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In various Brooklyn neighborhoods, one such meal has been served roughly twice a quarter for the better part of 10 years. A restaurant-style dinner for work-crazed urban professionals, it is as steady and simple as it is elegant and rich. It features pork chops grilled and glazed in a reduction of maple syrup and balsamic vinegar, served with soft apple slices coated in same beside a mound of polenta lightened with goat cheese and fragrant with rosemary, beneath a dusting of Clinton-era nostalgia: chopped pecans and candied ginger.
That last bit is what marks the dish as restaurant-style fare, worth aping at home: candied ginger is an inexpensive gild, the sort of marker that allows a chef to charge $21 a plate instead of $17. The man who devised this one is Matthew Kenney, the once-white-hot celebrity chef who opened (and saw close) a gaggle of popular scene-restaurants in the 1990s and early oughts: his Matthew’s, on the Upper East Side, begat, among others, Bar Anise, Mezze, Monzu, Canteen, Commune, Commissary. They are all gone now.
“I probably had it on the menu at Commune,” he said of the pork in a telephone interview from Oklahoma City, where he was in the process of opening a “living foods” restaurant and education center called 105degrees. Now a kind of raw-food entrepreneur, Kenney is a partner in the organic Free Foods cafes in Midtown Manhattan; he has helped develop restaurants in Madrid and Winter Park, Fla. He hasn’t eaten meat in a long time.