asian hot and sour rhubarb pork with new garlic

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Though what I really wanted to do was make something asian inspired featuring duck and rhubarb, and new garlic, duck is still quite hard to come by this time of year. So is chicken. All of the chicks and ducklings have gotten bigger and been put out to pasture, but few of them are ready for slaughter yet. So it goes.

Pork, however, has been easy to source. Just about every farmer who I know sells meat has a fair amount of pork to choose from. I ran into Bob Barth from Birch Hill Farm in Lee recently who advised me “Everyone needs a boar.” I suppose I wouldn’t know, but I’m going to eat local pork all the same.

This is an interesting time for pigs. A large chinese company has just started the huge purchase of Smithfield Foods, America’s largest pork producer. The chinese are finding they can’t raise enough pork to meet demand in their country, and also the economy is raising enough that the Chinese are interested in “high-quality” American Meat.

On top of this purchase, grain prices are skyrocketing. A common misconception that consumers have is all livestock thrive on grass. This isn’t the case. Cows do, and it’s better for their meat if they’re feed a grass heavy diet. Pigs on the other hand can’t digest that much grass. They need grain and other supplementary food to be healthy. Mainstream pork producers aren’t going to be able to keep the prices of factory farmed pork down in the modern agricultural climate.

However, this doesn’t change things for local farmers all that much. They’ve always had prices that are an honest reflection of what it takes to raise and slaughter and animal. Pork is one of the few meats that you can actually truly taste a difference in quality of life of the animal. A happy pig is a yummy pig. Small local farmers for the most part can be trusted to raise happy pigs.

I get different pork products from different farmers. I’m especially partial to pork chops from New Roots Farm. I like Hurd Farm’s ribs. But I always migrate back to Kellie Brook Farm when I want to work with a really interesting piece of meat. Tim Rocha is very knowledgable when it comes to is product. I can tell him what I’m cooking and he can tell me what cut of meat to use. So far, he hasn’t led me astray.

For this dish, he told me to use Pork Steak.

Don’t feel bad if you’re not familiar with pork steak. You’d be hard pressed to find it in a grocery store. Like most cuts of pork that aren’t incredibly mainstream, it usually just gets ground up with the odds and ends, which is a shame because its a lovely cut of meat. It is tough, so you’ll either want to slice it thin like I do for this recipe, or pound it out… but its terribly yummy and quite lean as far as pork is concerned.

Hot and Sour Rhubarb Pork – Serves 4

Ingredients

  •  1 – 2 lbs Pork Steak, or other comparable meat. Be brave and talk to your farmer about what meat would work best! (Kellie Brook Farm, Hurd Farm)

(for marinade)

  • 14 oz Rhubarb (Live Free Farm, Willow Pond Farm)
  • 4 Tablespoons Raw Honey
  • 4 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • 1 stalk of New Garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ancho pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel
  • Hunk of fresh ginger
  • 1 Dried Chile, seeded

(for salad)

  • 14 oz Brown Rice Noodles, or Plain Brown Rice
  • 4 Green Onion, nicely sliced up (Stout Oak Farm)
  • 1/2 lb of mixed Sprouts and Herbs – cilantro, basil, mico-greens, pea shoots, etc (Live Free Farm, Meadows Mirth Farm, Stout Oak Farm)
  • 1/4 lb of Baby Bok Choi, or Tat Soi (Live Free Farm)
  • 2 Limes

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the pork steak up very thin, about a half of an inch. You may even want to only thaw it 3/4 of the way, if you buy it frozen. This makes the slicing easy. Put aside in a casserole dish.

Put all of the ingredients for the marinade into a food processor. Pulse until you have a chunky sauce, and pour that sauce over the pork. Add about a cup of water and mix everything around so that the pork is nicely covered. Pop the pork into the oven for about an hour and a half. You’ll notice that any edges sticking out of the pan will start to get pink and crunchy. About midway through put on your brown rice, if that’s your starch of choice.

Remove the dish from the oven and pick the pork out of the rhubarb with a pair of tongs. You’ll be left with a nice tangy thickened sauce. Spoon the sauce into a serving dish for later.

Drizzle some vegetable oil in a wok and get it nice and hot. Throw the pork on and let it sizzle until the pork gets nice and crispy. If you’re opting to serve the pork with noodles, this is a good time to put them in the boiling water and swirl them around until they’re tender.

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Put the noodles and pork in their respective serving dishes, out with the rhubarb sauce, cut up limes, and a salad made of the sprouts and cresses. Build your own plate! I usually start with the noodles or the rice, pile the salad on top, and finish it with the pork, sauce and lime… but mix it up as you wish!

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