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Most great chefs know that the secret to a great dish — as well as a great wine pairing — is to find the balance between the acid and fat, the salty and the sweet.

This weekend, March 17 and 18, Chef Charlie Palmer will celebrate what he calls “one of the great marriages of the world” by presenting the 12th annual Pigs & Pinot benefit held at the Hotel Healdsburg and his restaurant, the Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg.

At the popular Taste of Pigs & Pinot on Friday night, there will be four celebrity chefs — David Burke, Nancy Silverton, Mike Isabella and Bryan Voltaggio — joining an army of local chefs to present a dazzling array of pig dishes in all their fatty glory, from sausages and pâtés to pork belly and fried pig ears.

Tastes of the whole hog can be washed down with sips of 60 highly acclaimed pinot noir wines from Sonoma County and beyond. For chefs like Anthony Gallegos of the Jimtown store, who loves cooking the whole animal, the event offers a chance to demonstrate his deep love of pork.

“I’m a big fan of sweet and savory, and the flavor of pork is good for that, when you use the seasonal fruits,” he said. “Pork is so rich and fatty, and yet it cries out to have some acid as the balance.”

Gallegos, who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in 2012 then worked at Michael Chiarello’s Bottega restaurant in Yountville, will be serving Braised Pork Belly with a Cherry Soffrito, Chicories and Crispy Shallots. His dish offers fat and acid, sweet and bitter and soft and crunchy, all in one bite.

“I wanted to do pork cheeks for this dish, but they are too expensive,” he said of his favorite cut. “Pork belly is bacon before it’s cured and smoked. You get the same fat, and the same meaty flavor.”

For the soffrito, he will cook down some onions and dried cherries that have been plumped in pinot noir, which adds acid. Then he adds sugar to bring out the sweetness.

“You want something sweet or acidic with the pork, and it creates a warm vinaigrette,” he said. “Then I make a salad of bitter chicories like frisée and escarole, top it with the sweet onion soffrito and the fatty pork belly, with the crispy shallots on top.”

One of the nice things about cooking the whole hog is that the extra fat that you trim off the meat can be used to make meatballs, burgers and sausage, which literally comes from the fat and extra pieces left over.

“You definitely want a lot of fat in sausage that you would cut off your other cuts,” he said. “So there’s no waste to the animal. You can even use the bones for stock.”

For the Taste of Pigs & Pinot event, the celebrity chefs will go hog wild — in a manner of speaking. David Burke will be cooking Clothesline Bacon (with maple pepper bacon, jalapeno and peanut butter); Bryan Voltaggio will be grilling two types of Yakitori (skewered meats); and Nancy Silverton will be preparing Pancetta Wrapped Sausage (Spiedino alla Piccata).


The following recipe is from Anthony Gallegos, chef at Jimtown Store in Healdsburg, who will be serving this dish at the Taste of Pigs and Pinot.

Braised Pork Belly with Cherry Soffritto, Chicories and Crispy Shallots

Serves 10 to 12 as an appetizer

For pork belly:

1 pounds pork belly

1/4 cup salt

1 quart water or pork stock

For Onion cherry soffritto:

1 cup onion

1/2 cup organic dried cherries

1 cup pinot noir

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon salt


1-2 heads escarole

1-2 heads frisée

For crispy shallot

1 shallot

2-3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup frying oil

For pork belly: Rub the pork with salt, shaking off any excess. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Rinse pork and pat dry with a lint-free towel. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pork in a medium baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. Add stock or water to cover the bottom half of the pork. Cover, lower heat to 300 degrees and cook for 1 to 2 hours more, or until tender. Let cool. Portion into 1-ounce portions and pan fry before serving.

For onion cherry soffritto: Dice onion into small pieces. Combine the onion with oil and salt in a small pot and heat on low until translucent. Combine cherries and pinot noir in another pot. Heat on low-medium heat until cherries are plump and pinot noir is slightly reduced, then add the sugar and dissolve. Combine onion and cherry mixture. Strain, reserving liquid for the chicories.

For chicories: Clean, cut and dry chicories. Toss with the reserved soffritto liquid. Add salt and pepper

For crispy shallot: Thinly slice shallot, coat with flour, shaking off excess. Heat oil to 350 degrees and fry until golden brown.

To plate: Put some soffritto on a plate. Top with the chicories, pork belly and crispy shallot.


The following recipe is from “Charlie Palmer’s American Fare” (Grand Central Life & Style, 2015).

“Pork tenderloin is so easy to prepare. It’s mildly flavored and very tender, cooks quickly, and works well with almost any seasoning and in any type of cuisine.” he writes. “Plus, I’ve never found anyone who didn’t like it ... if you can’t find red lentils, any other lentil or small bean would also work just fine.”

Warm Pork and Lentil Salad

Serves 6 to 8

1 (2-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and silverskin

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons soy sauce

4 cups well-drained cooked red lentils

3/4 pound fresh goat cheese, crumbled

3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons minced shallot

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

3 tablespoons peanut oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

— Salt and pepper

4 cups chicory, trimmed and chopped Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Rub the tenderloin with the cayenne, coating all sides. Combine 1 tablespoon each of the lemon juice and soy sauce and rub over the cayenne-coated meat. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and roast for 12 minutes. Lower the temperature to 375 degrees and continue to roast for another 10 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the tenderloin reads 140 degrees. (The meat will continue to cook once removed from the oven.) Let rest about 10 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 150 degrees.

Lower the temperature to 300 degrees.

While the meat is cooking, combine the lentils in a mixing bowl with 1/2 pound of the goat cheese, 1 tablespoon of the parsley, the shallot and the thyme. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon each of the lemon juice and soy sauce. Whisk the oil and mustard together and pour over the lentil mixture, stirring to blend. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the chicory in an even layer on an ovenproof platter. Spoon the lentil mixture down the center of the chicory.

Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the pork crosswise on the bias and nestle the slices in the lentils. Sprinkle the salad with the remaining 1/4 pound goat cheese and place in the oven for 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven, sprinkle the salad with the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and serve.

Note: Red lentils cook very quickly. They can turn to mush in seconds, so they have to be watched carefully. Youw ant them to be just barely soft, but still holding their shape. This should take no longer than 12 minutes in boiling unsalted water.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

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