Many readers of this blog may know me as “The Molecular Guy” from this season of MasterChef. While I do cook frequently with modern techniques and ingredients, another side of my cooking is taking ingredients from field to table. This can mean spending a morning buying ingredients from a farmer’s market or taking game in the wild.
No matter if you’re using a frying pan or an immersion circulator to cook, the best freshest ingredients are those that have been touched by the fewest people from field to feast. I recently had my very first home-grown tomato. A real tomato. My friend’s mom (Mrs. Butler) grows the MOST AMAZING tomatoes I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve since began a boycott on any tomato with a SKU sticker.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the Butler’s farm for a hog hunt. In a world where so many people think that meat is simply bought at the grocery store and comes in neatly wrapped cellophane and Styrofoam it is extremely gratifying to have a hand in harvesting your own proteins.
Hogs run wild in Texas. They’re generally thought of as a pest, tearing up fields, eating corn out of deer feeders and otherwise causing trouble and inconvenience. My friend invited me out to the farm to help handle the problem. I was excited to spend a little time in the country and take some wild hog meat which I had yet to try.
We geared up around 10pm, first walked his property and then hopped in his truck to drive to a neighboring farm. After a short drive through the field we stood in the bed of his truck observing a field of cows. Within about 15 minutes, we saw movement. About 100 yards away was the black silhouette of a hog. The conditions were perfect. The wind was in our face, we waited quietly as the pack of hogs got closer. We hopped out of the bed of the truck, rifle in hand, and stalked closer to the pigs. When we were thirty yards away, I pointed out the lead alpha hog. Andy lasered him took a breath and dropped him.
No night vision: Nightvision:
He was BIG! About 300 pounds on hoof. We wrestled the pig into the bed of Andy’s truck and left the field. While Andy “took” the hog, I did the hard work… with a bit of a Dexter Morgan feel, I dawned rubber gloves, and went to work breaking apart the animal. Andy did the hard work of holding the flashlight while I cut the legs and side section off the animal with a single knife. Sawing through inches of skin and gristle is HARD WORK. I’m STILL sore!
We packed the meat into a cooler, and went to sleep. The next day I enjoyed a country breakfast cooked by Mrs. Butler, and then she took me to feed the cows. Again being that close to will-be-food is incredible… everyone should experience it.
That night I cleaned the pork, vacuum sealed it and packed most of it away in the freezer. I reserved the tenderloin to cook for Andy the next night.
Here’s the result: Hog tenderloin sous vide with homemade jalapeño jelly, pickled jalapeño & carrot, queso fresco, avocado, a slice of Mrs. Butler’s homegrown tomato, jalapeño-mint vinaigrette, and mint flowers from my herb garden.
I found this pilot of a TV show shot by Chris Cosentino… it is awesome! somebody needs to make this TV show… Regardless if you’re cooking “traditionally” or avant gard, having a close connection to your food makes for better meals!