Each week on the Food Chain, we ask a chef to describe a dish he or she recently enjoyed. The chef who prepared the dish responds and then picks his or her own memorable meal. On and on it goes. Last week, Oakland’s Paul Canales had his mind blown by the beet salad that Bruce Sherman serves at North Pond in Chicago. What makes your mouth water, Bruce?
“The roast pig at Back Forty was delicious and comforting all-around. It’s difficult to successfully pull off cooking a whole smaller pig to the point where all the meat is both tender and flavorful without some of it being either too dry or still undercooked and chewy, but the kitchen did an awesome job. It was served with a side of creamy black beans cooked with trotters, a side of wilted black-kale vinaigrette, and grilled bread to mop up all the juicy goodness. We ate with our hands, picking off all the juicy, meaty parts attached to bones, and eating the crispy head bits and succulent natural gelatins over the rest of the body. Local beer made it all unforgettable.”
Back Forty chef-owner Peter Hoffman responds:
“We have a big table called the Farm Table that seats up to fourteen people, and we build what we call “feast menus” to go along with it for large groups. All the food is communal and served in a manner that brings the group together; the food itself and the way it’s served is part of the festivities, part of the intimacy. There are a number of menus we do in that way, but probably the most popular is the suckling pig.
It’s a whole roasted suckling pig that comes out on a big board. We present it to the table and take it back to the kitchen for some slicing. The pig is cooked porchetta style, an Italian style where you bone it out and then put the meat from the shoulders and the legs back into the body cavity. You roll it up and then cook it in a convection oven until it’s nice and crisp. We bone it out a couple of days before, and the meat is marinated in a spice rub — there’s garlic and fennel in it, all that good stuff. It comes with sides of black beans that are cooked with the trotters from the pig; wilted greens like kale or spinach, depending on the time of year; and with a bunch of grilled bread to mop up all of the juices. Depending on how people are feeling, dessert can continue on the pig theme with a larded crust pie, or we can do a fruit crisp that comes out in a big dish that people can help themselves to.”