There’s a lot of hype lately about buying meat from local farms and butchers as opposed to commercial, pre-packaged cuts from supermarkets and I am completely on board and have been for a while. Not only does it support your local farmers and butchers but the product actually tastes better.
If you’re in the mood for pork chops, do you really want to buy a styrofoam tray filled with four pork chops, most likely from four different pigs that were raised in a cage and had a shitty life?
Those pigs’ lives sucked and they probably ate the cheapest type of food that got them to the age of slaughter without dying and then BOOM; they’re instantly caged again behind some cheap-ass cellophane wrap on a styrofoam tray, buried under some other pig parts that have an earlier expiration date.
Why wouldn’t you want to go to a local butcher and ask them what they have that day that is fresh and watch them break down larger primal cuts into what you are looking for? Not to mention… the local animals were happy.
They ran around, they ate great food that made them extremely fat resulting in more flavor in your mouth. They lived for you. The difference is extremely clear when buying pork from a local farm.
The other day, I stopped by The Butcher Shop, in the South End; one of Chef Barbara Lynch’s countless successful spots and checked out what they had to offer.
They buy whole animals from local farms and they just so happened to have some pork from Burnshirt Valley Farm in Lowell, MA. The difference is clear; As soon as the butcher took the bone-in loin to the band saw and held up the masterpiece in front of my face it was obvious.
This chop was sexy. It was encompassed with about 2 inches of pure white fat, the flesh was pink and not supermarket brown. It was soft and smelled as like nothing as opposed to the slimy, pre-packaged preservative-glazed Stop & Shop brand.
If you truly care about your body and care about the food that you eat, this is how you should be buying your protein. Conveniently located next to The Butcher Shop is Siena Farms urban farm stand; a local farm in Sudbury brings fresh, seasonal produce to this tiny hole-in-the-wall.
There, I noticed that zucchini blossoms were in bloom and I snagged a bunch as well as some smoky, whipped eggplant spread and some baby fennel. I set off home to create a pork-friendly recipe.
Zucchini blossoms are an ingredient that you don’t see everyday. If you frequent nice Italian restaurants in the summer, you may have seen them on the menu, stuffed with truffled ricotta and deep fried as an antipasti.
I wanted to garnish my grilled pork chops with a spoof on that by stuffing them with a whipped eggplant puree that is smoky and nutty. I poured the whipped eggplant into a bag and piped it into the blossoms.
The blossoms are exactly what they look like… they’re basically flowers. Once I had them stuffed to the brim, I dunked them into a tempura batter and deep fried them in some canola oil until they were crispy. I roasted the baby fennel and grilled some Balsamic-marinated spring onions to serve on the side of the grilled pork chops.
I didn’t do anything too crazy to season the chops because I wanted the sweet pork flavor from the local pig to shine. Once I marked them on the grill, I tossed them on the upper deck and smothered them in fresh herbs from my rooftop garden to finish cooking. I topped the chops with the onion-roasted fennel, the fried zucchini blossoms, and a splash of lemon zest.
I popped open a bottle of pig-friendly wine; Grenache. The 2005 Clarendon Hills Romas Grenache from Australia. This wine got huge accolades from Parker and Spectator, raking in a 95 and 94 point score, and I can see why. The nose is layered with roasted herbs, truffles, cloves, damp earth, and blackberries.
It’s full bodied and structured with firm tannins and power. There are flavors of burnt cherry and velvety texture that make the char from the grill that encapsulates the buttery pork fat taste even better. I swear that Aussies make Grenache just to serve with amazing pork; it’s like a match made in heaven. The smoky eggplant that was creamy and garlicky exploded inside of the fluffy tempura batter and complimented the sweet pork.
A touch of sweetness in the 20yr aged Balsamic vinegar worked nicely with the subtle anise flavors in the roasted fennel. There’s just something about eating an animal that you know lived a great life and that was happy that makes you happy. Probably because they taste better.
If you’re interested in pigs from Burnshirt Valley Farm in Lowell, MA, the Butcher Shop will be hosting a butchering demo with the farmers on Sunday, August 5th.