Chef lets us off the leash on pork day.

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Espresso dry rub pork with Alabama white bbq sauce and a balsamic chocolate glaze. Served over braised apple onion cabbage.

Most of a culinary students education is stacks of mise en place cards, follow this to the T. Creativity is a bit limited because let’s be honest if you let an architect design a building without knowing load bearing structural basics, the beautiful house of cards will fall. Today Chef let the hounds loose, and it was magical. You could see young cooks hands running all over the ingredients rack, foraging for this spice or that, using every trick in the book that we have learned thus far. Minds were ablaze with creativity, passion, and you could literally smell the ambition.

Let’s start with the main entree. Espresso dry rub pork, Alabama white BBQ sauce, and a balsamic chocolate glaze. That enough sends a readers taste buds into curious overdrive. Wait, what coffee? chocolate? pork? I can hear you now, “I can’t even”. Oh yeah, we did. So, the sides Chef wanted to change up a bit so he did the unthinkable. He said Come up with your own vegetable side. Pair it with the pork, think about the entree, ready set, go. No guidelines, no rules, here’s your ingredients, go forth and create. To say we were ecstatic was an understatement. For a brief few hours, we were acting as real chefs. Taking what we had, what we knew, on the fly to make a dish.

After our discussion what was in season, I thought back to moist cooking methods braising cabbage but the original recipe was way too much wine and vinegar for this application. So, quick on my feet I took the apple/onion compote. My mind was racing, butter, white wine vinegar, apple cider, and began to braise the cabbage. I remembered adding soft veggies or fruits too soon they would turn to mush, I said AHA! got the cabbage to al dente, added the compote. Before I knew it I had altered a recipe to make it my own. The light bulb came on. This is what he was teaching us. He was teaching us to think like a chef, and not just a cook.

The dish was a several layer cake of flavors each blasting differently from the other. The espresso spiced earthy pork, drug through the sweet tangy chocolate glaze, and the white bbq sauce, and contrasted with the sweet tang of braised cabbage and apples. You’re taste buds went on a more turbulent roller coaster than North Carolina weather week.

Yes we learned to butcher and prepare pork, some helpful plating techniques, but mainly this week; we learned to think like a chef. The light bulbs were all kicking on today. Bon Appetit!

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