Wednesday, March 24, 2010

guest post: you too can make an Alinea dish

Today, my lovely friend Casey shares some tips on how to recreate this gorgeous Alinea pork dish without all (well, most) of the labor-intensive bells and whistles. And gels.

Hi, my name is Casey, and as Lisa mentioned, I'm a bit of a nut in the kitchen. Some people unwind with a bottle of wine and the second season of Mad Men on Netflix; I do it with a bottle of wine and an overly complex recipe for grapefruit-caramel pie. To each her own.

And as promised, I'm using my terrier-like tenacity in the kitchen to adapt the pork dish I served Lisa and Dan for the Dinner Party faithful. The flavor profiles in the Alinea cookbook, once you get past the gels and powders, can easily be streamlined without losing their punch. It helps to make the recipes through once, but anyone who loves to read cookbooks will find some brilliant inspiration in this one.

A few notes: I always brine my pork tenderloins and chops the day before I plan to roast or grill them. For lean cuts like these, the brine makes an incredible difference in the texture and taste of the meat. You'll get all the sous-vide succulence without shelling out $450 for an immersion circulator (or staring at a pot of water to keep it at exactly 135˚).

Grant (can I call him Grant? I feel like I know him pretty well at this point) serves his pork with a "sage pudding" that is closer in consistency to pureed Jell-O—the look and texture freaked us all out at dinner, but the extra hint of sage in the dish brought an unexpected depth of flavor. Definitely a reminder to go into these meals with an open mind and palate.

Grant's recipe also calls for braising a pork shoulder, then deep-frying a small portion of the shredded, cooked meat to add a salty crunchy topping to the plate. While I was happy for an excuse to make my favorite pork-simmered tomato sauce with the shoulder, I don't think it's absolutely necessary for our version of the dish.

You can approximate both the flavor of sage and the crispy texture by frying a few sage leaves and adding as garnish.

Roasted pork with fennel, sage, and grapefruit
(Serves 4)

1 pork tenderloin, trimmed of silverskin
1 bag of brine (see below)
1 small fennel bulb, fronds removed and bulb chopped into 4 inch-thick slices
1/2 stick butter
1 small bunch sage, about 20 leaves
Canola oil
1 grapefruit

Cornbread to serve on the side, if you feel like it

2 quarts (8 cups) water
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 Tbsp. black peppercorns
1/3 cup sugar
1 bay leaf
6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a stockpot, stirring occasionally to dissolve the salt and sugar, and simmer for 15 minutes. Transfer brine to a large bowl and cool to room temperature before pouring into a large Ziploc bag and placing in the fridge. Make sure the brine is completely cold before adding the pork. Brine the pork in the fridge overnight (up to 18 hours).

The next day, remove the pork from the brine, pat dry, and let sit on your counter an hour before you plan to roast it so the meat can return to room temperature. Peel and segment your grapefruit, removing all the white pith from four of the segments. (You'll plate with these; the rest of the grapefruit can be eaten now to protect you from scurvy.)

Preheat your oven to 450˚.

In a large oven-safe skillet, heat 1 tbsp canola oil until shimmering over medium-high heat and sear the pork on all sides to brown the meat. Transfer the pork to the oven and roast for 12-15 minutes, or until the interior temperature reaches 140˚. (If you don't have a meat thermometer, for god's sake, what are you waiting for?)

While the pork is roasting, in a separate skillet, melt the butter over low heat. Add the fennel slices and cook for 10 minutes without turning or moving them in the pan until the slices are deeply caramelized. Transfer the fennel to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.

When the pork reaches 140˚, remove from the oven, cover the meat, and let rest for 8-10 minutes.

While the pork is resting, heat 1/2 cup canola oil in a small high-sided pot over medium-high heat, and deep-fry the sage leaves for about a minute. Transfer to the paper-towel lined plate with the fennel.

To plate, cut the pork into 1-inch slices and place 3-4 in the center of each plate. Surround the pork with fennel slices (break each one apart with your hand into long segments) and pieces of grapefruit. Drizzle each plate lightly with honey, and coarsely crumble the fried sage leaves on top.

And if you really want to know how to make gray sage pudding, I'll fill you in.


Daniel said...

People might be interested to know that in the original Alinea conception of the dish the cornbread is a pudding also. Intriguing, but in combination with the sage pudding, I think that might have been one too many weird semi-solids on one plate. Good call as always, Casey!

Lisa said...

Daniel: Agreed. Cornbread pudding would have been one too many mushy substances.


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