Pig 102 is now in the past and I have had a full day without pork!
Thursday evening, 45 guests arrived at Jasper's Restaurant here in south Kansas City to participate in an 8 course dinner featuring "the Pig". As I have said in previous blogs, we started this dinner over a month ago. The Guanciale, Italian dry cured hog jowl, was the first item we decided to prepare. When I asked Jasper what he thought of the idea of making Guanciale, he was all for it. The next step was to find the jowls.... you can't just walk into your local grocery store and buy them! Steve's Meat Market in DeSota, Kansas was my answer. With menu in hand, I went to Steve's and ordered 8 jowls, pounds and pounds of ground pork and ground pork fat, huge amounts of pork shoulder, 5 pounds of pork liver, and 20 pounds of pork neck bones. When another snow and ice storm made it impossible to make the drive to DeSota to pick it up, our preparations were put on hold. I was a little nervous as the days went by, still no pork. The hog jowls needed to rest in the wonderful Tuscan seasoning sent to us by our friend, Judy Francini, all the way from Italy. When Jasper was finally able to drive to Steve's, we met and the preparations began.
As each jowl was sufficiently seasoned with our Tuscan seasoning, it was then rigged with a butcher's twine "hammock" to be hung in the walk-in cooler at the restaurant for another 2 weeks. (see the photo of Guanciale, taken by Chris Perrin of Blog Well Done blogwelldone.com ) After that they were to hang in the wine cellar at Jasper's until the day of the dinner. At long last, our Guanciale was underway.
Next came the Cotechino, a wonderful clove infused sausage. I made three large sausages, wrapped in cheesecloth and tied with butcher's twine, then simmered gently in a pork broth.
My second project was Coppa di testa, otherwise known as head cheese. Now, don't get upset, I did not use the poor pig's head, but I doubt he would have cared if I had. Instead I used ground pork shoulder, with minced carrots and red bell peppers, both red and green onions and celery. To replace the natural gelatin provided by the bone and skin of the hog's head, I turned to good old Knox.
We were now down to two days before the dinner and it was time to make the Italian Country Pate. I want to thank my sister and brother-in-law, Ann and Bruce Wilkinson of Raleigh, North Carolina (they planned a visit home to coincide with the dinner) who painstakingly diced 5 pounds of pork liver into tiny little 1/2" cubes. Those cubes were blended into 5 pounds of ground pork, 3 pounds of ground pork fat, onions, brandy, herbs and spices. The mixture was packed into bacon-lined loaf pans and baked in a water bath.
While all of this was going in my kitchen, Jasper and his staff were planning the evening with great care. They had the 20 pounds of neckbones to prepare in Jasper's own sauce, and a large pork butt to turn into the world's best Porchetta. The patio room at the restaurant overlooks Watt's Mill Creek and with the melting snow, it was running fast over the rocky falls. The white tablecloths, candle light and the sparkling wine glasses gave the room a festive air. In the kitchen the Tuscan Bean Soup was simmering on the stove, the Porchetta and Truffle Potatoes were in the oven, the Caramelized Pancetta Gelato was waiting in the freezer. The pasta was cooked and the salad greens were ready to be tossed with Jasper's Tuscan Dressing. He had prepared 3 wonderful sauces to be served with the sausage, head cheese and pate.
As the guests arrived, they were greeted with a gleaming glass of Somerset Ridge Traminette wine, the first of many of Somerset's wonderful wines that would be served throughout the evening. On the tables were silver platters of artisian breads prepared by fellow Slow Food member, Suzanne Frisse....... http://www.meadowlark-acres.com/. Suzanne had used the Traminette wine in her bread and was amazed at the almond flavor it created.
When the guests were seated, the first of the small starter plates were served. 8 plates later, we rolled them out to their cars! All were smiling..... groaning...but smiling!