Pete’s Travels: 36 Hours in Washington D.C.

Last weekend Kristi, Janet and I headed to Washington D.C. to visit our friends Lenny and Shelley (yes all of my friend’s names end in y).  We got back yesterday and as I write this I am on a flight to Las Vegas for a tradeshow.  So, lots of restaurant eating and not much cooking lately.  I described my feelings on writing about restaurants about a year ago but in case you missed it:

“Aside from my Philly post, I generally avoid giving any kind of restaurant reviews on this blog.  There are 200,000 active restaurant blogs with over 95% of them located in the 25 biggest cities in the U.S.  Pretty crazy right?  Well, I made most of that up but I’m guessing it’s relatively accurate, and what I am trying to say is that area of blogging is pretty well covered.  Who needs another blog that tries to sound like Bourdain while they give the millionth opinion posted online of a Best of Boston restaurant’s seared scallops.  I’ll save you some time: they tasted good and were cooked well.”

I still feel that way, but in the interest of writing something this week, and because we did some pretty dece grubbin’ between our late night arrival Friday and our exit on Sunday, here’s my recap of 36 hours in DC.

After Janet woke up in the 7s on Saturday we went for a walk to the Dupont Circle Farmers Market and discovered it is only open on Sunday.  At which point we headed home hungry, researched the new Union Market and drove out there.  I was immediately reminded of Reading Terminal Market in Philly except it was newer, cleaner, and everything just looked nicer.

Every food stand had a cool name and ornate signage.  In Philly all of the restaurants look like this, but you get to Reading Terminal market and most of the signage is handwritten on the bottom of a previously used paper plate.  I’m exaggerating, but the truth isn’t too far off

Every food stand had a cool name and ornate signage. In Philly all of the restaurants look like this, but you get to Reading Terminal market and most of the signage is handwritten on the bottom of a previously used paper plate. I’m exaggerating, but the truth isn’t too far off

To continue Lenny and my longstanding pattern of arriving at restaurants before they start serving, we got to Union Market 15 minutes before most of the restaurants opened.  Which brought us to Buffalo Bergen, the only establishment open for breakfast and serving authentic NY style boiled bagels and a few unique knish options.

I will eat any bagel but I also understand that most of them are crap.  They can never hold up to the NJ and NY bagels that I grew up eating, but the bagel with cream cheese and scallions at Buffalo Bergen was one of the best I’ve had outside NJ.  And because I was extremely hungry, I got a braised short rib knish as well.

This knish was great, but while it cooked/cooled I annoyed everyone within earshot gushing about how brilliant it was that instead of scallion cream cheese, the bagel was served with cream cheese and a handful of crunchy fresh chopped scallions pressed into the cream cheese.  I was probably a little over the top, but it made a big difference

This knish was great, but while it cooked/cooled I annoyed everyone within earshot gushing about how brilliant it was that instead of scallion cream cheese, the bagel was served with cream cheese and a handful of crunchy fresh chopped scallions pressed into the cream cheese. I was probably a little over the top, but it made a big difference

Since there were potatoes mixed in with the shredded short rib, this knish was basically like an entire dinner surrounded by flaky pastry.  And that’s a good thing.  The short rib was tender and had the traditional pot roast-like flavor I associate with slow cooked short ribs.  I was surprised that the Dijon mustard they served on the side actually went really well with it, but, that’s why they do this professionally and I just play make believe.

When the other food establishments started opening we noticed that Red Apron butcher served Bells Two Hearted Ale, my fav thing and brewed near where Shell grew up in Michigan.  We stopped in for a pint (I’m really happy I haven’t admitted what time stuff opened) and while there I stared at their class case of house made charcuterie.  After being asked to leave multiple times due to the nose grease smudges and knish breath fog I was applying to the glass, I ordered a couple ounces of their liverwurst and morel mushroom & pork terrine.

