Everything you never realized you needed to know about pork
First of all, I had to say yes when they asked if I would review the cookbook because I love the title: Pure Pork Awesomeness: Totally Cookable Recipes from Around the World. It’s written by Atlanta-based restauranteur and Top Chef contestant Kevin Gillespie with collaborator David Joachim. Gillespie is a multiple James Beard Award nominee, the author of Fire in My Belly, and a proponent of sustainability and the farm-to-fork movement. Joachim is the author or co-author of 40 cookbooks, including the beautiful Cooking Light Global Kitchen.
Second, now that we’re back eating meat again, I have been learning about sustainably raised animals and their health benefits. And for me, this photograph completely sums up why this book is important.
If you don’t think it matters where you buy your meat, what breed of animal it’s from, and how it is raised and slaughtered, just look at the difference in this photo.
It’s easy to separate ourselves from the animals we eat every day. Most of us don’t come into contact with them except for buying a tetrapak in the grocery store. And, having eaten plant-based for four years, it was difficult for me to make the transition back last year. (For the record, I never thought it was wrong to eat animals. I was just choosing not to for what I believed were solid health reasons, as well as the sustainability of the planet.) So that’s why I think this book is important, because it teaches—in a fun, accessible, non-preachy way—how to choose and cook pork. Since about 95% of people eat meat, it’s great to get the word out. The more consumers request heritage, sustainably raised animals, the better for everyone, including the animals. Okay, off my soapbox now.
Layout and design:
The book is organized into eight sections. Section 1 covers hog breeding, pastured vs. commodity pork, processing (slaughtering), labels, pig parts, and cooking. Pantry recipes include brines, breading, sauce and slaw. Next comes recipes by cut of meat: on the shoulder, loins, belly and ribs, hams, and sausages. He includes some soups, shepherd’s pie, meatballs, and empanadas towards the end. There are a few bacon-containing decadent dessert recipes.
This publisher, Andrews McMeel, does a fantastic job at design, creating one-of-a-kind books that look nothing like each other. This book could not be more different than Steeped. Both are beautiful, although this one insists that I refer to it as Handsome.
Photography by Angie Mosier is luscious.
Recipes include sweet and smoky barbecue sauce, slow-cooked pork barbacoa, cottage bacon croque monsieur, pork minute steaks with potato pancakes and pumpkin butter, Vietnamese spare ribs with chile and lemongrass, sweet potato pancakes with maple-braised bacon, bacon molasses chipwiches, arugula, fig, and prosciutto bundles, curried pork samosas, Scottish-style bangers, and German-style whole roasted pork shank. I tried a slightly modified version of his braised pork shoulder with sauerkraut, using gluten-free beer from Omission Craft Beer, some leftover kimchi kraut from Firefly Kitchens, and omitting the salt. Very tasty and a super-easy recipe.
What I liked about the book:
Strong design, well-written, entertaining. Thoughtful approach to meat production. Gives me an insight into a chef’s mindset. Great variety of pork recipes as well as butchering/cutting techniques and cooking techniques so I don’t screw up the expensive meat I’m buying.
I wasn’t so keen on:
These are traditional recipes, not coded for special diets. Nutritional analysis is not provided, which would be helpful for low-sodium eaters. Recipes include sugar, flour, and MSG.
paleo, low carb, and traditional eaters, fans of Southern food (paleo and low-carb folks will need to adjust some of the recipes)
Not recommended for:
Migraine, low-sodium, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free/celiac diets
A note about my cookbook reviews: In the past, I tested at least three recipes from each book, took photos, and described my experience. Due to my dietary limitations (extremely-low-sodium for my Meniere’s Disease and trigger-free foods for migraine relief), it is no longer possible for me to test the recipes and do them justice.