Almost everybody I know loves pork, what to me is the most versatile meat in the world. Many cultures cook up this tasty porcine protein in a multitude of ways.
In the last few years, there has been a pork resurgence—almost cult-like—with special pig dinners, books, charcuterie classes … the list goes on and on. One of my friends even told me her daughter has declared herself a “baco-tarian”: she doesn’t eat any meat, poultry, fish or other animal products EXCEPT bacon. Vegetarians, stand back—this is not my idea! I am only reporting the facts.
Recently, when working on a cruise line menu in the Southeast, our first stop was New Orleans, where we dined at Cochon. Opened by owner and chef Donald Link, who consistently received accolades for his Herbsaint Restaurant, and co-owner and chef Stephen Stryjewski, Cochon features a totally modern, inspired Southern menu. The name, which means pig in French, forecasts the bill of fare; this menu is full of pigs—pigs were flying! And it was fantastic.
We had spicy grilled pork ribs with homemade watermelon pickle; and smoked ham hocks with grits and brown gravy; and—the pièce de résistance-Louisiana cochon with turnips, cabbage and cracklin’s. We were in pig heaven! If you get a chance to visit New Orleans and are a pork-lover, you must try Cochon.
Cruising up the big river, we stopped in Natchez, Mississippi, where the ship’s kitchen crew insisted that we venture into town to try the Pig Out Inn. There we had sauced and sloppy, pulled-pork sandwiches—made from slow-cooked pork shoulder—and tender, finger-licking ribs. Since these towns were really hit hard by Hurricane Katrina, I felt it my duty to add back into the local economy by ordering mass bags of sandwiches to take back to the fellas on the ship, where the goodies were exuberantly devoured. When I inquired about a cab in this tiny city, the restaurant manager insisted on personally driving us back to the ship. Southern hospitality and barbecue at their best! Here’s one of my favorite pork recipes:
Slow-Braised Pork Pot Roast with Apples & Onions”
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 (2 1/2-pound) boneless pork shoulder or butt roast
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 Gala apples, each cut in 8 chunks
1 large onion, cut in 16 chunks
2 large sprigs fresh thyme
6 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, optional
1/3 cup raspberry or white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
Preheat an oven to 350°F.
Pat dry the pork roast and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Place apples, onion, thyme, and garlic in a small roasting pan and set the pork roast on top. Sprinkle with the caraway seeds.
Mix together the vinegar and sugar until the sugar is dissolved, then pour it around the pork.
Place the pork in the oven and roast, uncovered, for 1 hour. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and continue roasting for about 1 1/2 hours more, until the pork is fork-tender. The total roasting time will be about 2 1/2 hours.
Recipe from Dishing with Kathy Casey: Sasquatch Books, Copyright © 2002 by Kathy Casey