A Jack Ryan favorite, and also one of mine.  I have been loudly mocked by sassy deli counter workers twice in my life when ordering liverwurst, and my fear of that experience keeps me from ordering it more than once or twice a year.  Soooo, yeah, I fully believe mocking and humiliation can lead to better health

A Jack Ryan favorite, and also one of mine. I have been loudly mocked by sassy deli counter workers twice in my life when ordering liverwurst, and my fear of that experience keeps me from ordering it more than once or twice a year. Soooo, yeah, I fully believe mocking and humiliation can lead to better health

The consistency of terrines keeps me away from them a lot of the time, but mushrooms make everything better for me.  That may be the most Bates College thing I have ever said in my life

The consistency of terrines keeps me away from them a lot of the time, but mushrooms make everything better for me. That may be the most Bates College thing I have ever said in my life

Liverwust is cheap food; usually it is the lowest priced deli meat in the case because it’s made with a lot of cheap cuts.  I’d never had an artisanal version of it and couldn’t imagine that it would be as different as it actually was.  The flavor was rich, distinctly porky and didn’t have the strong liver flavor that hits you right away with the cheaper stuff.  However, you did get a pretty sharp liver aftertaste at the end which I didn’t mind but made Lenny not enjoy his sample much.  You know who did enjoy it?

Not to get too sappy but we often talk about how much Janet reminds us of Pop Ryan when she smiles and how she’s like a little Jack Ryan.  As stupid as her enjoying scrapple, liverwurst, and other weird Dad foods seems, it makes me smile more than any normal food could.  Keep grubbin’ like the greats ‘lil gal!

Not to get too sappy but we often talk about how much Janet reminds us of Pop Ryan when she smiles and how she’s like a little Jack Ryan. As stupid as her enjoying scrapple, liverwurst, and other weird Dad foods seems, it makes me smile more than any normal food could. Keep grubbin’ like the greats ‘lil gal!

The terrine was also pretty tasty and I found it more enjoyable than most terrines.  The pork meat was so well blended with fat that it had a creamy texture you normally would associate with a mousse but still with some of the meat grain.  The mushroom flavor wasn’t as strong as I was hoping but added a nice texture contrast along the way.

Since I was momentarily stuffed on meat products we all headed off to explore the other offerings in the market like oysters at Rappahannock.

Kristi enjoyed her half dozen sampler though she’s become accustomed to the incredibly briny ones in New England so she was slightly disappointed.  She will likely be more disappointed that I used this picture of her

Kristi enjoyed her half dozen sampler though she’s become accustomed to the incredibly briny ones in New England so she was slightly disappointed. She will likely be more disappointed that I used this picture of her

Or the first shop that we were drawn to upon arrival, TaKorean.  The tacos looked ridiculous but Len ended up going with some sort of enormous mixed meat bowl with chicken, shredded beef, lots of sauces, herbs, and greens.

My biggest knock on the entire gourmet food court/truck experience is that they still use plastic cutlery that has the structural integrity of pipe cleaner and seems to start melting at exactly 100F.  Yet Wendys has soup spoons that could double as a professional quality tennis racket.  Step it up Union Market!

My biggest knock on the entire gourmet food court/truck experience is that they still use plastic cutlery that has the structural integrity of pipe cleaner and seems to start melting at exactly 100F. Yet Wendys has soup spoons that could double as a professional quality tennis racket. Step it up Union Market!

This meat bowl was freaking ridiculous and I would definitely make TaKorean my first stop on a return visit.  A ton of different strong flavors coming together with a lot of cilantro and greens making the whole thing taste fresh and crunchy.  You know who else enjoyed it?

Depending on your definition of adorable this competes with the earlier shot of Janet.  Sure she is a cute toddler, but she was eating liverwurst, and look how sick Lenny’s coif looks!

Depending on your definition of adorable this competes with the earlier shot of Janet. Sure she is a cute toddler, but she was eating liverwurst, and look how sick Lenny’s coif looks!

