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The Food Guy: In praise of Pig of the Month

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Even though St. Paddy's Day has come and gone, I'm still in an Irish food state of mind.

I'm not seriously expected to eat corned beef but once a year, am I?

We enjoyed a little more luck o' the Irish when we recently received an awesome package from the Pig of the Month Club. (Best gift ever, by the way.) Inside was an iced-down selection of gorgeous pork products you can have delivered to your door and on the table in 30 minutes or less.

Take that, Dominoes.

I dug through the cooler to find slabs of thick-cut chipotle and garden herb bacon, large pre-cooked racks of "Cattle King" and "Love Me Tender" smoked barbecue ribs and a package of premium pasture-raised and beautifully marbled corned beef brisket (not pork, I know) cured with black peppercorns, garlic and pickling spice.

Color me happy.

In honor of the Emerald Isle, I made a home-cooked dinner featuring said corned beef stirred into fried potatoes and onions seasoned with broth, chopped pickles and a hint of spicy mustard. So good.

Facebook fan Lynn Jones read about the meal online and shared her technique - coating corned beef with a dry mustard rub and then cooking it in beer - which sounds mighty fine, too.

A few days later we threw the rack of Cattle King ribs in the oven and baked over slow, low heat until they were warmed through. I had my doubts about the quality of precooked ribs (dry and flavorless, dry and tough, just plain dry) but these babies were moist, tangy and delicious.

Now let me at that bacon!

Need a special delivery in time for this Sunday's Easter brunch? Check out www.pigofthemonth.com.

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On a related note, during cooking demonstrations held at the recent West Virginia Culinary Classic at Stonewall Resort, Chef Mark Glass of West Virginia Northern Community College in Wheeling shared some great tips on cooking meat with dry rubs and brines.

Besides getting to sample bits of chicken, beef and pork seasoned with jerk, Mexican and assorted rubs and marinades, some of the tastiest nuggets I took away from this session were . . .

  • Depending on the cut of the meat you're using, you want to let dry rubs set (so the flavors can seep in) a long time before cooking. Whereas a chicken breast needs only an hour to take on a rub's flavors, bigger and denser cuts of meat need longer. His advice when dealing with those? Coat the meat with the dry rub, really pressing it into the flesh, and then wrap in foil or plastic and let rest in the fridge all day, or even overnight.
  • We've all heard you need to let meats "rest" when they come out of the oven - letting them sit for a bit before slicing, so the juices seep back through the meat, keeping it moist. But most of us think 10-15 minutes will suffice. Chef Mark suggests up to an hour. He says if you cook meat to medium-rare, then let it sit long enough, the results are perfection.
  • When whisking together a marinade or brine for meats, go easy on the sugar.
  • Items like honey, barbecue sauce and brown sugar can add great flavor but easily burn due to their high sugar content, and that can impart a distinct bitter flavor. Add these ingredients in moderation, and reduce your heat accordingly.

  • Make sure you're using the right size pan to cook meat. As in, make sure "your pan fits your food." If you have one single filet in a large skillet of oil, all that oil around the outside of the pan has nothing to do but burn. Either cook several pieces at once or use a smaller pan for single pieces.
  • And this was the gem of the day for me! Other than using a thermometer, how do you know exactly how long to cook meat for best results? Well, here's how. When you place meat in a pan, cook it on one side until you start to see thicker juices (almost a gel-like substance) start to surface on top. When that happens, your meat is cooked almost exactly through on the bottom half. Flip it now, cook the same amount of time on the opposite side, and then you should have a perfect medium-rare piece of meat to enjoy.
  • Look for the goo? Will do!

    Contact writer Steven Keith at dailymailfoodguy@aol.com or 304-348-1721. You can also follow him on Facebook and Pinterest as "DailyMail FoodGuy," on Twitter as "DMFoodGuy" or read his blog at blogs.dailymail.com/foodguy/.


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