I have been thinking a lot lately about being able to sell the "whole" animal to eaters in a bid to make truly local cuisine viable. You see, the most common argument going for the lack of small local producers of meat is that people don't want to eat anything but the choice cuts, i.e. the tenderloins, strip loins, rib steaks, breast meat. Therefore, they can not supply enough to fuel a restaurant. I could go on and on about all the parts of the animal that "people just won't eat". These variety cuts such as hoof, heads, testicles, sweetbreads, livers, hearts, etc. apparently don't have their collective finger on the pulse of the consumer.
Today my friends, I have proven the critics wrong, and boy did I need that. I refuse to believe that the only way to make a go of it is by selling steak. That is not what is in store for a successful, sustainable Okanagan. I must admit, that before the sales and praise for this feature were so positive, I didn't think I'd sell any. What was I selling? A pigs cheeks stuffed into a pigs foot, then braised and then deep fried. Sounds awesome to me, and apparently it sounded interesting enough for people to order it. I was really shocked at the reception this special received. People were picking up the remaining scraps of the hoof and sucking natural jelly out from between the toes and nibbling breading off the toe nails. Not a single plate came back with anything more than some toe nails and cartilage. I was blown away. Humbled even. I was really looking at the dining public with a lot of pessimism as of late. Not any more.
So, the dish.
For the trotters:
I removed the shank from the trotters which came from the front half of the pig. You have to use the front feet because they are the ones with shanks and moving joints which can be removed. The hind legs of a pig are straight bone. Once the shanks were removed(pain in the ass, but got much better towards the last few) I filled the cavity with diced up pork cheek and a little farce made from the cheek as well, with the addition of some seasoning and herbs. I then tied them up and wrapped them in cheese cloth.
I then braised them for 4 hours in a liquid of chicken stock, vegetables, herbs and cherries.
Once they were finished braising I let them cool in the braise in order to let them absorb some of the moisture they lost in the cook.
Once they were cooled I cut off the string and then breaded them.
(does this not look like a little pig?)
For the beans:
The night prior to cooking the beans it is important to soak the beans. Firstly, it inhibits the enzyme that causes flatulence and secondly it speeds up the cooking time. We have always been taught not to cook beans in salted water because it prevents them from cooking properly and makes them all wrinkly with a weird texture. All of this is true. What I didn't know until a few weeks ago, thanks to Jon, is that you can brine beans in salt and they will absorb all the flavored goodness and cook just fine as well. So, of course, that's what I did.
Once soaked overnight I drained the beans from the brine and rinsed them off. I then cooked them in an aromatic vegetable broth until 90% finished. Separately, I cooked off a mirepoix and then added that to the beans once they were cool.
With the Braising liquid, I reduced it to a sauce consistency then added the beans and veg to that. Lovely.
To go along with all this I put a nice helping of horseradish mayo, some great arugula from the Peltier family garden, some shaved granna padano and for that all important acid component some cherry relish(to go with the cherry in the braise)
Sorry, if I ramble, but this was a great day for me. I really didn't think it would sell. I really wanted it to, and it did. Hopefully this is only the beginning of things to come.
Look at that, four at once. One to a lady who already ate, she saw it go by and had to order one for dessert. The other three to a part of four from Ontario who were waiting in the parking lot to talk to me about how much they loved it. That was a little over the top. That kind of attention can be dangerous. You know what the best part of it was? They didn't even ask my name, they just wanted to talk about the pork feet. They will go home and tell people that if you wanna eat stuff like pork cheeks stuffed in trotters that they need to go to the Okanagan. That is what this is all about. Sell the Okanagan as the real food and wine mecca it deserves to be.