Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pork with Red Wine & Chocolate

Last Friday I held a class on Southern Italian cooking down at The Kitchen Studio. Now, I'm about as Italian as Mu Shu Pork, but the food was the Best. Food. Ever.

The menu was simple: Broccoli Rabe with Pasta, Pork with Red Wine & Chocolate, a Potato-Wild Mushroom Gratin, and an Olive Oil Walnut Cake. We have 5 people in class, plus two kitchen assistants and me. Can I just say that this food was crazy good?

You see, I picked up a great new cookbook called Cucina del Sole by Nancy Harmon Jenkins.

I was inspired by the recipes she had written and the ingredients she used (all simple, simple, simple) and changed the recipes around a little to reflect my own taste a bit -- changing a few ingredients, doing things a little bit differently here and there, making them work for the time I had. Bottom line: Really fantastic food that was a snap to make!

I was most interested in a recipe that featured pork with red wine and unsweetened chocolate; kind of like an Italian mole sauce. We started by caramelizing onions for a solid hour to give a great base to our flavors. The onions were brown and sweet like you wouldn't believe. Holy cow! I would have been satisfied just sucking down caramelized onions all night, but I resisted (thanks in part to following Weight Watchers right now -- don't ask!).

After we set the onions to the side, we browned some pork chops (bone-in work best, but that's just an opinion), slid in some garlic, Italian herbs, and a ton of red wine, and then a bit of finely grated chocolate. Please understand -- we did NOT use Hershey's milk chocolate here. This was all about the richness from the cocoa butter and the bitterness from the lack of sugar. Don't bother if you're going to use any other chocolate besides unsweetened. It just won't be the same.

We slapped a lid on the sucker and let it braise for a while. Woo-freakin'-woo! Thank goodness I got a couple of loaves of bread for us to sop up the amazing gravy once the pork was done. It was indescribably good. I swear that I could have tipped up the serving dish and had it all myself, but I might have had to wrestle the rest of the class for it.

If you're interested in more info, just let me know, or better yet, pick-up the book yourself. Here's a link to my favorite online cookbook site: http://www.ecookbooks.com/p-9435-cucina-del-sole.aspx. Be sure to let me know if you make anything fabulous!

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