Supermarket head cheese–merchandised in plastic tubs the same way as boloney and boiled salami–has given the jellied collection of meat byproducts a bad name. In fact, a friend claims he once found a package in the refrigerator case of a Brooklyn supermarket that had a pair of intact eyelids staring back at him.
But Mario Batali reinvigorated the species by serving it warm and crumbly and scented with spices, and other restaurants soon followed suit. Still, there were plenty of excellent rustic examples all around us, often to be found in Eastern European butcher shops.
Head cheese, of course, is anything that comes off a pig’s head (and sometimes, what’s inside, too), cooked down by long boiling into a jellied mass of scraps. It’s scrumptious, partaking of the differential textures of ears, nose, cheek, and, yes, eyelids, running from soft and yielding to almost bony and back again.
The above example comes from the sainted Sikorski Meat Market (603 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-389-6181) in Greenpoint, and you won’t find a better head cheese in the five boroughs, unless you make it yourself. Speaking of make it yourself, my friend Winnie Yang has dabbled in head cheese in her own apartment, and here’s her blog entry to prove it. Dig the photo of the pig snoot sticking out of the pot!