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Dishing The Dish: Three Perspectives on Porky Heaven


Today, we introduce a new feature on SavorSA that will focus on some of great work that’s being done in restaurants around town. It’s called The Dish and it will shine a light on a culinary creation that’s worth singling out for praise. It could be something seasonal, a new sensation or an old favorite. The sole point is to make you aware of the savory treats in SA.

If you have any favorites you’d like to share, either post them below or email walker@savorsa.com or griffin@savorsa.com.

This initial effort features three pork-related dishes to wet your appetite. Each illustrates porcine perfection in a unique way.

Pig Face Wood-Fired Pie at Bin 555

Pig Face Wood-Fired Pie
Bin 555 at the Alley
555 W. Bitters Road
(210) 496-0555

Who can resist a pizza baked in a wood-fired oven that’s hot enough to scorch the bottom of the dough, giving it a slightly burnt taste that’s practically irresistible?

That’s just the beginning, though, of the joys of this pizza from chef Robbie Nowlin, who creates his own house-made torchon using, you guessed it, the whole pig’s face.  The meat is cured in salt, pink salt, white pepper and sugar for one day. Then parts are braised before being added back to the torchon before it’s ready to use.

Then come toppings of slivers of radish, strips of pecorino and, in an inspired touch, pickled mustard seeds. The chef finishes it off with leaves arugula just before serving that add a fresh green vibrancy as well as a peppery bite.

I had a couple of leftover slices for breakfast the following morning. The radish flavor intensified, giving the pizza a welcome wake-up bite.

Using the pig’s head is, like using a cow’s head in barbacoa, a wonderful way to use as much meat on an animals as possible without letting it go to waste. Place another of these beautiful pizzas in front of me, and you’ll see another example of food not going to waste.

The 50/50 Burger at Big Bob’s.

The 50/50 Burger
Big Bob’s Burgers
447 W. Hildebrand Ave.
(210) 734-2627

Bacon cheeseburgers have long been justifiably popular, but why not take that experience to a whole new level by adding the bacon to the burger and not just on top of it?

That’s the appeal of this burger, which is made up of equal parts ground chuck and ground bacon. So, all that pork goodness fills every bite, while the chuck gives it a sturdy structure with plenty of meat and fat for the required beefiness and juiciness. Add a slab of sharp cheddar and chef Robert Riddle’s grilling, which lends it a smoky flavor, and you have a big fat phenomenon.

Of course, you could crown that combination with crisp bacon strips, but I can’t decide if that’s a bit too much or just a deliciously new means of satisfying my inner oinker.

A word of caution to those Texans who want their beef dead done: The whole patty is pinker than you may be used to. The grilling on the outside adds a little blackness, but the center is pinker than you may want. That’s from the addition of bacon, not the cooking technique.

For those of us keeping low-carb, Big Bob’s also offers the burger on a salad with artichoke hearts, garbanzos, olives, pepperoncini and more laid over a mound of spring greens. Good and healthful, just the way I like it.

The Peacemaker Po’Boy
Where Y’at
Alamo Street Eat-Bar
609 S. Alamo St.
(210) 420-0069

The SA food truck scene is burgeoning with exciting new flavors to please most any palate. Place this po’boy from Pieter Sypesteyn at the top of your must-try list.

The chef starts with an unbeatable combination of corn meal-breaded oysters and crunchy pork belly, braised in root beer before being deep-fried, both of which add a mouthwatering saltiness that enlivens the layers of mustardy coleslaw, pickles and fresh jalapeño slivers, all slathered with the right amount of creamy rémoulade.

Yet, as special as the combination of pork and seafood is, not to mention the pristine freshness of the other ingredients, were, the real stars of the sandwich were thick slices of perfectly ripe, old-fashioned tomato, which brought everything together in one incomparable whole. Not surprisingly, the tomatoes were from Cora Lamar’s Oak Hills Farm, by way of the Pearl Farmers Market. There’s a reason people rave about local food, and a tomato that tastes like a tomato is it. .

