In recent years, seasonal, farm-to-table cooking has gone mainstream. The once-niche trend has blossomed into a governing tenet of modern American cooking. In Southern California, where chefs enjoy a fairly constant stream of fresh produce year-round, following farm-to-table principles is simple. But chef Neal Fraser also strives to cook as seasonally as possible, using peak produce that only appears during certain times of the year.
“We get great green leafy vegetables and carrots, potatoes and herbs all year long,” explains Redbird chef Fraser of his native Los Angeles. “But we definitely have seasons like everyone else. We don’t have stone fruit or tomatoes or corn year-round. So we try to cook with the seasons as much as we can in an area that’s not as seasonal as, say, New York City.”
At Fraser’s Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence–winning restaurant, cooking seasonally for Labor Day means firing up the grill and taking advantage of late-summer stone fruit. He shares a recipe that he’s adapted for home cooking and entertaining, a grilled heritage pork chop with peach mostarda.
The pork chop is slathered in Fraser’s take on a barbecue sauce, albeit one that showcases the multicultural influences of Los Angeles cooking. “Being in a very eclectic food city, I try to take a little inspiration from all sorts of restaurants and try to make what I consider ‘Angeleno cuisine,’” he says. For this sauce, he combines Calabrian chiles, maple syrup, fish sauce and Sherry vinegar to achieve a flavor profile of sweet, sugary and salty elements.
As for the pork itself, Fraser uses the Red Wattle breed, and encourages home cooks to seek out a similar heritage breed as well. These ethically raised pigs have “10 times the amount of fat as commodity pork, so it’s not as dry and has a lot more flavor.” He recommends checking local butcher shops for options. To cook the chops, Fraser uses a wood-fired grill, but says a gas barbecue or putting the meat directly on an oven rack with an aluminum foil-lined pan to catch the drippings would work just as well.
He rounds out the dish with the peach mostarda—which is made simply with fresh summer peaches, Dijon mustard and sugar—and a quick-cooking spaetzle. The crisped spaetzle is ideal for soaking up the barbecue sauce and mostarda juices.
If you want to serve a green vegetable as a side, or dress this dish up for an occasion fancier than a backyard barbecue, you can add some braised Swiss chard and garnish the plate with roasted hazelnuts.
Fraser is an avid wine lover and regularly develops menu items and pairings with Ben Teig, Redbird’s wine director. Teig, who built the restaurant’s award-winning list, suggests both a red and a white option from Oregon to pair with the pork. He likes the fruitiness of a Riesling, such as the Ovum Riesling Off The Grid Cedar Ranch Vineyard 2014, for its ability to highlight the maple syrup in the glaze and the sweetness of the mostarda. Alternatively, he looks for a Syrah, like Gamine Syrah Mae’s Vineyard Applegate Valley 2013, with moderate tannins that don't overwhelm the pork, as well as characteristic savory smoked and grilled flavors that mirror those of the wood-fired pork. Below, Wine Spectator recommends 20 Oregon Rieslings and Syrahs.
Recipe courtesy of chef Neal Fraser, Redbird, Los Angeles, Calif.
For the peach mostarda:
1. Split the peach in half. Pit it and cover with sugar (there should be sugar left over). Cover with plastic wrap and leave out for 24 hours at room temperature.
2. After 24 hours, pour off the peach syrup into a heavy-gauge stainless-steel pot. Add the remaining sugar. Simmer until the sugar reaches 221˚ F (as measured by a cooking thermometer). Add the peach and simmer again until 221˚ F is reached. Cool to room temperature. Remove the peach and discard the sugar liquid.
3. Cut the cooked peach in a large dice. Add the Dijon mustard or mustard oil.
For the spaetzle:
1. Cook the potato in salt water, with the skin on, until soft. Peel and press through either a potato ricer or a grater. Allow the resulting small pieces to cool.
2. Mix the eggs, milk, flour and 1 teaspoon kosher salt until thick. Mix to allow the gluten to develop. Fold in the potatoes.
3. Using a spaetzle maker or a perforated pan, push the dough through to create the small noodles. Cook the spaetzle in boiling salted water in the same fashion as pasta. Once the spaetzle floats, transfer to an ice-water bath.
4. Once cool, strain and coat the noodles in olive oil to keep them from sticking together. Sauté with a touch of oil and butter in a nonstick pan over medium heat until golden-brown.
For braised Swiss chard (optional):
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add Swiss chard and cook until wilted, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For toasted hazelnuts (optional):
Heat oven to 375˚ F. Place hazelnuts on a large baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Cook for 10–15 minutes, until golden.
For the pork chops:
1. Blend the first 4 ingredients together. Refrigerate as needed.
2. Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator and allow them to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Season with salt.
3. Over a wood-fired grill if possible, grill the pork chops on 1 side until marked, approximately 2 minutes. Flip over and repeat. Each time you flip the pork chops, glaze with the sauce. Repeat 3 times. Transfer chops to a cooler part of the grill to cook slowly to desired doneness. Let them rest for 10 minutes before serving, to make sure all of the juices remain in the chops. Serve with mostarda and spaetzle, plus Swiss chard and toasted hazelnuts, if desired. Serves 4.