The flavors in the bowl gave me a little second wind to try out one last establishment: DC Empanadas.

These things were hot and extremely crispy.  Not sure why I thought that this completely uninsightful picture was a better idea than taking a bite and showing the contents of these dough pockets.  Well, they both had stuff inside

These things were hot and extremely crispy. Not sure why I thought that this completely uninsightful picture was a better idea than taking a bite and showing the contents of these dough pockets. Well, they both had stuff inside

I went a little boring on the my filling (three cheese) compared to Kristi’s (some sorta crazy teriyaki thing) mainly because the salsa verde looked like something I would want to use lots of.  I was correct in that assumption since it was most similar to a cross between creamed spinach and salsa verde but with cilantro as the strongest flavor.  I would use that stuff on every taco I eat for the rest of my life and I wish I had purchased some to take home.

As we wrapped up the savory portion of our “lunch” we all looked for the dessert we would finish our time at Union Market with.  I chose poorly with baklava stuffed with rose cream, which was much closer to an eggy custard than a cream.  Not bad, just not my thing.  Shell on the other hand walked away with the holy grail of Union Market desserts: Dulce De Leche Pudding from DC Empanadas.

A naturally lit shot without Pete’s kitchen radiator cover in the background?  The hell you say!  That’s right, I actually photographed a piece of food outdoors for once.  Real sun and everything

A naturally lit shot without Pete’s kitchen radiator cover in the background? The hell you say! That’s right, I actually photographed a piece of food outdoors for once. Real sun and everything

This stuff was absurd.  Very creamy, sweet and rich but not so much that it made you want to stop eating.  Instead, it made it completely addictive and impossible to stop eating.  Handing the spoon back to Shelley felt like I was Samwise Gamgee handing the ring back to Frodo.  Lord of the Rings references!  Just in case you forgot I didn’t have a girlfriend until college.

After Union Market we headed home for naps (I drove everyone out of the room by snoring on the living room floor) and then a walk to the zoo (Janet loves her some monkeys).  We had dinner at Firefly, which offered some pretty awesome food but incredibly awful lighting for fotos.

I would rather scream curses at someone else’s child in a quiet restaurant than ever take a picture of my food with a flash.  I am embarrassed for other people when they take pictures of their food in nice restaurants.  Act like you’ve been there before!  I pretended I was texting our babysitter something important while I shot this one

I would rather scream curses at someone else’s child in a quiet restaurant than ever take a picture of my food with a flash. I am embarrassed for other people when they take pictures of their food in nice restaurants. Act like you’ve been there before! I pretended I was texting our babysitter something important while I shot this one

My tartare was pretty solid; well seasoned and I appreciated that they didn’t add capers or pickles, just let the meat stand on its own.  I really can’t speak highly enough of my entrée, though: smoked lamb shoulder with leaks, feta, and mint served over pappardelle with watercress pesto.  The type of meal that I immediately started making plans with Brother Tim to smoke some lamb and replicate in the future.

After a couple Guinness we headed home for the night and looked forward to packing in more eating the following morning before our flight.  As it turned out, the Dupont Circle Farmers Market that wasn’t open on Saturday because it’s open on Sundays was indeed open on Sunday.  So we went there and I made it two booths into our opening lap before stopping to buy grub. In this case, empanadas from Chris’ Marketplace.

I tried to stealthily take this picture the first time and this nice woman photobombed it.  She was blinking so I gave her a second shot, which came out much better.  Look at those empanada fillings!

I tried to stealthily take this picture the first time and this nice woman photobombed it. She was blinking so I gave her a second shot, which came out much better. Look at those empanada fillings!

Given my love of smoked fish, I had to go with the smoked bluefish empanada, which I correctly assumed would be more like a pate than solid pieces.