NOLA snobs may turn up their noses at a po’boy not made back at home because of how special the bread there is, but this is that bread. It’s Gambino’s French Bread, imported from the Quarter. For those don’t know the type of bread a po’boy should be served on, think of a baguette, yet one with a crackly exterior that is not too dense and a center that is not too fluffy. In short, it’s sturdy enough to hold its choice filling without falling apart into a soggy mess. Plus, Sypesteyn toasts the bread first and the rémoulade just melts into it.

I made the mistake of getting the half version of this beauty the first time I tried it. I’ve make peace with myself about that and will never let it happen again.

 

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Brandied Peach Pork Chops


Peaches and pork are a great combination.

Peaches are coming into season, and the crop this year from the Hill Country is reason to rejoice. The folks over at the Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market are celebrating throughout July with myriad ways to enjoy the fruit, which they’re getting from Engel Farms. Everything from peach chevre and peach, pecan and bourbon pudding to peach ginger pie and peach ice cream will be available.

But why wait another week. This savory recipe, adapted from epicurious.com, features peaches with a natural partner: pork. Plus, it’s easy to make.

Brandied Peach Pork Chops

4 (1-inch-thick) loin pork chops
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon brandy, divided use
2 peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
1/3 cup peach preserves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Pat pork chops dry, then sprinkle on both sides with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper (total).

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then cook pork chops, turning once, until browned and just cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes total. Transfer to a platter and keep warm, loosely covered with foil. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet.

Heat butter in skillet over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook shallots with thyme, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden-brown, about 5 minutes.

Add 1/4 cup brandy to skillet and carefully ignite with a kitchen match (use caution; flames will shoot up), then cook over medium heat, scraping bottom of skillet to loosen brown bits. When flames subside, add peaches, preserves, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper and cook, covered, until peaches are tender and juicy, about 3 minutes. Stir in remaining tablespoon brandy, any meat juices from platter, and salt and pepper to taste, then spoon sauce over chops.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from epicurious.com

 

 

 

 

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Carne en Salsa de Licores (Pork in Fruit Liqueur Sauce)


Use fresh ham, not cured or smoked, in this recipe.

Use fresh ham, not cured or smoked, in this recipe.

This party dish comes from Zarela Martinez’s wonderful “Zarela’s Veracruz,” which is still available in hardcover and paperback from Amazon.com.   You must have fresh ham, not smoked or brine-cured. You can substitute pork loin for the ham, but it could come out dry, so make sure it is well basted.

Carne en Salsa de Licores (Pork in Fruit Liqueur Sauce)

9 garlic cloves, 5 coarsely chopped, 4 left whole
6 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves only, or 2 teaspoons crumbled dried thyme
6 fresh oregano sprigs, leaves only, or 2 teaspoons crumbled dried oregano
10 Italian parsley sprigs
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste, divided use
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 fresh ham, preferably butt half (bone in); about 6 pounds
2-3 tablespoons lard, preferably freshly rendered
1 large white onion, sliced into thin half-moons
6 scallions, green tops only, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups orange liqueur, preferably a low-alcohol brand
1 cup blackberry liqueur, preferably a low-alcohol brand
1 cup cider vinegar

Using a mortar and pestle or a food processor, grind the chopped garlic to a paste with the herbs, 1 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. With the top of a sharp knife, pierce shallow incisions all over the ham, and push a little of the paste into each. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Rub a light film of lard all over the meat and season with the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Scatter the onion, scallions and whole garlic cloves over the bottom of a large deep baking pan. Place the ham on this bed of aromatics. Combine the liqueurs and vinegar in a medium bowl and pour over the meat. Cover the pan tightly (wrap snugly in several layers of aluminum foil if it has no lid) and bake for 3 hours, turning twice, until tender. Uncover the ham to a platter and let sit for a few minutes before carving.

