October 26, 2013

Cafe Miranda chef woos Maine foodies with pork belly

The dish earns Kerry Altiero a second straight major award at the largest Portland food festival.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Chef Kerry Altiero, owner of Cafe Miranda in Rockland, won the farm-to-table competition at the Harvest on the Harbor food and wine festival Friday, beating out three other local chefs with a pork belly, clam and sour apple dish he called “Farm, Ocean, Tree.”

click image to enlarge

Chef Kerry Altiero, left, from Cafe Miranda in Rockland, gets high-fives after winning the Top of the Crop: Maine’s Best Farm to Table Restaurant competition at Ocean Gateway in Portland on Friday. Joining Altiero in the competition were chefs Chad Conley, Rich Hanson and David Levi.

Photos by John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Altiero prepares his dish in front of an audience at Ocean Gateway as emcee Sam Hayward looks on.

Top of the Crop recipes



from Kerry Altiero, chef/owner of Cafe Miranda in Rockland

Serves 1.


8 ounces pork belly

2 sour apples

1/2 onion

2 cloves garlic

5 leaves kale

1 sprig fresh thyme

1 fresh bay leaf

6 whole little neck clams

6 ounces apple cider

7 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon sea salt



1. Wash sour apples, slice in half and core out the center.

2. Peel and thinly slice half an onion.

3. Peel garlic and leave cloves whole.

4. Wash and thoroughly dry kale.

5. Wash and dry sprig of thyme. Leave whole.

6. Wash and dry bay leaf. Leave whole.

7. Thoroughly wash little neck clams.


Production Step 1

1. Sear pork belly in a heavy skillet set at medium/high heat.

2. After pork is browned well on all sides, remove from heat.

3. To the same skillet add onions, garlic, salt and cider.

4. Cover and return skillet to stove.

5. Cook on low/medium heat (not boiling) for approximately 2 hours or until pork is fork tender.

6. Remove from heat. Make sure to reserve all liquid, onions and garlic.

(Step 1 can be done up to two days ahead of time and then stored in refrigerator until you are ready for Step 2.)


Production Step 2

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Liberally brush whole kale leaves with 2 tablespoons (melted) butter. Set aside.

3. Place pork belly and apples core side up into an oven safe casserole dish or skillet. Evenly distribute remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over pork and inside apples.

4. Roast pork and apples uncovered for 45 minutes until pork is thoroughly heated and apples are soft and light brown. Remove from oven.

5. Add reserved liquid to pot.

6. Submerge thyme sprig in liquid.

7. Surround the pork with clams.

8. Cover entire dish with kale leaves.

9. Return to oven and cook for 30 minutes or until clams are fully open and liquid is heated.

10. Remove from oven and serve immediately.



from Chad Conley, chef at Gather in Yarmouth


Brine the belly overnight, then braise until tender and press under a weight while cooling. Portion into 2-ounce pieces and saute to order.

Soak the beans in water overnight and cook in pork stock with mirepoix, garlic and herbs. When finished, cool and separate the beans from the liquid. Puree one quarter of the beans with enough liquid and bacon fat to create a creamy sauce, and fold into the remaining cooked beans. Season with mustard, a bit of molasses and salt. Fold in large cubes of cooked celeriac.

Pickle the mustard seeds by bringing a sweet pickling brine to a boil and pouring over the seeds. Store in the cooler until needed.

Finely julienne some celeriac and radish, season with lemon vinaigrette, salt, parsley and celery leaf.

To plate: Ladle 2 ounces of the hot bean mixture into a bowl or onto a small plate. Place a portion of seared belly to one side of the beans, and then the celeriac/radish salad on the other side. Garnish with small dollops of pickled mustard seeds and a few micro mustard leaves.



from Rich Hanson, chef/owner of Cleonice Mediterranean Bistro, Ellsworth


Roasted Pork Sausage Ragu

Serves 6

Six 4-ounce sweet Italian sausage, either homemade or locally sourced

1/2 cup Pomace olive oil, divided

1cup Ailsa Craig onions, fine dice

1cup Chantenay carrots, fine dice

1cup celery root, fine dice

2 tablespoons Phillips garlic, minced

1/2 cup Bartlett’s Blueberry Zinfandel

1 quart home canned tomatoes, pureed

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup Olivia’s Fresh Basil Chiffonade

Salt and pepper to taste

Harmony Mills Parmesan for shredding


1) Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil a sheet pan. Prick the sausages several times and roast until they are firm but not entirely cooked through, about ten minutes.

2) Heat the rest of the oil in your favorite sauce pot. Add the onions, carrots and celery root and cook over medium heat until they are soft but not browned. Add the garlic and cook through - you have made a battuto!

