Quick Bite: Pig Tail at The Black Sheep

As I may have mentioned, sometimes during Restaurant Week, I take the road less traveled. Avoiding the crowds and the limited menus, I like to revisit some of our favorite restaurants and hang out a bit, relax, and get into the food.

From the Bistro Europa days to the current Black Sheep, I’ve had a standing Restaurant Week date with the Gedras. Someday, over a bowl of Borcht, we can talk about the Eastern European bromace chef-crush that Chef Steve and I have developed, but for now lets talk about one of their dishes.

We like to do Black Sheep tapas style, ordering a bunch of small plates off of the menu and maybe splitting one or two of the larger ones. There is always so much to see, taste, and try here that its tough to simmer our selection down to just a couple of dishes.

This evening the Chef Special was T-Meadow Farm Pigs Tail. The Black Sheep is known for is whole animal, snout to tail, waste nothing program. I have partaken in portions of it several times, but I’ve never actually had the tail. I’ve had every other part of the pig with team Gedra – from pigs head, to tongue, to liver, heart, and kidneys, on through the trotters… but the tail may have been the last one on my list.

Long story short – it was delicious. I felt privileged to make it in on a night where it was available. Gedra butchers all of his own meat, so if you think about it, there is a ton of pork for sausage, lots of chops, belly for bacon, and all sorts of applications. But each pig only has ONE tail. That means it take a whole pig to get this served to me. If they served four of them… thats four pigs. Anyway… on to the dish.

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A pigs tail is mostly skin, fat, and cartilage, with some meaty morsels interwoven if you’re willing to work a bit for them. In this case, they were taken for a long and slow braise in Steampunk cider and pork stock. Braising is a great technique for softening tougher meats and making them easy to work with while imparting flavors through the braising liquids. Word on the street is he had some pork shanks in the mix as well, but those were gone when we got there. But who cares? A pig has 4 pork shanks… but only ONE tail.

Once the tails were braised, they were ready to roll. Gedra took a Moo Shu pork approach to the dish. When the plate arrived, the tail was served over Oles Farm Squash Pancakes, woven together with leeks, and Asianly (that’s my new word) treated with ginger, lime zest, and lemon grass. Served with the tail and pancake were these monster sized Plato Dale carrots and celery root. Also plated were these delicious Scarlet Runner Beans and garlic, which were blanched and prepared simply with ginger, soy, and garlic. The Black Sheep started a full garden along their rear patio fence, and they’ve been growing some pretty exotic veggies – these beans included. We couldn’t get enough of the razor thin garlic slices that came with them.

The dish was a success. The tail was soft and meaty. As we tore through the skin we were regularly rewarded with bits of meat and melty fat. I wanted to take every piece and wrap it in some pancake. The thick and bright orange carrots were a throbbing and tumescent reminder of the gorgeous and fruitful summer we just had.  Right when it felt like it was getting a bit heavy, a bite of those sharp and pungent beans cut right through it. My only request for change was – more squash scallion pancakes, and serve them on the side so that I can make mini pig tail tacos as I tear my way though the plate.

The thought of eating pig tail is a turn off for a lot of people. I’d love to dare you to “be adventurous…” but there really isn’t any adventure here. If I took a bit of the meat pulled from the tail, cut a piece of carrot and wrapped it with a bean in some of that scallion pancake and popped it in your mouth, you would enjoy it. This isn’t anything new. Its not really all that weird. Many regions of the world, along with our grandparents ate snout to tail out of necessity – and some people figured out how to make it taste good.

The dish tasted like Autumn was finally here – and that we’re all ok with it. Summer is over, so we can tuck into some warm, comforting dishes and root veggies, put on our sweatpants, and know that everything is going to be alright.

Thanks Team Black Sheep. This one was a winner.

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