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Galette of Tender Pork with Cumin and Cider

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    Posted: 19 January 2016 at 18:53

Galette of Tender Pork with Cumin and Cider

Not too long ago, Brook shared a recipe with me that comes from Ana Sortun’s book, Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean. Brook has a great fondness for Sortun’s work, and I can easily see why:

Quote Ana Sortun is the epitome, in my opinion, of taking a classic or traditional recipe and putting a personal twist on it. Her variations on the theme, however, maintain the spirit of the original. I have no doubt that a native of the region that inspires one of her recipes could taste her food and recognize it for what it is.

This is an admirable quality that any food historian can look up to, indeed.

The interesting thing about this recipe is that it was described as a dish with a distinctly Moorish profile - except that it is for pork. We did some reading on this aspect, and the explanation for the confusion became self-evident, as Brook summarises here:

Quote [It seems] that the Moors certainly followed the Kashrut dietary laws, rather than the less restrictive Halal; even at that, however, both sets of dietary rules list pork as taboo, which made the consumption of something like this problematical at best.

To be sure, there were surely Moors who ate pork, just as there are Jews who consume it; but by and large, it was prohibited to them. It is likely, however, that the Moors in Spain were perhaps less stringent in their interpretation of the rules until they were driven out of Iberia in 1492.

Another recipe that I found for “Moorish Pork Kebabs” included some commentary that brings this concept into focus:

Quote The original recipe would have been made from lamb or goat. Upon driving the Moors out of Spain in 1492, the free peoples of Spain wanted to reinforce their independence by celebrating the thing their previous overlords forbid: eating pork. It’s no coincidence that Spaniards love pork to this day, as it is a direct response to their turmoiled past.

This pretty well sums it up.

The situation will come up a lot; many recipes will say, “Moorish,” but many others will say, “X with Moorish Flavors.”  In any case, there’s certainly no doubt that the Moors heavily influenced Iberian cuisine, to the point it would be completely different otherwise. I’m satisfied, though, that the use of a Moorish profile with pork happened after 1492.

Armed with this knowledge, the two of us set out to delve into this unique marriage of Eastern and Western culinary perspectives.

First, here is the recipe:

Quote Galette of Tender Pork with Cumin and Cider

4 lbs boneless pork butt   

1/4 cup salt    

3 tbsp ground cumin

4 tbsp chopped garlic    

4 cups apple cider                   

2 cups white wine

1 cinnamon stick

3 eggs

1 cup bread crumbs                        

Salt and pepper to taste  

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 350. Season pork generously with the salt. Rub it with cumin and garlic, and place in a heavy braising pan. Add the cider, white wine, and cinnamon stick, then cover the pan with three layers of foil or a tight lid.

Braise for 2 ½ or 3 hours until meat can be pulled with a fork. Drain and reserve the braising liquid and let meat and liquid cool for at least an hour or overnight. Skim the fat off the braising liquid and reserve 1 cup. Keep the rest for other uses, like soup.

Roughly shred meat, discarding any fat or tissue. Combine with the eggs, bread crumbs, and reserved braising liquid. Season with salt and pepper. Form the meat into eight patties.

In a medium (10 inch) skillet, sauté over medium-low heat, combine 1 tbsp each butter and oil. Brown the patties, 4 at a time, until they are golden brown and crispy outside and hot in the middle, about 5 minutes on each side. Brown the remaining patties the same way.

Ana Sortun

Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean

Brook was the first to make this recipe, and he wrote down some very good notes about it, which I will share here::

Quote On 2 January 2016, I made a big batch of these galettes, and wanted to pass-on some of the things I learned.

I started with a butt that weighed six pounds after deboning. This was cut into five pieces. Based on the recipe (which, you’ll recall, calls for four pounds) I multiplied the ingredients by 1.5.

For starters, this wasn’t necessary. The ingredients, as listed, would have been sufficient for the 6 pounds. The liquid, especially, was more than needed. In fact, it covered the meat, rather than leaving some exposed, as with a classic braise. This is only a time and cost factor, as the meat came out fine. I braised the meat for three hours, until it was falling apart. Then separated the meat from the broth, and set the covered pot outside overnight to solidify the fat.

