Adapted from Primal Cuts, by Marissa Guggiana
I get it. Pig ears? Really? Gross, right? I thought so, too, until I took a business trip to Los Angeles and a friend took me to Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook’s brainchild, Animal. My buddy Steve told me, “You’re gonna love this place!” Fortunately, we’re both the types who will try anything once. Seeing pig ears on the menu creates an instant friendly “I will if you will” competition. Imagine my surprise when we not only tolerated the dish, but absolutely loved it! Crispy pig ears, braised past the point where the cartilage has a cringe-inducing crunch that makes your teeth slide sideways but still maintains some texture. Deep fry those suckers, toss them in a chile-lime vinaigrette and serve them hot with a fried egg, yolk running into the mixture. I dare you to find a more satisfying hangover cure (sorry, Dick's, this one beats the Deluxe).
When I got home from my trip, I tried calling and emailing the restaurant, and the woman who answered the phone firmly explained that they don’t share recipes. DON’T YOU HATE THAT?!?!? I tried winging it at home, looking up other pig ear recipes (one of which I will post later this week - Teague Ezard does a mean pig ear salad) and testing them out on my adventurous friends. They were good, but they didn’t touch the simple elegance of this version. Finally, I picked up Marissa Guggiana’s “Primal Cuts” cookbook, excited to see what artisan butchers around the country did with the meats they sold. I couldn’t have been happier when I got home and found my coveted pig ear recipe from Animal on page 121. All my hatred for the recipe-hoarding douche at Animal disappeared.
I’ve made this 3 or 4 times now, and my only advice is that you do not need to braise the ears for 36 hours as the recipe states. I usually braise them for about 16 hours in a 225-degree oven. Braise them a little longer if you want less of that crunchy cartilage mouth-feel. (I know that’s not an appealing descriptor, but it’s accurate. Maybe this is why they haven’t been kicking my door down to offer me a job writing menus or working for Hallmark.) If the thought of pig ears grosses you out and you manage to suck it up enough to try this, please let me know what you think. I think you’ll be a convert.
Fried Pig Ears with Chile-Lime Vinaigrette
2 lbs pig ears (most Asian groceries carry these in the meat section)
Kosher Salt, to taste
4 Fried Eggs
1 ½ cups fresh lime juice, strained
1 cup chili garlic paste
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
¼ cup chopped green onion
- Clean pig ears of any extra hair. (Note from Marc—I’ve never purchased pig ears and noticed any extra bristles or hair. They typically come pretty well cleaned.) In a large pot, cover the ears in plenty of water, bring to a boil and simmer for 36 hours at a light simmer. (Note from Marc-Instead of the stove top method, I prefer braising uncovered in a 225 degree oven for 16-18 hours. In either case, be sure to check the water level every few hours and refill with hot water as needed.) Check occasionally to make sure the ears stay submerged in water. Skim the surface of the water occasionally. After 36 hours, take out the ears and lay them flat on sheet trays to cool.
- Mix all vinaigrette ingredients and set aside. Julienne ears 1/8 of an inch thick.
- Heat oil in a large deep skillet ro 360 degrees Farenheit. Fry ears for 3 ½ minutes, or until crispy. Place ears in a large bowl lined with paper towels. Season liberally with salt. Take out paper towels and toss in vinaigrette, coating the ears lightly. Serve with fried eggs.