pig’s face roulade; picanha, rosemary; peppers; tomato

There were going to be three of us for dinner, as we were entertaining a favorite relative. I wanted the meal to be special, but it wasn’t a market day, so there wouldn’t be fish. I also wanted to be able to visit without any major cooking distractions, so I thought of steak. One of my favorite away-from-the-Union Square Greenmarket butcher shops is Dickson’s Farm Stand Meats, in Chelsea Market, only some 8 blocks away.

That’s were I headed Tuesday afternoon and that’s where I picked up 3 small perfect culotte steaks.

It’s also where I found our first course for that evening, conveniently already fully prepared, a luscious charcuterie I had never had before, pig’s face roulade (It. coppa di testa). It almost immediately became my favorite, at least until another comes along. This site isn’t that of the charcuterie folks from whom I purchased ours, but there are directions for anyone interested in learning more about pigs head, including how to prepare your own.

We began with bread sticks and a sparkling wine.

The goodness of the first course surprised even me, and I had enjoyed a taste while still in the butcher shop.

The vegetables of the main course could be prepared, mostly, ahead of time, and that’s what I did. The steaks of course took only a few minutes, and fortunately for the company they kept any ideas they might have had about smoking up the kitchen entirely to themselves.

  • three very trim 7-ounce culotte/picanha steaks, also from Dickson’s Farm Stand Meats, brought to room temperature, seasoned on all sides with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, seared briefly on the thick, fat-covered top side inside an oval enameled heavy cast iron pan, the 2 long sides cooked for 3 or 4 minutes each, removed from the pan, at the moment they had become perfectly medium-rare, drizzled with some heirloom tomato waters that remained from 2 recent meals, scattered with a bit of thinly-sliced red scallion from Berried Treasures Farm, sprinkled with a bit of chopped young, very fresh and fragrant rosemary from Lani’s Farm, finished with a drizzle of Whole Foods Market house Portuguese olive oil, and allowed to rest for about 4 minutes
  • enough olive oil to cover its bottom poured into a large sturdy seasoned steel skillet above a high flame, adding, just before the oil was ready to smoke, skin side down and not crowding, 13 ounces of very sweet ‘Love Apple’ red peppers from Alewife Farm, halved, the few seeds and membranes removed, sprinkled with salt, a heavy weight (a foil-covered cast iron skillet slightly-smaller than the pan with the peppers) placed on top of them for 30 seconds or so, removed, the peppers moved around with tongs to blister them evenly, and once well blistered, flipped or arranged skin side up, the weighted pan added again for another 30 seconds or more, until the peppers were just about cooked, but not too limp, then stirring in all of the basil leaves I had left from a Massachusetts Full Bloom Market Garden live plant (a Whole Foods Market purchase), and less than a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • six small green heirloom plum tomatoes from Campo Rosso Farm, halved, their surfaces dried, the cut sides placed on top of a mix of sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper spread across a plate, pan-grilled inside an enameled cast iron pan for a few minutes, turned and grilled for a slightly shorter time, removed, drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with chopped lovage from Keith’s Farm
  • the wine was a Spanish (Rioja) red, La Rioja Alta, Rioja Reserva ‘Vigna Alberdi’, 2012, also from Flatiron Wines