As if rhubarbaritas weren’t reason enough, I’m here to give you another excuse for squirreling away as much seasonal rhubarb as you can get your paws on: Crispy Pork with Rhubarb Sauce. The recipe was somewhat loosely adapted from this one by Jamie Oliver, who, now that I have made two of his recipes, I am declaring a genius: this dish is that good.
A not-very-exciting cut of pork (he used pork belly, while I had a pound of Flying Pigs pork cutlets in the freezer) is transformed by a long braise in a spicy, Asian-flavored rhubarb sauce, then a quick fry in hot oil to make it juicy, crispy, succulent and amazingly good. The crispy pork and the tangy rhubarb sauce are combined with simple cooked noodles, fresh early summer greens and herbs, and slivers of hot red chile to form a dish with a delightful contrast in flavor, texture and color. Definitely a winner that I will be making again. If only I had stored away more rhubarb!
Adapted from Hot & Sour Rhubarb and Crispy Pork with Noodles by Jamie Oliver
Crispy Pork with Rhubarb Sauce
Pork & Braising Sauce
- 1 lb pork cutlet, cut in 1-inch slices
- 1 lb rhubarb, washed, trimmed, sliced to 1-inch chunks
- 1/4 cup honey or brown sugar (I had rhubarb macerating in brown sugar for a couple of days in the fridge: it went into this dish)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 4 large cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 small, orange habañero chile, seeded (I used 1/2 of a frozen habañero; it was not too spicy so I would up it next time to a whole chile)
- 1/2 tsp fennel seed
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger OR 1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- grapeseed or other high-heat oil, for frying
- 1/2 lb noodles
- about 2 quarts of various lettuces, greens, herbs, etc. (I used two kinds of shredded lettuce, slivered basil & mint, oregano leaves, and snipped chives)
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 red chile pepper, thinly sliced
- Combine all braising sauce ingredients except pork in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process until well blended, about 3 minutes. Scrape sauce into a 4-quart saucepan or Dutch oven. Add pork, stir to cover meat in sauce, bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until meat is very tender, but not falling apart, about 1 hour.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and toss with a bit of oil to prevent sticking. Return to pot to keep warm.
- Pick meat pieces out of the sauce with tongs, shaking off excess sauce. Stir sauce, and reduce over medium heat, if desired, to the consistency of ketchup (don’t worry if some small peices of meat remain in the sauce). Taste and season with salt, pepper, soy sauce, etc., as needed. Pour oil into a medium skillet to about 1/4-inch; heat over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering, but not smoking (350 degrees F). Add the pork and fry, turning once, until crispy, about 1 – 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a clean bowl.
- Plate individually or family-style: pile warm noodles on a plate or platter, top with mixed greens and herbs, add sauce, then top with crispy pork, some more herbs and sliced chiles. Serve with a crisp white wine or summery beer.
- I made several changes to the original, including substituting pork cutlet for pork belly, braising on the stovetop instead of in the oven and making various substitutions to the ingredients. This version was fantastic, but I’m sure the original can only improve.
- Don’t skip the frying step: I was tempted to, as the meat coming out of the braise is delicious, and at that point, I was hungry and ready to eat. It’s hard to describe how much flavor & texture are added by that 2-minute fry step: but it is so worth it. Just try it once, even if you never fry: you might be surprised.
- The plating step is very flexbile: while I didn’t use “punnets of interesting cresses,” I just tossed in random lettuces, greens & herbs and it all turned out fabulous. I’m assuming that this would work equally well with frozen rhubarb: later in the summer, I might plate with matchsticks of lightly steamed summer squash and crisp bell pepper, or in winter serve it over crispy sweet potato fries or slivered root vegetables and mashed potatoes.
Did you think there would be any left? (Store meat, sauce, noodles & greens separately, refrigerated, for up to 2 days; after that the greens will suffer, but meat & sauce should be fine for 5 days).
Spring for rhubarb & baby greens, year round with frozen rhubarb and a variety of plating vegetables.