Pigskin Preview: Eating the Barbecued Hog Head at Fatty 'Cue
A couple of nights ago, Mayur, Jessica, and I went down on a pig head ...
It's a sometime special at Fatty 'Cue, under the bridge in Williamsburg: the head of the pig left over from Sunday's pig roast, blackened from long smoking, but with a gleeful expression on its face. The head has been cut in half, so that it makes two portions, at $40 apiece. You may wish it hadn't been cut in half, because when you turn it over, you see clots of brain annealed to the inside of the brain pan, and a blackened tongue grotesquely twisted and distended.
The half-head comes accompanied by planks of fresh green papaya, cilantro, Thai basil, radish slices, miniature plum tomatoes, and delicate pickled red chiles -- they're so good that, if you have some remaining after downing as much of the pig head as you can, you'll pick them up with your chopsticks and eat every last one. The dish also comes with an unlimited supply of steamed bao -- buns that can be used to make little sandwiches. Note well the grease-absorbing properties of the bao!
Who, other than a large-animal veterinarian, can say how to assay a pig head? You're always conscious of the thing smiling up at you, as you take the blunt knife and begin to saw away. Step one is removing the blackened skin -- which is largely inedible. Remembering that you love the cured hog jowl called guanciale, you begin by attacking the line of the jaw, working your way up the cheek.