Reasons to Kick Yourself #2: Cochon 555

As Frank Zappa once famously referred to himself, these pigs were once deemed to have "no commercial potential."

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By David Hammond

In my continuing series of cruel reminders of what you probably missed last weekend, consider Cochon 555, the annual event, now in its fifth year, that celebrates heritage breeds of pig by inviting a number of local chefs to try their hand at making the tastiest dishes from the tastiest pork.

The pigs that were used at Cochon 555 were all "heritage" breeds, which means they're usually raised on small farms. These are the breeds that were once deemed unsuitable for the corporate supply chain – usually because, like the Cinta Senese I wrote about last week, they're so lushly fatty.

As Frank Zappa once famously referred to himself, these pigs were once deemed to have "no commercial potential."

Now, heritage hogs are being appreciated, and their marvelously rich meat savored.

Some of the breeds we tried at Cochon 555 include Large Black, Crawford Sweet and Tamworth hogs. Ever heard of any of these? If so, you are a rare foodist. Every eaten any of these? If so, you are a lucky foodist.

I was also invited to judge this event, so I ate every dish prepared by every chef. Especially impressive was the offering from Publican Quality Meats, that set before each judge a spectrum of porcine deliciousness including a "tonnato" (usually veal but here pork, in a creamy sauce), boudin noir in aged balsamic, and, hilariously, pork skin churros with a pork jus chocolate caramel sauce. This last dish was one of my favorites of the evening.

Another rib-tickling offering was from Allium, which did a range of upgraded street foods including a spectacular house-made Chicago hot dog, tamale, and a bone-in pierogi. Like so many of the dishes here, you could tell that the chefs were just having a huge amount of fun stretching the boundaries and trying items designed to please (and, yes, maybe show off just a little to the many, many chefs in attendance).

It was good. Next year, I'll give you advance notice of this excellent event.



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