When it was cool enough to handle I pulled the pork. Ana Sortun says to “roughly” shred the meat. I don’t know what she means by roughly, but the meat has to be pulled fairly finely. Length, in particular, has to be on the short side, or else the patties won’t hold together when you shape them. I’d guess no more than 2 inches long. The shorter the better. If you imagine the pork butt as having been butterflied, the strands should be about half that thickness. I found it easier all around to do this by hand, than to use a pair of forks.

Quantity is either far more than Ana says, or her patties are humongous. I used a large ice cream scoop. Each scoop was mounded to form a ball. From that ball I formed a patty that wound up being about 3 inches in diameter and an inch thick. A fairly large hunk of meat! From the six pounds of butt I got 14 patties. I could have used a little less of the mixture and made them slightly thinner, and gotten an easy 16.

Taste-wise these are terrific. Crispy on the outside, moist & tender on the inside, with the full porky goodness coming through. These are moist enough that no sauce is needed. I served them on buttered and broiled portabella caps.

If you feel a sauce is needed, all I’d do is strain the cooking broth and reduce it until thick, so as to retain that apple flavor. Maybe a shot of calvados and a hint of sweetener to help it along?

All in all, I’m very satisfied with how this turned out. It will definitely become part of our routine, both in its original form, and with variations on the theme. There is no reason, for instance, that regular pulled pork couldn’t be made into patties the same way. I that case I would use my mopping sauce as the liquid, rather than straight apple juice or cider.

Give this a try - it’s a winner.

Reading Brook’s commentary made me want to try this dish even more, so I put the plan into motion in 10 January, essentially following the recipe and using Brook’s notes as a guide.

Based on those notes notes vis a vis the best thickness of the meat, I decided to employ just over 4 pounds of country-style ribs cut from the shoulder, in the hopes that that the threads of meat would be an appropriate length. During preparation, I was skeptical about the amount of salt at first, but considering the amount of meat and liquid, my concerns are ultimately unfounded. I also did strongly consider halving the amount of liquid (wine and cider) in the recipe, based on Brook’s notes, but was concerned about throwing the other flavours (salt, spices etc.) out of balance, so I adhered to the amounts in the recipe for the liquids.

After seasoning the pork, I put everything together as directed in my 6.5-quart enameled cast iron Dutch oven, put on the heavy lid, and set it into the oven at 350 degrees, with the timer set for 2 hours. After 2 hours, I removed the pork and put it in a covered bowl to cool. I strained the braising liquid to remove the solids and set the liquid outside (where it was 20 degrees) to cool.

When it had cooled off, I shredded the pork, which had a wonderful, spicy aroma. Like Brook, I found Sortun’s instructions to “roughly shred” the pork to be rather un-realistic; the pork must be shredded quite finely, so that you can mix the other ingredients into the meat and shape the patties. Luckily,this is no real concern as the pork shredded very easily. Next, I added the eggs, breadcrumbs and a cup of the de-fatted, reserved liquid. My idea in using the country-style ribs, rather than a pork roast, turned out to work very well, as the threads of meat seemed to be just the right length for mixing with the other ingredients. Once everything was thoroughly mixed, I shaped it into patties. I used a 2/3 cup measuring cup as a guide for the amount of meat per patty and ended up with 11 patties; this provided 2 patties for each of the 5 people in the house for supper, and one for Melissa and I to split for lunch the next day.

Per the recipe, I fried the patties about 5 minutes on each side in my cast iron skillet above medium-low heat, and was pleased with the golden-brown, crispy crust that formed on them. When they were finished, I served the patties with oven-roasted zucchini, which made a really nice accompaniment to the pork.

Impressive, indeed! I found the flavour of the galettes to be excellent, with a warm spiciness from the cinnamon and cumin working in perfect harmony with the apple cider and garlic. From a flavour perspective, this dish is an amazingly-huge success, with a profile that must be experienced to be appreciated. The Moorish influences are all right there in the forefront, melding beautifully with the Spanish celebration of all things porcine. I really, really liked this.

As for the leftover braising liquid, I briefly considered reducing it to a sauce for the patties and zucchini, but remembering Brook’s advice that the patties were moist enough on their own, I ultimately decided not to sauce them; instead, I de-fatted the liquid and reduced it by half, down to 2 cups. I’ll save it for a future project, such as a soup or sauce, where this exotic marriage of East and West can be put to good use.

As Brook said, this one is definitely a winner - please do give it a try!

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