Pork, Peaches, and Playing Chef

Bluestem Restaurant in Kansas City is one of the best in the country and my personal favorite. Owned by the 2013 James Beard Best Chef Midwest, Colby Garrelts, and his wife and fellow chef Megan Garrelts, this progressive spot provides seasonal, locally sourced, masterpiece meals. If you’re in the mood to “treat-yo-self,” try the five-course tasting menu. Or saddle up to the bar for a la carte options and an artisanal cocktail.

I could sing Bluestem’s praises until I’m blue in the face. But this post is about my own efforts to recreate a Bluestem-caliber dish. In 2011, the Garrelts put out Bluestem the Cookbook. Of course, I bought it. I assure you, these recipes are not for the faint of heart. But when I’m feeling adventurous, I pour myself a glass of wine (or several…), roll up my sleeves, and try my best to emulate a James Beard winner.

So, without further ado, my rendition of Bluestem’s roasted pork with sweet and sour peaches.

As I gathered the ingredients—pork chops, fresh peaches, scallions, onions, bourbon, cardamom pods—I thought to myself, “Wow, this is going to be a beautiful dish.” Well, thanks to my novice plating technique (or lack thereof), it wasn’t beautiful. But it sure was delicious. And the recipe was intuitive! I’m proud to say that aside from some user-error timing issues, I made it through without any major disasters.

First, I “griddled” the peaches, onions, and scallions. “Yes,” I thought. “This smells delightful. I am master chef extraordinaire.” But then I started to panic. “Uh oh. Are the peaches supposed to be turning black? Did I overdo it? SHOULD I JUST CALL FOR PIZZA NOW?” Everything was fine. The peaches were supposed to be turning black. Cleansing breaths, Anna.

Next, I started on the “sweet and sour glaze.” Following the recipe, I poured all of the ingredients, including 1½ cups of bourbon, into a saucepan. Again, panic set in. “There’s no way this is right. This smells like straight booze.” But, miraculously, I was still on track! The simmering ingredients transformed into the “thick syrupy” glaze, just like the recipe promised. And the glaze was perfect! Like a sweet, peppery, aromatic barbeque sauce. “Damn,” I thought. “I’m good.”

Finally, I tackled the pork chops. The “rub” for the pork was sweet and spicy—brown sugar, pepper, chili powder, paprika, and garlic salt. I rubbed the seasoning onto the pork, seared the meat to brown the outside, and popped it into the oven. My pork took longer than expected to cook (the chops were enormous!), so I ended up checking the temperature with my meat thermometer three or four times before it was actually done. But when it was done, good God, was it tasty. And the peaches, glaze, and pork combined? Out-of-this-world delicious.

Maybe I’ll try another Bluestem recipe next week. Or maybe I’ll just go to the restaurant….

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