Food & Wine (February 2008)
How hard could it be to find pork cheeks in our nation's capital?
On a remarkably cold January weekend in D.C., our decision to make Food & Wine's Pork Cheek and Black-Eyed Pea Chili was a no-brainer. The photo accompanying the recipe, which was part of F&W's "Super Bowl Blowout," is beautiful, with chili resting in a teal dutch oven, accompanied by beautiful bowls filled with parsley, crème fraîche and smoked cheddar cheese alongside a basket of cornbread. Is this the classiest Super Bowl food ever?
Our first challenge, though, was finding five pounds of "cleaned and trimmed pork cheeks." The recipe gives you the option of substituting pork shoulder, but it seemed like a cheat. We started at the Dupont Farmer's Market on a Sunday. One of the regular suppliers, who incidentally supplies pork cheeks to Momofuku, often carries them but did not have any this day.
After asking around to some other farmers, we trekked over to Whole Foods, where the butcher informed us that they do not carry them. After consulting the Google, it seemed as if hog jowl may be an appropriate substitute for pork cheeks in some recipes, so we stopped by two grocery stores in our neighborhood to see if they carried jowl, but no dice. Finally, we called the meat vendors at Eastern Market. A 30-minute Zipcar reservation later, and we had our jowl, although it was salted and cured.
A little apprehensive about only using cured hog jowl, we also bought a small pork shoulder, deciding to make two batches: one jowly, the other shouldery.
We made one other substitution, using homemade turkey stock, which we had frozen at Thanksgiving, in place of the chicken stock. In terms of other ingredients, we had everything on hand except for sweet smoked paprika, the peppers and canned chipotles in adobo. Hog jowl, if you haven't cooked with it, can be difficult to slice, and we were uncertain rather to remove all of the exterior or leave part of it intact, so we ended up doing a little of both. The recipe itself, though time-intensive, was very straightforward and smelled delicious while cooking.
Seasoned hog jowl
The verdict? The pork shoulder version was amazing and unlike any chili we've had before. The combination of the pork, black-eyed peas, and spices was astounding and perfect for a winter night. With so much chili on hand, we froze most of the hog jowl version without tasting it. A few weeks later, when we were in need of lunch, we finally tried the jowl chili, which was salty to the point of being inedible. Truly disgusting. Don't believe what Google tells you - hog jowl (at least cured hog jowl) can not be readily substituted for pork cheeks.
Food & Wine's finished product
The full recipe:
Pork Cheek and Black-Eyed Pea Chili
Food & Wine (February 2008)
ACTIVE TIME: 45 MIN
TOTAL TIME: 3 HRS 30 MIN
Michael Symon defines himself as a "porketarian," saying he can't get enough of the meat. For his luscious chili, he uses incredibly flavorful and succulent pork cheeks—an unusual cut worth seeking out. If pork cheeks aren't available, pork shoulder (cut into 2-inch pieces) can be substituted.
* 1 tablespoon ground coriander
* 1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin
* 5 pounds cleaned and trimmed pork cheeks (see Note)
* Salt and freshly ground pepper
* 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 pound slab bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice
* 1 onion, finely chopped
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 2 jalapeños, seeded and very finely chopped
* 2 red bell peppers, finely diced
* One 12-ounce bottle amber ale or porter
* 2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
* 2 cups canned whole Italian tomatoes, crushed
* 2 canned chipotles in adobo, seeded and minced
* 1 pound dried black-eyed peas, picked over and rinsed
* 1 small cinnamon stick
* Shredded smoked cheddar cheese, cilantro leaves and crème fraîche, for serving
1. In a large bowl, combine the coriander, paprika and cumin and toss with the pork cheeks. Season with salt and pepper.
2. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add half of the pork and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer the pork to a plate. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and brown the remaining pork over moderate heat. Transfer the pork to the plate.
3. Add the bacon to the casserole and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and slightly crisp, about 7 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeños and bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.
4. Return the pork cheeks to the casserole along with any accumulated juices. Add the ale, chicken stock, tomatoes, chipotles, black-eyed peas and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over very low heat until the meat and beans are tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Season the chili with salt and pepper. Spoon off the fat from the surface and discard the cinnamon stick. Serve the chili in bowls. Pass the smoked cheddar, cilantro and crème fraîche at the table.