Cochon 555 {New Orleans}featured

Cochon 555′s formula for success is simple: 5 chefs + 5 pigs + 5 wineries = porcine bliss. The event — part culinary competition, part pork orgy — was founded by Brady Lowe three years ago to help family farms responsibly raising heritage breed pigs sustain and expand their businesses while educating communities nationwide about the tasty payoff of supporting these farmers.

Cochon 555, New Orleans

Roasted and Toasted

As Cochon 555 winds down its 10-city tour, I had a chance to catch the latest porktastic affair in New Orleans, where five local chefs prepared a nose-to-tail menu created from their heritage breed pig of choice.

Chef #1: Stephen Stryjewski, Cochon Restaurant (New Orleans, LA)
Pig #1: Red Wattle, Revival Meats (Texas): gets its name from its red color and the fleshy skin that hangs under its jowls. Lean and juicy with a rich, beefy taste and texture.

Cochon 555, Stephen Stryjewski

Stephen Stryjewski (Cochon Restaurant) and Smoked Boudin with Spicy Mustard

This year’s James Beard Best Chef of the South, Stephen Stryjewski, was a strong contender given that his name and great pork are virtually synonymous around these parts. I had lunch earlier that day at Stryjewski’s Cochon Butcher, and if that divine BBQ Pork Sandwich was any indicator of what was in store, we were in for a treat.

Cochon’s smorgasbord of swine was large and plentiful. Among the dozen or so offerings was Smoked Boudin of course, one of Stryjewski’s specialties. Other favorites included Open Faced Face, with farmer’s cheese and white beans, Liver Cheese and Pepper Jelly on toast, Pork Rinds with Sorghum Molasses drizzled on top, and the tastiest use of pig’s blood I have ever encountered, Chocolate and Chicory Blood Pudding.

Cochon 555, Sorghum Pork Rinds

Sorghum Pork Rinds

Chef #2: Erick Loos, La Provence – Besh Restaurant Group, (Lacombe, LA)
Pig #2: Mangalitsa, La Provence Farm (Louisiana): a very rare breed, said to be the Wagyu of pork for its high percentage of marbling, which doubles that of average pork.

Cochon 555, Erick Loos

Erick Loos (La Provence) and Head-to-Trotter Tasting

Representing the Besh Restaurant Group, Erick Loos blew us away with his creativity. He presented a mini four-course meal, showcasing a spectrum of techniques and thorough use of the animal. First up was the Pork Liver Parfait (a cool and savory concoction of liver and blood mousse, whipped lard, house-preserved peaches, and muscadine wine gelée). Admittedly, it was a little disorientating for my taste. Next came the Head to Toe Salad, composed of a terrine of the pig’s head, tongue, skin, heart, tail, shanks, and trotters, topped with heirloom tomatoes and sugar cane vinaigrette. For our main, we had Slow Cooked Leg, Shoulder, and Loin served with porcini mushrooms over panisse, a chickpea fritter traditionally from the South of France. The real stunner, however, was dessert. The Porked Alaska, bacon pecan crunch ice cream and amaretto cream melting softly inside a crispy meringue, was my favorite bite of the entire evening.

Cochon 555, Porked Alaska

Porked Alaska

Chef #3: Adolfo Garcia, RioMar (New Orleans, LA)
Pig #3: Ossabaw, Black Hill Ranch (Texas): originating from Spain, of Iberian descent, a rare small-range pig with a high percentage of healthy monounsaturated fat.

Cochon 555, Adolfo Garcia

Adolfo Garcia and Fried Coppa di Testa

Our third hometown chef, Adolfo Garcia, put his signature Spanish and Latin American flavors into his snout-to-toe creations. Favorites included fried Coppa di Testa balls, made with rich head cheese, and a flaky Empanada filled with spicy, tangy pork, garnished with pickled onions.

 

Cochon 555, New Orleans

Pork Empanada

Chef #4: John Currence, City Grocery (Oxford, MS)
Pig #4: Berkshire, Newman Farm (Missouri): lean, micro-marbled meat is extra tender due to the breed’s short muscle fibers.

Cochon 555, porky shooters and cones

Bacon-spiked Tequila Shooters and Pork Liver Mousseline Cones

Born and raised in New Orleans, and a recent contestant on Top Chef Masters, John Currence brought the party with his Sangrita Javelina, a shooter of tomato juice, bacon infused tequila, and bacon bits, with a rim dusted with powdered country ham and brown sugar. Also delightful were his mini cones of Pork Liver Mousseline topped with vinegar powdered chicharrones.

 

Cochon 555, New Orleans

Team City Grocery

Chef #5: Mike Lata, FIG (Charleston, SC)
Pig #5: Large Black, Caw Caw Creek (South Carolina): lean, micro-marbled meat is extra tender due to the breed’s short muscle fibers.

Cochon 555, Mike Lata

Mike Lata (FIG) and Fried Head Cheese over Spring Peas

Mike Lata traveled the furthest for this swine-off, but that didn’t prevent him from bringing his A-game. Favorite bites were his Crostini of Liver Mousse and a single square inch bit of perfectly fried Pork Belly.

Cochon 555, New Orleans

Team FIG and Porky Crostini

If the cornucopia of pork from these fine chefs wasn’t enough to sate you, there was also massive cheese spread from St. James Cheese Company, a literal boatload of oysters, Black River Caviar, a feast of whole roasted Porcelet de Lait (young, milk-fed pig) courtesy of Naomi Pomeroy (Beast PDX) and D’Artagnan, and piles of succulent crawfish.

Cochon 555: New Orleans

St. James Cheese Company, Oysters and Caviar, and Spoils of the Butcher Competition

For dessert, there were passed platters of 4505 Meats’ legendary salty, sweet, chili-dusted chicharrones served fondue-style with a bowl of melted dark chocolate for your dipping pleasure. Yes, you heard right: Chocolate Dipped Chicharrones.

Cochon 555, 4505 Meats Chicharrones

Chocolate Dipped Chicharrones

As my blood began to turn to lardo, the only logical solution was to thin it out with a taste from the 5 wineries of the evening: Matthiasson (California), Elk Cove Vineyards (Oregon), The Scholium Project (California), McCrea Cellars (Washington), and Chase Cellars (California).

Cochon 555 Prince of Porc: Erick Loos

The Prince of Porc: Erick Loos (Besh Restaurant Group)

The night ended with the crowning of The Prince of Porc. By decree of the pork-loving populus, Erick Loos took home the win with the help of the Mangalitsa wooly pig he raised at La Provence’s biodynamic farm. If you didn’t get a chance to try Loos’ tasting at the event, all is not lost — a special dinner featuring the winning menu may be in the works at La Provence.

Cochon 555 will be coming to San Francisco on 6/5, the last of this year’s 10-city tour before the whole shebang culminates at the Grand Cochon, where all ten previous winners will face off at the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen on 6/19.

Cochon 555, New Orleans

The Winning Team from Besh Restaurant Group

Cochon 555: NOLA Edition
May 28, 2011
New Orleans, LA

This post was published on KQED’s Bay Area Bites on June 2, 2011.

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