Dubuque (Iowa) Golf & Country Club’s Executive Chef, Chad Myers, strives to develop creative pork-centric dishes.
I know it’s cliché, but I love pork. I love everything about it. From its versatility to the wide array of cooking techniques you can use to prepare it to the way it can impact flavor—pork is the perfect ingredient. (I know this is not groundbreaking for any chef anywhere. But do me a favor and play along.)
Every year, the Iowa Pork Producers Association host a competition series called the Taste of Elegance. It is meant to celebrate pork and find Iowa’s best pork entrée in fine dining. During the event, 12 chefs prepare a main entrée utilizing Boston Butt/Pork Shoulder. (This year, the contest requires the use of this cut as the main ingredient in the entrée and at least 4 oz. should be used in the judging plate. Other pork cuts can also be used to complement the dish.) The winner receives $1,000 and is eligible for an expenses-paid trip to the 2016 Pork Summit in late March at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, Calif.
The annual Pork Summit is an exclusive education weekend where state and regional Taste of Elegance pork competition winners, top chefs and food editors from leading foodservice trade publications celebrate Pork. There are demonstrations, farm to fork education and an opportunity to work in the world famous teaching kitchens with guest chefs and foodservice trade media.
I was fortunate enough to attend Pork Summit 2015 after winning the Taste of Elegance in the Quad Cities in 2014. Stephen Gerike, Director of Foodservice; Marketing and Innovation for The National Pork Board, kicked off the weekend by introducing the theme as well as four renowned chefs who were there to present. They were Rodelio Aglibot of Yum Cha in Chicago, Ill., Paul Carmichael of má pêche in New York, NY, Chris Shepherd of Underbelly in Houston, Texas, and Michael Scelfo of Alden & Harlow in Boston, Mass. Each chef gave an amazing demonstration on how to use the entire animal. It was a humbling and inspiring culinary experience.
The 2016 Chef to Chef Conference in San Diego followed suit. Chef Richard Rosendale, CMC, spoke about modern cuisine and actually kicked off the San Diego Conference with his presentation on sous vide. He talked about pushing the limits of your culinary imagination. He challenged us to think outside the box and to take traditional cuisine to a whole different level. For part of his demonstration, he used a turntable for plating to achieve perfect circles. It reminded me of a sculptor using a wooden kick wheel. It showcased the artistry of food that I (and probably you, too) get geeky about.
While I don’t currently have the ability to use some of the techniques I learned at both events, I do try to push myself to make dishes that are outside the comfort zone for traditionalists but still familiar enough to try. And oftentimes, they feature pork.
Before I explain my dish, you should know that I’m allergic to seafood. Obviously, as a chef, that makes it hard to quality control any of our seafood dishes so I rely on my cooks and trust their palates. That said, if there is a way to incorporate pork—so I can imagine how delicious it is—I do.
For this dish, I took a piece of fresh halibut and wrapped it in La Quercia prosciutto. I made a breading with crushed chicharrónes. (If you’re going to bread something, why use actual breading when you can use pork skin?) I plated it over a summer vegetable hash with sweet potatoes, local sweet corn, leeks, mushroom, and Chef’s Garden roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes. I finished it with a touch of microgreens, herb oil, lemon powder, and a maple-sherry vinaigrette.