Crispy Pig’s Ear Salad

Yes, you heard right. Driven by a desire for challenge, a way to shake up the same old culinary routine, I decided to wade into the shallow end of what U.K. chef Fergus Henderson has made famous – nose to tail eating. Realizing my bread box-sized kitchen could never handle a pig’s head, or even half, I settled for pig’s ears, and chef Henderson’s recipe for crispy pig’s ear salad with sorrel and chicory.

I bought six ears at my local Chinatown butcher, Loy Sing, that had been pre-singed of any hair – something I hadn’t considered but was grateful for.
To tenderize, a broth was constructed with a mirepoix, bouquet garni, a splash of red wine vinegar and water.
Two hours later, I had an exquisite broth for later use and tender ears.

Cooled and firmed, I cut them in various shapes and sizes, but the julienned version – as thinly as possible – would be the topping for the salad.
Now for the crispy part. The lack of photos here attests to the next two hours spent in crisis management. The understated directions in chef Henderson’s recipe that no matter how dry the ears are, they are likely to spit when placed in hot oil, provided a challenge. (Right, I was asking for that).
The spitting came in the guise of hot oil shooting geyser-like onto the walls, cupboards, stove, floor and me.
Sensing danger, I transferred the system to the great outdoors where my trusted bbq quickly produced a grease fire that showed no signs of settling down. I had at this point a mere handful of crispy ears.
The solution was to transfer a small amount of oil to a wok with a beat up lid I adore to handle the exploding “spit”. I would throw a handful of sliced ears into the hot oil, cover and wait until the explosions settled down, stirred them around with the lid as my shield and let them fry some more until golden.

Exhausted from swearing, I tried to compose myself and create the finished salad. (In retrospect, I would have been better off making the headcheese recipe).
Sorrel was not to be found, so I subbed in New Zealand spinach with the chicory, requested capers and parsley, dressed with Henderson’s zingy vinaigrette, and topped with crispy ears.
Very chewy. But the salad was delightful with contrasting flavours – bitter, salty, crunchy, tangy – all playing around in the mouth.

I think I’m okay with less on the challenge front for a while. Right after I hose down the kitchen.

One Response to “Crispy Pig’s Ear Salad”

  1. classes says:

    I’m not likely to try the recipe anytime soon but I applaud your dogged determination to complete the task at hand.

    Despite all the perils, that salad looks pretty piggin’ good!

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