Radish Ravioli of Oyster, Goats’ Cheese and Truffle, Brawn Rissole
Specialty Equipment: water bath, vacuum machine, electric slicer
Specialty Ingredients: gellan F, sodium citrate, nitrite salt, black truffle
Dish as in The Fat Duck:
Sorry for the time between this post and the previous one. The reason: a mandatory, five day cooking marathon. With other activities and writing the post it took longer than planned. Okay, let’s get on with the Radish Ravioli of Oyster, Goats’ Cheese and Truffle, Brawn Rissole. You probably already spotted the pig’s snout below, pointing up at these words. I’m in good company of bloggers wrestling with the snout and everything else on the head of a pig. See here, here, here & here. From my experience it can be pretty intimidating stepping into the head part of ‘nose to tail’ cooking. Soulless eyes looking out from the head start the intimidation and the general idea of having a head on your kitchen table finishes it off. The pictures below could, for some, be too graphic, but I think it would be foolish not to show them. Meat like this really makes you think, at least it did for me, about meat consumption: your attitude towards animal welfare and eating the whole animal instead of solely the popular cuts. This is in no way me on a high horse, just feelings that boiled up. I got the pig’s head for free from my neighborhood butcher, with the caveat of missing ears and cheeks from the bestowed head.
The recipe simply asks for a ‘boned pig’s head’, with no further instructions. I could have asked my butcher to do it for me, but that would take away from cooking everything myself. What I did was look on Youtube where I found a great video of Chris Cosentino butchering this part of the pig. So after watching the video I just went for it, starting at the top instead of the chin area after of course cleaning the head.
When you work your way around the head there are a few area’s that require some attention. The first is behind the eyes where the skull takes a nose dive and meat is surrounded by two cliffs of bone. The second is the part just after the eyes and along the front of the head, where the skull runs inward and a straight cut downwards would result in a lot of meat loss (speaking from experience!). The third part is the cheek area, below the upper part of the jaw, where again the skull runs inwards and you have to follow the bone structure to extract as much meat as possible.
The two parts of the head with on the top right corner meat I cut from the skull that I missed the first time around.
The meat has to be brined for 48 hours in table salt, nitrite salt, spices, herbs, garlic and fruit zest.
The brine becomes a lovely light yellow color.
After 48 hours the meat acquires a grayish complexion, and the brine turns dark.
You then have to soak the meat in several changes of water to reduce the salt content. After two hours you vacuum pack the meat with water (I went to my bucther), plunge it into boiling water for two minutes, probably to kill, exterminate, annihilate and crush ze bacteria. After this mayhem it is ready for the water bath.
After cooking it for 48 hours (!) at 65°C, you cool the meat and turn it into a head’s cheese or terrine. You can see there is lots of gelatine to be scraped of the flesh before cutting it into strips and separating it into dark, light and fatty meat.
An electric slicer would help enormously with the task of cutting the meat into strips, but unfortunately I do not own one. Also, what I didn’t do is separate the three types of meat before cooking it (not smart), so when it was done cooking all the types ran through each other. So as a way not to pull a ‘Shrek the Famous Hermit’ and be stuck in my kitchen forever, I cut the head into reasonably thick slices and separated everything as neat as possible.
I know the post so far has been quite a straightforward summary of the dish and me cooking it, but cooking the head affected me in such away way this made sense to me. However the cooking of the head has ended so that weight is of my shoulder. Up next: pig’s feet. After the pig’s head I felt so lucky I had to play around with feet, I can’t even begin to describe it. Not! Messing around with a head and feet in a short period of time is not my idea of heaven. But what can you do, what has to be done has to be done.
The book is just as insightful on handling feet as it is with the head, simply asking for ‘boned pig’s feet’. Again I wanted to do it myself and turned to Youtube once more. It’s funny that video for me has replaced text as the starting point for background information. Instead of Googling ‘boning pig’s feet’, I just type ‘pig’s feet’ on Youtube. I stumbled upon a video of Marco Pierre White, of the show ‘Marco’, where he prepares trotters. He boned them out in ten seconds, and those seconds were sort of my reference point.
