Monday, November 23, 2009

P.I.G. - Pork is Good

[Edit: Most of you are coming here looking for chicharones. I have some tips a few paragraphs down by the picture of Chef Jeremiah's creations, but my recipe for making them at home is here. Also, chicharrones is spelled with two r's. You only found this page because both of us mis-spelled it with one. Search for it with two and you'll find a lot more info.]

That there is the advertisement for last afternoon's PIG event. The event was a not-quite-underground dinner organized by Frodnesor of the Food for Thought blog (a first time CSA subscriber this year and good luck to him) as part of his Cobaya gourmet guinea pig project.

Chef Jeremiah mentioned is Jeremiah Bullfrog, late of Bullfrog Eatz in Wynwood and soon to be of a retro-fitted kitchen in a 1962 Airstream trailer, and currently caterer at large. (You can read a recent interview with him here if you want to know more.) The menu is all pork with a bit of experimentation with new recipes.

on the Bay is not just inside Legion Park, it's a back porch attached to the Legion Hall. Kind of musty and creepy until you get through the hall and come out to this view:

I sprung for a VIP pass so I got in early and got my serving of all of the dishes. Chef Jeremiah kindly explain each dish, answered question and put up with nearly half of the twenty-some-strong crowd that rushed him with cameras each time he brought out something new. With all that documentation, I'd better not be the only person writing this up.

started us off with chicharones and a fizzy cocktail of black cherry syrup and store-bought moonshine. Who knew you could buy such a thing? The cocktail went down dangerously smoothly and the chicharones were mighty tasty and a substantial improvement over my recipe. Three reasons for that: 1. a rather thinner layer of fat for a more skin-centric experience, 2. an overnight brine before simmering and 3. dehydrating at 150 degrees instead of roasting at 250. Those first two steps, at least, are easy improvements to make so I'll definitely be making better pork rinds next time around.

the appetizer, it was time to get the pig roasting. It was a 50 pound baby pig from West Hialeah the chef picked up earlier in the week. He entirely deboned it, made a stock from the bones and head-cheese from the head and wrapped it up into a giant roulade. Here it is brining in sour orange, lime, oregano, garlic, a little sugar and lots of salt: traditional Cuban flavors.

here it is going into the caja china box. There's surprisingly little charcoal under there putting out enormous amounts of heat. And it took very little fussing with, I was told.

back inside for the first dish, the chef's take on char chui bao--steamed pork buns. Instead of the standard Chinese roast pork filling, he used a barbecued pork butt coated with a traditional Southern-style spice blend, smoked then roasted at 350 degrees. The soft, milky and slightly sweet dough compliments the tender flavorful pork, but the pairing is a little dry. To compensate, we got little syringes filled with soy sauce to inject into the buns which tied the flavors together nicely. Also, a couple hot sauces to put on top. I chose the Malaysian crispy prawn chili sauce that added some texture and just a little funkiness that I though rounded out the flavors nicely.

The non-VIP crowd started filtering in at this point. Good to get the bloggers down under 25%.

up were banh mi tacos--all the rage in Los Angeles; unheard of in Miami. Hard enough to get a decent standard taco or banh mi here. I'm not sure if the meat in there is the head cheese or trotters. Either way, its flavored with fish sauce and cilantro and topped with pickled carrot and daikon and a drizzle of sriracha. A pretty presentation, but difficult to eat so I stuffed the salad inside. That muted the bright sweet flavors though, letting the corn tortilla dominate. There was just a hint of fish sauce in the lovely flavor of the pork, but the meltingly soft fat had the texture of refried beans and reinforced the Mexican aspect of the dish for me. Very successful as a cabeza (or possibly pie) de puerco taco; less so as a banh mi.

Around this time the guitar guy started playing. Poor guitar guy sitting all alone and strumming his heart out with everyone ignoring him and wishing he'd stop. So sad.

back to the food. Next were simplified Cuban sandwiches, anyway. He left out the ham and cheese--which I can't say I really missed--so it was just mustard, homemade pickles and thick slices of pork belly. The flavors were good--maybe a bit heavy on the mustard--but I had a little problem with the texture. The pork belly was chewy which is undercooked to the Western palate, but about right for most Asian applications. And that's fine on its own, but I don't think the pairing with the texture of the Cuban bread was great. But then I think Cuban bread is lousy with just about anything so I'm not the best judge.

One more dish before the main event--homemade hot dogs. The dogs were simply seasoned, cured and not lightly smoked, as hot dogs should be. A nice snap when bit, also good. But they were outshined by the very tasty pickled onions.

the roast pig! Quite good indeed. Well done, but not dry due to the brining which also subtly enhanced the porky flavor. The real star, though, is the skin--fatty, crispy and oh so tasty. The sweet potato flan isn't half bad either. Light, smooth and creamy and a flavor that was just right with the pork.

I had to run off to get to work at this point. The room was getting crowded and the band had just finished setting up so I presume I missed the real party. Thank god. Anyone who stayed please continue the story in the comments. Actually, even if you didn't stay, if you could talk about how the event went as an event with actual humans socializing, I'd be obliged. Although I did make a little conversation, overall I wasn't really paying much attention to that part. I'll just leave it with thanks to Chef Jeremiah and to Frodnesor for making this event happen and to go so smoothly. Folks seemed to be having a good time so far as I could tell. I certaintly did. And I'm looking forward to the next event.

1 comment:

kat said...

OMG! This is my kind of dinner!