Slaughtering a pig can be a rather gruesome event – and I remember it well. When the days were getting colder and holidays were approaching, families all across my home country would gather together and slaughter pigs to have food to put on the table during the harsh winter ahead. Ambushed by people who would get on top of them and leave them unable to breathe, with screaming noises and terrified eyes, the pigs would give their last breaths under the knife, their blood leaving a trail on the velvety snow, their guts exhaling steam in the icy cold morning. This was way before “humane” slaughter practices gained momentum, before “sustainability” became a buzzword and “social responsibility” turned into a big commitment for companies. Back then, there were no private hog producer companies to speak of, and we didn’t much care about how the animals had died. On an empty stomach, one is only concerned with the meat.
Time has passed and practices have evolved, and these days companies are under intense public scrutiny to ensure that they deliver on their promises of good care for the animals and for the environment, in addition to delivering flavorful products. Such is the case with Smithfield, the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer. Smithfield has its own DURoC breed of pig, and the company has held a series of Chef’s Table events throughout the country to highlight the flavorful versatility of the DURoC pork products and to emphasize its corporate sustainability policies. I was invited to attend the event which was held in Chicago earlier this week – and that was an offer I couldn’t refuse 🙂
We were welcomed with wine and spirits, as well as with the “star of the night” beverage-wise: Rum Punchbacon, a delicious concoction of rum, pineapple, almond syrup, lime and – of course! – candied bacon.
Supervising the event from a culinary perspective was Frank Dominguez, Smithfield Foods’ Corporate Chef. A respected chef with a career of over 30 years in the industry, Dominguez created dishes which showcased the high quality of the DURoC pork by bringing together ingredients and culinary inspiration from all around the world.
Many scrumptious appetizers were served at Smithfield Chef’s Table Chicago. Having said this, if I were to single out one of them, I would pick the Vietnamese-style tacos. Made up of pork belly bathed in a Korean marinade, paired with an Asian-style slaw and served in delicate rice paper taco shells, the tacos took me by surprise with their sophisticated multilayered flavors. The pork was moist, luxurious and decadent, while the spicy peanut sauce stood like a unifying bridge between the meat and the slaw, and provided the tacos with an extra layer of assertiveness.
Special mentions must also go to the oysters Rockefeller (which had bacon among the ingredients), the grilled flatbread (featuring capicola, smoked giardiniera relish, sofrito and radish) and the B.L.T. mini sandwiches. The latter featured arugula aioli, crispy bacon and an absolutely delicious tomato jam.
The main dish on the menu was the rotisserie spit-roasted pork loin, served with a side dish of freekeh. I had never eaten freekeh before and was very curious to try it. Fiber- and protein-packed, freekeh comes from the Middle East and is renowned for its versatile nutty flavor, which I thoroughly enjoyed. As for the pork, it was perfect: succulent, with a buttery flavor and a tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture.
For guests who also wanted veggies on their plates, Chef’s Table provided two options: sweetcorn salad and grilled summer vegetables. I just love grilled veggies, and when I saw the grilled bell peppers I knew I had to have them. Overall, my plate looked pretty balanced to me:
I had a delightful experience at Smithfield Chef’s Table and I enjoyed finding out more about the DURoC breed and about this company’s sustainability commitments. It was an evening which balanced the information with the enjoyment – and that’s what I like the most about events of this kind. Long may they continue 🙂
*Disclaimer: I was not financially compensated by Smithfield for this post. All opinions expressed here are my own.