Luckily, all that time and money at the market didn't just feed us for one day. At the end of the Great Quiche Lunch of Legend, I still had two very important purchases left from downtown - my Tails & Trotters pork chops. You remember, the ones finished on the naturally lush bounty of hazelnuts?
"How do you know they actually feed them hazelnuts?" Matt scoffed as I gingerly set them on their own pedastal shelf in the fridge. "They probably just eat garbage and sell them for twice as much."
"Yeah, I bet they mix in some of their own feces just to really stick it to us, too."
True, as I've mentioned, I am a sucker for poetic copy. But if there was a clever ruse going on at this Portland swinery, it's duping some majorly savvy foodies - Beast, Clarklewis, Urban Farmer and Park Kitchen all feature the pork on their menus.
The most surprising feature to me was the price. These two hefty, bone-in chops were $9. Combined. You can't get crappy pork for much less than that. And they're not going to come with a life story like this:
Our pigs are fed a diverse diet that is specifically formulated to their growth needs. All the grains are raised by our grower, and include oats, barley, triticale, and more. Corn and soybeans are minimized during the growing stage, and removed entirely in the finishing stage.
They are never fed antibiotics, hormones, growth stimulants, or animal byproducts (pigs that become sick and require medication are sold through conventional channels after the requisite waiting period).
Traditionally, pigs produced for prosciutto are fed a special “finishing” diet for their last 60–90 days where a large portion of their feed is replaced with acorns. finishing provides increased flavor to the fat and meat, as well as produces the necessary intramuscular and subcutaneous (under the skin) fat cover necessary for prosciutto production—our main long-term objective.
While the Northwest isn’t good acorn country, it is renowned for its hazelnuts!
From the moment I set those two tender chops in my big green market basket, I knew exactly what I'd cook them with. I had a simmer sauce match made in heaven waiting in my pantry.
I kind of have a fetish for sauces. I can't resist their vuluptuously curvy jars, their seductive names, the naughty serving suggestions - "go ahead. Mix me into a stir fry. I'm also good as a mmmmmarinade." I hoard them, anticipating some flavor famine around the corner, until my feeble plastic shelving can't take anymore. Every apartment we've ever left has a deeply bowed, sad looking canned goods shelf we've left in our wake.
I pan-fried the chops in a deep saute pan in olive oil to get some browning, then transferred them into a baking dish to finish off in the oven for 13 minutes. I deglazed the pan with some Two Buck Chuck, then added a generous amount of Apple Grille Sauce and let it reduce down into a thick glaze. With the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, it acquired an apple-and-bacon flavor that was just begging to get back on top of those sweet nutty chops.
In a rare and strange showing of kitchen involvement, Matt was inspired to make one of his favorite side dishes from growing up - baked mac. With just some sliced cheddar and evaporated milk, it's lighter than the macaroni I normally would make, which starts as a roux that turns into fondue and creates a whole mess of Deen fatty pleasure. I also had a leftover pie crust half from the quiche, which was filled with cheater cherry pie filling and topped with struesdel crumble. Voila, the pumble.
"This," Matt announced, scraping the last bits of hazelnut-fed flesh off the bone, "is a home-cooked meal."