WARNING: GRAPHIC ANIMAL PICTURES FOLLOW
(If you're vegetarian, you may want to skip this!)
As you know, this weekend my chef friend Tommy and I went to the Family Farmed Expo. It was really a motivating experience that made us want to cook with farm fresh ingredients. So, on the way home, Tommy came up with the idea of making head cheese. At first, I was a little apprehensive. Not about the head cheese itself, but of the process. Growing up Polish, I am accustomed to eating head cheese (which I actually enjoy). I knew the process would end up stinking up the house and I didn't want Brian to get upset (which, of course, he did). Luckily, Tommy is very adventurous and convinced me that this would be a good learning experience. As a chef, you always want to experiment and try new things. So, I thought, why the heck not. And here, my friends is my head cheese adventure from this past weekend:
STEP #1: FIND A PIG'S HEAD
This actually was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I guess you have to know where to look. As it so happens, Tommy is quite familiar with where to procure a pig's head. So, we went out to this old school butcher shop near the Illinois/Indiana border. We ended up buying a 12 lb pig head for $0.59 a pound. Total cost was a little over $6. We took home our head in a bag and went back to my kitchen. We proceded to unwrap it and lay it out on the counter. Then we thought, oh man, what are we getting ourselves into!
STEP #2: FIND A RECIPE
Having the pig's head on the counter and looking at each other like "what do we do next", we realized that neither of us knew how to procede. I decided to scan the vast library of cookbooks I had, but found no head cheese recipe. We then decided to Google head cheese and found only a handful of recipes using an actual pig's head. (Most recipes just use assorted pig parts). I can't for the life of me find the recipe we ended up using, but the videos and recipes all had the same first step, which (to this day) is the oddest thing I ever saw in a kitchen.
STEP #3: SHAVE YOUR PIG
Apparently you either need to burn off or shave off any remaining pig bristles the butcher may have left on. Since I didn't want the smell of burning hair in my kitchen, I got out the disposable razor and let Tommy have all the fun.
STEP #4: SOAK YOUR PIG
You then need to soak your pig head in a brine for at least 5 hours to overnight. This draws out all of the remaining blood from the pig. We made a flavorful bath and set the pig head outside (luckily it was very cold) to rest overnight. (Note: I finally got to bust out this 8 gallon stock pot that had been sitting in the garage for years. I bought it super cheap on sale at Williams-Sonoma, but never found a use for it...until this weekend)
STEP #9 REFLECT ON A FULL BELLY
Would I ever make head cheese again? No, probably not. It took the entire weekend and smelled up my kitchen. (Luckily the stink is gone now). But, I can say that I've made head cheese now and like Brian says, I can cross it off my bucket list. As a chef, it was interesting to see the whole process from start to finish, but I think I'll stick to just buying it at the Polish deli.
White Wine: $4.99
Old Bay: $3.99
Salmon Fillet: $7.05 (See Note)
Spicy Brown Mustard: $2.19
Brown Sugar: had
Being in an experimental mood on Monday, I decided to forgo the salmon and use shark steaks instead. (It was the same price as two salmon fillets.) I've never had shark before and thought it would be a great alternative. Plus, I like feeding Brian new things.
FAST: This recipe took me 25 minutes from start to finish. The fish takes 15 minutes to cook in the oven and another 3 to broil. Prep will take you about 6 minutes to do the cooking liquid and to measure everything out.
EASY: As always, this recipe was super easy. There really was nothing hard about the process.
FRESH: Surprisingly yes. The white wine and Old Bay seasoning really pepped up the flavors.
OVERALL: I think I like shark. It's a really meaty fish (reminds me of ahi tuna) that had no fishy taste what-so-ever. Brian enjoyed it as well. I would have given the fish a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, but otherwise it's a good, simple recipe. No changes needed. (I suppose you could use dijon mustard if you didn't have spicy brown).
Well, I'm all blogged out. Tomorrow is St. Patty's day and we've got a Irish Soda Bread recipe. See ya tomorrow!