This Little Piggy, Offal Goodness & My Soapbox

I’ll start by saying that if you don’t want to know where your meat comes from, you can stop right here.  I’m a bit ramped up tonight, but I’ll try to keep myself contained.  It’s been one of those days.  Yesterday I watched the New Orleans episode of No Reservations.  I really enjoy the show and think that Anthony Bourdain goes to some pretty cool places.  But what really impressed me was that The Travel Channel didn’t back down from showing chef Bourdain shoot a pig, followed by about 20 minutes of intense pig butchery.  It was a true celebration of head to tail cooking that is rarely shown on prime time television.

During lunch at work today I was telling some of my cooks about the show.  I have to admit that I have some really talented people working for me, but there are some who are just in it for a paycheck.  The conversation somehow spiraled out of control into a discussion about tv in general, and then The Jersey Shore.  I could go on about what I think of that show.  I just think it’s really a shame that people can name more cast members from that show than they can primal cuts of meat (and especially sad if they’re in the culinary field). 

This prompted me to post the pictures of the pig’s head that I cooked at home not too long ago.  We have so many great farms here in Frederick & Carroll counties.  With the great farmers’ markets, I rarely have to buy meat from the larger grocery stores.  When somebody at worked told me that they raise pigs, the first thing I asked was “What do you do with the head?”  I was told that they usually give it to their butcher to have.  Two days later I found myself with a precious gift.  Much to my wife’s dismay, I brought it home to cook instead of doing it at work.  What follows are some of the pictures I took during the process.  This was my first time and I hope to get better with practice.

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I did the best I could trimming the meat from the head.  I watched all of Chris Cosentino’s Youtube videos numerous times and there was no way I was getting all that meat off in one piece.  The whold head was too big for my stock pot at home, so I had to remove the lower half of the jaw to get it to fit.

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After boiling I seperated the ears and snout from the rest of the head meat.

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While the head was boiling, I roasted the cheeks with rosemary, thyme, garlic, peppercorns, juniper berries & Shiraz

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Once the head meat was seperated in to piles of fat, meat & trash I made a torchon roughly following David Chang’s recipe in the Momofuku cookbook.  I had that dish at his restaurant and it blew me away.

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I made a rustic head cheese.  I would make it in a loaf pan next time.  It was good, but I admit to rushing it a bit.

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So, where does this leave us?  I’m not really going to preach about eating head to tail.  I know it’s not for everyone.  I just get angry when people make ignorant comments when I talk about cooking and eating offal.  Many of us are fortunate enough to afford prime cuts of meat all the time, but that hasn’t always been the case, and it still isn’t in many areas.  I took what one person was getting rid of and turned it into several unique, tasty dishes.  I would strongly encourage everybody to keep an open mind about eating some of these items.  If you live in or near Frederick, MD you can get great organ meat at the Saturday Farmers’ Market.  Also, the lamb kidneys, heart & testicles frequently found at The Common Market are amazing if you have some ideas of how to prepare them.

I would like to thank the following chefs for serving amazing food and helping bring awareness to the lesser cuts of meat.  Follow them on Twiiter and visit their restaurants.  You won’t be disappointed.

Anthony Bourdain @NoReservations for kind of inspiring this post with your great show 

The Frederick Farmers’ Market @FrFarmersMarket for giving local producers a venue to sell their meat.  They really have it all.

James Strine- Mick’s New American Bistro Frederick, MD @JamesStrine76

Bryan Voltaggio- Volt Frederick, MD @BryanVoltaggio

Jamie Bissonnette- Coppa & Toro Boston, MA @JamieBiss

Matthew Jennings- La Laiterie Providence, RI @MatthewJennings

Marc Vetri- Vetri, Osteria & Amis Philadelhia, PA @MarcVetri

Chris Cosentino- Incanto San Francisco, CA @OffalChris

David Chang- Momofuku empire New York City @DavidChang

Michael Symon- Lola, Lolita Cleveland, OH @ChefSymon

There are so many others who inspire me.  These are chefs who’s restaurants I have actually eaten offal in.  You haven’t had anything until you’ve had a shaved tongue crostini or fried pig tail with mostarda.

 

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One thought on “This Little Piggy, Offal Goodness & My Soapbox

  1. Nice! That must have been really fun. I loved what you said about people in your work being able to name more Jersey shore cast members than primal cuts! lol I have the same issue. My new guy thinks the morels we keep wistfully talking about are standards of behavior…rather than fungi.

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