Are you craving spring? I am. In fact, if you follow me on Twitter you’re probably ready to personally arrange for warm weather just to shut me up. I’m trying to be patient, I really am.
You know what helps? A ridiculous amount of pork, via the stunning charcuterie that Chef Mike Phillips is creating over at The Local for his Green Ox Meat venture with Kieran Folliard. The Local very kindly hosted the Minnesota Food Bloggers group on April 20, to introduce everyone to Mike’s handiwork, and oh my goodness, you’ve never seen anything like it. Mountains of beautifully cured pork, laid out on huge boards, truly a sight to behold.
Mike began working with the pubs (The Local, Kieran’s, The Liffey, Cooper) in August of last year, debuting a Green Ox charcuterie plate at The Local soon after. Now all the pubs are serving charcuterie plates and depending on which bar you belly-up to, you’ll find varying and lovely combinations of pork rillettes, dry-cured coppa, pork terrine, collard head, dry-cured lomo, fennel salami, Genoa salami, saucisson l’ail, dry-cured loin, felino salami…
If you love pork, you can not go wrong in Minneapolis right now. We are having a piglorious moment, and it is good.
And if you really love pork, then keep your eye out for the trotter (available soon at The Local for parties), pretty much the dish that stole the evening. A glossy, crusty, juicy pig’s foot—technically the fore-shank, deboned—is transformed into a sausage, Cottechino style. First slow-poached for four hours, the trotter is then cooled and breaded and…fried! It is, for lack of a better word, amazing.
Green Ox Meat is integrated into the pubs’ other menu items as well. This week, in fact, The Local’s executive chef Jason Hicks is serving a fried green tomato BLT with smoked pork belly. A PBLT, to eat in the sun (!) on Nicollet Avenue, if you’re lucky.
Or, try this version at home. You can’t yet buy and carry Green Ox Meat out of the pubs, so the recipe below uses good, thick-cut bacon. (However, if thick slabs of crispy pork belly are what you are craving, check this approachable recipe from a couple of weeks ago.)
And since we’re early for green tomatoes, be aware that locally grown hothouse tomatoes—which are nothing special on their own, rather like green tomatoes—are utterly sublime when fried.
The Local’s Fried Green Tomato BLT
Jason Hicks, executive chef, The Local
Makes 4 sandwiches
12 slices thick-cut bacon (or more, your preference)
3 green tomatoes, cut thick (or, locally-grown red hothouse tomatoes)
2 c. buttermilk
2 c. cornmeal
salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper (to taste)
8 large lettuce leaves
8 slices multigrain or whole wheat bread
Aioli (or mayonnaise), enough for a good smear
In a large skillet over medium heat, fry the bacon until crispy. Transfer bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate, reserving pan drippings.
While the bacon fries, pour buttermilk into a large bowl. Settle tomatoes into the buttermilk and let sit for about 5 minutes.
In a shallow bowl, mix the cornmeal with salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste.
When the bacon is done, return the pan with drippings to medium heat. Drain the buttermilk from the tomatoes and dredge the slices in the cornmeal mixture. Shake off the excess cornmeal, then gently fry the tomatoes in small batches until golden brown on both sides. Transfer tomatoes to a paper-towel-lined plate.
Toast the bread in a toaster or for a less healthy version, butter the bread and brown the slices on a griddle (griddling makes them much tastier!).
Assemble the sandwiches: Smear 4 pieces of the bread generously with aioli. Layer lettuce leaves on the aioli, then strips of bacon, then the fried tomatoes. Top with the remaining 4 slices of bread, adding another smear of aioli if desired.
Cut the sandwiches in half and serve with an ice-cold lager!