leave your inhibitions at the door
So I finally got past the bitter melon hurdle. This was a month ago and I was feeling proud of myself and slightly cocky about being a Filipino. It was also days before our annual family reunion when, during my weekly visit to the butcher, I saw this –
I instantly sent the pic in a group text with my brothers, nephews and cousins. When I asked whether I should buy one, I instantly received an avalanche of texts – my phone sounded like the penny slot section of a casino with all the bells going off. The consensus – “Hell yeah!”
Sure, there are a lot of cultures that eat roasted pig. But for Filipinos, it’s religion.
Growing up, EVERY Filipino gathering – birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, funerals – had Lechon. It didn’t matter that there was only five people there, no party was complete without one. Every time my uncle in Indianapolis would have a party, he told my dad to bring down one or two lechons from Chicago. We’d pick them up already cooked on the way out of town and drove the 4 hours with the strong smell of pork wafting through the car. It was torture. Every time we’d make a pitstop, when my dad wasn’t looking, we’d pop the trunk and tear off a piece of the crunchy skin. By the time we got to my uncle’s, the pig looked like it was a character from The Walking Dead.
But while we’ve all eaten our share of roasted pig before, we’ve never actually tried to make it ourselves. We had to do this.
The problem was then – how the hell were we gonna cook it? Here were some of the suggestions
– cut off the head so it’ll fit in an oven
– take it to my cousin’s restaurant. D’oh! He sold it a few months ago.
– Dig a pit in the backyard, right next to the Hydrangeas.
– Use their copper bowl fire pit
and my favorite:
– get a turkey fryer and deep fry the bitch. Ass up at first, then flip it over so the head’s sticking out.
It turns out, that this baby was just that – a baby. It was about 18 pounds and a little under 2 feet long. So it was either going to be the oven or the grill. We went for grill.
We did a whole lot of Googling to try to come up with ways to prepare it and we ended up with a blend of recipes from Emeril, David Chang (Momofuku in NYC), and a couple others.
First off, the prep work. We decided to use Chang’s simple rub of 2 cups of salt and 3 cups of sugar (brown and regular) –
Then we followed (some of) Emeril’s advice –
Make sure that your butcher thoroughly cleans the suckling pig. By cleaning inside and out and removes the eyeballs. With a knife make several cuts on the pig’s skin so the skin doesn’t burst during cooking. Prop the pig’s mouth open with a small yam. Season the entire pig with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Place the pig in a garbage bag and tie the back tightly. Place the pig in the refrigerator and chill for 12 hours.
Throw it in a garbage bag and chill it for 12 hours? Sounds like a Dahmer recipe… Anyway, none of us took the eyeballs out. It was either that we forgot about it or we wanted to see if they’d come shooting out while cooking. I can’t remember.
But well cleaned out it certainly was.
Thank Goodness. I lost a bet to Shady a little earlier in the night and, luckily, I didn’t have to fulfill my obligation to eat the pig’s ringpiece.
The next day we went and played golf, which somehow wasn’t mentioned in any of the recipes we looked up. We put my cousin’s kid, Chemical Al, in charge of cooking it. He has three supreme qualifications for the job – he’s part Filipino, he went to culinary school, and he doesn’t play golf. So while we were Tiger Woodsing out there, he was cooking this.
Beauty isn’t it? They cooked it for about 4-5 hours and brushed it with Sprite every so often to get the skin nice and brown.
The result? Heaven. Every single bit of meat was so tender it melted in our mouths. Since it was a suckling pig, there was a surprisingly low amount of fat on it. I really can see having this a couple times of year. The only disappointment was that the skin wasn’t crispy as we like. (I’m thinking that deep fryer just might do the trick)
So we can now check off roasting a pig off our Filipino bucket list.
OK, if you’re keeping track I said there’d be two parts. I decided to milk this a little more. The doozy is coming in part 3.