Some meals are a revelation. Strangely enough, I often find that when I’m not really thinking about it, throwing something together from the contents of my fridge on a busy weeknight, is when I make my most startling discoveries. This meal fits the bill. I had those pork cutlets, of the not-cutlets-but-scones fame. They were thawed a couple of days ago and really needed to be cooked. (Not only am I completely obsessive about not wasting food, there has got to be a special level of Hell reserved for anyone who actually throws away Flying Pigs pork.) I’d had my fill of the goat cheese-cranberry-herb flavor combo with the scones I had been munching on for days; time for something different.
Tucked away in the back of the fridge I found a few jars of Rhubarb Rosemary Jelly, made back in May after a trip to Maine yielded pounds and pounds of rhubarb from Tai’s grandmother’s garden. Hanging from the hallway mirror I had a bunch of dried sage from the CSA, and lost in the recesses of the Dreaded Food Cabinet I unearthed a Ziploc bag of dried beets. I’m not a big fan of beets; as I understand it, they are one of those love-em or hate-em vegetables. I’ve never been partial to their chalky taste and the texture is just, well, somehow not right. I’ve always liked the Terra Chips version of beet and sweet potato chips, however, so this summer, when the CSA gifted me with some baby beets, I decided to dry them in the dehydrator and see how they turned out. They weren’t bad; crispy, crunchy, but not a ton of flavor other than ‘beet’ – like most things, they are probably improved by deep frying in oil. I shrugged, tucked them in a Ziploc, and tossed them in our one food cabinet, figuring I’d use them eventually.
Welcome to eventually. Feeling strangely beet-carefree, I tossed them into a marinade with some onions and the rhubarb rosemary jelly, doused the pork cutlets in the marinade, and was on my merry way. And let me just tell you – next summer I am going to dry a lot more beets. The sauce was magical. Scrumptious. Amazing. I lack the proper adjectives to describe just how surprised I was by this dish. It tasted like beets, but like Bizarro World beets, a world in which, somehow, not only do I like beets, but I love beets, and cannot wait until beet season rolls around next year so I can dry them and make this dish again. That good. Man, I love it when that happens.
I chose this dish as this week’s Dark Days recipe for two reasons: 1) it exemplifies one of the joys of local eating when you pull a bunch of your ‘put ups’ out of the larder and whip up a fabulous dish; never, ever would I have made rhubarb rosemary jelly pork with dried beets before I started eating locally – I mean, how could I? When’s the last time you saw Rhubarb Rosemary Jelly in the supermarket? Or dried beets? and 2) it illustrates some of the areas that I need to work on, local-wise. This dish could have contained local wine, but it didn’t (the wine I used was a Spanish garnacha). It could have contained local, homemade white wine vinegar, but it didn’t (I used Trader Joe’s brand). There are reasons: good, local and inexpensive dry red wine has so far been elusive. I’ve identified a few good white wines, and even a couple that are every-day priced, but no luck on the reds. Clearly I need to do more research! As for the vinegar, I had cider and red wine vinegar going over the summer, but I pulled everything and washed the crocks before we headed out to Canada for the month. Obviously one of my “challenges” for the DDC will be to get my vinegar factory going again. So there you have it – scrumptious, moan-worthy pork cutlets, mostly local, and a couple of challenges identified to boot. I call that a productive meal.
Rhubarb Rosemary Pork Cutlets
- 3/4 lb pork cutlets (preferably heritage pork, like Flying Pigs)
- 8 oz rhubarb rosemary jelly, or commercial rhubarb jelly + 1 tbsp fresh rosemary
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- 1/4 cup dry red wine
- 2 tbsp champagne vinegar
- 1 tsp crumbled, dried sage
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 small onion, chopped
- 1/3 cup dried beets, or 1/2 cup fresh beets, thinly sliced and baked in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes
- baguette, for serving
- green apple, for garnish
- In a small bowl, combine jelly, water, wine, vinegar, sage, pepper, and salt and whisk well with a fork to combine. Mash up any large jelly chunks with the fork. Add onion and beets and mix well.
- Wash pork in cold water and dry well with paper towels. Coat the bottom of a 10-inch oval casserole dish with the rhubarb jelly marinade, then lay the pork cutlets on top. Top the pork with the remaining marinade. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (325 degrees F convection), and allow the pork to marinate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
- Roast at 350 degrees until pork is cooked through (150 – 160 degrees F on an instant thermometer; the beets make the sauce and cutlets very pink so judging by color will be difficult), about 25 – 35 minutes (15 – 25 minutes convection) depending on the thickness of your cutlets.
- Remove from the oven and, with tongs, transfer the cutlets to a plate. Cover to keep warm. Scrape the pan sauce into a medium saucepan and boil over high heat, stirring frequently, until the volume is reduced by half, the sauce starts to bubbly thickly and becomes syrupy, and begins to caramelize (the color will change from a bright, cranberry red to a deeper, red-wine burgundy).
- Arrange a cutlet over two slices of baguette. Spoon onion-beet sauce over the cutlet, letting some of the syrup soak into the bread. Garnish with fresh green apple slices and serve hot.
Serves 3 to 4.
- Chicken, turkey, or duck could be substituted for pork cutlets. This marinade would also work nicely on a pork roast.
- Not everyone has access to rhubarb jelly; any tart jelly (apple, quince, cranberry), jam or marmalade should work. Simply adjust the ingredients to suit the flavor of your preserves. I find that the basic combination of wine, vinegar and preserves works well for a host of flavors. The boiling water is only necessary if your jelly is solid; omit if using a soft-set jam or preserve.
- The beets are really key to the sauce; even if you don’t like beets, I encourage you to try this dish with them. It might surprise you.
- Most of the ingredients in this dish were local. Although the wine and vinegar I used were not local, they could be; however, the rhubarb jelly contains sugar, gelatin and lemons that are definitely exceptions to the local rule. For a 100% local option, you could try local strawberry rhubarb jam instead.
For 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.
Year round, but most likely winter to spring.
- Pork: Flying Pigs Farm, Washington County, Shushan, NY
- Rhubarb Rosemary Jelly: homemade
- rhubarb: Grandma’s garden, Franklin, ME
- sugar: organic evap. cane juice & turbinado, Trader Joe’s (away)
- lemon juice: organic California lemon (away)
- champagne vinegar: Trader Joe’s (away)
- rosemary: my indoor garden
- gelatin: away
- Red wine: Spain (away)
- Champagne vinegar: Trader Joe’s (away)
- Sage, beets: my CSA, dried by me
- Sea salt: Kenyon’s Grist Mill, Usquepaugh, RI
- Onion: Madura Farms, Goshen, NY (available at the Gossett Brother’s Nursery Farm Market, South Salem, NY, Saturdays, 9-1pm, through the winter)
- black pepper: Penzey’s (away)
- baguette: Wave Hill Breads, Wilton, CT
- green apple: Mutsu from Fishkill Farms, Fishkill, NY