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pork belly


Dish of the Week.....In the Gallery.......

Dish of the Week

Sous Vide Pork Belly

I did not come to sous vide cooking as a fan, quite the opposite.  The idea of using a plastic pouch to cook ~ instead of relying on traditional methods that depend upon smell, touch, and taste ~ just seemed a bit of a cop out, little more than an upscale version of Uncle Ben’s ‘boil in a bag.’ Where's the magic?

But just as there’s science in alchemy, I’ve come to see that suspending food in plastic and setting it loose in a constant swirl of soft heat actually takes a page from some of the oldest culinary traditions in history which called for wrapping or burying foods and slowly cooking them for long periods, the better to capture the essence of their flavor.

Chef Ryan has always said that for him sous vide isn’t about convenience so much as consistency, that and the ability to control the outcome of a dish in a way that extends the potential of each ingredient. For a little light reading he gave me Thomas Keller’s “Sous Vide,” a trade manual Keller wrote for PolyScience a few years back which succinctly explains the complex way a precise control of pressure, temperature and time allows a chef to infuse flavor (which even with marinades is often lost to the braising liquid) and enhance texture (which over the course of cooking heat can easily destroy).

The temperatures used in sous vide are always kept below a simmer ~  but within that lower range they vary greatly depending on the type and cut of the protein, the cellular density of the vegetable, and what, if any, other cooking techniques you intend to use in the dish. With Pork Belly, where you have an inordinately high fat to meat ratio to begin with, the object is to use the fat primarily to flavor the meat, delivering a finished dish with a perfect crackling that beguiles the mouth when you bite through it to the soft fragrant depths below. Too fatty, too dry, not enough flavor, and it's game over.

For Dish of the Week, Chef cooked pork belly sous vide for 12 hours in a heady mix of shaved apple (Cox's Orange Pippin from the farm), white wine, garlic, leeks, rosemary and carrots.

Two things were notable when he finally lifted the pouch from the water: the first was the degree to which the long cooking process had allowed the meat and fat to take on the flavors of the marinade, all but melding them together.  The second was that by taking the pork from this nearly gelatinous state and immediately chilling it (above left), Chef was able to reduce the fat as he compressed the meat into perfect shape and portion sizes, essential for a dish which can easily become overly rich. He then refrigerated it again ~ cooling the pork before letting it hit the hot skillet which resulted in a perfectly crisp surface without pulling any moisture from the meat.

To accompany the Pork Belly, Andrew, Chef's entremetier, caramelized cauliflower florets in VOO before adding raisins, capers, herbs and shaved almonds.

The final component to this starter was a finishing ‘sauce,’ something which could cut through the richness of the belly but would not overwhelm the sweet, sharp and crunch of the cauliflower nest. For this Chef reduced Pinot Noir to the syrup stage, then broke it with Preston Olive Oil, producing a gorgeous, deep red vinaigrette.

Slow Cooked Pork Belly served on a whoosh of Cauliflower Purée with Caramelized Cauliflower Florets, Capers, Raisins, Almonds and Pinot Noir Vinaigrette….15 hours start to finish…done.  To perfection.

In the Gallery

There’s an old-fashioned capacity for heartfelt joy embedded in the DNA of Healdsburg which makes it the perfect place to get married. This is not news to those of us who live and work here. But thankful as we are for the visitors who keep our local economy humming all Summer and Fall, boy, do we look forward to the Holidays and Winter. That's when the homegrown parties begin, the ones which seem, more than any others, to refresh the spirit and invigorate the soul.

Saying thanks to co-workers, gathering family and friends together to eat and drink with joy, kick back, maybe even dance  ~ all used to be part of what we all did at the end of every year to celebrate the fact that we were still standing.  Resourceful and thankful. We still should be.

There’s a particular magic to the fêtes we throw here in the Studio we’d love for you to experience. Doesn't matter if you come for a night of cocktails and hors d'ouvres or sit down to one of Chef Ryan's incomparable menus. We're especially proud of our staff, as committed as we are to supporting this food shed and all those who work within it. An art gallery is a great place to spend an evening. And this space sings.

To throw a party in the Studio this Winter all you need to do to start the ball rolling is give us a call.  If budget's a concern just let us know and we will figure out a way to make it work.


All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales(unless otherwise noted)



Dish of the Week......... Spring Menus....

Wednesday at the Barn

Dish of the Week

Crispy Pork Belly with Arugula Purée, Kumquat, Pickled Red Onion and Quail Egg

I love how Fergus Henderson (The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating) describes the “not quite meat not quite fat” quality of pork belly: “ It’s onomatopoeic ~ belly is like it sounds ~ reassuring, steadying, and splendid to cook due to its fatty nature. It’s not a cut to rush and with that a certain calm is imbued in the belly.”  Of the diner, that’s for sure.

The Pork Belly craze that swept the restaurant world the past few years gave rise to a lot of awkward pairings which either over~played the richness of the cut or tried to disguise it ~ chocolate covered pork belly anyone?  The desire to press PB to reduce the fat isn’t always the answer either, as in doing so you loose the fluffy quality of one layer melting into the next. Why disguise the fatty attraction of the cut ? Just remember a little bit of belly goes a long way and enjoy.  Pork belly makes the most delicious first course.

Ryan’s take on it for dish of the week was to celebrate what we hope is around the corner ~ a glorious spring!  He choose condiments with vibrant colors and bright flavors, but used them with discretion, paying homage to the full, rounded and soul satisfying essence of PB, especially for carnivores of the nose to tail variety.

Kumquats, wonderfully bright and bitter, wake the taste buds up in a way that makes all flavors that come into contact with them all the more distinct.  A citrus fruit the size and shape of an olive, the oval kind we serve raw this time of year has an edible sweet rind. Pairing thinly sliced kumquat with the pickled crunch of tagliatelle of red onion and a smooth peppery green arugula purée was a brilliant way to isolate the richness of the belly while allowing its flavor profile, with hint of maple syrup in the finish, to sing.

Tommy paired the Pork Belly with a 2006 Kerpen Riesling from Wehlener Sonnenuhr,“the Sundial of Wehlener,” Sonnenuhr meaning sundial, Wehlener being the town where the grapes are grown. The vineyard is so named because in 1846 the first man to plant grapes in this part of the Mosel Valley, Jodocus Prüm, painted a giant sundial on the face of the highest cliff of this rocky outcrop, perhaps to celebrate the sheer insanity of trying to grow anything where there was no topsoil and only shards of pure blue slate. His folly was our gain ~ and 200 years on Riesling from this area is one of the finest expressions of terrior in winedom.

Like fois gras, Tommy believes Pork Belly calls for a wine with sweetness and viscosity, and a good bit of acidity to cut through that richness ~ the same reasoning behind Chef’s choice of pickled onion and raw kumquat.  He is especially partial to Rieslings from this part of Germany when they are properly aged, as only then do they begin to develop the interesting aromas that make this varietal especially enticing. It’s called having a petrol nose, what the French call goût de pétrole. Petrol, kerosene and rubber are all aromatic attributes that are highly sought after in a mature Riesling.

Barndiva's Spring Menus