I think it can be easily said that all food bloggers, whether they admit it or not, have a 'Bucket List' of food things. It could be to eat at Per Se or Noma or to learn how to make puff pastry. For me, it's not so much a 'Bucket List' as much as its a 'Oh, that would be nice' list. Last year I learned how to make Charcuterie at home, took a Kimchi making class and learned how to properly pickle and can summer vegetables. This year has already had me relearning bread making and I'm already looking towards summer and experimenting more with grilling recipes. But, on my 35th birthday last week, I managed to scratch two things off with one recipe: Crispy Pig Ear Salad.
A few months prior I had Rick, of Gryffon Ridge Spice Merchants and Farm, surprise me with a bag of porky odd bits that included a 2 1/2 lb. jowl and a set of ears. While the jowl was massive, it was the ears that I was most excited about. I've had crispy ear at Bresca and Grace, both fantastic presentations, but getting a set of them at a butcher or at the farmers market is almost unheard of. So, I was quite excited about having this treat in the house and checking off another interesting piece of offal from my mental list.
The other accomplishment is probably the most surprising. I have never poached an egg in my life. Never. And, well, to be straight with you, I didn't really start eating poached eggs until sometime last year. It's a textural thing for me, like the gelatinous goo in the middle of raw tomatoes, and a bit harder to get over than a conceptual issue (which is what probably prevents many from, say, eating pigs ear). But, I did it. The eggs were also from Gryffon Ridge, procured at the last Brunswick Winter Farmers Market, and held some of the most vibrant colored yolks I've laid eyes on. The process caused me more agita than handling the pigs ear, and the results were mixed ( I definitely have more learning to do as I lost half of the whites to the swirling water), but another 'I never' checked off of my list.
The recipe that I used was a bit of a mash up, using Serious Eats for preparing the ears and the rest of the salad coming from a newspaper out of the Tampa Bay area. I purchased some red leaf lettuce from Six River Farm at the market for the base and was amazed that they had so many beautiful greens so early in the season. My one caveat about the salad is that I think the ears could have gone a bit longer in the stock because they definitely had a chewiness that The Missus loved, but that I could handle only so much of. I am also now a convert to Gryffon Ridge Farm eggs. I'll be heading up to Brunswick this weekend to pick up another dozen.
Cripsy Pig Ear:
2 pig's ears
1 onion, peeled and washed
2 carrots, chopped coarse
2 stems of celery, chopped
A bouquet garni (thyme, parsley, marjoram, etc)
Salt to taste, about 1 teaspoon
1/4 cup cornstarch and flour, equal parts of
1 quart of oil, for fryingBring a large pot of water to boil. Add the ears and let boil for 2 or 3 minutes to get rid of some of the impurities. Remove the ears from the pot and set aside.In a medium-size pot, arrange the ears along with the rest of the ingredients. Add enough water to cover the ears. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, uncovered, for 2 hours. The ears should be very supple and easily pierced through with forks or chopsticks.Remove the ears from the broth and let cool. Reserve the stock for another use.
When cooled, cut the ears into ¼ inch slivers. Toss with the cornstarch and flour, until the ears are lightly and uniformly covered.
In the meantime, bring the oil to 350 F in a wok or frying pot.
Gently slip into the hot oil and fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until the ears are golden brown and crispy. Very carefully stir the ears around in the pot, so that the slivers won't stick to one another. Remove the ears from the oil with a slotted spoon, and serve immediately.
Creamy Whole Grain Mustard Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup very good quality whole grain mustard
1 tablspoons fresh tarragon leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 egg yolk
1/8 cup yogurt
kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Add all of the ingredients to a blender and mix until well emulsified.
3 cups water
1 tspn distilled white vinegar
2 farm fresh eggs
Bring the water and vinegar to a strong simmer. Gently place the eggs in the water and poach until the yolks are very soft. Place the poached eggs on a dry plate and season with kosher salt.