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Symphonic Swine

A former violinist picks up the knife
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Jacob Saben, a classically trained violinist and the executive chef at Chicago's newly opened G.e.b. (Graham Elliot Bistro), compares kitchen hierarchies to those of an orchestra, where every player is important. He approaches his plate with the same consideration, in this case balancing a sweet-tea-and-spice-infused pork tenderloin with a spicy pickled-watermelon salad and crisp-fried okra. Serve the dish with a zippy chimichurri for an extra flavor note.

Pork Tenderloin with Fried Okra and Pickled Watermelon

Recipe adapted from Jacob Saben, G.e.b., Chicago

Yield: Serves 4

Cook Time: 35 minutes (plus 1 hour, 10 minutes brining and marinating)

Ingredients

Pork

8 cups water, divided

1 cup kosher salt plus extra for seasoning pork

½ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

6 green cardamom pods, lightly cracked

1 tea bag of black tea

One 1¼-pound trimmed pork tenderloin

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

 

Watermelon

1 tablespoon hot water

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1½ teaspoons rice vinegar

1 small jalapeño, thinly sliced into rounds

2 cups chopped seedless watermelon

Kosher salt

 

Okra

¼ cup cornmeal

¼ cup cornstarch

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons Old Bay spice blend

¼ teaspoon smoked sweet paprika (pimentón)

½ teaspoon kosher salt

12 large okra, stem-end trimmed, halved lengthwise

½ cup buttermilk

3 cups canola oil

Directions

1. Brine the pork: Fill a large bowl with ice and water and set aside. In a medium saucepan set over high heat, bring 4 cups of water, the salt, sugar, black peppercorns, coriander seeds, cardamom and tea bag to a boil. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and into a large bowl. Add 4 cups of cold water to the strained liquid and place the bowl in the ice-water bath to cool the brine. Once it's cool, add the pork tenderloin and refrigerate for 45 minutes.


2. Meanwhile, pickle the watermelon: In a medium bowl, whisk the hot water and sugar together until the sugar is dissolved. Add the vinegar and jalapeño and steep for 10 minutes. Remove the jalapeño slices. In a large bowl, add the vinegar mixture and watermelon, gently toss to combine and refrigerate for 1 hour.
 
3. Preheat the oven to 375°. Remove the pork from the brine, rinse and pat dry. Heat a medium oven-safe skillet set over medium-high heat until nearly smoking, about 1½ minutes. Add the olive oil and the tenderloin and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast reads 145°, about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to rest.
 
4. Fry the okra: In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, cornstarch, flour, Old Bay, smoked paprika and salt. In a medium bowl, stir the okra and buttermilk together, then dredge the okra through the cornmeal mixture. In a medium saucepan set over high heat, add the canola oil. Once the oil reaches 350°, reduce the heat to medium and add about half of the okra, frying until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or frying spider to transfer the okra to a paper-towel-lined plate. Repeat with the remaining okra.
 
5. Carve the pork crosswise and on a bias into ½-inch-thick pieces and divide between plates. Serve with pickled watermelon and okra.
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