Pig parts is pork paradise at “Au Pied de Cochon”

Thanks to a review today in the Observer by the always readable (and fellow pig enthusiast) Jay Rayner, I am reminded of this Parisian classic restaurant, directly opposite Les Halles.

Au Pied de Cochon - Google Maps

Au Pied de Cochon – Google Maps

It claims never to have closed since it first opened in 1947 and thus needs no light switches or door locks. For some reason I cannot fathom, I have never been there. And for some one who (like Jay) has a taste for everything from the pig, this is a sad & (needing soon to be rectified) omission.

Au Pied de Cochon

Au Pied de Cochon

Remember when I mentioned St. Anthony? The patron saint of charcutiers everywhere? Seeing his review of their famed house speciality, the Temptation of Saint Anthony, breaded extremities…

Au Pied de Cochon restaurant_review, The Guardian 2016

Au Pied de Cochon restaurant_review, The Guardian 2016

…makes me want to jump onto the Eurostar this minute and sample their menu. I very well might. Soon.

Au Pied de Cochon menu

Au Pied de Cochon menu

The 4th estate really needs to up their game & get with the pig program!

Pigs have had some really bad press over the years.

And after reading this piece,  I think you’ll agree that they’ve been pretty hard done by up until now, by the ladies and gentlemen of the press? And that needs to be rectified. Stat!

Starting with the religious types in Egypt (their brains obviously having been melted — to resemble dripping candle wax — by the cauldron-like effects of the sun, burning sand & whatever hallucinogenics they’d consumed as part of their “getting closer to god” role-playing) who, after falling out with one of their gods, Set, then naturally fell out of love with the animal that they’d previously venerated and sacrificed to him/it, through to the next set of bearded weirdies in the same desert regions (Jews and Moslems) who both decided that pork was “unclean” (possibly for some — considering date and location at the time — quite reasonable reasons, relating to the interaction between burning hot sun and meat left unrefrigerated for too long *) and who haven’t stopped since (more fool them, both for the ongoing religious lunacy and for their refusal to countenance pigs in their diets), right through to their use as the bad guys in epithets: (“fat as a pig”, “eating like a hog”, equating the police with them and one I particularly like from Finland, “to behave like a pig in a raspberry orchard”, pigs being exceedingly fond of fruit), their PR team hasn’t been doing a great job.

cows&pigs

[* The anthropologist Marvin Harris, in “Cows, Pigs, Wars & Witches: The Riddles of Culture” believes it merely “reflects the difficulties of rearing pigs in primitive desert conditions” but in “The Golden Bough”, Sir James Fraser disagrees, saying that the prohibition came about because the pig was an animal of sacrifice: “The reason for not eating them,” wrote Fraser, “is that they were originally divine.”]

 

 

 

 

The bearded sky-pixie types aside, most everyone else is pretty reasonable, so here we go...

Sara Rath, author of “The Complete Pig” said:

“These are animals,” she says, “who danced to music for the Bourbon kings, who inspired the sculptors of Mesopotamia, who have been at the heart of human existence – love, war, famine and plenty – through all our time on earth. We have to get close to them again.”

Pigs – when they are allowed to be – are hugely healthy creatures, fastidious of diet (their omnivore leanings notwithstanding) and are scrupulous of hygiene: unlike many other creatures they will not befoul their own bedding.

The rolling around in mud — which so many see as proof-positive of their being “dirty” — is of course done for hugely practical reasons; the mud acts both as a coolant (pigs, not having sweat glands, can’t dump excess heat the way we humans do) & as a protective barrier to the sun (pigs, being generally fair-skinned, are prone to sun-burn), whilst also helping to get rid of the parasites and mites that otherwise can plague them.

Cooling_off_-_geograph.org.uk_-_200724

And they’re smart. Whip-lash smart. No “Top 10 list of the smartest creatures” is complete without the pig, second only sometimes to chimps and dolphins. Anyone who has spent any quality time with them knows how they reason and puzzle things through. Their ability, up there with Houdini and Angel, to escape from their pens and find their way through apparently impenetrable fencing, is legendaryGeorge Orwell recognised their intelligence in “Animal Farm“:

“The work of teaching and organising the others naturally fell to the pigs,” he wrote, “who were generally recognised as being the cleverest of the animals.”

Pigs were, for a long period in The History Of The Poor Man & Woman™, an alternative currency – hence the term “piggy bank” which reflected the household’s wealth, that being invested in its single pig. That the said pig usually lived in the house nobody thought anything of. And feed it the food waste left over after we humans had eaten and the pig grew fatter; a virtuous circle. Why wouldn’t you keep it in the house, safe from predation (and thieving passers-by)?

piglet-throat-infestation-d7_107940_1

Piglet throat infestation ©Natural History Museum

The 21st century finds them at the centre of research in bio-medicine.

This TED talk by Christien Meindertsma (author of “Pig 05049“) looks at the afterlife of the pig, parts of which make their way into over 185 non-pork products. [One warning: watch one TED talk and soon you’re hooked, hours, days later, you’ll surface, dazed, confused but much better informed about lots of different subjects…]

Anyway, back to some other uses for pigs: they give us organs for transplant, skin graft tissue, diabetics’ insulin and the raw materials for many other drugs. So similar is the pig’s physiognomy to that of us humans (we’re closer genetically to the chimps), that they are used to study everything from alcoholism (with the pig apparently exhibiting a particular fondness for good Russian vodka) to battlefield injuries to “body-farm” decomposition and forensic science investigations

Red wine v. vodka

Red wine v. vodka

Fed to pigs? TV tropes...

