The Whole Hog Project: chef's brainstorming session | Bleader

The Whole Hog Project: chef's brainstorming session

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Maybe Creative Loafing should have invested in mulefoots.

Yesterday I sat in on a strategy session for our October 19 six-course, all-mulefoot dinner at Blackbird with Paul Kahan and the other principal chefs. We announced it last Tuesday, and it was booked solid in two days.

"We've never sold out anything that fast," said Kahan. (You can still call Blackbird and get on a waiting list for cancellations.)

As I mentioned earlier, Valerie Weihman-Rock is providing three young mulefoots for the dinner, each predicted to weigh about 160 pounds when their time comes. If that's accurate, after slaughter the chefs will have about 120 pounds of pork from each pig to work with. The meeting's purpose was to assign the primal cuts (which will be broken down at Blackbird), to brainstorm some ideas for dishes and wine pairings, and to map out a few logistics.

Kahan, who has previously worked with mulefoots supplied by Michigan farmer George Rasmussen, gave Jason Hammel from Lula and Vie's Paul Virant first choice. Hammel, who took the bellies, was thinking about doing something with preserved ground-cherries. Virant, who chose the shoulders and the offal, was going to collaborate with Kahan on a dish. Avec's Justin Large got the heads and the feet, for a possible ravioli in brodo. Blackbird's Mike Sheerin is going for the hams and the Publican's Brian Huston will work with the loins. Each will get a bag of bones for stock.

Blackbird/Avec pastry chef Tim Dahl, who faces an interesting challenge in coming up with a nongimmicky pork dessert, took some ribbing from the others:

"I thought he was gonna jump right at offal."

"You're not gonna use head and feet for dessert?"

"How about the blood? You want the blood?" 

"How about making cups out of the ears?"

In the end he decided to do a cheese course, possibly based on a Spanish dish with chicharron and a spicy syrup.

Of course, at this stage, menu planning is still theoretical. If you didn't reserve a spot you can follow along here on the Food Chain to find out what happens. Mike Gebert from Sky Full of Bacon will be along for the ride, videocam in hand.

You can read the collected dispatches from the Whole Hog Project here.

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