The secret to Chef Wes Johnson's art is building his menu around ingredients. Rather than working to create a recipe, Johnson starts with a single element and determines how it can be used, experimenting until a menu item is formed. It is this method that allows him to take advantage of Salt's (4356 Lindell Boulevard, 314-932-5787)locavore philosophy--his parameters are set by the ingredients available to him, dependent on factors like weather and seasonality.
Johnson's ingredient of choice? Pork. Although the menu at Salt is constantly evolving, pork makes frequent appearances throughout. This stems from Johnson's belief that pork is more versatile, fun and accepted than other meats, at least when it comes to fat.
The pork and fennel meatballs are a menu constant at Salt. Served with a blackberry jam, they epitomize Johnson's idea that simple tastes can make a flavorful dish. In Johnson's eyes, more fat leads to more gratification that allows people to eat less. His advice for home cooks? Never to "fear the fat."
Pork and Fennel Meatballs
1 pound of Ground Pork 70/30 1 Tbsp toasted fennel seeds 2 tsp paprika 2.5 tsp chopped garlic 3 Tbsp ice water
In a large stand mixer, mix all ingredients with paddle for 1 minute on low. Then, set on medium speed and slowly pour in the ice water until the fat is well emulsified into the meat and the texture becomes fluffy. (about 1 minute). Test a small amount in a saute pan and make final seasoning adjustments. Use a 1 oz. portion scoop and then shape the meatballs. Put on paper lined sheet pan and roast in oven at 450 for 7-8 minutes or until outside is golden brown.
1 pound blackberries 3/4 cup juice 1 tsp lemon juice 1 1/2 Tbsp Sugar
Put all ingredients in a large stock pot and cook on medium heat, simmering for one hour. In batches, process the berries and their juice in the blender. Then, strain out seeds with a fine mesh strainer.