San Francisco is a town that loves to wait in lines. Croissants, ice cream, cold brewed coffee, fancy tacos, hell, even the Bart station.
But San Francisco is also a city with more money than time. In the land where Uber, Instacart and Seamless were born, why wait in line when you can hire someone to wait for you?
That's how I found myself, at 4:30pm on my 30-somethingth birthday, sitting on a dirty Japantown sidewalk outside of State Bird Provisions, chatting with my new Task Rabbit friends who had been hired to snag one of the few tables reserved for walk-ins. Throughout the afternoon, the Rabbits piled up, waiting patiently with books in hand, probably earning more per hour than the line cooks inside.
I wanted to dislike State Bird, strictly out of principle. But I fell right in line with the rest, oohing and ahing over their dim-sum style service, tiny bites and small plates whizzing past my bar stool while an eager young chef described every detail of the food. And then, when I decided to attempt to recreate my favorite dish of the night, my friend connected me with the chef, who promptly sent me all the details. Not quite the whole recipe, but enough to save me hours of time putzing around my kitchen.
So, I bring to you, an unusually accurate homage to State Bird Provisions' black rice-encrusted pork with apple mostarda. It satisfies like a fancy chicken nugget, with a crispy coating of fennel-spiked ground black rice and a sweet and sour dipping sauce that puts McDonalds to shame.
Many thanks to Chef Stuart and Chef Kevin for letting me in on the ingredients!
Black Rice Crusted Pork with Apple Mostarda
Yield: 3-4 main dishes, or 6 starter portions
Prep Time: 30 min Cook Time: 30 min Total Time: 1 hour plus overnight marinade
1 Tbs fennel seeds, divided
3 Tbs + 2 tsp Dijon mustard, divided
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, divided
2 tsp mustard powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb pork loin, trimmed and sliced into 2" by 3/4" strips
1/2 cup black rice (Forbidden rice)
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into large chunks
2 Tbs champagne vinegar
2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs honey
1 spring onion, sliced thinly on the bias for garnish
Marinate Pork: In a dry skillet, toast all the fennel seeds til fragrant, about 2 minutes. Coarsely crush seeds.
Combine 2 tsp ground fennel, 3 Tbs Dijon mustard, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp mustard powder and 1 tsp salt. Coat pork with marinade and refrigerate overnight.
Make Mostarda: In a medium saucepan, toast mustard seeds over medium heat til they pop, 1-2 minutes. Add apples, vinegar, water, 2 tsp Dijon mustard and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until apples are completely softened, about 25 minutes.
Mash into a sauce, then taste and season with a bit of salt and pepper. If sauce is too watery, return to medium heat and let thicken for 1-2 minutes more. Remove from heat, stir in honey, then let cool to room temperature. The sauce can be made ahead of time.
Cook Pork: In a small skillet, toast black rice til fragrant, about 2 minutes. Grind finely in a spice or coffee grinder. Seriously, really fine, or else it gets too crunchy and won't stick to the pork.
Mix together ground black rice, 1 tsp ground fennel seed, 1/4 tsp cayenne and 1 tsp mustard powder. Remove pork from marinade. Dredge each piece thoroughly in the rice mixture.
Heat 3 Tbs oil in a large skillet over high heat. Cook pork in batches, not crowding the pan and turning pork pieces every minute, 3-4 minutes per batch, adding more oil as necessary. Drain pork on paper towels.
To serve, dollop some apple mostarda in a shallow bowl and top with pork pieces and some sliced green onion.