Tentop Returns: And How.

After almost a year hiatus, Michael and I got back into the kitchen and fucking slayed it. I don’t know how else to say it. It was the most thoughtful, portion appropriate menu we’ve put together to date. Start to finish, as we put up each course on the first night, I was very proud of what we had done.

We opened with an Oyster Po-Baby, a nod to the creativity of Chef Larry Piaskowy of Bar Jars, a dear friend of Kitchen Cru and tentop. It was cute and delicious, and a straight bite off his idea. Thanks Chef.

Second course closely related to my faithful reader’s interests. A play on the simple, rustic Turkish Egg; we did sage butter poached eggs and Ham Toast. That’s right HAM TOAST. For the yogurt element of the dish I scored some home made stuff from PDX Biryani. I blended confit garlic and paprika into it and holyeeee shit. Turkish Eggs 2.0.

Third we did an almost…standard dish. A straight take on Spanish flavors we had Black Cod seared in chorizo oil, bomba rice, baby clam nage. We gave it the tentop treatment with some deep fried chorizo slices. It went over quite well.

The entree course was one that people around me were probably just as happy to see come together as I was. I had been talking about doing a ponzu braised item with a crispy kale salad for way too long. We ended up doing it with Tails & Trotters pork cheeks. Michael had the genius idea to add a little hoisin to the sweet potato puree that blanketed the plate, and damn. This dish was a home run. Check the recipe below.

Our dessert that night was another one I had been wanting to try for awhile, essentially french fries dipped in a milkshake like you would get stoned off your gourd at your favorite drive-thru. We made pommes dauphine, piped ‘em into “fries” and froze ‘em solid before frying and serving with a shake. It’s a fun, interactive dessert that would work quite well on many menus. Basically…a fucking churro.

Ponzu Braised Pork Cheeks

8-10 pork cheeks, preferably from Tails & Trotters
vegetable oil as needed
1 cup white wine
2 cups lemon juice
2 cups orange juice
2 cups grape fruit juice
2 cups lime juice
1/4 cup soy
3 -4 chunks palm of sugar
1/2 bunch cilantro chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
2 medium white onions, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
3 cloves garlic, smashed

1. Trim off any excessive fat from the cheeks but don’t go crazy. You want some of that fat to render when you…
2. Sear the pork cheeks on all sides until golden brown. Remove from the pan and saute all the veggies in the rendered fat. Do not be afraid to get some color on them. Deglaze with the white wine.
3. Add the remaining ingredients and mix to combine as you bring it to a boil. Add in the pork cheeks, cover tightly and braise in a 300 F oven until tender, about 2 1/2 hrs.
4. Let the whole mess cool to room temp before chilling it, overnight, in the pan it was cooked in.
5. Next day, scrape off and discard any fat that has solidified in the pan. Remove the pork cheeks and set them aside, preferably under refrigeration.
6. Strain the braising liquid and reduce it by half. Adjusting the seasoning with soy and palm sugar as needed. You are looking for the perfect balance between salt (soy) acid (citrus) and sweet (palm sugar.) If your reduction is not thick enough to coat the pork cheeks, thicken it with a little with cornstarch. Just be sure to bring to to a roiling boil to cook of any starchy taste.
7. Warm the pork cheeks up in the sauce, coating them evenly. Serve hot.

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