Pork Three Ways: Brined Pork Chops, Fennel-Fontina Sausage, and Swiss Chard with Bacon and Fennel over Polenta Cakes
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons coriander seed
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Stalks and fronds from 1 fennel bulb, chopped
- 1 rib celery, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 4 bone-in pork rib chops
- 2 tablespoons wild fennel pollen, plus more, if needed
- Fennel-Fontina Sausage:
- 2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch chunks (pork should have a good amount of fat)
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon fennel seed
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1/2 cup Fontina cheese, small dice
- Hog casing
- Olive oil
- Swiss Chard and Fennel with Bacon:
- Olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 slices bacon, cut into lardons
- 5 Swiss chard leaves, stems removed and cut into 1/2-inch lengths, leaves cut into 1-inch lengths
- 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup chicken stock
- Kosher salt
- Polenta Cakes:
- 1 cup milk
- 2 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup polenta
- 4 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup mascarpone
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Quality olive oil, for drizzling
For the brine: In a large container, add the salt, sugar, coriander, red pepper flakes, fennel, celery, garlic, and enough water to cover the chops and stir to combine. Submerge the pork chops in the brine and let sit in the refrigerator until ready to cook, at least 30 minutes.
Bring the chops to room temperature before cooking. Remove the chops from the brine, discarding the brine.
For the chops: Preheat a cast iron pan.
Roll the fat edge of each pork chop in the fennel pollen. Place the pork chops gently in the heated pan.
Sear the chops on all sides and cook for about 9 minutes. Remove the chops from the pan and let rest in a warm place before serving. The doneness of the meat should be about medium to medium-well and be very juicy.
For the fennel-fontina sausage: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Season the pork shoulder with the garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, fennel seed, and coriander. Grind the pork twice through the large grind of a stand mixer fitted with a meat grinder attachment. Gently stir in the cheese. Add the cold water and mix lightly. Stuff the ground pork into a casing using the sausage horn attachment to the stand mixer and twist off into evenly sized links. Transfer to a parchment-lined sheet pan and roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
Preheat a saute pan and drizzle with olive oil. Remove the sausages from the oven and brown them in the pan.
For the Swiss chard: Coat a saute pan with olive oil. Toss in the garlic, red pepper flakes, bacon, and a couple drops olive oil. Bring the pan to medium heat. When the garlic is golden and very aromatic, remove it and discard.
When the bacon has become crispy, toss in the Swiss chard stems and fennel and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock, as needed, and season with salt. When the chicken stock has reduced, toss in the Swiss chard leaves and season with salt. Cook the leaves until they are just wilted, 3 to 4 minutes.
For the polenta cakes: In a saucepan, combine the milk, water, bay leaf, and cayenne. Bring the mixture to a boil over low heat and season generously with salt. (Take the seasoning to the edge of too salty. To do this you must taste as you go. Polenta acts as a salt eraser, if you don't season abundantly here you will never recover from it.)
Once the liquid is at a boil and is seasoned appropriately, sprinkle in the polenta, whisking constantly. Once the polenta is combined, switch over to a wooden spoon and stir frequently until the polenta has become thick. Taste the polenta to see if it has cooked through. If it still feels mealy and grainy, add some more milk or water and cook it to a thick consistency. Repeat this process, as needed, until the polenta feels smooth on your tongue, about 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and stir in the chopped sage and mascarpone.
Line a 7 by 7-inch square pan with plastic wrap. Pour the polenta into the prepared pan. Cover the top with more plastic wrap smoothed onto the surface of the polenta. Chill in the refrigerator until needed. (All of this can totally be done ahead of time, like yesterday! Cool!)
Remove the polenta from the pan and cut into desired shapes. Coat a nonstick saute pan with olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot and starting to smoke just a little, add the polenta shapes. Cook the polenta on both sides and finish by sprinkling with a little bit of grated Parmigiano.
For plating: Place 1 polenta cake on each plate and top with Swiss chard and bacon. Lean 1 chop on each polenta cake. Slice the sausages on the bias and plate 2 slices on each plate. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.
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