James Beard's Recipe Box: Leg of Pork with Cider and Cream
January 10, 2011
Welcome to our latest guest post about recipes from James Beard’s American Cookery. Today we hear from JBF Award winner and chef/owner of Paley's Place, Vitaly Paley, who prepares an homage to Beard's recipe for Leg of Pork with Cider and Cream. ( You can read an archive of guest posts here.) A funny thing happened while I was deciding on a recipe in James Beard’s American Cookery: just as I eyed Beard’s enticing Leg of Pork with Cider and Cream on page 406, half of a pig showed up at my restaurant’s door. Then, as I helped the farmer heave the beast into our cooler, I noticed a fresh jug of apple cider. Serendipity made the decision for me. Inspired and energized, I started to break down the animal. With the cookbook’s permission, I opted to cook the shoulder,(specifically, the bone-in coppa) over the leg—I know its beautifully developed fat cover and internal marbling will produce a fantastic roast. I scored the skin, seasoned it with salt, pepper, ginger, and nutmeg, and placed it in the oven. While the heart of this recipe is undeniably American, its technique is unmistakably French. I couldn’t help but smile when I “flamed” the roast with local apple brandy, then used beurre manié to thicken the sauce, which was then finished with egg yolks and cream. After about 45 minutes of roasting, I thought that the coppa would benefit from some time on the rotisserie. I love to prepare hefty meats this way: the slow, constant turning keeps the protein moist while evenly exposing it to the flame. This improvisation wasn’t an attempt to improve upon Beard’s methods, but a way of building upon the relaxed spirit of the recipe. After all, Mr. Beard doesn’t tell us whether the pork is boneless or bone in, merely hints at how much spice to use, and doesn’t specify an amount for the cider. After the meat had rested and sauce was finished, I paired it with what made the most sense to me: sautéed apples, diced fresh ham, sliced onions, chanterelles, roasted potatoes, and Brussels sprouts—an assembly of the flavors and colors of fall. When I tasted the dish, I couldn’t believe how revelatory it was. Simple, yet so profound. Not only did I revisit it for an incredibly tasty afternoon snack, I proudly featured it on the menu at Paley’s Place. We called the dish, “James Beard’s Roast Pork with Cider and Cream.” Vitaly Paley is the chef/owner Paley’s Place and the recipient of the 2005 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Pacific Northwest. His restaurant has garnered praise in local and national publications such as Oprah, the New York Times, and Food & Wine, and has been featured on the Martha Stewart Show, the Food Network and PBS’s Chefs A’ Field. In 2008, chef Paley and his wife, Kimberly, published The Paley’s Place Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from the Pacific Northwest from Ten Speed Press, which was chosen as the Best Regional Cookbook by Epicurious.com.