Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Lunch with Stéphane Reynaud at The Spotted Pig

Not many things could tempt me to attend an all pork press lunch, but when I got my invitation to celebrate the launch of Pork & Sons, a cookbook by the great chef and restaurateur Stéphane Reynaud I marked the date in pen on my calendar. Pork & Sons is published by Phaidon Press, the house that brought out two recent favorites of mine: The Silver Spoon, and Breakfast, Lunch and Tea. Pork & Sons is another hit. If his fame has not reached your ears, Stéphane Reynaud is co-owner of the restaurant Villa 9 Trois in Montreuil, France. He comes from a long line of pig butchers and farmers from Saint-Agréve which is in the Ardeche region of France.

The Spotted Pig, scene of the fete, is a charming restaurant in Manhattan’s west village with a talented English chef, April Bloomfield. April cooked for us upstairs in the private dining room. We started with a glass of Pol Roger champagne and pigs’ ears sliced very thin, deep fried, and served at room temperature. They were crisp and flavorful and perfect with champagne. They were insanely good, though when I asked, I was told that the recipe is not in the cookbook.

Our first course was pork rillettes in individual ramekins--the best rillettes I’ve had outside of France. April served them the classic way with cornichons, mustard, and chewy bread from Sullivan Street bakery. I was instantly transported back to long, memorable bistro lunches in Paris. April also sent around one of her trademark dishes: popovers made with lardo which were so impossibly light that they melted in your mouth. Our main course was also killer: roasted rack of pork served with a hard cider and apple butter sauce. This one is in the cookbook and everyone at my table said that they were going to make it as soon as possible. Stéphane came to our table just as we started this course and told us that one of the reasons he loves pork so much is that it can be paired with an incredible variety of flavors. This sauce had a touch of ginger and cinnamon in it, which left an amazing aftertaste but at the same time was also quite simple. Get the book just for this recipe. We had a fantastic Crozes-Hermitage that went well with everything.

This is a cookbook for any pork lover, and it might even convert people who are wary of serving pork. There are so many wonderful recipes plus charming stories to go with them. There is also another delight--the sources in the back which Reynaud calls Piggy People We Like. He lists butchers, producers, and other sources for the best pork in Europe and the US. Considering that this is the year of the pig, the timing of Pork & Sons could not be more perfect.

Pork & Sons
Stéphane Reynaud


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