Chef Jason pairs pork tenderloin with a delicious layered side dish of celery root purée, “bizarre” baby Dutch Yellow® potatoes, pearl onions and wilted radicchio.
This month’s featured recipe comes with a very steep learning curve that starts with a meat-and-potatoes first impression, but quickly transforms into an appreciation of the unique taste combinations contained within this artfully flavorful dish. The artist is Jason Quinn, Owner/Executive Chef of The Playground in Santa Ana, California.
Chef Jason pairs pork tenderloin with a delicious layered side dish of celery root purée, “bizarre” Baby Dutch Yellow® Potatoes, Pearl Onions and wiltedRadicchio. The results were so flavorful that I will admit to switching to a bigger fork in order to capture the whole combination in each bite. Lacking proper decorum, no doubt, but taste-testing alone in my own kitchen does have its perks.
This is one of those recipes with a lot of moving parts that will necessitate some stovetop management so six components of the dish are ready for plating together. For me, one of the joys of cooking is when I’ve got something in the oven as well as on all four of my Viking burners with another pan waiting for burner time. Great fun!
Every time I use Celery Root, I am reminded of how light and refreshing its flavor is; especially considering it’s such a gnarly looking root that will never win a beauty contest. Celeriac is a member of the celery family, though a completely different variety than what produces those familiar fibrous green stalks. Its taste is definitely celery; the lightness of flavor stems from the fact that celeriac has very little starch content (only 5%) compared to all other root vegetables.
“Bizarre Potatoes” do not seem so terribly bizarre when reading the recipe. After all, what’s the big deal about a few potatoes in a pot with a little salted water? No so, watch and learn as the water boils away leaving whitened potatoes encrusted with salty brine. My approach to potatoes will be changed forever after trying this technique. Chef Jason is a master at turning the simple into a notch above delicious and these little nuggets are a great example. In fact, I used this same bizarre procedure a few days later on a pot of multi-colored Fingerlings with scrumptious success. Simple and absolutely amazing.
Pearl Onions are a hands-on ingredient. There is no way around the messy task of coaxing these succulent tiny onions from their protective skin except getting in there with both hands. Foodies everywhere are still waiting for the Pearl Peeler to be invented! In the meantime, Chef Jason provides an easy-to-assemble method, but frankly, it always sounds easier on paper than in reality. Just blister and pop, which does work great, but you will lose some to the squish factor so buy extra. Seared pearl onions have a rustic beauty to them and provide yet another layer of just-grilled flavor to this savory dish.
Wilted Radicchio brings a splash of color to Jason’s creation, though this beautiful lettuce variety is a lot more than skin (leaf) deep in its role on the plate. The quick sauté mellows out radicchio’s slightly bitter-spicy taste; then the chef’s decadent dressing of rendered pork fat, honey and stone ground mustard adds a tang that simply tickles the palette. For more on the history and uses of this ancient lettuce, see February’s Produce Corner feature, “Reconnecting with Radicchio”.
Melissa’s is very proud to count Chef Jason as one of our valued foodservice customers. We supplied his well-known Lime Truck when he was cooking meals on wheels throughout Southern California. We then jumped off the road and into The Playground with Jason as he and his talented culinary team embarked on this new venture. A mealtime recess at The Playground is guaranteed to receive an A+ for its whimsical menu using only the best quality ingredients. Indeed, while there have even been the occasional childhood game celebrated on the grounds [see the “Play” section of the eatery’s web site], Chef Jason is very serious about serving good food that delights and entertains patrons with a unique dining experience.
Pork Loin Trim pork loin of its fat. Cut fat into small pieces. In a medium saucepan, render fat and set aside for the radicchio dressing. If there is not enough fat on the pork loin, add a few pieces of bacon to the rendering pot. Season the loin with salt only, then sear in a very hot pan with a little bit of high heat oil such as canola. Place in a preheated 425°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on doneness of meat preference. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes.
Celery Root Purée In a medium saucepan, cover celeriac cubes with cream and 2 Tbsp. butter. Simmer on low until tender. Strain off the cooking liquid, save. Place celery root into a blender, season with a pinch of salt and slowly add enough of the cooking liquid to form a smooth purée. Keep warm for plating.
Bizarre Potatoes Using Melissa’s Dutch Yellow® baby potatoes, take your widest pot and fill it with one layer of potatoes then cover just barely with water and season with 2 tablespoons of salt. Cook on high heat until all the water has absorbed, leaving the potatoes perfectly cooked and encrusted with salt. Reserve.
Caramelized Pearl Onions First blister unpeeled onions in a sauté pan with very hot oil, then allow to cool. Onions should pop out of the skin easily. Return skinned onions back to the pan with very hot oil pan; season with salt and a pinch of sugar. Sauté until the onions are nicely caramelized. Keep warm for plating.
Wilted Radicchio For the dressing, blend the residual pork/bacon fat with the mustard, honey and a pinch of salt. Slice radicchio head across into thin strips, quickly sauté in a pan with a little bit of hot oil. Just as the radicchio begins to wilt, remove from heat and toss in dressing. Keep warm for plating.
To assemble Place a serving of celery root purée on the plate, slightly left of center. Place 5 small potatoes and several pearl onions on purée and then top with wilted radicchio slices. Lay two slices of pork loin up against the right side of vegetables and drizzle the pork with some of the radicchio dressing.