Alex Pope, owner of The Local Pig, marries seasonal veggies with some of his favorite cured meats
Yes, I own a butcher shop—but no, I don’t eat steaks and burgers every night. Some of the most satisfying meals I make at home are ones that feature vegetables and pasta highlighted by flavorful cured meats and charcuterie. Curing meat is an ancient practice that has never lost its relevancy to chefs and home cooks alike. Pairing rich fall vegetables and charcuterie creates a dish that can stand alone as din- ner or lunch.
Brussels sprouts have finally reached the level of adoration they deserve. The little green wonders are deeply flavorful, but they also work to highlight other ingredients they’re paired with. Brussels sprouts with bacon is fast becoming a classic—and for good reason. Inspired by a tip from one our customers, I’ve been enjoying Brussels sprouts with coppa ham. Coppa is a fast-cured ham that features diced pork flavored with spices and citrus zest. In this dish we sauté the coppa until it gets a rich, brown crust, then cook it with Brussels sprouts, sage and shallots.
Once fall hits, I’m immediately in the mood for butternut squash—and I always love it with bacon. Take advantage of the butternut’s shape and try an elegant pre- sentation on this dish by cooking the bulb in slices; then fill the bulb with the cooked squash and bacon. Get your hands on some good balsamic vinegar and drizzle over the top right before it’s served.
Chicken liver mousse seems to have a bad rap—a really undeserved one though. It can be a magnificent appetizer, spread or recipe component. Just make sure you make it or buy it made from high-quality free-range chicken livers. This chicken liver mousse dish is a twist on a classic green bean casserole, with a lighter touch. Fresh cooked green beans are tossed in olive oil and lemon juice and served over a chicken liver mousse with fried shallots (which can be found at most Chinatown supermarkets).
Guanciale is similar in appearance to bacon but the flavor profiles are very different. Guanciale is cured in mixture of fresh Italian-inspired herbs and spices, which lends a deep savory quality to the finished product. The recipe here is a classic— Pasta Carbonara. The simplicity of this dish belies the comforting, delicious complexity that it delivers. Pasta is cooked, drained and quickly transferred back to the boiling pot, then a mixture of eggs and egg yolks is stirred into the piping hot pasta. The eggs will simultaneously cook and cling to the pasta cre- ating a rich sauce that holds the cooked guanciale and cracked pepper. Don’t be tempted to add anything else to the dish. Enjoy it the way it was meant to be—simple, bold and satisfying.
A magnificent season of fall produce is ready at market right now. Take the time to turn these vegetables into satis- fying main courses with the addition of a little charcuterie and you’ll be thankful for the autumn bounty we have.
A job while Alex Pope was a student at the University of Wisconsin introduced him to the restaurant world. That led to his studies at the Institute for Culinary Education in New York City, and then to Kansas City, where he served as sous chef at the American. After a stint as the executive chef at R Bar, seeking a change of pace, he opened his butcher shop, the Local Pig, in the East Bottoms. His mantra is fresh, humanely raised on small farms and locally sourced, including growing their own herbs and vegetables in a garden on site.
Coppa with Brussels Sprouts and Cranberries
1/4 pound coppa ham
1 pound Brussels sprouts, split in half
3 medium shallots, sliced thin
1/2 cup dry cranberries
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon butter
20 leaves of fresh sage
Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the butter and sage and stir the pan slowly until the butter browns. Add the shallots and cook for about two minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts cut-side down and let them brown for about three minutes. Add the stock and cranberries and cook until the stock is evaporated and the sprouts are cooked.
Guanciale with Pasta and Egg (Carbonara)
1/2 pound spaghetti or linguini
2 egg yolks
1/4 pound guanciale, sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Pecorino romano, shredded
1 tablespoon black pepper, toasted
Fill a large pot with water, add salt and bring to a boil. While it’s coming to a boil, mix the egg yolks and whole eggs in a bowl. Fry the guanciale slices in a sauté pan over medium heat until crispy. Add the pasta to the boiling water, following the directions on the package to cook to desired doneness. When the pasta is cooked, pour it out into a colan- der and immediately return to the pot. Make sure there is still a little water clinging to the noodles. Keep the pasta over medium heat. Add the egg mixture to the pot and remove from the heat. Stir quickly so the heat of the pasta cooks the eggs. Add the olive oil, cheese, guan- ciale and pepper. Stir to combine everything and serve immediately.
Chicken Liver Mousse with Green Beans and Fried Shallots
1 cup chicken liver mousse
3/4 pound green beans, trimmed and split
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup fried shallots or fried onions
12 slices bread, baked for croutons
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. (It should taste like seawater.) Cook the green beans for about two minutes and transfer them to a bowl of ice water. Remove the cooked beans and place in a mixing bowl. Add the lemon juice, olive oil and thyme leaves to the beans and toss to coat. Place a scoop of chicken liver mousse on each plate. Top the mousse with the bean salad and croutons.
Bacon with Butternut Squash
1/2 pound bacon, sliced into lardons
1 butternut squash, top diced and bottom sliced into circles
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4-inch rosemary sprig, leaves removed and minced
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3/4 cup wheat beer
3/4 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
Sauté the bacon until crispy, then remove from the pan. Add the butternut squash, rosemary and the garlic to the pan and cook over medi- um-low heat until the garlic just starts to brown. Add the stock, beer, balsamic vinegar and salt and cover the pan. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the squash is tender. Add the cream and bacon and cook for about two minutes until the cream reduces by half.