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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.009 – Nettle and Root Vegetable Soup with Poached Quail Egg

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I’ll have to admit, when faced with the challenge of cooking nettles, I felt a little nervous. If you’ve ever been stung by one you’ll know what I mean. Though they have a great nutty flavor when cooked, nettles leave some nasty little welts when they’re raw. I’ve been told that nettles are really high in protein and iron, especially for a leafy green.

I did a little research, and found out that nettles are great in creamy soups. My potted herb garden has been going kind of crazy outside, so I needed to trim it, and I decided to throw those in the mix with the stinging nettles. The sweet man from Mona Farm got me hooked on the idea of quail eggs, and my boyfriend suggested throwing in a few chunks of potatoes and a recipe was born.

For those of you new to nettles, they’re fairly abundant in New England. I’ve found a few at the farmers markets, and got my first bundle from Live Free Farm, but you can also forage them in field areas. I found a nice blog post on the subject for those interested in finding them, themselves. http://and-here-we-are.blogspot.com/2013/03/foraging-for-nettles-its-fun.html

DO NOT handle the nettles without gloves. I can’t emphasize this enough. Once they’re cooked the chemical that stings steams off, but prior to that you can get really painful surprises.

I decided to add in the quail eggs mainly because of the wonderful man from Mona Farm, and the fact that I love quail’s eggs, but I never know what to do with them. After trying them in soup I am happy to say they make a nice alternative to dumplings.

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Spring Nettle and Root Vegetable Soup with Poached Quail Eggs

Ingredients

  • ½ lb of Nettles (When I originally tested this recipe, I got them from Live Free Farm, however I ran out of those and bought the batch for this recipe from Osprey Cove Organic Farm & Stone Wall Farm)
  • ¼ lb of Herbs (I used a mix of Chocolate Mint from New Roots Farm and Thai Basil and Purple Basil from Aspen Hill Farm. But this is flexible.)
  • Olive Oil
  • Knob of Butter
  • 2 Shallots (Meadow’s Mirth Farm)
  • 4 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 lb Potatoes (Some for the broth and some for chunks to add in. I bought some plainer looking fingerlings from Meadow’s Mirth, and then some lovely purple potatoes from Meadow’s Mirth and Heron Pond Farm. I used about ¾ of a pound in the first part of cooking, and ¼ for the rest. I encourage you to sub in other root veggies, however I personally found a hard time getting turnips soft enough to serve with the rest of the dish.)
  • 4 cups Water or Chicken Stock
  • 2 cups Raw Milk (We have ours delivered from Huckens Farm.)
  • 4 Tbs Raw Honey
  • 2 Tbs Ground Cloves
  • 1 tsp Caraway Seeds
  • A quarter of a wedge of Lacey White Goat Cheese from Hickory Nut Farm (Or some other really bitter aged semi-soft cheese)
  • Salt

Quail Eggs

  1. Chop up one of the shallots and half the garlic and throw them in the bottom of a big cooking pot with some butter and olive oil. Cook until the shallots turn translucent.130512_0188

  2. Peel and thinly chop ¾ of a lb of potatoes. Toss them in with the shallots and garlic and let them cook for a few minutes until they start to get soft.130512_0198

  3. Add the water and bring it up to a rolling boil. Drop the nettles and herbs in the water and let them boil for just a few minutes before bringing the water down to a simmer. Let simmer until the potatoes are completely soft.130512_0227

  4. Combine the milk, cheese, cloves, caraway seeds, and honey to the herb broth. Let simmer for five more minutes, giving everything a good stir.130512_0255

  5. (For this next step I used an inversion blender, however you can also use a regular blender or a food processor. Inversion blenders are awesome for soup however.) Blend all the ingredients until you’re left with a smooth broth. At this point don’t expect it to be too thick. Add salt to taste. Leave on low simmer throughout.130512_0290130512_0293

  6. Chop up the rest of the shallots, garlic, and potatoes. It’s fine to leave the skin on these potatoes. In another pan pour a little olive oil and sautee the rest of the ingredients. Cook for about 20 to 30 minutes until the potatoes are nice and soft. Pour them into the nettle and cream broth and combine.130512_0319130512_0332

Poaching the Quail Eggs

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  1. In a small saucepan bring three cups of water to a ROLLING boil. Quail eggs can be a little tricky, but the man from Mona Farm taught me a trick. Get a serrated knife and cut off the top of the egg like removing a little hat. Once removed, pour the yolk and white out into a ladle.130512_0345130512_0351130512_0359
  2. Gently slide the egg into the boiling water and off the ladle. As soon as the white turns opaque the egg is ready to come back out. Because you’re serving them in hot soup its ok for them to be slightly under poached. They can be kept in a dish half full of water for up to 24 hours, if you want to serve them later.130512_0361130512_0362130512_0366130512_0368

  3. Poach three to five eggs per bowl of soup, depending on how many people you’re serving. Once the eggs are poached, ladle the soup into bowls, plop the quail eggs in with the soup and enjoy! I find this dish goes very nicely with a bright salad!

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