Sunday Night Special: Pig’s Ear Salad
In a thrifty attempt to work through all of the odds and ends that have accumulated in my two freezers (yes, two) before allowing myself to buy any new perishables, I found a stash of pigs’ ears. Waste not, want not.
It’s strange that dull gray supermarket ground beef that’s been lazing around in a deep freeze for months doesn’t bother me but these large (much larger than I realized from the packaging) fleshy flaps gave me pause. Hooves and even chicken feet don’t bother me much, but these ears seemed so lifelike.
I originally bought them to recreate the pig’s ear salad I had at Resto, which I now believe is also served at Irving Mill.
The salad part was straightforward. The original uses escarole. You could use any hearty greens. I happened to have some aging mesclun in the fridge and beefed it up with big handfuls of arugula.
Tarbeis beans are a French cassoulet bean. Not something I keep around the house though I did have flageolet, a common substitute. It was too late for soaking so a can of ordinary cannellini sufficed. I’ve never made cassoulet, maybe I’ll muck that up on a future Sunday before it gets too warm for such heavy food. I think I’d better hurry.
A poached egg is the crowning glory. I overcooked my yolk, sad since I love lots of warm runniness. But I’m not a perfectionist, I could never be a recipe tester with all of my impatience. A semi-set yolk wasn’t ideal but I wasn’t going to toss it out considering this whole exercise was to use up stagnating ingredients not create more waste.
The tricky part was the ears. I had no idea they were so tough, my normally adequate knife barely sawed through the double-ply slabs.
After a trip in a wok full of hot oil, my ribbons were crisped to brown, maybe a little too dark. Cooked slower and longer in subsequent batches and tossed with salt, they still ended up all crackle, little chew. Maybe Resto had special fatty, tender or possibly smaller or younger ears. Theirs felt like a wonderful bacon-crouton combo. My recent experience with pigs’ ears outside of Resto (at A Lorcha in Macau) were also very crunchy and cartilage-heavy just like these.
Even though I’ve never knowingly eaten chervil, I’m convinced that licoricey herb appeared in the original. No chervil at Fairway (nor frisee—maybe I’m doing something wrong because I can never find frisee). Instead, I added minced tarragon to a Dijon vinaigrette.
This dish would’ve been much better with lardons. Of course everything tastes great with lardons. Pig’s ears take more finesse, which I have yet to master.