birthday meals, brunswick farmers market, gryffon ridge spices, invoking the Pig, pig ear, piggy angels, poached egg, wonderful eggs

Crispy Pig Ear Salad

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 frying
Bring 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 ΒΌ 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.

Poached Eggs:

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.


bacon, burger-o-rama, foie gras, fun things with bacon, nosh, piggy angels

Burger-O-Rama pt3: Bars and Pubs

In the first round of this O-Rama series, I set my personal standard for a good burger: simple and well cooked, nothing fancy or over the top. But, when it came time for us to pick our selection for this months theme of “Bars and Pubs” I threw all of that out the window and had my sights set on one location: Nosh.

For one thing, I hadn’t been there in over a year and that was a visit full of mixed reviews and failed to leave an overall impression on either the Missus or myself. It was time to revisit the land where pig fairies(or angels, as it were, like the one in the header photo for this blog) sprinkle bacon dust on your thick cut french fries. And I had a Groupon.

So, the Missus, our friend Rory and myself made plans to have dinner there before we headed off to see humorist David Sedaris at the Merrill. At first, it didn’t bode well as we waited by the door for several minutes before being acknowledged. The Missus grew anxious and I chalked it up to the staff scrambling to organize a table of ten that was shuffling around the back of the restaurant. We were finally told it would be nearly a half an hour wait until a table would be free. We were seated in less than five. Bonus.

While we waited for Rory to arrive, the Missus ordered a Brooklyner Weiss, while I was happy to find a ginger beer on their menu.

Growing famished and enticed by the buckets of fries hitting the tables around us, we ordered our own bacon dusted bucket with a side of cheese sauce. The last time we had them the Missus complained that there wasn’t enough bacon flavor. She had the same complaint but I wholeheartedly disagree with her. The powder, very similar to the powder used in Sweet Marguerities Malted Bacon truffle from her Umami collection, is there to impart a smoke flavor to the fries and our bucket was loaded with it. The first time around, yes I did feel like it was skimped on but here I had no complaints. I found myself licking the powder off my fingers like I had been eating a bag of cheese curls except this was a hell of a lot more satisfying.

When our 3rd finally arrived, eager to eat and have a beer, we quickly ordered a few things to share. R., lost in the flurry of activity, asked what we were having and I ran down the selections:

Bacon Dusted French Fries(x2) see above.

Cured Salmon Crostini: house cured salmon, sweet onion relish and horseradish cream

Zucchini Bacon Hushpuppies: zucchini, smoked bacon fritters with a chipotle mayo.

Apocalypse Now Burger: pork and beef patty, American cheese, house made mayo, pork belly, bacon, foie gras and cherry jam on brioche.

We quieted down a bit as the food start arriving kitchen. I have to confess, there is something sadistically pleasurable about sitting down for dinner @ Nosh with a friend who literally weighs 100 lbs. From the second she sat down, and we demanded that she dive in to the bucket of french fries, to the last sip of her Long Trail Double Bag, Rory was in heaven.

For me, the salmon dish was ok and nothing more than that. It was a nice clean cure but the fish came off as pretty mild and would have benefited a bit more from an added dose of horseradish to the cream. The hushpuppies, however… They were honestly the best I’ve had outside of New Orleans. They, believe it or not, weren’t overloaded with bacon and this worked to their advantage. The inside, amazingly creamy, was a balance of slightly sweet and smoky; the outside shell was ever so crunchy without being over fried. The chipotle mayonnaise was the knockout punch to it, though. Just a bit smokier than the fritter, it also added both a level of acid and heat that really made the dish addictive. It also made for a mighty fine dipping sauce for the french fries. The downside: this was a special appetizer for the evening (though, and I’m talking to the Noshers that Be, I think this would kill as a regular item).

Another fun note about Rory is that she’s never had foie gras before. When she told us this, the Missus and I nearly squealed with joy–or from the over consumption of pork products. We’re still not sure. But, when the burger arrived, I stole a bit of the lobe, smeared it on a crostini, handed it her and watched her face. It could only go one of two ways, really, as foie isn’t an ingredient you can really be ambivalent about. And, when she finished chewing, she beamed. I repeat: There is something sadistically pleasurable about sitting down for dinner @ Nosh with a friend who literally weighs 100 lbs.

Satisfied, I cut the burger into threes and we dug in. Or, rather, they did and I sat there for a few seconds inspecting it. I mean, there it was, the Apocalypse Now Burger. The burger made famous on Man Vs. Food, which actually ordering it in the restaurant brings a preface from the waitress that he had the Quad-Apocalypse: a four horseman patty version and that if we wanted one similar to the burger that Adam Richman ate, we could add the additional patties at a cost. The single patty version sat in front of me and I hedged on eating it.

Was it because my brain(or at least the better working parts of it) knew that it was just way too over the top? It was everything I loved in an interpretation that my instincts told me I should hate. So, when I finally shut my brain off and just bit into the damn thing… well, I thought I heard those little piggy angels singing. I loved it. I loved the juiciness and the flavor of the ground pork in the patty, which was reminiscent of a garlicky Italian sausage, but the red meat was near impossible to pick out. The bacon and thick cut pork belly were crispy and fatty, though the foie and cherry jam was completely lost in the pile of pork. While I do love some foie, those livers need to be as fat as David Crosby’s to stand up to the other components of the burger, otherwise it just acts as a textural element instead of a flavor one. Luckily, all together, it reached beyond being a novelty and made for a pretty satisfying bite.

And what did our 100 lb wonder think of it? To quote her: ‘Favorite burger ever.’ I do believe they have a convert in Rory and, for us, it was a decadent and delicious burger, but I’d be more likely to go back for the fries and hushpuppies.

Nosh Kitchen Bar on Urbanspoon

Want to read about some other burgers, visit the O-Rama gang and their reviews here, here, here, here, here and here.