May, 2010. After having the pleasure of watching the chefs at Kokkari break down a pig, we got to practice our new found skills on our own little pig. For a dinner we prepared for family and close friends. Minh (Tofu Master) hooked us up with a pig from Devil’s Gulch Ranch which Matt and I picked up in Petaluma at Bud’s Custom Meats which not only sports a kick ass name, but also sells all sorts of awesome meat products like sausages and different cuts of beef, pork, wild boar, bison, venison and other types of meat. They also process and store whole animals which is why we picked up our pig there. It was a pretty small pig of about 70 to 80 pounds and it had already been gutted (thankfully) and split in half which made breaking it down later a whole lot easier.
That night, Matt, Dave, PK and I got busy breaking down the pig and figuring out what to do with it. First, we wanted to make porchetta – basically a cylinder of roasted pork (pork belly – ribs removed – loin and tenderloin all rolled up with the skin and fat on the outside so it gets nice and crispy).
Next, we wanted to make sausages using the meat from the shoulders (what’s known as the butt) and back fat, but the pig was so skinny that there was very little excess fat for sausages. So, we decided to cut up the shoulder meat into chunks for a meat ragu. The hind quarters of the pig (the hams) we decided to brine for a couple of days and cook whole. The bones we roasted so we could boil into a broth which we later incorporated in the ragu. Check out the video below a more detailed account (at least when I remembered to shoot) of the cooking and the eating. (More photos of pigging out).
Not captured in the video or the photos were some of the other wonderful dishes that people brought to share and which beautifully complimented the pig dishes. Thu and Gavin made a wonderful tofu salad. Cheryl and Cam brought a great coleslaw. Arlie made delectable asparagus. Marissa and Niall brought delicious pancit with pork of course. There was also corn bread, salad and other things that can’t remember but which I happily consumed. Oh, and add to that list the rich and creamy ginger, strawberry and mango ice creams all of which were homemade by Ronnie and Lawland. What a great way to end and epic meal.
Here’s how we made the liver pâté which though labor intensive, was actually quite simple. There are countless recipes for making pâté but PK, Matt and I used a recipe for country pâté from one of Matt’s cookbooks (I don’t remember which one). Basically, after cutting the liver into chunks, we seasoned it with salt and pepper and let it chill in the refrigerator for about eight hours. Then we seared the liver pieces because that’s what brings out the distinctive flavor. In the same pan we browned shallots until they were soft and nicely browned and finished them off by adding some brandy which also de-glazed the pan. After everything had again been chilled, we added to the liver the panade (a mixture heavy cream, eggs and bread) and a bit of pork meat (in our case pork butt). We put this mix through a meat grinder – which failed because we were missing a grinding blade so we used a food processor to finely grind liver and meat mix which we then seasoned with salt, pepper and I think some thyme. Then we put the mix in loaf pans and ramikens and poached them in a water bath for a couple hours. Once it was done, we weighted it down and let it chill.
Head Meat Terrine
The pig’s head meat terrine was equally labor intensive but again simple in concept and execution. After simmering the pig’s head along with the feet for about 4 hours in a pot of water seasoned with salt, pepper, cloves and bay leaves, Matt removed all the meat from the head which after four hours simmering, was falling off the bone. I’d say we got about a pound and a half of meat off the head. To this we added carrots which had been cooking in the pig head water and fresh parsley. We seasoned liberally with salt and pepper. As we were doing this, we were also taking some of the broth that resulted from the pig head simmering and reduced it so that we could concentrate the natural gelatins from the snout and pig’s feet. Once this concentrated broth had cooled to room temperature we poured it into a terrine into which we had already loaded the head meat. Once the liquid was equally distributed, we covered the terrine and put it into the refrigerator so it could chill and the natural gelatin could help it to set.
Matt made this ridiculously delicious and rich ragu. Here’s how he did it. He browned the chunks of pork meat in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. After putting aside the meat he used the same pots to brown onions to which he added red wine which also served to de-glaze the pots. He then added finely chopped celery and carrots and cooked these down. Next, he added stock (which we had made the day before from boiling the bones) reincorporated the meat and let it cook down for about an hour at about 350 in the oven to braise the meat. He then added some tomato paste to the ragu and popped it into the oven for another hour. He served the ragu with rigatoni and it was uh, kinda good.