Fed to pigs? TV tropes…

Oh, and for the stoners out there? Marijuana fed pigs? Pigs, being animals of, as we’ve already established, pristine discriminatory suss, love this shit. Thanks to Seattle butcher William Von Schneidau who feeds his pigs marijuana as part of their regular diet to not only increase their fibre intake but also to inject the meat with a unique savoury flavour and cut down on waste, you too can indulge in pork and weed. IN THE SAME FRICKIN’ MOUTHFUL.

Brings a whole different meaning to the words “pot-bellied pig” eh?

stonerpigs2

Stoner pigs? ©Tim Lorang

stonerpigs

Pigs have often been more kindly treated by authors & writers. P G Wodehouse created the Empress of Blandings, a truly splendid and redoubtable prize-winning sow, the pride of her owner, Lord Emsworth’s life. 

And let’s not forget Link Hogthrob and the splendidly named Dr. Julius Strangepork both from “Pigs In Space” on The Muppet Show… Oh, and for the old-time Dr Who fans out there — remember the “Peking Homunculus“?

Yes, I know that last one wasn’t a great advert for pigs but hey, Dr Who!

Dr._Julius_Strangepork Peking Homunculus

The call to arms is complete. Get out there. Be good to pigs. Cherish them. Love them. I do.

An umami tusnami explodes into your life…

For a real umami taste-bomb, why not let this beauty just roll straight over you? Accept it into your life – there’s no way to fight it off or escape its savage beauty.

It’s another genius creation by Matthew Ramsay, of Pornburger Me fame. He’s also written a book which I strongly urge you to pre-order and which will be added to the Tasting Notes page when it’s released.

umilfy_official

 

 

Umami or “mouthfulness”…

Today’s Radio 4’s “The Kitchen Cabinet” (which is nearly always worth a listen) was focused on the science behind the tastes in cooking, with the bulk of the discussion centred around “umami“.

[NOTE: There’s a whole page here on umami for those who’d like some further reading: What it is, why it’s suddenly popular and how it can be used.]

Since the 1990s, it’s become more and more well known as the fifth flavour. It’s the one that gives that “brothy” and “meaty”, savoury flavour. It was also phrased as (and I’m sorry for this one) “mouthfulness” i.e. something that fills the sensorium. But you get the idea.

So, ‘what does this have to do with pork’  I hear you ask?

Let me explain: this post is the first under the Now we got it, what to do with the (bloody) thing? section [*] where I’m adding recipes and suggestions about how to use the wonderful, delightful pig.

We find ourselves more and more using umami in pretty much everything meat related – for all the reasons at the top of the page. Try it in sauces, burgers, stews, broths, soups, home-made ketchup, as part of a rub for roasting meat, as an addition to the items I use to encourage interesting (whilst staying perfect) pork crackling.

Seriously. Just try it. It doesn’t need much — a tea-spoon or two can make all the difference to any of the recipes here and can brighten up those you’ve used in the past.

Natural umami givers:

Ripe tomatoes  Soy sauce  Anchovies

versus, er, a natural umami giver, albeit en-tubed:

As far back as 3,000 years ago, Greeks and Romans used a condiment called garum – a fermented fish sauce – unwittingly boosting the umami in their foods. In the 1825 treatise, “The Physiology of Taste“, French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin established the word “osmasome” for rich, meaty tastes, which has since been considered a forerunner of umami.

And long before the current umami craze came along, chefs had been amping up dishes with rich ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes and balsamic vinegar – even chicken stock – for years. In the late 1800s, Auguste Escoffier, in restaurants in Paris and London, created meals that combined umami with salty, sour, sweet and bitter notes. He didn’t know the chemical source of this unique quality, just a natural talent for recognising what worked.

One of my favourite chefs, Richard H Turner,

Josh Hawksmoor & Richard Turner at the Hawksmoor restaurant, Covent Garden, London ©The Telegraph 2013

Josh Hawksmoor & Richard Turner at the Hawksmoor restaurant, Covent Garden, London ©The Telegraph 2013

(author of “Hog“, oft mentioned around here), knows the value of umami:

Turner on umami

 

 

 

 

 

It’s hugely useful in cooking almost anything — pushes up the taste dial another notch or two, “brightens up” dishes, really punches above its weight when the taste buds need stimulating.

And on the latter point — as you age, your taste buds become less keen (which is why you find yourself adding more salt to dishes, more sugar to your tea). Nutritionists for some time now, have been suggesting using umami when cooking for older people. I make no comment…

* [Which occasioned some debate with Val — as I want people to read my pages as I post them whilst still retaining them as a resource. Despite her expertise in all things WordPress related, it looks as though I’ll have to duplicate them to make sure people see both the RSS feed as well as it being a more “permanent” part of the site as a page.]

The first cut is the deepest.

Or, at the least, in the case of the pig, it’s the fatal one.

Quickly severing the carotid, the erupting blood caught for use later in black-pudding or similar, this ensures a (comparatively) quick and painless death — although not necessarily a silent one.

This is a commercial guide to the cuts of meat made by the butcher, post-mortem, but it’s a visually colourful and useful one nevertheless.

Cuts of pork

Cuts of pork © https://www.corrchilled.co.uk/index.php?route=pavblog/blog&id=37