Needless to say when I heard that Darren Templeman from Restaurant Atelier in Glebe was teaching a class in Pork Crackling I knew this was one class I HAD to attend. Conveniently The Boy had other plans that day so couldn't come (and be proven wrong again). Turns out really that both The Boy and I were somewhat right in our pork crackling methods. You do salt the pork and THEN you rub it off later - it has salt and then it doesn't.
This was the first class of a series that Darren plans to offer each month. There'll be another Pork Crackling class in May and after that the classes will vary...I'm keen for a sausage making class (hint hint).
The classes are "demonstration style" in a commercial kitchen - you can get as close to the hotplates, smokers, ovens, pots, pans and the chef as you like. Ask questions, sample the goodies, peer into the saucepan to see exactly what "really caramelised" means. The class is relaxed and fun. Darren is totally relaxed in the kitchen and happily answers ALL the questions we throw at him. I've never been in a restaurant kitchen before so this was REALLY exciting. A lot of the attendees were really happy to be able to ask a chef questions about his cooking methods - much more interactive then just reading a recipe from a book and hoping you're on the right track (like I do).
I was intrigued that Darren planned to teach us THREE different methods for making pork crackling - you mean there is more than one way to crackle a pig?
Method 1: I was in slightly familiar territory with the first method that Darren demonstrated to us, Crispy Pork Belly and I could easily attempt this at home without too many tears. The pork belly is coated with a mix of salt and other spices and left to cure overnight in the fridge.
The next day wipe the salt mix off the pork and wash off any excess "stuff", pat it dry, spray (or rub) with oil and pop into the oven. A big thing I took away from the class was NOT to score the meat. Whilst scoring might look fancy and perhaps make the roast easier to cut up it essentially lets all the juices run out of the meat rather than back into the piece of pork.
Method 2: Whilst I've eaten a bit of Confit Pork in my time I've never thought about making it at home as it involves cooking the meat in quite a bit of fat which I thought would be super messy (it's not). The more adventurous and experienced cooks in the group were really taken by this method and it's actually much more simple than I thought it would be.
A slab of pork belly is placed in a deep dish, covered with fat and cooked in a slow oven (the dish is covered in foil). Once cooked and cooled, the pork is wrapped in Glad Wrap and cooled in the fridge overnight under a heavy weight to compress it. Then you simply cook the pork in a pan skin side down until the skin is super crisp and crackling and dance like a maniac around the kitchen when the Chef allows us to sample the Confit Pork. The Confit Pork was so soft, like butter, totally delicious yet surprisingly didn't taste or feel fatty at all. Miracle stuff.
Method 3: If I have one weakness it's Pork Scratchings - I could eat bag loads of the stuff and still want MORE. When I realized that Darren would be showing us how to make this I did (another) crazy little dance around his kitchen and squealed like a Big Girl! Of course when the time came to sample I had to dash out of the restaurant to put more money in the parking meter...luckily noone sampled anything until I got back.
I'm considering if I'd "try this at home" given deep-frying is involved and I burn myself on boiling water - imagine what damage I could do with a pot full of bubbling oil.
In this method the rind is boiled, cooled, and the fat removed from the skin. The skin is then dehydrated in a slow oven until it resembles a piece of plastic. It's then popped into a deep-fryer and Miss Piggy dances like a fruitcake when the whole lot emerges from the fryer ready to eat. OH HAPPY DAYS!
Samples: throughout the class we got to sample each of the three types of pork demonstrated to us. Darren of course, like most chefs I've met, doesn't do things by halves. He also prepared a few extra styles of pork for us to try. He also let us try a few extra things like a fancy fish sauce he'd just got into the restaurant, as well showing us the perfect way to make a Pork Jus.
We were also sent home with a piece of pork belly and a bag of seasoning to try and make our own Crispy Pork Belly at home. Along with this everyone was given a piece of Confit Pork Belly to finish off in the pan at home. We're sent home with a recipe for each of the three methods we've learnt...easy peasy.
|Left: Pork Neck Rillet and Right: Smoked, deep-fried pork belly. OMG|
Lunch: After the class we all sat down to a fantastic Sunday lunch. Darren had slow-roasted two HUGE pork shoulders overnight for us to enjoy - both complete with an Armour of the most crackly of crackling. This felt A LOT like a long, relaxed fun family lunch - a long table heaving with beautiful food and fantastic conversation.
Darren had also been foraging for Pine Mushrooms the day before, along with Karen, and he had returned with a HUGE haul of mushrooms that he smoked as a side dish for our lunch. The smoker was a pretty impressive machine.
|Smoked Pine Mushrooms and a Green Salad with roasted Hazelnuts|
|Dessert - complete with POP ROCKS!|
Restaurant Atelier is at 22 Glebe Point Road, Glebe. Phone them on 9566 2112.