April 26, 2006
Its been almost a week since the Celebration of Life of a Pig at Brasa.
Prepping began on Easter Sunday. The pigs had been in my walk-in since Friday and they were now in a stage that we could work with them.
My sous chefs Jake, Chester and I began "breaking down" our pigs. Strangely enough for me, this was to be the most difficult part of the entire process.
As we removed heads, trotters, hocks, loins, tenderloins, riblets, shoulders, and legs just as I have done literally hundreds of times, emotional feelings around this process rose up in me, that were unfamiliar. I did KNOW these pigs and that was the difference.
My emotional chef muscles were being challenged. I chose not to attempt to separate myself from my feelings, but to understand them. I believe that my feelings were and are rooted in the huge animal lover that I am. The the chef in me wanted to PREPARE them honorably and respectfully. Even eating them was below that.
I had only a vague idea what the menu would be. I had to see how much of the particular cuts of meat the pigs would yield. My findings were that the meat on these pigs, was incredible. The loins were big enough to create an entire dish. The legs and shoulders were big. The factory farmed pigs I was so used to, even of the same weight, offer less than HALF OF THE MEAT of Whistling Train Farm's pigs. There was absolutely no comparison. My conclusion was that pigs that get to run around develop muscle (meat) in all the right places. Factory farmed pigs get fat in the belly, just like us. Muscle weighs more than fat, just like in us. These pigs were all muscle, which meant all meat.
I fed 130 people 5 courses from 4 pigs plus 3 family style appetizers. My cooks and I prepared EVERY part of these incredible animals in some form and had left over.
As a chef I had an opportunity that ultimately reached into my gut and soul and posed a question for me. How will I approach my work now that I have experienced all of this? What can I offer and what can I teach that hasn't already been taught?
In an age where chefs are reaching to their chemistry books to create food from things that aren't. I am reaching back to the farm where things have been mostly forgotten. I won't be turning back. I believe that pushing the envelope is a good and worthy culinary process. In a world where everyhing has seemingly been done we are hungry for "new under the sun" menu items. Chefs want to create them, diners want to eat them and food reviewers are looking for creative dishes from creative chefs to write about.
Perhaps NEW can be found in the almost forgotten.
I can't imagine that I will be making smoked pork foam. However, on my Life of a Pig menu..Bacon Baklava with Bacon brittle worked out really well. Although not my invention, it certainly showed a creative twist, and flair from my pastry chef Rachel. The best part of that dish for me was that the pigs gave us enough small pork bellies for Rachel to make it.
Less than half of a generation ago, many more of us '"knew our food" and perhaps a new purpose for me, is to teach or at least inspire a NEW way to remember what food is about and WHERE it comes from. When we reach into the uncomfortable areas of food, we can find information about ourselves and what we as eaters, chefs and cooks are about and what we and the animals are capable of.
I say this to my cooks... "we have LOCAL lamb tongue in the freezer...(because we have saved them from our whole lambs) Go crazy, but be respectful, appreciate where they came from and ALWAYS be grateful.
I will post a final message summarizing Life of a Pig in a week or so.
Thanks for Visiting,
Life of a Pig
April 20, 2006
April 20, 2006
by tamara murphy
and whistling train farm
( skins )
Everything Pig Pate
( pork trimmings, fat, heart, liver, kidney, tongue )
( ribs )
Traditional Posole, Roasted Chilies, Tomatillos, Tortillas
( pork shoulder, head, trotters, hocks )
Grilled Loin, Chorizo and Clams
( loin, chuck, fat, trimmings )
Whistling Train Farm’s Greens, Greek Potatoes
( whole pig )
Heirloom Navel Oranges, Jicima, Watercress, Cracklings
( fatty skin )
Vanilla Ice Cream, Maple Flower Crème Anglaise
( belly )