My first exposure to working with the head of an animal came from the pictorial technique shown in The Good Cook: Variety Meats. Soon after reading this book and pouring over the pages for offal techniques, I heard about a braised pigs head dish done by Thomas Keller at The French Laundry. However, it was several years between hearing about this remarkable dish and seeing the recipe and the steps taken in The French Laundry Cookbook. These in between years allowed me to think about a pigs head and other heads for that matter and what I would do with them.
Since reading and admiring the techniques and approaches in both books I became equally obsessed with the head. Yesterday during the class I was able to share my obsession. We (I say we as in the class) used the suckling pigs head and one of its bellies to make a relatively uniform meat sheet. We then seasoned the meat with hot sauce and salt and stuffed the head with bacon, apples, prunes and slices of the pigs ears. After the stuffing was in place we rolled the head in cheesecloth to make a uniform meat roulade.
And this is where it gets exciting. We were able to cook and eat this preparation during our three hour class. How so? The pressure cooker. The braised pigs head was perfectly cooked after one hour in the pressure cooker. We let the meat rest in the broth and then untied the cheesecloth and sliced the head. Yes, the head could be more polished if we re-wrapped it and let it rest overnight. In that case we could then bread and fry slices of the head or glaze them to a rich and sticky shine. The point is that we were able to, with stellar results, take a pigs head from body to belly in a three hour window with only one of them being used for cooking.
And this was only one small part of our jam packed pork and apple class. We have now set our own bar high. I am quite excited with our plans for next Saturday's Steak and Eggs class.