If you find yourself at DBGB and become startled by the loud clanging of a dinner bell followed by the proclamation "fire the hog" and a resounding "oui" from the entire kitchen staff and many of the guests, don't be alarmed. Just watch out for a whole hog that will be paraded through the dining room. Welcome to the DBGB whole hog meat feast.
DBGB is known for its charcuterie so it is no surprise that the preparation of suckling pig essentially turns the hog into one giant sausage. The feast costs $550 but serves up to 12 guests and includes appetizers, the hog, sides, and a flaming baked Alaska for dessert, with optional beverage pairings available. Because the preparation takes a considerable amount of time, the restaurant requests 48 hours of advance notice.
The preparation for the feast begins with butcher Aurelien Dufour who readies the hog for cooking. Dufour is the chef charcutier for Daniel Boulud's entire restaurant group. The group sources all of its pork from Lucki 7 Farms, which is a producer of all natural, pasture-raised, heritage breed hogs. Dufour uses Berkshire hogs that reach six weeks of age. They are classified as suckling pigs as they are still fed milk. The hogs weigh in at between 12 and 16 pounds.
Dufour begins by removing the ribcage, spine, femur, and humerus bones as well as the kidneys. The discarded parts will be used to make stock and jus. Dufour will then gently scrape away any remaining connective tissue, known as silver skin, from the exposed meat.
When the carcass is completely cleaned it is seasoned liberally with salt and white pepper. Dufour will then begin to form a cavity using butcher's twine to sew up the hog. He will then stuff the pig with a mixture of pork jowls, fennel, Swiss chard, tomato confit, garlic, mushrooms, onion, thyme, and bay leaves.
Once stuffed, Dufour sews up the hog completely and then wraps it in a bandage, forming a tightly bound cylinder.
At this point Dufour hands off the prepared pig to DBGB executive chef Ian Vest, who will cook it. The hog is first poached in a vegetable based stock spiked with bacon trim at approximately 190° F for four to five hours until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°.
At this point, the meat is cooked all the way through but the stuffing remains moist. The bandages are then removed and the pig is allowed to rest until fully cooled. When it is time to serve the party, Vest covers the tail and ears with aluminum foil to stop them burning and brushes the whole dish with clarified butter before roasting it in a 400° F convection oven. The rapid movement of air in the oven is important as it helps heat the pig all the way through while rendering the skin crispy.
Once the pig is fully cooked, the pandemonium begins with the ringing of the bell and the parade through the dining room to present the whole dish to the guests.
After the tableside presentation, the hog is whisked back to the kitchen for carving.
Back in the kitchen, chef Vest removes the head and legs and then carefully removes the twine so as to leave the skin intact. He then portions the hog based on the number of guests. A single hog can serve as many as 12 guests.
The sliced meat, head, and legs are then arranged on a platter and flashed in the oven to put a final crisping on the exterior before being seasoned and garnished with parsley. It is served with mountain of fingerling potatoes and Brussels sprouts.
Vest reports that most guests request the head be broken down once they have made their way through the rest of the beast. He happily serves the brains, jowls, tongue, and eyes on a separate platter. Vest says that the feast has proved exceedingly popular with at least one or two booked each night. So next time you are at DBGB and you hear pandemonium coming from the kitchen you will know what it is — especially if it is for you and a group of friends.