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Slow-Smoked Pork Loin with Bitter Greens

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DIFFICULTY: 2 of 5 (5 being hardest)

Think of this as an American take on classic steak carpaccio. But the meat is pork and it’s cooked with smoke. You thinly slice the smoked pork loin, lay it on a plate, and then top it with greens dressed with a simple anchovy vinaigrette. The smoked pork tastes almost like Canadian bacon but without the curing. To get a jump on things, you can smoke the loin up to a week ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. For that matter, you can make the vinaigrette ahead too. Keep those elements in the fridge, and this dish is the perfect last-minute lunch or light supper.

CHICKEN-FRIED PORK STEAK

DIFFICULTY: 2 of 5 (5 being hardest)

This is a crazy idea turned into a recipe. Chicken-fried steak is normally made with beef eye of round, a lean, dense, inexpensive cut from the back ass of the animal. I always wanted to make it with pork because it just sounded awesome. I use the same cut from the pig—the ham—and cut it into fillets like beef tenderloin. You could serve these pork steaks with anything and they’d be delicious. Some people have chicken-fried steak for dinner. Some for breakfast. My personal favorite is with a bowl of spicy turnip greens. Or enjoy it with Fatback Fried Corn and Basic Cabbage Slaw.

Cast-Iron Skillet Chicken with Farro and Brussels Sprouts

DIFFICULTY: 3 of 5 (5 being hardest)

Everyone likes the taste of fried chicken but maybe not the extra fat. I wanted to get the crispy skin of fried chicken without the frying. It took me a few years to figure out that roasting the chicken pieces in a cast-iron pan gives you a similar result. It’s a simple technique that can easily become standard in your repertoire. Just make sure the surface of the chicken is really dry so that the skin crisps up when it hits the pan. You pan-roast the chicken pieces almost exclusively on the skin side, then transfer the pan to the oven to cook the meat all the way through. To switch things up, I pair the chicken with Middle Eastern flavors. Farro is a form of wheat berry brought to the Southern United States from Europe; it’s prepared much like bulgur wheat is prepared in Lebanese cuisine. I give it a crunchy texture similar to fried rice by toasting the farro grains in the rendered chicken fat. They puff up and take on a glossy sheen, sort of like Honey Smacks cereal. Then I mix in some lemon juice and Brussels sprout leaves for a crisp, bright flavor. A traditional Lebanese tahini sauce rounds out the flavors with some bitterness. When these flavors stand alone, the chicken might taste too salty, the farro too sour, or the tahini too bitter. But when tasted together, they strike a balance. It’s a very satisfying take on a traditional Southern favorite.

Ground Venison Kabobs with Tomato Jam

DIFFICULTY: 3 of 5 (5 being hardest)

I get a lot of hunters asking me how to cook deer meat. Most hunters have the entire animal ground into hamburger because they don’t know what else to do with the meat. Here’s a recipe for all that ground venison you have in cold storage. The venison stands in for lamb in a classic Middle Eastern preparation. You season the ground meat and pack it into a cylinder on a long metal skewer, then grill it. Remember that venison is extremely lean, so you only want to cook these to medium. Otherwise they will get very dry. Gamey meats love the sweet stuff, and the tomato jam pairs perfectly with all the herbs and spices in the venison. It’s like a different look at hamburgers with ketchup—a venison burger on a stick with tomato jam.

Country Ham Breakfast Strata

DIFFICULTY: 1 of 5 (5 being hardest)

Here’s what to make for your next Sunday brunch. It’s mostly bread, milk, and eggs baked into savory Italian bread pudding. A rustic sourdough loaf works best. It soaks overnight in the milk and eggs, so the bread needs to be sturdy. As with an omelet, you can fill a strata with whatever you like, but if you’re not a born-and-bred Southerner, here’s the perfect place to get more comfortable with dry-cured country ham. Onions, peppers, and Parmesan complement the ham. I like some chopped collards in there too. The strata comes out almost like a cake that you can cut into slices. A little salad on the side makes the perfect go-with.