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100 Favorite Dishes 2014-15: No. 83: Porkobuco at Brooklyn Athletic Club

It's more than enough food for one person, but you won't want to share.
It's more than enough food for one person, but you won't want to share.
Photo by Troy Fields

Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.

"The porkobuco arrived juicy and steaming, earthy notes of mushrooms and bacon wafting across the room in its wake."

That was my first encounter with the porkobuco at Brooklyn Athletic Club in my first-ever review for the Houston Press. Now, a year after I initially wrote about it, it's still one of my favorite dishes.

I'm a sucker for anything pork--bacon, ham, chicarrones, pork belly, etc.--but a pork shank rarely fails to wow me. I'm always impressed by the giant bone-in cut of meat, far more than I could ever eat on my own, but so decadent that I'm willing to try. At Brooklyn Athletic Club, the riff on a pork shank cooked in the style of ossobuco is truly a masterpiece.

The slow braising gives the pork shank a rich, juicy flavor.
The slow braising gives the pork shank a rich, juicy flavor.
Photo by Troy Fields

Ossobuco is traditionally prepared with a veal shank browned in a pan and simmered with various vegetables and herbs until the usually tough cut of meat becomes tender. Personally, I don't know why this dish isn't always made with pork, as I think it lends itself far better to the braising than veal.

By the time BAC's Neiman Ranch pork shank has finished simmering in wine and herbs, the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender. It's served atop a hash of firm potato medallions, sautéed mushrooms and asparagus dotted with thick chunks of applewood-smoked bacon and crunchy bits of pecan. The entire effect is nearly overwhelming.

The first time I ate the porkobuco, I returned home too full to move. I'd attacked it wildly, at one point even abandoning utensils (it was not pretty). Since then I've learned to savor the dish, crafting perfect bites that include a sliver of juicy, browned pork and a forkful of the hash to go along with it. I dredge the whole bite through the red wine gravy first too, for the ultimate effect.

Though the short menu at Brooklyn Athletic Club changes from time to time to reflect seasonality or new inspiration in the kitchen, the porkobuco isn't going anywhere. I haven't been told as much, but I suspect diners would revolt if the popular dish was ever taken off the menu. Or maybe that's just me.

The list so far: No. 84, Chai Pie at Pondicheri No. 85, Tacos at Taqueria Maya Quiché No. 86, S'mores at 13 Celsius No. 87, Calamari at Lillo & Ella No. 88, Pulled Pork Nachos at Way Good Food Truck No. 89, Garden Sammie at Local Foods No. 90, Barbecued Salmon Salad at Brooks Family BBQ No. 91, Smoked Salmon Waffle at The Waffle Bus No. 92, Chirashi Lunch at Sushi Miyagi No. 93, Finocchiona Sandwich at Siphon Coffee No. 94, Combo Catracho at Mi Bella Honduras Restaurant No. 95, Tamal de Puerco at Andes Cafe No. 96, Cheeseburger at Sparkle's Hamburger Spot No. 97, Mi Quang at Simply Pho No. 98, Helado de Lúcuma at Pollo Bravo No. 99, Fat Fries at Fat Bao No. 100, Fish Bánh Mì at La Baguette

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