Note: The following lists are selections of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More wines can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.
CHEHALEM Riesling Willamette Valley Three Vineyard 2014
Lithe and sleek, with a lightly sweet balance to the ripe pear and floral flavors, picking up mineral and apricot notes as the finish lingers against lively acidity. Drink now through 2020. 600 cases made.
CHEHALEM Riesling Ribbon Ridge Wind Ridge Block 2014
Lean and tangy, with a lively balance to the pear, apricot and floral flavors, picking up steely mineral notes as the finish persists. This has the presence and depth to age. Drink now through 2021. 140 cases made.
TRISAETUM Riesling Willamette Valley Dry Estates Reserve 2014
Light and zippy, primed with lemony pear and floral flavors that zing on the finish. Shows presence, elegance and depth. Drink now through 2024. 143 cases made.
TRISAETUM Riesling Willamette Valley Estates Reserve 2014
Soft and expressive, with a fresh ginger note weaving through the pear and pineapple flavors, finishing with richness and moderate sweetness. Drink now through 2019. 143 cases made.
ARGYLE Riesling Eola-Amity Hills Nuthouse 2013
Light and sleek, with pretty pear, white peach and lime flavors that come together harmoniously, lingering on the finish. Drink now through 2023. 1,300 cases made.
RAIN DANCE Riesling Chehalem Mountains Nicholas Vineyard 2015
Dry, refreshing, open-textured and lovely for the way it plays its stony elements against refreshing peach and green melon flavors, lingering gently. Drink now through 2020. 118 cases made.
WILLAMETTE VALLEY VINEYARDS Riesling Willamette Valley 2014
Light and sweet, with fresh pear and citrus flavors gaining extra nuances of fresh ginger and white pepper. The finish lasts nicely, carrying its sweetness with grace. Drink now through 2022. 19,000 cases made.
BROOKS Riesling Eola-Amity Hills Sweet P 2014
Ripe and generous, this is sweet but balanced by plenty of acidity, with dried pear and apricot flavors echoing nicely on the polished finish. Drink now through 2020. 500 cases made.
HYLAND Riesling McMinnville 2014
Bright and citrusy, with lime blossom, mint and green apple flavors that come together smoothly on the lingering, off-dry finish, which hints at green tea. Drink now through 2020. 400 cases made.
A TO Z WINEWORKS Riesling Oregon 2015
Light and off-dry, with orange blossom wafting through the pear and honeycomb flavors, lingering easily on the deftly balanced finish. Drink now. 7,435 cases made.
PONZI Riesling Willamette Valley 2014
Bright and lively, this is light on its feet, and dry, with finesse to the pear, grapefruit and floral flavors, lingering quietly. Drink now through 2019. 450 cases made.
TORII MOR Riesling Willamette Valley 2014
Crisp and sleek, with pineapple and grapefruit flavors, and a hint of peppermint on the mostly dry finish. Drink now through 2020. 307 cases made.
FOX FARM Syrah Rogue Valley 2012
This open-textured wine is focused on black cherry, apricot and spice flavors, riding over a gently undulating suppleness into a long finish. A Syrah with presence, ebullience and finesse. Drink now through 2022. 147 cases made.
PLAISANCE RANCH Syrah Applegate Valley Papa Joe's Private Stash 2013
Fresh and vital, taut in structure, focusing the raspberry, blackberry and spice flavors into a bright beam that lingers easily. Has presence and focus. Drink now through 2020. 300 cases made.
FOLIN Passive Aggressive Rogue Valley 2013
Firm in texture, with fine tannins embracing a taut beam of blueberry and currant fruit, shading toward cedar and white pepper as the finish persists. Syrah, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah and Mourvèdre. Best from 2017 through 2020. 425 cases made.
SCHMIDT FAMILY Syrah Applegate Valley 2012
Crisp and inviting, with earthy overtones to the dark berry and spice flavors, finishing on a peppery note. Drink now through 2020. 251 cases made.
MERRILL Syrah Rogue Valley Reserve 2013
Crisp and tangy, with ripe cherry and blackberry flavors on a taut frame, finishing on a savory note. Best from 2017 through 2020. 200 cases made.
QUADY NORTH Syrah Rogue Valley 4-2,A 2013
Broad and expressive, with earth and tobacco accents to the dark berry and dark plum flavors, finishing with crisp acidity. Best after 2016. 200 cases made.
GIRARDET Syrah Umpqua Valley 2012
Crisp and bright, with blueberry and spice flavors matched to a dark palate. Finishes deftly. Drink now through 2019. 201 cases made.
REUSTLE PRAYER ROCK VINEYARDS Syrah Umpqua Valley Winemaker's Reserve 2014
Bright and tangy, with blackberry and white pepper flavors playing against crinkly tannins, remaining open and expressive on the medium-weight finish. Drink now through 2019. 456 cases made.
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