Are you ready to hear about the easiest yet most impressive gourmet meal you could ever make? Often when I get a great cut of meat, I start thinking about all of the things I could do with it. Dozens of dishes dance around in my head, spanning the globe in different preparation styles and spices. But more often than not I end up keeping things fairly simple, and there’s one major reason for that: good ingredients.
When vegetables are grown beautifully and animals raised properly, you don’t need to do much with them to bring the flavor out. So when I picked up some Ossabaw pork from the Brick Farm Market butchery, I knew I had to do as little as possible to make sure the dish was as delicious as can be! No crazy seasonings, no unusual braising liquids, just pork, salt and pepper.
My reserved hand really paid off here, and I encourage each and every one of you to keep an eye out for Ossabaw pork and pick some up if the opportunity arises. According to Double Brook Farm, where the Ossabaw are raised in Hopewell, NJ, these feral-looking pigs are the descendants of the highly prized Iberian pig brought to our eastern shores with the Spanish explorers over 400 years ago. They are medium-sized pig with a long snout and “looks that only a mother could love”! The flavor of this ancient breed inspired Slow Food USA to add it to its catalogue the ‘Ark of Taste’, which lists heritage breeds in danger of extinction. Double Brook Farm also raises Tamworth pigs, Berkshire and Gloucestershire Old Spots. Every time we visit there’s something different in the cases, so be sure to check back frequently, or call ahead if you’re not local.
So what makes this dish so easy? It’s mostly hands off. Season pork, slow roast. Roast beets, peel. And a simple risotto is actually pretty low maintenance as well, which many people don’t realize. You don’t have to sit there stirring it for a half hour! Just ladle in larger amounts of stock, make sure your heat isn’t too high and stir just enough so that you avoid sticking to the pan.
Salt & Pepper Roast Ossabaw Pork with Golden Beets and Risotto
1 ossabaw pork butt/shoulder (3lbs) (or other heritage pork breed)
1 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp pepper
1 bunch golden beets
1 cup Blue Moon Acres maratelli rice
½ cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock
½ onion, finely chopped
½ tbsp. butter
½ cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
For the roasted pork & beets: Bring the meat to room temperature and evenly coat with a little oil. Coat in the salt and pepper to form a crust. Add more salt and pepper if you have a larger cut of meat. Cook in a cast iron skillet/braising pot (with a lid) at 425 degrees for 20 minutes uncovered, then lower to 200 degrees and cook for 3-4 hours covered or until tender. If the meat looks like its getting dry you can put some water in the pan.
Wrap the beets in tin foil with a little oil and when the meat has about 2.5 hours left, add the beets in the oven to slow cook.
When the meat gets tender, turn off the oven and start the risotto. Now is a good time to take the beets out so they can cool a bit.
For the risotto: Bring stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Heat a small amount of olive oil/butter over medium low heat and caramelize the chopped onion. Once translucent (a few minutes) stir in the rice. Let the rice toast for a minute before pouring in the wine. After wine is absorbed, begin ladling in the stock. No need to stir constantly, just keep the heat low and stir enough so the rice doesn’t stick and burn.
The rice should be soft but with a slight bite around 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in the butter and Parmesan cheese. The risotto should also be somewhat runny, not clumpy. If it’s clumpy, just add a little more stock. Season with salt to taste.
Peel and slice the beets. Cut the meat into small portions and serve over the risotto. Top with micro greens and pickled mustard seeds (optional – recipe here). I happen to have some great pickled mustard seeds in my pantry from local Bucks County artisans Offbeat Gourmet!
Tip: If your pork gives off a lot of fat, use a fat separator to get rid of some of it if you want to use some of the cooking liquids.