Sunday, April 19, 2009

Friday Farmer's Market Dinner

My father and I have had some mighty fine meals this week. We have been mostly eating out, taking advantage of the vast restaurant culture that the city has to offer. So far the highlights of my father’s visit have been Momoya and Dovetail, two relatively new restaurants on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with ballooning reputations. I lovingly refer to Momoya as the poor man’s Nobu with excellent Japanese cuisine. The food is excellent and the prices are reasonable with tons of daily sashimi specials and inventive rolls. My favorites are the rock shrimp tempura and the Momoya spicy tuna composed of seared yellow tail and spicy tuna topped with a raspberry reduction and slivered almonds. Dovetail has only been open a year and has quickly blossomed into one of the best seafood restaurants in town. The seven course tasting menu was just insane with dish after dish of intricate preparation and imagination. The salt-baked sea scallop with urchin and kumquat, horseradish panna cotta with house-cured salmon, and halibut confit with morels and nutmeg were all out of this world. Alas one cannot eat out every night of the week, so a couple of days ago my father decided it would be nice to stay in and cook. We had a tasty lunch at the oyster bar at grand central and then hit the union square farmer’s market to plan a menu. I had my eye on some fresh beets and a massive well-marbled pork shoulder from the Queens county farm museum. I ended up doing the bulk of the cooking and threw together a couple of pretty good dishes. The first consisted of balsamic-pickled beets, honeyed goat cheese, and an herb salad. The herb salad contained tarragon, cilantro, parsley, dill, and mint, an absolutely stunning blast of flavor that contrasted nicely with the acidic earthiness of the beets and creamy sweetness of the chevre.

The second course of my Friday night farmer’s market meal was beer braised pork shoulder with Anaheim and adobo chilies. I was looking for a farm raised protein to serve as the main course and the first thing I saw at the busy market was the anatomical chart of a pig. I approached the Queens county farm museum stand and was told that they had recently slaughtered a pig and had an array of fresh cuts available. The young lady in charge recommended the pork shoulder and suggested that I braise it low and slow. I took her counsel to heart and started thinking about what and how to braise the pork with. My father suggested a classic braising liquid of wine, stock, onions, garlic, and herbs. I decided to go with beer in order to deepen the pork flavor with a bitter component and also create a lightly caramelized sauce. After searing the pork shoulder over low heat in a Dutch oven I threw in some sliced onions and whole garlic cloves. I then returned the meat to the pan with a pint of stout and two cups of stock, bringing everything to a simmer. I had some dried Anaheim and adobo chilies that my friend Hope in California sent me so I threw then in with a bay leaf and bouquet garnis of thyme and parsley. The whole thing cooked at 200 degrees for about 3 hours though it could have gone about 5 in order to really fall off the bone. Overall the flavor was there but the meat had to be sliced and then served in the sauce; not the tender almost stew-like texture that I had expected after an extended cooking time. The chilies reconstituted nicely in the richly flavored spicy sauce but the tenderness of the meat was an issue. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

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