Ben Ford brings pork leg roast to The Dish

Adventurous chef Ben Ford credits the creative do-it-yourself environment of his childhood for his cooking skills. The son of actor Harrison Ford was always encouraged to work with his hands, and eventually that translated to the kitchen.

Ben has worked with some of the country's best chefs, including Paul Bertolli from Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, who taught him the French cooking techniques that he incorporates in his cooking today.

Here's how to cook a few of his signature recipes, including: fresh bone-in pork leg roast with crackling, pan-fried gigante beans with mustard greens and bacon breadcrumb, green garlic couscous with preserved lemon and fennel, roasted savoy cabbage with thyme, garlic and parmesan, and cherry hand pies with lemon verbena custard.

Fresh Bone-In Pork Leg Roast with crackling

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

For the Brine

1 cup coarse kosher salt

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup boiling water

1 gallon cold water

6 cloves of garlic, smashed

2 tablespoons black peppercorns

4 bay leaves

For the Roast

6-7 lbs. Pork Leg Roast with Skin (bone in)

2 tablespoons Kosher Salt

¼ cup Baking Soda

Preparation

Brine

  • 1. A heavy-duty plastic tube, a bucket, or a cooler can work as a brining container, as long as the pork is fully submerged. Weight down if necessary to keep the meat fully covered by the brine.
  • 2. To determine how much brine you'll need, place the meat to be brined in your chosen container. Add water to cover. Remove the meat and measure the water.
  • 3. Dissolve salt and sugar in the boiling water. Add it to the cold water; add pepper, bay, garlic cloves and stir to combine. Chill brine completely in the refrigerator before adding pork.
  • 4. Place your pork in the water and place in the refrigerator for 12 hours.

Roasting

  • 1. Remove pork from the brine solution; discard brine. If you are not ready to cook at the end of the brining time, remove and rinse the meat.

2. Dry the roast with towels and score the skin using a sharp knife.

3. Mix baking soda and kosher salt and liberally sprinkle this mixture all over the skin. Rub it in, pressing it into the scores.

4. Leave roast uncovered overnight in the refrigerator.

5. Preheat oven to 450°F

6. Place roast on a rack in a baking pan. Bake for 40 minutes at 450°F.

7. Reduce heat to 400°F and bake for approximately an hour and a half, or until cooked through. Cover loosely with foil and rest for 20 minutes before slicing.

NOTE: Reduce oven temperatures by 50°F if you have a convection oven.

NOTE: If crackling is not crisp, remove from leg and allow 5-10 minutes under the broiler at full heat before serving.

Roasted Savoy Cabbage

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

2 medium heads Savoy cabbage

3 cloves garlic

8 sprigs fresh thyme

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

Kosher salt

Fresh ground black pepper

¼ cup Pecorino cheese shards (or other hard sheep milk cheese)

Preparation

  • 1. Heat oven to 400°F.
  • 2. Peel and smash cloves garlic. Mix the garlic in a small bowl with olive oil, lemon juice and sugar.
  • 3. Cut cabbage into wedges. Be careful not to take off too much as you want the wedges to stay together. Toss wedges with the garlic-olive oil mixture and fresh thyme sprigs. Season with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.
  • 4. Place the wedges, cut sides up on a sheet pan.
  • 5. Place one of the cut sides down on a sheet pan and roast in the oven for 10 minutes.
  • 6. Remove from oven and rotate the wedges so one of the cut sides is down on the sheet pan and roast another 8-10 minutes.
  • 7. Remove and rotate again so the other cut side faces down. Roast 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the wedges back to their original position. Roast 4-5 minutes longer. Serve warm topped with shards of Pecorino.

Pan-Fried Giganta Beans greens, mustard-bacon breadcrumbs

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

4 oz. smoked bacon (4-5 slices)

1 cup lightly toasted (dry) breadcrumbs

1 lb. cavalo nero, stems removed

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 cups gigante beans, cooked

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped

2 clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 lemons, zested

1/2 cup freshly grated Grana Padano cheese or other hard cow cheese.

Preparation

  • 1. Coarsely crumble bacon; place in a food processor with reserved drippings and panko; pulse until bacon is finely chopped. Season with salt and pepper.
  1. Chop the kale, wash it, and shake off as much water as you can. Set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in the widest skillet you own. If you don't have a skillet large enough, you may have to use two skillets. Add the beans in a single layer. Stir to coat the beans, and then let them sit long enough to brown lightly on one side, about 3 or 4 minutes. Give the skillet a good shake and continue to brown for another 3 or 4 minutes. The beans should be golden and a bit crunchy on the outside at this point.
  3. Add the cavalo nero and season with kosher salt to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the walnuts and garlic, and sauté for 1 minute.
  4. Finish with nutmeg, lemon juice and zest. Remove from heat and serve topped with Grana Padano cheese and mustard-bacon breadcrumbs.

