Heady Ideas at Charlatan

by Korakot Suriya-arporn
Megan Swann
May 2015


At West Town’s Charlatan, Chef Matt Troost indulges diners’ carnivorous whims with a primal family-style display: half a roasted pig head, which he blithely and brazenly blowtorches before sending it out to guests. The half-noggin comes from a 300-pound hog raised on Slagel Family Farm in Fairbury, Illinois, and it’s served in a cast iron pan, overflowing with golden spuds and a seasonal vegetable pick-up. “This dish showcases my love for the irreverent. Sure, let’s put a half a pig head on the menu! Why the hell not?” says Troost. “It makes an event out of your dining experience without handcuffing you to a table for 15 courses of food.” Troost sells one pig head per night—just two orders—and with the head cost at just $15 and a menu price of $60, there are dollar signs in those pig eyes. “The goal was to help drive a little early evening business. It has definitely succeeded.”

Troost's Pig Head Technique

  1. Receive a severed, halved pig head from a trusted farmer.
  2. Singe off hair.
  3. With a light-duty scour pad, scrub and rinse the skin side of the face under water and pat dry with a kitchen towel.
  4. Season the skin with plenty of kosher salt. Give the face a good massage, then flip it over and season liberally with salt and black pepper on the flesh side.
  5. Roast in oven at 450ºF for 30 minutes to char.
  6. In a roasting pan, caramelize mirepoix and deglaze with white wine. Add charred head, cover with water, cover pan with aluminum foil, and braise at 300ºF for 4 hours. Remove foil and roast 1 hour; remove from oven, chill, and store in braising liquid.
  7. Drain and dry braised head. Return to oven and warm at 450ºF, covered with foil, until hot throughout.
  8. Torch in a salamander or with a Searzall for final char.
  9. Serve in a cast iron pan with seasonal accoutrements and maple-Fresno hot sauce.