Let's Hear It for Pig Ears
Michael's crispy pig ears
"It sells pretty good," Todd Webster says of the pig ears available on the menu at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink. "They're a pretty popular bar snack," echoes Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill's sous chef Travis Starwalt.
Webster, the butcher and self-described "sous chef in training" at Michael's, describes the process: "We braise them in chicken stock with basic mirepoix for about four to six hours, depending on how long it takes for the cartilage to get nice and soft and pliable. After the first batch, we save the stock and use it to braise the following batches. Then we put them on a sheet rack to cool down, cut them into pretty thin pieces, and fry them until they're nice and crispy on the outside."
For the "pig ear snack" ($6), the crunchy strips are tossed with the same spice mix as used on Michael's hominy (and it is about the same portion size) -- "paprika, chipotle... there's probably 15 other spices," according to Webster. The pig ears also come simply salted and served with a sweet lime-vinaigrette-drizzled salad of local arugula, shaved red onion, and shaved radish; some orange supremes; and a bit of scallion-cilantro mixture ($8).
Starwalt's description is similar: "We braise them in chicken stock, mirepoix, and garlic. Then we slice them thin, dust them in seasoned flour, fry them, and toss them in our house-made barbecue spice" ($4). Sugarcane serves the pig ears with a wedge of lemon.
"People will order one," Starwalt claims, "and then they'll order another one. It's perfect for when you're hanging out at the bar and having a beer or cocktail."
Loin, belly, ears... We wonder what the next popular pig part will be.
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