Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Snout-to-Tail, Stout-to-Pale

28 02 2010

photo by Phil

When you see those blue Eating About Beer napkins, you know you’re in for an adventure…

Earlier this month I was selected to participate in Foodbuzz’s 24 24 24 event that showcases posts from 24 different bloggers on 24 different meals in a 24-hour period. My dinner theme was a head-to-tail pork dinner with beer pairings for each course. I got together with a couple of the other guys from Eating About Beer to help make it happen. Eating About Beer is a group of friends focused on elevating food and beer pairing and just general beer and food awesomeness. To read about our first dinner that took place last November, click here.

The idea for this dinner was to do a head-to-tail pork dinner focusing on some common and some less commonly used pieces of the pig and then pairing those dishes each with a beer to highlight the flavors of the dish. After loads of running around picking up random (surprisingly expensive) pig parts, beer and veggies and doing a lot of prep, we pulled it off last night and it was great. A lot of the pictures in this post are by my friend Phil again, whose photo blog you can check out here.

photo by Phil

I think there will have to be some more posts later explaining some of these dishes in further detail because some of them were worth remembering and recreating. In place of bread and cheese as a snack before the meal, we had a few bowls of pork rinds that we spiced up a little bit. We tossed one bowl of them with hot sauce and another with Meyer lemon zest and cayenne pepper. Goooood stuff.

And then came the real food…

First Course

We started off with fried pig ears over a salad of watercress and radish dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette.

photo by Phil

This was paired with Saison Dupont – a light, fresh and slightly sour Belgian farmhouse ale to complement the fresh spiciness of the salad and the crunchy fried ears.


Second Course

Next up was a fresh homemade bratwurst over homemade soft pretzels and Eric’s amazingly awesome homemade sauerkraut topped off with a beer mustard sauce and some pickled mustard seeds. Check out Eric’s blog about all things fermentation Awesome Pickle.

photo by Phil

Naturally, we had to pair this one with German style beer… it just wouldn’t have been right otherwise. We went with a Marzen from Gorden Biersch, here in town. Slightly caramel-y, bready and malty with enough hops to cut through. Marzen (meaning March beer – which was brewed in March to be served in September) is a traditional Oktoberfest beer and it was pretty much made to be consumed alongside large quantities of pork.


Third Course

Third round was trotters (pig feet!) in a Korean kimchi jigae-like stew with kimchi, daikon and rice cakes, topped with green onion.

photo by Phil

We paired this one with the Hitachino’s Nest Red Rice Ale from the Kiuchi Brewery in Japan. And not only did the flavor pair well, it was red too!


Fourth Course

Next up was the pork jowls. We did a classic Italian dish of pasta all’amatriciana. For this one we used the guanciale that I’ve had curing & drying here for around a month. We served the sauce over homemade pasta and topped it off with some Pecorino Romano.

photo by Phil

We paired this one with a Duchess du Borgogne, a Flanders red-ale style beer from Brouwerij Verhaeghe in Belgium. The slightly sweet, sour tanginess of this one really did a number on that sweet, tart tomato sauce.


Fifth Course

Finally the part you’ve been waiting for… the head! This was definitely the most fun part of all of this to prepare, but it was also the biggest shot in the dark because this was the first time I’ve ever dealt with a head of a pig… or any other beast, for that matter. I decided that I really wanted to do more of a roast than a porchetta di testa lunchmeaty type of deal so I decided to take it more the traditional porchetta route. I removed the face/jowls, trimmed it down a little, rolled it up and we roasted it pretty much all afternoon. Then to serve it we cut up a few little pieces of the different parts for each plate. The round one is snout! We served it with simple vinegar pickled vegetables and a spiced mango sauce dressed up to look like mustard.

photo by Phil

This one was paired with Russian River’s Temptation Ale. This one is a sour Belgian style ale that’s aged for almost a year in used French Chardonnay barrels. It has a really interesting and complex flavor profile because of that and it went really well with both the meat and the pickles. Nice slightly smoky malt flavors to compliment the roast pork but also some tartness to hook up with the pickled veggies.


