News

Liberty Tavern Chef LaCivita’s Pork Belly a Crowd Pleaser

IMG_0531The morning air chilled onlookers at last Saturday’s Falls Church Farmers Market Chef Series presentation, but though many clutched their coffee tight, they still patiently waited in line to sample the offerings of Chef Liam LaCivita from Liberty Tavern (3195 Wilson Blvd., Arlington).

IMG_0531

(Photo: News-Press)

 

The morning air chilled onlookers at last Saturday’s Falls Church Farmers Market Chef Series presentation, but though many clutched their coffee tight, they still patiently waited in line to sample the offerings of Chef Liam LaCivita from Liberty Tavern (3195 Wilson Blvd., Arlington).

Chef LaCivita graduated from the New England Culinary Institute and joined the Liberty Tavern with over 16 years of experience, most recently working as the executive chef at Centro Italian Grill in Bethesda, Md.

Now chief executive chef at Arlington’s Liberty Tavern, LaCivita creates a menu known for its seasonal influence. The restaurant’s modern American cuisine is based on the use of locally grown ingredients.

There are a lot of great local artisan products, farmers and dairies so close we would be foolish not to take advantage of such a great bounty and variety.

“I think local eating is important not just because of just seasonality and taste issues, but also the socio-economic issues as well,” said LaCivita.

For instance, the pork belly cooked in the popular presentation came directly from Polyface, Inc, which is a family owned, multi-generational, pasture-based, organic, local-market farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

According to the farm’s website Polyface is “in the redemption business: healing the land, healing the food, healing the economy and healing the culture.”

“There are a lot of great local artisan products, farmers and dairies so close we would be foolish not to take advantage of such a great bounty and variety,” said LaCivita.

The local produce in the chef’s pork belly based recipe included crunchy orchard apples from Toigo Orchards (750 South Mountain Estates Rd., Pa.), plus brilliant mustard greens and firm radishes from Tree and Leaf Farm (14744 Tatum Rd., Va.).

But the pork belly seemed to be Saturday’s star. It definitely caught onlooker’s attention. Maybe not a well known ingredient, it is a boneless, fatty cut of meat and is quite popular in Chinese and Korean cooking. It is often likened to a thick cut of bacon.

“We used 60 pounds of pork belly in today’s presentation. That’s a lot of pork belly,” said LaCivita.

In fact, LaCivita couldn’t make the samples quickly enough as those 60 pounds of pork belly portions disappeared as soon as they were prepared and placed on the table.

I admire the closeness of the Falls Church community and its obvious support of the farmers market.

Even children enjoyed the fare, one boy making sure to get a second helping.

Cubed in 3 x 3 inch squares and seared in a large skillet, the pork belly became caramelized and crisp on the outside, while still moist on the inside.

Mustard greens took on a lovely deep, brilliant green as they cooked and the small circles of pickled radish topped the dish with a lovely, shockingly bright pink color.

Even the mustard stood on its own, thick and full – a hybrid of apple sauce and choice mustard, with two types of seeds.

Afternoon approached quickly and finally the pork ran out. Even though the chef kept going  after normal presentation hours, people came looking for more as Chef LaCivita closed up shop.

The Farmers Market continued to be full of people, many asking Chef LaCivita questions, which he happily answered. Often people seemed surprised to learn that the Liberty Tavern was located in near-by Arlington.

“I think the Northern Virginia food scene gets better and more varied year in and year out. We at The Liberty Tavern restaurant group are proud to be a part of it,” said LaCivita.

Although located in Arlington, which also features a farmers market, LaCivita says he enjoys the Falls Church weekly event.

“I admire the closeness of the Falls Church community and its obvious support of the farmers market,” said LaCivita.

The Falls Church Farmers Market is held every Saturday from 8 a.m.– noon in the parking lot of City Hall (300 Park Ave., Falls Church). It is sponsored by the Recreation and Parks Department.

 

Recipe: Polyface Pork Belly

With Apple Mustard, Mustard Greens & Pickled Radish

By Liberty Tavern Executive Chef Liam M. LaCivita

 

Pork Belly

1 ea cleaned Polyface pork belly

Place belly in deep pan and cover with your favorite brine solution. Make sure it is completely submerged. Let soak in brine for 1 day.

The next day proceed as follows:

Dry off pork belly and cut into 3×3” squares. Season with salt and pepper. In a heavy bottom skillet, sear the pork belly fat side first till caramelized. Transfer to a shallow roasting pan.  Pour 4 cups white wine, 5 bay leaves, 2 bunches of thyme and 1 cup honey. Add 1 quart of water and wrap in foil. Braise in a 300 F oven for 3 hours till tender.

 

Apple mustard

2 T yellow mustard seed

2 T black mustard seed

1 cup white balsamic

1 cup water

Bloom the above till seeds are soft in saucepan.

1 cup dry mustard

½ cup cold water

Mix the above and let stand at room temperature.

Meanwhile, prep apples.

10 orchard apples

1 cup sugar

1 cinnamon stick

15 ea juniper berries

10 ea allspice

½ cup water

Blitz in blender till smooth.

Combine the above and sauté apples till tender. Blitz in blender till smooth. Add the dry mustard mixture and the mustard seed mixture together and then fold in apple puree. Let stand for 1 day.