pig cheeks, a meal

Pork Jowels with Polenta at Parkside

At first smell: it’s as if apple pie had a one night stand with Wilbur
At first bite: Wilbur has been one lazy porker, sunning and snacking on Fern’s corn

The pork is soft, as it should be. Not ropey, not spreadable. Appropriate. The accompanying molehill of polenta lacks seasoning, but the sauce is vibrant—a dinner companion of a sauce, one you’d imagine is comfortable asking for a table of one, reading a book, smiling at the people who shoot glances of “party for one” pity. It stands on its own with wisdom, technique and a sense of history.

The meat feathers, like an outstretched wing. All the flavor is in the glossy wine sauce, a reduction of veal and chicken stock, mirepoix, thyme, fete (a Moroccan spice?), and to my surprise, chardonnay.

pork jowels parkside

The polenta is a good ole country girl with farm values, who can drink the milk from a cob of corn, milking everything for what it’s worth. Appropriately toothsome—each grain easily separated, garnished with celery leaves.

No one likes to talk about it, but there’s something to be said for fat. It’s round. It’s soft, it’s basically the womb. And it’s safe to say, it’s comfort. This dish tastes like the kind of home you see in happy cartoons with red barns and roosters. It’s home, not mine, not yours, but a universal home built around the communal table, where people gather, hold hands, bow heads in prayer, and recite blessings, not rote, but gloriously sung out in praise of the bounty.

10 Responses to “pig cheeks, a meal”

  1. cc Says:

    Why do you torture yourself so? I thought you were on a diet?

    Reply

    • Stephanie Klein Says:

      This is something I ate once upon a time. BUT, I cannot deny myself anything. Because as soon as I lose the weight, I hurry up and celebrate and have the things I couldn’t have while “dieting.” So, even though I ate this once upon a time ago, if it was something I wanted now, I’d have some, SOME, not all. I would leave some on my plate and only eat ’til sated. Easier said than done, yes, but I’m trying.

      Reply

  2. Mark Says:

    How are you not a full-time food critic and food writer? I love when you write about food. My wife forwards me all your food posts. Just FYI, you have a talent for it.

    Reply

  3. Bobbie Says:

    Now, that’s what I call pigging out. I’m here all night.

    Reply

  4. cc Says:

    Ditto on the food writing skill/comment.. i am not even close to a foodie but it’s somehow interesting.

    One more question: I notice a lot of posts with closed comments lately. Are you getting nasty people commenting or you know, just have less time to moderate? You never did it before and I don’t see it as much on other blogs. It seems standard to do that sort of thing for a post a serious nature but even for the ‘I’m sick’ post you closed comments. Just curious:)

    Reply

  5. Judith S Says:

    Stephanie, how do you feel about Sam Sifton’s writing? I love that Mimi Sheraton doesn’t like it “at all!”

    Reply

  6. Jane Says:

    I’m looking into breaking into food writing. i know you’re not technically a food writer, but I’d really love to hear your take. Any suggestions Stephanie?

    Reply

  7. Ruth Says:

    Your writing is dreamy.

    Reply

  8. YC Says:

    You should try the Pig Face dish at Girl and the Goat in Chicago. Amazing.

    Reply

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