I have heard rumors and some quiet mumblings about pork cheeks. And from time to time I come across a recipe that calls for pork cheeks. I have eaten pork cheeks a couple of times, only at hogs roasts where the pig is still whole and nobody has gotten to them before I can. When roasted whole as part of a hog roast I have always been impressed at how tender and succulent the cheeks have been. My problem comes when I try to buy pork cheeks from a butcher. Nobody seems to carry them and the ones that do only carry them sliced into cutlets. I would like to get my hands on some whole pork cheeks. I have a friend who goes down to Texas every year boar hunting so I thought, hey why not ask him if he could cut a few cheeks out for me and bring them back. Apparently when he asked the guys who process his pigs they thought he was kidding and tossed the heads out. Another friend met a guy at a food event who could get me some and all I have to do is find some small farm in Wisconsin.
I know that pork cheeks aren't a popular cut of meat and I know that butchers don't want to waste there time with them but with all the possible uses out there and cheeks being a less then desirable cut, I should be able to find them somewhere. I found a website that sells them, however I am not willing to pay $120.00 (total cost including shipping) to get them here. So then the other day I happened to be at the local grocery store and there they were pork cheeks. Smoked and cured pork cheeks. Not exactly what I was looking for, I was hoping more for raw whole untouched pork cheeks but at this point I wasn't going to be picky. I bought up a few pounds and brought them home and thought, what will I do with them first. After all they were already cured so that ruled out Guanciale and I am not sure how well they would work in a stew or a braise because the smoked flavor would alter whatever I would do. So I went simple and made a BLT or sorts. I sliced the cheeks about a quarter inch thick and fried them up like you would bacon. I had some nice crusty bread and a couple of slices of aged white cheddar and then fried an egg to top it all off. It was a damned tasty sandwich.
The whole experience hasn't weakened my quest to find pork cheeks, it has only made it stronger. I am going to have to call around some more or make a trip to Wisconsin. I just saw today that the St. Paul farmers market was opening this weekend maybe I will have to make a trip up there and ask around to see if anyone can help me out.