Meanwhile,, set a medium mesh sieve over a bowl and pour the contents of the roasting pan into it. use a wooden spoon or pusher to force through as much as possible of the flavorful solids.

Carve the ham and pass the pan sauce in a gravy boat.

Makes 8-10 servings.

From “Zarela’s Veracruz” by Zarela Martinez

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Pork Rules at Paella Challenge


Jeff Balfour's paella

Want to make your own award-winning paella at home? Start with a whole roasted pig.

That was chef Jeff Balfour’s secret at Sunday’s second annual Paella Challenge at the Pearl Brewery.

“We took a roasted whole pig, a happy little Texas pig,” said a beaming and exhausted Balfour of Citrus at the Hotel Valencia, 150 E. Houston St., shortly after winning the award. His team used the shoulder and the butt among other fleshy parts in the paella itself and then garnished each serving with succulent bits of tongue and cheek.

It was over the top and gave Balfour victory in the competition. “We placed third last year and first this year,” he said, while holding the crown-shaped award.

Jeffrey Balfour of Citrus with his award.

Balfour offers paella at Citrus, but it’s a made-to-order version. For those who couldn’t make Sunday’s Paella Challenge but want to try the chef’s winning creation, it will likely be offered for a few nights in the near future, he said. Call 210-230-8412 for more details.

Winning second place was the team from Lüke, which is near Citrus at 125 E. Houston St. “They’re practically just right across the street from us,” Balfour said.

Chef Stephen McHugh, who worked with John Besh on the Lüke team, also used pork in their paella. Pork belly, actually, which was mixed with crawfish. McHugh was grateful for second place considering it was the team’s first time to participate.

Third place went to Jhojans Priego of Villa Rica in Veracruz, Mexico.

Last year’s champion, Ben Ford of Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City, Calif., had planned on defending his title. But word had it that a bad case of food poisoning prevented him from showing.

Crowds enjoy the perfect weather as well as the excellent food.

What he missed was an imaginative array of paellas that used ingredients in wholly unexpected ways, said Leslie Horne of Aurelia’s Chorizo in Boerne. Truffles and foraged mushrooms as well as her chorizo were among the ingredients the throngs sampled in the various dishes served throughout the day.

“The imagination that went into all of these dishes was most impressive, to say the least,” Horne said. “They went the whole hog with Jeffrey’s.”

The most creative, in her opinion was a Thai green curry paella from Jeffrey Axell of the Grand Hyatt, 600 E. Market St. The dish was a way of showing off the restaurant’s new Asian fusion cuisine.

Ford may not have made the event, but other chefs from around the country did. A few included Kent Rathbun of Abacus in Dallas, Peter Holt of Houston’s Lupe Tortilla, Dale Miller of Sperry’s in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and Tim McCarty of the Mayo Foundation in Rochester, Minn., who was grateful for the balmy weather.

Paellas of all different flavors filled the event.

Local chefs who served up paellas to the hungry masses included Craig Bianco of RK Group, Brian West of the Hotel Contessa, Jason Dady of the Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills and others, and David Wirebaugh of the downtown Hyatt Regency.

Johnny Hernandez of La Gloria Ice House at the Pearl and True Flavors Catering organized the event, which benefits scholarship programs at the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus and the Education Foundation of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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Besh’s Pork Rillettes a Great Party Appetizer


Pork Shoulder Rillettes

Cookies, cakes and sweets of all type are exchanged among friends this time of year. But the food gift you give doesn’t have to be sweet. Try this recipe for Pork Shoulder Rillettes from Lüke creator John Besh.

Put this savory appetizer out for a party, with crackers, sliced baguette, cornichons and olives.

“Rillettes are meats cooked in lard, shredded and packed into jars, and then chilled and spread like pâté on toast,” the chef says in “My New Orleans: The Cookbook.” “It is certainly an ambitious recipe, which is precisely why I love to put up jars of rillettes and give them to friends around the holiday season. Cooked duck legs and their fat, the skin and bones removed, can easily be substituted for the pork shoulder and pork fat.”

