TV Personality and Chef, Carla Hall, recently teamed up with Zov Karamardian to net over $20,000 for the James Beard Foundation’s culinary scholarship program. It was a luscious fundraiser.
(Yes, Zov and I are shorter than Carla.)
Carla Hall was a finalist in the 5th and 8th seasons of TOP CHEF, Bravo’s popular cooking competition show. She is currently one of five cohosts on THE CHEW, a one-hour talk show centered on food on ABC. She currently resides in Washington, D.C.
It was a gray day outside, but a joyful vibe flourished inside Zov’s Bistro in Tustin. Nancy Luna, food-and-restaurant writer at the Register, told me that Hall was really a great interview – both kind and forthcoming. Luna told it right.
Not only did Hall give helpful hints in the course of her cooking demonstration, she kept the crowd both mesmerized and happy. Her voice reached long crescendos, somewhere between a song and a shout. Her stories were hilarious.
By the end of the program, everyone was a fan. She prepared Swamp Thing: Braised Pork Shoulder in Smoked Pork and Corn Broth, a stew-like concoction that dad would have lovingly called “slumgullion.”
Of course, Zov rolled out the remainder of the feast, offering a oh-so-generous variety of side dishes, salads and meats. Plus a glorious array of desserts.
Thank you Zov and Carla for raising funds to support culinary education.
Swamp Thing: Braised Pork Shoulder in Smoked Pork and Corn Broth
Yield: Serves 8
FROM CARLA: During my Top Chef challenge on Ellis Island in New York, I had to make a dish that symbolized my family and heritage. I loved every part of that challenge, but the best part was when they surprised me by bringing my husband Matthew to help me plan the meal and partake in it. We used the tomatoes and corn in season and paired them with pork, both fresh and cured. I am Southern, after all. I refined a classic stew by creating a complex broth that eats like a sauce. That went over hunks of succulent pork and a medley of collard greens, sweet potatoes, and corn. I was so happy with how this comforting bowl of love came out, I didn’t even care if I went home on this dish. I knew it was very special. When I was cooking, I told my ancestors, “This food is for you.” And when everyone at the table took a bite, they tasted that honoring of the past, too. Matthew told me there was a long, silent pause when everyone started eating because the dish was so good. That’s just what I want as a cook: for everyone to soak up the love I pour in.
1 (3 1/2-pound) boneless picnic pork butt, untrimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola or other neutral oil
1 (6-ounce) piece naturally cured ham hock, sliced, or 6 ounces thick-cut bacon
3 carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery ribs, roughly chopped
1 leek, white and pale green parts only, roughly chopped
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 pound tomatoes on the vine, cored and quartered
2 dried chiles de arbol, stemmed and roughly chopped
1 cup dry red wine
3 ears of corn, husks and silks removed, kernels cut off, cobs reserved
5 cups Chicken Stock or store-bought unsalted chicken broth
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 bunch collard greens
1 large sweet potato, peeled and finely diced
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Pat the pork pieces dry and generously season with salt and pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven over high heat, then add the canola oil and heat until the oil dimples. You want to make sure that the oil is hot. Add half of the pork in a single layer, spacing the pieces apart. As soon as the meat hits the pan, you should hear a sizzle. If you don’t hear anything, you’re about to boil meat. Let the pork sit until it’s browned, then turn to another side and brown. Keep browning and turning until the pork is browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a half-sheet pan and repeat with the remaining pork. If your pan is getting too dark too fast, turn the heat down a little.
3. Add the ham hock and cook, stirring, until the fat renders and the meat is browned, about 2 minutes. If you’re on a diet, look the other way.
4. Add the carrots, celery, leek, onion, tomatoes, and chiles. Cook, stirring and scraping up those tasty browned bits in the pan, until the onion is just starting to become translucent and the other vegetables are lightly seared, about 4 minutes. The goal is not to cook the vegetables now, it’s mainly to get those browned bits up.
5. Return the pork with any accumulated juices to the pan, arranging the pork pieces to sit in a single layer on top of the vegetables. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and cook until you can’t smell the alcohol, about 5 minutes.
6. Add the corn cobs, stock, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then transfer to the oven. Cook until the meat is fork-tender, about 2 hours. Don’t overcook or the meat will get dry. Remove the pork chunks from the mixture and reserve. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids.
7. When the pork is almost done, prepare the collards: hold the stems with one hand and the leaves with the other, folding up the leaves together like the wings on a butterfly. Pull the leaves down, leaving the stem clean. If the leaves are really large, cut the roll down the center. Stack the leaves, then roll them like a cigar. Slice the rolls thinly.
8. In a large bowl, toss the sweet potato with 2 teaspoons olive oil and a pinch of salt until well coated. Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat until really hot. Add half of the sweet potato in a single layer. Cook, shaking and tossing the pan occasionally, until browned, about 3 minutes. The sweet potato should be tender, but neither mushy nor crunchy. Transfer to a half-sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining sweet potato.
9. In the same pan, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil until hot. Add the corn kernels and cook, tossing, until just browned, about 1 minute. Transfer to the pan with the sweet potato.
10. In the same pan, heat the remaining teaspoon oil. Add the collards, season with salt, and cook, stirring, until bright green and just wilted, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and stir in the sweet potato and corn.
11. Divide the collard green mixture among 8 serving bowls. Top with the pork and spoon the strained broth all over. Serve immediately.
Source: CARLA HALL