Brace Yourself: Pineapple Steaks and Riesling

By Sean Kenniff | Caroline Hatchett


Sean Kenniff
Caroline Hatchett
Pineapple Steak, Bacon Lardon, Black Mole, Jalapeño Jam, Garden Basil, Dill, and Harpke Cilantro
Pineapple Steak, Bacon Lardon, Black Mole, Jalapeño Jam, Garden Basil, Dill, and Harpke Cilantro

At The Federal, Cesar Zapata’s bacon fat-infused pineapple steak is an American original. And, depending on what part of the country you’re from, you might see it, taste it, and be reminded of a classic baked ham with pineapple or traditional tacos al pastor. That duality and the audacity of a pineapple steak with mole—and an odd sprig of dill—make it at home in Miami, where individuality is expressed on the plate. Here’s how the herbaceous, acidic, savory dish breaks down, drinks down, and comes together. 

Pineapple Steak:
The pineapple’s charred crust—candied and blessed by the bacon fat—mimics the Maillard reaction on a true steak. The infused pork flavor shouts out to the pork stock at the soul of the mole. 

These crisp, juicy pork nuggets add rich meaty-ness to the dish. The pineapple absorbs that personality, becoming a steak—more than a slice of sweet tropical fruit. 

Black Mole:
Chiles, nuts, warm spices, chocolate, pork, and a ripe banana (plus another dozen ingredients) combine to make a spicy-savory mole. The characteristic complexity brings depth to the dish and lassos together all other flavors on the plate. 

Jalapeño Jam:
With an echo of acid, a shade of picante green-ness, and a straightforward jolt of capsaicin, the chile jam wakes up the palate. 

Thai basil and cilantro have an obvious home on the dish, but the dill comes hollering out of left field. The familiar herb is outright strange here, but it is the Jenga block without which the tower would crumble. 

Zapata’s business partner, wife, and sommelier, Aniece Meinhold, pairs the dish with a 2010 Mosel Riesling from Weingut Max Ferd. Richter. “The savory preparation of the pineapple with the pork lends itself to Riesling,” says Meinhold. “You need something that’s light and bright but rich and concentrated enough to stand up to the flavor."

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