The Top Chef “cooking farm fresh on the farm” challenge was right up our alley and we tried to honor the spirit of it as much as possible with a pork roast from farmer Diane of Nature’s Little Farms in southern Minnesota and carrots (and carrot tops) from the farmers market.
Because farmer Diane didn’t have a whole pork loin available, we went with a pork roast for Andrea’s garlic and five spice rubbed pork with roasted shallot apple balsamic jus. Because there were a lot of components to the dish, K started the jus before I even got there — reducing the balsamic (often an eye-watering task), sautéing the apples and roasting the shallots.
When I got there, I got to work slicing and dicing herbs and veggies for Kenny’s hot and sour curried eggplant dish. I have never made eggplant before. So when I started sautéing them in the pot with the garlic, onions, peppers and curry they started sticking like mad to the bottom of the pot. So I added more olive oil. More sticking, so I added more oil. Sticking – oil. You get the picture. When it seemed like the eggplant were on their way to tender (as called for in the recipe and as judged by K) K put the pork on the grill pan.
When the pork had about 10 minutes left to cook, I started on the broccoli couscous “scented” with lemon zest. I don’t know how something can be scented with lemon zest and not taste like lemon, but both the smell and taste of lemon was extremely subtle in this case. As was the broccoli and for that we were pleasantly surprised (neither of us cares much for broccoli). The couscous recipe calls for a duck leg, but we skipped that and added in a piece of the pork fat instead while the liquid was simmering. I’m not sure if that added anything, but a little extra pork fat can’t hurt, right?
While the pork was resting and the couscous was steaming in its little pot, I went back to the eggplant to give it a final stir before plating and it looked like the eggplant had exhaled all the oil I’d put in to prevent it from sticking. There was at least 1/4 cup of oil swimming around the pan. With a spoon, I squeezed the oil out of the veggies as best I could against the edge of the pan and hoped for the best.
The five spice powder made the pork taste like candy and the jus was a slightly piquant and mildly oniony condiment to that candy. The couscous was nutty and the teeny tiny bits of broccoli provided a nice green freshness. The eggplant and peppers were not spicy (as the show’s judges felt they were), but were so full of savory curry flavor I couldn’t eat much. K said he really liked it (he really, really likes curry), but I think I must be a milder curry girl. With less oil and less curry powder I probably would have been able to polish this off.
Eggplant or no eggplant, I’d definitely recommend stopping by your nearest farmers market to pick up a hunk of pork from a happy pig that roamed a nearby field. Then coat it with some garlic and five spice and enjoy your pork candy. What a way to honor the pig!