If you’ve been around me at all in the last few weeks you’ve heard a lot about pomegranates. That’s because about a month ago I arrived home from work to find a giant box filled two layers deep with pomegranates sent to me by Pom Wonderful. The people at Pom Wonderful decided to host something of a dinner party challenge based around, as you might have guessed, pomegranates. I submitted a proposal for a dinner on their website and was chosen to receive a box of poms and a fistful of coupons for some free bottles of Pom Wonderful juice.
The premise was to create a dinner party that incorporated pomegranates in as many ways as possible. Our menu was essentially what you see below plus a few extra little goodies.
While cooking, we made ourselves a few Pom Manhattans that were pret-ty tasty. Cherry Pom Wonderful + Bourbon + Sweet Vermouth + Blood Orange Bitters = goooood stuff. We also decorated with some pomegranimals… elephants:
First: Meat and Cheese Plate + Prosecco Pom Cocktail
The first course was a starter plate of cured meats and cheese. The meats all came from The Fatted Calf here in San Francisco, a shop that makes a variety of amazing cured meats. The cheeses were a Spanish Manchego and a local cheese from Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes, CA—their triple-cream Mount Tam. It’s one of my all-time favorite cheeses.
The pomegranate prosecco cocktail is a great simple drink. A glass of prosecco or champagne, a splash of Pom juice and a spoonful of pomegranate seeds.
Second: Arugula Salad with Pomegranate Seeds
Next we had a salad of baby arugula, fennel, pomegranate seeds and parmigiano reggiano cheese. The salad was dressed with a pomegranate juice, goat cheese and 10-year aged balsamic vinegar dressing.
Third: Heritage Pork Chops, Truffled Cauliflower Puree and Golden Beets
Our main course was heritage pork chops served over a cauliflower puree with roasted golden beets, local yellow chanterelle mushrooms and a pomegranate pork “demi glace”. Since this was the focus of the meal and the most involved, I’m going to take a little time to break down the dish and how I decided on the elements. It’s all about local ingredients that are in season and each element of the dish is there for a reason—they all play a part in the show.
In Northern California the beginning of winter is always a great time for food because shortly after the rain begins (three weeks, to be exact), the mushrooms begin to creep out. chanterelles are one of my favorite types of mushroom and it just so happens that they’re a perfect complement to the pork chop and fruity pom reduction. Pork naturally pairs well with fruit, so the pom reduction was an easy decision. When I saw those chanterelles I knew they would be a perfect addition to the dish. Chanterelles have a hint of apricot fruitiness that would match right up with the pomegranate sauce.
Beets and cauliflower are also in season—for the next few months there will be more and more of that sort of stuff showing up in your CSA box or your farmers’ market. Golden beets were an easy choice because they’re so naturally sweet and earthy that they work perfect with the other fruity elements in the dish. While the fruit flavors in the chanterelles are much milder, the sweetness of those beets is right up front. Roasted in the oven, they begin to caramelize and sweeten even more.
One of my favorite ways to have cauliflower is in a puree. It works like mashed potatoes but it’s much lighter and has a really great flavor. I blanch the cauliflower, toss it in the food processor with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Puree until it’s smooth and then top it off with a little splash of truffle oil. The truffle oil just pumps the puree up a touch with that earthy flavor. It also ties together the mushrooms and the puree.
And of course, the heritage pork chop roast. Pork chops from a good hog are very possibly my favorite piece of meat. Ever. A lot of the time when you say a piece of meat is “fatty” it’s a bad thing. With good pork chops it’s exactly the opposite. That strip of fat that curls around the outside of the meat on the chop is the most delicious piece of anything in the world. I could eat piles of it roasted crispy on the outside and buttery melty smooth and soft on the inside.
I paired the pork chop dish with Brewery Ommegang’s Three Philosophers. It’s a Belgian Style Quadrupel made up of a strong dark ale blended with a cherry lambic. It was the perfect companion for the fruity, rich pork chop and pom sauce dish.
Fourth: Pomegranate Buttercream Filled French Macarons
And finally, the finalé—the macarons! Somehow I had never had one of these until a couple months ago and since that day I’ve been obsessed with learning to make them. Everything I read about them says there’s about a 50% success rate but so far we’ve had some pretty good luck. My friend Drew took the reins on this one as he is a bit of a pastry–master and he’s been giving me some macaroning lessons. But seriously—look at these things… we could be running our own shop here! We made a few versions, some with chocolate cookies, some with plain almond cookies, some with buttercream filling and some with gelée. The base of the macarons is always almond meal so we build from there. On the chocolate ones we played around with some black sea salt speckled on top of the cookies and mixed in with the buttercream filling. It was pretty alright stuff.
How to Open a Pomegranate
And I’ll leave you with an instructional video on how to open those suckers when you go to recreate this meal for yourself…