3) Add the wine to the battuto and cook until most of the liquid evaporates. Add the pureed tomatoes, the roasted sausages, and the dried oregano. Simmer for about twenty minutes while you make the polenta. Add the basil and simmer another five minutes, season with salt and pepper, and serve with polenta and your favorite autumn green - I like garlicky broccoli rabe.


Morgan Mills Cheesy Polenta


9 cups cold water

1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning

2 1/2 cups Morgan’s Mills Corn Meal

1 1/2 cups freshly grated Harmony Mills Parmesan

1 1/2 cups Harmony Mills ricotta

1/2 cup Casco Bay butter, room temperature

Fresh cracked black pepper to taste


1) Bring the water to a boil and add the salt. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal and stir frequently - like to switch to a wooden spoon here.

Cook slowly for about fifteen minutes. The cornmeal will transition from mealy to smooth.

2) Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan and ricotta. Add cracked pepper and sea salt to taste.


from David Levi, chef/owner Vinland Restaurant, Portland


Dehydrated, raw beet rounds

Ghee for frying

Strained yogurt




Herb salt


The dehydrated beet rounds are flash fried in ghee (pastured lard and grass-fed tallow also work well), then topped with little squeezes of yogurt and hollandaise, a julienne of cucumber and chive, and a dusting of Vinland herb salt.

Altiero won over the crowd with his easy humor and clear presentation, but he also gained respect from the judges for his pork belly, which one judge said cut “like butter.”

This was not Altiero’s first big win at Harvest on the Harbor.

“Up until yesterday, I was the reigning Maine Lobster Chef of the Year,” he told the sold-out crowd of 200 in Portland. “I won last year. Now don’t be prejudiced against (me), like, ‘Does this guy really need another award?’ You bet I do.”

The audience burst into laughter and applause, and Altiero went on to describe his dish, which from a farm-to-table perspective was no joke.

Altiero’s pork belly came from Terra Optima Farm in Rockland, and it was braised in cider from Sewall Orchard in Lincolnville, the oldest organic orchard in Maine. His apples, lacinato kale, onions and garlic came from Headacre Farm in Owls Head. Even the butter, from Casco Bay Butter, was local.

Altiero competed against David Levi, who will soon be opening a 100 percent local restaurant in Portland called Vinland; Rich Hanson, chef/owner of Cleonice Mediterranean Bistro in Ellsworth; and Chad Conley, chef at Gather restaurant in Yarmouth.

Sam Hayward, chef/owner of Fore Street in Portland, emceed the event. Before the cooking began, Hayward spoke a little about the importance of the farm-to-table philosophy in Maine.

He noted that in the 2013 Locavore Index produced by the locavore advocacy group Strolling of the Heifers, Maine ranks No. 2 among the states in commitment to producing and having access to local foods.

Vermont is No. 1.

“At its simplest level, it’s because we think food tastes best eaten, prepared, served closest to its source,” Hayward said. “But in a broader sense, we mean more than just farms when we talk about the farm-to-table movement because, in fairness, we’re also using the produce brought to us by foragers of wild foods, by Maine’s fishing community and by artisan food producers like cheese makers and millers and bakers who are contributing so much to us and make it exciting to work every day.”

Hayward said using local foods is also important because it strengthens Maine communities by “producing, serving and eating food in ways that are fair to the growers, fair to the restaurants, and we hope fair to the environment as well.”

Altiero served his dish to the three judges on special plates he had made by Fireside Pottery in Warren.

The chef will be selling several of the plates, which come with lunch at Cafe Miranda, on the restaurant’s Facebook page and the proceeds will be donated to a local farm participating in community supported agriculture for “disadvantaged families who really need to get this good food in their hands.”

The judges were Eric Flynn, chef at the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport; Ted Quaday, the new executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; and Susan Axelrod of the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday.com.

The audience also got to vote on their favorites. Jeeyun Kim and Manoj Muzumdar from Ellicott City, Md., both voted for Altiero to win the competition. Kim said she thought his dish had “just simple, strong flavors, well prepared.”

Steve and Jessica Floyd, a general contractor and social worker from Washington, D.C., also said they voted for Altiero.

“I thought it was creative, and I liked the fact that he used all local ingredients,” Jessica Floyd said. “I liked his marketing, too. He sold it.”

The couple said they would also like to visit Levi’s new restaurant the next time they visit Portland.

Chef Flynn said he thought the audience got it right.

“One thing about Kerry, everything he put on his plate was from the farm,” he said.

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:mgoad@pressherald.com
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