I have a special recipe today for Pig's Head Torchon. It uses a real pig's head, shown above. The original recipe is from The Momofuku Cookbook.
I came across this pig's head from my local freecycle group. Freecycle is a group where people give away things they don't need any more- things like old furniture, kids clothes, books or... pig's heads. A woman posted a list of things she had to give away, and way down at the bottom, she listed: "2 Pig heads -- yes, pig heads. Frozen, organic, happy (mostly), free-range pigs we had raised & butchered. We got the head and thought we'd make something exotic with it but we haven't. I thought maybe someone knew what to do with it and would be happy to get it ?" Well, though I had no idea what to do with it, I am always up for trying new organic free range animals and was happy to get it!
I didn't tell my husband when I went to pick it up, but later that night, I couldn't keep it a secret any longer. "Why is the garage freezer plugged in?" he asked. "Oh, I got some pig parts today." Something in my voice must have tipped him off, "Chanelle, what kind of pig parts are we talking about?" "Oh, you know, just parts of a pig..." "Chanelle!" (If you've ever heard Ricky Ricardo call out "Lucy!" you'll know the tone he was using here.) "Well, the head part. And she gave me a heart too! And some fat to render into lard!"
Needless to say, he was not as excited as I was. The thought of eating the head of any animal just plain grossed him out. I have been giving a lot of thought to this pig, particularly this pig's head, as it has sat in my freezer for the past week or two. We are so disconnected from our food supply. In Food, Inc., they point out that there are no bones in our meat anymore. Most of the meat we buy is off the bone. It kind of separates us from the fact that this is a real animal we are eating. I think that, in a weird way, it shows respect to the animal to eat all of it. There's a philosophy out there about this, called head-to-toe eating, where you try to use ALL of the animals edible parts. It also shows respect for the earth as we try to waste less and use all that we can.
With all those thoughts in my head, it was time to deal with the head of the pig. First I boiled the head with some vegetables. Then came the hard part: separating the meat from the um, unusable parts. I expected to be grossed out by the eye; it really wasn't so bad. The tongue and the teeth were by far the "ickiest" part (to quote my mom). Regardless, I got through the meat picking and on with the recipe. This is what it looked like when I got through picking the meat.
I separated the meat from the fat to make the torchon. I then added salt, pepper and roasted garlic to the meat. I layed a layer of fat on plastic wrap and lay the meat on top of that. There is a surprising amount of meat on a pig head, mostly around the jaw. But since this pig was skinned (a good thing since I didn't have to look at the snout), I didn't have a big layer of fat. You can see in the picture below that there is much more meat than fat.
The next step is to roll it all up and refrigerate for 2 hours.
After refrigerating, you are supposed to slice it into 1 inch slices. My little roll didn't stick together, I think because there just wasn't enough fat/ skin. So, I improvised. I got out the food processor and pulsed the fat and the meat together. I was then able to form the meat and fat into little patties. I dipped each patty into 3 bowls: flour, egg and water mix, and bread crumbs. Then I fried them for a couple minutes on each side in a mixture of butter and olive oil.
The final verdict? Pretty good! My 5 year old ate 3, my daughter liked it and ate one, I ate two, and my husband... well, he knew it was pig's head and he tried it, so I think he gets points for that.