People also love the personal touch of a handmade food gift, Besh said when he was in San Antonio recently for the grand opening of the San Antonio Lüke at 125 E. Houston St. That’s what makes these so welcome at Christmas or any time of year.

Pork Shoulder Rillettes

1 pound lard
3 onions, chopped
1 (4- to 5-pound) boneless Boston butt pork roast
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 rib celery, halved
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Melt the lard in a large enameled cast-iron pot with a lid over moderate heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. While the onions are cooking, cut the pork into large pieces and season with salt and pepper.

Add the pork to the pot along with the garlic, celery, chicken stock, wine, thyme, bay leaves and pepper flakes. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and slowly simmer for 3 hours.

Remove the pork from the pot and place in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and mix on low speed.

Remove and discard the celery, thyme sprigs and bay leaves from the pot. Slowly add the remaining broth from the pot to the meat in the mixer bowl, continuing to mix at low speed until all the broth has been incorporated back into the meat. Season with salt and pepper. Pack the cooled pork in a terrine or in small sterilized jars. Cover well and refrigerate. Jarred rillettes will keep for 6 months.

Makes 10-15 pint  jars.

From “My New Orleans: The Cookbook” by John Besh

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You’ll Never Guess What They Serve at Carnitas


Carnitas Huaraches

To pork lovers, there is nothing like a plate of Michoacan-style carnitas. This dish is essentially a type of pork confit cooked in its own juices and fat until it is ready to fall apart. The meat is then crisped on the outside to give it a crackly texture while remaining moist and succulent inside.

Wrap these strands of meat in a warm corn tortilla and coat them with a spritz of lime juice. One bite can be transcendent.

Imagine how I felt when I saw the sign along W.W. White of a restaurant named Carnitas. I practically willed the car instantly into the parking lot, even though I wasn’t driving.

Food: 4.0
Service: 3.0
Value: 4.0

Rating scale:
5: Extraordinary
4: Excellent
3: Good
2: Fair
1: Poor

Not many customers were there in the late afternoon, but the few around us were definitely giving off vibes of contentment. The cool, comforting space with the white walls and tile floors was also welcoming

Yet, because this is such a favorite with me, I was anxious about how good the carnitas would be. I scarcely noticed that carnitas was all we ordered.

One version featured the carnitas atop a pair of huaraches, the sandal-shaped corn patties that had been smeared with a thin layer of porky refried beans. The other had carnitas au naturel, so you could make your own taco if you wanted to stuff the meat into a handmade flour tortilla or just enjoy the meat by itself.

I needn’t have worried.

The carnitas were spectacular, and served hot enough to impart a pleasant little sizzle on the tongue. The carnitas were spectacular enough to name the restaurant after. They were good enough to make me dream of returning for more.

Yes, we had beans, rice, some salsa and maybe something else. But did I tell you about the carnitas … ?

Carnitas Plate

Carnitas Huaraches

Exterior of Carnitas

Carnitas Mexican Restaurant
1310 S. W.W. White Road
(210) 359-6800
Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Photos: Nicholas Mistry

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The Flavors of Ireland Fill Colcannon


Leave it to the Irish to come up with a one-bowl dinner that combines a rich and satisfying combination of pork, potatoes and kale or cabbage. The resulting magic is called colcannon.

According to Wikipedia, “An old Irish Halloween tradition was to serve colcannon with prizes of small coins concealed in it, as the English do with Christmas pudding. This is still done today and small amounts of money are placed in the potato.”

The dish is served there in autumn because that’s when kale comes into season, but we suggest it as an economical dish for St. Patrick’s Day with its streaks of green floating in the mashed potato mixture.

This is a dish that is great to play around with because you can use what ingredients you prefer or have on hand; and it still comes out great. So, try colcannon with ham or bacon or even Canadian bacon, which is closer to the Irish style of bacon. Use sautéed leeks or onion stirred into the mix or scallions as a garnish. Use the water from steaming the cabbage instead of milk (just keep the butter).

