Pork steak (or pork tenderloin to some) is a tricky enough cut of meat. If you want it moist, you risk serving it raw. If you err on the side of caution your meal could be as dry as my late grandmother’s sherry. This is one cut of meat where sous vide can really shine.
Please don’t judge me too harshly. This is hardly a recipe at all. It is a testament to great ingredients and a wonderful cooking method, little more. On the criticism front, I admit that I judge people. I know that I shouldn’t. But I do. No mater how morally fortuitous you are, I bet you are also in the ranks of judgers. Picture yourself in the line at the supermarket. The rake-thin woman in front of you has a trolly piled high with overpriced “organic” vegetables and little else apart from some quinoa and Goji berries. Her shop comes to the price of a small electric car. You think about the overspend, the waste of money and how painfully thin she looks. While she roots in her gym bag for a credit card, you look behind. The trolly aft, in the charge of a middle-aged man, with his belly hanging gracefully over his waistband, is laden down with supersize Coke family-value bottles, frozen pizzas, giant sacks of crisps, oven-frys and a few boxes of microwave popcorn. You feel OK about your shop. Yes, there are a few treats but, you are not wasting money on either “organic” veg or “family-value” sugar laden drinks. Admit it, you are judging. It’s very hard not to.
Sitting in the swelteringly hot office of Fresh Mango Exports Inc. is the chief sales and distribution manager, ‘Rocky’ Albert, cooling his lined and oily visage with a hand held fan. In walks Sunny, the youthful and earnest head of picking and packing. “Albert my friend, we have a problem. Last night’s storm has caused windfall in the mango grove. The fruit is nowhere near ripe. It looks like we’ll lose our shirts on it.” Albert’s leathery face breaks into a sly grin. “Don’t worry your pretty head Sonny, even if the cricket team don’t take them for practice, I’ll sell them to the Irish. They wouldn’t know a ripe mango if it fell off the tree on their heads.”
If you don’t know by now that we were on a break in the Dordogne, you need to read the blog more often. While there, we prepared a meal with strict guidelines. Everything had to be really local. Leave aside that I had driven a round trip of about 1,800 kilometres to get all ‘low food miles’ for the dish. It was more of a challenge than a protest for me so I got cogitating. I settled on the above using local air dried ‘black ham’, local mushrooms, local free range pork, green beans and potatoes from the local market, walnuts from the huge farm down the road and we drank wine from the vineyard next door. It doesn’t get more local than that. The meal was a great success and I vowed to recreate it at home.
We Irish look proudly at great cities like New York or Chicago and boast that our forbears built them. Our little island has sent its sons and daughters to all points on the compass to start new lives and to put down roots. Our influence spans the globe in science, engineering, literature and politics. When one looks to France, one sees so many of the great wine dynasties founded by the Irish ‘Wild Geese’. Names like Barton, Phelan and Lynch are all Irish and are now intertwined in the multi-generational success of the French wine trade. We have a lot of which we should be proud.
Do you see what I did in the headline? That subtle little play on words. A sort of culinary double entendre. The pig’s cheeks, cooked sous vide are cooked rare. Pig’s cheeks are not very easy to come by. Both play to add a bit of wit to the headline. You will just have to take my word for it, this is a rare treat. It is not very difficult to prepare any element of this dish but, you will need to have your timing chain well adjusted.
I have a dark secret. I lock myself in a darkened room. I make sure there is nobody around to catch me. Then I do it – I watch TV cooking competitions. Yes, I have even seen a couple of episodes of The Great British Bake Off, where Mary Berry with the help of a comedian (and the girl in the heavy specs), separate the competent from the inept. I’ve sat aghast at some of the efforts on Irish Masterchef. I’ve suffered foul-mouthed tirades of Gordon Ramsey on Hell’s Kitchen from the safety of my couch. Greg Wallace and John Torode regularly put in an appearance, criticising the pathetic efforts of people who obviously can’t cook and should not be asked to try. Why do I do this?
I’m managing to totally befuddle myself. Up to a few weeks ago, I was pretty clear on the principles of Fusion Cooking. As I understood it, all one had to do was add some chilli, garlic, coriander leaf and a slice of lime to any tried and trusted European dish. Hey Presto! – Fusion Cooking. A regular beef stew could be transformed by the adding of a couple of bashed lemongrass stalks and a ghost chilli. Fusion was easy to understand, if less easy to comprehend. So, when I decided to cook some Sous Vide Pork Tenderloin Chinese Style, it was more confusion than fusion.