It’s the start of a new season of Hell’s Kitchen, and already I have to remind myself that chef Gordon Ramsay is an accomplished cook and restaurateur, not just some ex-footballer who yells at slack-jawed “executive chefs” with delusions of adequacy. What better antidote to endless cries of “Move your arse, you donkey!” than to cook a Ramsay recipe.
My choice of this particular recipe, from In The Heat Of The Kitchen, was inspired by a lucky find in the Belm Utility Research Kitchen Deep Storage Facility: a rolled and tied pork butt that reminded me of the rolled and tied pork belly that the recipe requires. I had prepared this dish once before, for She Who Must Be Obeyed’s Third Annual Birthday Dinner, and was all too happy to skip the painstaking rolling and trimming steps.
In addition to the rolled butt (heh), I needed one each of a chopped carrot, onion, leek, and celery stalk, six large peeled garlic cloves, a half cup of sherry vinegar, seven ounces of soy sauce, six cups of chicken stock, five star anise, twenty coriander seeds, ten white peppercorns, and ten black peppercorns.
I browned the pork in a dutch oven with olive oil over medium-high heat, turning the roll until all sides and both ends were deep brown.
I removed the pork and sweated the vegetables for five minutes before deglazing with the sherry vinegar.
I placed the pork on the bed of vegetables, then added the stock, soy sauce, and spices. I brought the mixture to a boil before partially covering the pan and placing it in a 325 °F oven.
After two and a half hours I removed the pork from the oven. It had reduced in size due to the fat rendering out into the braising liquid.
I strained the vegetables and spices out of the braising liquid, skimmed off a considerable amount of fat, and set it to boil and reduce.
During the last half hour of braising I prepared truffle-scented pommes pureé, then during the reduction I steamed some asparagus and wilted some spinach. I removed the string from the pork, sliced it into three sections, and placed each on a plate. I surrounded the pork with the spinach and asparagus, made a giant quenelle of the potatoes, and finished with the sauce.
I could have let the sauce reduce more to thicken it, but we were all hungry and impatient. (If I had used a parchment lid, the sauce would have been partially reduced when the braising was done.)
How did it taste? In the time between the first and second preparations of the dish, I had become much more familiar with Asian flavor profiles. Star anise, pepper, coriander, sherry vinegar, soy – these are all classic ingredients, and, in fact, what we ate was a very refined char siu pork. Substitute bok choy for the spinach and asparagus and the dish wouldn’t have been out of place on any Asian/French fusion menu.
The memory of this dish will carry me through a few more weeks of manufactured kitchen drama, but I’m already looking ahead to preparing Ramsay’s shrimp risotto and spaghetti with lobster, just to prove that any competent cook can make them. As long as someone isn’t screaming at me.