The Chef: Bernie Kantak The Restaurant: The Gladly The Animal: Pork The Dish: Pickled Pork Temple
What do you do when your friend, who happens to own a pork company, calls you up with a bunch of extra pork temple? Well, if you're Bernie Kantak, you take it and use it to recreate a dish from your childhood.
Sure, "pickled pork temple" may not be have wide appeal on a restaurant menu, but for The Gladly's chef this dish is about more than just selling plates. It does help that some curious diners (myself included) will be too intrigued to pass up such an interesting dish.
The Pickled Pork Temple at The Gladly features pork temple -- as in the little nuggets of meat from the two sides of a pig skull -- from Tender Belly, the company owned by fellow Scottsdale Culinary Institute grad, Erik Duffy.
And though pork temple isn't a widely offered cut (presumably in part because you only get two pieces per pig), Kantak says it's almost indistinguishable from the more common, pork cheek. Both cuts, the cheek meat coming from the area right under the eye socket, are very moist and lean pieces of meat, a combination that's rare to find. Instead of relying on fat to provide tenderness, these two cuts benefit from an abundance of tissues and cartilage.
In this dish, Kantak uses the pork temple to create a play on pickled pig's feet. Kantak's grandfather on his father's side was a butcher, who used to make the dish with fresh ham when Kantak was growing up.
It's a two step process to make this dish, which begins with curing the pork temple in a wet brine made up of spices including garlic, bay, coriander, and chile. Kantak lets the meat pickle in a refrigerator for a few days. Next he boils the meat in a mixture of vinegar, water, salt, and sugar, which lets the temple cook down and allows the liquid to pick up some of collagen from the meat.
The result is a serving of tender pieces of a cool, vinegary meat that swim in a thick brine. This dish isn't likely to win any sexy food porn awards, but the combination of the pickled but tender meat and nippy, pungent mustard is hard not to like.
The best, most flavorful pieces will be those that have fallen to the bottom of the jar; these are the ones that have been marinating the rich, meaty liquid right up until you pop them into your mouth. To give your tastebuds a break from the intensity of this starter, just go for a bite or two of the light, fresh green pea salad.