After my previous adventures with Pea and PIg's Ear soup, I was left with a bunch of pork stock. Stopping at the Asian market on the way home and finding the world's smallest pork roast (costing under $3.00) means I'm now ready to begin my first attempt at a headless headcheese. I'm using a shoulder to replace all the meat that gets picked off the head after it's cooked in a traditional headcheese and suspended in the stock.
Salt on the roast and then a quick sear on all sides, followed by a good pour of PBR. My lovely beer soaked roast then went in a 325 oven for just under an hour and a half.
The next day after it had cooled overnight in the fridge my roast got shredded, I saved the cooking liquid which had solidified into a nice gelatinous mass as well and put it in with my older stock. Instead of adding brunoise of carrot, as well as chopped up bits of pig ear I decided to keep it really simple. Just shredded roast, some finely chopped parsley and some salt and cracked black pepper.
A terrine dish lined with plastic was the perfect thing to set my headcheese. First a sprinkle of parsley, followed by the shredded seasoned meat and then another sprinkle of parsley. I then melted my stock and gently poured enough stock in the terrine dish to just cover my meat mixture.
The dish went into the fridge to set again. The next day I removed my plastic wrap blob to reveal my jiggly headcheese. In fact my headcheese was a little more jiggly than I wanted it; ideally I wanted something that was more sliceable than spreadable. What I ended up with was something more spreadable, but it did have a nice pork and parsley flavor.
Even with its shortcomings in texture my headcheese still tasted good, and I learned a few good lessons. Reduce the stock further to get an even more gelatinous texture, and shred my pork a lot more to help with my texture issue.
My headcheese was served with a splash of vinegar, crusty bread and some dijon mustard. And not being one to focus on shortcomings I decided to have a celebratory beer along side my headless headcheese.
Having a container of leftover stock from my pig's ear soup leaves me with a world of possibilities. This stock has the exciting ability to stay gelled at room temperature, which makes the possibilities far more interesting than a simple soup.
As I've said throughout, this stock has been in my freezer since I last made headcheese, so although I have no pork to suspend in it I think I'm going to make something like a headcheese. A headless headcheese. Decapitated headcheese.
I only make headcheese when I have a head. And I usually find myself with a pig's head after I roast a pig. Which I did when I first moved to Boston. I managed to roast a seventeen pound pig in the tiny domestic kitchen. My Mum was very proud.
There's the pig. Many thanks to my dear friend Naomi who took this photo and then left it on facebook for me to find two years later. Unphased by not having a pan big enough to fit my pig I simply placed my porcine lovely directly on the oven rack, lined my oven with foil and prayed. The smoke detector went off multiple times, and I managed to set an oven mitt on fire. No one was hurt. The oven also managed to stay remarkably clean throughout the entire process.
The plan for this stock today is to get a small piece of pork shoulder if I can find it, or some other fatty piece otherwise . Then braise it, shred it, season it and suspend it in my gelatinous stock. Making something close to a headcheese.
I'm trying to figure out how to incorporate my leftover fried ears into this as well. And possibly use some leftover soup, provided it can stay gelled. Ideally making a multi-layered, multi-coloured terrine/headcheese type thing.
With a good viscous stock the options seem endless.
Raining again today, the weather is begging for soup. After a day in the fridge I brought out my pot of pea soup, put it on the stove and lifted the lid. Looking up at me was a pot of totally congealed green goo. So thick that a heavy ladle stood straight up in it, and I was able to slice it like cake. Which I did.
It's really rather pretty, just not exactly soup-like. Note to self: when making soup with headcheese stock, make sure to water it down. My soups solid nature was easily fixed by being placed back on the stove over a low flame. While my soup was slowly returning to a liquid state I got busy slicing my cooked pig's ear. The ears were sticky, with a mildly gelatinous exterior over a hard cartilage that gives the ear its structure. I had four ears but only sliced two in case I needed to adjust the width of my slicing.
With my soup melting and my ears sliced I needed to heat my oil and fry my ears. Now, my recipe warned me that ears tend to spatter when they fry even when they're dry. This is very, very true. I'm fairly sure that there is oil on my ceiling, and I have several little burn marks from badly chosen moments of stirring. Frying pig's ears is not a dull experience.
When they were all fried I had a beautiful pile of crunchy and chewy pigs ears to top my soup with.
I seasoned my soup with salt, fresh black pepper and a little cider vinegar. With a few more tastes I determined that a little hot sauce was needed so some of that went in the pot, and then it was ready. With bowl and spoon in hand it was time to taste.
The soup was very thick and viscous, and the crispy pig's ear topping was a little chewy and had a lovely salty falvour. All in all an exceptionally filling bowl of soup full of hearty flavors and a lots of texture. An excellent beginning to my nose to tail eating experience courtesy of Fergus Henderson's The Whole Beast.