So very recently we were out at Dog Mountain Farm in Carnation, Wash. They do farm-to-table dinners during the summer. Lydia and I were there to help Shauna and Danny from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef put on a gluten-free dinner. During the event, which was a ton of fun, the farm was slaughtering a couple of hogs. The owners, Cindy and Dave had some guys come out to do the deed. Unfortunately, they weren't on our menu, but they did get me thinking about what to do with the parts people wouldn't normally use.
Now everyone can do ribs or braised shoulder for BBQ, oven-roasted loin or crispy pork belly. I wanted something a little more adventurous and unusual. Fromage de tete - a.k.a. head cheese. Ok, before you get weirded out, it's not cheese, just the French language being a little vague. The basic premise is just to simmer the pork head with some carrots, celery and onion (i.e. mire poix) until the meat is very tender.
If you have a bit of trouble finding a pig head, your butcher may be able to order it. Your grocery store is probably not going to be able to help, but you can use pork shanks as a substitute. These need to be raw and unsmoked. These are much easier to find and possibly less disturbing for most to handle.
Fromage de tete
1 pig head or 5# raw pig shanks
1 large onion
3 stalks celery
1 clove garlic
1 bunch thyme and stems
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
H2O to cover
In a large pot, add your pork, vegetables, vinegar and thyme and then cover with water and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 3 hours or until pork is very tender. Remove meat from pot along with vegetables and let cool slightly.
Strain broth and place in cooler to let fat solidify. Pull meat from head or shanks, discard skin and fat. Pull meat into small shreds. Remove solid fat from stock, place into large pot and reduce by two-thirds, Add meat and chopped parsley to broth and season with salt and pepper. Place pork mixture into ramekin and place in refrigerator to set up. When properly cooled and firm, remove from ramekin with warm, thin knife and place on plate with crusty bread and grain mustard.