Here's an idea: I want to create a dish that tastes so rich, it tastes wrong, literally sinful—but that’s still undeniably delicious. It should be slightly surprising so as not to bore, but also should genuinely taste good. I want the dish to focus on...pork fat. I don’t want it to taste flabby or otherwise horrifying, and I don’t want it to make one think “I’m eating the cartilaginous refuse of a pork chop.” On the other hand, I do want it to be clear that it’s pork fat. To eat this dish should make the diner feel like he’s Caligula. After all, it’s the fat that’s responsible for pork having the reputation of being an unctuous meat that pairs well with sweetness and fruits. Nowadays, the meat is so pure that all you get is a plain hit of pork meat taste in each fatless bite, and if you really stop to think as you eat it, you can see that it’s just pure umami. It doesn’t cry out for sweetness any more than beef does. But if you let yourself taste the fat, you’ll see that it’s actually here that the famed sweetness of pork is to be found. The right kind of experience with pork fat is of slight crispness, a small hit of meaty umami, and slight caramel flavor, with an overarching note of sweetness that’s carried quickly throughout the mouth by the melted grease. This is not something that should be trimmed and discarded. This is something to savor. I want this experience to be front and center in this dish.
For that reason, I will pair the pork fat with something involving dried fruit, puff pastry, and toasted pine nuts. All of these have similar richness, and each possesses an attribute of pork fat that needs to be highlighted if the diner is to notice it. Without this kind of aid, I think the diner will actually pass over the delight of the pork fat in order to remind himself that he is eating pork fat, ostensibly disgusting. The puff pastry should be very thin and light, completely crisp, and very sparing. It highlights the subtle crispness of the pork fat. The fruit preparation should be even more sparing, so that it doesn’t assert too much overt fruitiness but instead just highlights the sweetness. It shouldn’t be overly hydrated, so that it presents as chewy instead of pasty. I’ll use a fruit like dried pears, with perhaps a little dried peach mixed in for interest. Nothing acid like apple or apricot, nothing powerfully individualistic like strawberry or mango. The toasted pine nuts highlight the caramel flavor, and I would coarsely chop them and add them as a sparing afterthought of flavor.
This would of course turn out to be a tiny dish. Pork fat is the main ingredient, and no one wants to eat a great deal of that (even I, who admit that it tastes good). I think a tiny, tiny napoleon would be a good presentation. I would make the puff pastry into layers, rolled exceedingly thin and baked at a low enough temperature not to get painfully hard but just to crisp all the way through. I would make three layers, and coat each of these with a very thin layer of fruit. I would then make two layers of pork fat between these, and cover the sides in pine nuts. The entire dish would be about one inch by two inches.
Now I just need to figure out: how could I cook the pork fat correctly? I have no idea.