Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Roast Pork with Fennel Pollen

My pork roast was superb. In fact, I heard one of my guests was out foraging fennel off Mulholland Drive the next day so he to could make this dish.

The first step was to dry out the fennel and shake off the pollen. Instead of drying it out in a paper bag, I dried it on my indoor windowsill, which is a much faster process.

I invited extra friends over at the last minute and was worried I wouldn’t have enough pork so I ran down the hill and bought a pork loin to go along with the pork shoulder I had bought at Marin Sun Farms.

I also got a chance to use one of my favorite pieces of cooking equipment, my large Staub roasting pan. The Staub pot has a dimpled lid, which creates moisture, insuring that whatever you roast will be incredibly moist. It's a must have if you do any kind of roasting.

Here's the recipe.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Rub the pork generously with the fennel pollen, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Lay fennel stems along the bottom of the pan and place the pork roasts on top. Cook for 3 hours at 350 degrees. 1 hour before the pork is finished add some fingerling potatoes. Remove from the oven, let rest for 15 minutes and then serve.

The pork was amazing, tender and moist and the flavor of the fennel pollen was quite interesting. It tasted like the essence of what fennel tastes like but had much more of a subtle and intense flavor. The fennel complimented the pork perfectly. The pork shoulder melted in your mouth and the pork loin believe it or not was not dry or overcooked. The loin was good as well but not as flavorful as the shoulder.

The Staub pot has so much to do with the success of this dish. Take it from me, I am a big believer that the right piece of equipment is worth the investment. This has been such a satisfying experience, foraging an ingredient and then actually cooking with it. This recipe is a keeper.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Road Trip

Last week I took a road trip driving North up the coast of California. Along the way I stopped by to visit with friends and stay the weekend in Bolinas, which is about an hour north of San Francisco. One afternoon as I was driving with my friend Fletcher to Point Reyes he pointed out all the wild fennel that was in full bloom all along the side of the road. It reminded him of a dish that the Chef Paul Bertolli had prepared for him that was the best thing he had ever eaten. It was a pork roast rubbed with Fennel Pollen, garlic, bay leaves, salt and pepper. That was all I needed to hear, I was so on it.

I went to find a patch that was off the road and harvested several bags of fennel to take back home with me. I then drove to Marin Sun Farms which an incredible local butcher who sells only grass fed meats. I bought a pork shoulder roast to take back with me to LA. There is nothing more exciting to me than foraging ingredients for a meal.

I'm going to make the dish this weekend and will post the results. Can't wait.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Swan Oyster Depot

San Francisco is a seafood town and as a native San Franciscan Swans Oyster Depot is my kind of place. Swan's is almost 100 years old and was a classic from the day it opened. It first began as a fish market and soon after a few seats were added along the counter where they began serving customers very simple fare. Freshly shucked Oysters, Dungeness cracked crab or any combination seafood cocktails. They don’t serve any hot food except for clam chowder. There are no gimmicks, just the freshest seafood available.

There is always a line out the door and it's no wonder with just 19 or so stools. The early morning hours at the store are spent getting wholesale and private orders packed up and I'd have to say my favorite time to go is in the morning around 11:00 am. There usually isn’t a line but once all the stools are filled the lines begin and continues all day long. Swan's is only open until 5:30, they don't serve dinner. I love watching local great timers enjoying a cup of chowder, seafood salads or as I spotted for the first time, a woman who was having Dungeness cracked crab served with melted butter in a very small copper pot.

Swan's in my opinion is not only the best place in the city to enjoy the bounty of San Francisco seafood but also the best place to buy local seafood. Whatever is in season is on display, sand dabs, bay shrimps, freshly caught salmon, Cracked Dungeness crab or shucked crabmeat.

I usually start with a cup of chowder and then follow with a simple salad topped with crab, prawns and bay shrimp, which they serve along with a bowl of Thousand Island dressing. Sometimes if I’m in the mood, I order a selection of oysters. They serve a locally smoked salmon that melts in your mouth. You can of course order any of the prepared seafood which is served with some homemade cocktail sauce. I either sip a glass of Honig Sauvignon Blanc, simple and crisp, perfect for seafood or the local Anchor Steam Beer.

It’s very comforting to me that a shop like Swan Oyster Depot hasn't fall to the wayside and that one of the city's greatest culinary traditions is still vibrant and very much alive.

Swan Oyster Depot
1517 Polk Street
San Francisco, California
Open daily 8:00 - 5:30
Closed Mondays