This week’s Chef Inspired Taco is one that encompasses many of the aspects the Chef Inspired Taco faithful have come to know and expect. This week’s taco is one that draws on a playful balance of fire and ice, floral and earthy, extensive farming (sustainable) versus intensive farming (industrialized), nose to tail or utilization of the entire animal, and a fresh take on a classic preparation.
This week, like many others, chef has chosen his protein with care for two very important facts. First being, chefs desire to maintain a sense of responsibility, thus the use of a less commonly used high quality protein. For such a task, chef knew he wanted to highlight the qualities and tenderness of a perfectly braised piece a “muscle of locomotion” like that of a shank or rump, rather than one of “support” such as fillet or rib-eye. Chef chose the highly underappreciated pork cheek for the distribution of muscle tissue, collagen, and fat marbling. All of these aspects combined with the knowledge of how to prepare such a cut makes for an eating experience that is greater than even a fillet, at least in chef’s opinion.
The second choice for the use of pork cheeks came from chef’s constant search for the highest quality products he can source locally. With this in mind, there was only one option, combine chefs infinite love of the ever giving pig and who raises better pigs in the area other than Jake’s Country Meats in Cassopolis, Michigan. Having spent hours on the farm with daughter in arm, it is truly a family affair at this local testament to high quality, antibiotic free, grass-fed & woods finished, free range pigs. Family owned and operated for more than 40 years, Nate and Lou Ann Robinson welcomed chef and his family to join their family while showing them the day to day operation of the farm. Needless to say, chef was so impressed, he has continued to support their efforts since that day. “Nate and Lou Ann are producing some of the finest, high quality pigs in the Michiana area, hands down!” chef continues to remind the staff. Not only is it extremely high quality, but the style of farming is one of extensive practices, rather than the intensive farming used in modern “factory production” type farming we are accustom to today. The extensive farming practice is one that is based out of years of knowledge, good husbandry, and ultimately on of sustainability.
To truly utilize and accentuate the high quality and desirability of the pork cheeks, chef had but one glaring preparation, and that was to braise them. The only question that remained was, what classic braising technique would chef use to showcase a classic from the Mexican culinary cannon with the chosen protein? What better than a recipe from deep inside the Yucatan that balances the heat of fresh chiles with the floral sweetness of agave nectar. In addition to the chiles and agave nectar, this classic preparation calls for the braising of pork in banana leaves, which will add moisture and even more subtle floral notes that will permeate the meat as is slowly roasts in a bath of sweet agave and chiles.
This Yucatan inspired preparation for the pork could only be complete with the classic addition of the Yucatan’s pickled red onions, and of course the crisp clean brightness of chopped cilantro. In the search for balance, there was only one element missing, the richness of avocado and a fresh house-made crema Mexicana. These two elements not only add amazing flavor, but also help enrich the taco with its texture and a smooth cooling sensation to balance some of those amazing Yucatan chiles.
All elements considered in the making of this week’s Chef Inspired Taco tell us two things, the first being, chef strives for balance in every aspect of the food at Evil Czech. The second, no matter what, it must taste good. So enjoy this tasty taco and know you are taking part in the celebration of balance, in every sense and responsibility of the word.