roast it up

roast it up

This is my new favorite meat sauce. The creamy stickiness of face fat and the distinct qualities of the various parts of the head make this one of the most satisfying and complex sauces I’ve tried. The tongue, the cheeks, the brains, the jowls, the pockets of flesh hidden deep within the ocular cavity (it’s like spelunking for meat) – each component adds a different texture and flavor. And making it couldn’t be easier. Season your head with salt and whatever else you want (I put some cinnamon and nutmeg), put it in a roasting pan, roast at 375 for 1.5 hour and 325 for another 2 hours, let cool in the pan until you can handle the flesh, peel off the skin, scrape and pull everything (everything) off the bones and back of the skin and leave in pan, then give it a coarse chop and mix around with all the pan drippings. This will give you the following:

carve it up

carve it up

A sloppy delicious mess of juicy and fatty meat. From this point on it’s like making a standard meat sauce. Sautee a battuto of onions/carrots/celery, add the meat, and then add your tomatoes (I used 2 cans of whole peeled tomatoes for the 1 head). Simmer for a while until the sauce reduces to your desired consistency and serve. Normally restaurants add butter and cream to thicken the consistency of a meat sauce. This has the unfortunate side effect of diluting the flavor. But this is not an issue given the unctuousness of the head meat (and particularly the rendered fat). Use fresh pasta to capitalize on all its sticky glory.

serve it up

serve it up

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Consult your doctor before trying this dish, it is not for the weak of heart. In Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s “Charcuterie”, they describe a recipe for pork belly confit used by Jim Drohman at Le Pichet in Seattle. Essentially it’s pork belly braised in duck fat and then deep fried. But believe me, the heart attack will be worth it. First, you’re going to need to secure yourself a pork belly. I got this glorious slab of love from Bobolink Farm in Vernon, NJ. If you join their mailing list they will email you when their meat (veal, pork, beef) becomes available and you can have it delivered to your door. The belly comes in a slab of approximately 10lbs: 10 lb pork bellyCut this beauty into approximately a 6lb and a 4 pound piece. I would make the fatter end the 4lb’er, as the fattier cut is better for roasting (which is what I did with it).

SkinRun a sharp knife along the underside of the skin pulling the skin back as you go. Keep as much of the fat on the meat as you can.

100_0088Cut into 1 inch wide strips and then divide into 1in x 3in chunks.

100_0089Toss with the following dry cure:

2 tbsp ground black pepper

1/2 tbsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

3 bay leaves crumbled

10 sprigs fresh thyme

4 tbsp salt

1 tsp pink salt (I did not use this)

100_0092Cover the pork in white wine. Cover and refrigerate for 24-36 hours.

100_0094Remove pork from cure, pat the pieces dry, place in an ovenproof pot/ dutch oven and cover with rendered fat (duck/pork). I needed a 5lb vat of duck fat to entirely cover the pieces. Bring to a simmer on the stovetop, remove from heat, and then place in the oven, uncovered, and cook until the pork is fork tender, about 2-3 hours.

100_0105Remove from the oven and let it cool to room temperature. Refrigerate in the pan it was cooked in – the pork should be completely submerged in the fat. Refrigerate until completely chilled or for up to 2 months.

100_0112Remove as many pieces as you’d like from the fat, wipe off the excess fat, and allow to come to room temperature. Heat a deep heavy pot of oil for deep-frying and deep-fry the pieces until crispy and heated through (about 2 minutes).¬† Remove and drain on paper towels.

100_0113Deep frying the pieces in oil (you can also fry them in the fat they were preserved in) makes them a bit crispy on the outside with a melting fatty texture on the inside. Ruhlman suggests serving with a simple salad with vinaigrette, some good mustard, and a crusty baguette. REALLY. REALLY. REALLY. GOOD.

I am counting the days until Liz and I go to San Fran in late May. I’m not sure that Incanto can possibly live up to my expectations, and videos like this just fuel my fire. The video also¬† clarifies what I did not like about the calves brain quiche that I had at KO Prime a while back. As Cosentino demonstrates, the key to good brains and eggs is not working the eggs too hard after adding them to the sauteed brains. Doing so will break the brains down, creating a uniformaly mushy dish as opposed to the one part mushy eggs, one part tender bits of brain that I imagine Incanto’s version of brains and eggs to be.