Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Man Can Cook # 7 - Entry Level Offal v2.0 - Turn The Other Cheek

Kathy dreads it when I come along to the Farmers Market because when I see all the goodies, the wheels in my head start turning and before you can say “Certified Organic Horseshit” I’ve planned out and purchased the next 3-4 night’s meals…usually with little regard to the cost. So yeah…I’m not a cheap date, but at least I’m easy. 

This post is something of a follow-up to my piece on New Orleans from December. Therein I described a meal that Kathy and I enjoyed at Cochon. One of the highlights of the meal was a “Paneed Pork Cheeks with Boston Baked Peanuts” that would flat knock your hat in the creek. “Good” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

But I digress…the point here was that while wandering the aisles of the market I discovered a gentleman from “Full of Life Farm” (   http://www.fulloflifefarm.com/  ) who had all manner of great prime cuts and offal. I purchased some spectacular nitrite-free slab bacon but what really caught my eye was a 3lb package of pork cheeks.

My head spun…My mind whirled…I gazed at Kathy with a wild look in my eyes and giggled like a pyromaniac at a gasoline refinery. I exclaimed, “Its mutha-flippin-ON! We’re having the pork cheeks from Cochon!”

The pork cheek is a brilliant little nugget of happiness. To figure out where it comes from, grit your teeth and feel the muscle in the side of your jaw. That jaw muscle is also used in one of the more brilliant bits of Charcuterie and the key to a traditional Pasta Carbonara, the Guanciale. In this case however, this rather tough little nugget of meat & fat would be transformed into a tender, juicy and mouth watering morsel of pork with a light fried crust alongside a seemingly bizarre side dish, Boston Baked Peanuts and garnished by some home-made pickled veggies. 

My first task was in deconstructing the dish. “Paneed Pork Cheeks” threw me for a loop at first. “Paneed” in Cajun parlance simply means breaded and pan fried. I knew that if I simply tried to pan fry these things they’d be tougher than boot leather and greasier than Mike Ness’ hair. I decided that the only way to make it work would be to first lightly sear them then braise them for a couple of hours to get them just shy of being fork-tender. We braised them in white wine, a tbsp of whole pepper-corns and a couple of bay leaves.

After the braise I gave them a flour/egg/breadcrumb dredge before a light fry to finish them off. 

The side-dish as well took a little bit of work to figure out though the hardest part was shelling and skinning 2lbs of peanuts…if you can find them already cleaned buy them. Doing it yourself is a giant pain in the arse but in the end it was TOTALLY worth it. After that I compared a number of “Boston Baked Beans” recipes and arrived at the following:

  • 1/3lb of good bacon (I used some of the brilliant stuff from “Full of Life Farm”)
  • ½ large yellow onion – julienned
  • 1/2c molasses
  • 2tsp kosher salt
  • 1tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • ½ tsp dry mustard
  • 1/3c brown sugar
  • 1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Enough warm water to nearly cover the beans in bowl
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper

Chop the bacon into ¼” lardon and line the bottom of your baking dish with it. Then drop in the shelled and skinned peanuts (did I mention what a pain that was?) along with the onions. Combine your wet ingredients with the dry in a separate bowl then add to the baking dish. Cover with foil and pop it in a 350deg oven for about 3hrs, then remove the foil and continue to cook until the liquid has reduced into a rich & thick sauce.

Careful with this thing when you pull it out of the oven, the sauce is hot and sticky. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the band Cortex’s “Napalm Sticks to Kids”.

The remaining bit of the meal was pickled radishes and cauliflower that Kathy made. She used a hefty portion of Turmeric in the pickling brine, hence the gorgeous yellow-orange color. They were fantastic and the bright flavor, crispiness and acidity were the perfect compliment to the richness of the Pork Cheeks and sweetness of the Boston Baked Peanuts. 

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