I love Autumn. Maybe it’s because I’m an October baby. Or maybe its the bright red, orange, and yellow colors of the changing leaves, falling to the ground and floating in the wind. Or the smell of apples and pumpkin pie spice. Or the feel of cool, crisp air on my face. Or apple picking while sipping warm apple cider. How about all of the above!
Fall also has some of the best produce. On a recent trip to the Union Square Greenmarket I was overwhelmed by abundance and variety: rainbow carrots and swiss chard, peppers, radishes, squashes, apples…
So for my Basque Stage recipe post I was really inspired by fall. I wanted to make something warm, hearty, and delicious, showcasing some of the season’s best.
With recipe development, you don’t always know what you’re going to get. The end result is not always what you envisioned. However with this dish I was really pleased that it turned out exactly how I imagined.
I visited Wyebrook Farm in Honey brook, PA (more on them another time) and picked up the highest quality pork cheeks. I think pork cheeks are a highly underrated cut of meat. Done right, they are tender, melt in your mouth, nuggets of deliciousness. They definitely deserve more credit!
After seasoning them with salt and pepper and giving them a good sear, I braised them in apple cider, Sherry wine (oloroso), apples, carrots, celery, caramelized onions, a few slices of ginger and a bouquet garnit of thyme, bay, garlic, parsley stems, peppercorns, allspice and clove. I cooked them low and slow on the stove top, covered with a parchment paper lid and pan lid, for about 2 hours and 45 minutes. Trust me, it’s well worth the wait.
Then I strained the jus and reduced it to a thick and flavorful sauce to coat and reheat the cheeks. I could eat that sauce by the spoonful!
To accompany the pork I made a butternut squash puree. I peeled, seeded and cubed the squash before blanching it in salted water. Then I finished it off with a touch of garlic, sauteed until golden, shallots, butter, some of the blanching water and a splash of cream. I pureed it until super smooth, and added the tiniest pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, just to give it that extra somethin’ somethin’.
To garnish the plate I wanted to make a crumb with flavors that would compliment and enhance the flavors of the pork and squash and add some texture to the dish. I dehydrated very thin slices of apple in a 200F oven for about two and a half hours, until crispy. To my surprise they even looked like dried Autumn leaves! I cut Spanish chorizo in very small cubes, sautéed it until crispy, and combined it with the dehydrated apple. The smokiness from the chorizo was a great compliment to the Sherry in the pork braise and the sweetness of the squash. The dehydrated apple added another dimension to the apple flavor in the braise. Yum!
Finally, to cut some of the richness of the sauce and puree, I made a small organic micro green salad, brought to you by Windfall Farms at Union Square Greenmarket. It was simply seasoned with apple cider vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and sea salt.
And there you have it! Autumn on a plate.