by Nate Rafn
When Adam High opened Broken Bread in the fall of 2011, he knew he wanted to source as many ingredients locally as possible. At the time, he was still in search of a reliable local producer of top-quality pork. His criteria was simple. The pigs should be raised ethically, but most importantly, he wanted to cultivate a strong relationship with the ranchers. In Adam's case, Jim and Wendy Parker at Heritage Farms NW fit the bill.
"First and foremost, I like the people growing [the pork]," says Adam.
Not only do the Parkers produce excellent pork, they do so in a humane and natural setting just south of Dallas, Oregon. Heritage Farms NW raises Red Wattle Hogs and American Guinea Hogs, two breeds that the Parkers selected for their exceptional fat and flavor.
"The meat itself is a much deeper flavor," says Adam. "We get more comments on the pork than just about any protein we use because it's that much different from what folks are used to. It tastes like an animal that had to work for some of its food. It's got excellent marbling."
Adam is currently working with a whole leg of pork, which will yield far more than just the meat. He and his kitchen staff will use each and every portion of the leg, including the trim, the fat, and the bone.
"I'll trim the fat, grind that and render it down, and use the strained-off fat for cooking on the flat top or sautéing meat dishes," says Adam. "Then the cracklings go into the stock pot to help deepen the stock. The bones will go into the stock pot. I'll probably brine a couple chunks... and roast those into dinner service and carve off them. The hock will get braised down and we'll probably do pulled pork sandwiches at lunch time."
Of course, the main feature is the roasted leg meat, which Adam first soaks in a brine of smoked salt, water, and bay leaves. He then roasts the pork in the oven for a few hours just before dinner service. From there, the tender meat can be carved and served.
As the seasons change, each entree at Broken Bread will be accompanied by a revolving cast of local vegetables. Right now, Adam is in the middle of a transition period between the storage crops of last autumn and the fresh flavors of spring. For the leg, Adam creates a side dish of mashed root vegetables, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, and winter squash. The meat itself is served with pan juices and a vibrant quince marmalade.
"This time of year we are very limited," says Adam. "Roots and greens."
Although the pork dish is quite delicious, Adam insists that he doesn't deserve the credit. He is quick to point out all of the hard work done by Jim and Wendy Parker, the butchers at Mt. Angel Meats, and the pigs themselves. It's a humble position that echoes the menu at Broken Bread, which is primarily food-driven, as opposed to something that is purely fashionable or ornamental. The flavors speak for themselves.
According to Adam, the offerings at Broken Bread change fairly often, so don't expect to see leg of pork on the menu each time you visit.
"When I'm done with that hog leg, I'll call up and say 'What now?'" Soon thereafter, the Parkers will deliver another cut of meat. Perhaps tenderloin, a shoulder roast, or another leg. Either way, the pork that ends up on the plate is equally tasty.
"We're headed toward the same goal," says Adam, referring the Parkers. "That's a relationship I hope to have until I fall over."
Nate Rafn is the executive producer of Living Culture, and creator of Dinner at the Rafns' supper-club. Learn more at www.livingcultureonline.com and www.dinnerattherafns.com.