Wild Boar Porchetta di Testa
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Wild Boar Porchetta di Testa

Matt Hinckley / April 22nd, 2013

Wild boars were artificially introduced to the USA in the 16th century, and here in the Sunshine State, their reputation is that of an invasive nonindigenous species that digs up valuable farmland and trashes sensitive ecosystems while trolling around for food. Currently, Florida has liberal open-season hunting regulations on wild boars—a hunting license is not even required to harvest them. There is no question that selling sport-harvested meat is illegal in every state, and here in Florida the boars are trapped and then transported to government-approved slaughterhouses. We also work with a ranch in Texas that harvests wild animals in their natural habitat with suppressed high-powered rifles. They bring the USDA inspectors along on the hunt and then transport the carcasses via refrigerated trucks to an approved processing facility. I generally prefer to receive whole animals with very minimal processing.

Wild boars taste very similar to the domestic pig that most of us are familiar with, but have a slightly more robust full-bodied flavor without any gamey notes. They can take on a variety of different flavors, since they must forage for their foods. Their flavor profile can vary dramatically, based on what they are able to find and their own taste preferences. For example, the boar that we used in this recipe was harvested in Central Florida and had a subtle nuttiness and was a bit sweeter than some pork. At Boxpark in Miami, we occasionally offer wild boar as a leaner, less pedestrian alternative to domesticated pork. Also, the meat is usually best on younger animals.

Wild boar, like its domestic pig cousin, is a highly versatile animal. We use the whole animal in the same way that we would use a whole pig. We use the belly for pancetta and bacon, and make hams and prosciutto out of the hindquarter. We smoke the trotters and use them to add depth to stocks that we make from all of the bones.

As a chef, I’m most intrigued by the ingredients that are often pushed aside or underappreciated by the mainstream. I tend to gravitate toward vegetables like mustard greens, okra, and turnips, and meat cuts like tongue, cheeks, and trotters. In the end, there are no spare parts. Here, we take a wild-harvested Florida boar and demonstrate a method to fully utilize an important part of the animal that is often overlooked: the head. (If you don’t have access to wild boar, you can substitute a pig’s head and get a similar result.)

Wild Boar Porchetta di Testa with pickled veggies, grain mustard, and charred sourdough

Start by shaving off stubble and scrubbing the face and ears with a wet towel. Serve the head above the shoulders and at the second vertebra.

Remove the meat from the head by scoring the center of the chin. Cut down the center of the underside of the jaw toward the bottom of the neck and then work your way around the skull, being careful to keep your knife close to the bone. Work back toward the snout and try to keep it intact. The goal is to remove all of the meat in one piece, like a mask.

Remove the tongue and run a skewer lengthwise through the center. Simmer the tongue for an hour with Spanish onions, black pepper, and smoked chiles. When tender, chill the tongue, then remove the skewer. Wrap the tongue with slices of bacon and set aside.

Working with the skin-side down, rub the inside of the boar face with two parts each of fennel seeds, lemon zest, and chopped fresh parsley. Add one part each of dried oregano, cracked black pepper, and California paprika. How much of each ingredient will depend largely on the size of your boar head. Feel confident in your estimations and use a heavy hand in seasoning. Then salt liberally with good quality sea salt.

With skin-side down, stuff the bacon-wrapped tongue into the snout. Slice off larger parts of the cheek and forehead. Use them to make sure there is an even distribution of meat, filling in any thinner parts.

Roll the face into a log as you would for pancetta. Wrap in cheesecloth and tie tightly.

Make a bed of about three large chopped Spanish onions, two large chopped carrots, three stalks chopped celery, a small stem of bay leaves, a small bunch of parsley, four smoked chiles de arbol, 10 chicken feet, and about 20 black peppercorns in a large roasting pan. Add the boar’s head, still wrapped in cheesecloth, and add water to cover it about three-quarters. Cover with plastic wrap and then again with aluminum foil.

Braise at 275˚F for 4 to 6 hours or until tender.

Allow to cool in the stock just until it can be managed by hand. Remove from cheesecloth. Strain and reserve stock for another use.

Wrap with plastic wrap, twisting one end toward the other until tight, poking holes into the wrap every few rotations to eliminate air pockets. Secure with butcher’s twine to maintain a tight and even roll. Hang vertically and chill overnight.

Remove plastic wrap.

Slice thin and serve chilled with charred breads, mustards, and pickled vegetables—preferably from your home garden.

From an early stage, executive chef Matt Hinckley’s self-taught career has centered on respectful farm-to-table cooking, exhibiting a humble approach to food by sourcing locally and honoring the quality of fresh ingredients. After working in restaurants across the globe and with varying cuisines—from African to Alaskan—Hinckley arrived in Miami. Most recently, he served under the tutelage of James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink and as chef de cuisine at Harry’s Pizzeria in Miami’s renowned Design District.