You can also serve colcannon as a meaty side dish or the main course of a meal. A green salad and a slab of brown bread – not to mention a pint of lager – would round out the meal.

Colcannon

1 pound ham, cubed
3 pounds gold potatoes
At least 1 pound green cabbage, shredded or chopped
1 1/4 cups milk (see note)
1 stick butter, cut in pieces
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 scallion, chopped, for garnish

Place the ham in a saucepan and cover with water. Boil for 45 minutes until tender. You may have to add more water. When meat is ready, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, steam the potatoes 30 minutes or until soft. Peel the potatoes.

Steam the cabbage several minutes until soft. Reserve the water.

Heat the milk until hot but not boiling.

Using a stand mixer, add the potatoes and butter and mash until well incorporated and lumps removed. While that is mashing, add the milk slowly until well incorporated. Add the cabbage first, then the ham. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with scallions.

Note: You can make a lower-fat version of this by using the warm water from the steamed cabbage instead of the milk.

Makes 6 main course servings or 12 side-dish servings.

Adapted from “Tyler’s Ultimate”/Food Network

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Crown Roast of Pork Simply Impressive


CrownRoast3

We prepared a crown roast for a SavorSA get-together recently. I’d never made one, though I’d thought about doing it for years. It turned out well and wasn’t difficult to make, especially as good meat markets and butchers will either have the crown roasts on hand or prepare them (by shaping and tying the roast) for you.

CrownRoast1What the butcher does is take a couple of lengths of bone-in pork loin, trims it of some fat. Then, the rib ends of the chops are frenched, or closely trimmed to expose several inches of the ribs.  The butcher also cuts little notches between ribs to make the strip of ribs bend more easily. Also, these can be guides as to where to carve.  Then, the butcher stands the ribs up on the meaty ends and ties the roast (securely, you hope) into a circle.

Your part is easy. Take the roast home, season it, put stuffing in the center and put it in the oven. And, of course, take it out at the right time!  I bought an 8-pound roast with 12 chops in it, and it fed seven of us generously, plus there were leftovers.

Here are the steps. (Also, click here for general tips on making a good roast of any kind.)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. CrownRoast2Unwrap roast and set it in a large roasting pan. Season it with salt and pepper (or try Tyler Florence’s Pork Loin Seasoning Rub). Let loin sit awhile to bring it to room temperature, or close.
  3. Stuff the center with Jalapeño, Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing. This will give you a good-looking presentation, juicy stuffing and helps push the roast into a round shape. (Some recipes say to add stuffing an hour and a half or so into the baking, but I put it in right away and was pleased with the results.)
  4. Top the stuffing and the ends of the ribs that stick up in the air with foil. About 15 minutes before the roast is done, take the foil off the stuffing so that the stuffing browns.
  5. CrownRoast4Put the roast in the oven; you might have to lower the rack to accommodate its height. Put the meat thermometer into the thick part of the meat. You want it to read at 155 or 160 degrees, depending on how done you want the pork. The 8 pound roast I made took about 2 hours and 20 minutes to roast. I took it out at about 156 degrees and let it sit for about 20 minutes. It was cooked through, maybe with just a hint of pink. You can take the foil off the rib ends now.
  6. Parade the roast around the house so that everyone sees its beauty. (Or, invite them into the kitchen.)
  7. CrownRoast6We let the roast sit 20-30 minutes to redistribute the juices. If you want to make gravy, take the roast out of the pan and put it on a large plate in a warm place to rest. Then, proceed with making gravy.
  8. Take the stuffing out of the roast and put it in the center of a large, preferably warm, serving platter
  9. Cut the strings off of the roast with a kitchen scissors.
  10. With a sharp carving knife (I used my French knife, which worked fine) slice off as many chops as you have guests (these will be big chops). Arrange them, ribs toward the center and pointing up, as much as possible, over the stuffing. Put a serving fork and spoon on the platter so guests can lift off a chop and spoon out some stuffing.
  11. CrownRoast7Hint: If you want to further enhance the presentation, either on the roast or the chop plate, make little bunches of parsley and put tiny grape tomatoes on them: It’s Christmas-y and pretty.
  12. What about those paper booties that we see on crown roasts or racks of lamb? I discussed this with someone who, as do I, considers these things. We agreed that they might be a little passé. If you want them, you can find them in a well-stocked supermarket (ask the butcher, too). Or, make some yourself out of pretty gold foil Christmas gift-wrap – passé maybe, but fun!

