Button Soup Pork Dinner

noun, plural -gies

1. a written or spoken expression of one’s regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, or wronged another
2. a defense or justification in speech or writing, as for a cause or doctrine

Button Soup Pork Dinner

In February 2011 Button Soup hosted a dinner was based around the least desirable cuts from two hogs, namely:

  • two heads,
  • two tails, and
  • four hind trotters.

These cuts contain pounds (pounds!) of good meat and fat that usually end up in the garbage. With a little effort, they made a dinner for six guests, with lots of leftovers.

A Quick Apology, in the second sense of the word.

The cooking that I was taught in school, and the cooking that I practice in restaurants, is a bit, to speak delicately, narrow. It focuses on a few “choice” cuts of meat, like rack of lamb, breast of poultry, and loin of pork and beef: relatively lean, tender cuts that can be cooked to order over dry heat.

I sometimes joke about how strange Albertan cows must look, as they only yield tenderloins, striploins, and cheeks (as opposed to, say, Vietnamese cows, which give us flank, brisket, tripe, tendon, and a myriad of other delicacies.)

I don’t mean to suggest that cooking a filet mignon is a cop out: obviously there are subtleties to the preparation, and pleasure in the consumption of those choice cuts. But cooking the less desirable “variety cuts” is a different experience entirely. You may have to research and experiment with cooking methods, and you’ll most likely spend a great deal more time in the preparation. The meat, however, goes through a remarkable transformation, one much more profound and striking then when you sear a tenderloin. In the end you are sometimes rewarded with a new set of tastes and textures.

Some of the following posts are a little weird, but I want to stress that my goal in writing them isn’t to shock or disturb. The posts are rooted in curiosity, as well as a reverence for farmers, pigs, and the culinary heritage that informed the meal.

An interesting thing about the heads, tails, and trotters: though they are rarely used, strictly speaking they aren’t offal. Offal is any part of the animal that isn’t included in the dressed carcass. When you buy a side of pork, the viscera such as the liver, heart, and kidneys have been removed. Those organs and muscles are the offal. The head, tail, and trotters, however, remain on a dressed side of pork. These cuts are therefore extremely easy to get from vendors at the farmers’ market, and insanely cheap to boot (trotters are a buck a piece). Anyways, here is the menu from the dinner, with links to detailed descriptions of the preparations.

Bill of Fare

To Begin: cured bath chaps with apples, peppergrass, and pumpkin seeds

(A complete description of the cured Bath chaps.)

Soup: lentils in broth with crisp smoked tail

(A complete description of the crisp tail.)

Main: trotters stuffed with potato and morels, braised cabbage, and apple wine

(A complete description of the stuffed trotter.)

To End: sugar pie, brown beer with raspberry liqueur, and the last of the season’s rumpot

(A complete description of the sugar pie.)