Sure, we’ve raved about it from restaurants, we may applaud its sustainability, and we may even have been to a backyard pig roast where we’ve dabbled in it ourselves. But are you ready to cook like a nose-to-tail chef? Then we’re looking for cooks like you to sign up for the I Like Pig Cook-Off at Jimmy’s No. 43 on January 31st. To celebrate the recent launch of the I Like Pig e-cookbook, based on the Pig Island food tasting events for the past few summers, we’re calling on amateurs this time to revisit all the tasty ways to enjoy pork.
The rules are simple: sign up now, by emailing [email protected]. Then, cook any dish of your dreams involving pork. It can be a riff on one of the recipes that you found in the I Like Pig cookbook, or something entirely made up of your own. Get inspired by past memories of visiting Pig Island, or cuts of meat at the butcher store that you’ve always wanted to try. Instead of chefs of nearby restaurants, you and your creation is the star of this show. Bring your friends to the event for a good meal and beers, too. And you’ll have a good chance of winning accolades and prizes from the likes of Wusthof and other friendly sponsors for bringing on a good time to be had by all. (In case you’re wondering, only 10 can sign up total, so it’s a cozy batch of cooks!)
I remember the first year of Pig Island on Governors Island fondly. It was held in the early fall of 2010, and featured some twenty chefs who each got a whole pig from Violet Hill Farm in Upstate New York to make something original out of. My friend Noah and I were somehow asked to join the ranks of these restauranteurs and chefs to create something for this event, and we turned some pork shoulder into char siu to stuff between steamed buns and pickles and served them to a mass of attendees for a day.
I’ve eaten char siu from Cantonese take-out butcher shops my whole life–probably as one of my first food memories to be honest. But I’d never thought to make it from scratch before this. Thanks to my co-chef, the char siu turned out quite well, and its recipe even made it into the I Like Pig cookbook, along with those of the other (much more accomplished) chefs. We weren’t really making it but for the sake of fun, and that’s why I think it made all the difference. I can’t remember if there was even voting that year for favorite dishes at the festival. If there was, we didn’t win any awards. I just remember having a great time, and the camaraderie between the chefs being awesome (I believe we placed a pan of not-yet-risen yeast dough to rise on Palo Santo’s grilltop to leaven it before we could steam the buns).
That community spirit is captured well–thanks to the help of co-writer Rachel Wharton and photographer John Taggart–in the I Like Pig e-book. And it’s why I think we need to have a cookoff in its name that anyone can participate in. We also want to continue celebrating the local pork in our region, so we provided a short list of vendors where you can find a lot of different cuts of pork on the event’s announcement. Tune in to a recent episode of Eat Your Words where I was joined by veteran Pig Island chefs King Phojanakong of Kuma Inn, Jacques Gautier of Palo Santo, Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy’s No. 43 and Rachel Wharton to talk all parts of pig. Sharpen your knives and roll up your sleeves, too. With so many good pigs and people, it should be a swine-tiffic time.