Each week, we’ll be publishing a recipe from I Like Pig, the official cookbook of New York’s Pig Island festival. Here’s the catch: Each recipe will focus on a different and glorious part of the pig, so you can cook your way through the whole swine. Today’s head cheese recipe comes courtesy of Sam Barbieri, chef and owner of Waterfront Ale House and Fuhgeddaboutit BBQ team.
The following has been excerpted from I Like Pig: Recipes and Inspiration from NYC’s Pig Island (Jimmy Pots and Pans Promotions, 2014) with permission.
Sam Barbieri was one of the first to promote, sell, and curate craft beers, way back when almost nobody knew what an IPA was. In fact, Steve Hindy, the co-founder of Brooklyn Brewery, was one of his early regulars. If that doesn’t make him New York City culinary royalty, consider that he’s been slow smoking meats and doing the competitive BBQ circuit for decades, often competing as the only team from Brooklyn.
Today he and his fellow members are more likely to judge than compete, but you can still taste his incredible handiwork (excellent smoked brisket and pulled pork, for example) at both locations of Waterfront Ale House. When he competes, Sam always makes head cheese—which despite its name is not a dairy product but one of France’s finest charcuterie traditions, made from the goodness that results when you poach the whole head of a pig in white wine. He passes out slices to his colleagues and competitors with a sour beer like Rodenbach Red, good dark bread, and mustard.
- 1 pig head, split in half if possible, brains and eyes removed
- 3 tablespoons sea salt
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground white pepper
- 1 tablespoons hot red pepper flakes
- 4 tablespoons herbs de Provence
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 carrot, sliced
- 1 leek, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 cups white wine
- ½ cup chopped red bell pepper
- ½ cup chopped cornichons
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Rub head with sea salt, white pepper, red pepper and 1 tablespoon herbs de Provence. Let cure, refrigerated, for two days. Rinse head, remove the tongue and refrigerate for later use, and then place the head in a large soup pot. Add wine, herbs de Provence, vegetables and then water to cover. Bring to a boil, and then simmer several hours until the meat is fork tender.
Remove head from pot and let it cool. Strain and reserve the poaching liquid. When the head is cool enough to handle, separate it into fat and meat from the jowls, ears and other parts. Roughly chop the meat and ears, and then take the gelatinous fat and pulse it briefly in a food processor until it is almost creamy in texture. It might require two batches, depending on the size of your head.
Meanwhile, poach the tongue and the diced red pepper in some of the braising liquid until the tongue is cooked through. Roughly chop the tongue. Then place all ingredients — meat, pulsed fat, tongue, cornichons and vinegar — together in a large bowl, adding just enough braising liquid to cover the mix. You may also add a few of the carrots from the braising liquid, roughly chopped as well for color. Mix well with a spatula and season with salt, pepper and more vinegar to taste.
Place the mixture in terrine molds or loaf pans and chill overnight. Gently unmold, running a warm knife around the edge of the pan, and slice to serve.