First you cut the sinew on the bottom part of the trotter. You then work your way around the bone, keeping the skin intact.
As you near the front part of the foot, there is a joint, attaching the main bone to the smaller bones of the toes. This isn’t a straight cut, your knife has to cut though in a diagonal. I first cut the lower part of the joint separating the pinky toes, turned the trotter around and cut through the upper part of the joint. After that I inserted my knife in the created space, poked around in it, and prayed for some luck. The result: a boned out pig’s foot.
The recipe is quite vague on the next part, because it does not say if you have to cut away the front part of the feet or leave them whole. I cut the lower part of the skin away from the front part, removed all the meat and cooked them separately, only adding the front toes for flavor. Wow, that sounds so wrong. The skin has the tendency to curl up when you remove them from the front bone, so you have to make sure they are brown before this happens.
After caramelizing sugar and honey the trotter have to be cooked in the caramel until they become an oak brown color. They are then braised in a traditional manner, one of the few examples in the book of meat not cooked in a water bath, with spices and vegetables.
Next up is the oyster, truffle, goat’s cheese and pear stuffing for the radish ravioli. Shallots are cooked with oyster juice and vermouth until it turns into a syrup.
I also made the Maury fluid gel (see the sardine on toast post) at the same time. I used a ten year old Maury wine from Mas Amiel that is produced like port, so it has a similar flavor profile: somewhere between a wine and a dessert wine. You have to reduce it by two thirds (I used a non-stick pan, because when you reduce the chance of it catching on the side of the pan is smaller), put it in a thermomix, add gellan and cool it while blending it from time to time. The liquid is then thickened without diluting the flavor. The flavor is actually enhanced by the gellan.
The last element to prepare in advance was the sauce gribiche. It’s a classic French sauce made with mayonnaise, lots of herbs, eggs, pickles and here the addition of pig trotters. It tests your patience, because it involves cutting everything up in tiny pieces.
Making a mayonaise.
Okay, finally after all the emotions and the start of the cooking process feeling lightyears away, it was time to assemble the dish. A final ingredient I could not find was piccalilly mustard. Luckily I made some piccalilly a year back and put A and B together and ended up with picalilly mustard or at least I think this is how it is made.
The terrine has to be cut in squares and coated with Japanese breadcrumbs. First you dust the squares with flour, mustard/eggs and lastly the breadcrumbs.
To complete the last minute components you add fresh oyster meat and truffle shavings to the ravioli filling. Winter truffles, requested in the book, are not yet in season so I purchased Autumn truffles, an in-between truffle, in-between Summer truffle and Winter truffle.
Next is the ravioli of finely sliced long radishes.
Instead of building the ravioli around the filling, I made a circle on a plastic sheet. The only difficulty is guessing the size of the diameter of the circle, so that it matches the diameter of the ravioli base.
I build the ravioli using a pastry cutter to give it a dome shape, fried the cube of pig’s head, spooned some fluid gel on the plate in a very cheffy shape and made a quenelle of the sauce gribiche.
The pig’s head. OH MY GOD. It’s delicious. It’s soft. It’s crunchy. Did I mention it is delicious? Cooking it at a low temperature for 48 hours makes it extremely tender. Butter feels like stone compared to the head’s cheese. The gribiche was a real classic French treat, a little fatty, sour, herby mix. The Maury fluid gel had a real kick, both sweet and sour, balancing the pig’s meat. The ravioli looks absolutely amazing, but I did not really like the flavour of it. Maybe there are different types of Saint-Maure cheese, because the one I got was very strong, almost like a blue cheese, and the pear could not balance out the flavours. Maybe a different filling would be more appropriate. Besides the filling everything was extremely delicious, it packs way more punch than the pictures make you believe.