Sixth Course – Dessert

And finally, dessert. I went pretty simple on this one but also had to keep the pig prominent. Chocolate creme brulee topped with candied bacon bits. The bacon I used was my homemade bacon.

photo by Phil

We paired this one with Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Breakfast Beer – an oatmeal stout brewed with coffee. Not really much explanation necessary… chocolate + smokey bacon + smokey stout + coffee = amazing.


And here’s the lineup of beers in order.

That was the meal. Now for the fun part… some more of the process…

Ear Salad

Whole ears that were simmered for about an hour with the trotters. (I think longer would have been better because they were still pretty tough in the middle down that white stripe of cartilage you can see in the next photo of the slices.

photo by Phil

photo by Phil

photo by Phil


Sausage & pretzels

Soaking the intestines to be stuffed…

Israel fighting with my stupid stuffer while I just hang out and catch the sausage… I think this is really what they’re talking about when they say food porn.

Testing thermometer accuracy… the digital was way off. Could have killed our yeast!

Rolling out pretzels


Trotter Jigae

Trotters were simmered for about 3 hours until they were falling apart

We attempted to make trotter cakes (inspired by In Praise of Sardines) but they just fell apart in the end. Still delicious. They were seasoned with garlic, Korean chili flakes, sesame seeds and salt to throw a little more Korean flavor in the mix.


Tagliatelle All’amatriciana

Making the pasta…

Making the sauce…

Slice the guanciale

Dice the guanciale

Sweat some fat out of it and crisp it up a bit

Slice the onions super thin and sautee them in that fattyness until they’re soft

Reduce a bottle of white wine in it and then add a big can of San Marzano tomatoes and let it simmer for a couple hours really low and then season to taste

And we had to test out the pairing in the kitchen too, of course…


Pig’s Head Porchetta

This one was my attempt at creating something like a porchetta but with the head. After removing all of the meat and face from the bone (see previous post here) and seasoning it and letting it sit for a day and a half or so, we took it out and decided that this pig’s head was just way too big to roll into itself. So we cut off one of the jowls and saved it for later. Trimmed a bit off of the one still connected to the rest of the face to make it more even, and then seasoned it with rosemary, lemon zest, garlic, salt and pepper.

Then we scored it, rolled it up and tied it.

Rosemary, thyme and lemon straight from the back yard – super local.

After about 4+ hours of slow roasting, it was perfectly cooked inside but the skin was a little hard so we ended up not using it. How bout that snout??

Cutting some slices

photo by Phil

Plating it

photo by Phil


Baco-choco Brulee

Candied bacon… who would have thought? I got the idea from David Lebovitz’s recipe for Candied Bacon Ice Cream. Mine didn’t look quite like his because I cut it really thick but I did essentially the same thing… covered it with brown sugar and baked it. Sooooo good.

photo by Phil

Israel, Eric & me
photos by Phil

Menu Recap:

Fried Pig Ear Salad with watercress, radish and balsamic vinaigrette – paired with Brasserie Dupont Saison Dupont (Tourpes, Belgium)

Bratwurst, soft pretzel, sauerkraut, beer mustard and pickled mustard seeds – paired with Gorden Biersch Marzen (San Francisco, CA)

Trotter Kimchi Jigae with daikon and rice cakes – paired with Hitachino’s Nest Red Rice Ale (Ibaraki, Japan)

Pasta All’amatriciana – paired with Brouwerij Verhaeghe Duchess du Borgogne (Vichte, Belgium)

Pig Head Porchetta – paired with Russian River Brewing Company Temptation (Santa Rosa, CA)

Chocolate Creme Brulee with candied bacon – paired with Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast Beer (Copenhagen, Denmark)

Here’s a little gallery of closeups of each of the beers (click to enlarge)

photo by Phil


*All of the pork came from Range Brothers through Prather Ranch Meat Company. It’s pricey but some of the best pork I’ve ever tasted… and you can rest easy knowing that it comes from happy pigs.

