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Taste of Elegance draws pork supporters

By Lisa Young

Date Modified: 02/06/2014 12:10 PM

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MINNEAPOLIS — Hundreds associated with Minnesota's pork industry turned out to celebrate Taste of Elegance on Jan. 13 in the Hilton Minneapolis.

Taste of Elegance challenges chefs from across the state to come up with their best pork entree. A panel of experts serve as official judges, and attendees are invited to taste the dishes and vote for the People's Choice Award.

Dishes spanned the globe, from South Korea to Brazil to Ireland. They included a soup, a taco and miniature feasts; pork that had been smoked, pickled and braised; and meats paired with sweet potatoes, sauteed greens and cherries.

Pork belly was a popular cut for the night, with eight dishes out of 14 including it in some form or another. It also was the featured cut in the first- and second-place plates.

Attendees included pork producers with large and small operations, agribusiness representatives, Minnesota Department of Agriculture staff, chef supporters and state senators and representatives.

Stations were set up around the Hilton's ballroom, giving each chef a space to plate, showcase and talk about their dish. Some were all business while others were quite talkative. Most had gone through dozens of iterations of their dish, getting their staff to taste and taste again until it was just right.

Judges were Steven Shapley, Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts; Brian Bergquist, University of Wisconsin-Stout; and Tony Beran, 2013 Taste of Elegance winner and chef at Duluth's Lake Avenue Restaurant.

The judges selected Peter Christenson's Pork Belly and Pickled Tongue Sandwich as the best entree.

Christenson's Chef Par Excellence title was a long-time coming, he said. Normally the executive chef at Woolley's Restaurant at the Embassy Suites Hotel-Minneapolis Airport, he participated in Taste of Elegance seven times before taking home the title. His "sandwich" included sauteed napa cabbage, cranberry relish and apple maple bacon glaze, along with the pickled pork tongue, sandwiched between two slices of pork belly.

For his excellent effort, Christenson won $1,500, a pork-specific trip to the Greystone Campus of the Culinary Institute of America in California and the chance to represent the Minnesota Pork Board at the 2014 National Pork Summit.

Blue Collar Barbeque-White Collar Catering's Mark Born, of North St. Paul, earned second (superior) place with his Smoked Pork Belly. Chef Brett Rist, of Chianti Grill-Burnsville, took home third (premium) place and the People's Choice Award for his Cajun Braised Pork Butt with Pancetta Maque Choix and Sherry Cream Sauce.

Replicate the Taste of Elegance winners with these delicious pork recipes:

Pork Belly and Pickled Tongue Sandwich

Created by Chef Peter Christenson

Serves 15

1 (4- to 5- lb.) pork belly

Plump Chef original seasoning

1 yellow onion, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

6 ribs celery, chopped

2 cups apple juice

Trim pork belly; score fat side in diamond pattern. Season liberally with Plump Chef seasoning; marinate overnight.

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large roasting pan, layer vegetables. Place pork, skin-side up, over vegetables. Add 3 cups water and the apple juice. Cover; bake about 4 hours. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Place pork, skin-side down, in pan; strain pan juices over. Let marinate overnight.

Brined Pork Tongue

Serves 16

2 cups kosher salt

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 Tbsp pink salt

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp black peppercorns

1/2 tsp ground ginger

12 juniper berries

8 whole cloves

2 bay leaves, broken

1 cinnamon stick, broken up

8 pork tongues, cleaned thoroughly

1 onion, quartered

1 carrot, rough chopped

1 rib celery, coarsely chopped

1 quart pork stock

In pot, combine 2 quarts water, the kosher salt, brown sugar, pink salt and spices; cook until salt and brown sugar have dissolved. Cool; add pork tongues. Submerge pork tongues in brine; marinate 7 days.

Rinse marinated pork; add vegetables. Simmer in pork stock until pork is fork-tender.

Cranberry Relish

Serves 8

2 cups apple cider

2 cups fresh cranberries

1/2 cup late-harvest Riesling wine

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp kosher salt

In saucepan, bring all ingredients to a simmer. Remove from heat; let stand 10-15 minutes.

Sauteed Napa Cabbage

Serves 8

1 head Napa cabbage, chiffonade


Salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbsp Pear Mostarda

In a large pot of boiling water, blanch cabbage 1 minute; shock in ice water.

