Monday, March 28, 2011

Cochon 555 at The Ritz-Carlton, Denver

Celebrating its third season as a friendly competition for a cause -- touting pork with a purpose -- Cochon 555 will convene in the Mile-High City on Sunday, April 3, 2011 at The Ritz-Carlton, Denver. The one-of-a-kind traveling culinary competition and tasting event was conceived by Brady Lowe to promote sustainable farming of heritage breed pigs. Each stop along the 10-city tour offers hard-working local farmers the opportunity to connect with like-minded agriculturalists, renowned chefs and the pork-loving public. 

Top chefs from around the state, all nationally recognized as Colorado’s best, will join forces to showcase their take on a pork dish produced from a 175 pound heritage breed hog, each carefully paired with a different wine from selected wineries. Chefs lending a hand for the spirited competition are: Alex Seidel – Fruition, Frank Bonnano – Mizuna/Bones/Luca de Italia, Jennifer Jasinski –Rioja/Euclid Hall, Kelly Liken – Kelly Liken, Vail, and Lachlan Mackinnon – Frasca Food & Wine, Boulder.

The Ritz-Carlton, Denver’s very own executive chef Justin Fields will be on the panel as one of 20 judges to crown the ‘King or Queen of Porc’. Winners are selected based on presentation, utilization and overall best flavor.

Attendees will savor samplings of the chefs prepared dishes and can even take in a live face-off featuring two butchers as they show-off their skills and speed. Epicurean audiences, comprised mainly of pork lovers around the country, have enjoyed this spectacle of a ‘porkfest’, as The New York Times raved it’s a “MUST DO culinary experience.” The winner from each 10-city tour will go to go the finale event, Grand Cochon, at the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, June 19, 2011. 

To purchase tickets, visit Cochon 555’s goal is to help family farms sustain and expand their businesses and to encourage breed diversity and is the only heritage breed pig culinary competition in the country. 
For more information on The Ritz-Carlton, Denver, please call 303.312.3800 or visit us at The Ritz-Carlton, Denver
For more on this event and tips and pointers on how to produce good pork based meals, read the following interview from Chef Justin Fields after the jump.

We sat down with the miraculously skilled Chef Just Fields to pick his brain about the Great Porcine and what mistakes people commonly make when preparing it.

Chef Fields, what are some common mistakes people make when cooking pork? 
As with many proteins in America, we have been conditioned to only think of certain cuts or perhaps what the groceries may market as the "best" cuts. This is the first and most common mistake in purchasing pork for most Americans since our cookbook recipes, cooking shows and family traditions have dictated that only the tenderloin, loin and belly (for bacon) be used when considering pork. I'd like to think that influx of foreign cultures to our communities and the influence of our huge restaurant labor force of immigrants has opened the eyes of chefs and diners to allow for other cuts of pork. The shoulder has long been used for slow braising in America, and in the South, feet and ears have long been utilized as primary cuts out of pure necessity, but it's the belly that I've noticed lately that has made a huge presence on the American table. As for common cooking mistakes?  The misconception that pork has to be cooked well done has to be up there with the most habitual crimes...that along with not brining or seasoning properly.

Any special tricks you use to ensure it always comes out delicious?  
I always brine pork to ensure that the entire cut is seasoned, not just the surface.

What is your favorite pork dish, or the best one at The Ritz-Carlton, Denver? And would you mind sharing the recipe?
We do a Noodle Bowl action station as part of our banquet menu for 2011 here at The Ritz-Carlton, Denver and it has slow braised crisp pork belly as a choice of protein toppings. I love the marriage of crisp fatty pork belly paired with the complex and creamy broth of a ramen bowl.

10 pieces of pork belly
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup Chinese five spice powder
2 cups cider brine

We like to marinate this cut as we slow cook it using the sous vide cooking method (vacuum sealed, submerged in water and cooked at a very low temperature). First we rub the belly with the salt and five spice mixture and then place the belly in a bag with the brine. We then vacuum seal the meat and cook it sous vide at 140 degrees for 12 hours. The pork is cooled in the bag and left to rest until completely chilled before being cut into smaller pieces as necessary per the given recipe. We then sear the belly in a sauté pan rendering as much of the skin side as possible and developing a nice golden brown crust.

Any other interesting facts about pork the Food Loving people of the World need to know?
I think it's interesting that the domesticated pig as we know it in America is not indigenous to North America and was brought over during the Spanish settlement of Florida and the Southeast only a few hundred years ago. Amazing how quickly an animal can become so domesticated and widely used by a nation in such a relatively short amount of time.

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