Bart Mendoza 9 p.m., Dec. 17
Pink Pork — and Cleaning Meat the Caribbean Way
The stuffy old USDA, our national food-nanny, has finally awakened to this modern age regarding the cooking of pork. After decades of demanding 165 degrees (enough to turn Kurobata to shoe-leather), they've finally come around to 145 degrees -- plus five minutes resting time. Chef Jacques Pepin speculates that somebody at the USDA actually cooked a piece of pork and discovered what a temp of 165 produces. (Nyaa, nyaa, told you so!)
I still prefer a rosy 135, plus the 5-minute rest (which I first learned from a French chef in SF, subsequently prescribed in author Bruce Aidells' numerous meat cookbooks), especially for lean cuts like trimmed loin roast,, tenderloin, and loin pork chops. All ground meat and poultry is still specified at 165 -- but obviously, if you grind it yourself from a solid piece of meat (whatever the species except poultry) you can have it rarer.
Still worried? A Haitian friend taught me a brilliant tropical method of thoroughly cleaning away the potentially bacteria-laden juices on the surface of the meat. (Later, I've found this same formula prescribed in various African cookbooks and also used by a dear friend in Trinidad, so it's obviously an age-old choice to clean meat where there's no reliable refrigeration -- or even, as in Trinidad, where there is). This is also a great strategy for "on sale" supermarket meats of any species from the "used meat bin" that are close to (or a day past) their official sell-by dates.
Cut in half a lemon or lime (or two, for a large cut of meat). Rub the pulpy side of the citrus fruit all over the surface of the meat, pressing down really hard.. Then rinse the meat in hand-hot water and let dry a bit before cooking. (The meat surface will look "cooked" but it will still brown like unrubbed meat.) For poultry, use warm water, and for fish, cold water. Ta-da! Then cook it the way you planned to -- or if you want ground meat, grind it up by whatever means you have.