The Spanish Pork Dish That Stunned Gordon Ramsay

Gordon Ramsay has experienced his fair share of exceptional food throughout his life. He trained under Michelin-starred chefs, has earned 17 Michelin stars over his career, and travels the world seeking culinary adventures on his show, "Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted." Thus, when a dish impresses him, his fans take notice. In a 2015 Reddit Ask Me Anything post, a fan inquired about Ramsay's favorite unusual food combinations, to which the renowned chef replied, "I had an amazing doubled pork chop with rhubarb [in Spain]."

Ramsay was in Spain filming an episode of "Kitchen Nightmares," and it was one of his friends who prepared the dish in his own backyard garden. Initially, Ramsay was skeptical about the combination, as he associated the tart vegetable with desserts. He even thought his friend was attempting to impress him. However, upon tasting the double pork chop that had been "slow roasted over an open pit fire with rhubarb," the chef, in true Gordon Ramsay style, exclaimed, "Sh**! This is delicious!"

The versatility of rhubarb

Rhubarb is one of the hardier plants in America, able to withstand cold temperatures, but it is less tolerant of extreme heat. With Spain's scorching summer temperatures, rhubarb requires careful attention and plenty of shade. Additionally, growers need to ensure that the plants are kept away from animals like sheep and goats, who will readily eat the leaves — which are toxic to humans and animals — if given the chance.

Given the challenges of growing rhubarb in Spain, the fact that Gordon Ramsay got to enjoy it there is actually quite a treat. Ramsay did not specify how his rhubarb was prepared, so we don't know if it was sweetened (as it often is), but pairing pork with something tart is a classic combination. The acidic ingredient beautifully cuts through the fattiness of the pork, and offers a sharp flavor contrast. Just as apples, cherries, apricots, and pineapple can enhance pork dishes, rhubarb can do the same.

Eating pork with rhubarb certainly broadened Ramsay's appreciation for the versatility of the sour stalk, but he still enjoys using it in sweet desserts. His pistachio rhubarb layer cake features a compote made with rhubarb, strawberries, and prosecco, and is served with a sticky ginger toffee.

Rhubarb is perfect when paired with fat or sugar

Many people associate rhubarb with desserts like strawberry rhubarb pie, cobblers, and crumbles, but as Gordon Ramsay discovered, it can also be a perfect complement to meats and savory dishes. Rhubarb is notoriously tart, a quality that usually needs to be offset with some sugar. Due to its acidity, it effectively cuts through the fat in dishes like pork chops. Similarly, rhubarb pairs deliciously with skin-on, crispy chicken thighs, pork belly, and even baked salmon.

Consider pairing rhubarb with anything that has a substantial fat content, whether that's meats or cheeses. A rhubarb compote over baked brie or dolloped on a fontina grilled cheese would be delightful. In dishes that lean toward the sweeter side, incorporating a bit of tang from the sour vegetable can add an interesting dimension. Rhubarb can be used to create an excellent sweet and sour barbecue sauce, and chunks of the vegetable can be incorporated into dishes like tamarind honey shrimp and orange chicken.