Saturday, June 28, 2014

Vietnamese Rolled Pig's Head

Italian's famously serve wonderful arrays of antipasto platters involving intricate types of salumi, sausages, cured pork, and many, many variations of vegetables and accompaniments.  Porchetta di testa is a deboned pig's head that is marinated with garlic, rosemary, lemon, or various other combinations of aromatics then rolled, sealed, and poached for about 10-14 hours at 195 degrees until it is well adhered with natural gelatin.  The roll is chilled and thinly sliced and served!  

While tinkering with various items for a Vietnamese charcuterie board, I decided to change the marinade to tilt towards the flavors of Saigon.  I think it worked!  

Vietnamese Rolled Pig's Head
1 deboned pig head
2 pig ears (if they were removed during butchering)
1 pig tongue (optional)

to taste- fish sauce, garlic, Thai chili, lemongrass (chopped and mixed)

1) Rub all the pig parts with the marinade, then wrap and place in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.
2) Lay the head skin side down.  Place the ears and tongue inside, and gently roll into a nice round cylinder.  If the ears are intact, fold them into the head through the eye sockets. 
3) Using butcher twine, tie it nice and tight with all of the pieces fitting inside.  The head should be very secure. 
4) If you have a vacuum packer, seal the head in a bag.  If not, roll tightly with several layers of plastic wrap then place in a ziploc bag and squeeze the air out of it.  
5) Using a large pot (with a thermometer) or an electric roaster (even a crock pot), heat the water to about 195 degrees and place in the pig head.  Cook for about 10-14 hours (pending size) at 195 degrees, then remove and chill immediately. 
6) Slice thinly and serve.   

Here is a picture of the rolled pig's head and gio thu. Add a crock of chicken liver pate, some fresh herbs and crostini, and you have a wonderful platter for friends and family.

Steamed Fish

Summer arrived in full force, and South Louisiana brings beautiful fresh fish to home kitchens.  The intense heat welcomes light preparations of the bountiful seafood.  Steaming fish remains an underutilized technique, but one that allows us to savor the taste of the sea.  An inexpensive bamboo steamer is a great investment, or you can simply create one with a wide pot with a few inches of water and an inverted bowl.  Bring the water up to a boil then turn down to medium.  This allows the fish to cook gently.  Place the fish on a plate and put the plate on the bowl and cover.  The fish should be nicely cooked after about 8 minutes (depending on the size).  

Below is a rub that I use to impart a nice sweet, spicy, tart flavor without overpowering the wonderful fresh filet.  Gently heat up all of the ingredients until the sugar dissolves.  Let them cool, then brush on the filets.    

Steamed Fish
2 Thai chili sliced
2 garlic cloves minced
1 tsp cilantro
3 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp pork or chicken stock (or water)
1 ½ tsp palm sugar
¼ tsp white pepper

Garnish with thin sliced green onions, Thai chili, and fresh limes.