Last night Matt & I were lucky enough to get a couple of seats in the kitchen for one of Scott Pampuch's Pork Belly Classes at Corner Table. I say lucky because with seating limited to 4 or 6 these classes sell out quickly. The evening started with us meeting the 4 other diners over a glass of Frisk muscat-reisling. With that we were escorted into the kitchen for a night of good conversation, great drinks, lessons in curing, an amazing meal & a little tongue.
Scott started the class by talking about where pork belly was in the pig & how we don't often see the big meaty middle of the pig slabs because that meat is usually left on country-style ribs. I asked him if he had butchered these pigs we were himself & we got a whole lesson on how the pigs are processed & then brought to him for butchering in the restaurant. This lead to the entrance of the pig head. Once it was out Scott decided he was going to make us a salad with the tongue. Not a pretty site to see prepared (Matt confessed to me later that he wasn't sure he could eat it) but the flavor & texture were wonderful. It reminded us a lot of a good paté. The tongue was thinly sliced & served with watercress, carrots, red onions, salt & pepper. A very simple presentation that was so fresh. The salad was served with a nice reisling.
From there we went back to the pork belly & learned how to cure it to make both pancetta & bacon. While Scott was demoing the curing we were served crisp little pizzas topped with nettles & parmesan plus a glass of white cotes de rhone. I adored this pizza & know this is what I'll do with nettles next time I get them.
The next course was one of my favorites. Slow scrambled eggs topped with a toasted baguette, nettles, bacon & pickled mushrooms. I think I'm just a sucker for Scott's slow scrambled eggs, they are so wonderfully soft.
Next on the menu was pea shoots topped with mushrooms that had been cooked with pancetta and garlic. Here Scott talked about letting things cook low & slow so they get crispy & flavors meld together. Thinly sliced apple added some nice sweetness. To compliment the earthy flavor of the salad we had a glass of Rush River Unforgiven Amber.
As Scott began to cook us some soup we were served a glass of Rosé Cava, this was new to most of us & we loved it. The soup was made with pork stock which Scott says is his favorite to cook with & I can't wait to try making at home. To the stock he added a little of the pig head meat, some sliced tongue, raw cured pancetta, a quail egg, nettle pesto, garlic oil & orange zest. That orange zest really sang against the richness of the rest of the soup.
Next course was the star of the show, two braised pork bellies. Scott talked about how one was braised using vinegar while the other was not. He said the vinegar makes the pork belly more even in flavor, easier to eat & brings out more of the other flavors. He wanted us to try them side by side to see if we could taste the difference. You really could & most of us felt the one braised with the vinegar was superior, it seems to cut through some of the fattiness. The bellies were served with a Hungarian mustard, an apple mostarda and a beet salad. The whole thing was topped off with an Agro Dulce Sauce, a sauce made with equal parts stock & orange juice then seasoned with rosemary, garlic & vinegar. The sweet & sour flavor went well with the fatty pork belly. A red wine from the Dal region of Portugal was served with this course.
For dessert, Scott started by frying up some house-cured bacon. Then he took slices of parsnip cake & fried it in the bacon fat! He told us how they can't sell the parsnip cake in the restaurant because people are scared by the word parsnip. I don't know why as it was great & a lot like carrot cake. The fried bread was then topped with vanilla ice cream, beet caramel sauce & bacon with allspice. All of this with a lovely glass of sherry.
The meal ended with what Scott called a Maple Sap Bacontini. Raw maple sap topped a dollop of maple syrup in a shot glass with a bacon garnish. The idea was to taste the flavor of the sap versus the maple syrup. The raw sap is so light. This was served with an angry bacon turtle, bacon pieces topped with a Rouge truffle & Indian chili.
Really what an amazing evening. Matt & I both felt we got more than our money's worth. You get to watch a chef at work in the kitchen, improvising as he goes along to produce your meal, & learn some of the tricks of the trade. We loved the spontaneity of the class & how it was so interactive with the diners. Scott was able to add new things, such as the tongue salad, based on questions we asked & things we were interested in. If you live in the Twin Cities area we highly recommend taking one of Scott's classes for a truly delicious & entertaining night out. Classes are coming up in How to stock your pantry for easy entertaining, Butchering a whole pig (Oh, I wish we were here for that one!) & How to use your CSA. Visit Corner Table for more info & to sign up.
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© 2007-2010 Kathy Lewinski
© 2007-2010 Kathy Lewinski