Honest, Straightforward, Patient – Kurobuta is “Some Pig”
With all due respect to Wilbur, Kurobuta is really the most extraordinary of pigs. How to describe this superb pork? I turned to the Chinese Zodiac for help.
Honest, Straightforward and Patient - traits attributed to people born under the sign of the pig. They provide good insight into the characteristics of this exquisite pork derived from the heritage breed: Berkshire. Today’s Kurobuta is honest and straightforward – it can define for your palate in one bite what pork should be.
First noted in the stories of British army exploits nearly 300 years ago, the humble Berkshire pig has, like many of our foods today, traced a long and storied trail before ending up on our plates. After the Berkshire hogs were gifted to Japan by British diplomats in the 1800’s, a pure breed was developed now called Kurobuta. So, we can see this little piggy has had to exhibit patience in the extreme to survive as a breed long enough to be discovered by gourmands and heritage breeders.
Thank the stars it has. This pork is now highly prized the world over as a shining example of what pork should taste like. As with Kobe beef, the more marbled and less lean nature of the meat has much to do with the tremendous flavor and tender bite.
The relatively dry and tasteless commercial pork product we’ve become familiar with, (you know “the other white meat”) takes to sauces, dried fruits and spicy rubs so well in large part due to it’s lack of a strong flavor of its own. Unlike pork which has been fed hormones to speed its time to butchering, this pork is allowed to grow at its own pace, usually by small heritage farmers practicing organic and humane farming methods. The result is a tender, luscious, juicy pork that is unparalleled.
Once one has tasted an heirloom tomato one can never again tolerate the tasteless cottony and pale facsimiles bred to survive early picking and cross-country trucking. Now that Kurobuta pork has passed my lips, I’m looking for other budget items to jettison, to make way for this unique porcine product on a more regular basis. Hey, eats this good don’t come cheap, but I guarantee you, it is an experience worth every penny, euro or yen.
My Kurobuta initiation was guided by our good friends at Lobel’s, and financed by my generous husband (as appreciative a diner as you’ll ever find at your table.) As advertised, this pork is darker and richer than mass-market pork. A lush and distinctive flavor profile is delivered through that beautiful and cruel force of nature: fat. This meat truly “glistens when you cut into it.” But I hasten to add, it is not fatty. The sweet fat is so well integrated into the meat itself you barely recognize it.
Consulting once again our Chinese Zodiac attributes I note that “rampant hedonism” is also part of the profile of our patient, honest and straightforward porcine friends. Perhaps my birth under the sign of the Ox was just a mistake...?
Here are the Leather District Gourmet’s Kurobuta Pork recipes. (Readers will note that my cooking does not strictly lend itself to recipes – these are more guidelines. Trust your nose, trust your palate. And, by all means, write me with any questions or suggestions!)
Herb rubbed Rack roast of Pork
For Herb Rub
Shallots, butter, olive oil, mustard (I used a combination of whole grain and a shallot champagne Dijon style mustard from Napa.)
Fresh thyme, fresh sage, parsley. Grated orange zest.
Herb spice mixture (fennel seed, coriander, white pepper, fleur de sel, rosemary)
Wash & pat dry roast. Season with fleur de sel and crushed white pepper.
Massage herb rub all over roast. Wrap with plastic or waxed paper, return to fridge for 2-4 hours.
Roast at 375 for about 20 minutes per pound. Note: do not overcook. Approximate times.
Be sure to use good meat thermometer and cook to internal temperature of 145 degrees, no more! Temp will rise during resting at least five degrees.
Baste with drippings if any, being sure to baste potatoes and onions, too. My pork actually produced so little pan drippings, I used some demiglace and wine to make a bit of basting liquid for the potatoes mostly.
Remove, tent with foil and allow resting time of 5-10 minutes. Finish pan sauce while resting, and sauté asparagus.
Crisp romaine, sliced apples, shaved fresh fennel bulb. Mandarin orange sections (navel, or blood orange sections would be good too, as would pomegranate seeds.)
Small garlic clove, champagne mustard, s&p. Yuzu vinegar (cider would work well too)
Whisk in light oil, canola, grapeseed oil with a bit of good fruity olive oil. You want a balance of tart, sweet, peppery and citrusy flavors here.
Wash dry quarter Yukon golds. Strew with thyme S&P around roast in roasting pan. The potatoes will probably take more time than the pork to fully roast, so even it out by starting them ahead or by cutting them in smaller segments.
Add onions (red pearl onions, or cippolini would be nice)
Baste with pan juices.
Spring Vegetable Saute
Saute of asparagus, morels, butter, shallot. I added a bit of mushroom stock (reserved and frozen from my last use of dried porcinis. You could easily use a bit of good chicken broth.) A sprinkle of Wondra Sauce and Gravy flour.
Degrease if necessary – wasn’t with my Lobel’s Kurobuta. Deglaze pan with a bit of calvados, Madeira. Demi-glace or stock. Season, reduce. Add a bright note at end using a touch of cider vinegar and/or fresh parsley, more zest.
Wine – Good Oregon pinot noir. (Thanks Sujata!)