Old-School Pork is Out
Operators find new ways to menu the other white meat.
Operators find new ways to menu the other white meat. What’s not to love about pig?” Nancy Maslonka, executive chef at the Medical Center of Lewisville, Texas, says. “It gives us ham, bacon, loins, ribs, roasts and my favorite guilty pleasure—prosciutto.”
Maslonka is one of many operators who are adding pork dishes to satisfy customers looking for innovative options. She says what she likes about using pork is how it takes on flavor when using spice rubs and marinades.
“[We do a] mango chipotle pork tenderloin, which gets its sweet from the mango, spice from the chipotle peppers, and is balanced by the warmth of cinnamon and nutmeg as the spice rub on the pork,” Maslonka says. “Our deviled pork chops recipe, which is super simple, is a quick six-ingredient sauce that is used as a glaze on grilled pork loin chops. The longer the glaze/sauce cooks, the more it thickens up nicely. We spoon a bit over the top of each chop.”
Versatility: “I like pork because with our parties and caterings, people are expecting boneless chicken or flank steak,” says Ben Jenkins, catering chef at San Diego State University in California. “There’s so much you can do—barbecue, pulled, roast, tenderloins. I heard a chef say his favorite herb was bacon.”
At SDSU, they serve a BLT salad with roasted pork belly, butter lettuce and heirloom tomatoes. The university also offers chocolate bacon croissants, pork crêpes, stuffed pork and chili-rubbed pork tenderloin.
At the University of North Texas in Denton, dining often menus quick and easy pork dishes.
“You wash the pork, throw it in a bag, add seasons and simmer,” says Kim Schroeder, retail dining and food service director. “We also do pork chops pizzaiola that is very popular. The recipe was given to our catering director by his grandmother who was from Northern Italy. Even here in Texas, people don’t have to have red meat all the time.”
International influence: At Sodexo, the company is working on several Asian-influenced pork recipes, such as Shanghai noodles, stir-fried with bok choy, onion, scallions, peppers and minced pork, as well as sticky ribs with a Thai chili, cranberry and citrus glaze.
At the University of Wyoming in Laramie, David Asmuth, executive chef, has introduced a coffee-spiced pork tenderloin.
“I like serving this dish with a light lime and ginger sauce,” Asmuth says. “The rich, dark and smoky flavor of the coffee is accented with the hint of spice and offset by the sugar.”
One important factor to remember for this recipe is to achieve a well-browned product without over browning. If the tenderloin becomes too dark or burned it will acquire an unpleasant flavor akin to day-old coffee. If necessary finish the pork in an oven.
Growing demand: At Mount Carmel Health System in Columbus, Ohio, the foodservice department believes pork’s healthier profile has led to a growth in demand. Adam Harms, assistant executive chef, says they serve, “a smothered pork chop in mushroom sauce that, as far as the health aspect, is better than beef.”
At SDSU, Production Chef Justin Mead says pork is being looked at in a different view. “Pork was always thought of as a cheap food, not high-end, something you cooked the hell out of. That was the old-school thinking; now it’s interchangeable with other menu items,” Mead says. “We offer a grilled pork tenderloin with a Pommery mustard marmalade glaze, served with a cracked peppercorn polenta wheel and veggies.”
For Carlos Rivera, director of dining services for CulinArt at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP in New York, pork has always been “one of our best-selling meats.” At one station he serves seared hoisin-glazed pork tenderloin over Asian slaw.
“We use pork at our cocktail receptions. Passing pork tenderloin medallions over Hunan noodles with soy glaze and scallion in a mini martini cup,” Rivera says. “I remember years ago, pork not being popular. However, it is now a lean and tasty option. We are featuring a Caribbean tasting with garlic-crusted roast pork served with mashed boniato and plantains with a chimichurri sauce.”
“Bacon is the meat candy of the protein world,” Edward Glebus, general manager for CulinArt at Qualcomm in San Diego, says. “For breakfast you can serve a nice thick-cut double smoked country bacon. For lunch we do a classic BLT on toasted white bread with a nice ripe organic tomato, crisp lettuce and a light spread of mayo. For dinner we do a peppered bacon wrapped filet mignon, and for dessert we offer a brown sugar bacon sundae.”
Charcuterie: Mastering the art of preserving food, charcuterie is the practice of creating pork products, such as sausage, salami and prosciutto, encompassing a vast range of preparations, involving salting, cooking, smoking and drying. A number of Parkhurst Dining Services accounts have been employing charcuterie-style methods, such as making bacon, pancetta, curing hams, sausage and other items.
“Bacon has probably been the most commonly used [pork] due to its simplicity,” says Tim Fetter, executive chef for Parkhurst Dining Services at Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield in Pittsburgh. “All you have to do is rub pork belly or pork jowls with kosher salt, brown sugar and tinted curing mix or Himalayan sea salt. We refrigerate it and flip it over every day for seven to 10 days, then smoke it and it’s done. It is nice to be able to do authentic, unprocessed, artisan-style items and still be able to serve them to our guests at a reasonable price.”