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Portuguese Fare Extends Beyond Salt Cod and Cilantro


PortugueseFare2I have long been a fan of Portugal and its bounty of seafood, its spectacular cheeses and olives, its nuts, fruits and vegetables, and its rustic breads. The food may be peasant in origin, born out of its citizens’ poverty, but there’s no denying the ingenious ways in which its cooks use the simplest ingredients to create the most memorable meals. Think of steamed clams mixed with bits of pork and garlic. Or a bowl of bread-thickened soup with large chunks of lobster swirled in like surprises.  The array of desserts made with little more than egg yolks and sugar staggers the mind and overwhelms the taste buds.

So I was eagerly looking forward to the publication of David Leite’s “The New Portuguese Table” (Clarkson Potter, $32.50) to find out if he captured the spirit of this remarkable cuisine with the same exhaustive intensity as Anya Von Bremzen’s “The New Spanish Table” of a few years back. Leite’s book is a little slimmer than Von Bremzen’s and a little more photo heavy. But the recipes tested largely succeed, making it a worthy companion.

Leite, creator of the foodie site www.LeitesCulinaria.com, was a good one to tackle the job as he is of Portuguese descent, though that’s something he freely admits he disavowed in his youth. “Let me set the record straight,” he says at the beginning of the book, “for the first 32 years of my life, I wanted nothing to do with Portugal, its food or its culture. For anyone else, that wouldn’t have been a problem, considering that during the 1960s and 1970s Portugal wasn’t exactly on most people’s radar. But coming from a Portuguese family, I was hard-pressed to ignore my heritage.”

He overcame that feeling in time and has rendered a rich array of recipes that will delight and intrigue. To explore the book, I got together with the friends I’d last traveled to Portugal with, and we made more than a half-dozen recipes, ranging from a Green Olive Dip laden with anchovies and cilantro to Pork Tenderloin in a Port-Prune Sauce (see recipe below). Other dishes on the menu included Grilled Shrimp With Piri-Piri Sauce (see recipe below), Spinach With Toasted Bread Crumbs, Sweet-Sour Carrots, Sweet Lemon and Black Olive Wafers, and Baked Custard Tarts.

All but one of the recipes was a keeper (more on the exception later), and most were easy to make. The shrimp skewers gained immeasurably from grilled lemon wedges as well as the spicy sauce in which the shrimp were marinated. The soft spinach gained contrasting textures and greater depth of flavor from toasted breadcrumbs and garlic. The lemon and olive wafers were a winning – and yes, odd – combination of sweet and savory ingredients that worked better than I can begin to describe.

After the end of the meal, I wanted to dive deeper into the book to try Seared Skate in Garlic-Pepper Oil, maybe, or the Green Soup made with kale or collards and, of course, more garlic. There are plenty of traditional favorites, such as clams in the flying saucer-shaped cataplana and several suggestions on what to do with bacalhau (salt cod). The hot sauce, piri-piri, is used liberally, and everything seems to be sprinkled with cilantro, just as the Portuguese do.

PortugueseFare3But there are a few revisions that don’t work as well as the originals – and require more, unnecessary work. The beauty of Cilantro Bread Soup With Poached Eggs is its ease of preparation, the way in which you can make a nourishing soup with boiling water and a paste made of garlic and salt plus the addition of cilantro, stale bread and a poached egg. Adding chicken stock, or even vegetable stock, dresses it up into something it’s not and makes the flavors a little less pristine.

