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Capital cuisine 

click to enlarge PREPARING PORK: Richardson tops smoked pork belly with succotash vinaigrette.
  • PREPARING PORK: Richardson tops smoked pork belly with succotash vinaigrette.

When we asked Chef Lee Richardson to give us a recipe to run with our piece on his plans for Ashley's at the Capital Hotel, we honestly didn't expect much. After all, great chefs — like great magicians — didn't get great by giving away all their best tricks.

Imagine how surprised we were, then, when we opened his e-mail and discovered that he had included not one but three recipes — an appetizer/entrée/dessert lunch to feed 25 that looks just right for tailgating before a Razorback game in early fall.

“I thought it was a good package,” Richardson wrote, “because [the recipes] represented a total packaged meal that was not only presented and fitting for ‘lunch on 25,' but also is a great representation of celebrating Arkansas products and traditions.”

Gracias, Chef. Our cup runneth over.

BARBECUED PORK BELLY

WITH SUCCOTASH VINAIGRETTE

For the Belly: (serves 20)

1 pork belly

2 carrots, peeled and sliced lengthwise

2 onions, peeled and quartered

2 leek whites

1 bottle white wine

1 bundle fresh thyme

Place pork belly in a deep roasting pan, skin side up. Surround with the vegetables and the thyme making sure none is underneath or on top of the belly. Pour over the wine and add water to cover 2/3 of the belly. Cover with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Leave in a 325 degree oven overnight (about 8 hours).

Remove the belly form the oven and allow to cool in its liquid before removing it from the pan. After it is cool, carefully remove the belly from the pan. Strain and reduce the liquid by half. Reserve the liquid for future use. Peel away the skin if it is intact. Cut the belly into single serve portions and wrap them loosely in aluminum foil. Place the foil-wrapped “bellies” in a smoker or barbecue pit to smoke gently for another 8 to 12 hours. The smoke should be maintained between 250 to 325 F. Any kind of good smoking wood will do. I like to use a combination of cherry and hickory. For the last hour and a half of smoking, carefully unwrap and remove the foil and baste with your favorite barbecue sauce every 30 minutes or so. The reserved liquid may be added to give a little finger-lickin' stick to your sauce or, even better used to cook some beans or field peas.

For the succotash vinaigrette:

3.5 cups olive oil

1 onion, julienned

4 cloves garlic, smashed

1 pound lima beans, fresh

1 pound purple hull peas, creamers or other field peas

4 ears sweet white corn

2 ripe tomatoes

1 bunch fresh parsley

1 cup apple cider vinegar

In separate sauce pans of boiling water or belly cooking liquid, add the limas and field peas. Simmer until tender, season the liquid with salt to taste and cool the beans in their cooking liquid. Cut the corn kernels from the cobs and dice the tomato. In a black iron skillet, sauté the onion and garlic. Add the corn, cook for a couple of minutes and add the beans and peas, followed by the tomatoes and the parsley. Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and allow to cool. Combine the remaining olive oil and vinegar, season to taste and stir into the succotash.

Serve the barbecued bellies over a generous scoop of the succotash and drizzle with a little extra “juice.”

WATERMELON GRANITA

1 whole watermelon (6 cups juice)

3 cups water

1.5 cups sugar

In a saucepan, bring the water to a simmer and dissolve the sugar. Simmer for a minute or two. Do not boil. Set aside to cool. Scoop the flesh from the watermelon and gently pulse in a food processor to puree without cutting up the seeds. Strain the puree through a sieve to remove the seeds and any remaining pulp. Combine the watermelon juice and the simple syrup in a tightly sealable container and place in the freezer. For the next two or three hours, periodically shake or stir the mixture until it begins to freeze. This will prevent the “ice” from crystallizing into a solid block when it freezes. Once it is frozen, it can be scraped with a serving spoon to produce a refreshing treat with the consistency of snow.

PIMENTO CHEESE

AND SODA CRACKERS

For the pimento cheese:

1 lb of sharp cheddar

3 fl. oz. cider vinegar

1 cup roasted peppers,

pulsed or chopped

3 tbsp. cup sugar

2 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. mustard

1 cup mayonnaise

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Adjust to personal taste. Serve with home made crackers and peeled celery stalks.

For the soda crackers:

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

3 sticks butter

1-1/3 cups milk

Combine the flour and butter in a food processor and pulse until the butter is well cut into the flour. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour mixture with the milk, adding a little flour if it feels too wet to handle. Wrap in plastic and allow to chill for a couple of hours. On a well-floured board, roll thin. “Dock” the dough by creating perforations with a dinner fork. Brush the dough with a light egg wash or clarified butter, sprinkle with sea salt and cut to desired size and shape. Bake at 350 F. until lightly browned.

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