In a large saute pan, melt butter. Add blanched cabbage, salt and pepper. Stir in Pear Mostarda.

Apple Maple Bacon Glaze

Makes 1 cup

6 slices peppered bacon, small dice

2 cups fresh apple cider

1/2 cup real maple syrup

In a thick-bottomed pot, cook bacon until crispy. Deglaze the bottom of the pot with apple cider. Stir; cook over medium heat until reduced to 1/2 cup. Add maple syrup; cook and stir until bubbly. Remove from heat to cool. Puree when cool enough.

Plating: Remove outer layer from pork tongue; slice meat. Heat tongue in poaching stock. Cut pork belly into desired shape; slice down middle. On 325 degree griddle or nonstick pan, cook pork belly until golden brown.

Cook Napa cabbage. Heat cranberry relish and apple maple bacon glaze. Arrange half of pork belly on plate; add cabbage, tongue and relish. Top with other half of pork belly. Drizzle with apple maple bacon glaze. May decorate plate with glazes as well.

Smoked Pork Belly

Created by Chef Mark Born

Serves 6-8

Smoked Pork Belly

4 lb. pork belly

1 cup BBQ seasoning

Oil for searing

Preheat smoker to 250 degrees.

Season all surfaces of pork belly. Place in smoker with oak or hickory smoke. Smoke until done. Let rest 15-20 minutes.

Slice smoked pork into 3 inch squares; cut each square in half from corner to corner to make triangles. Lightly season edges with BBQ seasoning; sear all surfaces of triangles in oil.

Maple Bourbon Demi

2 cups bourbon

2 cups real maple syrup

2 cups demi-glace

3/4 cup minced onion

In a saucepan, flash off alcohol in bourbon. Add maple syrup, demi-glace and onion; reduce until sauce coats spoon. Serve warm.

Three-Way Pork and Sweet Potato Hash

3 cups sweet potatoes, small cubed

1 cup julienned red onion

1 cup pancetta, small diced

1 cups Andouille sausage, small diced

1 cup pork shoulder confit, small cubed

1/2 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries

1/3 cup spiced pecans

3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh chives

In a skillet, heat a small amount of oil until hot; add sweet potatoes. Saute briefly. Add onion, pancetta and Andouille; saute until onio is softened. Add confit, dried fruit and pecans; saute 5 minutes longer or until heated through. Sprinkle with chives just before plating.

Cajun-Braised Pork Butt with Pancetta Maque Choux and Sherry Cream Sauce

Created by Chef Brett Rist

Serves 6-8

Cajun-Braised Pork Butt

4-5 lb. boneless pork butt

Cajun spice

3 Tbsp cider vinegar

2 Tbsp fennel seeds

3 Tbsp salt

1 Tbsp pepper

Coat pork butt on all sides with Cajun spice. Coat a cast-iron skillet lightly with oil; add pork. Cook until seared on all sides.

In a large stockpot, combine 5 quarts water, the vinegar, fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Add seared pork; simmer 4-5 hours.

Spiced Sherry Cream

1/2 red onion, small dice

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 cup sherry

2 cups heavy cream

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Heat a medium saucepan until hot. Add a small amount of oil; sweat onion in oil until three-fourths cooked. Add garlic; cook 3 minutes. Add sherry; reduce by half. Add cream, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook until slightly thickened and whisk leaves trails in sauce.

Maque Choux

12 ears corn, husks and silks removed

Butter substitute

12 strips diced pancetta

8 oz. diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup sherry

2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cups canned hominy

2 tsp Cajun seasoning

2 tsp Louisiana hot pepper sauce

2 tsp salt

2 tsp pepper

2 bunches green onions, thinly sliced

Coat corn lightly with butter substitute; run through fast oven three times, rotating on each pass. Set corn aside.

In a large pan, cook pancetta until almost crips. Add bell pepper; cook 5 minutes. Deglaze pan with sherry. Meanwhile, cut kernels from corn cobs. Add corn, cream, hominy, Cajun seasoning, pepper sauce, salt and black pepper to pan. Cook 5 minutes or until cream is slightly thickened. Sprinkle with onions to serve.