Even worse is Leite’s fussy version of Baked Custard Tarts, or Pastéis de Nata, which betrays a bit of Portuguese culinary history. You see, when the Portuguese explorers sailed to Asia by way of Africa, they didn’t bring back such New World foods as vanilla or chocolate; and neither figure much into traditional Portuguese desserts. Leite’s version includes vanilla and lemon zest, both of which distract from the heavenly simplicity of a dessert that is little more than egg yolks, sugar and cream baked in puff pastry. (I have to admit his version is not bad. I ate four, but I ate those four remembering how much better other recipes have been.)

If those two had been the only recipes I tried, I would have had my reservations about “The New Portuguese Table.” But on the basis of every other recipe tried, this is a cookbook worth returning to time and time again.

Pork Tenderloin in a Port-Prune Sauce

Taste the sauce once it has been processed, once again after adding the salt and pepper, and finally upon completion. You’ll be surprised at how it changes each time.

2/3 cup pitted prunes
1 cup ruby port
1/2 cup beef stock
1-inch thumb of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon honey
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 (1-pound) pork tenderloins, fat and silver skin removed
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Place the prunes into a small saucepan, add the port, beef stock, ginger and honey, and bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let steep for 20 minutes.

Pour the prunes and liquid into a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Season both tenderloins well with salt and pepper and sear one at a time, turning occasionally, until brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet and set the skillet aside.

Roast the pork until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat registers just under 150 degrees, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer the tenderloins to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest for 5 minutes.

Pour off all but a thin film of fat from the skillet. Lower the heat to medium, toss in the garlic, and cook until lightly colored, about 2 minutes. Add the port-prune sauce and stir to pick up the browned bits stuck to the skillet. Pour in the vinegar, and any accumulated juices from the pork, and cook to meld the flavors, 2 to 3 minutes. If the sauce seems thick, add more beef stock. For an elegant take, strain the sauce through a sieve.

Cut the tenderloins on the diagonal into 1/2-inch slices. Divide the slices among six plates, drizzle with the warm sauce and sprinkle with cilantro.

Makes 6 servings.

From “The New Portuguese Table” by David Leite

Grilled Shrimp With Piri-Piri Sauce

2 1/2 pounds extra-large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 cup piri-piri sauce (see recipe below), plus more for serving
2 lemons cut into wedges
Kosher salt, to taste

Combine the shrimp and piri-piri sauce in a large resealable freezer bag and toss to coat. Place the bag in a shallow dish and marinate in the refrigerator, turning a few times, for at least several hours, or, preferably, overnight.

Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium.

Thread the shrimp and lemon wedges on skewers and season with salt. Grill the shrimp over indirect heat, turning several times, until just opaque, 5 to 6 minutes. For an extra spike of flavor, brush the skewers with fresh piri-piri sauce just before serving.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From “The New Portuguese Table” by David Leite.

Piri-Piri Sauce

3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
6 to 8 fresh red chile peppers, such as cayenne, Tabasco, or pequin, to taste, stemmed
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt

Mix the garlic and vinegar in a small bowl and let steep for 20 minutes. Drop the peppers (including their seeds) and the garlic mixture into a food processor and pulse to chop. While the motor is running, pour in the oil, sprinkle with salt, and whir until smooth.

Pour the sauce into a small glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and let steep in the refrigerator for at least several days, preferably 1 week. Strain the mixture, if you wish. The sauce will keep for about 1 month in the refrigerator. Shake well before using.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

From “The New Portuguese Table” by David Leite

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Make a Sizzling Pork Green Chile


You can roast your own, or pick them up already roasted during August chile fests around town.

If ever a dish was green, this is it. Along with pork, green chiles aplenty go into the pot (you almost can’t put too many in). Then you add more green things: tomatillos, cilantro, lime juice.

