A few weeks ago at the Appetite for Awareness event, I ate a small cup of cassoulet – pork and beans – that stopped me in my tracks. Made by chef Gene Giuffi at Cochon, one of Philadelphia’s best BYOBs, its flavors were both complex yet simple, providing both pleasure and intrigue to even the most sophisticated palates. In anything other than its prosciutto form, pork had never intrigued me…until then.
Finally got there for dinner tonight, with longtime friend Jeff and (hopefully) new friend Cem. We ate lots of tasty treats: escargot with shiitake mushrooms, fried oysters with the loveliest shaved fennel slaw I’ve ever tasted, and a charcuterie plate with house-cured meats and a pickled tomato-cornichon salad topped with zesty arugula microgreens. And that was just the beginning.
Main dishes included duck breast with white bean cassoulet and garlic sausage (just the right amount), quail with roasted veggies and more sausage, and St. Canut Farm Porcelet – a baby pig fed only milk – served with wild mushroom risotto and juniper oil.
I’d never eaten porcelet before. Seared simply and fanned on a bed of rice, it was far more moist and tender than any pork that’s come before. How so? According to the Fermet St Canut Farms website:
Our milk-fed Yorkshire piglets, raised since birth in a family environment, maintain their natural nursing rhythm until reaching the live weight of 28 kg. … From the slaughter stage to the cutting, St-Canut products are air-chilled for 48 hours. … In the New York market, the cutting to delivery stage is no more than 60 hours.
I truly do not know what this really means; I’m just looking for something to anchor the experience of eating it. The risotto, sadly, was the only thing in the entire meal that was not pleasing. While its flavors were earthy, its texture had turned to gruel, a testament to the peasant techniques Giuffi has mastered — in an otherwise good way.
Despite the textureless rice, the meal at Cochon was one of the best I’ve eaten in Philadelphia, hands down. Giuffi is brilliant; I love that he’s an Italian-American doing French better than anyone else in town. Can’t wait to go back.