For the fourth or fifth time during the weekend Kristi excitedly asked me, “what’d you get?” hoping it would be something she could have a bite of, only to groan in disappointment when I told her

For the fourth or fifth time during the weekend Kristi excitedly asked me, “what’d you get?” hoping it would be something she could have a bite of, only to groan in disappointment when I told her

Awesome filling for an empanada.  The flavor wasn’t overly rich, smoky or fishy so you didn’t mind a big bite of it and the outside was light and flaky.  The range of options for fillings was overwhelming and I could have spent a whole day there sampling each variety.  My only knock was that the temperature was closer to lukewarm than hot, but the flavor was still great.  I would get a mushroom one a few minutes later, but I had heard a lot about the fresh baked pizzas at the market.

The breakfast pizza, a concept I wholeheartedly support and think is crucial to our evolution as a species.  We’re really learning people, we’re starting to get it

The breakfast pizza, a concept I wholeheartedly support and think is crucial to our evolution as a species. We’re really learning people, we’re starting to get it

Considering that a runny egg yolk is one of the few foods I’ve found that can actually upset my iron (not on the outside) stomach, it’s pretty stupid that featuring an egg on top of any food item is a surefire way to get me to order it

Considering that a runny egg yolk is one of the few foods I’ve found that can actually upset my iron (not on the outside) stomach, it’s pretty stupid that featuring an egg on top of any food item is a surefire way to get me to order it

I didn’t actually taste the breakfast pizza since I was reaching my full food sampling capacity at this point, but I had a couple slices of the ricotta, asparagus, and bacon pizza.  I will admit that I was slightly bummed out since I had such high hopes for the pizza and the combination of flavors, which were good.  In the end it just needed something to tie it all together, like the vinaigrette mentioned on the menu that I didn’t actually taste on the pizza, or possibly a little salt.  Overall, it didn’t have the punch I was expecting but definitely made me want to experiment with asparagus on pizza moving forward.

Ending on a dag, but a really fun and delicious weekend.  Big ups to Len and Shell for being awesome hosts (they slept in the living room so we could have their room with Janet!) and feeding me lots of awesome food.  Thanks again duders!

Weird Crap I Cook: Goat Head Cheese

I think the name of this post gives a reasonably accurate impression of what will unfold, albeit in obnoxiously wordy fashion.

You know those Saw movies that they advertise once a year around Halloween?  The ones that make you wonder who the hell would choose to sit down and watch horrifically graphic gore for a couple hours of their precious free time?  That’s what this post may feel like at times, except if those movies ended with everyone in the movie becoming best friends and eating a surprisingly tasty meal together.

Before we get started, check out how cute Janet is these days:

Obsessed with her own looks at 7 months old. Maybe I should ask her about her favorite books like that uber preachy article that was re-posted on Facebook a thousand times tells me I should

Alright, now that we’ve broken the ice with that one, let’s get started on this journey.

While wandering through Haymarket with a few friends on the Friday before New Years, I stumbled upon a butcher shop that seemed to specialize in cheap cuts from goat and lamb.  When I saw a skinned goat’s head for $8, I knew I was incapable of resisting and purchased it after having the butcher split it in half with the bone saw.  The previous sentence has surely appeared in multiple serial killer autobiographies.

Once home it went into the freezer to wait for the right meal.  Originally it was going to be soup, but I saw some potential to make a head cheese/terrine and barreled ahead once I saw the minimal instruction available online.

That eyeball is like something out of a nightmarish Pixar cartoon. Way, way too large looking compared to the rest of the head. Remember, it is already split in half down the center at this point

Perfect Super Bowl Sunday food!  I’m the best host ever.

I got started by thawing out the head for a couple days.  Once I tore into the bag, I gave the head a good rinse in the sink and then used a small spoon to remove the brains.  My apologies in advance for what is the toughest shot in the bunch.

Look, this photo was important to setup the post but I sat here staring at it trying to think of something funny to say for 10 minutes. I got nothing, this is just how it looked

The brains were thrown in a bowl and placed in the fridge to wait for their time to shine.  The head got a thorough coating of cumin, paprika, curry powder, salt and black pepper.

