On Saturday, Miss Mash and I joined a few fellow food fans at the house of the @drunkenbutcher for the “Joy of Pork” evening. This is not a trashy, hemoglobin-heavy Hollywood take on Come Dine With Me. Iain is indeed a very skilled and passionate amateur chef and “Joy of Pork” was his chosen theme for the first “Dine In” event, a new form of Supper Club that was inspiredly conceived and organised by Tania from @DineInOut. The concept is simple, digging out very skilled and enthusiastic cooks to design and execute an exciting menu to be gluttonously enjoyed by a dozen of paying guests.
The “Out” in DineInOut is for the opposite, finding welcoming inns and eateries to cater a bespoke menu at a reasonable price for a small group of guests. It’s a win-win situation where the guests have a great time and the chef gets a reason for experimentation and possibly exposure as a result.
As far as I know, Iain is the first one to give this a go. Like most of us, he has what could inaccurately be called a normal job during the day. He is however a meat, and in particular, pork fan and definitely knows a lot about it: what parts to use (all of them), how to separate them from each other and of course how to cook and prepare them.
Before I go on further to talk about the actual food, I thought I’d say straight on that this dinner was a bit of a challenge for me on the choice of wine to bring (supper clubs are usually BYO events). The variety of courses and my lack of knowledge on crafty porky dishes was a welcome difficulty. So I took along a bottle of Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc 2011 from Tour de Belfort as a safe bet due to its wonderful balance of acidity, fruitiness and lightly creamy structure. And just in case we fancied following with a red I took its red-blooded brother, the 2010 Malbec blend. Its freshness and fruit purity would have done an alright job at adding juicy notes to the pork meat. But I also took a bit more of a gamble: Roussane Barrel Selection 2008 from Domaine Sainte Rose purchased from Naked Wines. Based on what I’d read I expected something a bit heavier and more challenging but was it not what this evening was going to be about?
Greeted by an Oktoberfest-clad Tania, we were served a cherry flavoured Prosecco/Whisky cocktail and shortly after came Los Chicharrons and chilli & soy pork cheeks to amuse our bouches with. Everytime I’ve tried pork scratchings, I’ve been repelled by them. They ooze with pungent oily fat, really not my thing. But those chicharrons have been fried in such a way (explained by Iain but forgotten due to sheer delectable enjoyment) that they became like a huge and fluffy but very crunchy (and noisy) flavoursome pork cracker. Not even 5 minutes in and already getting the wow factor, check you Iain. So mesmerizing in fact that I’m afraid I have no pic to show (tip: more experienced and disciplined bloggers have written about this event and have photos, have a mooch around). The cheeks were tiny tender juicy flavoured bite-sized pieces of meat, I don’t know how he cooked them but this was some porky elegance right there.
Once everyone had arrived it was time for our starters: torchon of pig’s head with a dollop of mustard and a cherry reduction. Once again the flavours that came out of this were impressive. The kind of depth you get from game or lamb. The kind of flavours that if pork for you is roast ham or gammon then really you don’t know what pork tastes like. I believe it consists of a ration of 50/50 pork fat and meat from the pigs head, the latter having been boiled with vegs and spices (stock) and then Iain would have separated the fat and the meat just to reassemble it all in a torchon roll. After being kept in the fridge, it is then sliced, battered and fried….et voila ! A bit of work involved I’m sure but what a result. Hope to have a go when our kitchen is fit for busy messy cooking. The juicy cherry reduction came to cut through the fat and add sweetness and the mustard added depth. A classic and great combination.
This is when I decided to open my bottle of Roussane Barrel Selection 2008 from Domaine Sainte Rose. There are grapes that you rarely find in a varietal wine (i.e. a wine made from the one type of grape). Roussane is typically grown in the Rhone region of France, enters in the blend of Chateauneuf du Pape (both red and white) but is most often paired with Marsanne in the Northern Rhone. This wine however comes from the Languedoc region of France, near Montpellier and Beziers, where the climate is warmer. I had a bit of a cold on that night so my tasting would have been slightly hampered unfortunately and the wine is not available anymore but suffice to say, keep an eye out for Domaine Sainte Rose.
It displayed warm flowery notes of honeysuckle and also reminded me of the countryside smells of a hot summer. It had creamy notes with a thin line of fresh acidity shining through despite 4 years in the bottle. The palate put all these aromas forward with weight, power but elegantly so. It is not a crowd pleasing, quaffable wine like a kiwi Sauvignon Blanc or a South African Chenin. Some of these flavours are more akin to a well crafted Burgundian Chardonnay but with a different flavour profile. It is not an everyday wine but definitely has its place on the table with the right meal… and that was it! Despite my cold and the other wines I took along I am glad I chose this one. It had the perfect depth of character to take on the pork but yet keep a fresh acidity to keep your palate clean and alive to help you through the rest of the meal. It also coped rather well with the light mustard I thought. And…being a fairly unsual player, it kept me interested throughout. And that’s something that scores point for me. Some wines can be very good indeed but they flow so effortlessly that halfway through the first glass you quaff and stop caring. It’s fine with your house red or when the evening is not about the wine, but for a wine to tickle the interest throughout a busy and rich evening, it means it has something to say.
Next up was the main. Superbly cooked and wonderfully tasty T-bone pork roast along with the tenderest pork fillet. All this served with pork fat roast potatoes, thumb-sized roasted belly lardons and the sweetest (understand perfectly cooked and flavoured as opposed to caramelised) cauliflower gratin (sorry mum!) and of course the crackling. Oh boy, there are very few occasions in your life when you are quite happy to chew away on a crusty bit of fat; well this was one of these occasions. It makes you understand in the simplest, physical sense how fat gives flavour to the meat.
And again, the Roussane ploughed on superbly, the right amount of acidity to cut through the fat and the perfect body and depth of flavour to match the creaminess of the gratin and the meaty flavours of the pork.
There is not much more to say really. Sunday roast pork at the local will never be the same. After the Spice Club I find I am not bothered about going out for a curry anymore. I have the feeling that Iain has now destroyed the Sunday roast by taking a meat normally considered to be quite average to a level of perfection that so few even bother with. I don’t think the French guide of tyres would ever consider that deemed to even be noticed and thankfully so. Pork is the one meat left that is still underrated and therefore fairly affordable overall. Let’s keep it that way.
For dessert Iain prepared a spiced plum and raisin soup (warm) to accompany a dollop of home made cinnamon ice cream. KAPOW!…I had 3 helpings. Need I say more?
Oh wait, another dessert! What’s that coming? home made Oreos biscuits…and…a milkshake ?? What, with a shot of Jim Beam ? Dude, what are you doing to us?! Seriously, up until the main, I was fine. Then came the dessert, which normally is not a big deal because I tend to share it with Miss Mash if I have any. I didn’t plan on this level of gluttony but I could still have come away unscathed after the first dessert. The milkshake……actually stopped the digestion process for the next 10 hours. In retrospect we should have enjoyed the Butcher’s hospitality for a little longer, kept on chatting and drinking spirit for a few more hours. I reckon, a mistake that will be fixed at the next event: Around the world in 8-ish steaks. Yep, you read that right. And this time, no problem with the wine, but there’ll be more than one down 😉
Tagged: barrel selection, belly, cauliflower gratin, crackling, dineinout, Domaine Sainte Rose, drunkenbutcher, jim beam, Joy of Pork, Languedoc, milkshake, mustard, oreos, pig's head, pork, pork cheek, pork fillet, roussane, torchon, Tour de Belfort, vodka