Do you want to know the next big food trend? Well, pork collar it is. Chef Mike Moore of the Blind Pig in Asheville will have pork collar on his menu next week at his restaurant Seven Sows Bourbon & Larder. Mike believes, “It’s going to be the next pork belly.” I’d have to agree. After traveling in New York City last week, I discovered that many chefs from European countries are demanding pork collar on their menus here in the states.
Pork collar is a fairly unfamiliar American cut. It is the part of the shoulder that runs from the base of the pig’s neck to the tip of the loin. You don’t often see it stateside, but it’s commonly used in Europe. Pork collar is the same cut of muscle used to make coppa, and the layer of fat on top is the best for curing lardo.
“Pork collar is cheap, versatile, beautifully marbled and holds a flavor that is extremely remarkable,” according to Mike Moore. Ask your local butcher for this cut as it is not common, but can easily be obtained by them. For instance, Casey and Meredith at Foothills Farm and Butchery in Black Mountain, NC can easily help you with this. Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork from Seven Springs, NC also produces an amazing pork collar that is not to be missed.
As versatile as it comes, collar can be easily roasted in a pan covered with braising liquid to the fat cap and with the skin scored at the top. Pork collar will crisp beautifully while the lower meat is fall apart tender. Additionally, the fat cap can be removed and cured then sliced thin over a salad as lardo, or the entire joint can be cured in the process of coppa.
In the recipe that follows from Mike Moore, the fat cap and skin are removed and the meat at the bottom of the collar is used to make a wonderful Char-Siu (fork roast), a Cantonese roast pork dish common in Chinese barbecue related cuisine. The secret to the char lies in the heat of the wok and the sugar in the sauce. The pork collar holds a beautiful amount of intramuscular fat and marbling naturally, which makes it the perfect cut for this recipe over other cuts like belly or butt.
2 pounds pork collar cut into 4 workable pieces
3 tablespoons maltose (available at most Asian grocery stores)
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons sesame oil
half a head of garlic, peeled and sliced
1. Combine all the ingredients except the pork collar in a small sauce pan and simmer on medium heat until the maltose and honey are melted and the sauce is slightly thickened. Cool completely.
2. Marinate the pork in about 3/4 of the sauce overnight in the fridge. Give the pork a couple of turns in the sauce to make sure that all sides have marinade on them. Save the remaining sauce in a container in the fridge in a separate container.
3. The next day, cut the marinated pork collar into thin strips for frying. Heat a wok to medium-high using a scant of peanut oil for frying. Always use peanut oil. Shake the excess sauce off the pork and sear the pieces in the wok for color and caramelization.
4. Turn the pork collar strips once or twice with tongs in the wok and shake. The Char Siu should be cooked after about 30 minutes depending on the size of your meat. Add a touch of the marinade as you fry for moistness. The internal temperature of the pork should be 160?F.
5. To char your Char Siu further, brush the pork with the remaining reserved marinade and brulee with a blow torch to your desired char. Flavors are amazing!
Char-Siu is best with rice and a fried egg or with some ginger scallion noodles, but you can enjoy it any way you like. Next time you are in Asheville, pay a visit to Seven Sows. Chef Mike Moore is talented and Seven Sows has an innovative menu.