A few years ago a friend of mine bought me Michael Ruhlman's book, Charcuterie. Since then I have been trying as many different types of meat preparations as I can. I have been through a long list of prosciutto's, pancetta's, bacon's, terrines, hams and sausages but one thing has been a desire of mine, Headcheese. I have been intrigued by headcheese for a long time, I have seen it at the grocery store every now and then and of course at the butcher shop but every time I try it, it has been a little rubbery and sometimes has had an odd flavor. Finally I made it up to Cooper's in St. Louis Park, MN and had some Headcheese made by local Icon Mike Phillips. It was tender and salty and fresh tasting like nothing I have ever had. So I decided that it was time for me to try and make my own.
Making headcheese is a long process especially if you don't know where to get a pigs head. I called all the usual places and nobody seemed to be able to get me a whole pigs head or they thought I was kidding and was going to use it in some sort of prank. Eventually Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe in Rochester, MN told me that they would call me the next time they butchered a pig and I could have the head, because they usually just throw it out. A couple of weeks went by and finally I got the call, my pig head was in. The next obstacle I ran into was a wife that was unthrilled with the idea of me boiling a pigs head in the house. She was absolutely certain it would stink up the house and we would never get the smell out.
My wife tolerates a lot of things from me, because I am always trying some new odd thing in our kitchen, but the pigs head was to much for her to take. So I waited until she went out of town on an all girls weekend and went forward with my project. I knew without even looking that I was going to find a magnificent recipe for headcheese in Fergus Henderson's book, The Whole Beast, Nose to tail eating. Of course in his book it is called Brawn, apparently if you call it by a nicer name people aren't as afraid of it. The French call it Fromage De Tete, the Italians call it Coppa di Testa all of which sound much nicer than Headcheese. There are a lot of misconceptions about headcheese, my wife, upon returning from her girls weekend stated that she wasn't going to eat brains. It took some convincing but I finally got her to believe that there are no brains in headcheese. Only the fat and meat and some connective tissue from the head of a pig. I left out that you use the tongue and snout because I really wanted her to try it.
My Brawn turned out wonderfully and has a very nice texture like the one I had at Cooper's. Mine has a nice flavor and I am really happy with the results. Its not as good as the one I had at Cooper's or the one I had at Haute Dish but for my first time making it, I really think it turned out great. I am having a dinner party next week and I am planning on serving it as an appetizer I guess I will find out then if its actually as good as I think it is. Either way it was fun to make.