Found: one silk purse

It was only a few weeks ago that I re-read Michael Ruhlman’s The Soul of a Chef, where Thomas Keller extolled the gastro-virtues of all parts pig. While I’m a huge fan of bacon, I never quite happily immersed myself in other parts swine outside of the crispy breakfast strips. I grew up repulsively watching my dad dip into a ginormous jar of pickled pig’s feet, hungrily gnawing away at the gelatinous trotters. I tried to wrap my taste buds around Peter Brady’s famed pork chops and apple sauce. I always picked off and ate only the sugar bits on a honey baked ham. And although I will dabble occasionally in the sweet pig pizza (Canadian bacon and pineapple) or a link or two of breakfast sausage, I never went whole hog over anything else but bacon. That all changed after reading Keller’s description of eating pig ears – when cooked right, “it melts in your mouth.”

I had my chance to test this narrative while in New York this past weekend. Wandering around the West Village about dinnertime, Jim and I found ourselves at The Spotted Pig, where he had just read an article in The New York Times about their popular but rare cask beers. We ducked into the somewhat cramped bar/restaurant and while sipping our pints of the surprisingly light Spotted Pig Bitter, I glanced at the dinner menu and let out my own personal sooie when I saw “Crispy Pig’s Ears with Lemon Caper Dressing.”

After a half dozen of the most sublime oysters we’ve ever had (Nova Scotia Beau Soleil), a most magnificent salad of arugula and spicy warm lentils topped with salsa and crème fraiche, and another round of beer later, I was face to face with a plate full of the odoriferous fried pig’s ears. It smelled like bacon, but “they look like a dog’s chew toy,” said Jim. “Trust in Keller, trust in Keller,” I silently repeated to myself as I sliced off a tip of a triangle. But as soon as I bit down on probably one of the least healthiest things I’ve put in my mouth in a long time, I was in hog heaven. Pure 100% pork goodness. Words can not describe how extraordinary it was. Pictures or video can not do it justice. Fried pig’s ear. Tender. Chewy. Crispy. You just have to trust me.

Crispy pig\'s ear

The Spotted Pig. 314 W. 11th Street at Greenwich. Now.

Check out this Michael Ruhlman interview with the chef de cuisine at Lolita’s in Cleveland:

How to cook a pig’s ear

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