A Hamburger Today
The Nasty Bits: Pressed Pigs' Ears
Pressed pig's ears are such an elegant presentation. It takes something as irregularly shaped as pigs' ears and imposes order where there is natural variance.
Unlike pate, which transforms liver, pressing ears into a terrine mold doesn't change a thing about the fundamental texture and taste of ears. If you compare eating a hunk of pigs' ears that have been crammed and congealed in a mold to eating pigs' ears that have been simmered and chilled, there is not much difference. Both presentations of ear are comprised of skin, cartilage, and dense gelatinous tissue. Yet if you go the extra step of pressing the ears down into a loaf pan, you get the giddy pleasure of eating something that looks like a slice of cake but is actually made of ears.
Eight ears will make a terrine the shape and size of a loaf of banana bread. The only unwieldy part of the process is getting eight roughly triangular ears into a rectangular terrine. (That is, unless you have the good fortune of owning a triangular terrine). The best way to go about it is to stack the ears in two piles, one on top the other, alternating thicknesses and sides so that the ears max out the dimensions of your terrine as evenly as possible. Even so, you'll get edges of ears sticking out from the stack, at which point you content yourself with the irregularities and start pressing on your pile of ears (wrapped in saran wrap and fitted into the mold, of course) with a heavy weight such as a 28-ounce can of tomatoes.
If you keep the flavor profile for your terrine of ears mild and salty, a slice of pressed pigs' ears is a porky canvas for other sauces and spices. You can whip up a quick dressing of grainy mustard and sherry vinegar if you are in the mood for French-inspired bistro fare, or drizzle the ears with spicy peanut oil and roasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns for a Chinese take.