|Pork Rib Confit with Spicy Butternut Squash Purée|
|Right Food for the Season - Late Fall|
|Written by Jon Ross-Wiley|
I've cooked a lot of food. I have been very pleased with most of it. Most. I am an absolute perfectionist in this area of my life. A recent blog post by Local In Season contributing writer, Jane Ward, helped me come face to face with this need to be "perfect." I decided that I am fine with this. After all, wouldn't you want all of your meals prepared for you by a perfectionist? I delight in making a simple bowl of ice cream into one perfect scoop, flanked by two or three chocolate covered pretzels, and either sprinkled with fresh ground cinnamon or, when the night calls for it, a dash of Bailey's Irish Creme. Ice cream, however, is not the order of the day. The dish I am presenting here, Pork Rib Confit, was a "first-time" recipe and represents, hands down, the best dish I have ever made. It was, in my estimation, perfect.
I regularly watch competitive cooking shows and marvel at some of the techniques used, particularly given the time constraints of the various challenges or events. One frequently used technique, confit, baffled me until just recently. My original understanding of the technique was that meat is submerged in rendered fat and then cooked very slowly to achieve maximum tenderness. So, watching these shows and seeing a chef present apples confit in fifteen minutes time did not compute on a couple of levels. The beauty of cooking, however, is that there are many interpretations of techniques and classic dishes that produce outstanding results. Confit is one such technique that has some wiggle room, particularly in your home kitchen.
An option I had for this dish, and certainly the more traditional confit method, was to render down pork fat and use that to cook the ribs. For this go around, however, I thought I would try using olive oil as my fat. The flavor of the olive oil worked well with the spices (kosher salt, black pepper, allspice, and garlic) I used to cure the pork overnight, and it delivered in terms of making the boneless ribs essentially melt after a 3-hour slow cook. Served on top of a spicy butternut purée and topped with caramelized shallots, this dish was truly decadent. It was what I like to call a "fork-dropper." I took one bite, put the fork down on the plate, pushed myself back from the table, and reclined in pleasure.
Pork Rib Confit with Spicy Butternut Squash Purée (serves 4, 2-piece appetizer portions)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pound boneless pork ribs
Olive oil (enough to submerge the ribs laying flat in an ovenproof pot)
1 small butternut squash
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
1 shallot, sliced
Peel and cube the butternut squash and boil until tender. Place squash in a food processor and add the crushed red pepper and 1/4 cup of the chicken stock. Blend. Add more stock until you reach a smooth consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.
Mix together the first four ingredients in a medium/large bowl. Cut ribs into 2-inch portions. Add pork; turn and rub to ensure even coating. Cover and chill overnight.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Brush spice rub off, but do not rinse. Place pork in an ovenproof pot in one layer and cover with olive oil. Be sure the pork is completely submerged. Cook at 250 degrees for 3 hours. Remove pork from the pot and place in a glass baking or storage dish and cover with enough oil from the pot to completely cover the pork. Cover and refrigerate. The longer you refrigerate the better, simply for taste purposes. Many recipes call for a minimum of two weeks (and up to 2 months!) in the refrigerator prior to serving. Do not be discouraged, however, I went with a 24-hour chill and as you know from above, it turned out great. Another option is to serve the pork directly after the slow-cook process, but here you would lose out on the flavors being locked in by colder temperatures. A great finish for the pork, whenever you opt to serve it, is to remove the desired portions from the fat and quickly pan sear them. This technique results in a wonderfully crisp outside to contrast the buttery smooth texture of the confit. Shallots are then added to the same pan and caramelized.
Plate the ribs on the butternut purée and top with caramelized shallots.
Prepare to drop your fork. You've earned it.