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Image: Stefan Milne

Rarely do chefs cop directly to inspiration. They'll talk the necessity of seasons, the influence of geography on a plate’s topography, a riff on a classic—sure. But lifting an idea from another chef? Unheard of. Unless, apparently, that chef is Brendan McGill who immediately explained the direct inspiration for his pork rib loin with rutabagas three ways.

In August he went to Reykjavik, Iceland and staged at Dill, the famed New Nordic restaurant (places like Noma and Faviken are ilk). They were serving braised beef cheek with brown-butter and apple cider rutabaga puree, roasted orange-glazed rutabagas, and rutabaga chips. 

“Rutabaga is one of my favorite unheralded items,” McGill said. “Bitter, like a turnip, but more nutritionally dense. We have to coax flavor out of them.” So when he returned to Bainbridge Island's Hitchcock, he waited on Tani Creek Farm's Max Sassenfeld to harvest his first rutabagas. Sassenfeld likes to wait until the first hard frost before he harvests, so the vegetable sweetens, cutting their bitterness.

When he finally had vegetables in hand, he jazzed out the rutabaga trio from Nordic austerity to hyper-abundant Hitchcock style. “I’m garnish insecure. They had like four things on the plate.”

 Ready? Here it goes: roasted Mangalitsa pork rib loin, rutabaga purée with brown butter and housemade apple cider vinegar, orange-glazed rutabaga with parsley and dill, rutabaga chips, baby brassicas, fresh turmeric slices, parsley puree, and zinnia flowers.

The Mangalista pork—a heavily marbled heritage breed—comes from Hitchcock’s own Shady Acres Farm. Since even the USDA has lowered its pork cooking temperatures from 160 degrees to 145 (same as beef), McGill likes to cook the loin to a rosy medium rare: “Someone told me they’d only seen pork like that in an Asian restaurant. That was a nice compliment.”

Since rutabagas are a storage vegetable, McGill thinks the dish will run through the season at Hitchcock.

 

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