Eat This: Berkshire Pig Head Carnitas at CBD Provisions

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There’s a special menu item over at CBD Provisions American Brasserie at the Joule Hotel in Dallas that might appear a bit strange to conservative diners, but is a special treat to any meat enthusiast: Berkshire Pig Head Carnitas. Yes, those of you who didn’t grow up eating whole roasted pigs like I did, might be a bit wary about eating a pig head, but heck, what did else did you think pork looked like? So get over your fear, and just go for it — it’s something that you’ll never forget. I did the last time I was in Dallas, and so did the group I was with, which included some pretty hardcore meat eaters, and we all loved tearing into it and devouring the mouthwatering tacos we made with the meat. I spoke to chef Richard Blankenship and asked him all about these pig heads.

How did you get the idea to serve Berkshire Pig Head Carnitas?

That was actually Mike Sidoni, the chef before I took over, that was an idea that they worked on before I even came aboard. He’s really good with pork. It was something that they were working on to get the head right, and then the idea of the tacos was like well, we’re in Texas, we should do it as a taco.

How do you prepare the pig head?

We brine it salt and water for about five days, and then we steam for 12 hours, and then at that point they’re ready to be roasted, and then we roast on low heat for about two-and-a-half to three hours, and then right before it goes to the table we blast it with high heat in a convection oven, so it crisps the skin and gets it hot all the way through.

How many do you serve a week?

I would say anywhere from — like on a slow week, 40, and when it’s busy, it’s like 70, 80.

Do you order just the pig heads, or do you order whole pigs?

We order just the heads because of the demand. We would have thousands of pounds of pork, so just because of the popularity we have to order just the heads. We get whole pigs in, but on a whole pig the head weighs 25 to 30 pounds, and then you got another 150 to 175 pounds of pork left over, so it would be crazy.

How long in advance to customers have to order it?

We always have pig heads ready for that service, if people just walk in. What we do suggest, because we do typically sell out every night, if you want to be guaranteed we ask that you order at least 48 hours in advance.

What do you suggest for accompaniments?

We serve it with salsa and tortillas, but really all the food here goes well together. It’s all within the same concept and voice.

How would you convince people who are afraid to try a pig head?

It’s just like any other cut. It’s got some great meat. It’s a little fatty. But other than that, it’s just like any other part of the animal. All animals have heads.

What are the best parts of the head to go for?

The cheeks, the jowls are great. They’re really tender. There’s all kinds of little pockets because of the way the skull is shaped. The muscle that is in your temple, it’s the one that keeps the eye in place, that one is really good, it’s really thick. There is a little bit of the tongue on the head, which is good. There’s a little strip of meat down the snout that’s really good, and there’s all kinds of fat and tendons and weird chewy bits if you’re into that kind of texture.

Photo: Mei Chun Jau

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