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Kruse Report: Pork is the 'it' protein

Some menu trends hide in plain sight simply waiting to be noticed. Pork, which has risen steadily in prominence with very little fanfare, is one such example.

Product versatility and culinary creativity have combined to make pork the “it” protein of the moment, one that has application far beyond attention grabbers like bellies and barbecue.

Pork is hearty. It works hand-in-glove with comfort ingredients and prep techniques. At Cracker Barrel, Fried Pork Chops are hand-dipped and battered and served up as Monday’s daily special. The chain has also featured Cider-Braised Pork as a limited-time offer.

Pork is sophisticated. At trendy Olive & Ivy in Scottsdale, Ariz., Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin is finished with tomato syrup. Chains are onboard, too. Bahama Breeze recently added Parmesan-Crusted Pork Loin with truffled mushroom sauce as a chef’s special.

Pork is fun. Nowhere more so than in the South, where Southern chefs have a natural affinity for the product, and they are cheekily reworking the classics. In Atlanta, hot-dog emporium HD1’s pig-centric menu includes Porky Corn Dogs, Whole Pig Poutine and Pigs in Sheets, an update on the standard pigs in a blanket.

Pork is ethnic. It truly leaps borders as it appears in dishes like the Po’ Po’ Po’ Boy at Emeril Lagasse’s Tchoup Chop in Orlando, Fla. A banh mi-style sandwich, it showcases pork three ways and adds a dollop of kimchi-bacon aioli.

Looking ahead, pork mania is nowhere near saturation as powerful culinary trends support continued growth and experimentation. Nose-to-tail cookery highlights underutilized pig parts; specialty and heritage breeds like Duroc and Mangalitsa are being rediscovered; and pig wings are taking off as fun finger food.

Take a look at some inventive pork dishes.

Contact Nancy Kruse at [email protected].

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