Everything looks and tastes better with seasoning

At this point, I had no idea how much meat would come off of this head.  I was picturing the final terrine fitting into a small tin loaf pan, with it mostly made up of the small cheek muscles, tongue, and brain.  It’s hard to believe looking at it, but I seriously underestimated this head.

The seasoned head went into a 450F oven on the top rack to get some roasted color and flavor.  After about 15 minutes, I had this:

I'd feed you some bullsh*t like, "it looked delicious!", but in reality when I pulled the pan out of the oven, the change in temperature caused the right eye to rupture and spray various parts of my kitchen with boiling eye liquid. Even EYE wasn't ready for that one. Puns! Puns lighten the mood!

The head pieces went into a pot of boiling water with a couple dried cloves and a bunch of whole peppercorns to simmer for 3 hours.

While that cooked I hung out with my buddy Matt, originator of the increasingly famous Dupee Burger, and a completely fearless eater.  Perfect company and photographer for the halfway point in the cooking process when the goat tongue needed to be removed and peeled.

Tongue is already out and on the plate. At this point it looked like the terrine was going to be a single serving due to how much the tongue had shrunk

With tongue in general, the most common approach is what I did here; boil it for a bit, peel it, and cook it a little longer.  With the Hogs Head Barbacoa, the 20 hours of cooking made the area that needs to be peeled off melt away completely, but that wasn’t an option here.  I found a little excess on the end to grip and easily peeled from one end:

Good work by Dupe here, especially considering it was after 11, I was pouring IPAs freely, and he was dealing with the increasingly awful point and shoot camera in low light

The peeled tongue and head halves went back into the simmering liquid for another hour and a half while the DB and Dupee made our way through a Long Trail variety pack.

After fishing the head out of the pot with tongs once again, the meat was falling off the bone.

I'm anxious to get to the point in this post where I don't feel the need to apologize for every photo but it's not coming anytime soon

I let the bones and meat cool down for fifteen minutes but kept the pot of cooking liquid on the burner with the cover off so that it could reduce and concentrate for another hour or so.

Once everything was easy to handle, I started picking over the bones a bit.  There was a lot of loose cartilage, bone and skin that I immediately threw away.  The cheeks and tongue provided a good amount of meat, but I also found meat in random crannies as well as around the eyes.

I say "around the eyes" in hopes that some of the people who ate it don't read the captions. I actually took the meat around the eyes and the eyeballs as well. My guess is I am never allowed to cook for my friends again

After a few minutes, I had some piles of meat.

Clockwise from top left: palate, tongue, cheeks, and misc. Way more meat than I expected to come off of such a small, lean-looking head. That goat would be so flattered to know I described its head as "lean-looking"

This led to a little game Dupee referred to as “is it food?”  Basically, I tasted each bit of meat separately and decided whether it would be considered edible and also sorted out any bone or cartilage that snuck into the piles.  The answer is that most of it is food, except the palate which was the texture of a flip flop that had been boiled for three hours.  The other revelation was that the meat tasted far more like lamb than I expected.

From there I cubed the tongue and chopped the rest of the meat together.

Dupee really came up huge on a post that Kristi would absolutely want no part of. In fact Kristi saw the relatively innocuous looking roasted head and ran out of the kitchen shrieking "ooooooooohhhh, I saw it! I saw it! I saw it!" with her eyes tightly closed

With the meat chopped and in a bowl, I got started on the other key elements.  Most importantly, the brain.  You didn’t think I forgot it, right?  Silly you.

I started out by throwing diced bacon and chopped carrots in a hot pan together and letting them cook for 6-8 minutes.  While those cooked, I chopped up a pile of fresh mint leaves to blend into the meat.

I am far from a technically proficient cook, especially with a knife, but I blame that dangerously protruding pinky on the IPAs

I had purchased cilantro too, but mint seemed like the right call with the flavors in the rub and the strong lamb-like flavor of the head meat.

