Head cheese is one of those things the French come up with that takes whatever everyone else in the world is doing (bologna for example), and elevates it to a completely different level.Fromage de tête
is officially classified as a terrine, but we prefer to use the low-brow verbiage, "meat jelly," (which is way more fun to say) to describe this cold cut comprised of the parts of a pig that don't make up the loin or the bacon. Although the brain and eyes are removed, all the other parts of the head get thrown in there.
Chef Timon Balloo, of the ever-popular Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill in Midtown, has been wanting to add some meat jelly to the already extensive out-of-the-box options, which include bone marrow with a veal cheek marmalade, beef honeycomb tripe with kimchi, and semolina dusted veal kidneys -- but it took some kitchen commitment to get it right. Officially this head cheese is not on the menu as of yet, just ask your server and tell them that Short Order sent you.
Balloo notes, "basically, we've been playing with the heads and different body parts from Palmetto Farms, they have some really beautiful pork, and we knew that we wanted to do a fromage de tête, or head cheese. We brought in the pig heads, played around with a couple of techniques in the style of porchetta di testa, we rolled the head within itself, sous-vide it, and then basically let it congeal and served it."
Executive Sous Chef Angel Leon took it one step further, to a more
in-depth sous-viding process of about 16 hours in a slow water bath.
After the pork comes out, they prick it and allow it to drain so it
loses some of the fat and moisture, allowing it to congeal even better.
What you have at the end of that is a really succulent piece of head cheese.
pair it with crispy brioche croutons and various garnishes meant to cut
through the richness of the fatty pork. "For summertime we are pickling
cherries and we do a little bit of mustard. When in season or if we can
find it, we use purslane to garnish, which is a beautiful green with
attributes of watercress and lemon all mixed together, but if not, we
use arugula sometimes. It's just something to lighten things up and
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crisp up the flavor profile, as you are eating this succulent, semi-rich
pig head, it needs something to cut the acidity. It balances the dish
well. And that's it -- it's just another pig head!"