The iconic California chef’s new Chi Spacca cookbook is a meat lover’s manifesto
Words by ANUSH J. BENLIYAN
If you’ve ever salivated over the sizzling 3-pound Tuscan-style porterhouse steak on the open-kitchen grill at L.A.’s Chi Spacca — legendary chef Nancy Silverton’s love letter to butchery — or dreamed of the restaurant’s cheesy, paper-thin focaccia di Recco, this one’s for you.
In her latest tome, Chi Spacca: A New Approach to American Cooking (Alfred A. Knopf, $35), out Oct. 13, Silverton reveals the inspirations behind the meat-focused menu and shares the recipes for dozens of dishes, including the two aforementioned house specialties, and other fan favorites, such as porcini-rubbed short ribs, charred sugar snap peas and the famous grilled tomahawk pork chop (recipe below).
Co-written with food writer Carolynn Carreño and executive chef Ryan DeNicola, the book also includes Silverton’s sources of go-to purveyors (including California staples, such as Flannery Beef and Mimmo Bruno of Di Stefano Cheese), as well as crash courses on building the perfect antipasto platter, buying meats and, most importantly, grilling.
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GRILLED TOMAHAWK PORK CHOP WITH FENNEL POLLEN RECIPE
“Every restaurant needs at least one dish that people are willing to drive across town for, and this enormous, Flintstone-esque cut of pork, along with the Beef Cheek and Bone Marrow Pie, is that item at Chi Spacca,” writes Silverton (who has tested positive for COVID-19 but we are pleased to hear is not experiencing symptoms). “New customers come in just to try it, and our regular customers come in with it on their minds. It’s a thick, double-cut pork loin (the cut you most often see in the form of pork chops), perfectly cooked to medium-rare, attached to two very long rib bones.”
For the pork:
- 1 double-bone pork loin chop, bone-in, belly attached (about 42 ounces; or 2 thick-cut pork porterhouse or other bone-in pork chops)
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 recipe fennel rub (below)*
For the fennel rub:
- 3 tablespoons fennel seeds
- 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1/4 cup finishing-quality extra-virgin olive oil
- Flaky sea salt
- 1 tablespoon fennel pollen
*To make the fennel rub, combine the fennel seeds, peppercorns and salt in a spice grinder and coarsely grind them.
To prepare the pork, place it on a large baking sheet. Combine the kosher salt, sugar, and 1⁄4 cup water in a small bowl to make a brine and whisk to dissolve the salt and sugar. Fill the flavor syringe with the brine. Inject half of the brine into the belly of the pork and half into the center of the loin and pat the pork dry with paper towels. Pour the olive oil over the pork and with your hands massage to coat all parts of the chop. Sprinkle the fennel rub evenly over the pork. Use the meat to mop up any fallen rub and press the rub into the meat with your hands to adhere. Set aside for 30 minutes to 1 hour to let the seasonings penetrate the pork and for the pork to come to room temperature.
Prepare a wood, charcoal or gas grill for direct and indirect heat.
Place the chop on the direct heat and grill until it is deeply caramelized with black grill marks on both sides, 5 to 8 minutes per side. Move the chop to the indirect-heat side of the grill and set it on its edge with the fatty, rounded side facing down; point the rib toward the indirect heat and the loin toward the direct heat. Cook the chop on its side for 30 to 40 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted deep into the center of the loin reads 120°F. (If you are cooking another cut of pork chop, cook the chops over the direct heat for the same amount of time. Transfer them and rest them on the bone — if they are porterhouse — or on their side, to the indirect heat and cook until the thermometer reaches 120°F; begin checking the temperature after 15 minutes to avoid overcooking the chops.)
Transfer the pork chop to a cutting board to rest for about 10 minutes.
Turn the chop on its back with the fat side facing up. Put your knife where the loin begins (about 4 inches from the top of the loin) and cut through to the bone. Turn the knife and cut along the bone to separate it from the loin. Set it aside.
Cut between the two rib bones to separate them. Return the ribs, cut sides down, to the direct heat and grill for 3 to 4 minutes, until the belly meat is golden brown and crispy. Transfer the rib bones to the cutting board.
To serve, slice the loin 1⁄2 inch thick. Slide the knife under the meat to keep the slices intact and transfer them to an extra-large platter, fanning them out to cover the platter.
With your knife parallel to the rib bone, cut between the belly and the bone to slice the belly off of each bone. Slice the belly 1⁄2 inch thick. One at a time, slide the knife under the sliced belly and transfer the slices to the platter, fanning them out. Rest the rib bones against the sliced loin like a pair of crossed legs. Drizzle the finishing-quality olive oil and crush about 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt between your fingertips over the loin and ribs. Sprinkle with the fennel pollen.
Recipe from Chi Spacca: A New Approach to American Cooking (Alfred A. Knopf, $35) by Nancy Silverton, available Oct. 13.
Feature image: Spuntini or “snacks” — including pork pate, whipped lardo and warm, salted dates — make for a perfect antipasto platter. All photos by Ed Anderson.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2020 Men’s Edition of C Magazine.
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