Sunday, July 1, 2007

Brined pork

Abby left for Guatemala at the beginning of May, but before she took off, we had a couple of friends over for a little send off dinner party. The menu was a brined rack of pork with apple chutney and a bourbon reduction, a puree of sweet and russet potatoes, and braised brussels sprouts with pancetta. I the rack came from Savenor's so I knew that, if I prepared it well, it would taste great. The recipe for the pork, chutney, and sauce was from a Bobby Flay show, and since I like the kind of food he makes, I knew that if I didn't mess things up, it would probably taste pretty good. Brussles sprouts are something I've been making a lot lately and the potatoes are a dish that I've been experimenting with lately.

There were a lot of components to this dish, so everyone pitched in on the preparation. Here's Kathleen, Sharlene, and Gustavo trying to make sense of the food blog. Gustavo, by the way, has an amazing food blog that is really one of the major inspirations for this blog. I highly recommend it. I'm very impressed by his pictures, the range of dishes that he creates, his great use of seasonal ingredients, and his eye for economy in cooking, a must for any grad student/cooking enthusiast. His cooking is something to aspire to.
Here, Abby and Kathleen work on the chutney. I think that I might be secretly related to Kathleen. She really looks a lot like a Kina. Any relatives reading this might want to look into that and let me know if you find anything.
Here are the ingredients for the potatoes, simmering away.
The potatoes that I made were a half and half mix of sweet and regular potatoes. Sweet potatoes alone, I think, would be overpowering, hence the mixture. I'm essentially thinning out, or diluting, the sweet potato with the regular russets. The sweet potatoes are a lot denser, so I start boiling those a few minutes before adding the other potatoes. On the right is a mixture of cream and butter with thyme and dried sage. Heating it over low heat infuses the flavor of the herbs into the cream, but I probably needed to add more herbs and steeped it for a longer to get the effect I was going for. Once the potatoes are boiled, I pass them through a ricer, fold in the creme mixture and a couple cloves of roasted garlic, and season with salt and pepper. If you have a ricer, I would advise always using it to make mashed potatoes. If you have a potato masher, throw it out and get a ricer. Potatoes are, of course, a starch, and working it too much makes them heavy and sticky, like paste. I think its more or less the same reaction that you get when you knead dough. By using a ricer and gently folding in the ingredients, the mixture stays light and fluffy.

The most fun part was preparing the bourbon reduction. I've always liked playing with fire.
And, here is the final product all finished and plated before heading out to the dining room. The brussels sprouts were braised a little too long, so the color isn't as vivid as I would like, but it tasted good, and other than that, I have no complaints.
Here's Gustavo, Gary, and Abby. Notice how Abby has three glasses of wine in front of her.
She really loves her wine.

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