Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hooray for the USDA!!

Most likely due to the fact that the world did not end last weekend, the USDA announced Tuesday that it has lowered the recommended cooking temperaturefor pork from 160 to 145 degrees, bringing it in line to the same cooking standards as beef, veal and lamb.

This is finally on par with what we chefs have been doing for about a decade because we are governed by the FDA, which has allowed the lower temperatures, because otherwise the meat would be dry and tough when fully cooked. I must have some kind of pork radar thing because I had this incredible urge to feature a pork special this week... or is that just how I am every week??

Since apricots have just come into season and the amazing way that pork pairs with sweeter ingredients, I wanted to make a sauce with them, but I had to make sure the dish didn't end up tasting like a dessert, so I decided to first roll portioned tenderloin in a robust spice blend popular in North Africa called ras el hanout that I fortified with freshly ground coriander, cumin, caraway and chile flake before pan roasting it, which also toasted the spices. Though the new guidelines suggest cooking the pork to medium rare, I prefer to cook it medium to medium well not only to appease a wider audience but also because I have found that cooking it less makes it too chewy.

For the sauce I simply simmered the whites of Walla Walla spring onions in some fruity extra virgin olive oil until soft before adding the depitted apricot halves and some white wine, cooking them down until they are soft enough to puree, giving me a silky smooth, almost pudding-like sauce.

Even though the natural sweetness of the apricot is far from cloying I felt that I should further detract from it by sauteing finely chopped broccoli rabe, aka rapini, which has a bitter and pungent flavor that also really brings together the spice rub and the sauce. To take it a step further I added wedges of red radish that had been roasted to mellow their spiciness but still leaving a lot of flavor.

After last week's cocktail success I wanted to keep with the light and fresh theme, especially with the upcoming holiday weekend that is the unofficial marker for the start of summer.

One of the most recognizable classic cocktails is the gin fizz, which is the perfect summertime drink because it is cool and refreshing. To take it a step further I added the crisp juice of pomegranate to the usual suspects of gin, club soda and a splash of simple syrup to make the ultimate tribute to our glorious season, the best time of the year and the reason why we all tolerate the bleak, rainy season.

With Love,