgensen)
Salads came in different weight classes including a lightweight arugula, watermelon, and goat cheese combo and a heavy-weight wedge salad bathed in a decadent blue cheese dressing and dotted with crumbled smoked pecans. I didn’t want to use up too many calories on salad, so I opted for the pork cheek, bacon, and onion skewers served over pickled corn. Biting into the medallion of lightly charred pork revealed a pale pink, juicy interior that all but melted in my mouth. One of my dining companions noted: “I didn’t know pork cheeks could taste this good.”
Green Chili Chorizo Sausage on Spicy Black Bean Mole with Soft-Cooked Egg (J Jorgensen)
Two stellar sausage dishes followed: A crisp, zesty, cheddar-laced Berkshire sausage link served with blackened broccoli that could convert even the purist vegetarian. I declared it my favorite dish until I tasted its companion: A spiral of dark green chili chorizo sausage hugging a soft-cooked egg atop a spicy black bean mole. Its initial mildness is chased by a distinct punch of heat. So, be warned.
The main courses, served family-style, made one of the diners declare, “I feel like it’s Thanksgiving dinner but with pork!” I agreed. Check it out: Muscular mustard-grilled pork chops were surprisingly tender and robustly flavored, but don't even think of ordering them without a side of fried green tomatoes doused with herb-buttermilk dressing.
Mustard Grilled Pork Chops (J Jorgensen)
The unanimous favorite dish was the roasted pork loin with apple cider sauce, sour cherries, and pecans. Imagine the best Easter ham you’ve ever eaten, but better — less salty, more complex. It paired beautifully with a medley of woodsy cedar-planked mushrooms and smoky blackened cauliflower with a preserved lemon pan sauce.
Roasted Pork Loin with Apple Cider Sauce, Sour Cherries & Pecans (J Jorgensen)
The only dish that disappointed me and just above everyone else at the table was the chicken-fried pork with sausage gravy. The too-thick, greasy batter overwhelmed the pork’s flavor, while the sauce tasted distinctly of canned soup.
Chicken Fried Pork with Sausage Gravy (J Jorgensen)
So we comforted ourselves with two more sides instead: Coal-fired sweet potatoes crowned with a maple-pecan butter and crunchy pecan nibs and a dense, impossibly moist skillet corn bread with maple butter so good that I wanted to pop it inside of my handbag to enjoy as a midnight snack later in the hotel room. I didn’t take it. Though now that I’m writing this sentence, I’m regretting my ethical decision. Corn bread that good warrants moral indiscretions.
Skillet Corn Bread with Maple Butter (J Jorgensen)
Despite its appealing name, the ginger snap banana pudding with torched meringue was disappointing. It was a one-note confection that would have benefitted from more ginger and snap. If it were up to me, I would have just ordered another skillet corn bread along with a sweet, malty stout. That’s dessert-y enough for me.
Photo credits: Top three photos, Susan Russo ; remaining photos, Jan Jorgensen, The National Pork Board
There are some things I'm good at. Using a saw isn't one of them. So, I don't think I'll be fabricating a hog anytime soon. But I did enjoy watching David Bottagaro do it. A former chef, Bottagaro is currently the National Foodservice Marketing Manager for the National Pork Board.
Bottagaro shows us the pork belly — Can you say bacon?
During a recent trip to Minnesota where I visited Wakefield Pork, Inc, Bottagaro demonstrated a hog fabrication for us. For those not familiar, a hog fabrication involves “breaking down” a half a pig. Big, sharp knives and even bigger saws are needed. I won't go through the entire fabrication process, but here a few pics to give you an idea.
Half a hog ready for fabrication.
Sawing through the primal loin.
Mmmm… fresh ham.
Give me some ribs!
Moist and Healthy Pork Tenderloin
Chops, chops, chops.
For full-color photos of all pig parts and names of pork cuts, please check out this great resource from Pork, Be Inspired.
How about you? Have you ever done or seen a hog fabrication? Tell us about it the comment section below.