The Chef: Cullen Campbell The Restaurant: Crudo The Animal: Pig The Dish: Pig Ears
Most of us think of pig ears as leathery chewables for the dog, not something we'd ever dream of eating ourselves. But they're showing up on local menus as bar snacks, and you know what? They're fantastic.
At Crudo, chef Cullen Campbell turns pig ears into crunchy strips of such addictive porkaliciousness, you'll devour the contents of your plate in minutes and want another. Here's how he does it and why you should care.
If you already like fried pork rind (or Mexico's version called chicharrones), then pig ears shouldn't be a tough sell for you.
They're basically a soft inner layer of chewy cartilage surrounded on both sides by skin, the same porky, rich stuff that makes pork rind so habit-forming. But pig ears are even better than pork rind -- less puffy and far more texturally interesting, thanks to that layer of gelatinous cartilage.
Cullen's version is ridiculously good.
First he slow braises Niman Ranch pig ears in water and herbs for 10 hours (using the incredibly gelatinous stock rendered from them for other things), pre-fries the whole ears, chops them into thick strips and re-fries the strips to a glorious state of crispiness.
Before service, he drizzles them with a mixture of red Fresno chiles (pickled in white balsamic) and EVOO, sprinkling a bit of minced I'itoi (the chive-like indigenous onions of the Tohono O'odham) over the top. The result is a hot, sweet, sticky, crunchy plate of porcine heaven.
Crudo's pig ears show up as a side dish on the regular menu for $7. In the bar (called Bar Crudo), the happy hour price is $5.
Cullen says he goes through 10 pounds of pig ears a week, which doesn't surprise me. I'm pretty sure I could go through 10 pounds a week all by myself.