One of the latest food trends is very efficient, sure, but it’s still hard to stomach. Nose-to-tail eating means that every bit of the pig is prepared and, yes, eaten–and it’s on the rise in the Deep South. Southern Living magazine caught up with several chefs below the Mason-Dixon Line to discuss this phenomenon and how it’s catching on in places like Atlanta, Charleston, Houston and Memphis.
As surprising as the trend may be, the reasoning behind it isn’t. More and more chefs are turning to local farmers for their meats, veggies and other ingredients, and that means buying whole pigs rather than just certain cuts. Using everything from the nose to the tail is a means of getting the most value for their money.
Other chefs, like Sean Brock of Charleston’s celebrated Husk restaurant, raise their own pigs. Brock tells Southern Living that he does it out of respect for the animal, saying, “You want to make the most of every single part to celebrate its life.”
So what might you find on the menu of a restaurant that practices nose-to-tail cooking? The magazine’s March issue only deconstructs the parts of the pig that may not be commonly eaten, like the head, the feet, the skin and the tail. Deep-fried pig’s ears are popular in Southern restaurants like New Orleans’ Cochon. Another part of the head that’s being put to use is the jowls, and the head itself forms the base of hog’s head cheese.
Charleston’s Cypress restaurant uses pig’s feet for a unique take on pork and beans. The feet are braised and then the meat is picked off, mixed with bread crumbs and mustard and served over barbecued boiled peanuts cooked in a molasses-based sauce.
One part of the pig that was popularly used well before the onset of this trend is the skin. Pork rinds may be considered more of a convenience store snack, but one of Houston’s newer restaurants has a more gourmet take on them. Chefs roast rabbit leg wrapped in pig skin, then serve atop peaches and Swiss chard.
Finally, Memphis’ soon-to-open Hog & Hominy will put an interesting twist on the tail of the pig. Chefs Michael Hudman and Andy Ticer have a dish that reinterprets the last piece as a mix between a hot wing and a short rib. It gets its spicy flavor from mustard, tomatoes and Calabrian chiles and is served with a ranch sauce of their own invention.
Do you think this trend would be hard to swallow?