Links to related pages…
Eating About Beer
Awesome Pickle
Phil –
Prather Ranch Meat Company



26 02 2010

Just a little preview of what’s to come… tonight I de-boned the head of what appears to have been an absolute behemoth of a hog. And boy was she a beaut. This pretty much means removing the skull while trying to keep everything else in one big butterflied piece. Fun stuff. It sounds way more gross than it really was. It’s actually pretty interesting once you get over the fact that it’s a massive head. I used Chris Cosentino’s Porchetta di Testa video tutorial as a bit of training to prepare myself…

This pig was a fatty. Fatty fat fat. The head alone weighed what felt like around 30lbs – no joke. And I won’t even mention how much it cost because honestly it was a little ridiculous, considering it’s a head. But judging by the amount of mud all over his face, I’d guess he was a pretty happy hog.

By the time I got it all disassembled (in once piece!) it started to look like a good amount of meat. I’m pretty excited about what this is going to turn into but also a little nervous because a lot of money has gone into this head and if it’s not amazing I’m gonna be pretttttty disappointed.

First step = giving the head a good shave all over to remove all the leftover stubble and the few big hairs that were still hanging around. I didn’t have a torch to burn off the tricky to get to ones so I had to just give it a proper shave.

In the end, it looked pretty much like this:

Ears on top, snout on bottom, holes where the eyes were and giant fatty jowls.

After that I seasoned with a little salt, pepper and thyme from the back yard and tossed it in a bag to marinate until Saturday.


And of course, in the spirit of not wasting and in the spirit of getting every drop of flavor out of every bit, I roasted the skull and am simmering it over night to make stock. Definitely the most hardcore looking pot of stock I’ve ever made…

More to come…

I’m Still Here…

25 02 2010

I’m still here! I’ve been busy. Out of town, girlfriend in town, work… lots going on. I’m preparing for a pretty awesome dinner this weekend that you’ll definitely be hearing about on Sunday. I was selected by Foodbuzz to be part of their 24 24 24 monthly dinners segment so look forward to reading about my “Head to Tail” pork paired with beer dinner this weekend. I’m doing 6 pork-centric courses each paried with a specific brew from craft breweries around the world.

Some breweries that will be showcased…

Russian River – CA
Mikkeller – Denmark
Brasserie Dupont – Belgium
Brouwerij Verhaeghe – Belgium
Kiuchi Brewery – Japan

And parts of the pig that those brews will be highlighting…


More to come this weekend… I promise I’ll start posting more again soon.

Baco Cakes

4 02 2010

Vegetarians, read on. This is for you too and there’s nothing too too graphic… you can just ignore anything swine-related.

Since it’s almost the weekend, I thought some breakfast would be good inspiration. And this, seriously anyone can make. It was the first thing I ever learned to make from scratch in the kitchen – pancakes. I still remember making them every Saturday morning growing up. That was my job in the kitchen… and to this day, some 20 years later, it’s still the only recipe that I know straight off the top of my head. I even remember what page it came from in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. You know the one – the classic gingham patterned book that was on the shelf of probably just about every Midwestern kitchen in the 80’s.

In this photo – everything you need to make pancakes. Goood pancakes. If this is it, why do we ever use Bisquick? I don’t know. These pancakes are so good you’ll never use a boxed mix again, promise.

And then, as if they weren’t good enough already, I decided that since I had a fresh slab of homemade bacon hot off the smoker less than 24 earlier, what better way to put it to use than… in my pancakes. This is the first time I’ve added the bacon twist to these cakes but it definitely won’t be the last. I figured, we eat plenty of bacon with pancakes, why not just cut to the chase and stuff it inside. Kill two stones with one bird, no?

