A suggestion for Thanksgiving turkey roasters: Why not serve an appetizer that’s a bold act of gratitude? When we eat bacon, pork, prosciutto, and the like, we may forget that an animal gave its life for that meaty bliss. And that’s just one reason why we endorse the pig’s head croquettes from Amis Trattoria in Philadelphia. The other is that they’re crunchy porkiness incarnate, and we’d never think they were made from the head of anything. Although, that assumes that heads taste bad. And – surprise – they don’t.
But because it’s a bit laborious (and horrifying for some) to buy a whole pig’s head, brine it, and remove the meat, Amis chef Brad Spence has a suggestion for us: testa (or what some people call head cheese.) A former employee of Tom Colicchio and Mario Batali, Spence is a master of pork products, among other things, and his croquettes work beautifully with testa, which can be purchased from fine butchers and charcuterie purveyors. “Croquettes were actually created to use up less desirable parts of animals,” Spence adds.
So don’t fear testa – or this dish – because of a term, or where the meat in it came from. It actually tastes wonderfully rich and smooth; fried in a croquette form and served with pickled-vegetable mayo, it’s a delicious starter, of which you will certainly want second helpings on the one day of the year we should pay homage to all the animals we eat. You’re welcome.
Pig’s Head Croquettes
(Serves, as an appetizer, about 8 to 10)
• 10 oz testa (head cheese)
• 1/2 cup (or 5 ounces) whole milk ricotta (room temperature)
• 1/2 cup (or 5 ounces) cream cheese (room temperature)
• 2 tbsp mixed and chopped rosemary, parsley, thyme, and chives
• 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
• 6 eggs
• 2 cups bread crumbs
• Salt to taste
• Black pepper to taste
Heat oil in a fryer or pot to 350°F.
Mix together cream cheese and ricotta in a food processor until smooth.
Fold cheese mixture, testa, and herbs together in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Form into small round balls, approximately 1 inch in diameter.
Create three separate bowls for breading process. Whisk together eggs. Season the flour and bread crumbs with salt and pepper. You will have one bowl each for flour, eggs, and bread crumbs–set out in that order.
Dredge balls in flour, roll in eggs, and finally dredge in bread crumbs to cover.
Chill for one hour.
Fry croquettes until golden brown and hot in the center.
Serve with pickled-vegetable mayonnaise, and garnish with fresh mixed herbs and grated Parmesan cheese.
• 1 cup pickled vegetables
• 2 cups mayonnaise
• 1/4 cup chopped parsley
Pulse pickled vegetables in a food processor until roughly chopped.
Combine vegetables with mayonnaise and parsley.