Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A center opens to the unknown

Final post of April - I am headed to Vietnam with my totally awesome wife for a much anticipated 2 week belated honeymoon.  Food will be eaten and pictures will be taken, I just hope that our terrible Vietnamese is sufficient and the bottled water is safe!  I'm planning to have a big posting when I get back so stay tuned!

Braised Country Style Pork Ribs, Smoked Tomato Broth, and Mushroom Farro

Well, first of all, my apologies for not putting up anything recently.  Things have been hectic at brains4brunch hq and I haven't had as much time to dedicate to blogworthy things as I would like.  I am excited about this recipe though.  Every once in a while I come up with a recipe idea in my head that gets me really excited, and this one definitely had that for me.  I wanted a rich pork dish with a light broth - I was inspired for this dish by a dish that I had last year at Eleven in Pittsburgh - it was a very simply grilled salmon fillet over mashed potatoes with a really light tomato water.  It was one of those things that wasn't the course I was most looking forward to on the tasting menu, but it ended up being memorable because it was so well executed.  In fact, out of all of the dishes I had in that tasting, it was the one that stuck with me.  I wanted to make my own tomato brothy watery thing, but paired with pork, so I needed something a little more robust.  Smoking tomatoes paired with nutty farro and rich pork seemed like a great combination.  I wanted to use pork belly, and honestly if I made this again, I would go through the hoops necessary to get some pork belly for it, because I think it really would have made a big difference.  So keep that one in mind if you're feeling adventurous.

Smoked Tomatoes:
4 beefsteak tomatoes, cut in half and seeded
1/2 c chicken stock
4 sprigs parsley
4 sprigs chives
1 tbsp cold butter

6 country style pork ribs
2 tbsp salt to 4 cups water
1/2 onion, sliced
1/2 c dry white wine
Roughly 1.5c chicken stock
350 1.5 hours

Mushroom Farro
4 oz fresh mushrooms
1 oz dried porcinis
1/2 c diced onion
chicken stock
2 c farro

For the tomato broth:

Cut the tomatoes in half and pull the seeds and the tomato jelly stuff out with your fingers.  Set up your smoker at 200º or use a charcoal grill with indirect heat.  Smoke the tomatoes gently, only for about 20 minutes or so.  They should smell smoky but should not be broken down or roasted or anything.  Remove the tomatoes and place them in a blender.  Blend until pureed and then strain into a saucepan using a fine mesh strainer.  Add in the chicken stock and bring the broth to a simmer.  Taste it and adjust if necessary... It should taste smokey but not overpowering.  Add chicken broth to dilute if necessary.  To finish the broth, quickly blanch the chives and parsley in the broth, they will brighten the broth up and help it to become a refreshing finish in the dish.  Blanch them for only a couple of minutes and then remove them and discard.  Add the butter and whisk it in to soften the flavor just a bit.  Season with salt as necessary, and set aside.

For the ribs:
Preheat the oven to 350º.  Salt and pepper the ribs liberally and saute in a pan over med-hi heat until brown on all sides.  Saute in batches if you need to, make sure they don't steam.  Set the ribs aside and add the sliced onions and deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up all the brown bits.  Let simmer for about 2 minutes and then add the herbs. Add the ribs back to the pan and cover with chicken stock.  It might not take all 1.5 c, just pour to cover all of the onions and most of the ribs.  Bring the ribs to a simmer, cover, and place in the oven.  Rotate the ribs around and flip them about 45 minutes in, cover, and let braise for another 45 minutes.  The ribs should be falling apart - if they are not, continue braising until they are.  After it's done braising, strain the braising liquid and discard the solids.  Set the liquid aside for now.

For the Farro:
Farro is a great grain - tastes good and is really good for you.  I'd like to start using in my cooking more often.  It's also easy to prepare. Start by soaking the farro for 8 hours if you can.  Strain after soaking and let it drain in a colander while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

Boil a cup of water and adding the dried porcinis to it.  Let them steep for 20 or so minutes.  Dice the other half of your onion that you didn't use in the ribs and saute it in a pan with some butter.  Add the fresh mushrooms and saute until most of their liquid is released.  Add the farro and the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  Gently simmer for about 30 minutes, until the farro is cooked through but not mushy.  It should still have a fair amount of bite to it.  Drain the simmering liquid off, and add in the chives.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Plate by scooping a serving of farro in the middle of the plate.  Place a rib on top of the farro and spoon some of the braising liquid over the ribs and farro.  Spoon your smoked tomato broth around the outside of the dish - you probably want to use about ¼ c per dish - just enough to lend the smokey refreshing taste to the hearty farro and pork.  Enjoy!