At two-Michelin-starred restaurant Harbor House in Elk, California, chef Matthew Kammerer sources fresh ingredients from within 20 miles to create dishes like barbecued kohlrabi, Devil’s Gulch squab, and more. One particular dish Kammerer and the restaurant is proud of is a 60-day aged pork shoulder, served in cuts grilled like a steak.
“It sounds unassuming; people wouldn’t expect to get pork shoulder at a two-Michelin-starred restaurant,” says meat cook Michael Francoeur. “The way we treat it and everything makes it really special.”
First, the chefs dry-age cuts of pork shoulder for two months. “It’s super special to us,” says Kammerer. “It’s an incredible amount of effort and time, but it allows us to serve pork at a super high level.”
Rather than cooking a whole shoulder, Francoeur will separate each muscle, leaving no connective tissue. Francoeur then slices the fat and remaining connective tissue off the meat that he separated, leaving a really clean piece of pork. A few hours before service, he seasons the pork and slowly smokes it over cypress.
Once he cooks it, he passes it to Kammerer, who tastes a little piece which will determine how thick or thin he cuts it for service. To him, the dish is more about the quality of the meat rather than how it looks every time it goes out. “We are totally okay with everything not being the same,” he says. “Which sounds a little strange when you talk about consistency, but when I refer to it not being the same, it doesn’t have to look the same on the plate, it’s going to taste the same.”
“I think that a lot of menus right now are pretty similar, and there’s an expectation of luxury ingredients when you are a two- or three-star level,” says Kammerer. “So I am proud to say that we don’t serve caviar, we don’t serve imported beef, we don’t serve truffles, and things of that nature. We’re trying to show what a two-star restaurant can be serving humble ingredients.”