So the first thing I did was fry up the bacon and render off some of the fat. Now this fat – from these amazing hogs – is like gold. And you have to treat it that way… any of it that comes out, gets saved and used in some way later. This stuff is no normal bacon grease… no no no this is some special stuff. Flavor like you wouldn’t believe, and I plan on savoring every last bit – just not all at once. I’m saving up for a bacon fat milkshake…

So actually, after I fried the bacon and poured off the grease, I decided to substitute a little bit of it for about half of the oil that goes into the pancake mix. I also used it to grease the pan I was frying them in instead of butter like I usually would.

So, this is how they go:

Best Pancakes Ever
Adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook circa 1988

1.5 cups flour
2 Tbsp sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt – just a nice little pinch

1 egg
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp oil (vegetable, olive, canola – or slightly warmed bacon fat)

Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix the wet ingredients in a smaller bowl.
Mix the wet into the dry.
If the mixture is too thick or too thin, adjust with more flour or more milk accordingly. The consistency can vary, depending on how thick you like your pancakes. I prefer mine nice and fluffy so I tend to make my batter about the consistency of… a milkshake. But not a thin runny one, a good milkshake… but not an extra thick one either. Just a perfect consistency milkshake. I love milkshakes.

This is when I added the chopped up bacon.

When you’re ready to go, heat up a frying pan (I prefer nonstick – it makes things so much easier) over medium heat. I test it by flicking a drop of water on it – If it sizzles, you’re ready to go.

There are a couple of crucial moves to ensure your pancakes are perfect:

1. Don’t overmix the batter. Only mix it until the ingredients are incorporated and relatively smooth. If you beat it forever, you’ll make glue.
2. Only flip once. EVER. None of that flipping and flipping until you have the right color. Get it right the first time. You cook it on one side, flip it and it’s done. End of story, no questions.

Don’t flip until it’s done on the first side and once you get to that point, it doesn’t take more than just giving it a little color on the second side to be done. You’ll start to see little craters forming and filling in on top of the pancake. When those start to slow and it’s golden brown on the first side it’s ready to flip. Usually it’ll take a couple minutes. Then on the second side all you have to do is give it a little color and it’s ready to go.

It’ll look something like this when they’re ready to flip:

And when they’re done, they’ll look something like this:

And then of course, the marriage between bacon and maple syrup is a very stable one, sure to produce many children and last a long long time. And I’m sorry, I don’t care what anyone says about real maple syrup… when it comes to pancakes, it’s just not for me. I’ve had too many years of Log Cabin and nothing satisfies me like it does… sometimes I just need to get my corn syrup on, sorry.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts… & Chips

4 02 2010

Boring and quick but really great… roasted Brussels sprouts are amazing and it’s that time of year. They’re in season and they’re everywhere. Forget about steaming them or even boiling and caramelizing, bla bla bla… just cut off the butts, cut em in half, toss in olive oil, salt, pepper and throw them in the oven. 450 for about 20 to 30 minutes. Roasted and hot but still a little bit crunchy. Perfectly cooked miniature heads of cabbage.

And then toss them with whatever you like… I like balsamic and red pepper flakes.

Now on to the fun part – every time you make brussels sprouts, when you cut them in half and toss them around you loose so many loose pieces of skin. Usually those little suckers head straight to the compost. The wheels in my tiny brain have been churning for a long time now trying to figure out what to do with them…. there has to be something! Well, finally it clicked – turn them into chips.

It’s all about utilizing the stuff you’d normally throw away and getting something that’s even better and more fun to eat from your scraps… forget about the sprouts – I’m gonna start pulling apart the entire sprouts and just making chips out of them after this revelation.

They cook at a different rate than the whole heads so you have to put them on a separate sheet and roast them on their own. I tossed them in the same bowl I used for the sprouts with a tiny bit of oil and a little more salt and pepper. Then onto a cookie sheet and roasted until the edges were turning brown.

At this point they’re totally crispy and great. Totally edible but still a little firm in the thicker parts and I wanted to see if I could really get them crispy. This is where self control comes into play – just pretend like you never had them at all. Toss them aside and forget you ever saved them.

