Thanks to everyone who entered. This giveaway is now closed.
A few weeks ago when advance copies of Fermented were sent out, Stacy from Paleo Parents had a brilliant idea. In order to really get a feel for all that Fermented had to offer and to test out a bunch of recipes at once, she invited some friends over to her house and they made a bunch of things from the book. First of all, I was so honored and thrilled that someone would do this and second of all, it was a fabulous idea!
So, I decided to return the favor. I invited a few of my pork-loving friends over this past Saturday and we cooked up a feast courtesy of Stacy’s (and her husband Matt) latest masterpiece, Beyond Bacon.
Before I tell you the details, I have to say that I think I will be doing book reviews in this way from now on. Not only was it a great way to try a bunch of recipes at once, it was just a really good time spent with some friends.
So, here are the pork party players:
Sarah – She’s a badass mamma to Oliver Danger (Yes, her son’s middle name is Danger. Fantastic.), real food lover, gardener, animal lover, and owner of an actual house pig, Speck. When I invited her over to cook up pork in various ways I asked if she felt any weirdness about it considering she has a house pig. She said no and that Speck has no room to complain as he’s eaten bits of ham. Ha.
Liz – Hardcore CrossFitter, the one who got me to start fermenting by giving me a SCOBY, always has a unique take on food. Cooking genius and all-around awesome friend. And she looks sexy with a block of lard in hand.
Kevin – AKA The Scientist ™. Liz’s boyfriend, chemist, and meat lover. When he and Liz started dating their third date was sausage making. Not a euphemism and not a joke. I’m glad that my friend is dating a man of this caliber. When a gentleman shares your love and respect for meat products, you keep him around, no? The Scientist was in charge of meat cutting and did an expert job of pocketing out the pork chops Sarah brought. Brilliant.
DJ’s Butcher Block – This is a new-to-me place in Pittsburgh. I found out about it through Liz (of course) and I have become a regular customer. I can’t always buy half of a cow or an entire pig straight from the farm – I don’t have anywhere to store it! Instead I’ve now started supporting this little independent butcher who sources his meat from local farms. Seriously folks, this is the type of place you want to buy your meat from. There is a visible ban saw. They cut ALL steaks and chops to order. DJ and his girlfriend own the place and they’re the people you’ll see behind the counter. They know everything about their product. There is a collection of meat cleavers hanging on the wall. The place isn’t glamorous, but it’s clean, inexpensive, and the quality is second to none. This is where we bought all the meat and lard for the pork party.
Dude – My man napped throughout the pork preparation portion of the day, but woke up in time to eat.
So, what did we make? A few days before the party, we put our heads together and came up with a comprehensive menu:
Sarah made Apple & Bacon Stuffed Pork Chops (page 168) and Zucchini Pasta with Avocado, Roasted Tomato, & Bacon (page 234).
I made Sweet Potato Drop Biscuits (page 222) and Savory Bacon Jam (page 244).
Liz made The Best Brownies (page 284)
Kevin improvised a pan sauce for the chops with the bacon drippings we had left over – and that was a lot. Plus, as mentioned above, he was our meat cutter and got things off of high shelves.
The book! It’s brilliant, plain and simple. It’s beautiful too. I had a difficult time settling on what to make because the depth and breadth of what is in this book is just overwhelming – in a good way! We could EASILY have four or five pork parties, cook from Beyond Bacon for every single one of them, and never get bored. And we might just do that. The non-recipe part of the book is flat out invaluable. I mean, the recipes are positively fab, but the additional information beyond the food preparation is reason alone to have this book in your library. I thought I knew about pork, but it turns out that wasn’t the case. I didn’t even know what I didn’t know.
The party went off without a hitch. I have a nice-sized kitchen, but it’s not enormous. I was concerned the four of us wouldn’t have enough room to work together AND make six different things. But I worried for nothing. We had a terrific time, enough room, and nobody had to fight for oven or stove real estate. We didn’t even plan it, but everything was finished cooking at just the right time. By the time the pork chops were pulled out of the oven, everything else was ready, on the table, and ready to eat. Dude had even woken up by this point and has his appetite ready.
And the food? Come on. You know what I’m going to say here. This was the best meal I’ve had in a long, long, long time.
Apple and Bacon Stuffed Pork Chops – These were perfection. I mean, how can you go wrong stuffing a pork chop with bacon? You can’t. But it was more than just pork-on-pork action. The flavors and textures were perfectly balanced – sweet/savory, meaty/crunchy. The apples were perfect for this dish.
Zucchini Pasta with Avocado, Roasted Tomato & Bacon – This was probably meant to be a stand-alone entree, but we used it as a side dish. It was so deliciously creamy and wonderful! Plus, the bacon wasn’t overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I love bacon as much as the next person, but there is so much more to food than bacon. And we had a pretty bacon-heavy menu going at this party. Sarah brought grape tomatoes and basil from her garden to use in this dish and that just pushed it over the top.
Sweet Potato Drop Biscuits – What can I say about these beauties? They are absolutely fantastic. The flavor is very subtle and lends itself nicely to sweet and savory dishes. After the pork party, I made another batch of these gems and quadrupled the recipe. Dude and I have been eating them with every meal – with eggs and bacon (make a breakfast sandwich with them!), with honey (Oooh! Sweet and savory!), and Dude even ate one with his pork mole at last night’s dinner. And do I even have to tell you how well these paired with the bacon jam? I practically fainted.
Savory Bacon Jam – Yeah. You can’t go wrong with this. Seriously. If you don’t even care about pork and if you aren’t interested in an entire book’s worth of awesome recipes, you’ll want to get Beyond Bacon simply for this recipe. What’s the cover price? Who cares! Spend the money JUST FOR THIS BACON JAM RECIPE. This is an order. You’ll thank me for this bit of advice. It was so easy to make and it yielded incredible – and I mean INCREDIBLE WITH ALL CAPS – results. I sent Liz, Kevin, and Sarah home with a wee bit of what was left over from the batch. Pirates. I can’t believe those guys would rob me of the rest of the bacon jam. Don’t worry. I’ve since made another batch. And I may or may not be eating it all myself by the spoonful.
The Best Brownies – Truth be told, I’m always skeptical of grain-free desserts. Most of them aren’t good. They are well intentioned, but the texture is always off and the flavor is usually kind of blah. However!!!!! Trust me when I tell you these brownies are the exception! Light, moist, and not a whiff of that weird paleo pastry texture! These are the real deal, friends. I think using lard makes all the difference. Believe me when I say that I am persnickety when it comes to paleo/grain-free desserts. These brownies lived up to their name!
So, what’s the moral of this story? First, do yourself a favor and get a copy of Beyond Bacon. Actually, how about entering here for a chance to win a copy? Leave me a comment below telling me what your favorite pork preparation is. And surf on over to like my Facebook page and follow me on Instagram for additional entries. Do it. You have until Thursday, August 29, 2013 at noon EDT.
The second moral is this: Everything is always better with your friends around. Thanks to Liz, Kevin, and Sarah for the good times and for taking some photos!