THE STORY BEHIND MY AWARD WINNING PORK SHANK, AND A CRISPY VERSION YOU CAN MASTER AT HOME
BY CHEF DAVID BURKE
For this month’s recipe I chose my Peking Pork Shank served at David Burke Tavern in NYC and VENTANAS in Fort Lee to honor the upcoming Winter Olympics. I have a lot of respect for the athletes and all the grit and hard work it takes to compete at this level. A German-inspired version of this Pork Shank (dubbed the Crackling Pork Shank, pictured above) was a medal winner itself when it was named Best Dish by USA Today in 1996. I beat out world class chefs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Thomas Keller, and others vying for the honor.
Every one of my signature dishes has a story behind it, and my Pork Shank is no exception. At that time, 25 years ago, you never saw pork on an American steakhouse menu. I was introduced to the traditional dish at the world-famous tavern Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany. The slow-roasted pork dish was called Scheinshaxe, a traditional Bavarian dish served with sauerkraut, dumplings, and mustard. It was a delicious hunk of impossibly tender, juicy pork meat on the bone, all wrapped in an irresistible crispy crackling skin. Instantly I knew I wanted to serve an Americanized version of this dish in my restaurants in the states, but first I had to fight with my partners at Smith & Wollensky, one of America’s greatest steakhouses, to put the pork shank on our menus. It was tough convincing them; they said no one eats pork in a steakhouse. But I was determined. I knew it would sell. Finally, they agreed to put it on the menu for only a month. Boom! It was a huge success. Now I create different versions for my restaurants. At David Burke Tavern, I serve the Peking Pork Shank with lobster fried rice. At VENTANAS I adjust the seasonings for its modern Latin-Asian American menu and serve it with rice and beans.