At this point I let them cool and put em in a tupperware container until the next day. They were totally soggy by then but another five to ten minutes in the oven crisped them up to full on crispy crunchy chips. No picture of the final product but you can trust me that if I ever do have a restaurant – you’ll be eating these little crispies while you wait for your food before you ever see olives and bread or anything else…

Lentil Soup

2 02 2010

Lentils are another amazing ingredient that I always forget about… last week I rediscovered them. This was sortof an Indian spiced lentil soup with kale and zucchini, among other things. Again – super easy…

I sweated a little bit of garlic, carrots and onion in some olive oil and after a couple minutes I tossed in a chunk of peeled ginger and some red lentils in and mixed it all together. While it was nice and oily, I added a nice little pile of garam masala and tossed it all to coat the lentils. When you’re using spices in a dish that’s got a lot of liquid, it’s best to add them to the dry ingredients before the liquid so that they can incorporate slowly – this way you won’t get big clumps of spices.

After the spices were good and mixed in, I covered the lentils with chicken stock and let it simmer for about 20 minutes or so. You could use whatever – vegetable stock, water… whatever you have.

While that was going, I chopped up my leftover kale and zucchini to bulk it up a little bit. I decided to wait to add them until close to the end so that they kept a little bit firm and added some texture. Sometimes I love my soup the consistency of baby food all the way through… and sometimes I don’t.

Because the red/orange lentils are so small and split, they cook up pretty quick. When they were getting soft… about 20 minutes (I think?) later, I added the zucchini and let it cook for a couple minutes and then mixed in the kale.

All said and done, under an hour for a great, easy meat-free dinner… booyakasha.

Lentil Soup
In order of appearance:

3 cloves garlic
1 small yellow onion
1 medium or 2 baby carrots
1″ chunk of fresh ginger
1 cup red lentils
2 Tbsp garam masala
2 cups stock (or water)
1 medium zucchini
1-2 cups chopped fresh kale (or other greens)
salt & black pepper to taste

Garlic, onion, carrots + olive oil. Simmer. Add lentils, coat with spices, add stock, simmer, add zucchini, simmer, add kale, season, eat.

Pig Party, Part II

1 02 2010

Following the natural progression of things in my kitchen this past weekend everything kindof linked together in a big sausage link-like chain. It’s hard to decide what order to explain them in but I’m choosing this one.

So after a bit over a week of curing in the fridge, my pork belly was almost baconized. I yanked it out, rinsed it off and tossed it on a rack to dry off and develop a little tackiness for the smoke to stick to. While this was happening, I fired up my smoker…

I used to do it on a Weber and I’ve even done it on a little hibachi. It’s not impossible, just takes a lot more effort to keep the temp low in such a small space and still keep the coals hot enough to make the wood chips smoke.

First you soak the wood chips for smoking (that you can get at the hardware store or wherever else they sell grill supplies, usually) in water for a little bit. Long enough that they’re not going to just flame up and burn when you toss em on the coals… you want them to smolder and give you lots of wet, hot smoke. There are other ways to do it, but I always just use charcoal… you don’t need much and if you do it right it’ll last the whole two hours, amazingly… the trick with charcoal is that you:

1. Don’t use matchlight. I don’t care how easy it is, it burns up three times as fast as real charcoal and just doesn’t burn the same.
2. When you put the lighter fluid on you have to wait until it soaks in or the coals are just going to burn out. This applies to all grilling, not just here. Wait about a minute after soaking with fluid and then light the coals.

After that, toss the bacon on the grill once you’ve got it warmed up and smoking and then pull it off two hours later and you’ve got bacon. Voila. Seriously, this shit is better than anything you’ve ever bought in a store. Do yourself a favor and give it a shot. It’s too easy…

I also finished the guanciale a few days ago… it took more than the 4 days I was expecting, but by about 6 days it was nice and firm so I rinsed off the cure and hung it up over the stove. You want somewhere cool and slightly humid so it doesn’t dry out too quick.