Photography by Joel Lerner
Suckling pig is oftentimes more than a meal when prepared at home — it’s a certified event.
The process begins by consulting a quality butcher. Ask the butcher to remove the head and split the pig lengthwise. Don’t worry about missing out on the apple-in-the-mouth aesthetic; apples make an appearance later on in this recipe.
“The dishes on our menus tell the story of an American Bistro with European influences,” reads the website of the Guildhall Restaurant in Glencoe, whose head chef, Bradford Phillips, has personally supplied the recipe for Guildhall’s Slow Roasted Suckling Pig — on the menu now.
“We wanted to do something that was unique with pork,” explains Phillips, “just in a more elegant form.”
While the menu changes at Guildhall every four months or so, Phillips is constantly at work tweaking various recipes depending on what’s in season. So while the suckling pig works great, it can be easily substituted with pork shoulder. Mutsu apples (that go into the puree) can be replaced with Golden Delicious.
All in all, Phillips contends it’s a really simple dish that can be made ahead of time and kept it in the freezer.
“It’s taking a less expensive piece of meat,” says Phillips, “and then turning it into something that you can slide into fine dining, a casual night, or serve the family.”
Suckling Pig, Apple Onion Puree, Shaved Apple Salad, Apple Cider Gastrique:
Time: 10-plus hours
6-8 lbs. suckling pig or boneless pork shoulder
3 gallons duck fat/canola oil (or enough to cover 90 percent of the meat)
1 tablespoon each clove, nutmeg, allspice and black pepper
½ cup salt
4 green Mutsu apples
1 white onion
2 cups apple cider
4 oz. baby arugula
½ cup cider vinegar
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter
4 oz. baby turnip
- Rub the pig thoroughly with spices then place in a large roasting pan. Cover the pig with melted duck fat and place in a 225–degree oven for 10 hours until very tender. Remove and let cool enough to handle.
- Working carefully, pick all of the meat, removing bones and large pockets of fat. Place the meat into a bowl on the side, leaving the skin intact as much as possible. Season the picked meat with some of the remaining spice mix and some of the cooking fat.
- Lay out the skin on a tray lined with parchment paper, making a single layer. Place an even layer of shredded meat (no more than 2 inches thick) on top of the skin. Place another tray on top of the meat and weigh down. Refrigerate pressed for at least 2 hours.
- Peel and slice one onion. Peel, core and slice two green apples. In a saucepot melt a little butter and add onion and apples. Season with a pinch of sugar, salt, and pepper. Cook over low heat until the apples start to break down. Puree in a blender or food processor.
- In a saucepot, caramelize sugar until light golden brown. Add cider and cider vinegar and cook until syrupy. Season with salt and pepper and reserve warm.
- To finish, flip the pressed pork out onto a cutting board, skin up. Cut into rectangles of desired size. Heat a non-stick pan with a little oil. Place the skin side down into the pan and place in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. Halve and core apples, slice thinly and place into a bowl with the arugula and shaved baby turnip. Season with salt and pepper, cider vinegar, and olive oil. Place some of the apple puree on a plate and top with the crispy pork. Garnish with the apple salad and drizzle with the cider vinegar caramel.