Apples and pork go together like the taste of hot cider and the smell of a fire in the woodstove.
There’s a warmth to the pairing that makes it classic comfort food. The juices of smoky, toothsome pork mingle with sweet and slightly tangy fruit, and each ingredient is elevated to an entirely new level. With each forkful comes a sigh.
If you want more out of your apples this autumn than a simple pie, well, Chef Erik Desjarlais at Evangeline understands that sentiment. He has stocked the kitchen at his restaurant in Longfellow Square with the makings of some sigh-worthy dishes featuring clabber-fed pork and local heirloom apples.
He’s calling this culinary tribute to autumn “Apples, Swine and Wine.”
It’s part of his new Menu de La Nuit, a selection of dishes from small plates to entrees that range in price from $3 to $15.
The antique apple varieties he’s using will change as they ripen, but they’ll include Freedom, Liberty, Black Liberty, Nickerbocker, Wolf River, Westfield Seek No Further (a strange name belonging to an old favorite dessert apple) and Golden Russet. Most come from Sparrow Arc Farm in Unity.
The pork, fattened on thickened, sour milk, comes from Mitra Luick in New Sharon, the same farmer who provides Desjarlais with his clabber-fed chickens. Desjarlais has whole pigs delivered to Evangeline, where he and his staff break them down in the kitchen.
Then, let the creativity begin.
“Since the apples are in microseasons all through September and October, and the pig has so many parts, it will give me the opportunity to do a new preparation every day,” Desjarlais said.
Look for shaved Liberty apple with peameal bacon and fennel.
Peameal bacon is “like Canadian bacon, so it’s from the loin,” Desjarlais said. “Canadian bacon, you take the fat cap off to cure it. Peameal bacon, you leave the fat cap on, you cure it in the brine, and then you cover it in ground peameal, which is like corn meal but made from dried peas.”
The meat, with the thinnest layer of fat, is roasted in a pan, then topped with apple shavings on the plate. Desjarlais uses Liberty apples because they’re crisper and hold their shape when drizzled with vinaigrette.
A roast pork tenderloin with Freedom apples that Desjarlais made last week was accompanied by a Maine huckleberry and Freedom apple mostarda.
For another dish, he baked a pork shoulder all night at 200 degrees. To go with the tender meat, he cooked down some onions and bull’s heart cabbage in a little duckfat, then shaved in some Honeycrisp apples from Ricker Hill Orchard.
“I cooked down the cabbage with the apples and a little bit of honey, a little bit of white wine, then finished it with some aged white balsamic,” Desjarlais said. “When it’s cooler out, I’ll do it with red cabbage and red wine.”
Desjarlais uses every part of the pig, including the hanger steak, a darker cut of meat that looks more like beef than pork. It was served with crispy fried fingerlings, slivers of fresh Honeycrisp apple, and a confit of Liberty apple cooked down with some French apple brandy and onions.
“Every animal has one hanger steak,” Desjarlais said. “When the next pig comes, we’ll have a hanger steak for the lucky person who is there that night.”
The wine part of “Apples, Swine and Wine” includes fall favorites from the Rhone, Cahors and Provence. If you want something with more kick, try the restaurant’s newest cocktail, the Smoked Apple Manhattan ($10).
The cocktail, made with small-batch bourbon, has a musty, cider-like flavor that comes from smoked Lapsang Souchong tea provided by Homegrown Herb & Tea, Sarah Richards’ store on Congress Street. A slice of apple floats on top.
Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: [email protected]