Green Garlic Fregola preserved lemon and fennel

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

2 fennel bulbs (save fronds to garnish)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cups chicken stock + 2 cups

2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice

4 each green garlic

2 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 lbs. fregola

2 cups hot chicken stock

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 preserved lemon, zested, fine chopped

Kosher salt

Fresh ground black pepper

8 oz. parmesan, shaved

Preparation

  1. Set up a grill basket on a grill and heat to medium-high 400°F.

2. Cut each fennel bulb in half. With the cut side down on the cutting board, cut each fennel bulb into 6-8 wedges about 3/4 thick. Leave most of the core from each bulb to hold the wedges together.

3. In a large sauté pan, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. When the butter has melted, arrange the fennel wedges in one layer in the pan and season with the 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, uncovered, without stirring, until the bottom sides are browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.

4. Flip the wedges over and cook for another 4 minutes on the other side. Pour 1 cup of the chicken stock in the pan and cover. Make sure the chicken broth is simmering; raise the heat if necessary. Cook until the chicken broth has reduced to just a couple tablespoons and has thickened, about 8-10 minutes. Take the pan off the heat.

5. Return the pan to the heat, add the lemon juice and quickly scrape up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the cold butter and stir until melted. Toss fennel with sauce to glaze. Set aside.

  1. In a bowl, toss green garlic, olive oil, black pepper and kosher salt.
  2. Add to the grill basket and grill for about 6-8 minutes. Cool and chop roughly.
  • 8. To cook the fregola, in a medium pot, bring lightly salted water to a boil. Add fregola and cook until tender yet springy and chewy, 12 to 14 minutes. Drain, rinse under cool water, and drain again.

9. In a low sided sauce pan add the fegola with parmesan cheese and butter and sauté over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Add, preserved lemon zest, green garlic and fennel, and toss in the pan to warm. Adjust seasoning if needed.

10. Serve sprinkled with chopped fennel fronds.

Cherry Hand Pies

Yield: 12 Hand Pies

Ingredients

5 teaspoons cornstarch

2 ½ tablespoons cold water

4 cups fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted, or 22 ounces frozen IQF pitted cherries, unthawed

1 ½ cup dried cherries

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 full size sheet (18x26) all-butter puff pastry, thawed under refrigeration

3 large egg white

4 teaspoons course sugar

Flour (for dusting)

Preparation

  • 1. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.
  • 2. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and cold water.
  • 3. In a large saucepan, combine fresh cherries, dried cherries, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cherry juices are released, about 5 minutes.
  • 4. Add cornstarch mixture; bring to a boil, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
  • 5. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to an 18×26 rectangle.
  • 6. Cut dough into six 6 ½ × 6″ rectangles. Move rectangles to the side and repeat with other sheet of puff for a total of 12 rectangles.
  • 7. Whisk egg white and 1 tablespoon water in another small bowl for egg wash.
  • 8. Working with 1 pastry rectangle at a time, place on a work surface and brush edges with egg wash. Scoop 4 tablespoons cherry mixture onto one side; fold dough over filling so that short ends meets, forming a 6 ½ ×3″ packet. Crimp edges with a fork to seal. Using a sharp knife cut a few slits in top of pie to vent. Place on prepared baking sheet; repeat with remaining dough and filling.
  • 9. Brush tops with egg wash, and then sprinkle with course bright sugar. Chill for 30 minutes.
  • 10. Preheat oven to 375° F. Bake pastries until tops and bottoms are golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet. Transfer to wire racks; let cool completely.

Lemon Verbena Custard

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

2 cups whole milk

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup lemon verbena leaves

½ cup basil leaves

3 large egg yolks

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Preparation

  • 1. Bring milk, sugar, and a pinch of salt just to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in lemon verbena, basil and split vanilla bean. Let steep, covered, 30 minutes.
  • 2. Put yolks in a small bowl. Strain milk mixture through a sieve into another bowl, pressing hard on and then discarding lemon verbena and basil, and return to saucepan. Whisk about 1/2 cup warm milk mixture into yolks, then whisk into remaining milk in saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard coats back of spoon and registers 170°F on an instant-read thermometer.
  • 3. Transfer custard sauce to a bowl and chill, stirring occasionally to cool.