Pork is the ‘it’ thing at the moment. Everyone is talking about it, eating it and cooking it… or attempting to cook it. There are many who just have no idea how to cook pork, especially pork crackling. We don’t eat pork at home very often, but when we do we generally pan-fry a pork loin and finish it off in the oven, or lightly crumb some pork cutlets and pan-fry them with apples and sage. Crispy pork and pork crackling is not something I’ve ever tried my hand at.
When we heard that @VanityFare1 and @darrenmfc (of Restaurant Atelier) had put their heads together to create a pork crackling masterclass, we were all ears. Dubbed #porkfest, the masterclass is where you learn three different techniques for cooking pork, munch on samples, sit down to Sunday lunch, then take a sample pack away to recreate some of Darren’s dishes at home.
Dylan and I had been unable to make the April, May and June #porkfest dates due to prior commitments, so when Karen tweeted about the fourth and final #porkfest for 2012, we were a sure thing! I was even more excited about the class following our first visit to the restaurant two weeks prior.
The classes are quite different to the Korean Cooking Class and Sydney Seafood School Dylan and I had previously attended. They are demonstration in style, where Darren does ALL the hard work and we just sit back, relax, eat all the goodies and pester Darren with questions like “What time do you start work?” and “Are your girls fussy eaters?” (for the record, hospitality hours are much worse than advertising – just remind me of that next time I complain! – and yes, Darren’s girls are like all youngens – fussy).
#porkfest – $140.00 per person including cider and wine
Darren introduced himself and welcomed us into his kitchen. We perched ourselves on high stools around the kitchen and settled in to watch Darren at work. We were to learn three techniques for cooking pork – crispy pork (for the perfect pork crackling on your roast pork), confit pork belly and pork scratchings. First up he’d be showing us how to cook the crispiest pork belly ever.
Darren’s method to produce golden, crispy crackling begins with the best piece of pork belly he can get his hands on. He takes the pork belly, rubs it with a mixture of salt and spices and leaves it to cure in the fridge overnight. The spice mix is washed off, the pork patted dry, sprayed with oil (Darren likes to use rice bran oil, as it has a higher flash point than olive oil for example), placed on a tray and straight into the oven. Cooked for a short time at a high temperature and then longer on a lower temperature, we were told the end result would without a doubt be crispy crackling ALL over with no soft bits. Now that’s what I like to hear!
One of the Darren’s key tips for crispy pork crackling is never being tempted to score it. EVER. Darren knows other chefs have their own techniques, but he has no idea why anyone would ever score pork skin. If you score the meat, all of the fat sitting under the skin will bubble over and escape – drying out the meat and leaving the skin soggy. The key is keeping the fat and juices IN the meat and away from the skin which we want to dry out and crackle crackle crackle. Seems logical to me!
While Darren and Steve were doing all the hard work we were treated to our first snack of the day – warming and delicious pork broth with shallots, mushrooms and cresses. It was so smooth and inviting with clean flavours and a nice intensity. Gorgeous textures from the shiitake and shallots and oomph from the herbs. It was so tasty I wanted to drink it.
Smoked, deep-fried pork belly.
Our second snack of the day was smoked, deep-fried pork belly. Oh yes indeed this morsel was tasty. House smoked and then deep-fried, the pork belly was garnished with miso dressing and peppery cresses. Yes please.
Pork belly confit.
I’m not sure I’d ever try confiting at home (I try to eat healthily at home so I can splurge on confit this and fried that when I’m dining out) but if there is one thing I love, it’s learning the tricks of the trade.
For this technique, the pork belly is placed in a deep tray, covered in fat and cooked at a low temperature for a long time. Once cooked and cooled to room temperature, the pork belly is removed from the fat, wrapped in glad wrap and placed in the fridge overnight with a heavy weight on top of it to help compress it. The belly is then cut into bite size pieces and placed in a non-stick pan, skin side down, until crispy. A sprinkling of smoked salt was all it needed. Buttery, soft and meltingly tender pork belly. Win!
As much as I learnt about pork, I also learnt I’ve been pronouncing ‘rillettes’ wrong all these years. For some reason I never knew the ‘l’ was silent. Idiot! Perhaps because I don’t speak French? Well now I know, it’s ‘ree-YEHTS’. Creamy, unctuous pieces of pork neck goodness (of course Dylan scored my cornichon – eww pickles).