With the herbs chopped and the bacon rendered and crispy, I threw the two halves of the brain into the hot pan and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Brains are cool looking food. I believe what I am doing here is called "gilding the lily"; basically surrounding something that will look foul to most people with delicious looking items

After a few minutes on one side, I flipped the brains and added a long pour of white wine, (about 3/4 cup) and turned the heat up on the pan.  The goal was to poach the brains and let the carrots soften while the wine reduced.

Carrots, bacon, and white wine can make anything look and smell delicious

After another 10 minutes, the wine had reduced and I pulled the brains out of the pan and transferred to a cutting board.

I cut off small pieces for Dupee and I, and found the texture and flavor to be a better version of what I ate in Morocco.  Very soft and creamy, like Laughing Cow cheese.  Tasted strongly of lamb/wine/carrot/bacon but with a metallic aftertaste.  Not iron-y, almost copper-y?  Not sure, something like that.  The rest I chopped to add to the head cheese ingredients.

The brain really reminded me of the awesome, "This is your brain on Long Beach Island" florescent shirt I wore growing up. I wish I still had that shirt and some of those insanely stupid Big Johnson shirts

Along with the drained carrots and bacon, a small splash of apple cider vinegar (no more than a tablespoon), and salt & pepper, the chopped brains headed into the bowl.

The head cheese mixture smelled great at this point, but there was still a lot of doubt in my mind that it would be in any way edible

The reduced cooking liquid is an important part of head cheese (or any meat terrine) since the liquid has gelatin-like characteristics from boiling the bones and skin.  Mixing in a few ladles of the liquid helps the head cheese/terrine bind together into a loaf when it cools.

I was hoping to avoid using this loaf pan again since I wanted thicker slices, but there was way more than I expected

I'd tasted every ingredient and smelled how good the seasoning was, yet I was still completely terrified by what I had made

I covered the loaf pan and the head cheese went into the fridge to set for 12 hours.  It was during that time that I realized the perfect condiment to serve with it.  An item that had been in my fridge for longer than Janet has been alive: homemade kimchi.

I prepared this back in June. Every few weeks I sent Conor a text message to the effect of, "Con, I think the kimchi is ready!" then forgot about it in the back of the fridge for another ~20 days. I have an above average sense of humor

I’ve only had kimchi a few times in my life and from what I can tell it’s just spicy pickled cabbage.  So that’s all this is.  I had an extra half head of green cabbage leftover in early June so I sliced it, tossed it with a little sugar, salt, cayenne pepper, siracha and lots of rice wine vinegar and packed it in a tupperware.  Then it sat in my fridge for 8 months.  But, I tasted it last week and it had all the contrasts the head cheese would need with crunch, spiciness, and a little acidity.

So, on Super Bowl Sunday I ran the bottom of the loaf pan under hot water (brilliant call by a still horrified Kristi), flipped it upside down and tapped the head cheese out of the pan.

Cut it in half so that I could get this shot and also to send half to Cambridge with Dupee so he could share it with our friends on the wrong side of the river. Oh, and ruin the day for my vegetarian friend Taylor

As everyone arrived, I pulled the slab of head cheese out of the fridge and cut a couple slices off expecting the usual; Conor and I eat a bunch of it and Buschy has a tiny taste with his eyes closed.  Until I tasted it on some toasted bread and was a little surprised.

The texture was creamy, but not in a bad way; just different from what I expected since the tongue, cheek, and bacon played a prominent role.  The flavor was surprisingly good; not too strongly funky, just rich lamb-like flavor complimented well by the mint and sweetness from the wine & carrots.  And that was before I put on a spoonful of the chopped kimchi.

Still in disbelief that not only did this end up being eaten instead of thrown out, but it ended up playing a crucial part in some deliciously unique food too

The kimchi pushed it over the top.  All of the contrasts I noted before worked perfectly without overpowering the flavor of the head cheese.   More amazingly, it made the head cheese look appetizing to people besides Conor and I.  Against all expectations, everyone except Kristi (traumatized) ended up trying it and most had seconds or thirds.  I only ended up throwing away two small slivers!

