Feeling so Italian, under a big blue Oregon sky

For the legions of Americans who feel compelled to torture a sweet little pork loin until it tastes like someone waived a meat wand over a sawdust heap, I give you the Italian solution: porketta.porketta

Porketta is a pork loin that has been brined a bit, then smothered in fresh herbs, garlic, and my own special touch: dried pears poached in cognac, then wrapped in pork belly (uncured bacon my friends). Then it’s roasted until the belly is cracking and brown on the outside, and the pork loin is insouciant and juicy on the inside, completely untroubled by that oven roasting.

And that’s our main course next Saturday, April 9 when I cook again at the Balch Hotel in Dufur.

The rest of the meal is inspired by Italy, too. We start with an antipasti plate: savory goat cheese panna cotta with preserved lemon, Italian artichokes, slow-roasted tomatoes, basil oil, with crostini. Then it’s that porketta with fennel potato gratin, lacinato kale and pork pan sauce. And for dessert? Honey lemon ricotta cake, lemoncello creme anglaise, fresh strawberries. All that, and the Balch will just separate $45 from your wallet (plus gratuity, which is up to you.) We’ll have some nice wines, and a wine flight, to choose too.

The Balch is a short hop (I say that because we are three days away from opening season for major league baseball, and I’m remembering all my favorite shortstops who can pick up a grounder and swing around to first with the fine liquid movement of chocolate sauce over vanilla ice cream) from Hood River, and elsewhere in the Gorge. If you’ve never stayed there, you’ll love what they’ve done with their beds, baths and beyond. Course, you can just drive home afterward, watching the last shreds of April sun slide down the Gorge.

Visit balchhotel.com for the details. Hope to cook for you again soon.

2 thoughts on “Feeling so Italian, under a big blue Oregon sky

  1. Kathy just made Rachel hungry!

    The more I read your food posts, the more I realize what an underprivileged child I am! You talk a language that I don’t even understand; you mention foods and sauces and spices and toppings that I’ve never heard of before. Makes me wonder if you’re just tantalizing me with fancy words for something I make on a poor man’s budget for Sunday dinner every week (smile). Does using French words for things make them more expensive, even if they’re nothing more than a basic white sauce with a dash of nutmeg? I wonder. . . . No, I rather think you are a creative genius who has taken food to a level that Grandma never even dreamed existed. Wouldn’t she be amazed!

    1. I’m not sure she would be amazed. Many of the things she cooked had firm roots in European haute cuisine. Maybe she knew that. I always felt like everything she made was an excellent rendition of that. I still have fond memories, for instance, of the salisbury steak, which, has roots in American, Russian and Japanese cooking of 100 years ago. But everything does sound better in French, doesn’t it?

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