Braised Pig’s Head, Potato Purée, Caramelized Onions and Andouille

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Good mashed potato depends on several factors. First, the right type of potato: it must be a floury variety – we always use Desiree. Second, you should bake the potatoes, not boil them. Third, they should be sieved quickly while they are still hot – this will burn your fingers, but that’s a good sign. Finally, they should be combined with the warm milk and butter immediately after being sieved. At the restaurant, or even at home, I use a vegetable mouli placed on top of a combination of warm full-fat milk and salted butter. As they are sieved, they fall into the liquid, allowing no time to cool.

You can buy andouille – a French country sausage made from chitterlings and pork stomach – from any French butcher or, indeed, most good butchers. If they don’t stock them, they should be able to get them for you. You will probably have quite a lot left over, but it is wonderful in salads.

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Ingredients

  • 2 pigs’ heads, split
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 300 ml red wine
  • 5 shallots, finely chopped
  • 4tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 large andouille

For the Caramelized Onions

  • 70 g butter
  • 6 onions, thinly sliced
  • 50 g sugar
  • 100 ml red wine vinegar

For the Potato Puree

  • 1 kg floury potatoes, such as Desiree, unpeeled
  • About 200 ml milk, warmed
  • 100 g butter

Method

About 3 days ahead, soak the pigs’ heads in lightly salted water for 12 hours to remove the blood.

Drain and singe the heads with a blowtorch to remove any hairs. Place in an ovenproof dish, skin side down. Preheat the oven to 110°C/gas ¼. Cover the heads with the wine, shallots and 1 litre water. Cover with a close-fitting lid and braise in the oven for 8 hours. Remove the heads from the liquid and let cool. Skim the liquid and boil to reduce by half or until syrupy.

When the heads are cool enough to handle, remove and discard the bones, eyes and brain, and carefully set the meat aside. Remove the ears and slice them thinly. Combine the meat, ears, parsley, salt, pepper and reduced braising liquid. Set in a terrine or loaf tin lined with cling film. Leave for a couple of days to set and ripen.

To make the caramelized onions, melt the butter in a frying pan and gently colour the onions. Add the sugar and caramelize. Add the vinegar and reduce until almost dry. Add some salt and pepper, a splash of water and cook gently until onions are soft and jammy. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4.

While the onions are cooking, make the potato purée. Bake the potatoes in the preheated oven until a sharp knife inserted into the centre of one comes out clean, about 40–60 minutes depending on size. While still hot, peel them and pass them through a mouli sieve – or mash them – and immediately combine quickly and vigorously with the warm milk and butter using a wooden spoon. Season to taste.

Serve the terrine warm, thickly sliced and heated under the grill, with the potato purée and 2–3 thin slices of andouille per person, with the onions layered between them, and some cornichons. You can also serve the terrine cold with a relish.

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