Texans tend to call it this dish pork green chile stew, and there’s nothing exactly wrong with this. One also might refer to it as a pork and green chile guisada. Guisada means “stew.”

But in states further west, where the dish is insanely popular, it is  generally referred to as  Pork Green Chile, or even just green chile.  I learned to make green chile when I was in college in Arizona and have made it ever since.  One can also make it with beef, a mixture of beef and pork, or venison. I’ve had it all ways.

Fry the cubes of pork, give them plenty of room in the pan so they brown rather than stew.

One good thing about this recipe is that no starch-based thickening agents are required — no flour, no cornstarch, no nuthin’.  How does it get so wondrously thick? By the tried and true method of reduction. The chiles and their juices simmer down to a thick, delicious green sauce. At the same time, the meat is getting fork tender as it imbues the chiles with all that good, porky flavor.

This dish is forgiving.  If you don’t have tomatillos, leave them out. Add a little more lime juice for that little acidic zing. Or, use a can of Herdez Salsa Verde. (I always keep a supply of these in the pantry since it’s a good product and can be used for any number of dishes. ) If you don’t have very many fresh green chiles but you have canned, augment the fresh with the canned. If you don’t like a lot of heat, use more poblanos and Anaheims than jalapeños and serranos. But, keep in mind that Anaheims labeled ‘hot,’ as in hot Hatch chiles, will be just that. And, we’ve all had a few fiery poblanos, too. Play it by taste.

Finally, maybe the best thing about Pork Green Chile: After you’ve done the prep work, the roasting, slicing and dicing, you just cover it up and simmer.  The ingredients plus the heat will make the sauce for you from that point on.  Take the cover off for the last part of the cooking so that it reduces.

Serve the chile in bowls with warm flour tortillas on the side.  Put a bowl of shredded cheese on the side, wedges of lime and some finely chopped onion and cilantro, mixed together.

Another variation I’ve seen is to add this chile to a pot of fideo with a pinch of Mexican oregano in it.  Or, if you have large flour tortillas, make a burrito out of it.

What’s best to drink with it? Cold beer. Period.

Pork Green Chile

4 pounds pork butt or shoulder roast
1/4 cup cooking oil or lard
Salt, to taste
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and diced
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and diced
4-6 tomatillos, husks removed, washed, trimmed and diced
8 Anaheim (long green) chiles, roasted, de-veined and skinned
4 large poblano chiles, roasted, de-veined and skinned
1-2 jalapeños, seeded, diced (or to taste)
1-2 serrano chiles, diced (or to taste)
1 lime
1 -2 tablespoons freshly cut cilantro leaves, minced

Trim the pork, cutting off most of the fat, silver skin and any other gristly parts.  Cut the meat into 1-inch dice. In a large saute or frying pan, pour in the oil and warm it up. Cook the diced pork in batches. This way you can spread the pieces out so they don’t touch one another. This means it will brown rather than stew. Add a little salt to each batch that you fry. After each batch of pork is lightly browned, transfer it to the pot that you are going to simmer the chile in.

When you are browning the last batch, the pan may have become dry, with a lot of golden brown on the bottom.  Before the last batch of meat is completely browned, add the onions, garlic and tomatillo and continue to cook, stirring. The moisture of the vegetables will help loosen up the browned bits. With a wooden stirring spoon, you also can  scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and get all that flavor into your stew.

When the meat and vegetables are browned and in the larger pot, dice all of the trimmed chiles into pieces roughly an inch or two wide, add to the pot. Add the diced jalapeños and serrano chiles. Stir and cover the pot. Bring to a simmer and let it simmer, covered, until the chile has cooked down and the pork is getting tender. If the chiles are very fresh, they’ll put off more liquid. If you want the dish very thick, take the lid off the top of the pot and let it reduce.  When the pork is fork tender, squeeze in the juice from half of the lime and add the cilantro. Stir and taste for seasoning (salt, more lime if you like).

Serves 6-8, depending on appetites.

From Bonnie Walker

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