Beyond the Recipe: Valentine's Day Pork Porterhouse

Chef Nate is back at it with this strikingly beautiful, and delightfully simple recipe for Pork Porterhouse with Strawberries. While Chef Nate made this as a Valentine's Day treat for his lucky partner, Zoe, this dish is going into our rotation whenever we're able to get our hands on juicy strawberries here in Tennessee. 

Nate Allen is our favorite kind of chef — creative, energetic, and filled with contagious joy whenever he gets in the kitchen, or in front of a fire. His deep respect for conscientious agriculture not only shows in his thoughtful sourcing (often from his own yard), but in his beautiful dishes, using every ingredient to its full potential.  Each meal Chef Nate creates is permeated with history — of the local region, old culinary traditions, and of his own dining experiences. 

After attending culinary school, Nate lived in many places and worked in many kitchens, before opening the James Beard Award nominated restaurant Knife & Fork, in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. At Knife & Fork, Nate sourced all ingredients from within 45 miles — a testament to his dedication to supporting local agriculture and community.  He currently resides in Florida, surrounded by an abundance of fresh ingredients that make their way into almost everything he creates.

I have been breaking down whole hogs in the kitchen for the past ten years. When you are raised cooking, and follow that career path, an affinity for great product develops. But when you make the jump to butchering the animals yourself a whole new universe of understanding awakens within the creative cooking mind. Suddenly, the relationship between muscle, bone, and purpose inform the topography of the body. Once we understand the composition and purpose of each part of the animal, we know precisely how each part would want to be cut, and how each should be cooked. We are in communication with our product and can honor all the work that went into getting it to this point. The Pork Porterhouse cut is balanced physical poetry. The dominant powerhouse of lean loin exterior muscle and its counterpoint the supplicant, ethereal tenderloin bound and framed by the vertebrae. I had not encountered this cut in pork until I began doing it myself. I was so happy to see it available from Porter Road. It is a testament to their mastery and joy in craftsmanship.

In late January the majority of my fellow Americans were under a siege of Arctic cold but here in southern Florida strawberries were ripening to jeweled perfection in the sun. My love, Zoe, and I decided to go to a pick-your-own farm inland and gather enough that their preservation would stir our various creativities. Upon returning home with our fragrant bounty we pickled some unripe white berries that we picked for this purpose. We made some jam and ran a good many through the juicer to make cocktails because all this hard labor demanded refreshment! And then I grilled some over mixed hard wood until they were infused with smoke and releasing their own caramelized juices.

Pork really loves sticky, sweet, and spicy. I think most warm-blooded humans can agree on this point. I grabbed the Pork Porterhouse and dipped my fingers in olive oil to put a shine on the meat. Next, a liberal application of salt and pepper, then onto the hottest part of the grill. I left the meat in this first position just long enough to get perfect marks, about two minutes, then I rotated the chop 90 degrees. After two minutes in that second position I flipped the chop over and rubbed the top of it with the grilled strawberries. Again I waited two minutes, rotated, two more minutes then off to rest on the cutting board. I moved inside to the kitchen and put a small cast iron pan on hi heat. To this pan I donated a teaspoon of whole cumin seeds, a pinch each of salt and pepper, and one ripe, red cherry pepper chopped roughly, seeds and all.  After a minute on heat the cumin seeds begin to shudder, crackle, and release their sensual perfume. At this point I added the grilled strawberries and gave the whole thing a stir, removed it from the heat, and added three chopped green onions.

 

For the final element of the recipe I put three tablespoons canola oil in a small one-quart lidded saucepan and placed it on hi heat. After one minute the oil shimmers and I added two tablespoons of unpopped popcorn kernels, one-half teaspoon of salt, and one teaspoon of sugar then replaced the lid and shook gently until the pot was filled and the popping slowed to a stop.  There really are just two types of people in this world — those that pop their own popcorn, and those that use a microwave. It really is as easy as I described it above, so please join our team.

The only thing left for us to do was plate this beauty. At a restaurant this chop would come out carved and laid out on either side of the bone, like some car manual exploded view schematic. This is to establish proof that it was once a whole thing and not two random cuts posing together. I couldn’t wait to taste this thing so I gnawed on the t-bone while Zoe snapped away at the plated final product. I hope you will try this and fall in love as I have with this beautiful cut. It is perfect to share with your love(s) on Valentines Day, or any other day that warrants a special meal. The strawberries look like so many little steamy, pulsing hearts. I love you!