As I mentioned, I come from an Irish blood. Equally present in my bloodline, however, is my German heritage. Many who know me may tell you that my Teutonic tendencies are a rather defining characteristic. While not always manifested in the most charming of ways, I identify strongly with this culture of efficiency, determination and steadfast spirit. Perhaps for that reason I have a particular affinity for the food of Deutschland and moreover all the lands the former Holy Roman Empire (Germany, Austria, Czech Republic usw.).
My family hails from a small town in Bavaria in the district of Neumarkt, this is not going to come as a surprise to anyone who has ever seen pictures of the toe headed brood from which I come, one can almost see my siblings and I running through the Alpenvorland in mini-lederhosen singing at the top of our lungs, typical...
Traditional German food, despite the lively and buxom-blonde-haired-blue-eyed-drndled-clad-in-a-biergarten culture surrounding it, is typically quite basic, often referred to as peasant food. That might also be said for the cuisine of P’s people, he is of Czech decent, and while there are absolute differences, the food of these nations have come from similar countryside and experience.
Rutabaga soup might have defined an era of hardship for many Germans and Czechs during WWI & II, but the cuisine of the former HRE is not defined by nor limited to root vegetables and cooking for subsistence alone. I know what you’re saying, “everyone loves a good sausage, who doesn't? and who can resist schnitzel? and that’s really all there is”….but that’s just not true. Now, I have to mention here, the cuisine of 21st Germany is about as varied and ambiguous as the ethnicity itself. With a population that is a true melting pot (yum cheese) of natives, immigrants, and refugees from around the globe, contemporary German cuisine is driven by the countless imbissbuden (snack shops) that line the city streets and purvey dishes from Africa to Southeast Asia – Currywurst or Döner Kabob are about as German as Bratwurst at this point. This could lead to a whole new conversation about what is it to be a “German” today- or really a “European” for that matter - but I’ll let you think about that and get back to the food.
One of the best meals of my life was enjoyed not in Paris nor Rome, but in Berlin. Schweinhaxe, roasted skin-on smoked ham hock that takes on the texture of butter, served in the basement of the house once own by Berthold Brecht, honestly changed my life (I tell P about it all the time - eye roll). This was the embodiment of what I love about this food, savory, warm, rich, tangy, and filling - almost carnal (I'm blushing).
The food of our Czech and German heritage is about the salty, crispy skin on a pig foot that makes one moan because we really shouldn't love it so much, it’s the spicy bite of mustard on Weiswurst making the eyes water and clearing the sinuses, it is the comfort one gets from devouring a whole savory Kohlrouladen (holubky), the sexy, slippery minerality of a beautiful Reisling, the delicate aromatics of Pfeffernüsse or anise of Vanillekipferl, and the decadent buttery mouthful of Stollen (Vanoka) mit Kaffe…I could go on and on.
This is a gastronomy born from the land and its development tempered by years of war and economic hardship, so getting back to our roots means enjoying food in an uncomplicated way. Without the constraints of strict and overbearing culinary tradition, cooking this way allows the senses to take over – it allows the salt content to be a little higher, the sweet to be roasted out just a little more - this is the way you want to eat.
I was inspired to turn to the cooking of our Vorfahren by the images on page 97 of Bon Appetit April 2013, the Mustard Crusted Pork with Farro and Carrot Salad looked insane! I picked up a pork loin the next day, and threw it in the freezer, knowing this recipe was sure to make it to the plate at some point this month.
When our friend Erin stopped over one day, and while perusing our magazines, declared her love for mustard, I knew the time had come. We planned a dinner date for the following week and I started salivating.
This recipe offered the perfect way to enjoy the food and the culture we love without venturing into the realms of heavy, more wintry dishes. The farro is a low-shame way to get our starchy fix, with less gluten bulk than pasta or potatoes, it carries a nice nutty flavor and an appealing tooth. Earthy carrots, shaved thin into ribbons, and sautéed to bring out their sweetness, lend brightness to the palate and color to the plate. Then there is the pork, crispy and spicy mustard crust is the perfect way to cut through the rich and slightly fatty nature of the meat. This is pork done simply but raised to another level, it's one of my favorite meals this season.
A few tips:
- Buy a meat thermometer!!! Especially useful when cooking something like pork which can be disastrous if over or under cooked.
- You can make the farro ahead of time, toss with a little evoo, and chill in the fridge
- This would be great with a rich Riesling or Grüner Veltliner if I were to attempt a pairing
- 1 2lb pound boneless pork loin
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup spicy brown mustard
- 1/4 whole grain mustard
- 2 tbsp mustard powder (or as much as your pantry can spare, I love the way it holds the more viscous mustard together)
- ½ cup olive oil, divided
- 2 cups farro
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 pound carrots (rainbow if available, yes we're food bougy), very thinly sliced lengthwise on a mandoline if you own one, if not, slice VERY carefully with a knife OR use a peeler and they will be more like ribbons
- 1 Small red onion, very thinly sliced into rings, rings separated
- 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
- Place pork in a roasting pan, salt and pepper heavily
- Whisk mustard, mustard powder, and 1/4 cup oil in a small bowl to blend. Rub over pork, cover, and chill in fridge until you're ready to star cooking in earnest
- Preheat oven to 425°. Roast pork until beginning to brown, 25-30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and roast until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 145°, 25-35 minutes longer, depending on thickness of roast.
- While pork is roasting, cook farro in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, 30-35 minutes; drain as you would pasta, rinse with cold water, and then toss in colander with a little evoo.
- Whisk vinegar, honey, and remaining 1/4 cup oil in a medium bowl; set vinaigrette aside.
- Heat 2 tbps evoo in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add carrots and cook, tossing often, until carrots soften, add farro and onions until farro is warmed through, about 3 minutes.
- Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Add parsley and vinaigrette to taste; season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.
- Slice pork and serve over farro salad.