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David Lissner
for restaurants

Chicago celebrates the season of the pig

Roast suckling pig. (Photo by puroticorico.)

Roast suckling pig. (Photo by puroticorico.)

This has certainly been a pretty piggy summer so far. Contrary to pork producers’ fears, the swine flu pandemic seems only to have whetted our appetite for pigging out. Pig roasts and other porcine feasts are popping up all over the place.

I can remember when local restaurateurs used to complain they had trouble selling pork. No more.

In his new blog, Chef Rick Gresh of David Burke’s Primehouse in River North describes his recent purchase of two whole hogs from George Rasmussen of Swan Creek Farm, with photos of breaking them down and turning them into tete de cochon, prosciutto, salami, soprassata, barbecue spare ribs, various loin cuts, pancetta, roasted pork glace and crispy pork rinds for the restaurant.

Next on the swine horizon, American Legion Post 1231 hosts its annual pig roast at 5 p.m Saturday, June 27, $15, at the American Legion Hall in Lake in the Hills. And, at noon Sunday, June 28, Red Light in the West Loop hosts its second annual pig roast and pork cooking class, $55, benefiting Near North Montessori School; reseervations are required.

If you can’t make those events, with three days notice and a group to help you eat it, you can get a whole roast suckling pig any time at Mercat a la Planxa in the Loop.

If the concept of a whole pig puts you off, stop in at Sepia on Sundays, when they do a more refined pig roast: Chef Andrew Zimmerman’s updated version of porchetta, a boned and rolled Italian pork dish. Zimmerman seasons pork loin with rosemary, garlic, fennel, lemon, bay leaves and black pepper, wraps it in pork belly, then roasts it, serving it sliced with fingerling potatoes and greens, $24.

For more porky pleasure, carry out some sublime Filipino lechon asada or crispy pork pata from Uni-Mart (Edgewater, Hoffman Estates, Niles or Woodridge).

If you want to go whole hog yourself, here are directions from the National Pork Board, or check out this recipe from a 19th-century cookbook, “Twenty-Five Cent Dinners for Families of Six”:

Baked Pig’s Head.

Buy at a packing house half a medium sized pig’s head, which you can get for three or four cents a pound (the piece will cost about ten cents), clean and wash it well; pare and slice one quart of onions (cost five cents). chop quarter of a pound of suet (cost two cents) and grate half a loaf of stale bread (cost three cents), put into a dripping pan one ounce of drippings (cost one cent), one gill of vinegar (cost one cent), then the onions, next the head, skin up, and last the bread, suet, and seasoning, well mixed, and bake in a moderate oven for about one and a half hours. The dish will cost about twenty-two cents; it is hearty and extremely nutritious.


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