I covered the top three entries in the Missouri Pork Association’s Taste of Elegance contest the other day. Here’s I’ll include the entries that didn’t place (ie, numbers 4-8) in no particular order.
One thing that became evident in the tasting is that the chefs were dealing with conventional, CAFO-raised pork, the hallmarks of which are whiter meat, a tendency to dry out easily and – absent brining and marinating – less flavor than their counterparts on real farms (like Greystone, JJR and especially, Newman Farm). I won’t get into the merits here too much, but the differences are worth acknowledging.
Note: We were scoring on appearance, taste, originality and repeatability (recipes that would be suitable in a busy restaurant kitchen), with taste being the most heavily-weighted.
Here we go…
Bangkok Peanut Pork Tenderloin, Couscous with Pignolis and Chicharrones
Chef Steve Henderson
Hy-Vee, Conley Road
Peanut-flavored applesauce on grilled pork loin. Couscous and fried pork rinds competing for most random accompaniment. It was cooked correctly, but I really don’t know what was going on here. Not a fan.
Trotter Cigars and Consommé on the Rocks
Red and Moe
Trey tends to get a little “out there” with his contest entries, but this one takes the cake. A cigar of trotter molé sauce on an aspic “ashtray,” atop an encyclopedia with a glass of pork consommé “on the rocks” (ie, knuckle bones). It looked prettier in real life, and was fun. I actually thought it worked pretty well – it came in fourth on my ballot – but the other judges were less impressed.
More after the jump.
Crispy Slow-Cooked Suckling Pig, Vanilla Sage Demi-Glace, Parmesan Parsnips, Persimmons and Watercress
Bleu Restaurant and Wine Bar
This one was really close to placing. I loved the skin on the pork, the parsnip puree and the persimmons were a particularly fine touch. But the layers of fat in the pork – which had been cooked sous vide for two days – still hadn’t broken down (or had set again after cooling). I love pork fat, but the temperature has to be just right. Here it wasn’t. Otherwise, this would’ve been in the running.
Tres vias de carne de cerdo (Pork Three Ways)
Grilled Bacon Wrapped Piquant Peppers stuffed with Boursin Cheese and Slow Cooked Pork
Traditional Pork Carnitas served with Pickled Cabbage, Smoked Tomato Relish atop a Tortilla finished with Queso Fresca
Braised Pork and Sweet Onion Tort, finished with a Green Apple and Mango Chutney
Chef Peter Hawkins
Grand Cru Restaurant
After the scores were turned in we heard the chef had had a family emergency and that the dish had been prepared by a stand-in, so I’ll refrain from fully describing my reaction to this. It was pretty bad.
Side of Pork Duo: Chianti Braised Belly and Crispy Pancetta with Saffron Polenta, Caramelized Leeks and Blood Orange Gastrique
Chef Bryan Maness
This one won a lot of points on appearance, but suffered also from the fat of the pork belly not softening up enough. The polenta was a little heavier on the saffron than I would have preferred, but nicely crisped. Leeks and pancetta were excellent. If only that belly had been meltingly tender…