Monday, December 27, 2010

Cherry, Mustard and Pistachio Crusted Bone In Pork Chop with a Cranberry Reduction and Baked Acorn Squash

The other night my lovely wife Megan brought home some delicious looking bone in pork chops.   This was a day or two before we left for sunny Florida on Christmas break.   I was soooo very tired from traveling for work that I decided to sit at home and watch TV while she went out to the store to go shopping.  

When she came home from Union Market with bone in pork chops I was thrilled.   Why you ask???  Well I was watching Iron Chef America and on it was Battle Pig Fat!   Mmmmm Pig Fat.

Allow me to take a moment here to honor his Swinyness.    The far that comes from the pig is the most heavenly of creations.   It is delish, fragrant, and everything that anyone could ever ask for flavor wise.  So when she brought it home I was DELIGHTED.    Time to tie pork fat into the remainder of our dishes and serve up some porky goodness.


So I opened up the bag from Union Market to see what other goodies she had gotten.   I had found an acorn squash and some baby cauliflower (we are on a total kick with this stuff.)    

I decided to start by preparing the acorn squash.    I started by halving and scooping out the squash of its seeds.   I am sure I can put these to good use but not tonight.   I put nutmeg, cinnamon and butter with fresh rosemary in the center of the squash and on the ridges as I had halved it.  I then put tiny dollops of pork lard on the ridges (like four of them) and one dollop in the center.   Now you are probably thinking that is WAY too much fat but you can always spoon out the excess grease once it bakes.   I just want it to absorb as much of its flavor as possible.   I ended the squash with a bit of zest of orange for flavor and acidity.

The plan was to bake the squash at 400 degrees for about an hour.    Once we got the squash in the hole it was time to move on to creating the cranberry reduction.   I wanted the hole dish to tie together and wasnt sure if pork and cranberry would go together so I decided to tie the rosemary into this dish as the lard in the acorn squash really tied it to the pork chop already.  

I digress.

I added dried cranberries and water to a pot with a pinch of salt and a few pinches of sugar.   I brought it to a vigorous boil then put it on low and let it reduce.    This should be nice and thick by the time the acorn squash is ready.   The final step with the cranberries was to add some nice orange zest.   The zest ties it to the acorn squash which will bring balance to the dish.

Ok now onto steaming the baby cauliflower.     I cleaned them up and put them in a pot with a steamer.   I put a TINY dollop of lard and some salt and pepper to bring once again ensure that they worked well with the pork chops.   I also zested them with lemon to tie the baby cauliflower to tie the flavors to the acorn squash.   I put the heat to high and off I go to manage the pork.
I always leave my meat on the counter at the start of the meal to try to bring it's temperature up a bit to ensure it cooks evenly and the spices/oils really absorb.   I had put a healthy coat of olive oil and added salt and pepper to the pork.
I then began to make my crust for the pork.

The crust had the following in it:

Handful of shelled pistachios
small handful of cherries (about six)
and about 15 mustard seeds per bone in pork chop
two tablespoons of bread crumbs

You take all of the ingredients and mash it up with the mortar and pestle.   A nice rough mash it alls you need.   Just get the particles small enough to make sure that it sticks to the pork!  The bread crumbs will help as they are like the cement once the cherry juices hit it :)

I took the now not so cold and ever so seasoned pork and crusted it with my pistachio, cherry and mustard mix.   I prepped the pan by adding a combination of butter and lard (even amount) to the pan and brought it up to a nice heat.   You want it hot enough to make it sizzle but not hot enough to make it deep fried.   I wish I knew what temperature this actually is but I usually just throw stuff into the grease and watch how it reacts.   

I disgress YET AGAIN

Once the lard/butter mix was hot enough I carefully placed the pork into the park.   Always make sure you move the meat around after you place it in the pan so that is does not stick to the pan.    I used the technique that some call french but i call Abuelita's technique of spooning the hot oil over the meat as I cooked it so that the meat absorbs the fats and cooks nice and evenly.   You achieve this by tilting the pan a bit and getting the hot oil to accumulate.   Once it it heavier on one side you can start to quickly spoon it over the meat.   



If you spoon some onto the flame of the burner.  BOOM FIRE.   I DO NOT suggest doing this and you should avoid at all cost.  My nice little disclaimer to ensure you dont blame me for causing a fire due to your own negligence.  

It takes just a few minutes on each side until the pork is firm enough to be medium.  I take it out and let it rest.

By the time the bone in pork chop was done everything else was finished.    I turned the steamer off and uncovered the baby cauliflower.   I removed the acorn squash from the oven and scooped out the excess grease.   I then scooped out all the squashy goodness so we had a nice "semi mash" to eat and I began to plate.  

The final product was DIVINE.   I used the cranberry reduction to spoon it over the crusted pork and it was so balanced and divine!   Yummy, pork, nutty, fruity, spicy goodness in the pork.   The acorn squash was sweet and had fatty accents that made it tie right to the pork.  The zest I put on the acorn squash and baby cauliflower really brought them together and brought amazing balance once again to the dish.  


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