This dish was inspired by my MasterChef journey (only the season 10 part, not the very short-lived seasons 8 or 9 parts LOL). I had met two people I became extremely close to, being a young lady from Texas named Mollie, and a guy from Sacramento named David. After I got a certain stage in the competition, I felt like I needed to pay tribute to these two dear friends of mine, and that’s how this dish came about. David’s signature dish was this tempura fried eggplant with rice, radishes, and a pork ragout sauce, while Mollie had made a pork chop with carrots three ways(chili-glazed, brown butter puree, and lime-pickled) and a lime-cilantro sauce. Now sadly, neither of them got aprons, and it really bummed me out, mostly because I felt kind of alone going into the top 20.
For this dish, I used the protein that sent Mollie home(pork chop), and David’s concept(pork, eggplant, rice, and radish) to create an entirely new concept. A ginger dusted pork chop with ponzu shaved radishes, miso-braised Chinese eggplant, dashi-mustard eggplant puree, puffed black rice, and a brown butter-pork-soy sauce. The dish is colorful, like Mollie, and it elevates David’s signature dish in terms of execution and plating. The name obviously came about because while they were not there in the competition with me, I still remembered the fun times we got to spend together (all off-camera, sadly), and the memories we made through this experience.
For the pork sauce:
1/4 cup ground pork or bacon
2 tablespoons brown butter
3 tablespoons sherry or rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 bay leaf
1 clove of garlic
Render out the pork products, bay leaf, and garlic in the brown butter. Once the pork is cooked through and the fat has been rendered out, add in the additional ingredients and stir over medium low heat until emulsified; you want the sauce to have a luscious texture to it, but the vinegar will need to be cooked out as well. Press through a strainer to remove the solids. Keep in a bain marie so that the sauce will stay warm and not coagulate.
For the puree:
1 Chinese eggplant
At most, 1/4 cup of dashi***
2 gloves of garlic; peeled and roasted
2 tablespoons Chinese or Dijon mustard
Drizzle oil and salt on the eggplant and roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Alternatively, roast on an open fire or flame until the exterior becomes completely burnt. Allow the eggplant to steam in a bowl, covered in plastic wrap, for another 10 minutes, before extracting the flesh. Reserve any liquid that comes out of the eggplant, as you can use that in the puree as well. Transfer the flesh to a blender and start blending it with the smoky liquid first, then the mustard, and the garlic. Add in dashi as necessary to thin out the puree as well. You want the final result to be creamy, smooth, but smoky.
For the braised eggplant:
1 Chinese eggplant; peeled and sliced into 2 inch x 1 inch logs
1 cup dashi
1/4 cup yellow or red miso paste
Combine miso with dashi and bring to a simmer. Slowly simmer the eggplant pieces in the liquid, fully submerged, for 20-30 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Season the exterior with salt, then warm up a pan. Add in the oil, just enough to line the pan, and sear the exterior of the eggplant pieces until golden brown on each side. Rest of a cooling rack to prevent the eggplant from getting greasy.
For the pork chop:
1 bone-in pork chop
Season aggressively the pork chop with the above seasonings. Get a pan hot before adding in your oil. Sear both sides of the pork chop for at least 3-4 minutes, making sure to also hold and sear the side with the bone-in for at least 2 minutes as well; that side will take longer to cook. If the meat still feels too soft, flash it in the oven at 400 degrees F for 5-8 minutes. It should feel firm once done cooking to ensure that it is fully cooked. Rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing off the bone. You’ll want at least a medium cook on the pork.
For the radishes:
1 watermelon radish
2 breakfast radishes
1 tablespoon mirin
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice or rice wine vinegar
Peel the watermelon radish. Shave both radishes thinly on a mandolin and slice from the center to the edge on every piece. Mix the other ingredients together and soak the radishes in that liquid to soften them, for at least 10 minutes. This will allow them to be curled into flowers.
For the puffed rice:
Heat oil to 330 degrees F. Throw rice into the oil and cook for literally no more than 20 seconds. The end result needs to basically be like Rice Crispies cereal. Strain and place on a paper towel, and toss with seasonings.