As the sun began to sink in the sky to the west of Quail Hills’ apple orchard, the activity around our “Common Table” began to stir. The table was set for 180, forks and knives in place, wine glasses shining in the afternoon light, a burlap table cloth in place lay flat on the surface that ran the length of a football field.
My family arrived just in time to set their plates at the western end of the table. Our guests Cinnie and Julia May gazed across the table into the orchard and began to ask questions about what was in store for this special evening.
The nights menu was to be prepared by 5 chefs from some of the areas busiest kitchens. A bouillabaisse would be presented by Kevin Penner, Coq au Vin from Brian Futterman, bite size Croque Monsuire as Joesph Realmuto imagined it, James Carpenter arranged a wonderful Charcouterie and Cheese plate, and my Shiitake Mushroom Stuffed Pork Loin complimented the main courses.
The menu was borne from a meeting held in May, our French Country theme was agreed upon quickly. A few days later we all received a list of dishes that had been suggested in the meeting, I choose the pork quickly, feeling it would be easiest set up in The Little Kitchen prep area and roasted on site.
As the weeks passed we heard from Hilary Leff occasionally with an eye on detail and an understanding that busy chefs have little time to discuss details for a fund raiser twice. The request for vegetables from Scott Chasky at the Farm came a few weeks before and all of the sudden it was time to source the pig. In the last week of August I spend a good deal of time talking with farmers, when I saw my neighbor Dale from a farm down the street from my Little Kitchen, I asked him, he put me in touch with Art Ludlow from the Mecox Dairy. On Wednesday morning a local pig, raised on dairy farm by-products was slaughtered, boned out, and chilled for delivery to my kitchen door.
Early on Saturday morning the pork prep began, Virginia had come from Manhattan to help, her first effort involved cleaning a dozen leeks. She removed the green tops and the roots, split them once, then again from top to bottom, finally chopping the leeks into fingernail size pieces. Next, the leeks are soaked in cold water, swirled because leeks are dirty, dirty enough to re fresh the water and swirl again. Then she peeled 3 dozen carrots and diced them to mix with the leeks and 2 cases of sliced shiitake mushroom tops on the flat top stirring until they soften. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of cumin. Keep in mind, this recipe was for 40 pounds of pork. Finally we spread the shiitake, leek mixture on sheet pans and then mixed in 2 dozen ripe, diced peaches. Then placed them on the racks in our fridge to cool.
To stuff the pork we placed the sides of pig on a set of cutting boards. Next step required portioning out 5lb roasts and preparing them for stuffing by slipping the knife between the meat and pork fat where ever possible and slicing the roasts so that each can be stuffed and tied off.
To fill the roast we placed as much of the stuffing as possible on each prepared cut and then tied them off. Finally roll and tie each piece and then rub with a combination of equal parts of kosher salt and brown sugar with a pinch of “all spice”. The stuffed roasts should be placed on a roasting pan over remaining stuffing and wrapped with foil.
Allow to rest for a few hours at room temperature, then place in a 375 degree oven and roast for 1.5 hours or until the center registers 145 degrees on your meat thermometer.
To serve, slice into 1/2 inch pieces and top with extra stuffing and a drip of the pan juices.