Crispy pork belly.
Patience, I don’t think I was born with it. All I wanted was to eat the crispy pork belly immediately. Well luckily by this stage the crispy pork belly was ready. As Darren took it out of the oven the room was filled with ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’. Golden and bubbly, it looked impressive. But then my patience was tested again as we had to wait 15 minutes for the meat to rest… well even Darren couldn’t wait the full resting time and cut into it a little early, hehe.
Another trick of the trade we learnt is to turn the belly upside down when you cut it so you’re cutting through the meat first and then the crackling. This ensures the crackling doesn’t shatter and you can slice through it with ease.
Piping hot, juicy pork and the crispiest crackling I’ve ever experienced. Oh baby this was addictive stuff.
Pork skin bubble.
The third and final technique for the day was pork skin bubble, a.k.a. pork scratchings. Pork scratchings are not very big in Australia but head over to the UK and you will find them everywhere. For the uninitiated they are like prawn crackers, only better. Darren takes a piece of pork rind, boils it, removes all of the fat, dehydrates the skin, breaks it in to pieces and then drops them into the deep fryer.
The result is light, airy, porky flavoured puffs of deliciousness guaranteed to disappear in seconds.
Two Elk Cider – Apple.
I love cider. I love pork and cider. And during the class we were treated to a cider I had not heard of before. Two Elk is a traditional Swedish cider that is clear, crisp and has a nice clean finish. Not too sweet, this has got to be one of my favourites!
Three hours later the demonstration was over and it was time to head to the dining room for Sunday lunch.
12 hour slow roasted pork shoulder / Pommes aligot / Kale / Broccolini / Green salad with roasted hazelnuts and hazelnut oil.
What a feast!
I had tweeted Darren earlier in the week mentioning the #festivalofemilee (a celebration of Emilee turning 30) was commencing at #porkfest and he kindly organised for one of the pork shoulders to come out with sparklers in it! haha the perfect cake for the savoury loving @Little_Em888.
Darren sat down to lunch next to me and I told him I was #chefstruck again, haha. But Darren is so personable and down to earth it’s actually easy to chat to him. I pestered him with more questions about his life and career and we chatted the afternoon away.
The slow-cooked pork shoulder just fell apart – as you can see from the photo all we needed were butter knives and spoons to dish it up. Creamy potato mash and light greens were just my idea of the perfect Sunday lunch. And the salad. Wow, wow, wow. The salad was mind blowingly good, like out of this world. They say you don’t make friends with salad; I say they have not had this salad. Such a simple mix of greens, citrus and hazelnuts but it just worked so well together. Definitely going to make this at home.
Vanilla custard, toasted granola, Sheep’s milk yoghurt ice cream.
Similar to the dessert we’d had at the blogger dinner two weeks prior. A nice light dessert to finish an epic meal.
As the meal came to an end everyone headed off in their own time. The 4 ‘hungry hippos’ made our way down to The Little Guy Bar for a sneaky drink to wind down the weekend.
Darren & Berni Templeman are an amazing team – husband and wife, chef and restaurant manager – they welcomed us into their restaurant like it was their home. From the moment I stepped foot inside the restaurant, I knew it was going to be a pretty special day. And it was. We learnt so much and ate like kings.
The classes are presented by Restaurant Atelier and Vanity Fare on the last Sunday of each month (unless of course the last Sunday happens to be a long weekend, like in September, in which case the dates are shuffled around a bit).
– August, Sunday 26: duckduckgoose (sold out)
– September, Sunday 23: duckduckgoose (sold out)
– October, Sunday 28: lamblunch (book now!)
– November, Sunday 25: potential for a Christmas planning lunch (contact @VanityFare1 if you’re interested)
And no doubt there will be more masterclasses in 2013. Contact @VanityFare1 on Twitter to stay up to date with all the latest. Make sure you get in quick (and if you don’t have Twitter, you need to get on board, now!)
22 Glebe Point Road
Glebe NSW 2037
(02) 9566 2112
Restaurant Atelier Website