"Stewing the pig's ears affords a precious by-product: a pot of flavorful stock."
More Nasty Bits
The Fergus Henderson meal I shared with the serious eats gang on Friday night had me hankering for more. That evening I left the restaurant carrying a giant foil package with the half pig's head we ordered, skull and all. Still, there was one part I wished we'd had in a pair: the ears. Roasted with the rest of the head, the tip of the ear was as tough as a dog treat, a far cry from my favorite preparation for pig's ears: deep-fried to crispy and golden-brown perfection.
Prior to frying, the ears must be stewed with aromatics. Like all the best parts of the pig—the trotters, the tails, and so forth—stewing the pig's ears affords a precious by-product in the process. A pot of gelatinous stock, comes free with your well-stewed pig's ears, and you can make the stock however you want. Use a mirepoix for a French-style stock. For an Asian-style stock, add some soy sauce and rice wine, and toss in a couple of star anise and cinnamon sticks.
Pig's ears should be a staple bar food. When fried, the skin of the ears is crispy, the interior is fatty, and the cartilage adds some crunch to the mix. This is one pig's part that has it all.
I think of pig's ears as more animalistic version of pancetta. Slivers of fried pig ears are a great garnish for a bowl of pasta; served with a poached egg, ears are another porky topping for frisée aux lardon–style salad. Like pancetta, the fried ears will soften only slightly after being dressed in pasta sauce or salad dressing, all the while absorbing the flavors around it.
A word to the wise: just remember to coat your pig's ears in flour prior to frying to cut down on splattering oil.
Crisp Fried Pig's Ears
- 2 pig's ears
- 1 onion, peeled and washed
- 2 carrots, chopped coarse
- 2 stems of celery, chopped
- 1 cup dry white wine or vermouth
- A bouquet garni (thyme, parsley, marjoram, etc)
- Salt to taste, about 1 teaspoon
- 1/4 cup cornstarch and flour, equal parts of
- 1 quart of oil, for frying
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the ears and let boil for 2 or 3 minutes to get rid of some of the impurities. Remove the ears from the pot and set aside.
In a medium-size pot, arrange the ears along with the rest of the ingredients. Add enough water to cover the ears. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, uncovered, for 2 hours. The ears should be very supple and easily pierced through with forks or chopsticks.
Remove the ears from the broth and let cool. Reserve the stock for another use.
When cooled, cut the ears into 1⁄4 inch slivers. Toss with the cornstarch and flour, until the ears are lightly and uniformly covered.
In the meantime, bring the oil to 350 F in a wok or frying pot.
Gently slip into the hot oil and fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until the ears are golden brown and crispy. Very carefully stir the ears around in the pot, so that the slivers won't stick to one another. Remove the ears from the oil with a slotted spoon, and serve immediately.