The white is the brain. That wasn't how I pitched it to people. Also, toasted bread was just to sound like I actually present things elegantly. It was actually toasted, thin-sliced, day-old everything bagels from the bakery department at Stop and Shop. Giant bag for $1.99 was tough to refuse

One of the best parts of writing this blog is that it has forced me to experiment a lot with building flavors and working with meat I’ve never handled before.  It’s pretty awesome when it works out that I can transform something no one would try on their own into tasty food that people eat seconds of.  Another best part is that I can normally get them to eat it before posting and letting them know what they really ate.  I am an ass.

Next week, the rest of what was served at the Super Bowl party and particularly my cabrito sliders.  It was a “no animal left behind” theme and we covered goat, venison, pork, chicken, and lamb.  Not too shabby.

Weird Crap I Cook: Head Cheese

This post marks the one year anniversary of the ADB blog.  I didn’t quite accomplish all of my goals for the blog, primarily that I only averaged three posts a month, but I’ve enjoyed the experience and hope to keep it up for years to come.  Just as long as this little lady doesn’t oppose:

Introducing a new character to the blog, our daughter Janet. She baked at 99 degrees for 38 weeks. Also, this is the first time that the Le Creuset has been my second favorite thing in a picture

To celebrate the one year anniversary of the blog, I wanted to bring it full circle to where this blog began: cooking a whole hogs head.  Unfortunately, the folks at Meatland who sold me the original head told me that they wouldn’t have any in until the fall.  So, instead, I decided to make the dish I was planning on (head cheese) with the opposite end of the animal: the feet and ankles.

Total price for 5.6 lbs of pork: $6.55. I learned later in the process why this wasn't the bargain of the century

If someone has heard of head cheese before, they usually picture the bizarre “meat chunks in clear jello” item from the deli case.  In reality, head cheese is showing up on more and more menus at nice restaurants (likely because it is cheap to make) under it’s more fashionable name of “pork terrine”.  Terrines can be anything layered, really, but whenever I see a pork terrine I know that it’s just fancy head cheese; cooked and chopped pieces of meat that are held together by a gelatin made from boiling bones.

After a little online research I learned that pretty much any part of pig will work for making head cheese, which brings us back to that smorgasbord of funky meats.

Kristi walked in on this scene and made the same noise she makes when she stumbles across a nature show about snakes while flipping channels

The top is halved pig’s feet, bottom right is the hocks (or ankle joints), and bottom left is the neck bones.  The neck bones were a last second purchase since the other two ingredients looked a little light on meat.

The feet were unpleasant to handle and look at. Really happy I didn't end up sampling that bag of trotters in Korea. He might never forgive me for saying this, but that little piece at the top looks kind of similar to Conor's thumb from the "Hearts & Bones" post.

It’s a pretty simple dish to make: boil until the meat is falling off the bone, remove the meat and chop coarsely, mix with the cooking liquid, and let set in the fridge.  It can taste really good too, since it’s just tender pork and seasonings, but the texture tends to put people off since a single bite can have a few different textures.

I started out by rubbing a little salt and Chinese five spice into the meat then wrapped up a few cloves and peppercorns into some cheesecloth to boil with the pork.

This is so much better than picking peppercorns and cloves out of the meat

I went with the cloves and five spice because I wanted to add flavors that contrasted with the pork instead of amplified it the way sage or thyme would.  And… that’s it for prep.  At this point it all went into a pot with a bay leaf, a halved onion and water until the meat was completely covered.

"Wow! That looks delicious!" - Nobody

The lid went on, I brought it up to a boil and then reduced the heat to simmer for 3+ hours.  The sign I was looking for was the meat separating from bone.

