Although not the prettiest of cuts, pig’s cheeks are amongst the animal’s tastiest offering. The same can be said for those of cows (ox) and monkfish, too.
From the new Saturday brunch menu at Roast – a British restaurant in Borough Market – this recipe substitutes traditional ham for smoked pig’s cheek, as a take on classic Eggs Benedict. Although time consuming to prepare, the sublime taste compensates for every second of cooking time. Smoked pork cheeks can be sourced from charcuterie company Cannon and Cannon, or smoked at home with the help of a smoker, or even some less orthodox DIY methods.
“At Roast, we do a few variations on the traditional Eggs Benedict – it’s the perfect brunch dish. Our recently launched Saturday Brunch menu features this decadent Smoked Pig’s Cheek Benedict.
We get our smoked pork cheeks from Cannon & Cannon. They pickle the lower portion of a long-jawed pig’s cheek in brine for 12 hours, and they are then hot-smoked for a couple of days before being cooled and ready to slice.”
White wine vinegar, 100ml
Fresh eggs, 8, at room temperature
Smoked pig cheeks (or Bath Chaps), 8 slices – ask your butcher
English muffins, 4, halved
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Hollandaise
White wine vinegar, 100ml
Small shallots, 2, chopped
Tarragon, a few sprigs
Black peppercorns, 8
Unsalted butter, 500g
Egg yolks, 5
Warm water, 50ml
For the hollandaise, place the vinegar, shallots, tarragon and peppercorns in a saucepan over a medium heat and bubble until reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Strain and set aside.
Melt the butter in the saucepan and simmer it on a low heat for about 5-10 minutes until it separates. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. The whey will settle on the bottom leaving the clarified butter on top. Pour off the warm clarified butter and discard the whey.
Put the egg yolks into a rounded bowl with half the vinegar reduction. Place over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water, and whisk until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. Be careful not to heat the mixture too much at this stage as this will cause the eggs to scramble – remove the pan from the heat if necessary.
Slowly drizzle the warm clarified butter into the eggs, whisking continuously over the heat to form an emulsion. As the sauce thickens you may need to add a little bit of warm water if it becomes too thick, before continuing with the butter.
Season with salt and pepper and taste to see if more vinegar reduction is needed for your liking. Keep warm until required.
Poaching your eggs
The question we get asked the most is how to make the perfect poached eggs. First of all, the eggs must be very fresh. If the eggs are older the white wont hold together to encase the yolk.
For a tear-shaped egg, you need a deep pan of boiling water with about 100ml of white wine vinegar. The vinegar acts to set the white around the yolk. A good tip is to crack your eggs into cups and tip them gently, one by one, into the water. As they drop to the bottom of the pan the white will set on the outside creating the desired tear shape.
To serve, add the vinegar to a deep pan of boiling water, add poach the eggs as described above – they should take about 2-3 minutes.
While the eggs are poaching, fry the sliced smoked pig cheeks over a medium heat until golden and crispy, and toast the muffins on both sides.
Place two muffin halves on each plate, followed by the pig cheeks and the poached eggs. Finish with a generous spoonful of Hollandaise sauce over each egg.
Further information on Roast can be found at roast-restaurant.com.