Recipes: Oysters, pork, risotto

The following recipes are from Dominic Orsini:

Oysters-on-the-Half-Shell -  Asian Pear–Ginger Relish

I am a purist when it comes to oysters. I like them raw and unadulterated with sauce so I can taste their juicy liquor. This is terroir in its most natural form. For me, lemon wedges, mignonette, and cocktail sauce are just for show and distraction. However, I am a chef, this is a cookbook, and not everyone likes oysters neat as I do. So when I do use a garnish, I choose one that doesn’t mask the oyster’s natural ocean flavor and aroma, such as a light fruit-based relish or salsa. In this recipe, I combine Asian pear with pickled ginger and a smidgen of sesame oil to enhance the oyster and its liquor without overwhelming it.
Makes 24
1/2 cup peeled and finely diced Asian pear
1/2 teaspoon minced pickled ginger
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Pinch of fine sea salt

24 oysters, shucked and left in the half shell

Combine all of the relish ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Arrange the oysters on a serving platter and garnish each oyster with 1 teaspoon of the relish. Serve cold.

Chef’s Notes:
This relish is a template for other fruit relishes to serve with oysters. Substitute apples, stone fruit, or persimmons for the Asian pears, or use alternative vegetable combinations, such as celery and parsnip, or radish and fennel.
Wine Choice: Twomey Sauvignon Blanc

Pork Rillettes - Dried Cherry and Almond Relish

At the winery, I often make rillettes from the trim or scraps of meat that remain on a hog carcass after I’ve removed the more presentable cuts. I’ll cook these scavenged bits slowly in pork fat with herbs and spices until the meat is soft enough to crush with a fork. Then, after chilling everything down, I’ll put the pork and flavorful fat in a mixer and beat them just enough to bind them together into a savory spread.

For the home cook, I’ve found a more consumer-friendly alternative to a hog carcass. Many meat counters now carry pork belly, which is bacon before the cure. Choose a piece that looks like it’s about half fat (but no more), combine it with an equal weight of pork shoulder, some brandy, and aromatics, and the resulting braise will have just the right ratio of meat and fat to make delectable rillettes. To cut the richness and add eye appeal, I serve the spread with a relish of dried cherries and almonds. Sometimes I soak the cherries overnight in Pinot Noir to infuse and soften them.

This recipe makes about 1 1/2 pounds of rillettes, enough to top 48 crostini. Unless you are having a large party, you will probably want to set aside half of the rillettes for another occasion according to the directions that follow.

Makes 24 crostini, plus 12 ounces rillettes for later use; serves 6 to 8

Cheesecloth Sachet
2 thyme sprigs
4 juniper berries
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds

Pork Rillettes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup minced shallots
1/2 cup brandy or Calvados
1 pound pork belly with skin removed (weight after trimming), cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Lard, for sealing the ramekin

Dried Cherry and Almond Relish
1/2 cup dried pitted tart cherries, quartered
3 tablespoons chopped toasted almonds
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons thinly sliced fresh chives
Pinch of fine sea salt

24 slices baguette, each no more than 1/4 inch thick
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
Fine sea salt and  freshly ground black pepper

Make the cheesecloth sachet:
Place all of the sachet ingredients in the center of a 5-inch square of cheesecloth. Gather into a bundle and secure with kitchen string.

Make the pork rillettes:
Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large, heavy Dutch oven, warm the oil over low heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft but not colored, about 10 minutes. Add the brandy, pork belly, pork shoulder, cheesecloth sachet, and water. Raise the heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook, stirring about halfway through the cooking to moisten any pieces that are not submerged, until the pork is fork-tender, about 2 1/2 hours.

Transfer the contents of the Dutch oven to a shallow container. Using the back of a wooden spoon, press the cheesecloth sachet against the container to extract any juices, then remove and discard. Let cool until lukewarm, then cover the container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

Transfer the contents of the container to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the vinegar, salt, and pepper and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds to break up the meat. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for 30 seconds. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and mix again briefly. Be careful not to overmix; you should still see shreds of meat. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Set aside half of the rillettes for topping the crostini. Pack the other half firmly into a clean ramekin. Level the surface with a knife. Melt the lard and pour enough on top of the rillettes to seal completely. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Remove from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving.

Make the Dried Cherry and Almond Relish:
Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine.

Make the crostini:
Preheat the oven to 325°F. If your oven has a convection fan, turn it on. Generously brush one side of each baguette slice with oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the slices, oil side up, on a rimmed sheet pan and bake until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes with convection or about 20 minutes without convection. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely. The crostini can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 7 days.

Assemble the crostini:
Spread the rillettes on the crostini, then top each crostino with a spoonful of relish. Alternatively, pack the rillettes into a ramekin, place the bread and relish alongside, and invite guests to assemble their own crostini.

Chef’s Notes:
Instead of chopping whole almonds with a knife, I use a mallet or the flat bottom of a heavy glass to smack the nuts. They break in a more random way with this method, which makes a nicer presentation.

I prefer crostini toasted until they are crisp all the way through. When making bruschetta, the slice can have a soft core, but crostini should be crunchy.

Wine Choice: Twomey Pinot Noir or Beaujolais

Find the wild mushroom risotto recipe here. 

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