ating all parts of the pig from head to tail has
been commonplace around the world for centuries,
but most Americans have been a bit squeamish
about eating those parts that actually look like an
No longer confined to such choice cuts as tenderloin, chops
or roasts, other pork parts are appearing on menus more and
more often, including the head or part of the head, the tongue,
ears and tail, and the trotters, or feet. Head cheese (terrine made
from the head of an animal) is being used in all kinds of ways,
and many chefs are buying whole pigs and doing the butchering
Using the whole animal supports the growing sustainability
movement and the belief that nothing edible should go to waste.
Chefs who buy into that are happy to support small local
farmers who raise their pigs on healthy, natural diets and treat
“I think this whole-animal thing is great,” says Christopher
Koetke, CEC, CCE, HAAC, executive director of Kendall College
School of Culinary Arts, Chicago, and vice president of Laureate
International Universities Center of Excellence in Culinary Arts.
“The concept of having students cut up and use whole animals
gives them a much better understanding of the animal.”
While Kendall has had courses on how to use the whole
pig for 14 years, today’s students have taken a renewed interest
in the practice because of Internet and cable television exposure to
this growing trend. “It’s encouraging to see that chefs across the
country have really taken this to heart. It’s no longer shocking
to see pig’s ears on a menu,” Koetke says.
In class, students learn to make zampone (stuffed pig’s
trotter) from the front trotter. “You debone it, so when you’re
done you have the foot with a sleeve of skin. We make sausage
meat, pack it in, then poach or smoke it,” Koetke explains,
adding, “It’s an amazing dish.”
In addition to classes, Kendall has a fine-dining restaurant
open to the public where all parts of the pig frequently are
featured in a variety of ways.
PHOTO CREDIT: Estes Public Relations
HEAD CHEESE MAKES A COMEBACK
Allen Sternweiler, chef/partner of Chicago’s new Butcher
& The Burger delicatessen, finds it amusing that people are
finally interested in parts of the pig that used to end up in pet
food. “In 1988 when I was at Printers’ Row [Chicago], you
couldn’t give a slice of head cheese away,” he recalls.
Sternweiler now sells his head cheese—made from various
parts of the pig’s head and molded into a cold-cut shape—sliced
on sandwiches to his “younger, hipper, more adventurous”
clientele. “Now it’s socially more acceptable to eat,” he notes.
At Sanford in Milwaukee, Justin Aprahamian, chef de cuisine,
does a salad with head cheese, apple and pickled onion, as well
as a head cheese pot au feu with stock in gelatin. “It makes a
rich broth. We dice the head meat with herbs and mirepoix for
an amuse bouche,” he says.
For SloPig Milwaukee in April, Aprahamian made a
head cheese ravioli with ramp pesto, black butter and char-grilled ramps.
He and owner Sanford D’Amato enjoy bringing in whole
pigs and teaching butchery to their cooks. “It’s cost-effective
and shows respect for the animal,” Aprahamian says.
TASTY PARTS NO LONGER UNDERUSED
Jeff Michaud, executive chef/partner at Alla Spina, the
newest Vetri Family restaurant in Philadelphia, agrees that
many tasty pig parts have been “underutilized. People don’t
realize how great they can be,” he says.
Several of the group’s restaurants use a lot of pork, including housemade salami and other cured meats. The bar
food concept of Alla Spina lends itself well to incorporating
dishes such as testina pig sticks, made from the head, and pig
tails fennel agrodolce.
The pig sticks use the head meat, brined for four days,
pressed into a fish-stick shape, breaded and deep-fried. Michaud
serves it with roasted red pepper salsa. He also breads and
deep-fries the tails, after boiling them until soft, and flavors
them with a sweet-and-sour sauce.
Using tête de cochon (pig’s head) at Congress Austin in
Austin, Texas, started as a mistake, says David Bull, executive
chef, who features a pig’s head torchon on his seven-course
tasting menu. “One [pig’s head] showed up at the back door
one day intended for a different restaurant,” he recalls. Instead
of sending it back, he decided to keep and prepare it.
It was the start of his signature appetizer of a torchon
topped with whiskey bacon marmalade and served with corn
purée, a saute of toasted barley, roasted corn kernels and a
frisée salad tossed with sherry vinaigrette. “The plate is full
circle, since pigs eat barley and corn, and corn is used to make
whiskey,” Bull notes.
Influences from Latin America, a culture with a long tradition of using all parts of the pig in the cuisine, flavor the menu
at Seviche in Louisville. Among the dishes that executive chef
Anthony Lamas features is feijoada with the trotters and ears,
which he describes as Brazilian stew traditionally made from
leftover parts after the pig’s prime cuts are used. “The tongue
OPPOSITE: Anthony Lamas features feijoada, which he describes as Brazilian
stew traditionally made from leftover parts after the pig’s prime cuts are used,
on the menu at Seviche.