You can almost see how loaded with gelatin the broth was after 3 hours

I removed all of the pork from the pot and strained out the onion, bay leaf, and spice package.  After letting the reserved liquid settle and skimming off some fat, I returned the broth to the stovetop to reduce a bit.

Whenever this liquid dripped onto the counter it turned into a solid gelatinous blob within seconds

Due to all of the skin, and the grey color of boiled meat, the pork still didn’t look very pleasant.  But there was tender meat hiding on each unfortunate looking piece.

The previous statement actually isn't true; the feet, since they were primarily just the toes, had nothing on them but gelatinous tendon and fat. Also, my fingers had to be washed every minute or so because the gelatin made them too sticky to use

There’s really no need for more pictures like that, and Kristi refused to take action shots, so I will describe instead of show what I discovered.

After peeling off the skin and fat, each hock had some very large chunks of meat, similar to what you would expect on a lamb shank.  The neck bones had meat that looked like pork shoulder, but were more of a pain to handle due to tiny bones and small, although plentiful, pieces of meat.  I may have found an average of one morsel of edible material on each foot.  All that picking left me with this:

A little less than a pound of tender pork...

...compared to about 4 pounds of bone, fat, and skin. As I said, the cheap per-pound pricing didn't necessarily make it a great deal

I sorted through the meat a few times to make sure there weren’t any pieces of bone, fat, or cartilage that would make for an unpleasant bite, then chopped up the larger chunks.  From there I seasoned with lots of salt and pepper, about a teaspoon of cayenne, and a little onion powder.

Starting to look more like food

In the interest of cutting the richness, I added a good pour of apple cider vinegar to the meat, probably about 3 tablespoons, then a ladle of the reduced cooking liquid.

Not sure why I like the pour shots, but they have become a consistent theme on this blog

Stirred that well and dumped the entire bowl into an 8″ loaf pan.  Once it settled, I poured a half ladle more of the cooking liquid over the top and it was ready to be covered and head into the fridge to set.

About how I expected it to look, the extra ladle of liquid disappeared into the meat

After a few hours spent at dinner (Stella, one of our favorite restaurants in Boston) and a championship high school lacrosse game (St. Johns Prep vs. Duxbury) we headed back to check on the head cheese.

Looks about the same...

...but not when you turn it upside down and pop it out of the loaf pan

From there, you slice off a piece at a time.

Every slice is a little different, but the flavor and mix of textures is pretty consistent

This one was a little closer to the restaurant variety since the meat was relatively dense despite all of the liquid that was added.  To make something closer to the deli case version, you’d add more of the cooking liquid so that the meat would be floating in gelatin.

The first bite was a little tough for me, which isn’t a new thing for the meals on this blog.  Sometimes you can’t get the image or smells of the raw ingredients out of your head.  Happened with the chicken slaughter, happened with the pig’s stomach, and now them pig’s toes were really getting to me.  As with the others, one bite was all I needed to forget all that and start enjoying it.

Served on a toasted slice of a homemade sandwich bread that I am enjoying every iteration of as I try to get it right

The terrine had a clean pork flavor that was most similar to cold pulled pork shoulder, but with less of a fatty taste.  You could taste hints of the cloves, black pepper, and apple cider vinegar that helped cut the richness a bit.  Best served with some pickles, dijon or spicy brown mustard, and, for Conor and I, a little bourbon.

I alternated between terrine on toast with dijon mustard and terrine with a mini dill pickle on top. Also, Jefferson's bourbon was a new one for me, but a good one

All in all, I think it was pretty tasty and I’ve heard concurring views from Conor, Tim, and Mommy Ryan.  If I did it again, which I might if I am in charge of a cheese or charcuterie plate (you’ve been warned), I would use only the hocks and a much smaller loaf-style pan as a mold.  Spices would stay the same, though I’d add a little more salt.

Not sure what is up next.  Would like to do some sort of seafood since it’s the summer, but will need to think of something interesting.  Feel free to email suggestions.